Last week I travelled to Brighton to talk to David Amor, Creative Director at computer games developer Relentless Software, for the latest interview for my research on Perceptions of Coaching in the UK Creative Industries.
In an industry where, according to Gamesindustry.biz, “insane crunch times and endless overtime hours … are considered to be a standard part of working in the development sector”, David and his business partner Andrew Eades are remarkable for having had “the crazy idea of a development studio that works 9 to 5 with no overtime”. Not only that, they strictly limit internet and e-mail access during working hours, and recreational games are banned from the office. Their approach has elicited protests about such ‘draconian’ measures, mixed with incredulity when they explain that in 3 years of production they have never missed a deadline or asked their staff to work evenings or weekends.
David and Andrew founded Relentless Software in 2003 to make Social Games on traditional games consoles such as PlayStation2. Their first product, DJ: Decks & FX, was published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) in September 2004 to critical acclaim and was subsequently nominated for a BAFTA. DJ: Decks & FX is a music-mixing product that gives users a virtual DJ rig and a set of over 100 genuine dance tracks to play. It allows the user to perform live at parties as well as record their perfect mix for later sharing and playback.
In 2004 and 2005, Relentless worked on SCEEâ€™s London Studios titles, EyeToy: Groove, EyeToy: Kinetic and SingStar. PopworldEyeToy and SingStar are SCEEâ€™s internally developed social games that have collectively sold tens of millions of units. SCEE are world-leaders in developing and publishing this genre of products and Relentless is pleased to work closely with SCEE in this increasingly important market segment.
In October 2005, Relentless Software and SCEE released Buzz!: The Music Quiz, a music based quiz game set in a TV studio that includes four bespoke buzzer peripherals. Buzz!: The Big Quiz was released in March 2006 and Relentless continue to develop new Buzz! games for PlayStation platforms including Buzz!: The Schools Quiz and Buzz! The Mega Quiz. The Buzz! franchise has sold 4M units in its first year and continues to be an important brand in the Sony catalogue.
Relentless was honoured with Best New Intellectual Property and Best Innovation in conjunction with SCEE at the 2006 Develop Industry Excellence Awards. Later in 2006 it went on to win a BAFTA for Best Social Game. Relentless was also named 3rd highest UK independent game developer in the recently published Develop 100 which lists the top 100 developers by revenue generated in the UK. At a global ranking of 43 with a single Buzz! product, above Microsoft and Sega, this demonstrates the potential of social games and the ability of Relentless to achieve success in this area.
Relentless continues to make games that everybody can play and has developed considerable expertise in the new Social Games genre that allows people to enjoy video games without having the gamer expertise required by other products.
Talking to David, I was struck by his emphasis on the hard business value of ensuring his staff have a good balance of focused work and time away from the office. In his view this is not just a case of being ‘nice’ to people, but of providing the optimum conditions for efficient work and reducing some of the uncertainty inherent in creative production.
Relentless are currently hiring – e-mail David if you think his approach to making games could be for you.
Click the ‘AUDIO MP3’ icon below to hear the interview.