PRESS RELEASE: Move over big games studios – commuter-made games are here
Starsceptre is out now on the AppStore
For years, commuter trains have been packed with people playing games on their phones and tablets. But on one particular rush hour train, one man has been busy CREATING a new type of mobile game on his mobile device.
“My work commute is basically the only spare time I have”, says Richard Morgan, the one-man developer behind 8Bit Magic Games. “So I needed a way to make games in that time – on the move, on my iPad. And I found an iPad app called Codea that let me make games wherever and whenever.”
“Codea is an app that uses a pretty simple programming language akin to Basic. But it’s backed up by an online code sharing group led by the app’s developers. I could never have made a game like this without this app and their support.”
Richard’s latest game is called Starsceptre and it isn’t a regular mobile game – it’s a retro-styled arcade shooting game with a twist: you have to move your body to steer the ship.
“It’s a pretty unique way of playing a game, something I’ve not seen before. It’s something so incredibly natural and instinctive to play. Just watch anyone playing a normal driving, flying or shooting game and see what their body is doing – they’re ducking and swaying to avoid things, yet their movement doesn’t affect the controls or contribute to the game.”
But with Starsceptre, Richard’s unique ‘Tilt and Shoot’ game mechanic translates the body’s movements into flying the ship, responding to your every movement as fast or as slow as you like. He’s even been able to give the mechanic a never-used-before hashtag: #tiltnshmup.
“When people see me coding and testing the game, I get some really funny looks. They see someone who just can’t sit still. So I invite them to try the game and within seconds they’re hooked. It’s pure magic to sit and watch someone else not only play your game, but get lost in it.”
It’s taken Richard just over two years to get the game to this point ready for launch on Apple’s App Store – yet the tilt and shoot mechanic part has stayed exactly the same since he first wrote the initial lines of code.
“Having spent 20 years in advertising”, says Richard, “I’m able to not just make my game, but create social media engagement and advertising to get it out there. Just meeting people and talking about what they love about games and want from new ones is so exciting.”
Play to win, not pay to win is Richard’s model. Unlike the many indie game studios that offer their games for free but require in-app purchases to upgrade or unlock new items and levels, Richard plans on offering the full game for a one-off cost of less than a cup of coffee. Any and all updates will be free.
“My game is all about skill and luck,” says Richard, “and as a gamer through and through I want people to win games on how well they play, not how deep their pockets might be.”
Richard’s had some invaluable support. “Making the game has been hard at times, as I’ve done most of the game creation and development myself, wearing many different hats from coder, designer and animator, to pixel artist, tester and director. And I have wonderful support from friends and family, but I do have limits.”
“So I brought on board two close friends whose work I admire deeply. The first is the musician Andrew Martin of 7Hz Research and the other is director and screen writer Shian Storm. They’ve both taken my vision and really added new dimensions to the game from the real 80s/90s feel of the music, to making sure each and every part of the story is rock-solid, yet fun to play.”
“I can’t wait to see how the world reacts to the game. It’s been an amazing journey of learning getting the game to here.”
Starsceptre will be released in May on Apple’s App Store and is for iPad and iPhone.
Richard Morgan is an advertising Creative Director in London with 20 years experience. He loves to create integrated campaigns and experiences, but always with an eye to how digital will connect audiences with the experience.
His particular speciality is where physical meets digital – creating digital experiences connected in the real world to physical objects, places or people. Over the years Richard’s skill set has grown from idea generation and design, to matte painting, special effects compositing, filmmaking, coding, photography and writing.
Starsceptre is his second mobile game and is a return to the type of games he loved playing in arcades and at home as a kid growing up.
Andrew Martin is principal composer at 7Hz Research and has been producing music for videos, games and other multimedia for more than 20 years. From his small project studio in Essex, Andrew produces synthesiser-based soundtracks using both physical and virtual instruments.
“Having been long-time collaborators since one of his earliest film-making projects, Richard shared his idea of making a retro arcade-style game and I couldn’t say no.”
Shian Storm is a writer and director living in Los Angeles, California. She met Richard over a decade ago on theforce.net fan film forums where they each became big fans of the other’s respective works. This led to Shian asking Rich to paint matte plates for what would become her award-winning short film Singularity.
Following the film’s success, Shian began doing video and animation work for various ad agencies, placing Shian and Rich on similar paths. Her work for various big name clients has been prevalent on television ads as well as the Nasdaq sign in Times Square.
After several years she grew weary of the grind of the ad business and departed to use her talents to become a ‘doctor’ of sorts for projects that had stalled and needed someone with a firm understanding of story structure, character development and pacing to help right the ship. She soon developed a reputation as the girl to go to when stuck.
Richard approached her near the end of the game development stage and said, “I have this story that goes with my game, but it needs work. Can you take a look at it and give me your thoughts?” And after a few weeks of back and forth Rich decided it might be best to just have Shian write the whole thing based on his story.
“Rich has been an amazing collaborator. It’s a different kind of story telling for sure – very challenging to conform a story and cut scenes to the flow of a video game, but it’s been rewarding to see it all come together. It’s been an absolute joy working on such a cool project with one of the best people I know.”