BEEFJACK CRE­ATE

Whether you’re es­tab­lished or a novice, BeefJack Cre­ate is ready to turn your game ideas into fully fledged pro­duc­tions

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The world of videogames may be full of many dif­fer­ent types of en­ter­tain­ment to­day, but a clearly de­fined divi­sion of labour has been es­tab­lished. It’s one that is fu­ri­ously pro­duc­tive, but it doesn’t al­ways favour those start­ing out with lit­tle more than a great idea. Stu­dios make games, en­gine and mid­dle­ware firms forge the tools of the trade, and ser­vice providers bring the likes of mo­tion­cap­ture and test­ing to the ta­ble. The rise of dig­i­tal dis­tri­bu­tion and free-to-play may have dra­mat­i­cally af­fected all of those spe­cial­i­ties and many more be­sides, but aside from a hand­ful of high-pro­file ex­am­ples such as Valve, the struc­ture of the game-mak­ing process – and the com­pa­nies that prac­tice it – forms a neatly com­part­men­talised frame­work. And then there’s BeefJack.

BeefJack be­gan life in 2008 with BeefJack Mag­a­zine, an edi­to­rial web­site from founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor

Shaun Leach. Leach de­voted the site’s fo­cus to in­die and al­ter­na­tive re­leases, and it quickly ex­panded its reach to in­clude a Flash gam­ing por­tal. It made sense, since Leach was a pro­lific Flash-game de­vel­oper at the time, and was com­pelled to share what he both cre­ated and loved. BeefJack soon evolved to be­come a fully fledged de­vel­op­ment stu­dio, tack­ling both in-house projects and client work, and in 2012 the com­pany was about as con­ven­tional as it would ever be. In the fol­low­ing year, how­ever, the team be­gan to look at how its edi­to­rial ex­pe­ri­ence could in­form the cre­ation of a new PR and mar­ket­ing arm aimed at al­ter­na­tive games, and BeefJack Pro­mote was born, giv­ing game de­vel­op­ers the means to find, reach and en­gage au­di­ences.

To­day, BeefJack per­forms a tri-fold func­tion. Along with its Pro­mote busi­ness, the stu­dio now also of­fers BeefJack: The Game Agency, which builds games to ex­tend brands and help or­gan­i­sa­tions reach and serve their au­di­ences. BeefJack Cre­ate, mean­while, is a col­lab­o­ra­tive in­die game de­vel­op­ment ser­vice that de­fies con­ve­nient def­i­ni­tions and of­fers a dis­tinct way for indies – and in­di­vid­u­als – to bring game con­cepts to life.

“Work­ing with other busi­nesses, with other game de­vel­op­ers and with indies is re­ally in­ter­est­ing to me,” Leach says of Cre­ate. “And it’s a space that no­body else in the game in­dus­try seems to be re­ally own­ing.”

That space is one where a flex­i­ble, col­lab­o­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment ser­vice can sup­port stu­dios need­ing ex­tra head­count, or sole cre­atives with a great game idea that re­quires an injection of ex­pe­ri­ence and guid­ance, along with a team shaped to bring the con­cept to re­al­ity. The lat­ter point is BeefJack Cre­ate’s most strik­ing dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture, and one that is founded on flex­i­bil­ity.

If a small

or medium-sized in­die de­vel­oper with a good de­gree of ex­pe­ri­ence needs to bol­ster its team with a cou­ple of an­i­ma­tors, that’s the kind of gap Cre­ate can fill, since BeefJack has at its dis­posal all of the tools and peo­ple needed for ev­ery as­pect of high-end game pro­duc­tion. But that same team is also poised to as­sist in­di­vid­u­als with un­re­alised game con­cepts in their heads, and a sense of

“THE BAR­RI­ERS HAVE DROPPED. IT’S POS­SI­BLE FOR ANY­ONE, FROM ANY WALK OF LIFE, TO MAKE SOME­THING NO­BODY HAS EVER SEEN”

the role they’d like to serve bring­ing those no­tions to life.

Leach and the Cre­ate team part­ner with a broad sweep of de­vel­op­ment tal­ent, in­clud­ing grad­u­ates, cre­ative tal­ents from far be­yond games with an in­ter­est in the in­dus­try, and just about any­one that has a game idea, even if they’ve never worked in the sec­tor at all.

“Ev­ery­body has game ideas, and a game idea is re­ally pow­er­ful,” as­serts Leach, who is at his most en­thu­si­as­tic when he talks about help­ing those who feel they might not have the ex­pe­ri­ence or di­ver­sity of skillsets needed to bring ideas to com­mer­cial re­al­ity. “Even my mum has had an idea for a game. That was 20 years ago, though, when get­ting an idea past the con­cept stage was very dif­fi­cult.

