Manchester: best known for its globally renowned football teams, musical influencers, and canals. It can be easy to forget, though, that Manchester is also a hotbed of scientific and technological innovation, and its games development scene is no different. Although the majority of the games development industry remains in the U.S., Manchester has plenty of riches of its own.
Perhaps best known are TT Games, established in 2005 with the merger of games publisher Giant Interactive and the developer Traveller’s Tales. Whilst the studio name may not ring any immediate bells, they are the people behind all Lego games, including Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, and Lego Lord of the Rings. The studio recently revealed a new title: Lego The Incredibles. Their Manchester based division, TT Fusion, is responsible for their major titles and can be found in Wilmslow.
Hot on their heels are a team working on a game so ambitious that the founder once said, “I don’t want to build a game. I want to build a universe.” Said game, Star Citizen, has raised 70 million dollars in crowdfunding in the last two years alone. Their Manchester team, known as Squadron 42, are working on the game’s single-player mode, known also as Squadron 42. Squadron 42 features a truly star-studded performance-captured cast that includes Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson and Gary Oldman.
Whilst these two studios are the largest games companies in Manchester, the city also has a plethora of indie developers looking to make their mark in the world of gaming.
Salford-based studio White Paper Games are one such company. Their debut title, Ether One, a beautifully cerebral and contemplative narrative-driven puzzle game, was released on Steam in 2014, and found enough success and praise to make its way onto the PS4 in May 2015. White Paper Games are currently working on their second title, The Occupation, which sees you play as a whistle-blowing journalist in 1980s Manchester. The game features a number of Manchester landmarks, and its setting is inspired by the city’s civic architecture.
Also among the indie devs in Manchester is University of Manchester graduate Alex Rose. Alex Rose Games – also known as Vorpal Games – debuted in 2017 with Super Rude Bear Resurrection, an innovative platformer in which you can use corpses of failed attempts to overcome obstacles. Super Rude Bear Resurrection is available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam, and has been met with high praise for its sound design and gameplay.
Whilst these companies are really starting to make a name for themselves on the indie scene, Merge Games are perhaps the most established indie studio based in Manchester. Founded in 2009, Merge are industry veterans with seventeen titles under their belt, most notable among which is Dead Cells, the physical release of which they helped out with. Their other games, including Frostpunk, Sparklite and Aragami are available on a range of platforms, including P.C., PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
Another company whose titles you may well have heard of is Clever Beans, the team behind WipEout Omega Collection for the ps4. They are responsible for indie titles When Vikings Attack and When Vikings Relax.
Towards the more niche end of the spectrum, we have the intriguing VoxelStorm Ltd. Alongside their two games, sphereFACE and Advert City, they have three full-length music albums and four EPs. Advert City, which is particularly innovative, sees you explore a cyberpunk city of the future in which you can post adverts almost everywhere in an attempt to build a business empire. Advert City, though, is also an interesting critique, with a compelling atmosphere and brilliantly tailored music. sphereFACE, a retro vector-shooter, is no less abstract – a quality the company prides themselves on. It was released in 2017.
That’s all for this week: join me next time when I dig deeper into the more obscure end of the indie scene in Manchester and look at one company who has produced 250 games.