Interview with Joe Lamont-Fisher of My Go Studio, Developer of Doppler
Doppler is a new iOS and Android game that hit the app stores in September, and immediately drew attention of the gaming community thanks to unapologetically hard gameplay, stellar visuals and the addiction it induced in the growing community of its fans. The game is so good we felt it rightfully deserves to be on our List of Top Android Games to Test Your Reflexes, alongside Super Hexagon, Unpossible, Smash Hit and Badland, and followed up with a review outlining our impressions.
Imagine our excitement when the game's developer noticed our humble ramblings and agreed to give us an interview!
Profile: My Go Studio Ltd. (Twitter, Facebook)
My Go is a British game development studio founded in 2012 by two visual effects programmers, Joe Lamont-Fisher and Ingrid Dahl-Olsen. Both had extensive experience developing software at London-based VFX Studio Double Negative, and the first few years of their going solo Ingrid and Joe spent working on client projects until they came up with an idea of their own game, Doppler. If you wonder how one quits a good paying 9 to 5 office job to move to suburbs and become self-employed, here is how it happens:
"Our small studio is what happens when two long term VFX developers get sick of trains and smog and decide that making stuff in the countryside is the future."
As you would imagine, Joe spends most of his days and nights coding, playing and discussing games. With a degree in cybernetics, Joe found dragons and fairies to be more exciting than robots, and landed a job at Double Negative, where he got extensive experience that allowed him to endeavor into the rough business of game development as a director, co-founder, designer and developer at My Go Studio.
With a degree in character animation and a master's in graphics programming, Ingrid is a natural born nerd, whose career also happened to start at Double Negative. After years of enriching experience, Ingrid outgrew the 9 to 5 format, and felt it was time to spread the wings. It was her freelance game contract that led to the inception of My Go, where a successful tandem with Joe resulted in what we now know as Doppler.
So, in an effort to give individual developers and young teams more time in the spotlight, which they totally deserve, Download3k digitally sat with Doppler's developer, Joe Lamont-Fisher to question him about the perks and challenges of game development.
Thank you for agreeing to quench our curiosity and my compliments on a fantastic entry!
Thanks for all the coverage; it's really great to see Doppler getting picked up. Hope you haven't broken too many devices in frustration!
What games inspired Doppler?
Our main influence was actually the physical 'Wire Loop' puzzle game where you guide a metal ring around a twisted wire. If you touch it, it forms a circuit and it buzzes, game over! We like the dexterity and patience needed to play, and felt that could make a good mobile game. Although we wanted to make it faster and just a little bit harder!
In video games, we love simple twitch games, so naturally Super Hexagon was an influence! Also we get compared to Pivvot quite a lot, which we're very proud of, but we didn't actually see that until halfway through development!
For those suffering from procrastination, when did you come up with the game's idea and when did you actually start working on the project?
We came up with the idea and built a first prototype last year, and then we let it stew for a while. It wasn't until spring this year that we decided that it was time to finally release our first game (up until now we've worked on contracts) and we picked up the prototype again.
How long did it take you to create Doppler? What was the hardest part about production?
Probably 3-4 months of full time work went into Doppler. The hardest part was getting the challenge where we wanted it to be. We wanted frustratingly hard, but when you play every day for a long time it gets very difficult to work out what frustratingly hard is - we even worried that it was too easy!
It was also tricky deciding on the basic features and sticking to them, we went through so many iterations of scoring system and collectables before eventually deciding that most of it was unnecessary clutter!
What updates are in the works? In your blog, you speak about a Race Mode, which would allow users set their own pace - could you tell our readers more about it?
Ah, yes the race mode transformed into the current Time Attack mode you've seen, where you don't fail immediately, but slow down when you make a mistake. We've got several ideas for more, but we don't want to make any promises just yet. Doppler needs to pay its way a little more first!
Do you consider adding a Zen mode where you can't lose?
Several people have asked for an easier mode, although nobody has just wanted to watch the visuals before (thanks, glad you like them!). Again, no promises, but it's certainly an interesting idea.
Any chance to widen the acceptable distance between the two dots?
Ah, afraid you're stuck with that one! It is actually wider than on initial release though!
Do you plan to add controllers support?
We thought about controllers so we could release on more platforms, but we can't yet see how to do it and keep the gameplay. That said, we're very tempted to get it working with a Leap motion controller or maybe Playstation Move and see how that plays!
