Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How the iPad Changed Everything...

I'm currently sitting watching the stream from today's Apple event in Cupertino, they've just announced the iPad Air 2 (much to the chagrin of one of my iPad Air - owning team) and it reminded me how much things have changed in the last 3-4 years thanks to Apple.

Just this morning I witnessed a scene which distilled this change more clearly than I would have ever thought possible. On the way to work i stopped off at our local Tesco filling station, it was about 9:30 - hardly peak time, and it's a big station so you wouldn't expect it to be too busy - but what greeted me was an end-of-the-world-style scene reminiscent of a George A. Romero movie - cars queueing 5 deep, people shouting at each other in frustration and trying to barge each other out of the way in order to get to the pumps.

Did some kind of flash fuel crisis which cause panic buying? Was there some kind of crazy special offer they were all racing to get? No... it was an upgrade of the pumps.

Last night, the station had upgraded to the new system pictured above which allows you to pay at the pump. The problem was that, faced with this new pretty colour screen, the customers couldn't work out that they had to use the buttons below to control it - they all assumed that it was a touch-screen and therefore couldn't get it to work, they didn't even notice the fisher-price-style buttons beneath it!

4-5 years ago this would have been inconceivable - most people rarely encountered touch screens in their daily lives - but now the technology is so ubiquitous people find it difficult to understand when it's not used. So, did iPad change everything? I have to say, I think so.

Good work Apple - looking forward to getting my hands on the iPad Air 2!

(Where's my Apple TV update?! Please!!!)

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Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday, 3 October 2014

Professional Foot-in Mouth Provider?

I really must do some media training or something - or at least learn to think a bit before I speak.

Yesterday I was on a panel at the very brilliant UKIE - it was and event on funding and although I felt like a bit of a fraud (as we've never received any funding in the normal sense) I guess I have managed to keep a company afloat for 12 years and obviously my Dragons Den experience was of interest to some.

However during the event, for some reason, I went on a bit of a rant about production companies being ripped-off and taken advantage of. This can sometimes happen in panels - you sit there for 2 hours waiting to say your piece and then when you finally get the chance you blurt it all out at once in an unintelligible babble and sound like a total spanner... sigh. Anyway, although I stand by what I said - it is a danger - I'm aware that my actual point didn't come across so, for the record, here it is:

Over 12 years in the digital/games industry we have been ripped off and taken advantage of on many occasions.

The kind of thing i'm talking about can range in severity from someone literally taking your proposition and giving it to someone else to build through to people using you as a free consultancy service - for example, pulling you into meetings to pick your brains, help them sell in an idea etc etc.

Unfortunately, if you want to do anything like what we do this is something that you're going to have to learn to both accept it and protect yourself against as best you can. Over the years I have developed a few rules which help to reduce the risk a little which are as follows:

  1. Don't pitch creative ideas unless you have a paper-trail to back it up. This won't stop people using your ideas but it will significantly reduce the chance of them nicking them wholesale.
  2. Set realistic limits on what you're prepared to do in order to win an opportunity - to start with I would write a 4-6 page pitch document for every opportunity complete with several full-colour mock-ups but latterly we're more likely to provide a black&white sketch and a 400 word outline in the first instance.
  3. Don't pitch for pitches. There are a lot of agencies out there who try to use small production companies to bolster their pitches for them. They'll do their main pitch and then get 3-4 specialists to give them additional ideas to tack on the end. We responded to these kinds of ops for the first 8 years or so but in that time not a single one came off so we don't any more.
  4. Try and develop a proposition which is difficult to steal for example a house-style or some proprietary tech which only you can provide.
  5. Beware of "Research firms" or "events companies" that you've never heard of. Some (but not all) could be funded by your competition as a way to get hold of your confidential information, or worse, your clients. Do some research before you agree to speak to anyone about what you're doing and definitely before intro'ing them to your client!

However... bearing in mind all of the above - try not to let it stop you talking to people! Gladly there are still more good people out there than bad. Doing business is not just about the numbers - it's about building relationships which - in turn - means making as many connections as possible. You just need to find a way to identify the dodgy ones quickly and stop them doing too much damage to your business.

