Hello Games联合创始人兼总经理Sean Murray表示，该工作室基于“非常高的质量”在圣诞假期前便完成了工作。这家总部位于Guildford的小型独立工作室在花了几周时间后，其面向iOS平台的独立游戏《Joe Danger Infinity》几乎就要完成了，于此同时，其大型的开放宇宙冒险游戏《No Man’s Sky》也在Spike VGX颁奖晚会上公布了预告片。Murray解释道：“在拥抱与握手后我们向彼此道别去享受与家人的圣诞假期。”
因为有云端备份，所以《No Man’s Sky》的代码是安全的，但几乎所有的其它内容却都毁了。所有的团队成员不只损失了之前的努力（包括游戏理念），还损失了个人的一些财产，包括音乐，游戏主机，个人的随身设备等的。对于该工作室来说，接下来的几周非常艰难，但他们需要重新站稳脚跟，即使新的办公处比之前的更加狭窄。联合创始人Ryan Doyle笑着说道：“我们真的是再次回到了最初的位置上：一间非常狭小的房间里！”
这个小房间是Hello Games最初的办公室，即一个带有一扇挡风玻璃的房间，但是一到夏天，这扇玻璃将把整个办公室变成温室一样闷热。但其实Murray一开始是在自己的卧室做事。Murray，Doyle以及David Ream及其美术师Grant Duncan在最初致力于第一个游戏理念时，他们都毅然放弃了在Criterion和Sumo Digital具有保障的工作，并且还未面对任何一个稳定的项目。Doyle解释道：“这是非常让人害怕的选择，但是在看到与自己一同做出这样选择的伙伴后，我瞬间宽慰了许多。我们信任彼此，我们知道对方擅长什么，所以对于我来说这无疑是非常有帮助的选择。”
因此他们便构想出了《Joe Danger》。该团队快速创造了演示版本，并将其递交给当时他们唯一认识的发行商。这一游戏理念立马遭到了拒绝。该工作室平静地将游戏原型带向了Gamescom。在Leipzig大会上，Murray及其公司于发行商进行了几次会面，但在任何情况下，一份协议就意味着妥协其最初的看法。他们创造了一些演示版本和模型，但却并未取得任何成功。一个发行商觉得游戏将适合Facebook，而另外一个发行商建议他们采取第一人称视角。最糟糕的建议是让他们删除碰撞：即变成不再有危险的《Joe Danger》。
Murray最终卖掉了自己的房子去支持游戏的开发，因为预算不足，该团队每天只能吃汉堡，芝士，生菜，和番茄三明治。最终Hello Games与索尼签订了一份基于时间的专营权协议，即允许Murray能够通过官方的PlayStation博客宣传游戏，这是提升游戏名气的主要方法之一。在《Joe Danger》规定提交的当天，Grant Duncan在最后的测试中发现游戏具有一个巨大的漏洞。为了避免索尼的测试者去寻找问题根源的昂贵过程，该团队开始深入探查代码。
在2010年6月，《Joe Danger》首次亮相于美国的PlayStation Store，该团队也焦急地期盼着这款游戏是否能够一跃成名。随着排行榜上的玩家数量持续攀升，Doyle越来越确信游戏中存在着另一个漏洞，但是这些数据却是真实的。在12个小时内，Hello Games赚回了本钱。
这款游戏的续集《Joe Danger 2：The Movie》以及在iOS平台上的续集《Joe Danger Touch！》紧接着诞生了，那时候，这个本来由4个人组成的团队扩展成8个人，随后又变成了10个人，但在不久前他们已经为自己购买了一个新的办公所。他们花了几个月时间去装修办公室是有价值的：在访问他们的工作室时，我们看到的是一个基于各种颜色且非常明亮的办公环境，在此我们可以很自然地与《Joe Danger》的创造者进行交谈。他们习惯在访问者到达时热情地迎接他们—-这是一种很自然的交涉。该公司的Twitter账号勾勒了一副悲喜交加的画面。它传达的是“一个真人般大小的Joe Danger看板正面朝下漂浮着。可怜的Joe。看来他遭遇了最糟糕的情况。”
基于一个适当的理由，Joe能够在《Joe Danger Infintity》中拥有自己的第二个智能手机外观。同时，《Joe Danger 2：The Movie》也将成为下一个Humble Bundle的Mac和Linux版本的一部分。突然间，发行这些内容对于当前没有计算机的公司来说变成了一个巨大的挑战。Murray承认：“接下来几周对我们来说真的非常艰难。我们必须购置家具，安装网络和电路。我们还必须设置20台不同的PC，Mac和Linux设备，并组装我们的所有iOS内容。”
在少量外部人员的帮助下，Hello Games在1月的第二周便准备好《Infinity》的发行。这款游戏取得不错的成绩，而对当时的工作室来说，更重要的还是它帮助他们获取了一次商业上的成功。在1月末，它便登上了17个国家的App Store首位，这是《Joe Danger》游戏迄今为止获得的最大的成功。
Murray开玩笑似地说道，这次危机的积极面便在于如今的工作室拥有了直接面对流体动力学的经验，但是他也表示：“我不希望我们是因为被洪水淹没而成名的。我希望我们是因为创造了《No Man’s Sky》而被大家所认识。”所以是这次的灾难推动着该团队去创造更棒的游戏吗？“绝对是这样的！”
复苏之路很漫长，但似乎这段旅程中最艰难的一部分即将结束。Murray表示当一切恢复正常时，他们将雇佣更多人去致力于《No Man’s Sky》的创造。新员工必须做好努力工作的打算，因为Murray决定“是时候鼓足干劲向前冲了。”
