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Interview: TorontoGameDevs.com

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These days, breaking into the gaming industry can be quite a challenge.  With more indie game studios and developers taking their shot daily, sometimes getting that proverbial foot in the door is an exhaustive uphill climb.  Enter Stephen Crane, Owner of TorontoGameDevs.com. Early in 2015, Crane launched TorontoGameDevs.com, a site that features Toronto-based developers and helps shine a light on the talent in Crane’s resident city.  Born in Toronto himself, he has dedicated his time to help making that uphill climb a bit easier for Toronto’s home-grown talent. We had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Crane about TorontoGameDevs.com and some of the work he’s done.

Tell us about TorontoGameDevs.com
TorontoGameDevs.com is a website dedicated to the video games created in Toronto, and the people who create them. It’s also unofficially expanded into surrounding areas such as London, Hamilton, etc.  It’s essentially a news/previews/reviews site that focuses on locally created games. Plus we have a podcast! And I try to stay up to date on game developer job listings and other things like that.
What prompted you to start it up?
I don’t remember how I found out, but I eventually learned that DrinkBox Studios was located in Toronto. I loved Guacamelee, and think it’s one of the best games in the last few years. I was talking to a friend on the subway and just saying “you know, I wonder how many developers are from here in Toronto”. I already kind of knew about Ubisoft Toronto, but none of the others. As I looked into in a bit I started a Twitter account to start the conversation. I quickly realized that a blog would be a lot of fun to do, so I started a Tumblr. A lot of people were enjoying it, and it was progressing nicely, plus I was really enjoying it, so TorontoGameDevs.com started late March 2015.
What is the most rewarding thing about running a site like Toronto Game Devs?
Lots of things! It’s great to see games from way early in the days like Runbow, and see them release. Games that I wouldn’t have known about until at or near their actual release. Meeting a lot of dedicated students working on cool games like Oddbird Studios, and Bonfire Games. But the dream come true was getting the chance to go to E3 this past year. It’s like the central hub for game enthusiasts, and only open to media! So working on the site gave me the ability to do that.
What was the most surprisingly good game that you’ve reviewed?
Though I didn’t specifically review it, it was a game by Neptune Interactive called The Castle Game.  It is real time strategy game on PS4 and I sang its praises on the podcast and the website. I’m usually not big on RTS’s and this one isn’t particularly deep (which is one of the pros for me because it is really easy to get into), but it has a lot of charm and character to it. It’s a game I doubt I would have picked up if I wasn’t running the site and it was awesome to interview the developer about the game as well!
Does The Castle Game also take the title of the best game you’ve ever reviewed?
Like ever ever? Or ever for the site? I mean the best game ever for me is Ocarina of Time, but Last of Us has been nipping at its heels since I played it a few years ago.  Toronto-wise, it’s hard to pin it to one game. I really enjoyed the Castle Game as I mentioned, but got really in Alto’s Adventure from Snowman, as well as Runbow from 13AM Games. It’s tough to name a “best” one, but I’d kind of have to go back to the game that started it all.  Guacamelee is such a crazy good metroidvania and it’s always fun to go back to it from time to time. It was a solid platinum on Vita as well.
Are there any up-and-coming games or development companies in Toronto that we should keep our eye on?
Cuphead from Studio MDHR! This game is a 2d-platformer shooter, similar to Contra and Gunstar Heroes. The art is just drop dead gorgeous and when I got to play it at E3 I found out that it’s hard as hell too. Hopefully we’ll see it soon, but that’s my most anticipated game. Below from Capybara Games is another one.  Whatever DrinkBox Studios is working on next. Ubisoft Toronto is helping with Watch Dogs 2 which looks cool and Quench from Axon Interactive.  Those are my most anticipated right now.
What’s next for TorontoGameDevs.com?
To be honest: I’m not sure! I’m always kind of winging it. I started doing Youtube stuff, and opened up a small shop to help with some of the costs. The site has always had a “go with the flow” vibe to it, whatever I wanted to work on I just started doing. I’m always open to suggestions and collaborations though – but for now readers can enjoy more of the same!
Don’t forget to visit TorontoGameDevs.com to stay tuned on what’s come and what’s coming in the Toronto game development scene!
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