The shutdown of Sony Liverpool last year was a sincere downer not only for the people at that studio and the UK game industry, but also for fans of the Wipeout racing franchise.
But when a larger game studio collapses, the seeds of talent typically explode across the landscape, and soon we see smaller studios crop up that are ready to start a new chapter of creative independence.
Announced last week, Liverpool-based Sawfly is made up of four key ex-Sony Liverpool developers. Right now, they are taking on contracts from other companies, finishing up their new studio's first game, a "cheeky, irreverent" game for publisher Ripstone, and pitching a new property.
Mike Humphrey, Sawfly's managing director, took some time to answer a few quick questions via email. (And sorry Wipeout fans -- they're not focusing on racing games right now.)
What did the members your team do at Sony Liverpool, and what will they be doing at Sawfly?
Karl Jones was a lead designer and will be Sawfly's design director. Andrew was lead programmer, and will be Sawfly's technical director. Jon Eggelton was a principle artist and will be our art director. I was a lead designer and will be Sawfly's managing director.
You said in your original announcement that all of you had the opportunity to take jobs at large developers. Can you explain further why you didn't take that opportunity? What about job security?
We all have an idea of the kind of experiences we would like to make, and we thought the best way to make this a reality was to go it alone. As for security, you take a gamble whatever your decisions are, and we thought that betting on ourselves seemed like the most secure option.
What's been the biggest challenge of starting your own studio?
The biggest thing for us is the sheer breadth of additional work that comes with starting and running a company. As an employee there are lots of things that go on in the background that are someone else's job. With starting up, everything is our job.
You said in your announcement press release, "We don't want to tick boxes just to get something out the door." Did you find that that's often what it's like, working at a large developer?
Not really. Working for a large developer brings a lot of advantages of its own. Studio Liverpool was a world class developer, which housed some of the very best talent in the industry, and we loved our time there.
What about the racing and driving genre? What future do you envision for it, and will you work in it again?
There are so many great racing franchises out there, but for one reason or another they just aren't selling as well as they used to. We still love racing games, but our focus is elsewhere right now.