Pygmy panic for 21-year-old game makers on way to BAFTAs

1 July 2013

A team of 5 students have made it into the finals of the world renowned game designing competition Dare To Be Digital.

Dare to be digital is a worldwide competition which takes place once a year as 15 teams of students from around the globe compete to create a game or prototype of a game in 9 weeks. 3 winners will then be nominated for the ‘Ones to watch’ BAFTA.

The competition has been taking place for over 13 years and is held at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland.

Industry professionals are sponsoring and aiding the competition such as Sony, Ubisoft, Codemaster, and Channel 4.


Paris Stalker, Alvaro Fernandez, Max Pears, Bryn Felton-Pitt, Mark Price
Paris Stalker, Alvaro Fernandez, Max Pears, Bryn Felton-Pitt, Mark Price


Max Pears from Harrogate is leading a team of 5 called Ocelot Entertainment. Max plays a big role in the team as he creates the levels and feel of the game trying to implement the element of fun for the players. He decides what is happening as well as when it is happening. He also manages the team to make sure deadlines are met.

Mark Price is the animator, who brings life to our characters giving them emotion, reaction, and sympathy. With his animations players will connect with the characters, feel a reason to love or fear certain characters.

Bryn Felton-Pitt is the environment artist, it is his art work that takes the player to another world and makes players look in awe with the beautiful environment he provides. His environments also tell stories of what has happened to the magical worlds.

Paris Stalker creates the HUD + Sounds, his role is a challenging one as he adds some of the finer touches to the game. Creating the HUD so players can play the game comfortably as well as feeling in control. He adds the sounds which players love to hear.

Alvaro Fernandez is a key pillar to the game as he is the programmer, he makes most the game happen by taking the ideas from paper and putting them into the game. He takes the initial design and turns them into something so much more.

We spoke to Max Pears and put a few questions to him.

What is your game?

Our game is Pygmy Panic which an augmented reality tower defence/horde game.

Augmented Reality is exciting new technology which has barley been tapped into in the mobile market. We chose this as we didn’t want to play it safe we wanted to push the boundaries of mobile games. We plan to do this by bringing the gaming world to the player not the other way round. Augmented Reality is the process of projecting the gaming world onto a video image of the real world. It does this by using camera tracking, markers, and the gyroscope.

PosterThe player takes on the role of a powerful deity in whom the Pygmy village worship. Yet a much stronger brutish race invades the pygmy village planning to capture them and enslave them. One brave pygmy shaman tell others to hide as he casts a magical spell which protects their houses and stops the brutes from entering. The brutes will now attack the pygmy shaman to break his spell.

It is up to the player to protect him with their almighty godly powers. The player has a range of attacks by firing boulders, a radius attack of pebbles and a tactical shot of goo which will slow enemies down.

The game will be released for iOS at first and could possibly be released on to Android later. Our reason for choosing the mobile market was because more and more people have tablets or mobile phones, there are ‘5 billion phones out there in the world in which 1.08 billion are smartphones.

Another reason for choosing iOS is because our target audience for this game is children ages 5 – 12, with the “increase of more and more children using iPads or iphones than their imagination” Edge Magazine issue #250, it gives us a great opportunity of using AR to bring their imaginary friend to life!


What is it like getting into the finals of dare and the possibility of being nominated for a BAFTA?

The whole team feels extremely proud and privileged to have this opportunity and to be considered as one of up and coming game makers is an honour. To compete with some of the best students from around the world makes us want to be better, which provides us with a great learning opportunity. We are the first team from Teesside University which just makes it an ever better experience.

We are all extremely passionate about what we do so being able to work on our own game and getting paid for it is just living the dream.


What makes your game stand out from other iOS games?

Pygmy Panic stands out as augmented reality is key to our design; we also feel we are pushing augmented reality on mobile platforms. Players will create a connection with the pygmy which will make them want to look after him.

How the player will interact with the game is something really interesting as players will have to move their Tablet around the world to get the best shot, one person who played our tech demo said “It was like magic” which was brilliant to hear and we want to give all our players that feeling of aw.


How did you get into game design?

When I was a kid my dad bought a Sony Playstation and I would play on it with him, my brother and other friends + family members and it was amazing. Ever since then I was absolutely fascinated by games and how it felt like you were in a story. The amount immersion you could get as a player was absolutely gob smacking. I wanted to create that feeling for others and take the player to another world and let them live story how they wanted to. Also watching people have fun playing games, and making people smile is awesome.

So I would draw levels and characters which I wanted to see in games, then when I was a teenager I then learnt some basic programming and flash animation to create small flash games. I was fortunate that my secondary + 6form Rossett High school had teachers who supported me and helped where they could.

I then set off to Teesside University where I currently study game design and now I make games quite a crazy road but one I am happy that I am taking.


Have you released any games yourself?

Yes I am fortunate to of released 6 games so far which are available on both iOS and Android, I have also worked on a game which is released for the new android console the OUYA. In total over 250,000 people have played my games which is amazing, as I have reached/communicated with that many people which is just WOW.

I was given the opportunity to make games on my sandwich year for a company called FOG Media who do online games and mobile games. I was tasked with mobile games and worked with some talented people who taught me so much. They are already have impacted the industry or are going to, they taught me a lot.

We intend to release Pygmy Panic in late July early August for iOS so that will be my … seventh game which is great and to have all these opportunities for platforms of the mobile market is great as it gives a small team like us a chance to make games we want to make.


What would you say to anyone who is interested in getting into games?

I would say make sure you know what you’re getting into as you don’t just sit there and play games. It is a lot of hard work; make sure you are really passionate about games as well. Chose which part of the industry you want to get in as well, programming, art, or design then start learning as much as you can.

There are some great youtube channels out there who can teach you so much, so just go out and learn. Play your favourite game then make a list of what you liked, what you didn’t liked then expand on why you didn’t and how you could improve it. That is a really good exercise.

Always make sure you are doing work in your own time as employers don’t want to see work you have done just in university or school show them your passion by creating work in your own time as it will only help your portfolio.


Do you still play games?

Yes, I will always try and find time to play a quick game here and there, whether it be on phone, tablet or console there are so many great games it is always cool to see what others are doing so it can inspire me.

I think if your making games then you should also be playing games as you can learn so much from other designer. Plus it is also fun beating your mates online.


What is next for Max Pears?

I go back to Teesside for my final year so the plan is to finish with a 1st class degree so I will be working extra hard to make sure I get that degree. I have a couple more projects in the works as well so after Dare I want to pick them back up and get them finished as well.

Once I finish, that is an interesting one as I would either like to go work for a triple A company on games for the new consoles of the PS4 or the Xbox one. Yet another part of me would like to go independent, work on some more of my own projects and share them with the world. I really just want to make great games and make an impact on this incredible industry, have one of my games effect someone’s life and inspire them like so many great designers inspired me to be here today. Games make more money, and is more popular than any other entertainment medium so I am going to help this industry get to the next stage and push to make people realise that games are no longer for teenage boys but they tell brilliant stories, show magical worlds, and make people smile.

No matter what I choose I am going to help push this industry to new heights, as I am extremely blessed to be living out my dream at such a young age so I only want to get better, help others get better and continue to make great games which people love.

I know it is going to be tough with the industry constantly changing, new technology, new designers, etc. But this is something I love doing I already work very hard which is why I am in the position I am in and as long as I still have my passion, love for the industry it will ve okay.

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