Many “gamers” have aspirations of creating their own virtual world to share with the masses, good enough to rub in the noses of their most hated dev team. Creating a video game isn’t an easy task, nor is it one you personally get a lot of praise for. Game after game continues to come out due to men and women who have a love for this medium of entertainment. Whether you go to school to learn how to code, become an animator, create music, become an artist, or direct, it’s the culmination of these arts that create the products we love to interact with so much. Living in an area that functions as a good hub of entertainment is always a great way to jump start your dream of becoming a video game developer. Enter Orlando, Florida.
Here in Orlando we’re fortunate enough to have a couple dev teams that are local and stretch across the video game developer spectrum. From independent teams like Iron Galaxy who’ve done amazing work on the “Killer Instinct” franchise or their work on “Divekick”, to smaller teams like Tipping Toast Media. There are also much larger teams with bigger budgets and projects like EA Tiburon who are known for their work on the Madden NFL franchise, NBA Live, and PGA. It’s because we have teams like this around, that Orlando has and continues to turn itself into a central gaming hub, and the growth will only become greater as the days, months and years go on. The potential is here for anyone who wishes to become a video game dev or a journalist for the gaming industry, and it starts with familiarizing yourself with like minded people, finding the community and involving yourself in it.
Recently I got a chance to speak to Daren Copely, the founder of Tipping Toast Media out here in Orlando. Tipping Toast is a smaller development studio who got their start back in 2008. The work they do consists of 3D art, web design, game design and more. They do work for clients and are actually working on a game of their own right now. In corresponding with Mr. Copely I was able to garner an interview and ask him a couple of questions that pertained to some of his previous work, how he came to start a development studio, and what his plans were for Tipping Toast as a studio out here in Orlando.
Q: So you’re a father, Web/Game developer, and founder of Tipping Toast Media. How do you get here? What is Tipping Toast in your words?
A: Yes, I am a happy father of two beautiful children! I have had many adventures, failures and victories that have lead me to this point in life. I think the main issue was that everything I did prior just was not making me happy. I was working hard but peeking over to gaming, like a kid with his face pressed up against the candy store window. I knew something had to change. Tipping Toast was my salvation! A hero coming to rescue me from a boring daily grind, like one of our gaming characters!
Q: Was founding a web/game development studio always the goal? From what I understand you’ve had some time with CBS, Fox News, the O’Reilly Factor”! How did you end up here in Orlando setting up camp and starting a development studio?
A: No. This was something I never thought would happen. I was on the journalism track all through college and into my career beginnings. I had been a radio host, local tv anchor, national news producer and camera man. At 23, I was producing segments and pitching stories to Bill O’reilly. Having people like Rudy Giuliani asking me for advice prior to a show. Meeting and hanging with Russel Simmons and working side by side with famed publisher, Judith Regan. I had it all and hated it! It was a rush and I had a blast, but it wasn’t for me. These people I worked with just didn’t seem happy. After a few years in the news grind, I packed up my stuff and headed back home to Florida.
Q: Have you always been into video games or web design? What was the catalyst that set you on this particular road and what have been some of your favorite achievements?
A: I have always been a gamer. Since getting my first Nintendo system in the 80s and playing Super Mario Brothers until the cartridge broke to spending all my chore money on Mortal Kombat in mall arcades in the 90’s, I have always loved playing video games! It transports you to another world for just a moment! Too cool!
I would say the moment that changed my life and turned me on this path was helping my family with their website. They needed something small and simple. I had always done web/graphic design as a hobby and they needed a good deal. I took a weekend and knocked it out. I was paid twice what I would have earned at my current job and was my own boss. I played my own music, made my own hours and didn’t have to argue with fellow employees. I was hooked! The next few weeks I decided on a change. I gathered a few talented people I knew in the industry and quit my regular 9-5 job. The grind to find clients had begun as the new owner of Tipping Toast Media!
Q: So you and the team are currently working on a project, an FPS? Can you talk about that at all? It isn’t your first game but will this be a Tipping Toast owned product? You and your team I see, do work for many different clients. Has there been a stirring interest to create your own thing?
A: Yes, we are currently developing an FPS brawler style game in the Unreal engine. It has been an amazing adventure! We have been adding all kinds of cool features that we have always wanted to see in a game! We think it will be a hit once early access test copies are released!
We do create many games for clients and that is what inspired us to make something our own, something we can have full rights and control over.
Q: Looking at your teams work and history it seems you all are really hitting a stride. Are there ideas or plans for studio growth? Maybe working alongside different teams and maybe one day a big triple A project?
A: Yes we are in full stride with our development. You will never see mediocre content coming out of our studio. We design like we would want a game/model/website to be, top shelf and amazing quality. You get more business by going that extra mile. When we make amazing content for one client, they send 14 of their friends the next week. Even if a few client budgets couldn’t quite hit the mark, we push in those extra hours to give them the best possible outcome. It’s worth it in the end!
We have teamed up with a few dev groups in the past and it was very fun, but those projects are larger budgets and are rare at the moment. We current have a good sized team so we usually can handle anything thrown at us!
Q: With Orlando growing and changing into an entertainment hub full of talent, in what ways would you want Tipping Toast to be highlighted? Have you ever given something like that a thought?
A: I want our team to be the go to for amazing development. We want to have the reputation for getting the job done every time. Right now it is a grind to keep linking our portfolio and prove ourselves day in and day out with samples from previous jobs. To just make it to the top where no questions are asked and they say “We want Tipping Toast!”. That’s the dream baby! We will get there!
Q: You being based here in Orlando, what bit of advice would you offer to an aspiring game dev, web designer, or journalist to help them achieve the next step?
A: The main advice I would give to anyone in this field is to never give up. You will be insulted by clients, asked to do things for free and even ridiculed for bugs/fixes in delivered content. Just keep smiling. Be honest and work hard. Everything you want will come true with solid passion and love for what you do! If you truly love making video games, the good clients and money will come. Stay strong!
Orlando was once best known for being the base of operations for EA Tiburon, but in recent years the landscape has changed. With an influx of talented young creators coming from Central Florida schools like Full Sail, and Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), many studios have opened and set up shop here because the potential is so tangible. This is what I mean when I say that Orlando is turning into an entertainment hub. As far as creators are concerned, if you live here in Orlando, then there are plenty of tools available to you, if you don’t live here but wish to begin a career in video game development or video game writing, now is the time to make your moves because the ground is so fresh. Are you looking to become a content creator of some sort, trying to find a way to get your foot in the door of gaming development? Start now! There is no better time than the present! You have all the resources you need, plenty of support from friends and family once you start creating, as well as social media pages like O-Town Gaming here in Orlando. Also you can keep up with Daren Copely and the team at Tipping Toast at www.facebook.com/tippingtoast If you’ve always wanted to find out or get involved in making video game content (articles, podcasting, etc.), please comment below or email us here at www.GamingRebellion.com.