Video game developer Ross Tunney is the creative director and head developer at New Reality Games, the studio responsible for the Data Hacker series, which began as a hobby project for Tunney and has since blossomed into a series played by gamers all over the world. The series explores the idea of the existence of countless virtual realms existing beyond our current understanding or reach, blurring the lines of reality. The third game in the series, Data Hacker: Reboot, is a classically-styled RPG that is currently under development, and New Reality Games is seeking investors via Kickstarter. Featuring a unique story, precise pixel movement, challenging puzzles, engaging combat and beautiful environments, the game builds upon the world unveiled in the two previous games in the series, Data Hacker: Initiation and Data Hacker: Corruption.
Born and raised in Staffordshire, UK, Tunney now resides in Cornwall with his wife and three children. Readers can learn more about him and New Reality Games at www.newrealitygames.co.uk.
I’ve always wanted to make games, ever since I was little. I started out by over-analysing my favourite games and designing something that I felt would play better, but it wasn’t until many years later when I got into playing RPGs that I started developing. Final Fantasy was the series that really inspired me; entry 9 being the biggest inspiration.
What inspired the story of the Data Hacker series?
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of parallel worlds, and when franchises like Digimon, and the dot hack games introduced the idea of virtual worlds, I thought to myself, “What if there are already virtual worlds?”
Like, what if they’re already out there, out of our reach? What if we could break that barrier? How would one go about creating a gateway to a virtual world? I just start out with questions, and characters kind of drop in on their own.
How did New Reality Games come about? How did you go from presumably creating games on your own in your spare time, to creating games with a team of artists and musicians?
That’s pretty much how it goes. I started out working on hobby projects, which caught the attention of my (now resident) composer. Everyone else has jumped aboard since we released the first Data Hacker game, Initiation. All of our team members were basically looking for a way to break into the industry. They’re all really talented! Their work really helps to augment my own.
How have you evolved creatively over the years? Perhaps along those same lines, how has the Data Hacker series improved with each subsequent game?
I’d like to think that my writing has improved dramatically over the years! The flow of dialogue, timing and general plot are all really important parts of an RPG, and I strive to improve with every sentence written.
What sort of feedback did you receive from people who played the the first two Data Hacker games, and how have you applied that feedback to Reboot?
Above all else; that if a game looks like it’s built in the RPG Maker engine, there will always be those who try to put you down, no matter how much work you put into a project… so with Reboot, we’re literally trying to do just that; Reboot the Data Hacker saga with a title with much better graphics and gameplay.
How long has Data Hacker: Reboot been in development, and when do you expect to release the finished game?
Reboot has been in development for around 3 months now, and I’ve decided to break it down into “acts.” The theory is that fans will prefer “bitesize” chunks of game every, say, six to nine months rather than waiting two or three years for it. It’s the most ambitious project we’ve ever worked on, and it would be a shame to rush it.
What’s the last great video game you played?
I don’t really have the money to pick up new games, and am very rarely interested in new titles at all, really. But to answer the question, I’ve been playing Caesar III quite a lot as of late! It’s one of the few city builders/strategy games that really hits the nail on the head. It’s always fun, and always challenging. As for RPGs, I started playing Kingdom Hearts HD — and I absolutely LOVE that series.
What E3 announcements were you most excited by?
As I mentioned before, I’m not really interested in new titles… with the rare exception. I was heartily disappointed in the lack of news about FFXV and Kingdom Hearts 3! Considering how awful FFXIII was, I must admit to be looking forward to the fifteenth entry. That being said, I haven’t got the money to buy the latest generation of consoles anyway!
In your opinion, where did Final Fantasy XIII go wrong?
Where to start? Too much emphasis on visuals, not enough on gameplay (boring) or characters (typical). The plot was okay, but the timing was way out; too much time running down linear corridors. All-in-all, just a bad game in my opinion.
What’s your dream job?
I’m already on my way there! Making games and getting paid for it has always been my dream job. It’s now finally getting to a point where the business is turning profit, which indicates that the company is on its way to success. In fact, I’m also moving into publishing other indie titles. Oh, and I’m also starting a class for home-ed kids — teaching them the fundamentals of game design and development. It’s all exciting stuff!