虽然《Joe Danger》的开发过程非常辛苦，但它也帮助了该工作室度过了一段艰难的时刻。这种乐观与Murray的愿景息息相关。他说道：“对于我来说，游戏情感非常广阔，这是一个未被勘探的领域。我认为这正是我们这次经历的关键，我们在此学会了乐观与团结。”正是这次的经历成就了Hello Games当前的发展状况。
来自其它工作室的朋友将Hello Games当前的发展描述成独立开发的小宇宙（伴随着战胜灾难的经验）。Murray笑着说道：“当我们公开了《No Man’s Sky》后我们便遭遇了洪水的袭击并失去了一切！我在与别人说这件事的时候，觉得这就像是电影或书上的‘英雄旅程’一样，即基于一种潦而不倒的精神。虽然我们被击倒了，但是我们却并未就此死去。而现在我们又重新站了起来。”（本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译，拒绝任何不保留版权的转载，如需转载请联系：游戏邦）
The story of Hello Games and how it coped when disaster struck
Hello Games finished work ahead of the Christmas holiday “on an absolute high”, says studio co-founder and MD Sean Murray. It had been a good few weeks for the tiny Guildford-based indie: Joe Danger Infinity for iOS was nearing completion, while its next big project, ambitious open-universe space adventure No Man’s Sky, was the topic du jour following the overwhelmingly positive reaction to its reveal trailer during the Spike VGX awards show. “We broke up for Christmas [with] hugs and handshakes, and everyone left to go to spend time with their families,” Murray explains.
Then disaster hit: torrential rain storms caused the River Wey to burst its banks and the studio was flooded. “It was Christmas Eve night and no one was here,” says Murray. He received a text message suggesting there was a problem, although at the time he had no idea of its magnitude. Murray gathered everyone he could, calling upon friends for favours as well as the staff members who were able to return. Late on Christmas Eve, around 8pm, a small group found itself wading through ankle-deep water and attempting to salvage what it could. “It was bad, but not too bad. The water wasn’t coming through the door, as most people tend to [picture], but through the walls and floors.”
Naturally, anything electrical was affected (“PCs that were plugged in had shorted out and things were blowing up”), but at that stage the team of helpers was able to start moving everything out of harm’s way, using desks to keep any surviving electronic equipment above water level. Yet worse was to come. “Apparently, an underground car park next door had been filling with water, and that burst, which meant we were flooded really quickly,” says Murray. “It went to waist height in no time, and by that stage it was coming in [through] the doors and windows. It all happened really quickly, but it meant we were wiped out, pretty much. I’m laughing about it now, but it’s a crappy thing to happen on Christmas Eve.”
