Super Rare Originals is a new venture from publisher Super Rare Games. Their aim is to expand operations to publish a wide variety indie games across multiple platforms and provide support to developers that share their passion.
We at All Maverick were able to interview Ryan Brown, the Head of Public Relations at Super Rare Games to obtain insight on the driving force and values of the company, and their trajectory for Super Rare Originals.
Through him, I discovered the Super Rare Games team’s deep love for the art of indie games and their culture of equality and autonomy, ensuring every voice on the team is heard. They place great emphasis on passion, citing it as the core feature that distinguishes indie games and also aim to have a varied library to provide players a more diverse experience.
The company intends to be a community figure in indie gaming, both for the developer and for the players and highlights the importance forging relationships with content creators and the gaming community.
In short, Super Rare Games identifies as an “indie-first” game publisher that believes that the creative vision of the developer should not be stifled by power dynamics and is committed to forging relationships with the community.
What games does the team personally look up to from a design perspective? Did these games play a role in the inspiration of Super Rare originals?
For us personally, I know that George Perkins who owns and runs Super Rare Games, his all time favourite game is Undertale. We really play everything, we end up mostly playing indie games which kinda makes sense given what we do. Obviously we play triple A games but we think indie games have more originality and uniqueness and passion behind them, the sort of ideas you wouldn’t find in triple A games.
We like to play short indie games and talk about it together. Last game in particular we played together was Toem and that was fun.
Regarding the direction of Super Rare Originals, you’ve mentioned that you will be signing games that the team enjoy and are passionate about. May I ask what genres they will be and if you are focusing on specific genres or if you are potentially expanding into new genres in the future?
Genre wise we’re not looking for anything specific, it’s mostly what grabs our interest! So when we’re looking at what games we want to take under Super Rare Originals, we look around on Twitter, we’ll look at #gamedevscreenshots #gamedev and people will pitch to us as well.
Some of the things we’ve already announced are platformers, rouge-likes, arena-shooters, first person exploration games, so we’re not looking at specific genres and we’re quite open with our personal tastes for what kind of games we like. I’ve personally played I think 80 indie games and their genres are all over the place! I like standard genres but I also really like more experimental stuff!
What I find interesting is that from the way you’ve spoken about your personal tastes it sounds like you and several other members of the team, regardless of their position, have a lot input in regards to what games are published.
Is the culture at Super Rare Games a culture where everyone is equal and all members of the team have a say in the trajectory of the company?
I would say yes. For context, George started Super Rare Games back when he was 23 and he made deals with publishers and developers during his lunch breaks! It was a complete passion project! That has remained to this day with originals.
Everything today is passion-led, which is why I suppose we have our “head-of” titles. As I’ve mentioned I’m Head of Words [Public Relations] and everyone in the company is the “head-of” something, so everyone is responsible for their own thing and everyone has an equal voice. When we pitch or search for games we consult the whole team.
Everything we do from physicals to originals are all complete works of passion. Everyone has equal say.
Given how in recent news several companies have been revealed to have work cultures that stifle free speech and employee rights, the values at Super Rare Games is refreshing.
Absolutely, we are very passion led. We hate the whole corporate vibe. We intentionally do not want investors to be involved as it would muddy the management, they would have more control and it [the company] would be more business and money focused.
As George puts it, we just want to work on cool things with cool people.
Whilst I appreciate that sentiment, there still at least needs to be some element of profit to keep the company afloat. As it stands, indie games have caught up with triple A releases, often at times surpassing them in terms of quality and passion. However, this also means that the expectations for indie games have also risen making the industry extremely competitive. Admist this backdrop, what are the core philosophies that distinguish Super Rare Originals games from the market?
What tells you that this game is going to stay on the market and make an impression on the playerbase
For our portfolio, its all about variety. When we look at games, we question if the game is exceptional or unique or interesting in its art style, same with its game mechanics.
Let’s take Grappledog for example. It is so vibrant and unique that we can imagine that, in the future, when you compare images of Grappledog to a lot of other pixel art games, you’re going to be able to look at artwork and go “oh, that’s Joseph Gribbin [the developer of Grappledog]”. And when we play it, being very big fans of platformers, its up there. It is on the upper echelon of 2D platformers with how much fun we have with it.
