Success in Knowledge is Power – one of the latest additions to the new PlayLink range – hinges on your general know-how. This local multiplayer experience is an interactive quiz you can compete in from the comfort of your own sofa selecting answers from your smartphone, all the while showing off your superior knowledge skills to your friends by beating them.
But putting together the ultimate quiz is never easy – even for the team who brought PlayLink into the spotlight with the couch-friendly party game That’s You!, which released earlier this year.
And, given it’ll be asking us all some tough questions in the weeks to come with Knowledge is Power, we decided to quiz the developers from Wish Studios about their creative processes, their careers and more…
Round 1: Why did you get into the games industry?
Caspar Field (CEO): Why wouldn’t you get into the game industry? It’s amazing! Seriously though, I’ve been very lucky – and we have worked hard – to get to where I am today. It was always my dream to make games, right back to when I was playing Spectrum games in the ’80s. Being able to create original entertainment, in this ever-changing, ever-challenging, ever-fascinating industry, is something I never take for granted. And I love it.
Tom Bennett (CTO): Because the music industry banned me.
Dan Croucher (Director): Honestly, I got offered a job in QA and it sounded better than working in VAT recovery, which was what I was doing. I’d given up on working in games after a few (justified in hindsight) rejections for art jobs.
Paul Abbott (Art Director): I used to do portraiture; oil paintings of people, dogs, horses and was a bit fed up with making art that ended up locked away in some rich persons… toilet probably. I wanted to get my art out to a wider audience, graphic design seemed a bit rigid for me, web design didn’t do it for me either.
Games had always been a passion of mine and it was a bit like the wild west back then, people were coming up with all kinds of creative ideas. I always loved to tell stories with my art, get people to engage with it rather than it just being a passive thing, so games felt like a natural fit.
Paul Brooke (CTO): I’d been writing my own games as a child, starting as an 8 year old, for fun. When I completed my Computer Science degree, having done a 3D graphics final project, I thought I’d try doing something that I’d enjoy for a job. As the games industry was transitioning from 2D to 3D as I graduated there was little understanding of 3D graphics within the studio teams, so I had a skill that was in demand, and was offered a job quickly.
Round 2: What was the biggest personal challenge in creating Knowledge is Power?
Caspar Field (CEO): With us coming fresh off the back of making our first PlayLink title, That’s You!, the biggest challenge was to reset my brain, ready to think afresh about working with phones and PS4, and to make sure we made smart creative decisions that were appropriate for the new game. To not just do the same thing again, basically.
Tom Bennett (CTO): From the very early stages, the gameplay design of Knowledge is Power fused together the ideas of classic quiz questions with very physical attacks between characters, so we always knew that we had a compelling core to the game. The biggest challenge was to create a visual style that felt fresh and original while also striking the right ‘quiz show’ aesthetic that felt familiar to players across the world.
Dan Croucher (Director): As producer on the project, the hardest part was a period in pre-alpha where we had too many ideas to make and not enough time to make them all, and so we had to cut some things back to get the game done – this happens on every game but it’s always a bit sad to admit you can’t finish everything to the quality you want in the time.
Paul Abbott (Art Director): Honestly, I’m finding this hard to answer. I really enjoyed making Knowledge is Power and once we found the right wrapper for it everything seemed to fall into place. I was able to indulge some of my passions, the flair of Mary Blair, the charm of vintage stop motion and a whole load of rainbows and glitter sprinkled over for good measure. It has been one of the easiest and most enjoyable projects I’ve managed, a lot of the time my direction was ‘just chuck more glitter at it’.
Of course, there were plenty of features we couldn’t fit into the game, that’s always the way when you work with a team whose ideas are brimming, and …. Oh no wait, I have an answer! Cotton wool, we couldn’t get cotton wool to look right. That was our biggest challenge!
Paul Brooke (CTO): I love creating new IP, however the challenges associated in moving at the start from an entire world of possibilities to the end to produce a focused, amazing game experience is very demanding, but also very rewarding.
Round 3: What are you never asked about game development that you want to talk about?
Caspar Field (CEO):I think people sometimes look at games like That’s You! and Knowledge is Power and think that because they’re simple to play they must be easy to make. But making something simple is incredibly hard. It’s as much about what you don’t put in, and about what assumptions you ignore, as what you include. Think about explaining something from the perspective of a non-technical/ non-specialist person, and you find yourself having to take a whole new perspective on how you get your idea across.
Dan Croucher (Director): No-one really asks what producers do, but if I explained it then everyone would realise we just swan about making up work and calling meetings, so I can’t talk about it.
Paul Abbott (Art Director): No one ever asks me about game development, apart from when my sister once thought every possible camera angle was drawn by hand and scanned in, I tried to explain but the resulting conversation was so painful I really don’t want to talk about it.
Paul Brooke (CTO): I think game development needs to become a multi-staged process. Blockbuster films are often based on books which are authored by a single person, or comics which are authored by a couple of people; this allows the initial creative vision to be driven by a single person or micro-team who can retain their creative direction, be original and perfect a story, without the worry, expectations, timescales and risk of a big budget weighing down on them.
I believe games should initially be produced for a very low budget, perfected from a gameplay and story perspective, then as a second pass, re-written and amplified by a big production team to bring them up to AAA visual and technical scale whilst being able to retain the original qualities, feel and consistent vision of the initial work. Often in games these two stages are mixed together, and this, in my opinion, is severely limiting to what can be achieved in our medium.
Round 4: What’s your killer trivia fact?
Caspar Field (CEO): Margaret Thatcher did NOT help invent Mister Whippy ice cream. I used to say that she did, but apparently, it’s an urban myth. Boo!
Tom Bennett (CTO): Sound is magnetic.
Dan Croucher (Director): Michael J Fox’s middle name is Andrew.
Paul Brooke (CTO): It’s said there are more bacteria in your digestive tract than there are stars in the Milky Way.