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Interview with Tiny Rebel Games – Developers of Doctor Who: Legacy

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Well to get started, please introduce yourself?

Hello my Name is Lee Cummings, and my Name is Susan Cummings,

Nice to meet you

What made you want to get into the gaming industry? Is it always something you’ve wanted to do because of a game you played growing up, or do you just like working with computers?

Susan: Been in the games industry pretty much all my life, roundabout 15 years, it’s one of those industries that once you are in you can never really get out.

Susan: Expresses that she totally loves the gaming industry;

Susan: I Left University in my late 20s I then became a recruiter and simply fell in love with the business, I have had a very fortunate career, been involved in some wonderful game developments from the likes of Bioshock borderlands and Civilization 4. I was also one of the original founders of ‘2K Games’; also worked on a lot of Original IP. Over the last few years we moved over to Los Angeles and worked with Paramount, and overall it’s been a lot of fun especially mobile.

My thought at this point where “we not worthy, we not worthy” a clip from Wayne’s World went through my mind.

To find out a little about Susan Cummings I found this in the web http://susancummings.brandyourself.com/

Lee: I am originally from Cardiff born and raised, I started playing games from when I was very young, first memories would have to be the Atari system and pong, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be able the one to create games. When I and Susan met each other I never intended to get into the games industry.

Lee: I was in San Francisco during the first .com boom and bust in the around 97 – 00, I just left my old company, sitting around my house and one day Susan sent my résumé to Sony, they phoned me and asked me to come in.

Susan: I was already in games industry and I said to Lee ‘get on with it’.

Lee: So I went to Sony and became a Q&A (Quality Assurance) tester, just in case you are not sure what a Q&A tester does, well we make sure that the game is working ok with no bugs.

Lee: From there we both moved to New York to work with ‘Rockstar Games’, I worked my self-up through the ranks rather fast, worked on a couple of ‘Grand Theft Autos’ and lead the redesign of a game called ‘Bully’ and a load of other projects. Then after that we left to do something new, so for the last mmm 9 years we have been working together at various companies that we started, got married spawned a five year old, and yet we have not killed each other yet.

Lee: So we sat around in January and we pondered the idea of creating our first mobile game. We love playing mobile games and games in general it would also be something new and fun and something we could work together on. We done enough original IP over the years and we did not feel the need to go out of our way to create something totally brand new.

Susan: There is a massive difference in terms of budgeting when it comes to developing for Console and mobile and the difference is huge. Could you create a Doctor Who based in the history on a budget of 50million, doubt it very much; even now developers are struggling to keep their audience engaged.

Lee: We sat down and said to ourselves “what do we love passionately” and I believe Susan said Doctor Who, we are huge fans. Before we started the development of the game we watched the last seven seasons over and over, and while the game was in development making I watch the last two seasons again & again. I am a Cardiff boy after all and I grew up with Doctor Who, hiding behind the sofa whenever the evil Daleks where on the screen, I was about five years old roughly give or take a year or two.

Lee: We already had an itch to create a Jewel based game years ago with Puzzle kingdoms, so when it came to creating a Doctor Who game, we wanted it to be huge, not just in terms of breath of story, but to who is in the game, no matter which Doctor you liked, which companion or enemy, we shall bring them into the game for you to play. The idea of a puzzle game worked really well for that. So quite quickly, around the beginning of March 2013 we went to the BBC and said we wanted to make a Doctor Who game; we pitched to them what is now what you see in your hands and play currently with nothing changed and from day one the BBC where amazing, they have been very supportive every minute of every day.

Now tell us a little bit about Tiny Rebel Games for our viewers who may not know who you are, what was the motivation behind setting up the company, what sort of games do you focus on making.

Tiny Rebel Games is the lean, agile company that the two of us have always wanted to have since our earliest days in the industry.  We’ve worked on massive games in the past (GTA, Bioshock, Borderlands) and have chosen to focus now on smaller, more personal games that we can throw all of our obsessive energy into.  And our focus now is solely on the sort of games that we want to play, content that we ourselves love.

So what’s a typical day in the office like when working for Tiny Rebel Games?

Lee: Well we live along the West Coast of Los Angeles and we work with a number of different companies around the globe one being the BBC in London which we work day in, day out with. Susan would get up around 3 or 4am and work till around 10am to be with the BBC (this was for the last month of the games development), and then we would nap in the day a bit. Then we would be back to work at around 6pm to work with our developers in Taiwan and normally work till around 4am.  A great thing about being real life partners, we do not have to go home and explain everything, apart from our 5 year old, which is so proud to be a part of the game anyways, in way one of us, was always available 24hrs of the day.

Lee: There were dozens of things happening everyday with the BBC one of the things that come to mind was having every character model signed off by the BBC and partners, like River Song had to sign off what River Song looked like, the guy that created the Daleks had to sign off on those designs. How the Daleks were used in the game, the production team in Cardiff had to sign off on them, the team in London had to as well and BBC worldwide, there where millions and millions of pieces that need to fit together, a bit like a jigsaw you could say.