Well, there you go! I hope that both clarifies my position and helps a bit too!
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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Dragons Den - Develop Interview

Having survived (if not actually triumphed) in the Den has been a strange experience - I was very pleased that to see the interview I did for Develop published this morning - whilst the show was awesome it did rather focus on the amusing moments of the pitch so it's nice to be able to show that there was a little bit of thought that went into it too!

Anyway, check it out at:

Big thanks to James from Develop and Stu from Dead Good Media.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Dragons Den & The Magnificent Stunts - Part 1

If you're reading this then you probably already know that I was on Dragons Den and while I can't say what happened until it airs, I thought it might be interesting to tell you a bit of what led to it.

Before I do though, you might want to have a look at the three games that we were there to pitch which are now complete:

Stunt Gal iconStunt Gal - Available Now!
only on the App Store (iPhone/iPad)

Stunt Guy iconStunt Guy 2.0 - Available now on:
Google Play for Android and the App Store for iPhone/iPad

Reg The Roadkill icon Reg the Roadkill - Out Now!
Only on the App Store for iPhone & iPad

All done? Awesome lets continue.

Without doubt going on Dragons Den was one of the hardest things I've done in my career and not an experience I'd repeat in a hurry.

I applied at the beginning of the year. We'd finished our biggest game ever (Red Bull Kart Fighter 3) in the summer of the year before and had since been working on a series of games featuring two characters we'd developed: Guy and Gail Stunt, a hollywood stunt couple also known as The Magnificent Stunts.

We'd done some amazing work on the project but progress had been slower than I'd anticipated - money was getting tight and I was aware that once we finished the games we might have a problem with finding the resources to promote them. I started speaking to publishers and investors to see if we could get someone to partner with us on the project but it was clear that if we didn't find something soon we'd either have to change the plan or do something radical.

Then whilst working late one night, I had a brainwave (admittedly not a particularly original one), I should apply to go on Dragons Den! Even if we didn't get the money we'd stand to gain some promotion for the games - we couldn't loose. So I wrote a hasty submission, hit send and to my surprise I got a call a few weeks later to say they were interested.

Over the next few weeks we had periodic contact with the production team and were invited to go up for an audition. Unfortunately the audition didn't go that well and I wasn't at-all sure we'd get on the show but our contact at the Beeb was still positive and said he'd be in touch to let us know what the producers decided. We did the only thing we could do - wait - and got on with the project.

Money was still tight but, thankfully, in early spring we won another project from our good friends at Red Bull UK - a collection of HTML5 games which have since been published as Red Bull Focus. It was an awesome project - a collaboration between us and 3 other companies: A behavioural science consultancy, a hardcore design house and a digital agency. It was also quite a bit of work but somehow we managed to get that, and Stunt Guy 2.0 finished by the beginning of May. We published Red Bull Focus, submitted Stunt Guy 2.0 to Apple and started planning for the launch.

This was the first time we'd undertaken a real launch ourselves so we decided to recruit some help. We engaged the services of the amazing to help us out from a press point of view, put a little ad campaign together and - thanks to an inspired suggestion by Dead Good - planned a last-minute launch stunt involving no less than 12 double-decker busses. Satisfied with what we'd achieved, we sat back to see what would happen - the last thing I was expecting that week was another call from the Beeb.

It was a few days after the SG2.0 launch, they wanted me for the show and what's more it was set to shoot in only a week or two's time. I took a deep breath and thought about it - the launch seemed to have gone fairly well thus far (we'd had "Best New App" features in China, Japan Turkey and Brazil) so I agreed to go on.

The following day however, I had a bit of a shock. Most people don't realise this but when you go on Dragons Den there's quite a bit of administration to do for it - you have to go through a rigorous due diligence process that I'd completely forgotten about. It's time consuming enough to do this for a start-up business (as most of the companies on the show are) but doing it for an 11-year old business like mine is a lot of work - particularly as I didn't even have a completed business plan (for this new direction) at that point. So, once again I set to work - ploughing through all the paperwork, sourcing documents from our various partners and suppliers and somehow managing to keep our projects going alongside. Then we got some more bad news - we'd been monitoring the progress of Stunt Guy 2.0 and despite the promising start we were losing users much more quickly than we'd anticipated. - there had to be something serious wrong with the game design.

