Interview

Doctor Who at 50: How Big Ideas Digital honoured the Doc's anniversary with Say What You See

Doctor Who at 50: How Big Ideas Digital honoured the Doc's anniversary with Say What You See

Unless you've been spending time on a far off galaxy of late, you can't have escaped the buzz surrounding Doctor Who.

The BBC's flagship sci-fi series is 50 years old – the first episode, An Unearthly Child, having been broadcast on BBC One on 23 November 1963.

To celebrate, not only has the Beeb produced a special anniversary episode – The Day of the Doctor attracting almost 13 million viewers in the UK last Saturday, with a 3D cinema-only version also taking in $10 million at the box office – it's also commissioned Doctor Who: Say What You See for iOS and Android.

The Say What You See franchise is a popular puzzle IP in its own right, so how easy is it combining two different franchises in one release? And does working with such a popular license bring added pressure?

We caught up with Jon Hamblin, director at digital content licensing company Big Ideas Digital, to find out.

Pocket Gamer: How did the Doctor Who deal come about?

Jon Hamblin: We started talking with the BBC last year about another project originally. They took an interest in Say What You See though, and when the Doctor Who anniversary came up it seemed like a good fit.

It was quite exciting for us as it was our first bit of licensed IP for Say What You See, and we became really determined to make a great game in the time we had available.

Jon Hamblin

Coming up with 150 Doctor Who puzzles seemed like a daunting task originally, but once we started looking into it, we found that 50 years of history meant that there was quite a lot of scope.

The three of us on the puzzle team - Lana Harper, Matthew Griffiths and myself - were pretty much who experts by the end.

The only downside is that I'm now incapable of picking up a screwdriver without waving it around a bit and making "Ewwewewewew" noises.

Say What You See
is an established IP in its own right. What challenges are there combining two different IPs in one game?

The great thing about Say What You See is that it's incredibly versatile - as it's essentially just a collection of picture puns, you can do them on any subject.

In Say What You See: The Collection, we've covered everything from football teams to video games to desserts.

Doctor Who: Say What You See

I think the specific challenge with a license, particularly one like Doctor Who, is balancing the puzzles between obscure characters for the fans, and the main villains and characters that everyone knows.

Oh, and making sure you get all the details right, as fans will run you up the TARDIS flagpole if you get some thing wrong.

Yeah, the TARDIS flagpole. It definitely has one of those, right?

Doctor Who's 50th anniversary should, in theory, be an advantage, but is there a case to suggest it almost makes too much noise?

Yeah definitely, there's a lot going on - which can make it harder to cut through - but it helps enormously for discovery too, as people are actively looking for Who material at least.

As a Who fan, I think it's brilliant the amount of material that the BBC has put out to support the anniversary - and most of it has been pretty awesome too.

Following on from that point, has it been difficult launching your game at roughly the same time as Doctor Who: Legacy?

Doctor Who: Legacy is also out, but I think we provide different things for different people, and hopefully we compliment each other.

Legacy is freemium, and for more casual fans of the show, we're premium and aimed more at the older, hardcore fan I think.

We hit #3 in the games chart on iOS yesterday, so I think really the more options for fans the better really.

What has the response from consumers been like so far?

We took the game to the Doctor Who Celebration event at Excell last weekend, and the response was amazing. Watching people's faces as they played the game was brilliant fun - they just light up like a Christmas tree when they get one right.

It was so much fun, and the fans certainly seem to be absolutely loving it. The thing that surprised us the most was how quickly even younger kids got it - they seemed to know all the episode titles and monsters, even for episodes broadcast 30 years before their birth.

The highest score of the weekend in fact was from a seven-year old! The best response was from [Doctor Who showrunner] Stephen Moffat, though, who said it was "lovely".

And, finally, what did you make of The Day of the Doctor?

Yeah, really enjoyed it.

As we were working at the convention, we didn't get to see it until Sunday, and were really worried we'd hear people talking about it on the show floor. But somehow we managed to make it through the day, spoiler free, and although most people would have had enough of Who after 72 straight hours of it, we watched the episode as soon as we got in.

It was great, and the brief shot of Peter Capaldi absolutely sent shivers down my spine. It was the perfect end to our year of Who.

Thanks to Jon for his time.

Contributing Editor

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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