What mobile games are your favorite, and why? Is there a list of your top 5 of all times?
As you can probably tell from Doppler, we like games hard so Super Hexagon has a permanent place on my mobile and I tend to pick games with that kind of challenge. Pivvot is ace, as is Size Does Matter. Beyond that style, I've played Drop 7 an unhealthy amount, and I really enjoy the Anomaly series of reverse tower defense games!
Is there a next game in the works at My Go Studio?
We're back on some contract work in the short term, but we've got a couple of ideas stewing away that we'd like to get onto!
Doppler is your first project to launch under your byline on the app store, while your portfolio features several client works. Which other projects are you particularly proud of?
We're proud of all the work we've done up to now, we try to resist working on projects we don't find interesting. All of our projects have brought something new for us, but Animirror stands out; it was a fun, but challenging project to put together, and we loved making something for kids - that's something we'd like to do more of.
What is your personal best score in Doppler?
As you can probably imagine, I've played Doppler a lot! I've tried to avoid showboating on the leaderboards, but in sandbox testing I have finished the stages in infinite mode (4 minutes) and gotten a respectable 3 minutes-ish in Extreme - although I'm not sure I've ever managed to beat our top score holder there - they're on 3.07, I think!
I still play Extreme in my own downtime, in an odd way I find it almost relaxing! It can take a few goes to get into the rhythm, but then you get into the flow and it feels great!
Any advice for those who bang their foreheads against the wall weeping at the poor scores?
We really didn't want to tell people how to play - Doppler gives you the freedom to move up and down the screen and you don't have to keep your fingers in a straight line. Personally, I play with my thumbs around two thirds of the way up the screen and try to keep the joining line between my fingers perpendicular to the main line as it bends. This gives me room to maneuver and maximum distance between my fingers and the line!
With hindsight, we could have hinted at this play style, probably a lesson learned there. The recent Apple updates have made live capture on Mac much easier so I might publish a video soon with some tips!
Why did you prefer 'pay once and play all you want' model to free-to-play but with in-app purchases?
We don't really prefer it as such, I think there is room for both in the market but it depends a lot on the game you're making. We felt that, with Doppler, its hardcore style would mean that we'd never attract the millions of downloads needed to make it worth putting in adverts that weren't too annoying. We considered a simple IAP purchase to unlock the modes but we struggled to find a balance in what to give away and what to charge for.
How would you rate Doppler's success? Are you happy with the feedback?
The feedback has been excellent and we're very proud to have made a game that has been well received. Releasing our first game, we didn't know what to expect, whether we'd be ignored or nobody would like it, so it's been a great experience and an education. That said, sales have been slow; whether it doesn't widely appeal or people just haven't heard of the game, we don't know. We know this is a hard industry, but unfortunately sales haven't met even our worst predictions.
That's not meant to sound bitter, we can live off contract work and we'll try again. It's a hard industry and there's loads more we could have done and can do in the future!
Today, developers push boundaries of mobile platforms every day, and a great game from a solo developer can compete, or even beat the offerings from the gaming giants. Any advice to beginning fellow-developers on how to create a hit mobile game?
I think it's impossible to say and even if it wasn't, we certainly aren't in a position to tell people how to make a hit! I think it's brilliant that the tools exist now for anyone to make a game and, like you say, many of the little games made by tiny studios are, if not better, definitely more interesting than most of what the AAA market produces.
I would definitely agree with those who tell you to start small. I'm confident that no matter how good your skills in design, art, coding, sound, etc, there will be important elements of finishing and releasing a game you aren't aware of yet, and actually releasing something is probably the best way to find out. Your dream might be the next GTA, but work on something smaller to get experience, so when you make a mistake it doesn't ruin your dream! Make something related - if you want a 3D adventure game, work on a small 3D puzzle or runner. You'll learn more about the tools, about the process and your dream game will work out better because of it!
What do you do for outdoor activities? During our tech daily routines we're all hooked up to our small, large, and larger computer displays throughout the day. Do you still find time for something else, be it partying, outdoor activities, or just anything else that disconnects you from the internet for a little while?
Like you said, game development takes up an unhealthy amount of my time! When I can tear myself away from the monitor I'll usually be found walking our dogs in the countryside or visiting the local pub!
We thank Joe for taking the time to answer our questions, and hope he enjoyed answering, because we sure enjoyed the in-depth first-person insight he gave us. Download3k team wishes the best of luck to My Go Studio in all their new projects!