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Industrious Boys: Alex Seropian and Tim Harris are back

Not content with one company and franchise the Industrial Toys team is launching Gunslinger Studios

Tim Harris and Alex Seropian must be gluttons for punishment. As the founders of Industrial Toys, they've launched a successful new IP for core gamers on mobile - Midnight Star - and now they're planning to do it all over again with Gunslinger Studios and new title Exiles Of Embermark.

"Funding," says Harris, from beneath a luxuriant beard, when I ask why they've started a whole new company to house the new game.

"We're still going down the exact the same path but the strategy is manifesting itself in two very different apps"

"We're venture backed by Accel on the Industrial Toys side which means we've got very specific funding and budgets towards that and we realized that we had something here that was separate. Actually, and it wasn't too hard, we got this funded separately and that gave us a new studio. So strategically we're still going down the exact the same path but the strategy is manifesting itself in two very different apps."

After joking about the potential for reversible business cards we talk Midnight Star and just what they've learned with the first installment of the franchise as they prepare to release the follow-up, Midnight Star: Renegade.

"In the first game we made these big bespoke levels that took a long time to play," says Seropian as he demonstrates the Renegade beta.

"Now we have levels that are more snackable. The play loop is about a minute, maybe two minutes."

That's significantly shorter than in the original Midnight Star, where levels lasted five to seven minutes. Everything has been upgraded to be more immediate, slicker, so players get to the good stuff and get to it fast.

"Some people will sit down and play for an hour but most people it's in their pocket and you take it out and you look at it and you don't even know what you're going to do, check your email, Slack, play a game. If it takes 30 seconds for an app to load up then you're not even going to hit that icon. "

Those same insights have been applied to the new fantasy combat RPG Exiles Of Embermark. Seropian and Harris swap seats so I can take a glance at the new Gunslinger Studios title.

"I have a big problem and obsession with PvP games," confesses Harris. He wanted to find a way to get that thrill in a mobile timeframe, in one minute or less.

"It was that really fast PvP feel coupled with that richness of world that created Exiles Of Embermark and thus Gunslinger."

The two games are very different, but you can see the same commitment to a friction-free experience in built into both.

"We're cross pollinating on these things. You can see on the loot side some real big similarities, certainly on the user session side," explains Harris.

In a world of AAA developers heading to the wildlands of mobile, it's nice to see Industrial Toys prospering where so many have failed.

"It's hard. I think for me probably the biggest realization last year, and it sounds so simple, is that it's a phone. Every day I walk four blocks down the street and I go and get a cup of coffee. I probably take my phone out of my pocket ten, maybe 15 times in that 15-minute walk. I realized I was never playing our game. And it sort of broke my heart," says Seropian.

"The UI on this, that's why we're doing it the way we're doing it," interjects Harris, waving Exiles Of Embermark through the air.

"We wanted this to be like texting for gaming. Boom, you're playing and then you're done"

"It's a little bit like the way texting changed communication. You don't send pleasantries when you're texting someone you know. I just go 'here's the only information I need you to know, meet me at the corner.' Or 'I hate you.' Or whatever it is. Straight to the point. We wanted this to be like texting for gaming. Boom, you're playing and then you're done. We're trying to get after the gamer..."

Harris pauses for a moment, laughs, and looks at Seropian.

"I'm saying this and I know it's funny because we said this the first time. But we needed to do that to come up with this."

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Rachel Weber avatar
Rachel Weber: Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.
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