Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview: Big Paw Games on striking out fresh out of school

Big Paw Games is not a development company that you would have heard of before. It's a small team of Sydneysiders straight out of school that, rather that look for work in a challenging development community, have decided to strike out on their own.

It's fascinating to gain the insights of a team straight just starting out as it figures out where its opportunities and challenges are. One of the founders, Liam O'Leary, took the time out to let us know Big Paw Games' initial priorities, where it sees the opportunities in the market, and indeed how the company came to be.

What is most impressive about this interview is how confident that O'Leary seems to be about the company's direction. The team knows where it needs to get where it wants to be, and it already has a clear identity without releasing so much as a single game. As you can see from the photo, Big Paw Games wants to have fun with happy and charming visuals.

There's a lot of developers that are also doing this of course, but we wish the team the best of luck. Sydney is a tough market, but fingers crossed for Big Paw Games.

Digitally Downloaded (DD): What inspired you to set up Big Paw Games?
Liam O'Leary (LL): Last year all six of us completed our studies in game development. As we live in Sydney, Australia, there are limited job opportunities, and we all didn't want to stop practicing our craft and making games with one another. So we decided to make a small business where we can work together, make the kinds of small, fun games we like and pick up some client work along the way.

DD: What kind of business model are you looking to build? Where do you see the opportunities, and how will you approach the market?
LL: When it comes to our business side of things we are lucky enough to have a large and very talented team. Due to this we offer a range of different skills. From 3D works, to game development, to 2D marketing material and coding works. We want to build up a business identity for creating quality personal works that the client can feel proud of.

We aim to have a very strong identity for providing happy things; so cute animals in fun scenarios that basically always makes the player feel happy. Approaching the market is always tricky yet we already know our identity and the kinds of games we will make. So we are starting off with small iPhone games and are looking into other such platforms as BlackBerry and even the new OUYA console to try and set ourselves apart for the competition. I suppose our over all goal is simple: to create a company, where we can pay ourselves and hire others to develop even more and diverse games.

DD: You've got two games in development, currently in prototype form. What are some of your key learnings about the development process?
LL: As we have been making games either together or with others over the last two years we already have a skeleton structure for how to develop our games. The learning curve however is more about finding out each others strengths and weakness' and how we can best help our business grow. We are learning the importance of play testing, and we're finding out that what we may think is fun others simply may not. We are extremely lucky to have a bunch of friends in the industry that are at the ready to help us make the best possible games.

DD: Which platforms are you focusing on, and what would you like to work on in the longer term?
LL: As with many new game developers we have our sights set on the App store, yet that marketplace is extremely crowded and sometimes can be next to impossible to get noticed and we understand this. That is why we have been looking into a number of different platforms. We are excited to see where the new OUYA may go and we are keeping a watchful eye on it. Blackberry is also another platform we would like to explore seeing as that store isn't quite as crowded.

DD: When do you expect to start releasing games commercially, and what will your release schedule look like?
LL: Currently we can't expect to release anything for quite a few more months. We will need to take on more client work to help with such expenses as licensing. Depending on how the above two platforms go our first game will most likely be released on iPhone for free with minimal advertising in order to make a little profit. As far as our releasing schedule I really cant say at this point however we plan to have at least two games out to the public by the end of this year in some way shape or form.

DD: Sydney is a relatively small games development environment. How have you found the development community, and what opportunities and challenges do you see here?
LL: As I have stated before the opportunities for full time employment in a gaming studio can be extremely hard to find. However for those of us who want to go indie, I can't really think of a better place to do it. With IGDA meet ups and an array of other indie game development companies in Ultimo such as Epiphany Games and See Through Studios there is never no one to turn to with business or development issues.

DD: How are you financing your game development, and when do you expect Big Paw to be generating enough revenue to be sustainable?
LL: The college we all came from (AIE), has set us up in an incubator program where we can work in their space and also have a mentor (Dan Toose) to help us build the best possible interdependent company. Therefore we don't have to worry about paying for a space to work out of. We don't really have our sights set on being able to pay ourselves just yet, we simply want to save up enough to pay for our licensing and then have enough to pay for a rental space next year. At the rate we are going we will be able to sustain at least that. As far as paying for wages that may take a little more time.

DD: Are you looking at other opportunities outside of game development?
LL: We are lucky enough to be overflowing with skillsets not just in games development. We have had interest from clients to develop 3D and 2D works for marketing material which is defiantly something we are interested in doing.

DD: What is your vision for Big Paw Games in the long term?
To own a company, where we have a few people working under us. Doing client projects and releasing our own games. Hopefully that would be more computer online games.

DD: Finally, what games are you playing at the moment?
LL: A lot of us are Blizzard fans so we have been obsessing over StarCraft 2 and Pandaria. Besides that however Chivalry, DOTA2 and Arma 3.
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