Richard Ogden is a man with almost 20 years of experience in crafting racing games for Codemasters and BigBig Studios, including the Pursuit Force series and the Vita oddity Little Deviants. He’s now operating a one-man development studio called Red Phantom Games, which recently released its first title: the minimalist Minutes. We talked to Richard about Minutes and operating a one-man studio.
For the US gamers who haven’t experienced it, describe Minutes in your own words.
Minutes is a bullet-hell game or an “avoid-em-up” with abstract and pure visuals and gameplay. I wanted to make a videogame in the truest sense. It’s all about moving, collecting, dodging, unlocking, powerups, scoring points – I’ve taken some of the fundamentals of gaming and created a minimalist experience that still works on console. I’ve tried to make it feel like the old-school arcade games that I played as a kid. Each level is one-minute long so it really works well on the Vita, as you can literally pick it up, play for a minute and make progress. But, I think it’s great on PS4 too, with the larger screen when you want to spend a longer period of time with it. The music is absolutely awesome and totally locks in with the theme and the seconds passing as you play – it really helps you to get into the zone when playing.
Your output over the years has been almost exclusively racing/driving games. What made you decide to go for a more abstract game like Minutes?
As a one-man developer now, I have the freedom to create what I want, to build whatever crazy stuff comes out of my mind. I don’t think game developers necessarily want to be tied to or associated with a particular genre. It’s more interesting to try different things. The driving/racing genre isn’t what it once was, though that doesn’t mean that smaller, indie titles don’t work. Perhaps something I’ll return to in future. In any case, Minutes had to be something achievable by mainly one person and on a low budget.
Do you find it more effective to work as a one-man operation like Red Phantom Games, or as a larger company like BigBig Studios?
It’s just different. Obviously, I can’t make games that require large numbers of assets and features – this requires a workforce. I need to focus on what I can do and pick the right battles. However, as one person, there’s not much in the way of programmer meetings, design debates and communication issues that can get in the way of speedy progress. There’s no barrier to quick decision making, and I also enjoy having full creative control. I can’t really blame anyone but myself if anything goes wrong, though!
Given completely unlimited resources—money, time, all of it—and no one to please but yourself, what would be your dream project?
I really wanted to make the game that No Mans Sky is aiming to be. But, that’s ok; I’ve got a long list of other ideas. I’m not sure I can pick one dream project, but something along the lines of an open world 3rd-person action/adventure set during the 1917 revolution in Russia but with a cerebral, literary and very historical feel to it rather. I doubt I’ll ever make that one but the rest are secret. (I’m kinda hoping it’ll be a future Assassin’s Creed!)
Now that Minutes has launched in the US, what are your next steps? What’s next from Red Phantom Games?
Some porting for Minutes – PC and hopefully PS3. Maybe others. Some contract work then moving on with my next game in the summer. That’ll be one from the secret list.