Hogrocket's Peter Collier on its iOS debut Tiny Invaders and the refreshing aspects of making games for everyone

Developers, doing it for themselves

Hogrocket's Peter Collier on its iOS debut Tiny Invaders and the refreshing aspects of making games for everyone
Created in March after Activision shut down its 200-strong Liverpool-based Bizarre Creations studio, three-man outfit Hogrocket hasn't been hanging around.

Its debut - Tiny Invaders - has just been released on iOS, so we caught up with co-founder Peter Collier to get his take on the move to mobile, and what happens next.

Pocket Gamer: Your debut iOS game Tiny Invaders has just been released, so how was that experience?

Peter Collier: It's been extremely refreshing - development feels so much more agile because you can act on changes when prototyping almost instantly. In console development, changes to game mechanics based on play testing feedback would often be like turning an ocean liner around.

You feel very much more connected to what you are making because you have much finer and expansive control. It's also a joy to be involved in every aspect of getting the game to market, from a business perspective and a creative one. I've learned a hell of a lot and this couldn't make me happier.

We've been looking but we can't see any similarities between Tiny Invaders and your work at Bizarre Creations.

It's a completely new design challenge that requires you to frame things very differently. The audience is a lot more varied in aspects such as age, expectations, patience, gender balance and many more. The player interaction with the device is also completely different, if you couple this with the varying business models from freemium to premium then it means a design approach worlds apart from console.

This has been a fresh and welcome creative challenge for us at Hogrocket and why our output with Tiny Invaders shares so few similarities with our past work at Bizarre.

On a more personal level, because console gaming is still very alien to many of my friends and family, it's really nice that they can actually play my games. iOS has such a greater and varied market penetration.

Why do you think there's such a rush of PC/console developers taking up smartphone development?

Smartphone development has very few barriers to entry in comparison to other platforms. This is especially true from a financial perspective. Console development is costly in terms of certification and general platform holder fees that are front loaded onto the developer. Apple's 30 percent cut is taken from whatever you make once on the market and its upfront development fees are negligible in comparison.

Also the triple-A developer pool has been utterly decimated over the past couple of years by publisher cutbacks. All the redundancies mean developers out in the cold but with a bit of money in their back pocket. That, coupled with an understandable aversion to re-entering console development again, makes going it alone or with friends an attractive proposition.

Tell us a bit about the thinking behind Tiny Invaders?

We looked at what the typical iOS device audience was and kind of realised that it was practically everyone: 50/50 split in gender, fairly educated, broad age group etc. Essentially the game needed to have universal appeal. Tiny Invaders actually started out as a train game where you played the part of a sheep dog collecting sheep and returning them to the farmhouse.

Gameplay-wise, the game hasn't changed much from then, but we felt the art style of trains was perhaps to niche and might put some people off. We hope the Tiny Invaders theme we have gone with is much more inclusive and brings something new to the table in the amount of polish we put into it.

Is mobile just a starting point for Hogrocket, or a focus?

There is no master plan to get back to consoles for us. Mobile is interesting, and there are also several new platforms opening up which could be more appropriate to Hogrocket in the near future.

We'll scale to whatever our successes as a studio allow us to reach, and if that includes consoles then that would be great too. At the end of the day, making great games is what we want to do.

Why do you think some big publishers are reluctant to make a move on mobile?

For publishers, it's a risk. Most businesses would be reluctant to take the risk of moving into a space when they're doing perfectly fine, or at least getting by, where they currently are. Given the fragile state of affairs in the industry and economy in general at the moment risk aversion has understandably never been higher.

You've been blogging about marketing for the past few weeks. What main tips would you offer newcomers?

To take marketing seriously, making a good game is the baseline, everything you do on top of that should be about cutting through the noise as best you can.

Although we've blogged our advice on it, we freely admit we've got some things wrong, I guess the key is to learn from things as quickly as possible and be humble enough to accept it. If you want more follow up to our thoughts on this then we'll be blogging about it more.

Indie mobile studio PR seems to be much more personal too.

I don't think it's much to do with it being mobile.

I think it's a scale thing. If you're a smaller outfit then communication with the press and anyone else is gonna be inherently more personal. Being smaller makes you more approachable too as you don't have a corporate structure or process to work your way through.

Do you have plans to take Tiny Invaders to other platforms?

If we sell enough copies! Hogrocket is entirely self-funded so we have to make sure we can support the extra development costs involved in doing this. It certainly makes sense for us to get the game onto as many platforms as we can if there is the demand for it.

Thanks to Peter for his time.

You can find out more about Hogrocket here, and get your hands on Tiny Invaders - $1.99, €1.59 or 1.49p - here [iTunes link]

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