One Crazy Year: A Start Up Retrospective Paddy Murphy, C.E.O and Co-Founder, Open Emotion Studios Ltd.
- Company Overview• Open Emotion Studios was formed in late 2009 by three mad young men from Limerick, Ireland.• In January 2010, with no budget or experience we crafted our ﬁrst game, Mad Blocker using Adobe Flash and sold it to Skill gaming website, Frosmo.com.• Mad Blocker has, since it’s release, had over 1,500,000 unique play’s worldwide to date, that is not including plays on Facebook through Frosmo or plays in China and Russia.• From February to May, We worked tirelessly, creating ﬂash games to keep the roof over their heads. Our game Mad Jigga, a spin-off of Mad Blocker became a massive hit on another skill gaming website, Skilladdiction.com.• In June 2010, Open Emotion got our ﬁrst big break when our 4th game Goldie’s Revenge was purchased by Addicting Games, a division of MTV/Nickelodeon.• Goldie’s Revenge has since had over 5,000,000 plays worldwide, becoming a huge success in China and Russia.
The Sony Connection• In March 2010, Open Emotion had the audacity to contact Sony Computer Entertainment Europe with a request to become an ofﬁcial Sony Developer.• 3 Days after submitting this request, we received the go-ahead from Sony and contrary to what some people out there will tell you, we have received nothing but support and assistance from the amazing team at Sony London.• In July 2010, Open Emotion Studios went to Sony’s head ofﬁce in London to pitch our ideas in an attempt to secure a publishing deal for multiple franchises. In an amazing (and seemingly unprecedented) two hour presentation, the people at Sony agreed to aid us with the development and publishing of two PSP Minis, which are playable on both the PSP and PS3 platforms.• Open Emotion Studios ﬁrst Mini, Mad Blocker Alpha was released on the 9th of February 2011 in the EMEA’s. Our second PSP Mini is Ninjamurai and is due for completion around May 2011.• After that point depending on how the previous games have fared and also dependent on Open Emotion’s standing with Sony, We hope to tackle a much larger scale project.
Humble Beginnings?• So... This time last year I approached a few of my mates with the idea of starting a games company. I basically thought that between all of us we’d have the necessary skills to at least give it a go.• The two that came on board with me at that time were, co-founders Mike Naughton(Lead Artist) and Colm English (Lead Programmer).• With me having some experience with Music having been in a band for a few years and dabbling in Sound Engineering part-time, I ﬁgured we had the bones of a small team and so set about creating our ﬁrst game, Ninjamurai.• As history has shown, the best of intentions don’t always come to fruition. Ninjamurai was a big scale project for a team with little/no experience in the ﬁeld of Game Development. So what were to do?
• How did Mad Blocker come about? Well, one sunday, Colm and I were in work pondering what to do since we were having difﬁculties with working on Ninjamurai.• After coming back from a break, Colm told me that he was going to set about making a simple block/matching style game in ﬂash.You know just for the hell of it. This took the bone’s of a day and at the end, I had some horribly crude art tacked onto the project...
Original bad (Paddy) Placeholder Art... Yuck...Mike Improves on it... But still...
The ﬁnished product...This game was completed in 14 days...
Once Again...This pile of Crud... To this in 14 days.... Seriously... WTF?!?!
Was it Successful?• Mad Blocker sold for a moderate amount (All I’ll say is it was enough to pay the next month’s rent in our ofﬁce at the time)• Mad Blocker has now been played by more than Two Million people worldwide, not counting territories where we don’t have access to statistics such as Russia and China.• The game is now available on many ﬂash game websites such as Frosmo.com, Newgrounds and Kongregate and even Facebook through Frosmo’s facebook application.
Where to from here?• Well, We did it. One month in we had released a game and it had sold to a Sponsor and been relatively successful.• However, it hadn’t sold millions and we weren’t suddenly Rockstar Games!• We had to try and build on Mad Blocker’s success and to do so we needed to keep the money rolling in and thus we created more games...
March 2010 April 2010Alas, Neither of these games were as commercially successful as we were hoping... but...
June 2010• In June 2010, we had our ﬁrst major success with Goldie’s Revenge, a simple but fun puzzle game which was snapped up by MTV/Nickelodeon’s Addicting Games division.• Not only was this a success ﬁnancially but it also gave us the backing of a large name like MTV when we had to pitch to people, such as our investors and Sony.
Interns 2010 In the summer of 2010 we took on Interns from the University of Limerick who created 2 ﬂash games and an XNA version of MadBlocker, which we are currently trying to release as Mad Blocker Live. We are constantly looking for students who are interested in doing work experience with us at Open Emotion Studios.
August 2010• In Late July/Early August 2010 we travelled to the London to meet our account manager at Sony with the intention of getting some support towards developing a large scale, high end console project.• After a fantastic meeting, which was very beneﬁcial to all parties involved Sony agreed to support us in the development of two PS Minis to begin with . This was not ﬁnancial support and was instead Marketing Support, Technical Support (Anytime, Anywhere) and much more and we couldn’t have gotten our ﬁrst Mini made without the help from everyone at SCEE.
Gamescom/GDC • In August we felt it would be necessary to attend GDC/Gamescom in Koln to learn more about the Industry and also we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to network with other developers.We met developers like Warren Spector (Epic Mickey), David Cage (Heavy Rain), Elisabetta Silli (Mirror’s Edge) and Mark Rein (Unreal 3). It was a truly amazing experience and we would urge everyone here to attend this year if possible.
