Video games have enjoyed a boom during the pandemic.
The week before the first lockdown (16-22 of March 2020) saw a 63% increase in the sale of games compared to the week before.
They became a crucial – and entertaining – way to get through the hours stuck at home. So now seems like a good time to be in the games development business.
Like many of us Mathew Hamilton, co-founder of one the newest games development studios in York, also spent a good chunk of time playing Animal Crossing during that first lockdown.
Born and raised in Texas, USA, Matt grew up playing video games which would go onto to become a passion of his. After going on to serve in the US Air Force and traveling around the world, Matt took a shine to the city of York whilst visiting back in 2015.
He visited York in 2015 “and fell in love with it”.
He then decided to move here and studied at York St John University, during which time he met his business partner Paul Jervis. The two then decided to stay in York to run their new business and work on their first project.
They created Labrador Studios in 2019, an indie games development company now working on their first release. Matt aims to make games that he would love to play himself instead of trying to develop the next big hit, by trying to keep his projects based around the games he loved to play as a kid.
The first project set to come out of Labrador Studios is a role-playing game (RPG) titled Live By The Sword – released on Steam on 23 June. Matt took inspiration in its design from a childhood favourite of his.
“Stylistically our inspiration for the game came from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I sunk hundreds of hours into it as a kid and loved it.
“I had been heavily influenced as a kid playing RPGs, I love the idea of classes / jobs and knew I wanted to explore that with my first game.”
Fans of the genre will look forward to a potential new franchise in the genre from a team who really see this as a passion project. Matt plans to keep supporting and releasing content for Live By The Sword for some time after it releases.
“We have plans for content to keep supporting it. For most likely up to the next eight to 12 months try to get into a year.”
Looking further past their first release as a studio, Matt already has one eye on what future projects he would like to work on with Labrador.
“I want to continue making games that are RPG centric. Perhaps a sequel to the game if the reception is good enough or maybe take the world we created and the characters and place them into a different genre like a JRPG.”
No decisions have been completely decided yet though. “We aren’t set in stone and that’s one of the benefits of being an indie studio is we are flexible in what we decide to do.”
Only time will tell whether the next hit indie game comes out of York, but whatever happens, Matt and team at Labrador studios know they have made something that they are proud and excited by.