We talk to former Rare and Retro Studios employee Rhys Lewis, about his new company Squarehead Studios, debut game Star Ghost, life as an independent developer, Wave Race, and using a certain console as a method of shelter.
Can you tell us about your team at Squarehead Studios?
Squarehead is currently just myself and I'm based on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. David Wise kindly provided the soundtrack and the voiceover was performed by Michelle Sundholm. I decided to form the company in 2014 after returning home from Texas, where I previously worked at Retro Studios.
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market?
In many respects, it has never been easier to make games. We have a proliferation of tools such as Unity that remove a lot of the technical difficulty and up-front investment required. It's relatively straightforward to self-publish to the various app stores and even the console platforms have opened up and embraced indie developers.
This is very much a double edged sword of course. Over-supply of digital entertainment has become a significant problem and one that is unlikely to get any better. The best content will stand out but the vast majority of projects are destined to be drowned out in the noise.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Probably the same kind of advice I would offer anyone thinking about doing anything, just do it. Experience is the best teacher, so try to get as many game development miles under your belt as you can. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and keep learning. Your path will unfold before you.
What game(s) have had the biggest affect on your life, and why?
Thats a tricky one, there have been so many that have influenced me over the years…
Arcade: Space Invaders, Pac Man, Asteroids, Commando, Track n Field, Defender, Scramble, Ikari Warriors, Star Wars, Space Harrier, Afterburner, Out Run, Double Dragon, Donkey Kong, Puzzle Bobble, Bubble Bobble, Ghosts N Goblins, Gauntlet, Centipede.
8-bit: Jetpac, Gridrunner, Thrust, Way of the Exploding Fist, The Last Ninja 2, Elite.
16-bit: Interceptor, Mercenary, Falcon, Another World, Sensible Soccer, Kick Off 2, IK+
PC: Chuck Yeagers Air Combat, Ultima VII, Wolfenstein, Doom / Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Half Life, Civilisation, X-COM, Sid Meir’s Pirates.
N64: Turok, Wave Race, Pilot Wings, Mario Kart, Golden Eye.
In terms of life impact, I would probably say that Falcon on the Atari ST might have been the catalyst for me originally training to become a pilot. However, when I realised that flying wasn’t quite as stimulating as making games, it was my childhood memories of playing Jetpac on the Vic 20 that made me change direction and apply to Rare for my first job in the industry.
What are you hopes and plans for Star Ghost looking into the future?
I’d love to think that people are getting a kick out of playing Star Ghost. Hopefully, it can evoke fond memories for older gamers and create some great new ones for younger players. I have a big pile of ideas I'd like to explore with it but I'm going to put them on hold for a while and maybe revisit the IP at a later date.
What's next for Squarehead Studios?
I can't reveal anything specific about that just yet but there will be lots of prototyping to find the right idea to pursue.
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
Both the PS2 and the Xbox 360 have impressive libraries but I think the N64 would just edge it for me. It was the first home system where I really felt that the games were significantly better than anything that could be found in the arcades. Even to this day, I’m not sure anything can compete with Wave Race. I also really like that it has four controller ports and provides some brilliant couch-based, multiplayer experiences.
If for some reason none of those were available, I’d probably take the original Xbox. That thing was so big, it could be emptied out and used as a shelter or possibly even a small boat to escape in.
Thanks to Rhys at Squarehead Studios for talking to us. Star Ghost is available on the Wii U eshop now!
As always, let us know your thoughts on the forums.