Hyper Luminal Games: Cancer loss inspires co-owner of £2m Dundee studio to create game in memory of dad
The games development company is growing fast, with around 50 employees and several vacancies available for Dundonians keen to work in one of the city’s thriving industries.
Behind this business success are human stories of chance and poignancy involving two local men whose friendship, formed at Abertay University, is the cornerstone from which Hyper Luminal Games has bloomed.
At Abertay, Stuart Martin met Ballumbie resident Rob Madden and the company began developing games for clients.
Now in a financial position to make their own games, Rob is creating Pine Hearts in memory of his father Roy, who passed away from cancer in 2019.
“He was a big loss and I am still figuring it out – me and my mum both – because I am an only child.”
“Pine Hearts is about a character who has lost their father and they are trying to overcome that loss and figure out what that loss means and how they grow from that and go on to accept it,” says Rob, 30.
“Dad was my biggest supporter so I was incredibly close to him and he was a really really good guy.
“He was a big loss and I am still figuring it out – me and my mum both – because I am an only child.
“I always try to make positives from things so how can I use that to build something positive.
“The game isn’t about dwelling on it. It’s a really positive, colourful game, super bright and fun.”
Stuart came up with the name Hyper Luminal Games – second choice behind already-taken Super Luminal – and registered the business in early 2014, towards the end of his masters degree.
In 2017 the pair took the big step of leasing a 3,000 sq. ft warehouse in Brown Street, opposite the council-run kennels.
“It was cold and damp but our first office so we were proud of it,” Stuart says. “When we first moved in there were four of us there.”
“We grew into it and by the time we left there were more than 14 people in the team.”
The clients kept rolling in, with Hyper Luminal working on an educational game on forestry management for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and a digital forensics game for a company seeking to teach police officers.
“We started picking up these sorts of projects and realised that there was a real market in producing games that had a greater purpose,” Rob says.
“They weren’t just entertainment games, they were games that taught you something or had an educational component that made them more enriching.
“We have kept doing that.”
In 2018 the company built its first game, Big Crown: Showdown, an online multi-player brawler game involving knights and horses. This was funded by London publisher Sold Out, recently rebranded as Fireshine Games.
Covid restrictions had no adverse effect on the company so in 2020 it had the finances to move to The Vision Building Greenmarket when its Brown Street home was touted for demolition.
Back then the company’s headcount was 19 and its turnover less than £1m. Two years on, more than 50 staff are employed across programming, art, design, quality assurance and management, and turnover is expected to soar to around £2.4m this year.
The company has so far delivered more than 40 games by working with a wide spectrum of clients, from high profile entertainment brands to other independent games developers.
With the business thriving the pair are considering renting more office space in The Vision.
More urgently, they have plenty of job vacancies to fill.
“We are recruiting all the time,” Rob says. “We have jobs for producers, senior programmers, a lead programmer and games designer as well.”
“We mainly need programmers. Everyone wants them so it is really really competitive now.”
Rob’s message to gamers looking for a career at Hyper Luminal is to consider working in quality assurance (QA).
“We have about 14 people in the QA team and are still trying to bring on more, from junior entry level to senior,” he says.
“QA make sure the game is bug-free by playing it all the time. They test it to make sure it is working properly and doing what it should be and also making sure it is fun.”
“We are really proud of the culture at Hyper Luminal, we try to run the studio with the same values that we embed in our games – inclusive, compassionate and with growth and reward at the core.
“The games industry has a notorious reputation for having really bad working practices with staff turnover crazy high, a really bad work ethic, long hours and people doing projects on really tight schedules.
“Very very rarely do we have staff leaving. Everyone really enjoys working here and we hear it time and again from our staff that the team and culture is unlike anything they’ve experienced before.
“I think it is because we spend a lot of time and energy making sure people are happy and feel really feel fulfilled at what they do.”
“Rob and I have done a fantastic job – but without the support of the entire team we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The full article can be read here.