Tiny Rebel Games
Doctor Who Infinity has been developed by Tiny Rebel Games, the husband-and-wife team of Lee and Susan Cummings, with financial support from the Welsh Government. The role-playing game is a showcase for Wales’ creative talent as well as its landscape, with Welsh artists, writers, actors and technical staff all involved in its creation.
The couple – both of whom have a long calibre in the games industry-moved to Newport from Los Angeles in 2016. Susan says: “We’d gone to LA to work for Paramount on Star Trek, but we decided to move back to Wales so we’d have a better lifestyle for our nine-year-old son. My husband’s from Newport, and his family have several businesses here including our sister company, Tiny Rebel Brewery.”
She hopes the new game will replicate the success of Tiny Rebel’s previous release, Doctor Who Legacy, which has attracted more than 2.5 million players since 2013. Doctor Who Infinity will initially be released in five self-contained episodes; and although some aspects of its gameplay will be familiar from the earlier title, Susan is careful to stress that it’s not a sequel.
“We’re thinking of it more as a platform for telling stories, written by well-known Doctor Who writers,” she says. “After the first five episodes, there’s already a sixth on the table, and we’re in the early stages of planning a seventh.”
The game’s technical aspects were developed in collaboration with Seed Studio, a Taiwanese firm, and it has been funded as a joint venture between the British game publisher Double Eleven and the Welsh Government. Susan says: “Soon after we arrived, we started talking to them about their Media Investment Budget. Until then it had only financed TV and film, but we knew they were interested in investing in games.
“Coming off our success with Doctor Who Legacy, we said that we had relocated here and had the track record and connections to do something really cool. We made clear that the project wouldn’t necessarily be about job creation, in the sense of permanent employment for people. It would be about providing avenues of freelance opportunity for local talent, like a production in the film industry.”
To secure the funding, Tiny Rebel undertook to find the lion’s share of this talent within Wales’ borders. “Initially I was slightly sceptical, because the games industry is still nascent here,” says Susan. “But when we looked around, we found a lot of what we needed in Wales.
“There were comic-book artists with tremendous pedigrees, who had done Doctor Who before and worked on DC and Marvel Comics. In the end, all the artists working on the game, whether drawing, inking or colouring, were based in Wales. Three of the five writers for the initial stories live here, and we have an award-winning audio director, Stafford Bawler, who’s local to Cardiff.”
The couple have been keen to pass on their industry expertise, with Susan taking up an advisory seat at a Caerphilly-based games start up called Runwild Entertainment. “We’ve also got involved with the University of South Wales,” she says. “We help out with their computer games courses, and we hired one of their recent graduates as an intern. He quickly proved himself indispensable, so we took him on full-time for six months as a technical artist.”
She believes that Tiny Rebel’s business model is good both for the company and for the burgeoning games industry. “We can use people both locally and internationally,” says Susan. “On Doctor Who Infinity, we’ve brought on board at least 15 people in Wales, including some who have never touched a video game before, and we can train people up. But we can also fill the recruitment gaps from elsewhere.
“It’s not a new idea: if you were going to cast a film in Wales, you wouldn’t necessarily have an all-Welsh cast. But by putting it all together here, we’re helping core competencies to grow, which makes Wales a better environment for games – and will lead to more projects being done here.”