We don’t want people to look at Super Rare Originals and go “oh that’s the company that does platformers” “oh that’s the company that does first-person shooters”. We want to have a very diverse and varied library, in terms of looks, aesthetic and how the games play.
Hopefully these [upcoming] games will stick in people’s heads and do very well, and we’ll be supporting them long-term. We’re excited to talk more about them and other games we haven’t announced yet.
Now speaking about Grappledog, I would like to discuss its gameplay since, for platformers there is a lot of competition on the Switch especially from Nintendo themselves. Could you elaborate on how the gameplay from Grappledog stood out to you and the team in comparison?
So firstly what initially caught our attention was that vibrant, hi-res pixel art. We actually found it through a video or gif that was posted though I’ve forgotten where. And then well, grappling hooks! Which sounds really silly but I love grappling hooks in games, they’re always fun! There are so many mechanics introduced level-by-level and world-by-world, plus cool different platform mechanics.
The whole game is really fast paced. You can take it slow of course and collect all the gems, it is a “collect-a-thon”.
So it has more collect-a-thon aspects compared to something like say 2D Mario, where the replay value mostly comes from clearing levels as quickly as possible?
Yeah exactly, but it is a bit more open ended as well. It is not completely linear, but I wouldn’t say its open world. But you can go to multiple directions, levels often have tangents with collectibles. It also has bonus levels and a speedrun mode, which we are really excited about.
When we first released the Steam demo the speedrunners immediately took to it. And you know how speedrunners are, they have found a lot of amazing tech [techniques] to figure out how to make each level go really fast. And we’re really excited to see what they make of it once the game comes out.
I would say it’s also a lot more narratively strong like say 2D Mario games. There is a surprising amount of dialogue with characters in this game and has that sort of ‘heart’ to it. It’s not just this empty 2D platformer.
I appreciate the acknowledgement of the speedrunning community. It shows a commitment to the players and a desire to foster a good relationship. With that in mind, will you be utilising content creators as part of your marketing?
Definitely, 100%. We’re all about building very good relationships with people, instead of being “business-y” and corporate. We build a lot of personal connections and try to build them with content creators! Streamers, youtubers, influencers, press, all that good stuff.
I’m positive in the future, people will see some really awesome videos and speedruns and reviews.
Games Done Quick, a charity gaming event where players clear games as fast as possible.
So what will you be looking for in collaborations?
Well of course if a channel has lots of views and subscribers that is appealing to us (laughs) but its not just that! I’m very keen to support content creators; it’s give and take! It’s really important we have good relationships with not just massive content creators but also up-and-coming people who are really passionate about their work even if they have just 10 subscribers. If their content is good quality and makes sense, I don’t see why not.
We’ll even try to look at some speedrunning activities near launch! I love watching GDQ (Games Done Quick); I just love watching people play games in ways that are not meant to be played. Even just looking at the tricks people have found in Grappledog, it’s just so cool!
So as previously mentioned, the company is going to be “indie first” regarding the power dynamic between developer and publisher. Could you elaborate on the extent of the company’s involvement in the development process, specifically how it differs from industry standard?
When we say “indie first”, what we mean is that when a developer pitches to us, it’s more that we pitch to them. Because if it’s gotten to that point, we like the game. We feel the power dynamic should be the developer is the boss; it’s their game, it’s their baby, we’re just helping with the marketing [amongst QA testing, funding and porting] really. The developer is king and we’re just lucky to work with them really.
We want to make sure they are happy and that they have more than equal say in decision-making. We are positioning ourselves as being “indie’s best friend” and trying to support indie developers in all levels in that scale in any way we can.
In closing, what’s your message to gaming community at large?
Be more experimental! Do try out more indie games! Whether it’s from us or other publishers! There are so many good indie games out there that deserve your time and attention! Try play something out of your comfort zone! Don’t forget to keep an eye what we’re doing at superrareoriginals.com. Check out the games that are currently out, we have a wishlist and popping a game a wishlist helps more than you know so please do if you are interested. Catch us online and tell us what you think of everything. We’re very open ears.