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IGF Factor 2010: Joe Danger

I first saw Joe Danger about a year ago, in a fairly awful pub just off Soho. I liked it so much, I gave Hello Games pretty much every useful contact in my big bag of games journo-names. It’s a high-concept bike game for people who thought Trials 2 a little too trialing. It’s picked up a nomination for technical excellence and the grand prize in this year’s IGF. And it’s totally coming out on the PC. No, really. We take the opportunity to sit down and talk to Hello Games’ Managing Director Sean Murray and avoid Danger! Danger! High Voltage! gags.

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Sean Murray: Hello Games is just four friends who have probably all become a bit too close. There’s me (Sean), Grant, David and Ryan and we all met when working together in bigger companies like Criterion, Sumo and EA.

Games have always been a big part of my life, making them is something I got into really young, I think all of us did. Dave and Grant used to make Doom levels together as kids, I’ve always been tinkering with some game or other, Ryan is the same.

We didn’t even discuss it that much to begin with. When we met, and it was almost just assumed, we’ll work together and make our own game. Looking back, we were lucky, that’s pretty rare.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Sean Murray: We’re making the kind of game that we actually enjoy, probably the kind of game that we’ve always loved. We want to make something with that kind of pure gameplay that you got on the SNES or the Genesis. The kind of games that Sega used to make so well. Something with charm and personality, but with some of the world’s most hardcore game mechanics underneath. I’m totally not ashamed to have huge nostalgia for those types of titles.

One thing I’m loving at the moment is our Sandbox mode, which lets you create your own levels. So many games have a level editor now, and I love the idea of them, I hatch grand plans for what I’m going to build, but they’re never really that fun to play about with. That’s we’re trying to change, we want to make our sandbox mode really tactile, instant and actually rewarding to build something in. You can jump in and out of it at any time, so you can place a ramp just before jump it, then place a shark tank just before you land. It has a really different feel to anything I’ve used before.

What nags? Absolutely everything. Right now 150 judges are out there looking at our unfinished game. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Sean Murray: Being nominated has totally changed our lives. I’m sure it’s the same for most Indies but we live life on a knife edge, and everything about the IGF means a lot to us. More than that, the four of us are in this tiny room in a complete vacuum. Getting some feedback and recognition is just so incredibly awesome.

We’re nominated, so I’m totally biased. Putting Joe Danger aside for a minute though, no other videogames awards has such a diverse range of games, genres and ideas. If you are interested in gaming as a whole, there’s absolutely nothing that compares to the IGF, any year. Looking at the Grand Prize for instance, I challenge anyone to not find a game in there that they would love and I have absolutely no idea how judges will be able to compare say the obvious beauty of Trauma with the downright gameplay genius of Super Meat Boy.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Sean Murray: The theme of the indie scene for me is games that have personality. Something you play and can imagine the person who made it. You see that most in games made by small teams, who are just struggling to get by. As a kid I think almost every game I played had that feeling. Playing Doom, I knew the type of people ID would be, I knew the music they’d like. You just don’t get that so much in the mainstream anymore. I think that’s one of the reasons that the Indie scene has grown so much recently, there’s something missing in the mainstream that all of us want to fill.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Sean Murray: It feels really weird to say but I guess this is what we do now. We started up together about a year and a half ago, quit our jobs, I sold my house and we all just bootstrapped. We’ve been working on Joe Danger ever since. We’re not quite eating out of bins yet, but you probably couldn’t really say we’re doing this or anything else for a living.

The truth is, we just want to make games, and games that people want to play, ideally something that puts a grin on your face. Hopefully we’ll get the opportunity to keep doing what we’re doing for the foreseeable future. We’ve got some ideas that we desperately want to get out there.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can follow Joe Danger’s development on Hello Games’ blog. It’s definitely coming to the PC. Don’t worry.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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