Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me
Ella Romanos and the mobile Rocky Horror Picture Show
When Ella Romanos and Oscar Clarke formed Rocket Lolly Games, they had one plan in mind: to bring an "iconic IP" to life as a "creative and emotionally relevant game." The IP: The Rocky Horror Show - coming to mobile as a rhythm action social hybrid for Frankenfans worldwide.
But can Romanos persuade a musical-hating cynic like me that I should take a jump to the left?
So here's an opening question. I hate all musicals. I've never seen The Rocky Horror Show. Give me the pitch.
Haha, oh my God. So, Rocky Horror Show is probably one of the most crazy but uplifting experiences, because it's just about people just being themselves. It's one of the few things that is still relevant now as it was in the '70s. The idea of being able to dress as you want and be free. I mean, obviously there's a sort of sexual freedom kind of element to it, but it's really about just being accepting of everybody, and I love it because you go and everybody is just themselves, everyone is just happy. And how many things are still relevant now that were relevant in the 70s? I mean, it's still an issue.
I was going to say, that's not necessarily a positive thing, is it, the fact that it's still relevant?
Well, no, exactly. But it crosses generations. My parents went to see it last week with their friends, and they're nearly 70. They remember it from when they were younger. I've got friends who have kids that are in their teens, and they know it. It's generally just this openness: 'Enjoy life.' I'm not a huge fan of musicals in general, but the music is not typical for a musical. It's just one of the most fun experiences you can have, and that's what we're really trying to get across into the game.
So you're sticking with the, maybe political is the wrong word but, thematic stuff? It's not just going to be: 'These are great songs. Let's do a rhythm game.'
No, absolutely not. So, it's set as a stage show. It's a rhythm action game with a twist. So it's kind of a unique take on a rhythm action game. And it's all about that social, fun experience, and that feeling you get, playing with your friends, trying to share stuff - all the kind of stuff that you get in a social game now but doing it in a new way that really, hopefully, creates an even more engaging social experience that is just about having fun.
I presume you have the license owners on board?
We've licensed it directly from Richard O'Brien and Andy Leighton, so they still own the stage show. So Andy, who's the original music producer, has been working on it since day one, he basically runs things now in the UK effectively, so we're working very closely with him. We're also working with the guys that run the US fan club and the UK fan clubs. I mean, these are huge: 180,000 Facebook followers. We're working directly with them, so they've been involved in feeding back from day one as well. We've got a really good support network of people.
Are they having creative input in terms of editing writing or other production?
Yeah. So, so far, basically the first thing we did, we had all the concept art: getting the feel of the characters was really really important. So we've been getting loads of feedback on the original concepts of the characters, then obviously the 3D renders. Some of them have started to see the first build, which we've only just had ready this week for GDC, so that's gonna be the next thing.
Are they going to be helping with marketing at the show itself? Is it still running in the West End?
It's touring the UK at the moment, from December until August, but it's basically always on somewhere in the world, and there's loads of am dram as well. Both of the fan clubs, the UK and US ones, have been pushing it out through all their channels already. Actually the UK fan club has made a section of their website for the game already.
That must be an awesome boost for exposure.
Yeah, it's been huge. Stage magazine picked up on it, and then Gay Times did. They tweeted out and did an article and an interview with Oscar (Clarke) and stuff, and that's just been, obviously, a huge thing as well. So it's early days but we're pretty excited. People seem really excited.
So will you be marketing it exclusively out to people who are already fans, or are you looking to convert grumpy old chumps like me?
Obviously the key thing is to bring in the people that already love Rocky, but we hope it'll appeal to a broader audience as well longer term, but obviously our main thing is to make sure that it's something that the fans get. But if we can get other people who discover Rocky through the game and then want to go and experience it in real life, that would be amazing.
How does it stand in terms of the cultural tax breaks? Richard O'Brien is English, right?
I think he's originally from New Zealand, and obviously the thing itself is set in the States, but the cultural test is a lot about the team as well as the content, so we quite easily meet the criteria, and it is kind of a British institution to a certain extent. So yeah, obviously we've already been accredited, and all that's going through already.
What schedule are you working to? Is it out this year?
Probably early next year. We're putting, kind of, 'by March' and we will go into a soft launch, though, I think, probably this year.
What made you go for free to play? Obviously that's a dumb question for mobile in general, but this seems the kind of thing where you could easily say, 'We've got a really eager engaged fan base. They'll give us £5 for it.'
We could have done. Yeah, absolutely. I think for us it's two reasons, really. One is about making it as accessible as possible to everybody. The other is that we can continue supporting it long term., the type of game it is we believe there's a longevity in it, and this way we can actually continue to support the community and the game itself as long as people want it. So for us it's really just about being able to really engage with people and keep building on it and making it better.