Elaine Reynolds on her game studio, Simteractive, MEDIA funding and the Irish Games Industry
Since the launch of Creative Europe MEDIA’s Video Games fund Irish companies have been awarded a total of €833,279 towards the development of new Irish video games. In the last Video Games funding results, three Irish companies - Gambrinous, IsometricDreams and Simteractive - picked up almost €400,000. The next MEDIA Games Funding Deadline is 27th February, 2019.
Simteractive is a mobile game development studio based in Dublin. They specialise in high-quality simulation games. Their first game is Eden Isle: Resort Paradise, a resort building game for iPhone and iPad that has won multiple awards and has an average app store rating of 4.6. In 2018, Simteractive received €150,000 to help develop their game, Designer Life. We spoke to Simteractive founder and IMIRT representative, Elaine Reynolds, about her company, the Irish games industry and games funding.
Interview with Elaine Reynolds, Simteractive
1. When did you set up Simeractive and what kinds of games and platforms do you specialise in?
I set up Simteractive in 2013 when I returned back from working in the games industry in the UK. We develop for mobile devices – tablets and smartphones. The company name is a combination of 'simulation' and 'interactive' which reflects the kind of games we specialise in – simulation games. Our first game, Eden Isle: Resort Paradise is a resort-building sim game where you can build your dream resort, attract different kinds of guests, keep your resort running smoothly and work towards a five star resort rating.
2. You received MEDIA Games funding for your game Designer Life – can you describe the game and how did you comply with the compulsory narrative element required for Creative Europe funding?
Designer Life is a a story-led house design game with a novel emotion-unlocking mechanic. You play as Sam Casey, an architect and interior designer with a unique ability to see her clients’ true emotions. Fed up of her life working at a big firm in London, Sam returns to her hometown of Larkford and sets up her own design practice. She moves into her grandmother’s old manor house, now practically in ruins, and decides to bring it back to its former glory.
This is what Sam has always wanted to do: create designs that reflect the people who live in the house, getting to know them, figuring out what makes them tick and solving some of their personal, non-design problems as she does so. By developing her skills in design, intuition and creativity and by asking clients the right questions to unlock their true emotions, the player discovers what the clients really need. Sam will need to increase her prestige to win clients from Roger, the snooty owner of Larkford’s most well-known design firm.
As she completes jobs and explores the town, Sam makes new friendships, rekindles old ones, and makes a few enemies as well. The most imposing of these is the Mayor, an entrenched, corrupt figure that has the town in his grip and who seems to have a grudge against Sam and her family. Only by bringing her grandmother’s house back to life will she find out the truth
The idea started as a house design game which is my dream game I’ve wanted to make for years! Because of the narrative requirement we worked with a wonderful writer, Mark Llabres Hill, who helped to develop the storyline which also informed the game design and the idea of structuring the game like a TV show with season-long stories as well as 'case of the week' type stories with clients Sam is working with. So actually adding the narrative element strengthened the overall game concept.
3. How will your MEDIA funding award will help in its development?
The MEDIA funding will allow us to create a solid, playable build of the game and to attend game conferences to meet with publisher partners who can help bring the game to market. It’s so important to have something playable that people can get their hands on to demonstrate the game and the final quality. The MEDIA funding is also a great seal of approval on our game concept and our team and it really helps to be able to tell people we’ve already had success with getting support for the game.
4. The recent Run for the Border games industry event in Dundalk was a great success. How reflective was the night of the state and future direction of the Irish games industry?
Thank you! I was really happy with how it went and thanks again to the Creative Europe Desks for your support. I think the event reflected the friendly collaboration of the games industry, and the Irish games industry in particular. Getting it organised was a real collaborative effort with Imirt and Games NI, the groups representing game developers in the Republic and Northern Ireland, joining together to organise a social and networking event for people from different parts of Ireland. It was interesting to see the mixture of attendees – many indie developers, some people who had worked abroad and returned home and also people from the bigger studios which reflects the growing number of bigger games studios.
The whole idea behind Run for the Border was to bring together game developers who are based only a couple of hours away who don’t get to meet up that often. Something that was very clear after the event was that the developers living a couple of hours up the road have much more support than we do in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, games are supported by Northern Ireland Screen, which also funds film, TV and animation. In terms of the future of the Irish games industry, I would like to see the same support for games in the Republic of Ireland. Games should be considered a legitimate part of the audiovisual industry and should be a part of Screen Ireland. I’d also like to see Section 481 extended to games and the establishment of a game prototype fund.
5. The next Creative Europe Video Games deadline is 27th February – what advice can you offer to applicants?
I would advise applicants to give themselves enough time to prepare everything needed for the application. The game proposal document is very important and takes a lot of work and then also the application form itself is very long. Have a good idea of everything you need to do so that you don’t get any nasty suprises shortly before the deadline. Don’t take anything for granted in the application or the proposal: make sure you clearly illustrate the key points of your game in your application particularly how it’s creative and what the narrative element is. Look at every part of the criteria and how the points are allocated and make sure you’re addressing everything e.g. don’t forget sound design and make sure you talk about the European content.
Thanks to Elaine for taking time to talk to us! The next MEDIA Games Funding Deadline is 27th February, 2019. Be sure to ask our advice on your application - we have offices in Dublin and Galway.