“But now, the bar­ri­ers to en­try in mak­ing games have dropped, and tools have be­come more avail­able and ac­ces­si­ble, so a lot of the heavy lift­ing has been cut out. It’s not just triple-A stu­dios dom­i­nat­ing any more. So it’s now pos­si­ble for any­one, from any walk of life, to make some­thing no­body has ever seen be­fore, and ac­tu­ally for a brief pe­riod of time have the world stop and stare.”

But while he has an op­ti­mistic take on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that ex­ist to­day, Leach is quick to high­light the gap be­tween the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of game-mak­ing tech­nol­ogy and the re­al­ity of bring­ing a pro­ject to­gether, re­quir­ing adept artists, coders, an­i­ma­tors and au­dio spe­cial­ists to hit a qual­ity bar, be­fore dis­tri­bu­tion, mar­ket­ing and pub­lish­ing are ap­plied mean­ing­fully.

The game in­dus­try may have more than its fair share of mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary au­teur de­vel­op­ers, but they alone aren’t the only group ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing con­cepts that can be both crit­i­cally and com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful. And Leach and his col­leagues want to help the novice and au­teur alike, es­pe­cially when their part­ners are pre­pared to punch above their weight and em­brace a full game pro­duc­tion model.

BeefJack works with Cre­ate part­ners in an en­tirely be­spoke man­ner, the process de­cided on a case-by-case ba­sis. “If some­body re­ally ex­pe­ri­enced ap­proaches us with a re­ally com­pe­tent game de­sign then we’ll usu­ally try to have them at the front point of the de­vel­op­ment process,” Leach ex­plains. “We’d let them lead it, and we’re there for sup­port and re­sources so that per­son can achieve what they need.”

Equally, BeefJack Cre­ate’s ap­proach has been ap­plied when an in­di­vid­ual part­ner wants to see a game idea brought to re­al­ity, while carv­ing a niche role for them­selves away from the game di­rec­tor’s chair. When join­ing forces with in­die James Wheeler for the in-de­vel­op­ment Chief­tain’s

Chal­lenge – pitched as ‘ An­gry Birds meets crazy golf’ – BeefJack found a col­lab­o­ra­tor not only with a strong idea, but also a de­sire to in­put most sig­nif­i­cantly as a level de­signer. Leach and his col­leagues built a team around Wheeler and his idea, sup­port­ing him so the rel­a­tively youth­ful de­vel­oper could see his con­cept re­alised while de­vel­op­ing his skills in a par­tic­u­lar role.

“We can help make some­thing com­mer­cially vi­able too,” Leach says. “Our ex­pe­ri­ence with lots of odd and un­usual games [through BeefJack Mag­a­zine] has taught us a great deal about know­ing who you’re sell­ing to. You can’t re­ally as­sume there’s just a male 18–35-year-old tar­get; it just doesn’t work like that any more. So we can help look at who a game is be­ing made for, and help with cre­at­ing the right as­sets, or the way the game is be­ing put to­gether. That can be re­ally be im­pact­ful when it comes to the re­lease of a game.”

The strength at

the heart of BeefJack Cre­ate is its flex­i­bil­ity, and it means that there isn’t re­ally any such thing as a typ­i­cal Cre­ate pro­ject. The story of Dean Ed­wards and his game Iron Fish, how­ever, does plenty to cap­ture the spirit and ide­ol­ogy that drives BeefJack’s ef­forts.

Iron Fish is a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller set in the deep sea that toys with the pos­si­bil­ity of what might ex­ist in the deep­est crevices of Earth’s many un­ex­plored oceans. De­signer Ed­wards is a re­cent grad­u­ate who, two years ago, was go­ing through the process of look­ing for work, be­fore form­ing a part­ner­ship with BeefJack to col­lab­o­rate with the Cre­ate team.

“It’s very rare for any­one start­ing out in the game in­dus­try to be able to cre­ate the pro­ject of their dreams as their first game,” Ed­wards says. “I cer­tainly didn’t ex­pect this op­por­tu­nity to be avail­able to me at such an early stage in my ca­reer. Af­ter I grad­u­ated from col­lege in 2012, I be­gan look­ing for jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties around my area, with lit­tle suc­cess.

“It was at the be­gin­ning of 2014 – af­ter years of look­ing for work – that I de­cided I would fo­cus on de­sign­ing my own games and ex­pand­ing my con­tacts and ex­pe­ri­ence within the in­dus­try, in the hope of ful­fill­ing my ul­ti­mate goal to de­velop a pro­ject.”

With­out BeefJack Cre­ate, that would have been a great deal eas­ier said than done.

