Interview with Shawn Hopkins of Hamilton’s Four Seven Games
I recently interviewed Shawn Hopkins of Four Seven Games (@fourSevenStudio), a new gaming studio in Hamilton. Other video game companies in the Hamilton include Snakehead Games, BattleGoat Studios and GreenPixel. I’ve always thought of video games as a potential strength for Hamilton given the strong creative arts community and high quality video game related post-secondary programs, so I’m glad to see another gaming studio starting up in Hamilton. Check out the interview with Shawn below!
Tell us about yourself. What is your background in gaming?
My name is Shawn Hopkins, 29. Born and raised here in Hamilton. When I was younger I had moved to Calgary, Alberta for a couple years but returned back to Hamilton where I stayed. I have a wife and daughter who is five years old.
Like many others I got my start in gaming at a pretty young age. It all started with Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt. I was 7 at the time and NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) had already been out a few years. I remember it vividly, sitting in front of the TV, eyes glued, thumbs sore, â€śThis is incredible, I can control whats happening on the TVâ€ť. An addiction that has bloomed into a career was born that day.
I was always the type of person to tear things apart just to see how they worked, then attempt to modify them and put it all back together. This got me in trouble as a kid, always â€śbreakingâ€ť my toys. So I ended up going to flea markets to buy working gadgets, mod them and put them back together. This didn’t work so well when I opened up an N64 game, all I saw was a circuit board. I mean at least guitar stomp boxes had actual components I could replace and â€śbeef upâ€ť.
Fast forward a few years to 2010 an I came to the conclusion that I needed more. I needed more of a challenge, and so I enrolled at triOS for video game design and development and learned as much as I could about the game business and programming languages. I participated in two global game jams, the first Great Canadian Appathon held by XMG and also participated in a Mozilla Gaming competition.
What prompted you to start Four Seven Games? Is anybody else involved?
Right from the beginning of my journey at triOS I knew i wanted to start my own studio. Having my own studio would present me with challenges I had never faced before. Actually this is not completely true, I had my freelance web/graphic design business and ran an independent magazine – both had similar challenges like strict deadlines, long hours and knowing what the client/reader will want too see/read. But this time feels different. There is an instant gratification in games, a gratification you don’t get in other forms of art and media. I am now a part of something that can share this gratification. Our goal with Four Seven Games is to create games that the whole family can enjoy with our main focus on games for children.
Yes. I do have someone helping me with programming. Matthew Collier is a fantastic individual who is just amazing at programming. Matthew started at triOS shortly before I did. We had worked on a couple projects during our time at triOS, one of those projects was Global Game Jam 2012. I am a lucky guy to have Matthew on board with Four Seven Games.
How is your first game coming along? What can you tell us about it?
This one is a weird one. Our first game isn’t our first game. Our first game will be our third or fourth game. While we work on our first major release, we will be releasing a couple smaller games. The first of which is almost done, but the past couple weeks have been really busy with freelance deadlines closing in. The game will be out very soon though. I am pretty excited for it.
The major release is in the very early stages of development. I had built a demo and now I love the idea of it so much we are going to expand the game.
What challenges have you faced so far?
One of the biggest challenges I have faced to date is balance. While I have self discipline to work from home I need to balance taking my daughter to school (she was only half day), work for a bit, bring her home, make lunch and work, spend time with her and my wife while fitting work in at the same time. It gets easier when my wife is home from work and now that my daughter is now on summer vacation it should be a lot easier accomplish goals and milestones. One thing i will say is that I would not change any of this hectic life for anything. My job allows me to spend time with my family while working, this does require a great deal of discipline. I love the challenges.
Why did you do Four Seven Games in Hamilton? How have you found Hamilton as a location?
Living in Hamilton made the choice pretty easy to start my studio in Hamilton. I do plan to move in the next couple of years to somewhere a little more rural. At that point Four Seven Games will still stay in Hamilton. Aside from living here, Hamilton has a great tech community that Four Seven Games is now a part of. I have attended DemoCampHamilton5 and DemoCampHamilton6 here in Hamilton, I plant to attend many more and maybe make my contribution to DemoCampHamilton in the future.
What are your future plans for Four Seven Games?
Over the next 12 months four Seven games plans to release our first two games plus our major release. After this we will maintain our major release, put out smaller games and just grow.
The truth is we don’t know what the future holds for Four Seven Games, so the only thing we can really do is Build, Learn, Grow, Repeat.
What would you tell somebody that’s considering starting up their own indie gaming studio?
Ideas are a penny a dozen, execution is key. More often than not I see great ideas put to simmer, then to back burner, and eventually dumped. Also organization and keeping on or as close as you can to a schedule is very important. Hmm… Oh yes. Grow some leather skin. While I was on my previous ventures I learned this the hard way. People will criticize your work, and they will be harsh. This being your own work, you may have an emotional attachment to it. I had taken a lot of these words to heart and just about quit more than once. Over time I’ve grown some pretty thick skin I still get attached to my work and still may take some words to heart. I still have a lot to grow.
Lastly, have fun doing what you do.