In a new series of interviews with local Northern Irish developers, we met with Adam and Vicky from recent start up Whitepot Studios;
Hi - Why don't you start by telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?
I’m Adam Whiteside, and I graduated from Computer Games Development at Queen’s last year. After graduation, I helped found IVEA labs (along with fellow Whitepot founder, Vicky, and two other classmates).
After a year of doing interactive experiences at museums, we all decided it wasn’t what we wanted to be doing with our lives, so Vicky and I started up Whitepot Studios! We now make games and offer development services to people who want a game made, we’ll also make you a website if you ask nicely (gotta pay the bills some how!)
I’m Vicky Potts, and I graduated from Computer Science at Queen’s last year. In the past I’ve worked at Civica Ireland as a Software Engineer placement student, and then helped co-found a startup, IVEA labs, straight after graduation.
I’ve now setup Whitepot Studios to make games with Adam, which I am really excited about! Getting to be creative and make games is something I am really passionate about, so this is my dream job. If I’m not doing Whitepot things, you can (probably) find me tweeting about wrestling in the middle of the night.
Can you tell us a bit more about Whitepot Studios and why you've started creating your own video games?
I just really want to make games - games that I enjoy making, and enjoy playing. A game that a million people want to play. That’s my goal with Whitepot Studios. After a year of working on IVEA labs, the team realised that none of us really wanted to be in the interactive exhibit start-up space, and we each decided to go our own way.
Vicky and I wanted to keep doing a startup, but doing something we were really passionate about - and I had always wanted to wanted to go into the games industry (see my degree). Given what I had learned from founding IVEA labs, and seeing the energy of the NI Game Dev community, I thought now would be a great time to start up my own indie studio - and luckily for me Vicky was also thinking the same thing!
We were developing beacon technology for museums and had the opportunity to travel around the UK and Ireland, and while it was an amazing learning experience, we were ready to move onto something else - because businesses have to be passion-driven to succeed, there’s no question about it.
As Adam said, I wanted to carry on with the start-up way of life. I’ll be honest - I am not cut out for a 9-5 office environment! When the opportunity arose to make games with a) someone I knew and b) who has a similar style of working as me, I jumped at the chance. So that’s how we arrived at Whitepot Studios and making our own games. For now we are focusing on using Unity to develop iOS and Android app games, and we’ll see where we go from there. In a year’s time, I would love to ask the average person on the street if they’ve heard of one of our games and have the answer be “yes” (akin to popularity of Angry Birds).
Who's on the team?
It’s just myself and Vicky for now but we hope to get in an artist once we’ve got the ball rolling a bit, as neither of us have a thorough background in this area. While we are kind of doing the standard start-up approach of, “there’s only two of us, so everyone does everything”, we do have certain roles laid out.
I’m in charge of game design and development as well as long term strategy and decision making for the studio. Vicky handles a lot of the day to day stuff, such as marketing and a load of the public facing stuff (our Twitter and Facebook pages are pretty much run exclusively by her). She’s also a wizard when it comes to web stuff.
We both work on actually making the games and its assets, and we both handle the so-called boring business bits too. We actually don’t mind this too much, since we’ve just come from a “high potential” start-up that involved a lot of that kind of thing, and have been on business incubators in the past.
Some companies work in an office, some work remotely - what works best for your team and why?
Well, as I said, and it’ll come as no surprise - I’m not cut out for a 9-5 office environment. Adam isn’t too fond of that rigid approach either. At the minute it’s just the two of us, so we are working from the computer room in our flat in South Belfast!
We’ve had some very talented requests come in for work experience so far but unfortunately have been unable to accommodate them - so we’re looking into space for collaboration sooner rather than later so we can begin to expand our team, especially if we want to bring an artist on-board.
I really love Facepunch’s approach to recruiting their team (and if we can make something half as successful as Rust, I’d be pretty happy), so I’d like to borrow their mantra:
“If you work best by starting at 2AM then you can work at 2AM. If you work best from home, then work from home. This only works out if you’re self motivated. No-one is going to tell you to work differently, it’s up to you to find how you’re most effective.”
What’s been your most interesting or exciting project to work on?
We just set up at the end of August so the most interesting and exciting things so far has been setting everything up, getting the wheels in motion and meeting with other local developers and seeing what everyone's doing!
Like Adam said, we’ve just been working on getting things off the ground, which is really exciting within itself. The first thing we did when we decided we would commit to Whitepot Studios was Ludum Dare 36 - can we pump out a game over a weekend, under pressure, and not kill each other? The answer was yes! The end result was ‘Why Am I In The Past? Who Cares! Shoot The Romans.” Not a bad start.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming game?
We’re currently working on our first game, “Tube in Progress” (working title). It’s a Tempest-style endless runner, in a big tube. It has been called “horribly addictive” by someone who played it #PlayMyDemo - so that’s good!
You are a small spaceship, zooming your way forward through an ominous tube – a tube filled with obstacles! This is a fast-paced, Unity-made game.
We’ve undertaken paper prototyping for this and began implementing some basic mechanics, including the mobile touch controls and rocket movement. It’ll be free to play and we’re releasing in the next couple of months, so you can follow along with it’s development on our twitter (@Whitepot) and facebook page (@WhitepotStudios).
And finally - what are your top 5 games?
In no particular order: Crysis, S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl (honorable mention to Call of Pripyat as well), GTA Online, Shadow of the Colossus, and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.
All those games have captured my imagination and inspired me as to what a game can really be.
In no order - Rust, GTA V, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, MapleStory, and Petz 3/4/5.
Hear me out before you judge that last choice - Petz was the reason I was using hex editors at age 10, making websites from 11, and made some great internet friends across the globe that I’m still in touch with today. I was modding before I knew what modding was. This article explains it better than I ever can, I cannot explain how much that community influenced me and shaped my career choices without me even realising. Judge the second-last choice all you want.