After a bit of poking about in the stats I finally realised what was going wrong. In the final stages of production we'd taken the decision to tunnel the users directly into the first set of 5 levels in order to get them into the game as quickly as possible. As a result the users were mistakenly assuming that we only had 5 levels and the game felt too small and aggressive in its sales approach. Added to that - when we'd developed the game progression we'd "taken inspiration" from Rovio's "Angry Birds Go" which has users iterating over levels vertically, increasing the difficulty and varying the challenge as they progress. I had wondered about the wisdom of this at the time but "hey" we thought, "Rovio must know what they're doing right?!". Well, maybe this approach works in their game but - having since changed Stunt Guy - I can tell you for sure that it didn't work for us. Quite simply changing the structure to be horizontal instead of vertical more than doubled the length of time people spent in the game. Not a mistake I'll be making again.

Anyway that week I somehow managed to get all the due diligence stuff done, work with the dev-team to get a revised build submitted and wrote the business plan (complete with the world's most complicated forecasting spreadsheet). I finished it at about 5am on the day before I had to travel up to manchester for the shoot. I got up the next morning, got on the train, sorted out a few last business issues and went to the studio to rehearse the start of the shoot (you'll see why this was necessary when you watch it). At about 9:30pm I went back to the hotel expecting the mother of all sleeps before an early start the following day.

Frustratingly I didn't sleep a wink that night so when I got up - I was broken, I could hardly string a sentence together let alone remember my pitch, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the show to see what happened next.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

"Was That YOU I Just Saw on Dragons Den?"

"What? Er, I couldn't possibly comment"

For the last few days discussion on my phone, email and Facebook has pretty much run along those lines and although it's been a touch overwhelming at times it's also been really sweet to know how many people both still recognise me and are prepared to compliment (lie about) the beard I'm currently sporting.

So, anyway, as discussed in slightly more detail on the Kempt blog, revealed on the Dragons Den trailer and hinted at on their site. It rather looks like I'll be appearing on Dragons Den next Sunday the 17th of August.

I'm not supposed to say anything about it and I wouldn't be saying anything now if it wasn't for the trailer so you'll have to wait for the show to see what happens. But, if the rumours are true, I hope you'll spare a moment of sympathy for me as I endure an experience which I can only imagine to be about a billion-times worse than the agony of listening to your own answering machine message.

Anyway - Stunt Gal has launched and all three "Magnificent Stunts" are now out - whoohoo!!!

Stunt Gal iconStunt Gal - Available Now! only on the App Store (iPhone/iPad)
Stunt Guy icon
Stunt Guy 2.0 - Available now on: Google Play for Android and the App Store for iPhone/iPad
Reg The Roadkill icon
Reg the Roadkill - Out Now! Only on the App Store for iPhone & iPad

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Non-Standard Careers Advice

Today I visited a local school to do a careers talk - one of many that I've done in the area since we moved here. As ever it was loads of fun to do - it's great to chat to kids about the industry and, lets face it, Me is one of my favourite subjects :)

Anyway - since the talk is fresh in my head I thought it might be useful to jut down some of my key tips in case someone out there can benefit. So here we go:

If you want to have a great career in the creative industries I suggest you:

1) Be Interested
As well as interesting. Whilst you should be proud of your ideas and skills, remember that experienced people probably won't be so impressed initially. They're probably wrong, you're definitely going to be the next big thing, but there's still a huge amount you can learn from them. Remember that creative people love to talk about themselves so, be interested, ask as many questions as possible and wait for them to be interested in you.

2) Be Confident
Following on from the above though, be confident in your abilities and - if you're young - remember that things change quickly and it's only a matter of time before they are out of date and you are the new breed. You can do it, go for it! But do avoid telling people that you're gunning for their job.

3) Be Brave (but not stupid)
Don't be afraid to take a risk here and there if it feels like the right thing to do - particularly while you are young. Bear in mind that the consequences of procrastination are often worse than the consequences of acting and that it's easier to make mistakes when you don't have any commitments. Generally, the further you can get in your 20s the more successful you'll be in your 30s onwards.

4) Be Kind
Remember that your relationships are the the lifeblood of any creative business, nurture and maintain them at all costs and try not to abuse them. It's okay to ask for help now and again but it's important that you try to balance it by returning the favour if at all possible. Sometimes it's just as simple as telling people how much you appreciate their assistance.

5) Be Open
Don't approach every relationship as if you're looking for something out of it - be open to new people from different sectors, you never know where the next opportunity will come from.

