GRL Games is a small family-run game company. It was founded by industry veteran Graeme Devine, who has been making video games for over 30 years. His games range from the ground breaking 7th Guest and 11th Hour to the action packed Quake III Arena to more recently Age of Empires 3 and Halo Wars. He left Apple in 2010 to form GRL Games to focus on making fantastic game applications for the iPad and iPhone.
Vungle: What are you currently working on?
Devine: Between updates, new hardware, new consoles and game releases? I’ve been working on a new dungeon crawler and specifically trying to get touch controls feeling fantastic in combat. It’s easy to throw a virtual d-pad on the screen or to mimic a mouse on the touch screen but a good touch UI takes advantage of your interaction being directly on top of the pixels and making the world underneath it feel alive.
V: You started working on game design at a pretty early age, when the gaming industry was still nascent. Can you talk a little about what that was like?
D: There was no real sense of community except for maybe monthly meet ups. No twitter, internet, modems, or anything. It was all 100% offline. It’s a tough concept to grasp now just how different an offline world is but there were no mobile phones, tablets, no internet no nothing. The concept even of an analog audio modem (one where you stuck the handset of the phone into a machine) was too expensive for almost anyone and when you did have one there was no one to call.
V: You’ve worked on console games and PC games at places like Atari, Lucasfilm and id. What made you want to start GRL and focus on mobile?
D: I wanted to focus on small games for a while and make things that my family played and enjoyed. I especially wanted my daughter to see that you can start a company and make the leap to do anything you want, the future is not written for you, you make your own path. Mobile games gives me an opportunity to get some of the 80s feeling back in game development, short game cycles with small teams. Halo Wars was 4.5 years with 120 people. Now it’s just me in a co-working office in downtown Santa Cruz!
V: Do you have any favorite games right now?
D: I have been playing a lot of the Hearthstone beta. Maybe more than a lot. I’ve also been playing Shadowrun Returns on my iPad which I was glad to see since I backed the project on Kickstarter!
V: What advice do you have for aspiring game designers?
D: Finish your game! The biggest thing I see is a game that’s 50% finished and then put to one side because the next idea is “even better”. The next idea isn’t better, it’s just new, finish the first game off, make it complete, show it to your friends and watch them play it and listen to their feedback (this can be very hard to do, but it’s something that every game designer must get used to doing). Above all, don’t give up. This is the best, most creative, most imaginative, most engaging industry on the planet and probably in this solar system. There’s a million ways to make a game and with ad networks like Vungle there’s a lot of opportunity to get your game in front of a lot of fingers.