Made In Australia: We Talk HEART2GAME With Amelus Digital

Back in October at PAX Australia I met Jackson Frew – the founder and brains behind Amelus Digital and their game gifting service HEART2GAME. Over the past month I’ve gotten to learn the ins and outs of how Frew works, as well as the origins of Amelus Digital and HEART2GAME. You can read all about it in this month’s Made In Australia feature article.

HEART2GAME is a service that allows people to purchase custom-made PC, Mac or iOS games as gifts for loved ones, friends or anybody else you wish. These platformer-based experiences will offer the player roughly 20 minutes of tailor-made content that they will cherish for years to come, and with four different packages to choose from, there’s a package for every budget and occasion.

I was lucky enough to be treated to my very own sample game recently, and I was surprised at how neat and flexible the experience was. My sample was based on the basic package on offer and was shaped around the information I supplied on the order form. I was asked about the person’s (myself in this case) interests as well as other narrative-based questions that helped craft a personal experience.

I sat down with Frew to discuss the nitty-gritty details about how HEART2GAME works and what it can offer customers.

WellPlayed: How did the HEART2GAME concept come about?

Jackson Frew: So back in 2015, I was scrambling for a gift idea for the 2 year anniversary for my girlfriend at the time. I ended up making this cute 2-minute game which shows little animated characters of us walking through a museum with photos of us on the walls. It was very basic, but she really loved the gift. Later on, I was telling this story to my parents and my step-mother encouraged that I actually do this as a service. I didn’t do much about it at the time because I was still very much focused on making new games, but when 2017 rolled around, I decided that it was in fact, a good idea, and so HEART2GAME was launched.

WP: How are the games made? Do you make them yourself or outsource the development?

JF: All the games are made myself! I have hired contractors to do some assets that are reused (usually environment and character art) but once the base framework of the art style is settled, it’s a lot easier to adapt and modify. It also allows me to keep our services affordable.

WP: Do the games follow the same formula? Or is each game an individually-tailored experience?

JF: So based on what tier is selected, they can be based on a similar formula, but each game regardless of their tier will always receive unique and individually-tailored narrative and dialogue based on the information provided to us. Some experiences may be slightly similar in some aspects, but all games are unique in their own ways.

WP: Just how different can two different games be?

JF: I’ll give you a direct example from some of our customer games — without breaching our privacy policy, of course. So one game, we created starred a mother exploring a magical forest trying to find her children and husband. Various events occur throughout that are relevant to that customer specifically. The customer had requested there be a final boss which was an oversized puppy that the wife had to fight back with a purple laser sword.

Another game involved a boyfriend running through a jungle, finding his girlfriend and friends along the way, and ultimately discovering a magical crystal which allowed them to escape the dream that they were currently trapped in.

WP: What’s the most rewarding part of making the H2G projects?

JF: The absolute best part of making these projects is when they get delivered to the customer and I get the response email. Every time they are super happy with what was created and absolutely love it. The first time I delivered a project I actually got sorta teary eyed because I was so stressed out that they weren’t going to like it, but they LOVED it. That feeling is honestly the best, knowing I’ve made something that has brought happiness to a family or couple is amazing. There’s nothing like it.  

WP: Currently the H2G games are available on PC, Mac and iOS. Are you looking to bring your offering to Android as well?

JF: Yep! I am just doing iOS as all of my releases have been on iOS and I’m more familiar with it. Android is absolutely coming though.

WP: What’s the craziest request you’ve ever had?

JF: I think the craziest request was definitely the “fighting an oversized puppy with a purple laser sword” one. It was truly wild.

WP: You’ve got four different packages that customers can choose between, what are the main benefits of the more expensive packages?

JF: The more expensive packages allow the customers to have more control over what is actually made. Tier 1 and Tier 2 have set limits on what can be made, due to the time and financial costs. I want to keep the baseline at an affordable price without completely undercutting myself. Tier 3 gives the customer the full control of narrative and genre selection. Tier 4 allows full control of narrative AND full control of genre. There are still limits on these, and if the request is deemed “out of scope,” the customer will be informed. If these tiers don’t suit what the customer is looking for, they can always contact HEART2GAME directly, which some have in the past.

WP: What are some of the biggest restrictions or challenges you have to deal with when it comes to H2G?

JF: Writing narrative that’s relevant to the customer. The order form provided asks for as much relevant information about the recipient so the game’s dialogue suits them better. Sometimes the information provided can be hard to fit into a relevant context in the game without making it too much of a “reach.” The dialogue still needs to sound natural.

WP: If you could make a game from any franchise in the world what would it be?

JF: I think if I were to make a game from any franchise in the world, I’d love to make a narrative-driven game based off Mad Men. Maybe following the events inside Cutler Gleason and Chaough (CGC) leading up their clashes with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP) and their ultimate merger. New characters that haven’t been seen, but still had influence over the events. AMC or Matthew Weiner, if you’re reading this interview, hit me up!

WP: Thank you for your time and all the best with Amelus Digital and HEART2GAME in the future.

JF: Thank you for all your support!

If you would like to know more about HEART2GAME or if you like to place an order head to the official site.

Co-Founder & Managing Editor of WellPlayed. Sometimes a musician, lover of bad video games and living proof that Australian's drink Foster's. Coach of Supercoach powerhouse the BarnesStreet Bois. Carlton, Burnley FC & SJ Sharks fan Get around him on Twitter @xackclaret