Matthew Annal (Nitrome) Interview

Categories: Interviews

I had the opportunity this weekend to chat with Matthew Annal from Nitrome. As you may know, they’re the team behind one of the latest Miniclip hits, Roly Poly.

FreeGamesNews: Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about Nitrome?

Mat: Nitrome are based in London in the UK. It was started in late 2004 by me Mat Annal and Heather Stancliffe after working together at a large web agency and finding we worked together well. We started out doing web projects for clients with the intention of finishing and releasing a mobile game (our web game Chick flick was originally intended to be a mobile game) that we had started developing and then moving more into that field of work. The intention with Nitrome was to stay from our web project background and focus on game development and whilst the Mobile game never got fully finished we in the process tried our hand at online games which were more than happy being involved in.

FreeGamesNews: How many people are working at Nitrome and how did the team come together?

Mat: Me and Heather have known each other for almost 10 years now but only thought of starting a games business after working together on some Flash projects. Mainly Nitrome is just Heather and I, but all of the music gets done by Lee Nicklen who we’ve worked with in the past before starting up Nitrome. Apart from that we’ve had a couple of other people involved at various stages but we find that the projects seem to move more smoothly if we keep the team smaller!

FreeGamesNews: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Mat: Both me and Heather have degrees in Graphic Design (despite the fact that Heather now does mainly programming!). On leaving university we both worked at various web design agencies in London before deciding that the only way we would get to make the type of games that we wanted would be to set up our own business.

FreeGamesNews: How much time did it take to develop your two first games, Hot Air and Sandman?

Mat: All of our games roughly take the same amount of time to make which is about a month. This seems to be a good length of time for a project as it allows us to explore new ideas fully without it taking too long and us losing interest in it.

FreeGamesNews: Could you please introduce your latest creation, Roly Poly?

Roly PolyMat: Roly Poly is a game where you have to guide a hedgehog through various trap laden mazes to the exit. Each maze is in a circle and you click and drag the maze to change the direction of gravity and make the hedgehog roll. The game came about after playing with one of those maze toys where you have to try and get the ball bearings on the right spots and thinking it would be cooler if it had moving parts.

FreeGamesNews: How much time did it take to develop Roly Poly and how many people were involved in the project?

Mat: It took around a month to make despite being probably the hardest game to develop so far and was developed by just three of us, one each for graphics, coding and music.

FreeGamesNews: You claim to develop original games that don’t sit in traditional genres: where do you get your inspiration from?

Mat: We don’t see the point in making games for the web that have already been done better elsewhere because web users don’t consider how long a game took to make or if they paid for it before making a judgment on a game, they just think it’s better or worse than what they have played before. The speedy development times of developing in flash mean that you can try out new ideas quickly. We see this as a key advantage to this sort of games development so focus our games on this principle.

The inspiration for the actual games can come from anywhere. Often it might be from seeing an element in a game that we feel could be expanded to make a full game in its own right. Hot Air for example was something that came to me on replaying Lemmings2 and blowing the lemmings around with the fan. Other times it can be form seeing something completely non game related and just wondering how the mechanic could be applied to a game.

FreeGamesNews: Can you explain how a typical game is designed at Nitrome, from the beginning to the end?

Mat: We have a book that we put all our ideas for games in as we have them. On starting a project we collectively decide on the best one and brainstorm all the possible level elements that could work with it. We decide on the best and most practical ones to do in the time and get to work. We usually have one person working on the coding and one on the artwork and we have a guy we work closely with to produce the music. The game usually gets built with only minimal graphics implemented at first so we can test the levels and make alterations quickly. The graphics, music and sound fx get developed at the same time but mostly don’t get added till towards the end of the project. The game gets a quick bit of testing by close friends and a few volunteers before getting the last finishing touches and changes and finally getting given out and put live.

FreeGamesNews: What software / tools do you use to create your games?

Mat: The games are made using Flash 8 Professional. Some of them use the Flash 7 Player and some use the Flash 8 Player depending on what we are trying to make.

FreeGamesNews: 4 games released within the last 6 months! Do you expect to keep the same pace in the future?

Mat: Actually there was supposed to be one a month but we also do some work for clients and this takes up some of our time. We should have a new game out every month from now on!

FreeGamesNews: Can you tell us about your future game related projects? I read somewhere that you plan to release your first download game?

Mat: I can’t discuss anything specific about our future games but there’s another one that is pretty much finished that should be going live sometime in the next month. As far as a download goes we have lots of things planned and it is something we have started experimenting with but I wouldn’t expect anything to happen in the immediate future. Apart from new games which are ongoing, we also plan to fully relaunch our website (which has been sadly neglected up until now!).

FreeGamesNews: Is there anything you would like to add in closing?

Mat: Stay tuned! We have a lot of exciting stuff planned for the year ahead…

FreeGamesNews: Thank you very much Mat for your time. We’re looking forward to seeing your next creation!

In the meantime, the following games are just waiting for you!

Roly Polyif Roly Poly Sandman Sandman Hot Air Hot Air

More Nitrome’s games reviews:


6 Comments to Matthew Annal (Nitrome) Interview

  1. JP says:

    What an interesting interview. Thanks to Matt for sharing his tips with us and thanks to you Eric for supporting indie game developers and allowing them to show they work and their idea on this space. Roly Poly is an excellent game and so much innovative, great work.

  2. nina says:

    I love the Nitrome games there so cool. But I wish I could help you all make them but I’m only a 10 year old.

    What could I do?

  3. Amie says:

    Well done Nitrome!
    HAHA I have been watching the website ever since Hot Air and Sandman and look where you guys are now!
    Hitting the scene of ‘acutal websites’ (ones that are first prioritories for games) and creating more games than ever before!
    YAY don’t ever stop :) !!!
    NITROME 4 EVA !!!!!!!!!!

  4. jin says:

    Yay, go nitrome! Everything is sooooooo cute and addicting.NITROME = BEST GAME WEBSITE EVER !!!!!!!!!

  5. johny says:

    what design software did nitrome use?

  6. SAM says:

    NITROME IS THE BEST SITE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!