It’s a pattern being played out in the city, now. The shockwaves sent out when Sony’s Studio Liverpool went supernova on us are now settling – creating a new gaming landscape in the city.
One of the brightest of the bunch is Firesprite – a new gaming studio with an impressive heritage, stretching back two decades. What’s that in gaming years? An epoch?
From Psygnosis to Studio Liverpool, Firesprite’s team has worked on game-changing titles such as Shadow of the Beast, Lemmings, Killzone, and WipEout.
But it’s all about now. And the best bundled-in bit of fun ever: the pre-loaded grin-fest of The Playroom, and its army of cute’n’kickable interactive robots, projected into the nooks and crannies of your very own living room. Call of Duty Black Ops this aint…
“The Playroom is our first contribution to the gaming world as Firesprite,” Art Director Lee Carus tells us. “We handled the visual direction and all artwork/CG whilst the code and game direction was taken care of in Sony HQ in Tokyo,” he says, of the bundle’s AR Bots game that’s had the world – and Jimmy Fallon – stamping, frolicking and waving genially at the shiny little androids.
“It’s probably not widely know but all that lovely video CG work was done in house too. We’re pretty unique that we have such strong pre-vis/CG skills as well as our core game making ability.”
Unique, and in high demand too. The team’s currently holed up working on something big. And they’re giving nothing away.
Not even a little clue?
“Sorry, no, but I can say we’ve been working very hard on creating a new game engine and tool chain as well as looking at multiple platforms. Console gaming is in our DNA but the power and saturation of mobile devices is something that nobody should ignore. Suffice to say there will be things announced in due course, we are pretty excited about that…”
For Firesprite, the end of Studio Liverpool was the worst of times, and the best of times.
“When the decision was made to close Sony Liverpool we were obviously saddened,” he says. “A group of us got together [Lee’s fellow directors, Graeme Ankers, Chris Roberts, Stu Tilley and Dr Stu Lovegrove] and decided to do something. We had a great working relationship and wanted that to continue, but more importantly we wanted to continue working with some of the brilliant team at Studio Liverpool. A year or so on we’re at 20 people with 15 of them from Studio Liverpool.”
It was a meeting with Nicolas Doucet, director of The PlayRoom at Japan Studio, that sealed the deal on Firesprite’s fist foray into the brave new world of PS4. Console and company, each emerging – triumphantly – last year. Each giving us new hope that, nope, gaming ain’t dead. Nor is it game over for Liverpool either.
“Being a Scouser I’m bound to say Liverpool is a good place for game development,” says Lee. “I’ve spent the best part of my career trying to somehow fashion a move in the City Centre! Now we are based in Ropewalks I couldn’t be happier. The energy and almost Soho like vibe of Bold Street last summer was amazing.
“Many of the devs who came to Liverpool in the Bizarre Creations and Sony Liverpool days appeared to have stayed on – it must say good things about the city but also means as an employer there are high quality team members right on your doorstep.
“It’s not perfect – infrastructure-wise the tech seriously needs to be upgraded, the lack of fibre optic in this area is an issue. Areas of the city have it but until we have city wide fibre we’ll never be as connected as we should be especially when just down the M62 you have the might of Media City.
“That said there are some brilliant gaming educational initiatives going on in the city too. We really should be celebrating game development in this city, we’ve got a rich history in it and it looks set to be here to stay.”