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Deconstructor of Fun

In Conversation: Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley on Leading the Rebellion

Wed Jul 26 2023
Game DevelopmentRebellion Game StudiosComicsFilm ProductionDigital DistributionUK Game Industry Tax Support

Description

In this episode, Jason Kingsley, co-founder and CEO of Rebellion Game Studios, discusses the history of Rebellion Games, their game development philosophy, and their expansion into comics and film production. He shares insights on showcasing unique aspects of games, the challenges of marketing, and the importance of player perspective in game design. Jason also highlights the impact of digital distribution and the UK game industry tax support. The episode concludes with a discussion on the future of interactive and non-interactive media integration.

Insights

Seamless integration between interactive and non-interactive content

The future may involve a seamless transition between playing a game and watching a TV show based on that game.

Desire for more content in the same universe

Players have a desire for more content in the same universe, leading to potential spin-offs into films or TV shows.

Challenges in the movie and TV industry

The movie and TV industry faces challenges due to old ways of doing things and gatekeepers with different tastes.

Progress in breaking down barriers

There is progress being made in breaking down barriers in the industry.

Chapters

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Days of Rebellion Games
  3. Game Development and Marketing Challenges
  4. Innovations in Game Development
  5. Sniper Elite and Game Design Philosophy
  6. Digital Distribution and UK Game Industry Tax Support
  7. Independence and Expansion
  8. Expansion into Comics and Film Production
  9. Insights
Summary
Transcript

Introduction

00:11 - 07:57

  • Jason Kingsley, co-founder and CEO of Rebellion Game Studios, joins the podcast.
  • Rebellion Game Studios is known for games like Sniper Elite series, Nazi zombie army, strange brigade, and judge dread.
  • Jason Kingsley has a modern history TV channel that aims to show that historical figures were just like us.
  • The games industry has transitioned from selling tape cassettes to becoming the biggest media form.
  • Meeting people from the early days of the games industry and seeing its evolution is fascinating.
  • The future of gaming may involve a single game as a hobby with various activities in a social hangout space.
  • Instant access to games today is convenient, but occasionally losing modern conveniences can make us appreciate them more.
  • Jason Kingsley and his brother co-founded Rebellion Games based on their shared interests in gaming and complementary skills.
  • They started coding on a Commodore Pet computer.

Early Days of Rebellion Games

07:27 - 14:19

  • Brothers Jason and Chris Kingsley started coding games on a Commodore Pet.
  • They went through the standard educational process in the UK while toying with the idea of making their own games.
  • After finishing their degrees, they decided to start a business focused on doing cool things rather than just making money.
  • They believe in putting creator joy at the center of what they do.
  • Making games is difficult and requires constant iteration and self-criticism.
  • They value the knowledge and experience of those who have been making games since the early days.
  • They emphasize designing games from the player's perspective and avoiding unnecessary complexity or choices that players may not even notice.
  • In free-to-play games, it's important to showcase what's unique about the game early on, as many players drop off within the first few minutes.

Game Development and Marketing Challenges

13:50 - 20:42

  • Showing what's unique about a game is important from the beginning.
  • Game trailers need to showcase cool stuff without spoiling the game.
  • Games are now made for ourselves, but in the past, they were made for companies like 20th Century Fox.
  • The marketing department of a company once asked to change a game because it would spoil the movie release.
  • Alien vs. Predator on Atari Jaguar was an important classic game.
  • The creators of Alien vs. Predator had an interesting experience pitching their demo to Atari and discovering the new console, Jaguar.
  • The idea of playing as both the good guys and bad guys in a game was innovative at that time.
  • Models for games were physically made and photographed before digital cameras existed.

