Uppercut Games interview with Ed Orman
Uppercut Games is an Independent Game Development studio based out of Canberra, Australia. The studio came together several years ago and was formed by Ed Orman, Andrew James and Ryan Lancaster. The small studio has developed Epoch, Epoch 2 and SnowJinks on Android and iOS and have grown in numbers since it’s inception. Currently Uppercut Games is working on their new game called Submerged.
Recently I got a hold of Ed Orman and he was gracious enough to speak with me about his history and about Uppercut Games.
What is one of the first video game’s you remember playing in your life?
It would be the Donkey Kong II Game-&-Watch that my dad bought for me for my 8th birthday. One of the multiscreen ones with the clam-shell layout. Man, I loved that thing – I’m pretty sure I actually spent most of my birthday party ignoring the other kids and just playing it over and over again.
How did you get into Game development?
Completely by chance! I had moved to Canberra to work in graphic design, then got a job as an illustrator with a PC games company called Micro Forte. Because I had a background in playing paper-based RPGs, they gave me the opportunity to move into game design. So it was a circuitous and unintentional path, but I’m very thankful that I managed to end up where I am now.
Can you tell me about your developer experiences before Uppercut was formed?
So I started at Micro Forte in 1997, and we did Fallout: Tactics in 2001. Then I joined Irrational Games and got to work on Freedom Force, Tribes: Vengeance and Bioshock. I left Irrational (by then, 2K Australia) at the end of 2010 and we formed Uppercut in 2011.
Can you tell me about some of your previous projects that uppercut has worked on?
Our very first game in 2011 was EPOCH for iOS (and later, Android) – it’s a cover-based shooter that we built specifically for touch-screen devices, and it was successful enough to keep the company going. Apple liked it, too, and we got featured multiple times.
Next we did a side-project that was basically a re-skin of EPOCH, but with kids throwing snowballs at eachother It’s called SnowJinks, and while it wasn’t as successful, it does have a lot of fans. Finally, we released EPOCH 2 in 2013. As a sequel, it’s a massively more fleshed-out experience, and again it proved to be pretty popular.
A lot of factors went into the creation of EPOCH. We knew we wanted to really take advantage of touch-screens and not just shoe-horn a console or PC experience onto the devices. We also wanted to bring our AAA art standards to mobile as a way of making the game stand out. Finally, being that there were only three of us full-time on it, we knew the scope had to be reasonably small – we had to do a lot with a little.
We threw a few different ideas back and forth, and settled on the cover-based shooter as something that was achievable, hadn’t been done, and would allow us to make something that looked really good.
Can you tell me what Submerged is and where the idea came from?
Submerged is an exploration adventure game with a focus on serenity. It follows the story of two kids, Miku and Taku, who appear in this sunken city with no explanation. We wanted to create a place that people will want to spend time in, exploring the city and the story at their own pace.
The simplest kernel of the idea came from, of all places, a GTA mod where someone had raised the sea levels up so that the city was half-submerged. We then built on that image of a sunken city, with the idea of a little girl in a boat, puttering around and exploring.
From the trailer and screenshots it (Submerged) looks very beautiful, Uppercut has been working on Unreal for quite a while now. How is it treating you?
Yep, we have been using Unreal in one form or another for around 12 years. The first prototype for Submerged was created around 13 months ago, and it was all done in UE4 so we could test out the new engine. Since then, we’ve fully made the switch to UE4, and it’s been pretty great.
On your developer blog you make a comment on your old paper based role playing days, expressing your joy for imagining other worldly places. “…one of the things I always loved about it was that feeling of seeing into another world. Video games evoke that same feeling: visiting Somewhere Else” . Would you mind sharing a glimpse into some of those surreal worlds?, What places would you like to visit in video games in the near future?
If you look at my design history, you’ll see that I have a preference for post-apocalyptic settings. But over time, my tastes have diversified so now there are many different worlds I’d like to play around in. And there are developers all over the world who are making games in settings I could never have imagined – it’s an exciting time!
The things I’m currently looking forward to: Last Guardian (if it ever materialises), Game 4 (from Behemoth), The Flame In The Flood, and Captain Forever Remix.
As for what we’ll do after Submerged? No idea yet. One thing at a time 🙂
Submerged is coming out 2nd Quarter 2015, on PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Mobile.
Thank you for speaking with me. I look forward to the release of Submerged.