The guys over at Feral Interactive have been making a name for themselves on the Mac App Store. You may know them for their releases; BioShock, LEGO Harry Potter, Rome Total War and Mafia II or their many other top class game. We had a chat with one of the driving forces behind the Mac publishing company, Edwin Smith, on what life’s like working at Feral.
We are a publishing company set up in 1998 with a mission to bring fantastic games to the Mac. Since then, we have established ourselves as a world-leading publisher of Mac games, and enjoy close relationships with developers and publishers such as 2K Games, SEGA, Square Enix, TT Games, CodeMasters, Gearbox Software, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Kalypso Media.
We’re based in London, England, but we deliver our titles to Mac gamers all over the world thanks to air mail, a global network of distributors and the marvel that is digital download. One of our key aims is to have fun; we work with people we like, publish games that we enjoy and try not to be too corporate.
As Executive Producer, my role is help get the game from original source code to release by helping get issues resolved so everyone else can keep working smoothly on their tasks.
How did Feral Interactive operate before the introduction of the Mac App Store, and how has Feral changed its focus as a result of its introduction?
The Mac App Store has certainly helped reinforce our change from being primarily a physical goods company to a digital goods company. As the App Store is built into the OS, it means lots of potential customers can see your products more easily than they would if they had to visit a store, sign up to a new service or download a new application.
What does your average work day consist of?
With all the games we have in development from all these different developers we never have an average day!
But since you asked, here is a snapshot of some goings-on at Feral Towers this morning: Checked builds of 2 upcoming games for QA to start testing, moved a patch over to our servers ready for a release later this week, burnt a DVD master for a game in final approvals, followed up with Apple and various partners about various problems we have with some titles and followed up with an original developer to pick up some patches and DLC.
Every day is different because we have so many projects going on at any one time; it’s one of the things that makes it a great place to work.
As you know, Feral Interactive is one of the biggest Mac publishers on the Mac App Store; dealing with huge names like BioShock, Deus Ex and Tomb Raider. How much work is required to take a PC game like LEGO: Batman 2 and bring it to the Mac platform?
It depends on the game. LEGO Batman 2, for example, was mostly developed by TT Games, meaning Feral mostly takes on the “publisher” role rather than the dual roles of primary developer as well as publisher, which is what we did for the other games you mentioned. It’s hard to answer this in detail without using vocabulary that makes me sound like Jordi LeForge from Star Trek, so please accept my abridged description, for sanity’s sake!
Games take longer or shorter times to port based on a few factors. For example, sequels usually use similar game engines and code to the original, which usually makes the Mac development cycle quicker. Open world, strategy and sandbox games like Empire: Total War or Tropico 3 have almost infinite possibilities as to how they can be played, which makes them harder to test compared to, let’s say, a racing game, which will probably have linear progression due to the nature of the content.
Cutting-edge games usually take longer to port than games on our “Legends” label as they have more modern graphics and audio. The more modern it is, the more advanced it is, and the the more complex it is to port.
What are the highlights and lowlights of working as the Executive Producer at Feral?
The highlights are being able to work on so many great games from such a large variety of different publishers at the same time. It’s something that makes Feral quite unique, especially on the development side.
As for lowlights, the only one I can think of is when customers have a problem and we can’t help them straight away because the problem is out of our control, for example a driver bug or some strange hardware setup. It’s rare, but after you have worked on a game from start to finish, you really care about people’s experience. I don’t like feeling helpless when someone has a problem, so the time between the customer asking for help and us solving the problem is something I don’t enjoy.
Still, thanks to our quality assurance and support teams, this is a rare occurrence! We aim for perfection :.)
Feral’s catalogue of games range from driving, to action adventure, to first-person shooters to real-time strategy. What goes behind selecting a new game for possible publication, and can you give us any sneak peaks into what Feral has lined up for us next?
We have a upcoming games radar where we hint at the games coming soon:
The codeword is loosely connected to the actual game, according to the “unique” logic of Feral employees…
Other than your own, what Mac App Store games have you picked up and enjoyed recently?
I bought Football Manager 2012 and have been working away at getting promoted to the English Premiership when I have spare time. It’s a huge game so I have not completed the second season yet. Perhaps I’ll have a chance once Empire ships.
However, Football Manager 2012 is not on the App Store, so to answer your question: I did get a copy of Pinball HD and it is a great little game, it even has stereoscopic 3D mode if you have a spare pair of 3D (Red/Green) glasses.
Feral Interactive has been publishing on the Mac App Store since the beginning. What can you say about the growth and evolution of the Mac store since its inception nearly two years ago, and how do you think it is going to continue to evolve over the new few years?
As more people upgraded to Lion the number of customers using the Mac App Store grew as well. This means more potential customers who can see your applications in the store. This is a good thing for both sides: developers and customers.
As you can see, in Mountain Lion Apple have been adding in more App Store-exclusive features like iCloud syncing and Game Center. It’s hard to predict the future (See Bill Gates and his comments on RAM!), but I think the App Store will continue to evolve, adding more polish to the features that already exist while also looking for new features to add where the demand exists.
If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be and what would you be doing?
No question at all on this one: I would be a scientist working on the International Space Station. If I had to be “on Earth”, I would properly go with a Formula 1 race contract with Red Bull and a house in the Seychelles.
Where do you see Feral Interactive 5 years down the track?
It’s hard to tell because the industry changes so fast, but if we are the premier Mac game publisher I think we can be satisfied no matter the details.
If people want to learn more about Feral Interactive, where do they go?
http://www.feralinteractive.com is our main site but you can interact with us and other fans on our Twitter feed and Facebook page. Most of the staff are avid readers so we look forward to any comments you might all have.
Twitter - @feralgames
It was great for Edwin to give us an insight into the inner workings of Feral Interactive and we thank him for finding time in his busy schedule to talk to us. Edwin and the rest of the Feral team continue to work on bringing hit PC games to Mac, with their most recent projects being Empire: Total War (September 13th release), Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing (Summer release) and SEGA Superstars Tennis.