6) Be Lucky
Remember that if you get on with stuff you can craft your own luck out of the "luckticles" that surround you all the time - often referred to as opportunities - so pick an activity and get stuck in!

7) Be Strong
If you're aiming to be successful in the creative industries it's only a matter of time before someone tries to knock you down a peg or two. Remember that: it's almost never personal, the person doing the knocking may also have their own challenges which might, in turn, be influencing their actions and - most importantly - never discount the possibility that they might be in the right. If you're going to aim high it's inevitable that you're going to make a few mistakes along the way.

Well, there you go! Hope someone finds that helpful and - if you do - please do let me know!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Channel 4 Gives Advergames a Kicking

...But also confirm they work?

Earlier this week Channel 4 decided to give the advertising industry a bit of a kicking by alleging that they create games that market junk food to kids and, to ram their point home they paid a visit to a couple of digital agencies and secretly recorded them discussing a fake brief to market a soft drink product to the under 12s.

You can check out the show here:

Having just watched the show, and having made a few Advergames myself over the years, I think it's worth making a few points:

  1. Advergames definitely aren't solely or even primarily aimed at kids - we've built over a hundred over the years and the only one that was aimed at the under 18s was for Historic Royal Palaces to advertise an exhibit at the Tower of London.
  2. As in any industry - there are some dodgy dealers in adverting.
  3. In my opinion - Koko Digital aren't one of them. They're a small company who produce fun games on tight budgets - largely for the love of it. They were clearly a bit naive in the meeting, I really hope this doesn't hurt their business.
  4. It might be worth pointing out that most of the games they actually featured (for example the ones for Coca Cola) are also a bit crap and actually haven't been particularly successful.

Interesting though... they key thing that came out of the show for me is that the academics confirm that Advergames work - not specifically for children, but generally. During the show Dr Jennifer Harris from Yale stated:

"Advertising really is most effective when people don't think of it as advertising - When they're thinking of a game they're playing then they won't activate their defences and the advertising will be more effective."

This is a very good point and, whilst I'd agree that in the context of marketing to kids this is a concern, it's good to know that there's some point to all this! I think it's also worth pointing out that Advergames are not the only medium to exploit this phenomena - ever wondered why Google is so rich? Because their advertising works in an almost identical way - by placing advertising around your search results in a similar style your defences are lower and you're more likely to click on the advertiser's links.

Anyway - thanks Channel 4 and Yale for telling us that Advergames work and - for the record - although we've definitely never made an Advergame aimed at the under 12s we did once make one for Roy Chubby Brown and, frankly, that is a shame that I will carry to the grave.

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Monday, 2 June 2014

Monday, 2 June 2014

Apple WWDC 2014 - Keynote Predictions

Okay, so given that the event has just started maybe this is a bit late to the party but here are my predictions for the Keynote today:

  1. Apps for appleTV
  2. OSX Update
  3. iOS 8
  4. Certification/SDK for iHome connected devices
  5. Certification/SDK for connected fitness devices co-ordinating the data in Healthbook.
  6. iWatch is actually the revised Apple TV (See my previous post)
And possibly:
  1. iPhone 6
  2. iPad Air 2
  3. 12-month App Store feature for Stunt Guy 2.0 :)
Well there you go!
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Monday, 14 April 2014

Monday, 14 April 2014

Our All-New Game! (A rework of the last).

Last week we announced our latest foray into our own IP: Stunt Guy 2.0 which launches on the 17th April (this thursday!). Gladly thus far it's been very well received - people seem to like the silly humour, the accessible and yet challenging gameplay and, of course, the beautiful images. I do however get a few questions about it so i thought I might address them here:

1) Who does your art?
Kit does - and he does it beautifully - but I never really feel comfortable answering that question because as much as Kit is a genius (he is) I'm privileged to work with several other geniuses every day and to focus on the art - however amazing - does a bit of a disservice to the feel, stability, design and ideas that go towards an incredible result. This team is greater than the sum of its parts (thank goodness for that though, as separately we'd all be a bit of a mess I think!)

2) What will you do if SG2.0 isn't a success?
Hmmm... not sure. We still do client work, hopefully we can do some more of that? Alternatively I always quite enjoyed working in petrol stations.

3) I thought you were working on new games? This is just a re-hash of the last!
Yes, you're right and that's something I thought long and hard about.

