World Clock Developer Interview

So World Clock was your first contribution to XBLIG, care to talk us through it?
Sure. World Clock is for all those people who have friends family, or perhaps business colleagues overseas and who need to know what time it is where they are. The app shows a map of the world and makes it really clear what parts are in daylight. Plus, I think it’s just a nice thing to look at and have running on your xbox.

Why a World Clock?
A couple of reasons actually. Firstly, we wanted to prove our tech and go through the whole process of putting a game on the xbox through the indie games channel. And we wanted to do it fast with a project that was not overly complicated.
Secondly, I kept seeing adverts in in-flight magazines for these expensive clockwork world clocks. They fascinated me but I knew I’d never get one – they are thousands of pounds. Then, it occurred to me we could make one for the xbox and it would do the same job, and a whole lot more. So it was the perfect fit really. From having the idea to selling our first copy took 6 weeks!

A little birdie told me that members of Escapist Games used to work for Electronic Arts. Is this true?
Yes, we all did. We worked for the Criterion studio in Guildford.

What made you decide to leave EA and create a start-up company?
Many reasons. I was at EA for over 7 years, and while it was mostly a great experience it’s often difficult to feel like anything other than a small cog in a vast and incomprehensible machine. As the director of my own small company, I know I’m an integral part, just like the other guys know how important they are too. We can make decisions and to a much greater degree control our own destiny. And we’ve got grand plans! World Clock is just us dipping our toes in the water, so to speak.

Given the current economic climate (I’ve been wanting to use those words for ages), isn’t the choice to leave the comfort of a large successful company a bit of a gamble?
You can say that again. But it’s not a completely reckless one, I hope. The games industry is well placed to ride out the down-turn. And when things do start to pick up again it will be innovative small companies like Escapist Games who will be there to reap the rewards. Anyway, starting a business at any time is always going to involve risk. That’s what makes it so exciting!

I know my questions thus far have been concentrating mostly on you past at EA, but just one more I promise… What games did you work on at EA?
I worked on all the Burnouts. And Black.

I’m sure Escapist Games has plenty more ideas for future games on XBLIG, are there any that you may care to mention?
Yeah, there’s never a shortage of ideas. We had a rather exciting one involving avatars just the other day which could well be our next project. But the details will have to wait I’m afraid.

What do you think of the whole idea of XBLIG?
It’s an excellent idea, and I commend Microsoft for it. Democratizing content creation is the future. But it’s one thing to have an idea and an entirely different thing to see it through to completion. I see XBLIG as a definite work-in-progress.

What do you think of the actually members of the XBLIG community?
The community is very good. For the most part it’s a bunch of like-minded, dedicated individuals who want to make great games. And of course there’s a few who don’t and cynically just want to make slideshows. And massage games. But yeah, it’s mostly good.

Any advise for anyone looking to become an XBLIG creator?
Yeah, don’t be scared. It doesn’t take any special magic, just lots of hard work.

I’ve seen from your website that you also sell World Clock on the PC. I know it’s still early days for World Clock on the Xbox, but do Xbox sales compare to PC sales?
We only just released the PC version last week. So far sales have been slow, and they have some way to go before they catch up to the Xbox. But the PC World Clock is actually the superior version – it makes a lot of sense as a screen saver.

I recently read one very negative and quite cutting review of World Clock. How does this make you feel, particularly after having given up the security of a job at EA to go it on your own?
The first rule of game development: don’t believe your own reviews. Except when they’re good. Seriously, it does hurt a bit. I think World Clock suffers from not being a game. Reviewers tend to want to be able to shoot things, and there’s no shooting in World Clock. And we totally get that. We want to shoot things too! Rest assured that World Clock isn’t the only thing they’ll be seeing from us this year by a long shot. After they’ve played some of our other games (eg Atomhex) they’ll be glad they can load up World Clock to let their eyeballs heal and heart-rate calm down!