Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Large and Small of the Canadian Video Game Industry

Matthew Jackson has been working in video games ever since he graduated from Montreal’s National Animation and Design Centre (Centre NAD), but he admits that it’s his passion for video games that has made him successful in the business – a quality he believes is an absolute requirement for anybody working in a collaborative and creative environment like video games.

Like a lot of people working in the video game industry, Matthew got his start working on various projects for some of the larger video game producers with offices in Quebec such as EA and Behaviour Interactive – companies which boast hundreds, even thousands of employees – and has built an impressive resume along the way. Lately, Matthew has been working on his smallest project to date as the lead game designer for a small developer called Tuque Games who are currently working toward the launch of their flagship project, World War Machine – a post-human action RPG revolving around the perpetual war between surviving machines.

Although he admits that it’s the smallest game he’s ever worked on, his ambitions for what the project is capable of achieving are lofty. Tuque Games, which is made up of a core staff of about 20 people and a small handful of freelancers, doesn’t have the same resources or budget strength that larger video game producers might, but Matthew admits that those factors don’t necessarily yield a better experience for their audience – the gamer.

“I heard a famous filmmaker once say about films,” Matthew ponders,  “that when making a big budget film there’s a tendency for it to settle toward mediocrity to the point where it’s just as hard to make a really bad movie as it is to make a really good one – there’s always enough good ideas balancing out the bad ones. With a smaller project like World War Machine there exists the possibility of breaking free of that mediocrity and achieving something really great.”

Since starting work on World War Machine Matthew has noticed other differences between working for a smaller company versus one of the big studios: “Well, I imagine it’s the same with any small business,” he says “and it’s one of things I enjoy most about working on a smaller project, that I’m not locked into just one aspect of the game design process and have to actually view the whole project now from many different angles and contribute in many other areas. I also now have the ability, and with that I also have the responsibility, to make what I think is the most fun game possible.”

Working on a game like World War Machine has also brought with it its own set of challenges. One such challenge has been funding. In the early stages of development, World War Machine was part of the Square Enix Collective’s curated crowd sourcing campaign. By offering would-be gamers a quick insight into what the game would be all about and allowing them to vote on whether or not the idea seemed worth funding, World War Machine received a 90% ‘yes’ meaning that of the people that voted for the game, 90% claimed that they would fund it. Unfortunately, through Indiegogo, Tuque Games was unable to raise the $50,000 they were seeking.

He further points out: “Square Enix Collective itself has evolved and now has agreements with other crowdfunding websites, so other games have now gone through the same process as we did and have achieved their crowd funding goals through KickStarter which just happens to be the more popular crowd funding site.  The main goal of the crowd funding campaign was more about marketing and getting the name out there, so us not achieving that funding goal wasn’t the end of the world.”

Some of these challenges, however, have been offset by certain other factors that Tuque Games is able to benefit from. One such benefit was a funding program achieved through the Canadian Media Fund which “fosters, develops, finances and promotes the production of Canadian content and applications for all audiovisual  media platforms”. Matthew also points out the benefits that operating in Quebec has had whereby companies can get a provincial tax credit to pay part of employees’ salaries for video game related enterprises.

Although there is no fixed release date for World War Machine, Tuque Games is in the final phases of production and hopes to launch sometime in 2015.

For more information about World War Machine visit:

For more information about the Square Enix Collective and crowd sourcing please visit:

And, finally, to learn more about the Canadian Media Fund go to:

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