The thing is, as much as we have loads of great ideas for new games we only really had the resources to finish one (for now) and when I looked at Stunt Guy again I realised that - whilst it was fun - by comparison to our client work, it really didn't look or feel as good as we were capable of. We therefore decided to address that first - hopefully the rest will follow.

Well, there you go - hope it's kinda interesting, do feel free to ask any other questions!

Read more about Stunt Guy 2.0 at:

The Magnificent Stunts
The Kempt Blog
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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Low Speed High-Speed Roll-Out

I've had the same email address for 12 years, this means I get a huge amount number of spam emails newsletters.

Amongst the many I receive, one that I quite enjoy reading on occasion is the Canterbury4Business newsletter which often contains some really interesting stuff. To be honest, mostly I find it interesting because it reminds me how glad I am that I'm not a politician. Going round and round in circles on endless consultations and working on initiatives that turn out to have no real substance would drive me totally insane.

But, today one local talking point caught my attention - the current lack of high-speed internet in the city centre.

This is one topic that I do feel motivated to wade in on both since it effects my business but also, I believe has a very detrimental effect on the potential for business growth in the area as a whole. The thing is, high-speed internet (FTC) has rolled out across most of Canterbury now. Pretty much all the residential areas are covered but there seems to be a barren wasteland of connectivity in the city centre itself. I have no idea why this is, if the residential areas are covered the infrastructure is
clearly here, there must be something else blocking the roll-out.

Anyway, why is this important?

Quite simply, faster, more reliable internet access enables businesses to work in a more modern,
dynamic and efficient way and therefore the lack of availability of these technologies in our area puts local businesses at a significant disadvantage to our national and international competitors.

To give you an example, lets look at network infrastructure - the diagram below shows a fairly typical network setup for a small business:

The problem with this setup is that it's hugely reliant on the operation of the various servers. Risks can be reduced by introducing redundancy - backup servers and mirroring but it's expensive and time consuming.

With high speed broadband however it's feasible to operate a studio more like this:
By replacing all those internal servers with cloud-based services you not only save thousands in hardware costs but also increase data redundancy and simplify management massively. They only thing you need to add in to the mix is some redundancy in your internet connectivity but this is easily solved with a backup ADSL and a 3G dongle fro the worst-case scenario.

So, there you go! Why do we need high-speed internet in the city centre? Because it will save businesses thousands and allow them to concentrate on creating thriving, interesting businesses and not spend valuable time worrying about bullshit IT issues.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


When I was younger I knew 3 things for certain:

  1. The more exhaust pipes a car had the faster it was,
  2. Sarah Greene was very interesting for some reason,
  3. Anything "turbo" was automatically awesome.

Now that I'm older I'm enlightened - I understand that car-manufacturers play with your head by adding additional, technically unnecessary, exhaust pipes to their cars but I'm kinda okay with that. My understanding of Turbo however is different matter, I now realise that there are only two acceptable uses of the term:

  1. In a post-modern/retro/ironic fashion i.e. "he's a turbo bell-end" or "Turbo Super Ultra Mega Snail Racing will be out on iOS this fall"
  2. If something actually has a turbocharger on it - in which case it is way too cool for its own damn good.

What's the significance of this? Well, one of my obsessions in life is efficiency, specifically how to get maximum effect for minimum effort. This obsession seem to permeate and flavour my entire life - for example: At Kempt despite our our relatively modest resources we regularly produce content that is more successful and popular than the output of much bigger studios. We have our entire house and the office rigged up with efficient and beautiful LED lighting and, of course, there's my Smart Roadster which I love dearly.

The Smart Roadster was about a decade ahead of its time. It's eco-credentials are impressive even by modern standards - much of it is made out of recycled plastic and it's tiny 700c engine delivers up to 60mpg but it also looks awesome, handles like it's on rails and gets to 60mph in a respectable 9-10 seconds depending on tuning. How does it manage this? Simple - it weighs around 800kg and it's turbocharged. Sadly the Roadster was too early, expensive and... admittedly, leaky to be the massive success it should have been but there's no question about it in my mind - turbocharging is awesome.

However, recently thing have started to change - over the last few years there've been a few other cars which have cropped up with similar credentials. First was the Fiat 500 Twin-Air with it's turbocharged 875cc 2-cylinder engine. Then the ecoboost, a 3-cylinder, 1000cc engine from ford which they put in the Fiesta and then, tantalisingly, dropped into a Formula Ford resulting in a track car that could do 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and yet get 57mpg - again, it's turbocharged.

