Wales’ Magnificent 7: Quantum Soup

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At the back of your mind, there’s something there. You’re not quite sure what it is but it’s almost like anticipation for something. It feels like something big and you feel a level of excitement that you’ve not felt in a while.

It has to be Christmas. Wait, no, it’s not Christmas – so what the hell is it then?

You start to scroll through Twitter on your phone, and there it is! Obilisk has introduced the next part of Wales’ Magnificent 7!

That’s right: here at Obilisk, we’re celebrating 7 of the top game studios that Wales has to offer. They’re studios that caught our eye and studios that are showing that Wales has an extremely bright gaming future.

So without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to the second of our Magnificent 7: Quantum Soup!

Hailing from North Wales, Quantum Soup catch you off guard from the off.

“Because when you think about it, making video games is a lot like the spontaneous manifestation of the universe out of a hypothetical indeterminate state.”

It has the same impact as Bilbo’s speech in The Fellowship of the Ring. You’re not quite sure what to make of it, but rather than clicking away, you want to discover more about the studio, their philosophy and what they have to offer.

The first thing that strikes me is the amount of experience behind the studio. Boasting ex-members of the developer Traveller’s Tales, these guys clearly know what they’re doing. Through the Lego games, Traveller’s Tales has seen real success and this is something that Chris Payne (Managing Director) wants to replicate at Quantum Soup.

What are the main differences from working at Traveller’s Tales to running your own studio?

“At TT I was surrounded by hundreds of very experienced developers and artists, and I didn’t really appreciate that. Not until our small QS team had to tackle problems that we knew were solvable, but hadn’t attempted before. In fact, a lot of my work now is a new experience for me, so it feels a bit like starting from the bottom again even though I’m supposedly in charge!”

Talking about new experiences, tell us about your new game Talesinger: Voice of the Dragon. What games inspired the style of game that it’s is turning into?

“Life is Strange was quite inspiring for its commitment to having nothing but story choices – the rewind mechanic is used so cleverly to explore story options. Obviously Bioware’s work is a huge influence, and CD Projekt Red. I guess the common thread is games that borrow from cinema to get you invested in the characters. I love Skyrim too, but no-one cares about a blank slate character the same way they care about Max or Geralt or Shepard.”

We’ve also heard that a certain game has acted almost as a kind of anti-inspiration…

“I absolutely love the lore of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but I can’t play them – just haven’t got the time to get good. Even more forgiving games like Skyrim or The Witcher require a massive time commitment. There’s a large sector of the market who grew up with games but only get a few hours a week to play because work and family take priority. So I’ve really been enjoying shorter games lately, and especially narrative exploration games which I can often finish in an evening.

Talesinger is designed for that market – shorter than most RPGs, with no grinding, but lots of juicy story choices and a crafting system that rewards exploration.”

It sounds like you know exactly what Talesinger is going to be. Does that mean you have a wider vision for the game?

“Talesinger: Voice of the Dragon is a complete story focused on young bard Gwen, coming of age just as the Romans are advancing into Wales. But thematically it’s about how stories shape the world. So although we love the Celts, we’d like to explore the same theme through the lens of different cultures and historical periods in future Talesinger games — rather like the way Final Fantasy reinvents itself. There are so many fascinating cultures that are ignored in favour of returning to the same sources Tolkien used for his fantasy. It would be great to see more RPGs set in Africa, India, or South America, portraying those cultures authentically…and it would be exciting to collaborate with developers from those cultures.”

So by that token, do you think Celtic mythology is overused in games?

“Celtic art is frequently co-opted for dwarves or elves to give a completely fictional culture some gravitas. So I wanted to try to create a sense of what the dark-age Wales was really like – living close to nature in such an unforgiving landscape. It’s really hard though – they’re called the dark ages for a reason. All we’ve got to go on is earthworks, post holes and a handful of somewhat biased Roman writers. So we’re forced to use a little artistic license – which is fine because we also wanted to represent the superstitions and beliefs of the time. So there are a few supernatural elements woven in there too.”

It’s really nice to see Wales being so well represented in your work. Do you see the Welsh games industry growing even more?

“It’s growing steadily, and I can’t see that stopping. I think small funding pots aimed at getting new studios off the ground would help – for every ten start-ups, two or three will survive and one will do really well. Welsh higher education is really delivering – Glyndwr University near us have begun embedding business students into their student games teams, and run an incubator space for graduate companies to work out of. USW just fielded one of the winning Transfuzer teams. Wales is already punching above its weight considering how the mountains squeeze the population out to the coast. Fortunately the games industry is ideal for remote working, which is how we were able to find such a good team. If we could just get Elon Musk to come over and drill a high-speed tunnel between Colwyn and Cardiff though…”

With all of that in mind, how do you expand awareness of your brand considering the dominance of larger studios?

“Ask me again in another year! What I’m aiming to do is have a very clear studio focus — including strong narrative as a core pillar in everything we do — focus on reaching a core audience who like that sort of game, and grow from there.

We’re also in discussions about adapting popular franchises to games, because I have plenty of experience working with amazing IPs it does come with an established audience, which is particularly valuable to us as a small studio.”

Quantum Soup is made up of Chris Payne (Managing Director), Ralph Ferneyhough (Executive Director), Chris Gunn (Audio Designer), Gareth Cavanagh (Art Director), Angharad Green (Character Artist), Anthony O’Sullivan (3D Artist) and Aurin Hitchens (Technical Artist).

You can check them out at http://www.quantum-soup.co.uk/.

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Owain
Contributor
I'm a proud Welshman that gets as much time on my PS4 as my fiancé allows me.

I'm also a massive foodie, big sports fan and currently preparing for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. To read my ramblings, feel free to follow me on Twitter.

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