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Go Make Games: Sidhe

Adrian Hatwell
Adrian Hatwell

If you’ve set your mind on making games and endured the necessary training then your next step in the pursuit of game development fortune and glory will be, with luck, work at a game studio. Locally, our brightest star in that particular skyline is Sidhe, the Wellington-based development company that has been producing exceptional video games for over a decade. 

Initially known as Sidhe Interactive, before getting into the whole brevity thing, the company began making their presence known through their work on franchise titles such as the successful Rugby League series. In 2005 the company developed their first original intellectual property, the accomplished racing/puzzler GripShift for Sony’s PSP. 

An officially licensed developer for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, the team at Sidhe has broad experience across a multitude of platforms, including PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, PSP, Xbox, PlayStation Network, and the Nintendo Wii.

After defying movie spin-off expectations with the innovative Speed Racer for the Wii, Sidhe recently released their latest IP, Shatter, an absorbing reimagining of Breakout available on the PlayStation Network. The studio are currently working on the third iteration of their Rugby League series as well as a game based on the television show Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5, both for the Wii.

Sidhe employee Reagan Morris, currently working as Motion Lead on the forthcoming Hot Wheels title, was kind enough to share with me a little of the wisdom he has gleaned in his four years at Sidhe.

His path into the industry mirrors the conventional gaming career wisdom, mixing a little extracurricular learning with formal training while staying immersed in gaming culture and cultivating connections.

“I had spent a good 6 or so years learning 3D Studio Max in my spare time at home before deciding I should get some proper training” Reagan explained, “so I undertook a 10 month Diploma in 3D Animation at Media Design School in Auckland.”

Though an academic path into the gaming industry is far clearer these days than it has been in the past, the old-school, proactive approach of networking with important types is still a solid idea, as Reagan’s story attests.

“Luckily I was acquainted with Mario [Wyanands, Sidhe Managing Director] through a NZ gaming website and was known to annoy him from time to time over ICQ. He knew I was interested in working in the industry and had told me to focus on one aspect of game development and to get some qualifications. 6 months after completing my course I received a job as a junior animator with Sidhe.”

Reagan’s contribution to Sidhe includes heading the replay camera work for their Speed Racer title, an effort that earned him enough credit to be assigned Motion Lead on Sidhe’s next big project, Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5. “It was awesome to get the recognition that my work has improved to a point where I am trusted leading the animation for a project. Now to try and get a game pitch selected for development,” the animator light-heartedly enthused.

Of the working conditions at Sidhe Reagan has nothing but praise, listing the gifted staff of professionals as the gig’s greatest virtue. “I work with a great bunch of incredibly talented people who aren’t afraid to have a bit of a laugh during office hours. Although, the view from my desk isn’t half bad either.

And though it might be many gamers’ dream job he did warn of the downsides inherent to the occupation. “While it would be easy to look down on the stress that can build up as we near important milestones of a project I’d have to say that the quiet times are worse. There’s nothing worse than watching a day crawl past while waiting for a project to ramp up to a point where you are needed.”

Clearly making good use of any downtime he might have, however, Reagan demonstrated a keen interest in gaming happenings beyond studio life, praising the current trends in independent game development for motivating the industry to stay relevant. “[Independent game developers are] creating new game mechanics or going back to old mechanics that time seems to have forgotten about,” Reagan explained approvingly, “thanks to indie developers we are finally seeing a return to a more retro style of gaming… The more a successful an independent game becomes, the more it pushes the industry to change.”

As for guidance to those seeking to achieve a similar position as himself, Reagan keeps it tried and true: “The only advice I can offer is the same cliché advice everyone’s heard before, and is the same advice I got handed to me. Figure out which part of game development really excites you and focus on it and get the qualifications needed to prove you can do it.”

Keep an eye out for Sidhe’s upcoming projects, Rugby League 3 and Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5, both scheduled for release before the end of the year.

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