Most interestingly of all though, Caterham have now waded in to the arena with the Seven 160 which uses a great little 3-cylinder 700cc engine from Suzuki with, yes you guessed it, a turbocharger bolted onto it! It'll do 0-60 in under 7 seconds which is quick by anyone's standards and yet get you 50+mpg. Anyway... this is cool because:

  1. Caterhams are British - yay!
  2. This is the first car with this kind of formula to come on the market since the Smart Roadster was discontinued.
  3. I called Caterham about 6 or 7 years ago to ask them about the feasibility of building a Caterham using an engine/running gear from a Smart Roadster!

To be honest - at the time - I got a fairly frosty response, I don't think they liked the idea of other people messing around with their formula. But I'd like to think that I might have sown the seeds of an idea with them, it's just a shame it took them seven years to get around to :)

Photo Credit: Turbo by Perry French

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

There Can Be Only One?

Lets face it, the industry is totally screwed at the moment.

This morning I heard the sad news that Remode are closing and become one of many casualties that we've seen over the last couple of years. Frankly this is getting ridiculous now. It's stopped being a worrying trend and started to resemble some weird re-enactment of Highlander.

The thing is, this isn't just fledgling companies. These are established, respected outfits who *should* be stable for example:
  • Kerb: Legends of the industry - the "Sex Pistols" of the dot-com era and one of very few people who could make a successful game about masturbation.
  • LittleLoud: Darlings of the media industry and beater of Kempt in several pitches (much to my irritation, but talented people nonetheless.)
  • And now Remode, who couldn't have got more coverage and buzz in the industry if they'd been on Big Brother and gone on a gun-toting rampage.
So... it's a worrying trend and one that I'm afraid is far from over. But why is this happening and what needs to happen to stop it? Well here are a couple of observations from the inside:

The pitching situation has gone mental. Up until about 4 years ago about 50% of our business was repeat business with no formal tender and we used to be able to win projects with a side of A4 and a pencil sketch. Now - everyone - wants to pitch their work out to 5-7 different companies and they want a full-blown presentation whether you've worked together or not. Last year we refused to deal with one media agency because we'd sent them 15-20 tenders with not a single success. Occasionally I have a bad idea or two but not 15 in a row.

Anyway... look at it this way: if an agency pitches for a £30k project they might spend 10 days on the pitch at a cost of around £4k. Now, if there are 6 other agencies pitching that means that there's £28k's worth of work going into winning £30k's worth of work. Clearly that's not a sustainable situation.

Quite simply, big companies and investors need to man-up a bit, make some investments and take a few risks. At the moment there's a huge tendency to load the risk up onto studios, not just when it comes to traditional publishers but also brands. Increasingly I hear of deals where customers want to pay a cut-price for development, make all the decisions and then give the poor studio a paltry cut of the (non-existent) revenues thereafter. Again, it's just not a sustainable situation. You want to call the shots, that's fine with us but it's probably better that you take the risk.

So... What next? Well from here I think a few things will happen:

  1. Publishers and platform owners will eventually realise that they can't pin all their hopes on indies and that reaching the standard required for success takes a level of investment beyond the means of most small companies/hobbyists.
  2. Studios are going to get tougher. As I mentioned above we've recently started turning down briefs for the first time ever and, frankly, we're no less successful than we were before we started doing that!
  3. Hopefully, people are starting to notice all this going on and realise that within chaos is always opportunity. I suspect a few canny, calculated investments now will make someone very rich indeed in the not-too-distant future.

Sadly I suspect there'll be more casualties before that happens.

------ Updates ------
Other Studio Closures in the last couple of years: Brighton-based Kanoti closed at the beginning of Feb 14, Hide and Seek closed Nov 13, Skive closed in 2012, Blitz games closed Sept 13,

Kempt meanwhile are busy working on a blockbuster re-make of their iOS game Stunt Guy check out the preview video for Stunt Guy 2.0 on Youtube.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Hunting for the Ultimate Headphones!

Over the last few years I've been on a personal quest to find the ultimate headphones - a quest that's got easier now that I'm older and have become less worried about looking like a dick in public (clearly demonstrated by my current beard) but nevertheless a daunting undertaking.

