MEET THE DEVELOPER
Britain’s next level
Say hello to the most exciting creatives working in the UK today. These passionate, inventive Brits are making their mark on a global stage through the App Store – and with their next projects, we’re sure they’ll push the boundaries further.
Having bounced around mechanical engineering, animation, programming and film-making, Jonathan Topf still hadn’t found his calling.
“For a long time I struggled with the feeling that I had to choose between art and technology,” says Topf. When he realised that games sat at the intersection of both, he quit his role at a visual effects company to join London’s Ustwo Games. It felt like coming home.
At Ustwo, Topf began a side project, initially just to learn more about the craft. It became 2015’s Trick Shot, an excellent get-the-ball-in-the-box puzzler.
After directing design on the outstanding Monument Valley 2, Topf is now beavering away at start-up Playdeo. He’s making a daring new game which sits “halfway between video, games and television,” he says. (We’ve seen a tech demo. It looks incredible.)
And all the while, he’s been working on another side project. Trick Shot 2 has the satisfying physics puzzles of the first game, but there’s even more style, variety and an ingenious level editor on top – which could spawn a near-infinite number of puzzles. And it’s out now.
Trick Shot 2
The Bae Team
If you could design a game just for you, what would it be?
When Ruby-Mae Roberts and Oliver Hindle asked each other this question, they had the exact same answer: ”Our ideal game would be story-based, full of cats, with lots of choices and mystery,” says Hindle.
So, as indie duo The Bae Team, they went ahead and made it. Hindle’s day job at London’s Bossa Studios meant he could take on coding in his spare time; for Roberts, a trainee interpreter, Purrfect Date was her very first attempt at writing professionally.
”Everything in the game is an expression of the relationship I have with Oliver,” says Roberts. “All of our interests, in-jokes, idiosyncrasies and dreams are in there.”
The duo have been blown away by the response to Purrfect Date, and they’re now busily prototyping ideas for new games. “I’m quietly confident that you will be hearing more from The Bae Team in the near future,” says Roberts.
Cats, dating, and dating cats!
This prodigious 13 year-old has already won awards, made a couple of apps and released his first game.
Spruce Campbell started learning to code when he was eight; he won a BAFTA Young Game Designers award in 2017 for prototype CyberPNK, and has since developed it into a full game.
It’s live on the App Store now: Cyber:Jump is a retro-style platformer inspired by cult App Store games like PinOut and Geometry Dash. It feels like the first of many games from this extraordinary young talent.
“I hope to turn software into a career,” Campbell tells us. “After Cyber:Jump is released I hope to get straight to work on new games, apps and moving into interesting new technologies like augmented reality.”
We’ve absolutely no doubt he’ll do so; releasing your debut App Store game when you’re 13 isn’t a bad start, after all.
Sometimes you’ve just got to create something and put it out there. When Meg Jayanth left the BBC to write and design Samsara, an interactive story set in 18th century India, it proved to be the start of a flourishing storytelling career.
Samsara piqued the interest of narrative game specialist Inkle, who enlisted Jayanth to help make what became 80 Days: a critically acclaimed, multi-award winning retelling of Around the World in 80 Days.
“I don't think any of us expected the response 80 Days received, or how enduring it's been,” says Jayanth. “It's been an extraordinary gift to watch people be moved by our work.”
Jayanth has since helped develop stories in rich narrative gameworld Sunless Sea and huge PlayStation blockbuster Horizon: Zero Dawn.
She’s so in-demand that she’s currently working on several new projects, one of which should arrive on the App Store later this year. “I'm absolutely not allowed to say anything about it,” she teases. “I'm afraid you'll just have to wait and see!”
Travel across the world
Shib Hussain and Adam Lowe want to create ‘the Netflix of interactive storytelling’. When UNRD launches later this year, it’ll feature five different stories, all penned by co-founder Lowe.
More stories will be added to UNRD regularly to cover a mix of genres, drawn from an ever-widening pool of talent. Among the first new writers to contribute is Nosa Eke, a digital drama specialist. Her debut UNRD story is called Truth or Die, a tale about a group of teens who receive a series of sinister texts.
As the story unfolds, the teens must choose “between exposing their own secrets or keeping quiet and facing grave consequences,” says Eke.
UNRD is perhaps the most ambitious interactive narrative platform we’ve seen so far. And you can get a taste of what’s to come in UNRD right now – ‘lost phone’ thriller Last Seen Online, below, is a prime example of how exciting this new style of storytelling can be.