Floating Point Studios (FPS) is one of the first commercial games development companies in Swansea and one of the few independent studios in Wales. The studio is currently developing downloadable games for the PC and is in talks with a number of online distribution networks including Valve (Washington based independent games developer) about the possibility of distribution through Steam, Valve’s game download platform. Part of the studio plan is to always be developing new Intellectual Property (IP) and gameplay styles, the team at FPS is extremely committed to developing original and innovative games.
FPS was founded by Julian Hainsworth a graduate of the Skill Set accredited Swansea Metropolitan University (SMU, formerly known as the Swansea Institute of Higher Education, SIHE). Julian graduated from the SMU in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Honours degree in 3D Computer Animation. He had been researching and planning for the formation of FPS for the three years of the degree at the SMU and the company’s business plan was written throughout the end of 2007 and the first half of 2008. Floating Point Studios Limited was incorporate by shares on the 17th of July 2008 as a private limited liability company and all shares in the company are owned by Julian Hainsworth.
FPS has been financed at by Julian Hainsworth’s own investment into the company and by a business loan from ‘Finance Wales Investments Limited’. Julian invested all of his savings gathered throughout and before University of £5,000 pounds into FPS at start up. A further £2,000 was invested by his family. The Finance Wales’ business loan was a gracious ten £10,000 that is to be repaid by FPS ltd over the next five years. The money is and will be used to cover the studio’s costs, the purchasing of necessary computer equipment and team’s salaries. An application has also been placed into KEF (the Knowledge Exploitation Fund) for one of their grants and the studio is confident about this application. KEF helped the new independent games development studio “Dark Rock Studios” in Newport, Wales, with a £20,000 grant, Dark Rock Studios also recently released their first game and congratulations to them on that. Julian was supported by the SMU, the G2E (Graduation to Enterprise) network and Spin out Wales during the planning and start up of FPS. These companies and organisations helped to finalise and organise the company’s business plan, the studio’s start up and to arrange meetings with finance groups such as Finance Wales Investments Limited and KEF.
FPS will continue to finance itself through the sales of the games made possible by digital distribution and the size of the studios’ team. Currently FPS is solely working to develop games for digital download on the PC and hopes to distribute them through Steam, Valve Inc’s online game distribution service; and other digital download services for the PC; FPS is already signed onto Steamworks (the toolset for Steam) and is working at integrating those tools with FPS’ own games development programs. In the coming years FPS plans to expand development to Console download as well and the studio will apply for network developer status on several consoles in the near future once the studio has begun to establish its portfolio of games.
FPS is currently a team of four including Julian Hainsworth, but will expand to five or six in the coming weeks. The staff at FPS currently consists of Andrea Basilio, Rich Morgan and Chris Davies all three of which are currently students at the SMU studying Computer Games Design, Andrea and Rich are on the Bachelor of Arts course and Chris is on the Bachelor of Science course. For the first three weeks of the studios life another of the SMU’s graduates from the BA Hons 3D Computer Animation degree, Chris De Lloyd was employed at FPS, but he was offered another position at “Full Fat Games” in Coventry which he duly took and all the staff at FPS wish him the best in his future endeavours. The studio looks forward to employing more graduates and students from the SMU and Swansea University as well as from places further afield. FPS aims to continue its strong communication with the SMU and to help wherever it can as the university has strong ties between its lecturers and students and the lecturers continued support has played a huge factor in helping to get Floating Point Studios up and running. FPS’s staff are all actual employees of the company and not hired as in office freelance style contractors which is one of the most popular methods of staff hiring in the games industry. Being employed and not self employed (freelance) offers major benefits to the staff and FPS will continue to employ staff instead of hiring them. FPS looks forward to creating more jobs in Swansea for creative degree students and graduates as the studio expands in the coming years.
The name Floating Point Studios comes from two places, the first of which is the floating point variable which is used in programming and mathematics, two of the fundamental aspects of game development. The floating point variable can have decimal places where as integers can only be a whole numbers. Floating points have now almost completely replaced integers in game development as they allow smooth animation and highly dynamic interactions as well as other advantages. Naming the studio Floating Point is to connote that FPS is a non-linear, multifaceted, dynamic team. The other reason is a joke at the games industries expense as the abbreviation for Floating Point Studios is FPS, in the gaming universe FPS is an abbreviation for the genre of First-Person Shooter.
Floating Point Studios has a very strong game development strategy that will span the next three years of the studios life; this strategy involves using FPS’s game production to drive the development of the studio’s game development toolset (program suite). Building a versatile game development toolset can take three to four years, sometimes longer, and as a small start up with a limited budget FPS does not have the luxury to be developing a game and a toolset for such a large amount of time as the studio intends to launch games in order to achieve an income from the sales as soon as possible. So FPS will be developing games to develop the toolset. FPS’s games for the first three years will be based around different areas of the toolset that need to be developed. Making games around those features will help to develop those features while also getting the games out to the market. For example to develop the features of the animation part of the tools FPS will develop a game based around animation. The studio has codenamed this development strategy as “BETA-DEV” as ‘Beta’ is usually the stage of game development, where the game is locked for features and content and it is just being refined, tweaked and polished; each feature of the toolset will go through the ‘Beta’ stage over the next three years. In layman’s terms Beta-Dev is using game development to build up each features of the game development program (toolset).
