Interview | Joe Danger
Many developers have fun while they work, but at Hello Games it seems the fun is the work. Talking to Sean Murray, Managing Director at Hello Games, it’s clear to see that every piece of creativity that manifests within their tiny office in Guildford shares that simple aim: to have fun. But it’s a goal that the team of four have worked so hard to achieve. Joe Danger, Hello Games’ first title as a group, will soon be upon us. We first got our hands on the game back in October 2009, and I recently sat down with Sean to discuss the game, the recent IGF awards nominations and the future for the company.
Resolution Magazine: How did the four of you become a team and start Hello Games?
Sean Murray: Hello Games is me, Grant Duncan, David Ream and Ryan Doyle. We are four friends who have all come from many larger games developers, and worked on games like Burnout, Geometry Wars Galaxies, Sega Superstars Tennis and Black. We started-up working on my dining room table to begin with, then cramming ourselves into a tiny little office.
It has been super exciting, something we have all been longing to do since we started working in games development. When I joined the industry, it was absolutely my dream job. I’d been making games since I was a kid and this was an amazing opportunity. I loved it, but I’ve never thought of doing anything except starting up on my own. I think that’s the same for all of us. Dave and Grant used to make Doom levels together as kids, I was always tinkering with some game or other, Ryan is the same. We had an instant connection. We didn’t even discuss it that much to begin with, it was just assumed that we’ll work together and make our own game.
RM: How did the initial idea for Joe Danger come about?
SM: I love how it all happened actually, it was really fun. We know each other so well that we all have the same culture points. Someone can just say reference an obscure character in Defenders of the Earth or the controls in Space Harrier and everyone is instantly on the same page. It meant the type of game we were going to make was just implicit. We all wanted to use this opportunity to bring back some of the bright, fun, arcade magic that we grew up on. Grant brought in a box of toys from his parents’ attic, and something kind of beautiful happened. There was an instant power to demonstrating your latest game idea with Optimus Prime or Lion-o in your hands. We kept coming back to that one toy though, an Evel Knievil stunt cycle. We just sat and actually played with it, building bigger and bigger ramps, launching it out of windows, down corridors. It didn’t matter that he crashed all the time. In fact, that was almost the point. So we started to build this little character around who this hapless guy was: the world’s most determined stuntman. It kind of tapped into the character you imagined as you played with those toys as a kid. Designing the game from there just flowed naturally.
RM: What led to your decision to work on a smaller-scale, digital distribution product rather than going for a full retail release, especially since you all come with experience on some great retail products?
SM: I guess, in one way, that was exactly what we wanted to make a break from. We wanted to get back to a small team, and making a game we’re really personally involved with. Joe Danger is a labour of love for us. We were lucky enough to work for some amazingly accepting and open companies previously.
We work incredibly hard though, mostly because we’re trying to make a pretty big, polished game, and also because we’re really passionate about what we’re doing. It’s a really personal project for us.
RM: It’s obvious that Joe Danger will compared to the likes of Trials HD. How do you feel about that?
SM: We’re totally cool with that comparison. Once people actually play Joe Danger, they tend to be reminded of other games though, games like Excitebike, Paperboy, Crazy Taxi, Sonic. Those are certainly the kind of titles we’re inspired by, old school classics. I love Trials, but I play it with an intense grimace on my face, I guess you could say we have an abusive relationship. When I watch people play Joe Danger they are normally grinning, and that’s what we’re all about. The games I grew up with always had that effect.
We grew up with the SNES and Sega Genesis, so for us bright and vibrant means fun, but you know, not necessarily casual. Probably the opposite, like Sega used to make some of the world’s most hardcore games, but still with that distinctive, happy-blue-sky style. Super Monkey Ball is a really good example, it’s hardcore, but it’s so charming you just can’t stay mad at it. We want Joe Danger to be like that. The people, who are good at it, are amazing to watch, it’s absolutely a game of skill, but it’s also really fun to play.
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