Cloud backups meant that the code for No Man’s Sky was safe, but almost everything else had gone. Each member of the team had not only lost prior work – including game concepts – but individual belongings, including music, game consoles and paraphernalia of personal value. The following weeks were difficult ones for the studio, but it’s just about back on its feet, even if its new home is cramped rather than compact, the team having relocated to a small upstairs room. Co-founder Ryan Doyle laughs, “We’re pretty much back to where we started: in a little box!”
That little box was Hello Games’ first office, a single room with a glass front that turned the working environment into a greenhouse during the summer months. But even that marked a step up from its very first home: Murray’s own dining room. Murray and Doyle, together with David Ream and artist Grant Duncan, began work on their first game idea there, having all left behind the security of jobs at Criterion and Sumo Digital without a concrete project to work on. “It was definitely going to be terrifying, but I felt a bit more comforted knowing who I was doing it with,” Doyle explains. “We trusted each other and we knew what each other was capable of, so for me that definitely helped.”
Doyle and Murray both joined Criterion within a few days of one another, at a time when the Burnout developer had around 30 staff and was sited within a residential area next to a pub and a block of flats. “We’ve been sat beside each other practically the whole time, so we’re as close as two human beings can be,” laughs Murray. With the success of the Burnout games, the studio duly expanded, and the two programmers witnessed the transition from front-row seats. “Within three or four years, it [grew to] 200 people, and the team I was on had 150 when I left,” Murray remembers. “When I wanted to get into games, I just didn’t picture that many people.”
The duo spent a brief time at Kuju before electing to leave in 2008. It was undoubtedly a risky move and, at the time, somewhat unprecedented. Although many developers have left high-profile jobs to begin new startups in recent years, it was a different world at that time. “There was no App Store back then,” Murray notes. “XBLA was starting to have titles that were doing well, but PSN only really had Sony titles, and what we wanted to do, no one [else] was doing. Now it’s really commonplace. I think now [big studios] expect to be told, ‘Oh, I’m off to make an iPhone game’ every five minutes. But at the time, no one had done that at a place like EA.”
The biggest problem for the fledgling studio wasn’t the lack of floor space, but the absence of a game idea. “We knew the type of game we wanted to make,” Murray says. “We wanted something like the games we’d grown up with – the Sega and Nintendo influence was pretty big for [all of] us, and nothing like that really existed at the time. Everything was grey and po-faced, grimy and gory, and we wanted to make the polar opposite of that. Of course, Nintendo was still doing that kind of thing, but not nearly as well as it used to. Anything that was bright, cheery and vibrant tended to lack depth. We wanted something that was outwardly very simple, but had deep gameplay.”
Thus Joe Danger was conceived. The team quickly put together a demo and pitched it to the only publisher contact it knew. The idea was instantly rejected. Unperturbed, the studio took its prototype to Gamescom anyway. At the Leipzig conference, Murray and company organised several meetings with publishers, but in every case a deal meant compromising its original vision. Dozens of demos and mockups were made without success. One publisher thought the game would be a fine fit for Facebook, while another suggested a firstperson perspective. Worst of all was the suggestion that the crashes should be removed: Joe Danger without the danger.
Murray ended up selling his house to fund development of the game, and the team lived on a diet of ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwiches as it raced its meagre budget to the finish line. Hello Games eventually signed a timed-exclusivity deal with Sony, which allowed Murray to publicise the game via the official PlayStation blog, a crucial factor in raising its profile. The final stretch wasn’t without its hitches, though: on the day Joe Danger was due for submission, Grant Duncan’s final test revealed a game-breaking bug. Faced with the costly process of having Sony’s testers figure out the source of the problem, the team began to burrow into the code. How apt that an errant mole was causing the issue.
In June 2010, Joe Danger finally debuted on the US PlayStation Store, and the team anxiously waited to see if its game was to become a hit. As the number of players on the leaderboards continued to climb, Doyle became convinced there was another bug, but the figures were genuine. Within 12 hours, Hello Games had made its money back.
