Inside Indie: The Games Hub Essex

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What does it mean to you if I say these words:

Indie Game?

Well I’ll tell you what it means to me, because to me it’s more than just an independently developed game.

When someone plants the idea for a game, it’s exactly just that.

An idea.

However, it’s the struggle, experience, and dedication that turns the idea into a living testament of achievement and this is what makes indie games so special.

Indie Developers don’t have tons of cash behind them, and often it can be extremely hard for newcomers to get started in game development

This is exactly what the Games Hub is changing

Nestled away amidst the large campus of the University of Essex, within the modern and sleek designed units of the Knowledge gateway, lies the Colchester Games’s Hub.

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Ran by none other than Steven Huckle from shark infested custard in partnership with the EEhub, the Games Hub depicts Indie development in a new light.

This inconspicuous building welcomes some of Essex’s most determined creatives to the game development scene. I was so intrigued by this, that I decided to take a trip down there and see what all the fuss was about.

Game development, game development everywhere!

When I first stepped through the door I was greeted with the presence of people from all backgrounds beavering away behind computer screens, working hard on their latest game ideas.

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First off the mark was Teaboy games, working hard on their new mobile game, “Fallen”. I was enthusiastically welcomed by Fraser and Scott (minus Aiden who unfortunately wasn’t there on this day) who are also “Graduates” of last years program.

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They were one of two teams that made it through the course and stuck together (with a few bumps down the road) and have now been presented with the opportunity to have their office base free of charge within the Hub for six months.

But that’s not the best part:

While speaking to Teaboy games they made one thing clear throughout the conversation,

The whole time we’ve had this incredible safety net underneath us of peers and people to help us out

The Games Hub is helping to set up Indie Game Studios with clear guidance and with the freedom that doesn’t tie them down.

Teaboy games with Scott, Aiden & fraser (Left to right)

Every Wednesday the Games hub also benefits from one of the many expert talks that bring in people from all over the UK.

From Birkett Long Solicitors giving advice on setting up your own company, to creators of “Overruled” from Dlala Studios talking about the ins and outs of running an Indie studio, there’s plenty of knowledge to be handed around.

In fact:

Without this advice Tea boy would of had a very different game to how it is now.

“Having the experts come in and talk to us and give us their advice, has completely changed our development process and made the game so much better than it was before”

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As is the case with novice or veterans  to game development, having an outside voice can help change the sometimes bias view we have about our own games.

It is clear that the Games Hub was offering more than just a place to learn about games.

An opportunity far from what a university course can offer

Unlike a university course, where you’d be handed assignments, brought to lectures and expected to pay exuberant fees, the Games Hub offers a fresh approach.

Firstly it’s completely free.

Oh did I not mention that before?

Games Hub using PC

Yes, the opportunity and experiences the teams garnish from the Games Hub does not cost a single penny.

Of course they may need to shell out some money for marketing or promotion, but by this point it’s hopeful that funding has been gained from investors to continue their endeavour.

But that’s not the most important fact:

A Degree taught me loads of technical skills but I knew nothing about the business side

A Uni course may teach the advancements needed to create a game, but what about actually surviving out there in the real world?

Unlike a virtual haven the real world is a harsh reality where many developers fail to reach their full potential.

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Yet:

Here they are learning a combination of both business and game development to maximise their chances of survival.

It’s hard not to sound unbiased in my opinion of the Games Hub (and no, I didn’t get bribed with cookies) but then again its hard not to see why this wouldn’t be the perfect thing for just about anyone that wants to create their own indie studio or game.

Sometimes its not about what we learn but rather, who we meet

One thing is for certain:

There’s defiantly an emphasis on the “team atmosphere”. Of course this isn’t for everyone, but it does open up some pretty interesting pathways.

Enkei studios, newbies to the Game Hub, all stumbled upon the hub through a number of different ways, from Facebook, email and even word of mouth.

And:

They all started from different corners of Essex.

Part of Enkie studios, Thomas, Stacy & Warren (Left to right)

Part of Enkei studios, Thomas, Stacy & Warren (Left to right)

Thomas, Stacy and Waren from Enkei studios (with a further 3 in their group)  have found the team work ethos has allowed them to excel in their particular key area’s of development

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If it wasn’t apparent beforehand, this team environment is key to the success of the games produced here at the hub.

It should be noted, however, that working in a team can cause problems in terms of commitments, willingness and compatibility.

One of the most important pieces of advice I garnered from “Teaboy” and Thomas from “Enkei” (who decided to start this year afresh with a new team) was to make sure you start your game with the right kind of people.

That begs the question:

What is the right kind of person for the Game Hub?

People are not going to be constantly on your back to get things done.

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Therefore people on this course need to have the willingness to learn about games and business development. With a self motivated drive and ambition to do well, team members can learn how to get things done and ultimately reach their end goal.

Our End goal is to make a game that we can then support our self’s with and keep on making games.

If we expect great games, we must support the new generation of game developers

It’s inspiring to learn that opportunities are growing for like minded creatives and that there are structures like this popping up all over the UK (and not just in London).

If my overly positive attitude is anything to go by, then we can expect some great things from the new Indie dev’s coming out of our very own creative town of Colchester.

This is by no means an ad or favour for the group down at the Knowledge Gateway. It is my own genuine belief that if you are interested in creating games and want to set up your own business, or you own a business based upon indi games then get in touch with the Games Hub at [email protected]

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Great strides continue to happen at the Games Hub, but what’s your opinion on what they’re doing here?

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Please do let me know in the comments below or via @DoubleUpGaming, I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

For people interested: Tea boy’s game, “Fallen” (A Tetris meets pinball kind of game) will be available on IOS later this year.



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