A Day with Dinosaur Polo Club

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PMG reviewer Di recently covered the little success of Kiwi-made indie game Mini Metro. She spent many hours staring at transit maps, dreaming of geometric shapes and brainstorming new strategies to solve cities’ commuter problems. After some more hours, Di started wondering about the intriguing logo on the menu page. It was a silhouette of a guy riding a dinosaur. With that, she wanted to know more.

DI: Hello Dinosaur Polo Club! So I guess I’ll kick it off with the thing that’s been rattling in the back of my mind. I love the name and logo! But I’ve got to know: what’s the story behind it?

DPC: Ha, one of the great things about starting a videogame studio is you can call it anything you want. When we were coming up with a name to develop Mini Metro under, we were looking for something distinctive rather than meaningful. When were thinking of a name, my son would often wear a pair of PJs with a “Dinosaur Club” badge, and I’d often walk past a pub called the Bangalore Polo Club on the way to Robert’s apartment. I’m 99% sure that’s where the inspiration came from.

DI: And are you guys transport aficionados? I mean, how’d the idea for Mini Metro come about? One of you has got to like trains at least, right?

DPC: Well, we’re fans of public transit in general, but we’ve discovered we’re not as passionate about trains and subways as some of Mini Metro’s players! The concept came about when Robert and I were discussing potential games we could make. As two time-poor programmers with no art skills, we settled on something with a minimalist art style so we could make it look good ourselves. From there we naturally came to thinking of subway maps. Based on the experience he had plotting his daily trips on the Underground when he was on holiday in London, Robert pitched the idea of having to navigate a randomly-generated subway map. I thought a more engaging experience would be if the player built the subway map instead, and the computer controlled the agents moving around the subway. We went with that design for the Ludum Dare game jam in April 2013 a couple of weeks later and found it just worked. That particular Ludum Dare had the theme of minimalism which turned out to be incredibly fortuitous. We have to thank Ludum Dare for getting us to commit to sitting down and making something playable in a weekend (and my wife Mary for looking after our son Thomas for the entire weekend so I could take part!).

DI: From your devlog, it sounds like there’s more to come for Mini Metro. Can you give us a hint of stuff that you’re still thinking about implementing? I promise I won’t hold you to it.

DPC: We’ve got a new mode in the works that will allow players more creative freedom when authoring their maps. It won’t be a full-blown map editor, but we think people will be able to make some neat stuff with it.

DI: I was pretty stoked to find out that Dinosaur Polo Club was a Kiwi company. What’s a day look like for game devs like yourselves in Wellington?

DPC: As Wellington is the most livable city in the world according to Deutsche Bank (gotta rep the city, thank me later Justin), most of us at DPC live close enough to the office to walk in every morning. Once we get there, as a small indie developer our days are varied. There’s always an hour or so of replying to emails, Twitter, and Facebook, mostly from players but also a fair whack of general business malarkey. Once we get to actual productive work, we might be fixing bugs or implementing a new feature in Mini Metro, preparing marketing assets for an update, or working on prototyping a new title. Prototyping might involve running a whiteboard session to think through the implications of a pitch, preparing visual mockups, or developing a small version of a potential game. Today, for example, we’re processing the results of an external QA pass on the latest Mini Metro feature update, doing art mockups for one new title, and programming an interactive prototype for another. Oh and talking to you!

DI: When you’re not working, what do you guys do for fun? Do you have any other games you’re currently playing and loving, or ones that have given you inspiration?

DPC: As you’d expect, we all do play games — between us we’re currently playing Overwatch, Into the Breach, XCOM, Heat Signature, Rocket League, Valleys Between, Breath of the Wild, Mario vs. Rabbids, as well as a cooperative X-wing miniatures campaign. But we’re into normal things too! Travelling, hiking, dance, painting, and of course gelato (the office is directly opposite Kaffee Eis).

DI: And finally, I’m hearing whispers of you guys working on something outside of the realm of Mini Metro. Is there another game from Dinosaur Polo Club coming soon?

DPC: Depends on your definition of “soon”! I wouldn’t look out for anything until 2020.

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