I thought running Invision was hard being a one man admin team, listening to all this makes me feel rather lucky that I do not have so many loops to jump through.

Lee: Right now we also run a Facebook page, Twitter and a Website; we personally answer every support mail that comes in.

Susan: We did set ourselves such a crazy bar to hit, and now we have to carry that on.

Lee: We get some amazing comments from the gamers/fans of the game, of Doctor Who and it would feel strange to hire a team to do all that for us. We feel that the fans they should be talking to us and we should be talking to the fans, to find out what they love about the game and how we can improve it.

Susan: Being very close to the development on the game has given us an advantage, from the Lee from the design point and me and our producer Jack in Taiwan, everyone pitching in on support, making you really mind full of what is going on, and what people’s reactions are to the game. It’s easy for a programmer to say, do not worry we shall fix it, but when you see users getting pissed off and leaving pretty bad comments. Being so close as we are to the audience has in a sense pushed the programmers to work a little faster to get things fixed.

Lee: We live, breathe and sleep it, we work together we live together.

Susan: Even in our free time we still playing the game before bed, if we are still playing this before bed, then there must be something special about our game.

Susan: The most difficult/stressful day for us, was the day we released the game, just to see what gamers would have to say, in a world where the user now has a voice and social media open to everyone to have their say. When at any moment that dissatisfied customer will come along and will have his/her say without thinking before acting and hit us on our Twitter or Facebook with their dissatisfaction.

Lee: There was one guy who was very angry, as it took us 7 hours to answer his email, on a Saturday, we did email him back but there must have been a typo when he typed his email into the required fields, so we were unable to get back to him anyway. When we called him up on it, he was rather apologetic and they become real people one again.

Susan: On Facebook we have amassed 20k followers and they now seem to police themselves, anyone that brings over a bad attitude and leaves that as a comment, our followers/fans in a sense sort them out for us, it’s a great feeling to have such loyal fans.

Lee: When we offer free items, we do get comments like” not again”, “already have this”, “move on”, but it’s free so why you complaining, don’t have to take it. People will complain about anything, it’s great to have such a supportive fans base, who else has this type of support?

Lee: I think the fans know we love the game, just as much as they do; we are huge Doctor Who fans, and of course the mechanics of the game, a lot of people really appreciate this I think.

Tell us a little bit about the game, were there any difficulties you faced during the development and what’s different about this game compared to similar titles?

The game was made in partnership with Seed Studio in Taiwan.  We partnered creatively and from a production standpoint, working hand in hand on the game.  The challenge of course is the time zone difference between Los Angeles and Taiwan.  That said, I really can’t say enough about how amazing Seed have been to work with, we complemented each other’s strengths perfectly, and have been very much on the same page from the beginning on the game we wanted to make.  As much as we have obviously borrowed from the history of gem matching mechanics from recent years, I think we’re the first and only to try to take that mechanic and adapt it to a legacy like the 50 years of Doctor Who.  We’ve essentially created a platform for the delivery of the history of the show as well as its future – we’ve found a way to bring together everyone’s favorite Doctors, companions, enemies — all in one game.

So in one sentence sum up why the visitors on our site should go out and buy Doctor Who: Legacy

Lee: If you can read you can play this game it’s so excisable, like a five year old can play this game. If you have a smartphone or a tablet grab this game, so much love has gone into it and of course the main selling point it’s a DOCTOR WHO GAME what more do you need.

What are the biggest achievements and challenges you’ve had to face as an Indie Game Studio?

I think our biggest achievement was getting from start to where we are as a completely indie game and which is in all meaningful ways, exactly the game that Tiny Rebel and Seed set out to make.  Our biggest challenge was living up to what we knew would be crazy high expectations for a Doctor Who game, particularly as this is the first mobile game Tiny Rebel has published (and Seed’s first Android release).

So what’s next for Tiny Rebel Games ,Are you looking to start work on the next title to add to your collection, or will you be taking a break for a while?

We’re not very good at resting…….but we do have our hands very full with Doctor Who right now.  That said, we are definitely excited to see where we go next from here

Now as Invision Game Community is powered by students and as they’re our target audience, what advice would you give to budding young students wanting to get into the industry?

I think that not since the early days of gaming has there been an easier time to get your hands dirty and start making games — what better way to learn than hands on?  Games went from being garage efforts with one person wearing all hats to the massive efforts in console of recent years (with blockbuster games having teams of well over 200 people in some cases).  It’s now possible again to make a game with a very small group.  And that’s exciting an exciting thing for innovation

Who is your favorite Doctor and why?

Lee: Paul McGann.  I love them all, but he’s one of my favorite actors and also feels like a lost opportunity with so little seen of him.

Susan: David Tennant.  He was the Doctor I returned to Doctor Who for and so will always be ‘my’ Doctor and he’s an amazing actor too.  Like Lee, I’m quite fond of all of them.