September 2010• So, we had the go ahead from Sony. They would publish our games... The next decision was what game to develop... We ﬁgured that since Mad Blocker had been the ﬁrst game we created in Flash, an updated version of Mad Blocker could work very well as our ﬁrst Mini.• At this point we had no idea how much the game would transform in the coming months from a simple update, to a full overhaul and reinvention.• But ﬁrst, We jetted off to Japan for the world famous, Tokyo Game Show!
Tokyo Game Show Tokyo Game Show was amazing but a little pricey. Still wemade some fantastic contacts, so it was completely worth it.
October 2010• After we returned from Japan we moved into our new ofﬁce located at the Technology Park in Castletroy, Limerick. This was to be the only location we would see for the next 4 months. No more jetting around the globe for us...• Tokyo Game Show had been 2 weeks out of Mad Blocker Alpha’s development schedule and in that time, the game had grown from a simple update, to a fully ﬂedged sequel.• We weren’t going to be able to tackle the development alone, especially with a deadline set for November... That was when Eoghan O’ Donovan, a bright young graduate from UCD contacted us with the hope of moving to Limerick to work with us on Mad Blocker Alpha.• A good team is the cornerstone of any game development and without Eoghan O’ Donovan, I think Open Emotion would have been missing an essential component, required in the creation of Mad Blocker Alpha.
Mad Blocker Alpha Development • Mad Blocker Alpha’s development cycle ran from the 30th of September to the 12th of November. • It was a hard grueling time for everyone involved, however we learned a lot about how to streamline our development’s in the future. • At some points during Mad Blocker Alphas hardest points, we were working 16 to 20 hour days... I would not recommend this to you guys out there as it has a habit of hampering productivity.
November 2010 Open Emotion Studios held it’s Ofﬁcial Company Launch in November which was headlined by Anamanaguchi, an incredible chiptune band from New York famous worldwide for their work on the Scott Pilgrim videogame soundtrack created by Ubisoft!This was for two reasons a:) Because I was a huge fan of the band and wanted an excuse to hear them live and b:) it was a marketing ploy - A band like Anamanaguchi has over30,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook. They will tell their fans to pick them game up and that should get Mad Blocker some more sales, particularly in the States where we are not able to enforce a strong marketing presence.
December 2010 Life Lessons (Bug Testing)• December was a harsh month for us. We learned one of the most important lessons for budding console developers - There will always be bugs...• The bugs were never gigantic, but the ﬁrst or second fails from Format QA slowed the release of the game down just enough to push it back into 2011. It was a hard experience, to realise something you’ve created is so ﬂawed and I recommend all devs here understand the importance of thorough debugging... Don’t be fools like us and think you can get it all done in a week :(• Most of December was spent ﬁxing bugs in Mad Blocker Alpha. Well, half of it unfortunately was taken up with the Christmas release window for bigger titles and also Sony and Open Emotion both had christmas holidays to take...
January 2011• After some much needed rest at the end of 2010, we arrived back into the ofﬁce on January 3rd to begin development of Ninjamurai, our second Mini.• Much like we did with Mad Blocker Alpha, we took our original concept’s for Ninjamurai and expanded on them.• Where the original Ninjamurai was going to be a very simple and straightforward perpetual motion based game along the lines of Canabalt or I Must Run, it eventually morphed into a fully ﬂedged platformer... We are calling it the love child of “Shinobi and Sonic”• Our goal is to have the title completed by May 2011. This time around we will be dedicating an entire month (April) to bug testing and TRC checking.
February 2011• So... On February 9th 2011, Mad Blocker Alpha, went on sale on Sony’s Playstation Store.• It was a hugely surreal experience to have our ﬁrst console game released... I mean this had been our goal since we came together one year previous, but it just felt so unbelievable• More so than that, the Reviews were glowing 9/10, 9/10, 95%, 8/10 - We have a higher metacritic rating than Killzone 3...• The game was released in all other EU territories on the 2nd of March 2011 and will be released in the Americas in March 2011 at some point...
Where to from here?• In 2011, we already have a console game ﬁnished and one near completion. Where we go after that will depend on another meeting with Sony although we would love to develop games for new technologies such as the Sony “NGP”.• We would also like to pursue developments on other platforms such as the Xbox 360, P.C and Nintendo devices such as the Wii or 3DS.• We have no shortage of ideas from here on out, so the only thing limiting our progress is funding. Here’s hoping that our ﬁrst two Minis put us in a better position to expand and meet our goal of becoming Irelands premier home-grown video-game development studio.
And an even sneakier peek at our next project Revolting Youth’s (Working Title) More on this new I.P very soon...
Can you do it?The point that I hope everyone takes away from this talk, is that if it’s your desire to start your own Videogame development company down the line, it’s totally possible and as you’ve seen here it can be a hell of a lot of fun. It is, however, also a lot of work and responsibility. For allthe globetrotting and networking we did in 2010 there wastriple the amount of work to do. when we got back. It’s not easy, it’s mostly fun but we wouldn’t change a thing. If youhave creative ideas and a good team, theres no reason that you can’t start your own independent game company...
Thanks for your time!Please check out our ﬁrst PS Mini, Mad Blocker Alpha, available now for Playstation Portable and Playstation 3. Any Questions yo?