Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame: NaturalMotion's Torsten Reil on an exciting future of new genres

Hall of Fame: NaturalMotion's Torsten Reil on an exciting future of new genres

Torsten Reil founded technology firm NaturalMotion back in 2001 while researching for a PhD in Complex Systems at Oxford University.

Flash-forward 15 years and the company’s impact on gaming has been a significant one.

Its technology offerings such as Morpheme and Euphoria have been used in the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV and its own title Clumsy Ninja.

The company has also found success in games development.

Releases such as Backbreaker, My Horse and CSR Racing have helped cement NaturalMotion's place as a top mobile games developer.

Its reputation is such that Zynga shelled out a $527 million to acquire the company in 2014. Its biggest ever purchase.

NaturalMotion is far from done, though. This year it’s set to release major new games, including the long-awaited CSR Racing 2 and Dawn of Titans.

PocketGamer.biz; What were your favourite games as a kid?

Torsten Reil:

  • Elite,
  • Chequered Flag and
  • Gunship

all on the ZX Spectrum.

When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?

My ‘a-ha’ moment when it came to working in the games industry actually came to me while I was researching for a PhD in Complex Systems at Oxford University.

I founded NaturalMotion while trying to finish my PhD. I had to choose one or the other. I chose NaturalMotion and never regretted it.
Torsten Reil

I had set up a simulation overnight to evolve a neural-network-driven creature to walk.

The next morning, it was taking its first few steps and then fell over. I thought this could be used in games to make them truly interactive and feel more lifelike – and that was the beginning of NaturalMotion.

What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?

My first role in game industry was when I founded NaturalMotion while trying to finish my PhD at the same time.

After three months, I realised I had to choose one or the other. I chose NaturalMotion and never regretted it.

What do you consider your first significant success?

Working with Rockstar Games to eventually integrate our technology into GTA IV. I’m still very proud of the whole team that made this happen.

When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?

In 2009 when the iPhone was becoming fast enough to run our animation technology.

With this advanced mobile platform, we took a leap of faith and developed our first game with Backbreaker, an intense, arcade football experience.

What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?

When Apple created the App Store it completely revolutionised the way the gaming industry viewed mobile games.

The introduction of the App Store was formative in how the industry develops mobile games, impacting everything from design to marketing to gameplay.

What are you most proud of? Any regrets?

I’m proud of building a team that has turned a crazy idea of creating fully interactive characters into reality.

After a period of stagnation, I believe we’ll start to see the creation of new and exciting genres.
Torsten Reil

I’m proud of the way we have evolved our approach to creating amazing experiences for our players with CSR Racing, Backbreaker, Clumsy Ninja and our new games coming this year.

But most of all, I’m proud of our perseverance.

Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?

Slither.io. Very addictive.

What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?

After a period of stagnation, I believe we’ll start to see the creation of new and exciting genres that bring players experiences they couldn’t have previously imagined.

In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?

Innovating on the concept of social presence.

We have some thoughts and technologies that will make your spine tingle.

Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.

So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something PocketGamer.biz is doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.

You can read our previous Hall of Fame articles here.

Senior Editor

Craig Chapple is Senior Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He was previously Deputy Editor at Develop and Online Editor at Nintendo of Europe.

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