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Interview: Hello Games Out To Prove Joe Danger Wasn't A Fluke

Does being one of the nicest dev teams in the industry translate to instant success? Gamasutra met up with Hello Games' Sean Murray to discuss the challenges in making Joe Danger and its recently unveiled sequel.

Mike Rose, Blogger

August 22, 2011

8 Min Read

Does being one of the nicest dev teams in the industry translate to success? For the team at Hello Games, it also helps that their first release, Joe Danger on PlayStation Network, an arcade-style side-scrolling racer in the same vein as XBLA title Trials 2, was warmly received by both the press and gamers alike. Now they've been locked away in a dingy cell, or wherever they choose to spend their development time, diligently working on a recently announced follow-up called Joe Danger: The Movie. Available to play last week at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, the next Joe Danger installment is looking to wow the digital console space all over again, taking Joe out of his trusty motorcycle and throwing him into minecarts, onto skis and strapping jetpacks to his back. Hello Games has come a long way since its first release, with new members added to the original pack and plenty of experience under its belt. Gamasutra met up with Hello's Sean Murray to discuss the challenges his team is facing this time around, and what the future holds for both the team and Joe himself. You've taken on new team members to add to the original roster of four. How did you go about choosing who to hire? Sean Murray: None of them have made a game before, and that has been the nicest thing, as we don't have any jaded, grumpy old men... well, we have, we have us! But now we have some fresh, new people who are excited about games. Well, one of them has worked on a bunch of titles that were canned, and one of the guys who has made a bunch of these levels for the new game has worked in QA before. But yeah, suddenly the average age of our little group has gone down, and I've learnt that I can't drink as much as I used to. [laughs] With the first game, you must have always had in the back of your minds that you needed to get it out ASAP. Now that you've had success and don't need to rush as much, is it a lot more relaxed with the development of this game? I thought it would be totally different. When we were doing Joe Danger, we were always on the edge, always testing our ability to survive... always thinking about how everything was going to be okay afterwards, and we were going to be able to sit around on a beach. And actually, we used to talk about it all the time -- will we still have the hunger to make games? And we did at times just presume that we'd be out of business. We thought we'd get Joe Danger out, and then have to go back to our real jobs! But it's weird... genuinely, we feel this pressure because people liked what we did, and now we have to prove that that wasn't a fluke, and we've got to do something... bigger. Also there's the mentality that makes you want to do well... it's the same mentality that makes you constantly feel like you have to prove yourself. Joe Danger on PSN is a title we're proud of and everything, but after it came out I couldn't really bear to play it... it wasn't really the game we wanted to make. You know, we were so constrained, that I couldn't even look at it afterwards. We just wanted it to be so much more, and every part of us just kept saying that we wanted to do it properly. It's like, this game [Joe Danger: The Movie] is what we were originally talking about. There's this sense of it almost being like, this isn't a sequel -- I don't like that word. So it's like this is the actual Joe Danger game, and the original was just a dry run? Yeah! It's just, we want to put so much into it. We always said that we were inspired by Sega games, Nintendo games and so on, and we think for the first game, we didn't properly reach their level, and that's something we're trying to do. I totally shouldn't be saying that. [laughs] We just want to make sure the game is such high quality... you know, coming here [to Gamescom], I can't even begin to describe what it's like, loading everything up, and knowing that this is the build of the game that everyone is going to see... and we were super stressed yesterday, we couldn't really have a conversation with each other. We normally get on really well, but we were barely talking yesterday... it's just all been so nerve-wracking. It's one of those feelings that you wish would just go away! But I think for us, that's one of the reasons we wanted to bring some new people on board, and make a little home for all of us. And you know, build something that's a bit more... real. That's what it's been like for us. Was keeping the Joe Danger character really important? I think, when we were wondering whether we were going to be able to make another game, we were always thinking that we'd like to make a bigger, full-blown game with Joe Danger in it. We haven't said this to anyone, but I don't think they'll be a Joe Danger 3. We don't want to be, like, a Joe Danger studio or whatever. So we've said to ourselves, if there's something one of us wants to put into this game, then this is your last chance! I think we have a freshness and a love for the title that we want to get out there, we want to make sure this is the perfect Joe Danger game. We actually have this 'lab', where we make all the vehicles for the game. There are five vehicles in the demo we've got here today, but that's just a small percentage of what we're experimented with. There's a lot of crazy ideas! So is it PSN exclusive again? Ah well... we don't know what our fortune holds yet. We don't know if Microsoft will have us, or Sony will have us... we're just gonna make this game. And I guess I would say, it's not totally naive on my part -- we plan to make the game, show it, and get people interested. That's how it worked last time -- we showed it to every publisher who would answer their door, and none of them wanted it. And then eventually just showing it at the Eurogamer Expo, and then getting nominated for the IGF... suddenly we had interest. So after the release of the original Joe Danger, how did Sony react? Were they happy with how the game did? Well, it did really well. It sold well in the UK to begin with, and so-so in America. But then it just suddenly spread, and it's been a really interesting thing for us, because basically, we were only really showing the game to UK press. And the UK press were really nice to us, but then it just slowly spread out via word-of-mouth. But during that period, it wasn't like there was the might of Sony marketing. Like, they were supporting us, but we always felt like we were on our own, like we were responsible. Having said that, this time around I hope the talks are still open. We don't have anyone throwing massive piles of money at us! But you know, that's the thing, you can talk to any indie developer and they will tell you the same thing, that there are games that you and I know really well, and it's such an amazing title, and we think that publishers must be falling over themselves for them. But that's not the case - the reality is that those developers are like, 'nobody knows about us, we can't get a meeting with anyone.' It's a common thing to hear. It's things like the IGF that are an area where publishers will pay attention -- I think that's one of the reasons we got picked up. We need more and more showcases like that. But yeah, I think that's how it is. For example, I think if you took Minecraft around to every publisher in the world when it was first in existence, they probably would have all turned it down. I remember playing it when it was really early and thinking, 'This is awesome,' but then not really being sure if anyone else would be into it. It's just one of those kind of things. So if you're not sure of platform, does not mean a PC version is possible? And will we ever see the original Joe Danger on PC? Hmm, that's something I don't know actually, whether people genuinely want that. Like, I would hope that people would be interested in that, and it's something that I'd like to do. I mean, I know I said all those things about how I couldn't bear the game for a few months, but actually now when I've gone back to it, I really like it. And I would love to see more people being able to play it. I have this little joke that the biggest complaint that people seem to have with Joe Danger is that they can't actually play it as they don't own the right platform. When we said Joe Danger: The Movie is coming out, just all the comments on the post were saying 'Joe Danger 1 on XBLA please!' and stuff like that, and we were like... is that all you have to say?

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