Who is your favorite Companion and why?

Lee: Jack Harkness.  He’s so wonderfully flamboyant and well-written.  He has a character than can stand up to the aura of the Doctor and not feel like just a follower — he’s his own man.

Susan: Ooh, I do love Jack Harkness too.  And I’m quite fond of Martha.  Smart, strong female companion.

Who is your favorite Enemy and why?

Lee:  Weeping Angels — they remind me of Boo in Mario, really cleverly designed.  Blink will always be one of my favorite episodes.

Susan:  Peg Dolls — I love everything Mark Gatiss does and these are so exquisite and creepy.  Stuff of bad dreams.

We all know that the Doctor can only regenerate 12 times and matt smith is actually the 13th Doctor so when the casted Peter Capaldi as the next doctor  the 14th Doctor how shock was you and what are you hoping to get out of the xmas special?

Both:  We love Peter Capaldi — big fans of The Thick of It and In The Loop.  We both think he’ll be tremendous in the role, esp with the task set before him now with Gallifrey.  As for the regeneration limit, when you start throwing in the Valeyard and the War Doctor, the Dream Lord, and the circumstances surrounding the regeneration on Karn, I think our understanding of everything to do with the Time Lords isn’t at all set in stone.  And having watched pretty much everything Steven Moffat has ever written, we have faith that he’ll be able to pull all the threads together beautifully.

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 Our Thoughts

After jumping ¾ of mile in the air, due to the unexpected official Doctor Who Soundtrack screaming out, after just downloading, think our hearts skipped a beat. The question was asked, did you do this deliberately to give us all heart attacks when the game first starts, and we got a laugh, so I guess so.

We also asked about Micro Transitions as its been in the press a lot recently with parents being left with huge bills thanks to the kids getting hold of the device and buying loads and loads of items to play the game they love. In Doctor Who: Legacy there is no real need to purchase anything via Micro-Transaction you can but the game does in no way force you, you can play it and open everything in time. Which is great as the last thing us parents want is for another bill thanks to another game.

We have played this game and the mix of Jewel based mechanics makes the game slightly addictive, and the way these gems integrate with your characters is awesome, pink jewels give health to all your characters, green, orange just to name a few of the colours equals what damage your characters can do to the enemy. Also each character has his or her own special move as an added bonus, for example instead of just hitting one enemy they can attack all on screen enemies.

The RPG elements add what we like to call ‘The Human Aspect’, makes you care for the on screen characters, instead of just playing and not caring at all and of course adds an element of story and without a story you simply don’t have a Doctor Who game.

All the sound effects are here, all the Music you love, even all the characters, this is possibly one of the best Doctor Who games on the market or ever created, would it work on PC, I would not like to say, however would it work on Windows 8 app store for PC/Xbox Games Arcade & Windows 8.1 Phones I recon yes and it should be considered an option to look at.

 

 More about the game

****Now running Advent Calendar promotion. Something new for FREE every day until Christmas. Download now to get K-9 and an Ood! Alternative Costumes! More! Visit http://www.tinyrebelgames.com/#!news/c7g6y for codes!****
For the first time ever, interact with fifty years of Doctor Who as you travel through time and space, relive his most daring adventures, group with his bravest companions and face his most dangerous foes!

An old enemy is traveling through time, changing events to bring about the ultimate war!

Team up with your favorite Doctor and head back through time – revisit your favorite episodes from the TV series and build a team of your favorite companions and allies including Clara, Rory, Amy, River, and dozens more.
Face the Doctor’s greatest enemies, from Daleks, Weeping Angels and The Silence to Headless Monks, Peg Dolls and Spoonheads.

Free to play! Episodes from seasons 7 and 6 available at launch.

New episodes, characters (including K9 and Sarah Jane!), and other goodies FREE daily through December to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our favorite show. Season 5 to be released for free in early 2014.

Our promises:

  • -You can play through every adventure of the Doctors we ever release for free.
  • -No energy system to stop you from playing – play the adventures you want, when you want.
  • -As long as you want us to release new adventures, allies and enemies we will. We won’t rest until we’ve released an adventure based on An Unearthly Child.

This game is a labor of love for two small indie games teams. Talk to us and we will listen. Please feel free to contact us on Twitter (@Doctor Who Legacy), email us at (support@tinyrebelgames.com) with any suggestions, episode wishes, ally ideas, and anything else you want to say to us! (Or head to your nearest Dr. Who: Legacy message board – we visit them all).

 

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2 Comments

  1. Kilkandark

    Not sure if Lee and Susan are checking in on this. Great Article invision gaming Keep on rocking. Great Game, very well done Lee and Susan are amazing people and 2 of the best players I have ever had the opportunity to play with, they no games better then anyone …even when Lee is yelling at me =0. I wish you guys all the best and and huge congratz on your continued success…..
    From the whole MC family. Be good and be safe ! Moonies 4 Life!

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