For this week’s developer profile, I’m concentrating on a studio that is perhaps unlikely to be considered by most ‘core’ gamers for the simple fact that they produce more family orientated titles and party games. Undoubtedly talented and full of fresh and exciting ideas however, Relentless Software are the sole creators of the hugely enjoyable Buzz! quiz game series, exclusive to Sony. In fact, it was perhaps their effort in 2004 with the original Buzz! The Music Quiz that set off the party game craze.
One of the more obscure of company foundings in game developer history, Relentless was originally formed by David Amor and Andrew Eades who were both working under Computer Artworks in 2003, which was then in the process of developing a DJ simulation game for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Tough times lay ahead for Computer Artworks however, who then proceeded to recede into receivership with the title not yet complete. However, Amor and Eades had other plans, intent on carrying on with the project, they persuaded SCEE to allow them to form their own company in which the title could be completed. The rest they say, is history, and Relentless Software was formed. Determined to see their company flourish creatively and in the most effective way possible, Amor and Eades both proposed the company would stay away from the intrinsic stresses of release schedules and the like, instead focusing on much more favourable work hours and satisfactory work environments. It’s something they still stick to till this day, with their website boasting they have “never crunched, worked late, and never worked a weekend”, instead pointing out that this has resulted in “the lowest staff turnover of any developer [they] know” and quality software being consistently produced.
The DJ simulator, DJ: Decks and FX, went on to be nominated for a 2004 BAFTA in the audio category whilst Relentless continued to work alongside SCEE on conversions for external markets (such as Singstar: Popstar). 2004 saw the birth of the now insanely popular quiz series Buzz!, which was originally developed after they had been approached to work on a music quiz game. Choosing to opt for the game show format, Buzz! has since branched out to movie trivia, general knowledge and sports packages, with each presenting the kind of charm, humour, and attention to the party scene that other quiz games sorely lack. Known for its big buzzers, hilarious character archetypes and outlandish presenter, it’s difficult not to raise a smile, even during its more tense moments in the race to be crowned the winner. To me in particular, the Buzz! series represents unrivalled fun, it’s a game with quality, polish and flashy visuals and by recently adding online play to the age-old couch-based player vs. player format, it seems Relentless are keen to expand the series in new and exciting directions. Unparalleled in its ability to bring people together, Buzz! is the ultimate party game, selling over 8 million units to date and bringing Relentless a well deserving BAFTA award. It’s something in which their more recent effort, the murder-mystery game Blue Toad Murder Files, also set out to accomplish. This latest game delightfully revels in its British eccentricities, from the small-town feel of its setting, to its richly detailed and fantastically realised characters.
Hinting towards their future, Relentless claim to be working on “some original IP with a top-tier publisher”, although we’ll have to wait a tad longer to see what they have in store and whether they look to continue their party game portfolio or go in a completely new direction will be very interesting to see.