FPS chose to develop this way because as a small independent studio, it needs to develop interesting and entertaining games and get them to the market as soon as possible. FPS also want to minimise our game development time and cost. Additionally a strong part of the studio’s aims and goals is to create original and exciting IP and unique gameplay mechanics and styles; in short FPS will be developing new games and gameplay. The studio also has ambitions to develop high budget games in the future. Beta-Dev gives FPS the opportunity to develop a fully featured game development program suite whilst simultaneously generating an income for the studio with releases per year. Developing games around individual features of a toolset will also help the team to create interesting and original games and gameplay. Beta-Dev will additionally aid FPS in creating a portfolio of games, which will help to gain a reputation in the industry, increase communication and interaction with the community and allowing the team to spend three to four years developing our toolset.
Beta-Dev also has a strong community aspect to it. When the team plan a new game they will ask the community which area of the toolset they would like to see developed next, so the community will have some influence over each game that will be produced by FPS. The studio will also be listening very carefully to everything that the community has to say about each game that is developed, whether it is about the gameplay style, a bug in the game and whether it is negative of positive the team want to learn from it. What the community has to say about FPS the team want to use to help develop the games.
Floating Point Studios currently has two games in development, which are the first stage of Beta-Dev and are being used to help the team get the base level of the toolset working. The first of the two games is currently being developed under the working title of “Flight”. It is an unusual style of game which sees the player taking on the role of a bird and herding clouds around the sky. In Flight the player will travel through several layers of the troposphere and stratosphere, starting at the lowest level and working their way upwards. On each layer the player will have to herd all the clouds together into one single group before they can fly on upwards. Flight will have multiple types of cloud for the player to herd around the sky; there will be soft fluffy clouds, dark grey storm clouds and rain clouds and many other clouds, with each type having a different effect on the player’s bird and/or their ability to move clouds. There will be multiple types of bird to play and unlock, each with varying abilities. To herd the clouds the player has to fly close to each cloud and catch it in the slip stream of air behind the bird, which will then pull the cloud along with the player. Flight is being designed to have a very calming and relaxing feel and will feature soft tranquil music and soothing ambient sound effects.
The second title FPS currently has in development is a platform game under the working title of “The Elder”. This is a comical 2D platformer designed to pay a large amount of homage to the games that the team members grew up playing and inspired us to become developers (games such as: Oddworld, Bionic Commando and the Pandemonium titles). Developing a game to pay homage to the developers, teams and games that have influenced the staff at FPS, seems to be one of the best ways to open a new game development studio. The Elder is designed to be a bright, colourful and comical game. It takes place on three tropical islands, with each island featuring their own style and aesthetics. Each island will also feature approximately ten levels with their own style, while still remaining consistent with the overall aesthetic of the game. The Elder sees the player taking the role of a spiritual Elder summoned up by the tribes of the first island in order to protect them from a race of furry creatures that have attacked the first and second islands after a volcano erupted on the third. The game is mainly based around a gameplay mechanic of interaction with the game’s principal enemies. This mechanic sees the player collecting stunned enemies in reward for friendly helper Non Player Characters (NPCs), these NPCs also act as the player’s life i.e. if the player is attacked a helper dies and if there are no helper NPCs following the player then the player can only withstand a few attacks before also dying. The helper NPCs follow the player and can also take orders from the player such as to attack enemies. At the end of each island the player will fight a boss whose size is multiplied by the amount of enemies collected. With the aid of the helpers bosses can be defeated; however without them the boss fights will be more of a challenge.
Flight’s release date is currently scheduled for the end of 2008 and The Elder shall be released during the spring of 2009.
Floating Point Studios is striving to have a very strong interaction with the gaming community. As already mentioned the community will be able to have an input as to which area of FPS’s development tool set are developed next, but additionally the FPS team will be writing and publishing weekly development diaries to keep the community up to date, which will also often be created in the form of video diaries. The team will be updating blogs frequently and FPS will also be running an additional development diary in the form of a comic, as the FPS team is a group of very creative individuals and feel a development dairy in this form would be extremely appropriate. Floating Point Studios wants to hear what the community have to say about the studio and its titles feedback is incredibly important to FPS and this will help the team to develop and tweak the games.
Floating Point Studios is delighted to announce itself a new independent games development studio based in Wales and to be part of the fastest growing creative industry in the world. The company looks also forward to working close Swansea’s Universities and creating more create jobs in the area and the whole team at FPS is looking forward to interacting with the gaming community and developing games for them.