“Obviously, everyone wants to do freemium today,” Ian Gregory tells his audience at Casual Connect Asia 2014. “Every publisher you speak of will always ask about freemium.” He continues, “I would like to point out that there are a few caveats to freemium.”
Ian Gregory, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Witching Hour Studios, has never had formal training in developing games. He came to the games industry from a career in advertising, and he claims, “You would be surprised how similar both industries can be.” However, he has been interested in game design from the time he was a child playing pen and paper role playing games. His first game, Ravenmark, was originally planned as a tabletop game. But after discussions with Witching Hour Studios Co-Founders Brian Kwek and Kevin Mohinani, he made the decision to convert it into digital format. And he says, “It’s been quite a ride since!”
At Witching Hour Studios, Gregory is responsible for art and design. The fundamentals of art direction and problem-solving he learned in the advertising world were a huge benefit when he came to the games industry. The project structure he was already familiar with was also an advantage in the pipeline planning involved in game development. And he discovered very early in his career the importance of communication and clearly conveying an idea.
A Profound Email and a Supportive Community
The event he feels is the most rewarding in his career is a bit unusual, since it did not include any of the usual forms of recognition, such as reaching a sales target, receiving an award, or being mentioned in the media. He tells of giving a talk on game design and the game industry at a school. Soon after, he received an email from a student saying how much he enjoyed the talk and that he wanted to become a game designer. Seeing that student discover what he wanted to do with his life had a profound impact on Gregory.
He describes the developer community in Singapore as small but incredibly tight and supportive. He finds the greatest enjoyment in his work comes from the amazingly talented people he works with. “Every day is a joy to come in and make great things,” he says, “when everyone is focused on the same goal of making great experiences.”
It is All About Creativity
The attitude at Witching Hour Studios is what keeps the creative fires burning for the team. And creativity is what keeps Gregory going. He maintains that he stays in the industry because he knows he can create and “that’s a heady drug.”
Inquisitive is the way he describes himself, and, no doubt, this is another aspect of his creativity. He admits, “I have Google searches and Wikipedia always open to some tab, often for the oddest reasons.” He reads whenever he is not playing games and admits to being a bit of an information hoarder, something which he claims is surprisingly useful in designing games. As well, his creativity is fueled by game play, including the tabletop RPGs he plays every other week, like Pathfinder and Fate of the Norns.
Gregory loves exploring new game worlds and following fantastic stories. He has just finished Shadowrun: Dragonfall and recently started Age of Wonders. He is currently playing on iOS, but is also comfortable using Android. But he does say he tends to use PC most of the time, and, although he owns a PS4, he uses it mainly for gaming with his girlfriend.
A Growing Change
In the future of the games industry, Gregory sees a growing split between freemium and premium business models, with smaller companies having to decide which direction to take. He believes many companies will be enticed by the profits they expect from the freemium model. Witching Hour Studios will move the other direction, knowing they are better at creating a holistic experience and believing people are willing to pay full price for it. Their audience objects to the constant nickel-and-dime payments for freemium.