Happy New Year! This interview has been available to Patreon's for quite some time, but I didn't want it getting lost in all the Game of the Year hype. But Eric, the Creative Director and CEO of Horrible Unicorn Game Studios, took some time to talk about his career, and their upcoming game Legacy of the Copper Skies. Check it out below, and be sure to follow Horrible Unicorn Game Studio on Twitter.
TorontoGameDevs.com: Thanks for doing the interview! Can you tell me a bit about yourself? Your history up to this point, and how Horrible Unicorn Game Studio started.
Eric: Ditto, thanks for the interview. For myself, there’s not much to tell. Horrible Unicorn Game Studios began as a dream childhood dream. Starting a business was always the long term plan, but needed to gain some hard experience first. I’d left University for my first job at Relic Entertainment as a producer on Space Marine. Which was freaking awesome. Relic was an amazing place to get started. The people there were great. Then my wife and I packed up and moved to Montreal to work on Batman, because who doesn’t want to work on Batman? Especially when you get to do trippy Mad Hatter levels. That’s hard to argue with. Also they have awesome poutine in Montreal, so I gained a few pounds… Anyway, after all of that my wife and I felt it was time to move back closer to family, and start the business. Hell, we even imported her mom from BC to join us out here in Ontario. Now both sides of our family are in the same space. So that’s how HUGS was born. After that it was games industry stuff as usual.
TorontoGameDevs.com: Legacy of the Copper Skies is the studios first game. What made you go with a top down action game with pixel art? What were the main inspirations?
Eric: When we started we actually were going to make a completely different game. Then another startup popped up and announced they were making essentially the same thing, but had a bigger team, and more money… So that wasn’t super awesome. Fortunately, we had some other ideas we were pumped about, and Legacy of the Copper Skies was the one we wanted to do the most. Pretty much all of us here at the studio are huge fans of Zelda, and classic SNES games. So we wanted to take what we loved from those games, but modernize it a bit and add our flare to that style of game.
TorontoGameDevs.com: The game revolves around the characters Tir and Isen, but what's the story surrounding the characters?
Eric: The jist of these two characters is that they are the avatars or gods or creators of their own worlds. At the start of the game their worlds are completely separate and they have no idea the other exists. Through the events of the game these two worlds are forcibly merged and it forces them to confront the danger. The main theme of the game is co-operation, which ironically doesn’t include a co-operative mode or multiplayer, but it’s something we wanted to affect all aspects of our game. So this is why there are two worlds and two main characters. In a way each character also represents creation, and destruction. Both forces are needed in this world, but neither is good or evil.
TorontoGameDevs.com: Funding wise, you guys were involved with the Square Enix Collective, a collaboration created by Square Enix to help fund Indie Games. What was the experience like? What kind of things did you learn from it and would you recommend it to other indie studios?
Eric: Just to clarify, Square Enix isn’t actually funding us at all. But if they wanted too... :) The Square Enix Collective was a great place for us to pitch our idea and kind of shop it around the public to see if they liked the idea. I think Square Enix has built something really cool with that and hope they have continued success with it and grow the program as they seem to be doing. So for us as a studio and as a game it was awesome, but it was definitely a roller coaster of emotions for me. We’d started out doing really well, then all of a sudden we were getting an extremely high ratio of no votes. In the beginning we’d get like 1 to 2 no votes per every 10 votes, then all of a sudden it shot up to like 6 out of every 10. I’d gone from super happy that we were doing well, to being crushed in like a day. Fortunately, the bulk of these votes were fake. Square Enix had systems in place that had detected the shady votes and were able to remove them. But it was tough. This is our baby; no one wants their baby to fail.
TorontoGameDevs.com: What systems are you planning for right now? Do you have a release date in mind?
Eric: Right now we’re aiming for a PC/Mac release in Q1 2017, but we’re working on putting it on the big consoles as well.
TorontoGameDevs.com: You guys are located in London, whats the game developer scene like? Has it been difficult to find talent, or assistance?
Eric: We are in London now. Or rather I am in London now, the other guys that had joined were already here so I commute here to work in the office. But the game dev scene here is actually pretty good. It’s the shiny land of game dev promises outside of Toronto. They’ve got a number of studios already here so it’s not been that hard to find some great people. Unfortunately there is no Poutineville here that I am aware of anyway.
A big thank you to Eric for taking the time to answer some questions, and to Jeffery for setting everything up. Make sure to keep your eye on Legacy of the Copper Skies and as we get closer to next year we'll have more on it. Until then, check out their site, and Twitter to stay up to date.