James Carroll is the co-founder of Swindon based game studio Evil Twin Artworks. Together with his brother Mark, he applied for our recent round of GamesLab South West funding to help develop his work-in-progress game Victory at Sea. What happened next surprised everyone. “Victory at Sea is basically a World War Two strategy game,” explains Carroll. “You start off as a Destroyer Captain and World War Two happens around you; you make decisions about what you do and end up controlling a fleet sailing around the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean” However his game wasn’t always this in-depth. Taking on work-for-hire gigs to pay the bills, Carroll knew that there would be a limit to the game’s success if he didn’t scout out the right investment.
(Left to right) James and Mark Carroll, Co-Founders of Evil Twin Artworks.
“We couldn’t make the game we wanted to make with the funding we had,” recalls Carroll. “There was a base-line version on Victory at Sea that we could have made, and there’s the full ‘bells and whistles’ version that we did make. That was basically down to Creative England’s involvement,” he suggests. “We had a working version of the combat system and nothing else. If funding hadn’t have come about to support us it probably couldn’t have gone much further than that.” As an avid figure in Swindon’s gamedev scene, Carroll caught wind of the GamesLab South West fund at a networking event and decided it was the perfect fit for his emerging studio. “It’s now a vastly different game,” says Carroll. “It wasn’t just money, it was smart money, we had Karl Hilton of Crytek UK mentoring us. It was nice to be in those discussions and talk to Karl about our ideas and where we were going. It was a good confidence builder.”
With the right financial and mentoring support things developed quickly for Carroll and Victory at Sea. It wasn’t long before they found themselves on the radar of gaming giant Valve, a company which allows devs to share details of their game with a thriving community and let them decided which should get the green-light. “We were quite lucky,” admits Carroll. “We showed it to them and they let us bypass the greenlight process, I think because we came across as a professional company with a good product,” he says. “On launch day we hit number 5 globally, which was something of a shock to say the least. We were twelve slots above Skyrim at that point which was quite cool for us. It was quite an achievement,” he adds. “Valve have been really good. They want you to make a product that’ll be really good and go out there and do as well as it can do. They were interested in giving us the best possible start”
Wish such a speedy rise, Carroll and his studio Evil Twin Artworks have emerged from our GamesLab programme with a bright future ahead of them. “I’ll be able to say in the next few weeks that I’ve got two major brands that we’re looking at developing on the back of Victory at Sea. We wouldn’t be in that position without the GamesLab funding.” Would he recommend it? “I’d say go for it,” he says candidly. “It’s straight forward. There are some funding applications out there that are completely impenetrable. It was nice to see one where it was like ‘What’s your idea?’, ‘How much money do you want?’, ‘How are you going to spend it?’ and go from there,” he says. “When we got the funding we were absolutely ecstatic. It’s taken us to the next step.”
For more information on how you can get involved with GamesLab South West, head here. GamesLab South West is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
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