Interview: Rockstar vets Lee Hutchinson and Matt Shepcar on their new studio, Double 11

Having put to bed a past with Rockstar Leeds -- and helping to turn out a laundry list of triple-A titles, including the portable Grand Theft Autos, while working there -- lead engineer turned studio director Lee Hutchinson and soon to be ex-lead programmer Matt Shepcar recently announced their new development studio: Double 11. Like so many other game devs these days, the two grew tired of big-budget projects with huge staffs, leaving in favor of creating their own smaller, mobile titles. "Our small size also means that every single team member is of paramount importance to their success or failure," the pair told Joystiq in an interview this afternoon.

That isn't to say that the two have any complaints with Rockstar relating to the recent quality of life allegations. "We had a great time working at the Leeds studio and there are a lot of really talented people there," they told us. Hutchinson further expanded on his time at Rockstar to Develop. "Rockstar Leeds and the spouse allegations had no effect on our decisions to leave." In fact, we asked the two how they'd feel about working with Rockstar again in the future, and they told us, "We'd love to work with Rockstar again ... our split was very amicable and we hope Gordon [Hall] would consider working with us again in the future."

To find out more about the studio's plans -- including a prospective Summer release for the its first game and where we might find said game, not to mention an explanation of the "Double 11" name -- join us past the break.
Joystiq: Other than the iPhone, will Double 11 be working on any other handhelds? Any plans for PSP/DS games? How about digital distribution (Minis/DSiWare)?


We are concentrating our efforts on digital distribution and it's really exciting how many options have opened up there in recent years. We don't want to pigeon hole ourselves as only working on one particular console; we're eager to expand our horizons and get experience in as many areas as we can. Going cross platform and getting our games seen by all those PSP and DS users would be fantastic!

On the studio's 'About' page, there is talk of handheld development and of being an indie studio, but no mention of XBLA/PSN/Steam -- any plans to work in those spaces?

We're really keen to work in all these spaces but we're concentrating our initial efforts on the iPhone. We gained some good experience from working on GTA and Beaterator at Rockstar and the App Store provides a nice easy way to get our first games to market. We're certainly not ruling anything out though.

What about opening your own studio worries you most? What are you most excited for?

It's a big step but we're approaching it with nothing but excitement and enthusiasm. We're already meeting lots of new people and learning new things and it's a really great feeling to be in control of your own destiny. We're most excited about the level of creative input we can have on our own games but our small size also means that every single team member is of paramount importance to their success or failure.

How do you feel about the current state of iPhone game development? Where do you see it going in the coming years? What, if any, impact does the iPad have on your future?

I think it's fantastic that so many indie and solo developers are getting exposure through the App Store and I can only hope that it continues to be the case. It's impossible to predict the future but I'd like to think there will always be a place for smaller developers and small fun games.

The iPad is pretty exciting and will hopefully expand the audience for App Store games. It's going to allow developers to provide an improved experience to gamers: Higher resolution graphics, more on screen and fewer problems with fingers getting in the way of important elements. It's also a really cool looking gadget -- another must-have for the Apple geeks amongst us!

Any plans to work with Rockstar in any capacity in the future?

We'd love to work with Rockstar again; we had a great time working at the Leeds studio and there are a lot of really talented people there. Our split was very amicable and we hope Gordon would consider working with us again in the future.

What can we expect to see from Double 11 next?

Ideally we'd like to have something of our own in the App Store by the Summer, but no promises yet!

And finally, where does the name "Double 11" come from?

It's my lucky number and it always brings me good fortune, now it's part of my business.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.