Key criteria would be:

  • Good enough sound quality for music writing in GarageBand.
  • Inline microphone for hands free.
  • Solid construction.
  • Jack plug slim enough to fit apple cases (many don't).
  • Cables that aren't too long and are thick enough to net get tangled too badly.
  • And, given that I'm a bit pretentious, look cool.

Headphone/earphones that I've tried so far include:

Sony MDR-710LP - not bad, no microphone though and too fiddly and fragile - currently being held together by half a pack of Araldite.

Etymotic HF5 - Definitely my favourite in-ear headphones, sound great and have an inline mic but suffer from a very narrow audio-opening which - no-matter how clean your ears are - WILL get clogged with wax at some point. Very cool that you can get custom silicone buds for them though.

Bowers and Wilkins C5 - Remarkable earphones as they simultaneously manage to be the: Most beautiful, most expensive and worst earphone/headphones I've ever owned. Was very excited when I bought them but sadly they're excessively bassy and they're not particularly comfortable either :o(. Real shame as the rest of the range is amazing.

Sennheiser MM30i - A great all-round set - brilliant sound but like all earphones they get a bit uncomfortable after a while and they do tent to get knotted up in your bag.

The Most Recent Escapade:

So - given the lessening of my inhibitions - I decided to shop around a bit again and this time look at on/over ear headphones instead. I considered quite a few options for example:

AKG 451 - Which receive rave reviews, tick most of the boxes, are currently available for less than £50 but are, sadly, slightly ugly.

Sony MDR-V55 - Which sound monstrous (in a good way) and are currently available under £40 but don't have an inline mic.

And the simply beautiful Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ear headphones which tick all the boxes but are as expensive as they are beautiful - retailing for around £250. The sound is crisp and detailed but - comparing them side by side with the V55s - I have to say I prefer the punchy sound of the Sony pair even if it is less refined.

So.... all was lost... there was no clear winner. But then I stumbled across a wildcard - this set from Philips (dodgy beard not included):

This set ticks all the boxes above. They have a mic, look cool, are solid and well made, fit an Apple iPhone case, have a flat flex which doesn't tangle and - most important sound crisp and detailed.

To be fair, they're not perfect, if I had to be critical of them I'd say:

  • They're not quite as punchy as the V55s (although this seems to be improving as they run in).
  • That they have a slightly embarrassing name - "Philips CitiScape Uptown".

Yes, the name did nearly put me off too, but... take into account that they're currently available for under £50 and for my money they're a bit of a bargain. Anyway... you can always refer to them by their model number: The "SHL5905FB/10" which is clearly much better :).
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Friday, 17 January 2014

Friday, 17 January 2014

Alice Cooper Was Wrong

One of my favourite songs is Alice Cooper’s “Lost in America” which I’ve loved ever since I caught it late one night on Beavis and Butthead, if you have a chance you should check it out on youtube - it's most amusing (It starts at about 1:28). Anyway, the lyrics for the first verse are:

I can't get a girl, 'cause I ain't got a car
I can't get a car, 'cause I ain't got a job
I can't get a job, 'cause I ain't got a car
So I'm looking for a girl with a job and a car

Which, in the video B&B riff off to great comic effect.

For me though, this song works on two levels: On the one hand it gives me a wonderful sense of nostalgia for the naivety of my early teens - a time when life appeared to be much simpler,  full of such bright colours and contrast and not the complex (but still beautiful) shades that it is now. On the other it seems to rather beautifully sum up the frustration that anyone who finds themselves at a disadvantage can feel, a sense of powerlessness that will also often be accompanied with a simple but totally unrealistic solution. “It’s okay though - I’ll sort it out when I win the lottery” kinda thing.

Perhaps therefore, Alice’s lyrics should have been something along the lines of:

I can't get a girl, 'cause I ain't got a car
I can't get a car, 'cause I ain't got a job
I can't get a job, 'cause I ain't got a car
So I decided to go and stay with a friend and sleep their floor for a while which will allow me to do some work experience at the company just down the road. if i work hard and put the hours in for them they might give me a job or at the very least a good reference - I reckon that within 6-12 weeks I can be in a good job with prospects and within six months I’ll have a half-decent car. Then I just need to work on finding a nice girlfriend.

Admittedly that doesn’t scan quite as well though.