The latest season of Doctor Who is upon us, and with Peter Capaldi’s portrayal of the twelfth Doctor about to descend upon legions of fans new and old, new content was absolutely necessary for the Tiny Rebel Games (and Seed Studio)-curated Doctor Who: Legacy puzzler, which is launching its newest expansion alongside the premiere of the eighth series to over 75 million fans worldwide. No pressure, though, right?
The indie husband and wife team at Tiny Rebel Games, headed up by 15-year game industry veterans Susan and Lee Cummings, were fresh out of a decade of making games together, ranging from games like Grand Theft Auto and Borderlands to quirktastic Order Up! and Puzzle Kingdoms, and Doctor Who: Legacy was borne as a result of the team’s never-ending desire to push themselves.
“We’re only happy if we’re challenging ourselves, so we decided to do something we had never done before – a mobile game, and (as if that wasn’t going to be enough work) we decided that we would also self-publish it,” explained Lee during our interview. Because they were already taking an exceptional amount of risks, they decided to stick to a familiar universe that they already knew intimately — something that mattered to them and the company they would work with as more than just a paycheck — as a piece of art.
With the BBC at the top of the list, Susan made contact and the prospect of creating a title based around Doctor Who, a massive property, became a reality.
“We were absolutely stunned. Susan and I sat down and discussed what we would want to do with Doctor Who. The first thing we knew we wanted to do was something unlike every other Doctor Who game – with 50 years of canon, 75 million fans of the show around the world, we didn’t want to make another game where a single Doctor and a couple of his companions go off on a show-like point and click adventure.”
“That afternoon I came up with the concept, pitched it to Susan, and later that week we had a meeting with representatives of the BBC where, over 2 hours and a lot of pizza, I sketched out the whole design on a series of white boards (the design is about 95% the same as you can play today) and everyone loved the idea. Weeks later the game was in production.”
With that, Doctor Who: Legacy was born, a labor of love that Susan and Lee wanted to impart everything fans love about Doctor Who, every single thing fans call “theirs” about the series, and the various facets that make them smile.The decision to appeal mainly to Whovians was the duo’s idea from the very beginning, with nods to the already-established storyline and treats for longtime fans of the series sprinkled within.
“We actually went out of our way to focus on things like story, specifically for fans, when there was a danger that we could alienate non-Whovians. For example, we were told (repeatedly) by some that our tutorial was too long, too slow, too full of story and we would lose casual players. Our response to this was that, in this case, we weren’t going to change a thing – if a new user is so repulsed by a few screens of Doctor Who story, featuring the 11th Doctor, Vastra, Jenny, and a bunch of Sontarans attacking Cardiff, then they’re going to hate the rest of the game.”
Doctor Who: Legacy is rife with moments like these that go a long way to ensure players, despite their level of knowledge within the Doctor Who universe, are comfortable. That’s part of what makes it such a powerful and interesting puzzler, and why it’s found the success that it has and has introduced countless new fans to Doctor Who.
“We get emails constantly from a) parents of young children who play the game together and email to thank us for making something so accessible to all types of gamers, b) very old users (60, 70 years old) who say they have never played a game before until Legacy. And rather excitingly for both us and the BBC, we get emails from people who say they never watched the show until they discovered the game and now they are working their way through the series on Netflix!”
But with developing a large user base such as Legacy’s comes the challenge of ensuring a consistent stream of updated content is delivered on a regular basis, and that’s exactly what’s happening with the advent of the twelfth Doctor and the upcoming first episode of Series 8, “Deep Breath.”
“Players of all experience levels will be able to access Season 8 levels in the specials tab, where they can play it on easy/medium/hard mode or expert mode. The drop will be guaranteed on first successful completion. We’re not saying yet who that drop might be. And on Sunday, we’ll be doing a special live Twitch broadcast at www.twitch.tv/theadiposetv where we’ll be giving out the first Season 8 costume, which is for Jenny from the Paternoster Gang.”
Recently, the duo launched version 2.3 of the game, entitled The Hunt For Greyhound One, featuring Young Sarah Jane, Ace, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, throwbacks to a different era in Doctor Who history, as well as modern characters like Rose Tyler and Wilfred Mott. With such a heavy focus on narrative, Tiny Rebel was a bit nervous as to how their ever-expanding fanbase might receive it, but all that dissipated once early impressions came in and fans were delighted with the additional content — and there’s more to come from here.
In fact, the team is working on a way to ensure new content that coincides with the latest episodes of Doctor Who arrives only a day after fans turn off their TV and reel in what they’ve just viewed, an unprecedented content delivery method that we suspect will win over fans and other creators alike.
“Our long term goal is for updates to be weekly and story driven – in the same way that someone sits down once a week to catch the latest episode of (whatever) on their TV, we think there is a space in gaming for the same thing to apply,” Lee explained. “Allowing for time zone differences, the new levels will be out within 24 hours of airing, which (as far as we know) is pretty unprecedented.”
The sky’s the limit, of course, and with the success Tiny Rebel Games has found thus far, there’s nowhere to go but up from here. But what about future plans for Series 8?”
“We can’t go too far into detail of our Season 8 plans, especially prior to the official launch of the new season. Spoilers, sweetie!”