Innovations in Game Development

20:12 - 27:22

  • The game development process in the past involved printing out photos on special paper and scanning them using a flatbed scanner.
  • Alien vs Predator was the first asymmetrical shooter game, which influenced many other games in the genre.
  • Rebellion, the company behind Alien vs Predator, had a gratifying experience with the critical success of the game.
  • Working with Fox allowed Rebellion to access original sound archives and incorporate iconic sounds from the movie into their games.
  • Rebellion made innovative design choices in their games, such as starting players off with an attack before finishing the briefing to create a frightening experience.
  • The gaming industry is experiencing significant growth, with global revenues projected to reach $268 billion by 2025.

Sniper Elite and Game Design Philosophy

26:52 - 34:13

  • Games are often influenced by and remix elements from other games, which is a wonderful aspect of the industry.
  • The Sniper Elite series is one of Rebellion's most well-known games, featuring the slow-mo X-ray killcam.
  • The origin of Sniper Elite was to create a game set behind enemy lines during World War II, focusing on special forces and secret operations.
  • There were plans to rearm German soldiers to fight against the Soviet army after the war ended.
  • Sniper Elite revolves around the war between Nazi super weapons and Allied super weapons.
  • The game emphasizes sniping as a gameplay mechanic, aiming for surgical strikes rather than mowing down enemies with machine guns.
  • The kill cam in Sniper Elite was designed to show the impact of bullets on human bodies and convey an anti-war message.
  • Players can gather intel about enemies in the game, which adds emotional complexity to their decision-making process.
  • Sniper Elite has been incredibly profitable for Rebellion due to its lower budget compared to mega franchises like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed.

Digital Distribution and UK Game Industry Tax Support

33:56 - 41:11

  • Digital distribution has been a massive win for the gaming industry.
  • Steam opened the market for all sorts of games to get their day in the sun.
  • It's now relatively easy to get an audience or at least access to the audience.
  • The rise of digital distribution allows game designers to modify their games in real time and provide the best experience for players.
  • The UK game industry tax support has transformed the fortunes of the British games industry.
  • Investing in a game can result in a government refund of about 20% through tax breaks.

Independence and Expansion

40:41 - 47:37

  • The UK government offers a tax relief program for the game industry, enabling developers to keep 20% ownership of their games.
  • The taxpayer's contribution is multiplied through taxes on successful games, providing a leg up for developers.
  • This program has reversed the decline of the game industry in the UK and it continues to grow.
  • Transitioning to independence requires planning and a gradual shift from work-for-hire projects to self-funded games.
  • It's important to have control over your own destiny but don't expect immediate success after college.
  • Bootstrapping yourself allows you to retain ownership and control but also carries all the risk.
  • Rebellion Group aims to remain independent and has big ambitions in film and television work.
  • YouTube provides access to an audience, allowing creators to find success with their content.

Expansion into Comics and Film Production

53:02 - 1:00:03

  • Rebellion acquired the comics imprint 2000 AD primarily for heritage reasons, as they believe the comics industry is a precursor to the games industry.
  • Comics were first published in 1888 and played a significant role in genre publishing before radio, TV, and movies.
  • Rebellion has acquired libraries of classic comic book content and republished them under their treasure of rich comics imprint.
  • The acquisition of comics IP provides a proving ground for ideas that may spin off into games, films, or TV shows.
  • Rebellion has built a movie production studio with virtual production capabilities in Oxford.
  • Controlling where they make cool stuff is important to Rebellion, hence the investment in movie studios.
  • Duncan Jones is working on an adaptation of Rogue Trooper at Rebellion's movie production studio.
  • Rebellion is currently in negotiations for various productions with big partners.
  • The challenge for game developers is discovery - how to get people to know about and try their games.
  • Seamless integration between interactive and non-interactive media could be the future, where players can transition from playing a game to watching a TV show based on that game.

Insights

59:44 - 1:02:12

  • Seamless integration between interactive and non-interactive content
  • Ability to switch between playing a game and watching a TV show
  • Desire for more content in the same universe
  • Challenges in the movie and TV industry due to old ways of doing things
  • Difficulty breaking into the market due to gatekeepers with different tastes
  • Progress being made in breaking down barriers
  • Invitation to subscribe, leave a review, and join the Deconstructor of Fun community
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