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Why Nordeus' new London studio is pushing high fidelity art, not sports

Aman Ghei is kicking around something new
Why Nordeus' new London studio is pushing high fidelity art, not sports

It's a simple fact of life that you don't just sneeze and have 100 million registered players fall into your lap. Unfortunately.

To achieve this, Belgrade-based Nordeus has built from the ground up over a period of five years to create global football management franchise Top Eleven.

From a team of just three, the company has ridden a meteoric burst in growth to over 170 employees across five countries - and one of those offices is in London.

Now, Top Eleven has snowballed into such a free-to-play phenomenon that if its players decided to form a country it would be the 13th largest on Earth.

So it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that each of Nordeus' satellite offices were working round-the-clock to support the game's continuation.

It would be a wrong assumption though.

Pushing the envelope

We caught up with head of the London studio Aman Ghei to find out more about what his wing of the palatial Nordeus empire is planning.

First off, why did Nordeus set up in London?

"To understand why London you have to understand why Belgrade?" Ghei tells us.

"The team has been really successful setting up in Belgrade, and they wanted to expand into a key market that they were familiar with, that also had a great talent pool to recruit from.

The success of <em>Top Eleven</em> is the foundation for Nordeus to branch out
The success of Top Eleven is the foundation for Nordeus to branch out

"They looked around and there were some choices like Berlin, but London stood out because we wanted to create games that stood out in terms of high fidelity art."

“London stood out because we wanted to create games that stood out in terms of high fidelity art.”
Aman Ghei

While Ghei is keeping tight-lipped on what the studio has up its sleeve, it's clear that ground-breaking artistic design is going to be a big focus.

"We want to create a game that has high art production values. We're taking our inspiration from what works on console and PC and want to work out what can work on mobile with high production values," he says.

"We're still relatively early in terms of gameplay iteration. One of the good things with being small is that you can change gameplay every day!"

On your own

Indeed, this is one of the key reasons that Nordeus has set up a ring of satellite studios outside of its Serbian HQ. Lean teams mean that firms can create content a lot quicker than if 150 people are all sticking their oar in.

Also Top Eleven is stable enough that not every hand is needed on deck to support it.

"When we decided to do London, the absolute must was the studio needs to operate with complete autonomy," Ghei says.

"We decide what game we're making - obviously we get company feedback - but in terms of deciding what games to build is completely the studio's responsibility.

"Right now we have one production team here to Belgrade's six. Each production team has about 10-15 people. 80 percent of the company is working on new games."

Something different

That new game from Nordeus London is, interestingly, "definitely not sports related at all."

The studio created it by sitting in a room and throwing out dream ideas about the game each team member would love to play on mobile - with zero input from Belgrade.

“80 percent of the company is working on new games.”
Aman Ghei

The result was a game that should push the boundaries of art on mobile, according to Ghei. Drawing on a pool of talent that include artists who worked on Batman: Arkham Knight, Nordeus London keeps bandying around the term "high fidelity art on mobile."

"With art it's very easy to take the approach of 'I want the most realistic fidelity on my mobile screen,'" says Ghei.

"Good mobile studios have realised that's hard on mobile, it's not the same as console. That's what you need to keep in mind when you're considering high fidelity art on mobile - Far Cry on mobile isn't going to work, for example."

Stay focused

While many studios prize art in the development process, Ghei also believes that studios often go wrong in the pre-visualisation phase.

He says, this is a phase where developers should ask 'can I make a poster of my game, or a small animation clip?'

"It should be nothing to do with gameplay, but instead more like the development of a movie trailer," he comments.

Equally, though, he says too many developers make the mistake of falling down a pre-visualisation rabbit hole

"It's easy to spend a lot of time exploring artwork," he says.

"As a mobile studio you need to be vigilant and not spend years and years doing that - even if, like us, you're backed by a profitable studio! You need to set deadlines and keep everything in account."

Nordeus London will be looking to reveal more about upcoming game in the next few months.