Ipswich games developer has last word with US awards spree
They say everyone loves a winner and that was certainly the case for Ipswich games developer Mark Backler after his video game won three awards at the recent Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.
Mark, who is looking for further funding to get his game published suddenly found people who had previously shown no interest getting in touch.
“Two publishers, one who had turned me down and one who hadn’t replied to my emails, suddenly approached me,” says Mark. “It’s amazing how something as simple as winning some awards can change people’s perception. It’s very helpful to have these under your belt when you’re negotiating, doing deals and setting up partnerships.”
This also included him catching the attention of a senior Apple exec as he was carrying the awards around after the event. The game was nominated in seven categories in the Game Connection awards, which were run alongside GDC and won three: Best Indie Game, Best Story and Most Creative Original. More than 170 games were nominated for the 12 categories, with 23 making the final shortlist.
Mark, whose company is Fourth State, attended the event with help from UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) East. He says: “I heard word of mouth about a Northern Powerhouse trip to GDC and through that I got in contact with UKTI international trade adviser John Marshall who was very willing and happy to help. He arranged for me to attend the event and it was certainly well worth it.”
John also put Mark in touch with a variety of helpful contacts and is arranging for him to take part in the Passport to Export programme, which provides new and inexperienced exporters with training, planning and ongoing support, as well as a High Growth Start-up Workshop. Says John: “Mark’s new games company, Fourth State, is just the type of startup with high growth potential that we are seeking to help. That’s why we invited him to UKTI’s free, intensive High Growth Start-up Workshop, to give him a good foundation, and helped him join the GDC mission.
“So in just a few months, Mark has gone from early stage to international recognition. I’m delighted for him and UKTI will be there to assist on a continuing basis.”
Mark’s game, called The Last Word, takes place inside a diary with players required to navigate a character through the pages and complete puzzles by moving different words around the screen.
It’s the first game he has developed on his own following 10 years working in the games industry for big names including Electronic Arts and Lionhead. Among the games he worked on was Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix.
While video games are usually released globally, they have to be localised for non-English speaking markets. This is more difficult with The Last Word because the text forms platforms within the games rather than just telling the story, but it’s not putting Mark off a global release.
“It’s a bit tricky to localise but we are going release the game all round the world,” says Mark. Before this happens Fourth State is looking to find more funding and a publisher.
Mark has already received funds from the Wellcome Trust and Creative England. “With these we could get up to £100k, but we’ll need around £200k to get the game developed and published,” he said.