SAE graduates shoot to fame
27 Jun 2016
SAE graduates shoot to fame
27 Jun 2016
A team of SAE game graduates has shot to fame with its latest release – taking out best new game in Australia on Google Play (May 23, 2016).
Barking Irons, a 2D shooter game featuring a gun-toting hero bringing law to the wild west, shot to top spot after just one week on the market. Drawing on the popularity of sling and shoot games like Angry Birds, it’s the work of Sleepyhead Studio - a Sydney-based indie studio set up by five Games students in 2015.
We spoke to the team - Tom Booker, Matt Borowski, Tim Carr, Lincoln Flintoft and Adin Milostnik – about their latest project, the studio and future creative projects.
Pictured: Tom Booker, Matt Borowski, Tim Carr, Lincoln Flintoft of Sleepyhead Studio
Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?
All: We are Sleepyhead, a Sydney based games studio and just released our first game, Barking Irons. Currently we’re dividing our time between the studio and other work. We’re starting out by focusing our effort on smaller games while building our skillset and portfolio then progressing to larger more involved titles as we become more established.
What made you get into games development in the first place?
MB: I liked playing games from a young age. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in the future so I decided I’d like to at least learn how they work, so I started a degree in games design and I liked it. The rest is history.
TC: After working in graphic design for a number of years I found that I enjoyed my work most when I was working in areas of conceptual design and creative problem solving. I did some research into conceptual design (art) for games and through that research discovered game design. I did some very basic game development in high school and loved it but I always felt that it wasn’t something achievable for a career. I changed my mind when I saw how much more accessible game development had become in recent years; with the availability of cheap / free game engines and learning resources on the Internet.
LF: Like a lot of kids, I always wanted to make games when I was younger. The desire never really left me so I decided to stick with it and see where it would lead. This has now developed into being a member of Sleepyhead.
TB: Personally, I got into games development because there are no limits to it anymore. It has become a really powerful platform to tell interesting and unique stories. Communicatively as a form of popular media they can portray just as much subject matter - socially, politically and artistically - as movies and books and TV. The difference is it is so much more involving from a player perspective.
How and when did you decide to create the Sleepyhead Studio?
All: We started Sleepyhead straight after graduating from SAE in 2015. We all received our degrees in Interactive Entertainment majoring in Games Design. We worked together on our major project, Vigilante Force 77, a cooperative top-down shooter set to the tone of a 1970’s campy spy film. The project marked highly and was received really well at the SAE annual industry night, so we decided to keep making games together.
Barking Irons has a western-themed narrative (bullets, bombs and bad breath…) and theatrical music. What inspired the game?
All: We started by looking at classic Atari arcade games like Paper Boy and discussing ways of converting mechanics to mobile. We came up with the drag and release mechanic as a way of flinging newspapers similar to Angry Birds slingshot mechanic. We quickly got bored with the Paper Boy theme and started pitching different genres. We settled on Spaghetti Western when we realised the drag and release mechanic paralleled the feeling of pulling back the hammer of a pistol.
AM: Visually I wanted the characters to be bombastic and over the top with a colour pallet matching that of a Wes Anderson movie. The music played big role in bringing the theme together. I took a lot of inspiration from the Classic Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone. He used a lot of big orchestras to give his music that epic feel. Of course without access to a big orchestra I decided to strip it right back to a quartet, and borrow influences from a 1960s surf unit. I guess the perfect way to think of it is like Ennio Morricone wrote the music, and Link Wray had to perform it.
Barking Irons App by Sleepyhead Studio
How has the public responded to Barking Irons?
All: Generally, the public’s response has been really positive so far! It can be a bit daunting putting out a game you are proud of, so receiving this kind of feedback is such a nice thing to see, but any feedback is welcome. Reviews from both users and publications have been equally positive and we’re hoping this positivity is mirrored in sales. Players are competing for top spots on the leader boards; which pushes them to explore some of the subtleties in the games mechanics, which is nice to see. The main criticism we’ve been seeing comes in the form of feature requests so even that shows a passion for the game. We’re already planning some content updates in the near future too.
Can you share some notable experiences you had building, testing and using apps?
LF: The first time we showed off a game at Beer & Pixels (an indie developer monthly get together) was an amazing experience. It’s nerve-wracking showing your game off for the first time, but so rewarding and productive at the same time. It’s a great place to test out ideas, the feedback is invaluable, and the community is incredibly supportive.
TC: We had been working on Barking Irons for about 6 months when we hit a wall in production. We had to either extend the projects deadline significantly or completely redesign fundamental elements of the game. We went with the second option and changed our game from a level progression based game to an infinitely generated game. It was one of the scariest, most impactful and best decisions we made throughout the whole project.
TB: When we started working together we had limited options when it came to spaces to work. We ended up working out of Tim’s kitchen for the first year as a studio. It was an interesting environment discussing game mechanics while Tim’s housemates made breakfast a few feet away.
MB: Global Game Jam was great. We got to test ourselves as a team in different roles and under constraints like time and theme. It was great meeting other members of the game development community too.
What can we expect from Sleepyhead Studio in the future?
All: Some of the most consistent feedback we’ve received from players regarding Barking Irons is requests for different kinds of content; power-ups, weapons, game-modes etc. So we’re committed to adding some more content as we move forward. We’ve also been pitching ideas for new games internally and we’d like to have a new game underway and showable at PAX later this year.
What advice would you give to future SAE students interested in interactive entertainment and games development?
MB: Learn to work in a team. Take it upon yourself to learn more than what is taught to you. You’re only going to be as good as what you know and if you’re not going to push yourself, you’ll never get better.
TB: Game development is so broad and there is so much that goes into making games, it’s hard to learn it all. So put in as much as you can when you study and you will do well and feel more comfortable moving forward into the real world. Learn to work in a team and with others. Not only is it fun making games with friends but also communicating well in a team is the most important thing you can learn during school. Learn to collaborate and compromise give feedback to one another, improve with each other, push each other, complement each other!
LF: Don't be afraid to get out there and network. Once you get used to showing off what you are working on you will benefit so much from the all the help and input you can get from others. There is a strong indie dev community and getting involved with it is one of the best things you can do. Be confident in your work, because a lot of the time you can be your own worst critic. Getting outside opinions and criticism is a great way to improve your work.
TC: You get out what you put in. Games development is an enormous field and no one course can teach you everything you’ll need to know. It’s a great starting point but always go above and beyond in your research, challenge yourself with your projects and don’t get pigeonholed into a single discipline or skill set.
Connect with Sleepyhead Studios
Find out more about Barking Irons
Interested in a Career in Games?