“I’ve en­joyed work­ing with BeefJack im­mensely,” Ed­wards con­tin­ues. “I feel very priv­i­leged, ac­tu­ally, to be work­ing with some very tal­ented and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple. They’ve added a lot of value to Iron Fish across the board – de­sign, mar­ket­ing, pro­duc­tion and sup­port. They’ve been great at show­ing me how the in­dus­try works and what it’s like to bring a pro­ject to life from start to fin­ish. I feel like I have al­ready ab­sorbed so much from work­ing with them, and this ex­pe­ri­ence has made me ex­cited to learn more.”

To an ex­tent, the Iron Fish story can be un­der­stood as one of education through prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, though Ed­wards had no need to serve as a ju­nior be­gin­ning a long climb up the ca­reer lad­der, or a tester tack­ling the coal­face of QA.

“A big part of what we do is pro­vide education,” Leach ex­plains. “If this is your first time in the game in­dus­try, there are a lot of big play­ers to un­der­stand, and it’s a busi­ness. A lot of peo­ple with a great idea need some­body to hold their hand through that, and that’s what we can do. We don’t want any of our part­ners hav­ing it blow up in their face be­cause they re­leased some­thing too soon, or a cer­tain part wasn’t good enough. A lot of our role is about nur­tur­ing and pro­tect­ing those we part­ner with to en­sure a game does as well as it can do.”

While BeefJack Cre­ate is on hand to serve ex­pe­ri­enced and large-scale in­die teams, and can even help with pro­cesses such as se­cur­ing fi­nance, it does pro­vide some­thing un­usual to an au­di­ence largely ig­nored by the main­stream videogame in­dus­try – specif­i­cally an op­por­tu­nity for en­tre­pre­neur­ial in­di­vid­u­als to take a short­cut to fully fledged de­vel­op­ment, with­out any note­wor­thy sac­ri­fice of qual­ity.

“Dean was in­ter­ested in be­ing a game de­signer, and now he’s seen our en­tire de­sign process as we’ve worked with him,” Leach says. “That’s some­thing many new game de­sign­ers never get to see, and I think that’s been re­ally em­pow­er­ing for him. We gave Dean a mas­sive head start with how to do all of this, and we’ve shown him a mod­ern way to ap­proach it all.”

With the tools

and spe­cial­ists at BeefJack Pro­mote on hand, the Cre­ate of­fer­ing also ex­tends to in­clude a broad ar­range­ment of mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion ser­vices. How­ever, as it is with cre­at­ing games, so it is with get­ting them to au­di­ences, and as such ‘be­spoke’ and ‘flex­i­ble’ re­main key­words for how Leach and his team sup­port Cre­ate part­ners in the de­liv­ery of ti­tles to play­ers.

The ser­vice is plat­form-ag­nos­tic in its en­tirety, mean­ing that there’s no agenda to push a par­tic­u­lar game en­gine or tech­nol­ogy, and no rigid rules in terms of the frame­work and pipe­line struc­tur­ing that serves a Cre­ate pro­ject. What­ever works best for the game, in­di­vid­ual or team part­ner­ing with BeefJack guides de­vel­op­ment, with the com­pany’s ex­perts poised to give ad­vice and in­put when re­quired rather than in­sist on a cer­tain method­ol­ogy or piece of tech­nol­ogy.

All of which means that there isn’t a typ­i­cal BeefJack Cre­ate pro­ject, even though what ev­ery­thing has in com­mon is the com­pany’s taste for in­de­pen­dently minded games and a fo­cus on col­lab­o­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment. That makes its ser­vices ap­pli­ca­ble to a wide range of peo­ple, from bud­ding de­sign­ers with fledg­ling game ideas to sea­soned de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing those who may con­sider them­selves far from ready to be­gin real work on their first full game.

“Per­haps you’re a per­son on a mis­sion, with one game idea that you’d re­ally like to ex­plore, or one area of game de­vel­op­ment that you’d re­ally like to ex­plore,” Leach says. “We of­fer a pretty neat way to be able to do that, see re­sults, and have a far more ac­com­plished game. And you can ac­tu­ally learn a whole load of stuff along the way.”

For Leach, all the va­ri­ety and flex­i­bil­ity that de­fines BeefJack Cre­ate needn’t make ex­plain­ing the ser­vice a com­plex propo­si­tion. “We’re just em­pow­er­ing oth­ers to make great games,” he says.

“THEY’VE BEEN GREAT AT SHOW­ING ME HOW THE IN­DUS­TRY WORKS AND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BRING A PRO­JECT TO LIFE FROM START TO FIN­ISH”

FROM LEFT BeefJack founder and cre­ative di­rec­tor Shaun Leach; Iron Fish de­signer Dean Ed­wards; in­side the BeefJack HQ, lo­cated in north Lon­don

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