It's always interesting to visit the offices where developers make the games you enjoy. Sometimes, though, the developers aren't too pleased to see you.
Actually, we're being a little mean to Dynamo Games, as when we turn up on a Friday afternoon at its Dundee HQ, as part of Pocket Gamer's trip around one of the UK's emerging mobile developer clusters, the team is actually busy completing the final builds for its highly regarded Championship Manager 2008.
Which prompts technical director Stuart Reid to gently shepherd us downstairs so as to let everyone else get on with their work, while we chew the fat.
Pocket Gamer: What's the history of Dynamo Games and how did you end up making the Championship Manager titles?
Stuart Reid: Myself, Stuart Anderson and Brian McNicoll all graduated from Dundee University back in 2003 and set up our own software company. We weren't making games, though. We did software engineering for local companies, but when Brian got a new phone, we thought a football management game would be good for mobile. So we sat down and it became a side-project that eventually consumed everything.
Were you all big Champ Manager fans then?
Absolutely. It eventually got to the stage where we thought we had something that was quite playable so we started to pitch it around. We went to London to see Sports Interactive and Eidos. It was at the time when they were splitting, with Sports Interactive doing Football Manager and Eidos Championship Manager, but Eidos liked the game, and before we knew it, games were [our] company's core business.
It was an unusual way into the industry I suppose. We'd dabbled in games as programmers but we weren't trained as games programmers. Now though, this is our fourth release of Championship Manager.
How much interaction do you have with the team behind the PC version of the game?
We use the same database. They have a team of researchers that create it. It's a real beast but we have clever tools that pick out the best players and squeeze it down for mobile. It's constantly being updated and we grab a shot of the data when the transfer window closes. We'd love to get it out for the first game of the season of course, but we have to be accurate in terms of the transfers.
Aside from that, the mobile version is very much a game in its own right. We developed our original ideas before the game was Champ Manager and the essence of those ideas are still there.
How do you deal with the annual update process?
Some people think we can just get away with changing the players but it's not like that at all. We want to support the latest handsets and while we think we're head and shoulders ahead of the competition in terms of the depth of our game, we want to keep building so they don't catch up.
Also, we try to push the low end phones, as well. It's all about keeping it fresh, although we're reaching the technical limits on some of them now.
Aside from Championship Manager, you're also working on some licensed games aren't you?
We don't just want to be known as the Champ Manager studio so we're doing other licences to break away from that and show what we can do. So far, we've done Countdown and The Crystal Maze. There's such an opportunity with those. We have a reputation for creating good games and we want to capitalise on it.
Why did you choose The Crystal Maze?
We just fancied doing it – you have to have passion for the games you make. Obviously it's something of a nostalgia trip. Hopefully people will look at it and go, "I remember that TV programme". It's based around a bunch of zone-based mini-games where you have to get the crystal and finish the game within the time limit. It's pretty addictive, I think.
We've got Richard O'Brien in the game, too.
What other types of mobile games are you interested in?
Well, you won't see us doing Doom. We'll stick to our strengths. We know sports – Countdown and The Crystal Maze are a bit different but they're still not fast arcade action. We're hoping to do our own intellectual property in 2008. We have some exciting projects that we're really looking forward to, although I can't tell you about them yet.
We've also done some self-help applications like Mobi-Medic and Mobi-Mechanic. They've been on 3 and are going onto Orange. Not everyone wants games on their phone so we'll see what happens with them, but they're not our core business by any means.
Thanks to Stuart and the team for their time. Championship Manager 2008 (a Pocket Gamer Gold award winner) is out now, as is Countdown. The Crystal Maze is due to be released around Christmas.