Irish Developers Scene Interview : René Laurent From Little Bee Studio

Interview René Laurent

Studio : Little Bee Studio

Date 30th Nov 2011

Following your heart is often a lot harder to do than most people think, especially when that involves giving up a comfortable 9 to 5 job to go it alone. But that’s exactly what René and Albert have done, with ten years experience in the video game industry they have made the brave move to set up Little Bee studio. René talks to Bone-idle about why they did it and their hopes for the new studio and the industry in Ireland.

First question, tell us a little bit about your studio, when you started out, who is involved and what was your initial mantra?

Little Bee Studios is an independent game studio, based in Dublin & Warsaw. The studio was founded by René Laurent and Albert Banaszkiewicz in late 2010. Before starting Little Bee they worked in games publishing and developement for 10 years. The studio mantra is to make games that as many people as possible can enjoy. If we can innovate and take each genre we tackle to new places, then I think we’ll have achieved our initial goals as a studio.

What games have you already released so far and how have they been received?

We’re still working on our first title. The aim is to release something that looks and feels like it could have been created by a top mobile studio so we’re taking our time and adding a lot of polish. It’s a bit of a gamble because as an indie you’d like to have 1 or 2 smaller apps on the market to keep the bank manager happy, but I guess we were prepared to brave the lean times in order to get our best out there.

Have you any projects in the pipeline that you can share with us?

Our first game Juice Jumpers is very close to completion. It’s a very vibrant and organic arcade puzzler that’s planned for launch on iPhone & iPad in early 2012. Expect something the looks cute but cool and with a completely new slant on the puzzle genre. This has been in development for a while now and we’ve crammed it full of novel and fun stuff… so expect a lot of bang for you buck, or 79cents as it happens 🙂  

What made you decide to move to Ireland/set up in Ireland and remain in Ireland?

Well I’ve personally lived and worked in Ireland all my life so I guess it’s all I know and I’m comfortable working here. Plus we’ve built up a pretty big network of industry guys here that we’ve worked with on one job or another. So we’re never short a few big brains to bounce ideas off.

I guess the real deciding factors were the weather and the women…that’s probably why the other half of the studio is based in Poland.

How difficult did you find it starting out?

It’s been a relatively smooth ride for us so far. Everyone involved with the company has been in games for a long time so we were under no illusions as to the level of work required to get a competitive game to market.

The hardest part was to leave the relative security of the 9-5 office job. You get used to the comfort of doing the same thing for a few years and it can be tough to step outside that safety and challenge yourself in a host of different areas. Ultimately it’s very rewarding once you take the leap!

Who/what was the biggest help while finding your feet?

Other game developers have been a great support, our friends in Superfunplay and the developer forums on Touch Arcade are a great wealth of knowledge. There’s no shortage of indies out there and if you encounter any problems there’s always someone who has dealt with it before.

What was the biggest obstacles you faced in the initial start up process?

The Apple Appstore is very saturated with games of varying quality, both visually and in terms of gameplay and usability. So you’ve got to design something that will stand out from the crowd . That being said, I’d say designing the right game for the current market is one of the toughest challenges. Striking the right balance between innovation and playability is always a hard one. You want to do things that haven’t been tried before, whilst ensuring you’re not losing players by making something that’s too ‘out there’. So you have to rein in the ideas in favour of a very balanced learning curve and the right level of challenge, that can keep the widest demographic interested. That said there are some really wacky apps that do well Velocispider &  Destructopus come to mind…so I guess there’s no guaranteed formula.

What was the best piece of advice you got from someone else, when starting out that proved invaluable?

Trademark everything!

Taking in your own experiences, what would be the best piece of advice you could now give to others looking to set up in Ireland?

I think the best thing I could advise is to develop a thick skin and ignore the naysayers. Starting your own studio is a long and challenging process and one of the hardest things to do is to keep yourself motivated over a long period. There will be folks from time to time who for one reason or another try to knock what your doing, you’ve got to rise above it and stay on track. If your in it for the right reasons and not just jumping on the games wagon for handy green backs you’ll eventually get there.

 

How have you found other studio’s is there a good community between the developers in Ireland? 

I don’t know them all, but the ones I have contact with are all really good folks. There’s a lot of information and resource sharing in Ireland as it’s such a small scene. So yeah I guess it’s a good community, a little crusty but good.

Is there any support groups or associations that Irish developers should join to get the help form the community?

Touch Arcade & IDRTG on Twitter have been awesome assets for us. gamedevelopers is also very handy to get networked up here. Obviously develop a relationship with your local enterprise board as they offer a lot of help even when your still a garage affair.

Where do you see the Irish scene going in the future especially with so many big studio’s now setting up shop here? 

The international studios are a massive asset to the homegrown studios as they’re a source of experienced and highly competent staff that have experience working with AAA brands and a good sense of how the market works.

As far as the Irish games scene making a name for itself, I don’t think that will happen through the multinationals directly as they’re not really creative in the sense that they don’t make any new IP in Ireland. Although the services they provide (porting, localisation, customer support) gives their employees a great insight into the game creation process. Most of the Irish indie developers I’ve met have worked in one of these companies at one stage or another.

I think the future’s very bright for the home grown industry as it’s brimming with talented people looking to make the next big game and it’s only a matter of time before we see the first million euro game come from an indigenous company …cough…. Juice Jumpers.

For more on Little Bee read our feature article published earlier today.

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