Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of the Null Newsletter! As 2023 comes down to its last few months, we’re looking forward to another fun holiday season of game releases. (Although, to be honest, 2023 feels like it’s had a boatload of huge game releases already, and we’re not even in October yet.)
Ed Kay Q&A
You may know Ed Kay as the developer of Demon Spore, arriving in 2024 and published by Null, but did you know that he also has a 20-year history in game development? I sat down with him recently to talk about his career, his background, and what influenced the look and feel of Demon Spore. Check out a selection from our Q&A below, and don’t forget to read the entire thing here.
Matthew Rorie: So you've been in the gaming industry since the early 2000s; did you really want to start out working in games? Or did you come in through another kind of back channel?
Ed Kay: Funnily enough when I was a kid, I remember I wanted to do special effects after watching the making of Jurassic Park and thinking it just looked like the coolest thing ever, to kind of figure out how to make these amazing effects happen with the most limited tools. I thought it was something that only the luckiest people get the opportunity to do. After college I was doing a little bit of summer work with an internship in a healthcare/IT company and I was bored out of my mind. But a friend of mine who had done the same Computer Science degree suddenly got a job in the games industry, I couldn’t believe it - this was something people can actually do! So I just applied to a bunch of companies, not expecting a lot, and then I ended up at Codemasters.
Matthew Rorie: Demon Spore is coming out next year. The story revolves around your character developing a kind of a cure for world hunger, and then things go very wrong and a tentacle monster is created. I know you've mentioned 80s horror movies, as kind of an inspiration for it, especially The Thing. Was there any other film in particular that really influenced you?
Ed Kay: Yeah, definitely The Thing was a massive one. But I mean I always loved those kinds of sci fi movies from the 80s, stuff like Aliens, Predator and Leviathan. I also really love the Korean horror movie The Host, which kind of has that tone where it's quite scary, and there's some really exciting thrilling moments, but it also has a little spots of humor in there. But to be honest there was quite a practical kind of reason for going in the direction I did. Originally the game was a simple arcade retro shooter and it didn't really have a theme. It was just triangles basically, a bit like Geometry Wars. But after working on it quite a bit, I started to realize that it was becoming a pretty big thing so I started to do a lot of market analysis to try and see if there was a market for this kind of game. I realized that it was probably not a good idea to just kind of bang it out as it was since retro arcade shooters just don't really sell that well, and I'd already invested quite a lot into it at this point. That was when I decided from a practical perspective to put a theme to it and create something that people can connect with and be immersed in, and have a more compelling draw in terms of screenshots and trailers.
Null Attends Tokyo Game Show
Part of being in “the business” of games is attending a variety of conferences and shows. I, personally, have been to around ten E3s (R.I.P.), four or five PAXes, and a couple of Comic Cons in my day, with a few other odd events here and there (you wouldn’t believe how crazy the GameStop managers conference in Vegas can get).
One of my personal highlights was the two trips to Tokyo Game Show I took in the mid-2000s, though, back when I was working at GameSpot. It’s one of the biggest game conventions in the world, with a press/industry day to open it up before the public gains access for the weekend.
For those of you who haven’t traveled to Japan, it usually requires that you get there a day or two in advance simply to cope with the jetlag. When I flew over, the flight from the west coast took around 15 hours, and once you actually land and get through customs and get your bags, you’re faced with another 90-minute bus ride to “downtown” Tokyo. (I’m using scare quotes here since Tokyo is effectively one huge downtown area by many respects.) By the time you reach your hotel and fall into bed, your circadian rhythm is mostly likely thoroughly out of whack, especially for someone like me who can barely ever sleep on planes.
The show itself is immense, taking up something like three football fields’ worth of space, and on the days that it’s open to the public, it’s one of the densest collections of human bodies you’re likely to see outside of some of the more overbooked anime conventions. It’s great fun and once my co-workers are back (they’re taking some time to travel after the show!), you can expect a more thorough recap of their time at TGS, but for now, accept a couple of pictures:
September Gaming In Review
Obviously, the biggest launch this month was Starfield. One of the biggest tests of the Xbox Game Pass yet, and I have given it a whirl, but have not played a tremendous amount of it. Game Pass is an interesting experiment for Microsoft, especially when they put games that would retail for $70 on a service that anyone can try for $10/month. It’s definitely a good deal for game fans and if you’re shooting through the galaxy in Starfield, I hope you’re enjoying.
I’ve spent much more time this month with Cyberpunk 2077 2.0, though. Cyberpunk was one of my favorite games of last year (I did not play it at launch), and the new expansion pack and patch are excellent. I appreciate the fact that I can make it run at 100+ FPS on a 3080 at ultrawidescreen resolutions with some adjustments to the graphical settings. I’m having a great time hanging out with Lucy and look forward to delving more into the expansion proper and meeting Idris Elba. (In the game, that is; we’re close personal friends IRL.)
In Null news, please do check out the Paradark Studios Discord server for monthly updates on the development of ExeKiller (and weekly intriguing questions from their community manager). The Tape To Tape Discord is also popping off with news of the new patch and Commander Fido’s attempts at building an all-AI league! Don’t forget to subscribe to Null on Twitter, and if you missed it last month, maybe take a look at the fresh new Null website and merch store.