Interview

How to get a job at Japanese-influenced London super startup The Secret Police

How to get a job at Japanese-influenced London super startup The Secret Police

What sets London-based startup The Secret Police apart from other mobile game studios is its team.

With a line-up headed by 40-year games veteran Ian Livingstone, alongside Bossa Studios co-founder Ric Moore and Marvelous' Head of Europe Harry Holmwood, not many can compete with its pedigree. 

Now working on its debut game - a free-to-play, JRPG-inspired mobile title - the studio is looking to bolster its team.

As such, we got in touch with Chief Constable and Director Harry Holmwood to get some insight into what it's like working with The Secret Police, the sort of candidates he's interested in hiring, and sage advice for anyone looking to apply.

PocketGamer.biz: Could you give us some background on The Secret Police and what you do?

Harry Holmwood: We're a new studio, based in London, focused on making free-to-play mobile games.

We're big fans of Japanese and Asian mobile games and, while our games are targeting the western market first, we draw inspiration from some of the titles we love from the East.

Are there any specific areas/disciplines you're currently hiring in?

Right now, we're keen to find talented 2D artists and animators, and experienced Unity programmers.

We draw inspiration from some of the titles we love from the East.
Harry Holmwood

We're also interested to talk to designers who have a passion for, and understanding of, free-to-play games, particularly those from Japan, Korea or China.

As you're overseeing overseeing recruitment at The Secret Police, what do you look for in candidates?

Firstly, there's nothing better than a personal recommendation from someone on the team, or people we know well.

For artists, we're working in a very specific 2D style and need to find people who can adapt to that, while also bringing their own creativity and imagination to bear.

Our first game is a battle RPG with lots of characters to collect, so we're looking for 2D artists and animators who can create compelling and charming characters, with their own distinct style.

Early art from The Secret Police's next game

For programmers, our goal is to find multi-skilled people, expert in Unity but also with creativity and imagination. We're a small team, and need people who are flexible and can turn their hand to all aspects of a game's development.

One great thing about working with experienced people is that they're more able to self-manage - to be creative and work out what needs to be done to make the best games, rather than just implementing a list of commands from above.

Why do you think The Secret Police is a good place to work?

Working in a startup is always fun - we're trying new things, breaking new ground and making games which we think will really stand out in a really crowded market.

Having that wealth of expertise helps us foster a fun and creative environment.
Harry Holmwood

At the same time, The Secret Police has been built as a business from the ground up - we've built our team around people who really love and understand not just games, but the games business too.

Having that wealth of expertise in our in-house team, and also the backing and support of our board members and investors should help us to foster a fun and creative environment in which people can do their best work.

How do you think having such an experienced team impacts the work dynamic at The Secret Police?

It's a bit early for us to be blowing our own trumpet compared to all the great studios out there!

That said, having people who've done interesting things before hopefully means we've learned a few lessons over the years, can avoid making mistakes a second time, and maybe open doors with business partners and investors that might be tricky for newer companies.

What advice would you have for someone trying to get into the games industry?

Make a game. If you're good enough, that will show through in your work and you'll get the job you want.

I think there's a big problem at the moment where hundreds of colleges will happily take money from people who, frankly, don't have the talent or drive to make games for a living. Don't waste your time and money on a substandard degree.

That's not to say don't do a degree but, if you're not already making games for fun, and naturally very gifted in your chosen field (art, coding etc) it's unlikely spending three years and tens of thousands on a game-related degree will get you where you want to be.

When building examples of your work - whether an art portfolio or a game, it's best to focus on something highly polished, even if that limits the amount of work you can submit.

Game companies receive hundreds of applications and, sadly, it's not always possible to spend a lot of time evaluating each one in detail before passing on it.

A piece of work which, in a few seconds, grabs the viewer's attention with polish and creativity is much more likely to get noticed than something you need to spend a lot of time with to fully appreciate.

For more information on The Secret Police's vacancies, and details on how to apply, visit its jobs page.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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