Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 14th January 2018.
It’s a special Scotch Corner this week because it’s party time! Yes, for the last 12 months Stuart has been keeping us up to date with the latest reviews every Sunday. It’s time to celebrate, and what better way than covering the anniversary celebrations of one of the most successful independent studios active in the UK. Enjoy!
Happy Birthday Rebellion
INDIE gaming institution Rebellion hit 25 last month. The studio was formed by brothers Jason and Chris Kingsley in 1992 and has made more than 80 games since Eye Of The Storm on the Amiga. The future looks just as bright — with games like Evil Genius 2 and Strange Brigade. Jason Kingsley tells me about a British indie phenomenon.
REBELLION celebrated their 25th birthday with a fierce hands-off warning to the gaming big boys. The indie firm has torn up the blueprint where smaller studios work hard, finally make a hit title then sell out to the giants. Co-founder Jason Kingsley insisted they balanced the books and had every intention of firing out the hits for another 25 years. He said:
“We’re entirely self-funded and games these days are not cheap — they cost many millions of pounds to make. We’re in a lucky enough position to be able to put those millions into making new games, and that our games are successful enough to have more money coming in. Being independent is about being independent in all aspects. We don’t have to worry about where the money comes from — it comes from us.”
So that rules out any partnerships with the gaming heavyweights. Kingsley laughed:
“We’re very happy doing what we do, making games for ourselves that we want to play. We are lucky to be in that position. Who knows what might happen in 20 years’ time, but for the moment, no.”
It is a mantra that inspired the Kingsley brothers from day one. Jason said:
“I started making games when I was very young. I would play stuff like Monopoly and invent my own variations – there was one called Nuclear Monopoly where, in addition to houses and hotels, you could also buy nuclear missiles! As I grew up, went to school, to university, I continued to love making games. Then the technology of computers came of age, it was around the time I needed to start thinking of what I was going to do. My brother, Chris, was very involved with computers, programming and technology, and making video games with him seemed a very natural progression.
Right from the very earliest days, we wanted to do things in a non-standard way. We wanted to do things our way because we thought we’d make better games that way. Also, Rebellion sort of fits us and our outlook – I’m rarely seen in a suit and tie. As far as I’m concerned, suits and ties are for weddings and funerals.”
Kingsley proved the point with his passion for all things medieval. He loves jousting, right, but has resisted the urge to try making a VR game. He said:
“It’s a lovely idea, but it’s a niche market. I’m probably one of the only people in the games industry that could tell you whether it was authentic or not.”
Instead of jousting the firm has produced some top titles. Kingsley said:
“Whenever you work on a game it becomes a favourite while you’re working on it, and you’re always delighted to get it out for people to play. Even the games that didn’t go quite as planned — I’m proud of them. But if you said I had to pick an absolute favourite then I’d say Alien vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar. It was our first commercial game as Rebellion and a real landmark moment. We achieved a lot with it and in many ways we were ahead of our time — things like the photogrammetric techniques, or being able to play as a ‘baddie’ character like the Predator. I think we were one of, if not the first to explore. I’m hugely proud of what we accomplished with that game.”
Kingsley is proud of the achievements, but also the way they have embraced new technology. He added:
“Virtual reality is very exciting. It’s a very interesting frontier for media in general, not just games. But it’s still very early days. We’re continuing to be involved with VR but we’re not focusing entirely on it. VR is exciting but it has many challenges. Just as when film-making was starting out and there were many challenges, or when radio first began, when first books were first published — when any new medium comes along it brings lots of unknowns. That’s the challenge VR has at the moment.”
Brexit is another challenge on the horizon, but Kingsley insists the British market will still shine in the gaming world.
“The UK offers a very strong talent pool. We’re very proud to be a UK company. As for Brexit . . . I think it will bring with it some challenges, including those that arise from the uncertainty surrounding it. I also think it may bring some new opportunities. We’ll still be part of Europe – that’s a geographical fact. Our market in Europe is established. Whereas China, Brazil, India, Latin America – these are the big growth markets. So I see Brexit as a mixed bag of potential. As anyone in business will tell you, it’s a massive achievement we’ve kept this company going and growing and prospering for 25 years. So if we can still be in business and making games that our fans enjoy to play in 25 years’ time, I’d be very happy with that.”
THE Rebellion empire includes the cult 2000AD comic and a TV series. They bought 2000AD in 2000 and have overseen a massive surge in popularity in the comic heroes. Kingsley said:
“We’ve got to meet a lot of writers and artists and creative people which has been very useful for us. It is a standalone business. The comics industry is very important to us. There’s some crossover with the games industry but not as much as people might think. There is a crossover in readers and games players, and that’s probably where the significant value is. It’s also fun to have a publishing company that makes great things like Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog.”
Last year they also announced that they were working on Judge Dredd: Mega City One for TV, but they aren’t planning to expand in that direction. Kingsley added:
“Right now we’re focusing on Mega City One which is a massive endeavour for us. I’ve always, always been a huge 2000 AD fan, going back all the way to my childhood. There are so many incredible stories to tell from the Dredd universe.”
The Future is Radiant
THE Rebellion revolution continues after they bought Radiant Worlds. The move has guaranteed all 70 jobs, including the studio’s founders and industry legends, Philip and Andrew Oliver — who are best known for the Dizzy games in the 80’s.
“We’ve known the Kingsley’s for many years and have always had enormous respect for them and the company they’ve built. We know our core values of creativity, passion, and ambition are mirrored by Rebellion.”
The studio will now be renamed Rebellion Warwick.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, here’s to another 12 months! Catch ye’s…