What is your background?
I started out as an Art Director many moons ago and moved into digital about 10 years ago. I’ve worked with tons of brands over the years, but for the past 6 or so I have been working with entertainment brands such as Sony Pictures International, PlayStation Europe, Lionsgate, and Paramount to name but a few. It was from working with these brands that my passion for game creation was ignited; from engaging audiences with mini-games on Facebook, to creating alternative reality games across hundreds of sites. The passion is still lit, as I am working and creating games and experiences that span across a number of really exciting brands.
How did you get started with Drain Pipe Surf Dudes and what was the idea behind it?
Leo Marques (game co-creator) and I have worked together on various projects over the years. I had this idea for a game; so we decided just to go for it. With a full-time job and a family, we knew it would be a tricky balancing act and the only time I could work on the game was late in the evening after work. To be honest, I had had enough of ‘Made in Chelsea’ anyway. The idea of the game came to me while I was on the tube; there were a couple of ideas we were discussing at the start, and we whittled them down to a few, but DPSD (Drain Pipe Surf Dudes) was heads above the rest as we felt it had all the components you need for a successful game.
We wanted to create levels based on the characters’ own environment; initially he was a cockroach (his name was The Roach) and he had a dressing gown and a long board (think ‘The Dude’ from the film, ‘The Big Lebowski’). The character developed into Ampi, an awesome drain-pipe surfing frog, who seeks to find the perfect pipe in Graffiti City. We chose the frog over the cockroach as it felt more dynamic and friendly.
It’s been really positive so far. The people who played the game reviewed it with 5 stars in the Apple Store. We also had some great reviews from App Review sites and also won an FWA award for the game. A really good start.
Was there any negative feedback?
At the BETA stage of the game, players didn’t really understand the story and didn’t have a connection with the character. We solved this by creating an introduction to the character explaining the full story. This included how he gets to Graffiti City, which basically summed up is that he lived on the boondocks, the last great pipe in the boondocks was destroyed, so he had to leave in search of a new pipe to surf, and this is how he found Graffiti City where all the great pipes are. We developed Ampi and integrated Ampi into the App, so the character really shined through visually. We also gave him an American deep south-styled voice, which added a bit of humour to the gameplay.
To create a game – any game -there are a few key components you need to set out from the start really: storyline, characterisation, playability, awesome graphics and in-game upgrades to enhance the gameplay. Tick these boxes and you’re on the right track.
The visuals of the game are of a really high quality, did you do them yourself?
Yes. My vision was to create a style themed around a disused city that had been taken over by animals and insects. I went about researching and gathering all the visual references I could from the streets of New York to the Favelas in Brazil. I also bought and took tons of pictures of street art to give me inspiration for the buildings and a general look of the game. There are also themes taken from skateboarding and surfing. I then went about visualising what I thought Graffiti City would look like. This included Photoshop work and 3D visualisation.
Our aim is to get on App review sites, such as 148 Apps, Gamzeebo and the like, to drive interest and kudos around the game with the intention of improving our ranking in the App store. This is already underway and we’ve had many great reviews. We are also targetting Pro Surfers, Skateboarders and Sports fanatics to create some links and interest.
The next big push for us is a free promotion which starts on the 26th of this month. We are working with an App promoter who will be seeding the game out to over 8 million users. This will last for 30 days.
We actually met after you gave a talk at an event; is that part of what you do these days?
Lots and lots. It’s great fun. Part of being a Creative Director is sharing your knowledge, experiences, and championing crazy ideas. At the moment, my focus is talking around cross-platform storytelling. A very exciting and effective space for brands and myself to explore.