Team Jolly Roger are a flock of nerds whose love for creating awesome games dates back over a decade and has forced them work together to form a studio. This is their profile!
Could you chart your entry into the industry and the formation of the studio? Our entry to the industry would be the beginning of our game development studies in Kajaani University of Applied Sciences in 2008. There were three of us already familiar with each other, so we formed a team pretty quickly and instantly hatched plans to go into business together once we graduated, and that’s what indeed happened. Of course, by then the team had grown and we also had an opportunity to take part in “Bootcamp”, which was a short term accelerator program for upstart game studios. During the five months we spent in Bootcamp we got Interplanetary off to a flying start and also had a chance to practice working in a bigger team. Pretty much everything worked out beautifully, and we’re still running TJR Games Oy (the official title) with almost all of the people who joined us back when we entered Bootcamp.
What would you describe as the company philosophy to development and as a team? We want to create and uphold an environment, both physical and mental, where people will be happy to work together as a team, even though the busy or otherwise challenging periods.
What challenges do you face as an independent entity? Indie studio, indie budgets. Since we’ve only had a few years to build ourselves track record and don’t have any industry veterans in the team for now, it requires quite a lot of work getting ourselves out there and noticed by both the players and other businesses.
Let’s talk Interplanetary. What inspired the decision to make a turn based strategy title? We first got the idea during a coffee break conversation back at the university. We were making a traditional artillery game as a part of a network programming class, and started thinking what if the cannons were far enough apart to see the curvature of the earth between them, and soon enough we were talking about interplanetary artillery. We wanted to add some strategy elements to the game, turn based strategy seemed like a natural way to go, and that’s pretty much how the idea took off.
It’s also the studios first real effort at making a PC / Mac based game. What kind of challenges did the transition from mobiles to PC did you face? PC is a platform we’ve always wanted to develop for, so the jump was pleasant. Technology wise pretty much everything has been easier, there’s just more things to do and remember there. The biggest challenge has been managing a project that’s ten times the scale of anything we’ve done before.
What spurred the decision to go the Early Access route and what have you learned from that experience? The main reason for us to go Early Access was to get the game out there and get feedback from a wider audience, which has proven to be quite valuable. We have gotten a lot of good feedback and suggestions, and though a lot of those have already been on our to-do, it is a confirmation that we are moving to the right direction.
Early Access has of course brought us much welcome income as well, which has allowed us to spend more resources on Interplanetary than would have been possible otherwise.
Looking back at your back catalogue is there any title that could be defined as a quintessential TJR game and if so why? All of our original titles have been TJR type of games, we are pretty happy with them. Though we know we could make those games better if we started developing them today, they still carry the traits that we value, like having at least some aspect, mechanic or twist or combination of the aforementioned that feels completely new.
Are there any plans to port Interplanetary to mobile platforms? Yes. These plan will start taking better shape after the 1.0 launch in Steam, but they do exist.
How important is a willingness to embrace innovation and experimentation in game design to what you do? Although many mechanics and concepts in the industry are almost standard, we always want to bring something new to the games we make. New technology and figuring out game related uses for it is also something we keep our eyes open for.
How would you describe the indie scene in Finland and the Nordic region? Is there a collaborative spirit? There definitely is collaborative spirit, unlike anything we have witnessed outside the game industry. That collaborative spirit isn’t limited to just indies either, but even the larger companies are very helpful in most cases.
What areas of the scene could be further developed? While the collaborative spirit is there, we would like to see even more opportunities to put it in good use, perhaps by adding chances to network and even work together. More industry events in more diverse locations would be welcome, making them accessible for more people.
Who are the developers you look to for inspiration in Finland and the Nordic region? A complete list would be way too long to write down here, but some big examples would be Remedy, Paradox and Mojang. Though quite different, they have all achieved great things and inspired us on the way. We are very thankful to companies like Frozenbyte and Colossal Order who have given us valuable advice on the way, too.
If you could impart a word of wisdom to a new industry entrant, what would that be? Network, network, network, that goes for everyone. There are wonderful people out there working on the field we share, you should meet them. As for anyone dreaming of entrepreneurship, get some experience in the industry, hone your own skills as much as you can and gather a great team. Never lose the spirit to create someone’s next favorite game.