A sequel, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, and an iOS spinoff, Joe Danger Touch!, followed, by which time the team of four had become eight and then ten, but not before it had bought itself a new home. The months spent fixing up the place were worth the effort: during our prior visit to the studio we saw a bright, happy working environment decorated in the kind of colours you’d naturally associate with the creators of Joe Danger. Indeed, the man himself used to greet visitors on their arrival – until, that is, nature intervened. The studio’s Twitter account painted a tragicomic picture. “A life-size cardboard cutout of Joe Danger went floating past face down,” it said. “Poor Joe. He’s taking this the worst.”
And with good reason. Joe was due to make his second smartphone appearance in Joe Danger Infinity. Meanwhile, Joe Danger 2: The Movie was supposed to be part of the Mac and Linux editions of the next Humble Bundle. Suddenly, releasing them represented quite the challenge for a company that now had no computers. “The next few weeks were really tough,” Murray admits. “We had a pretty crazy week where we had to get furniture, network, electrics. We had to build about 20 different PCs, Macs and Linux machines, and get all our iOS stuff [together].”
With a little outside help, Hello Games was able to get Infinity ready for launch on the App Store by the second week of January. It was critically well received, but more importantly for the ailing studio, it was a commercial success. By the end of January, it had topped the App Store charts in 17 countries, in the process becoming the most successful Joe Danger game to date.
It was a boost that came at just the right time, but before the studio moved onwards, it had to move upwards. “We’re actually now in a much smaller room upstairs from where we were,” says Murray. And there are still problems with its new home. “The electrics are out, there’s water on the floor, that sort of thing. We’re hidden away in this very cramped little room where there’s not really room for all of us.”
Even so, Hello Games isn’t far away from getting back to full-time development. “We’re basically in the process of setting things right. We decided to stay in this office but get it redone, so hopefully within the next few weeks we’ll properly have our office back. In the meantime, all that changes [about the way we work] is that everything is a bit more difficult for us.”
While the physical damage from the flood was immediately evident, the psychological effect was more of a concern to Murray. “We were in [the office] during the Christmas period, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and the thing I was most worried about throughout it all was that the team would be really disheartened, that it would affect morale, and people would find it hard to work.”
But the process of everyone helping out may have brought an already close-knit group even closer together. “We’re all pulling together,” says Doyle. “Everyone’s really focused and in a good mood, and totally excited to be back and working on a game we want to be making.” Murray jokes that one positive side effect of the crisis is that the studio now has firsthand experience of fluid dynamics, though admits he’s keen to stay away from direct references to the flood in No Man’s Sky. “I don’t want us to be known as the studio that flooded; I want us to be known as the studio that made No Man’s Sky.” So has the event galvanised the team to make an even better game? “Absolutely!”
The road to recovery has been a long one, but it looks like the toughest part of the journey is coming to an end. Murray suggests that when things return to normal, more staff may be hired to work on No Man’s Sky, casually mentioning that he’s been flooded with applications – “no pun intended”. Any new recruits will need to be prepared to work hard, with Murray determined that “this is the time to really get our heads down”.
As with the darkest moments of Joe Danger’s development, it’s the studio’s excitement for the game it’s making that has helped it overcome such hardships. That sense of optimism ties into Murray’s vision. “The emotion of the game for me,” he says, “is [found in] that great expanse, the undiscovered country. I think that is key to this kind of experience, which is optimistic, which is cooperative, which in some ways is us against the universe.” The parallels with Hello’s current situation are inescapable.
Friends from other studios have described Hello’s recent woes as a microcosm of indie development, with its wild lurches from triumph to disaster. “We announce No Man’s Sky and then we’re flooded and lose everything!” laughs Murray, displaying the sort of humour that has undoubtedly helped him and his team overcome a crisis that may have sunk others. “I was talking to the guys here and saying it feels like a moment in a film or a book, a classic ‘hero’s journey’ moment, that down-but-not-out [narrative] arc. We’ve been beaten, but we’re not dead. And now we have to come back.”(source:edge-online)