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“We love mobile because of the massive and diverse player base across the globe” | Pocket Gamer.biz

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“We love mobile because of the massive and diverse player base across the globe”

Self funded indie studio Global Outlier, which was founded back in 2023, is this week expecting the release of its first game, Taco: Hamster Hero.

We spoke with Global Outlier CEO and co-founder John Lorge to discuss the creation of Global Outlier and why the studios focus is on mobile first. We also discussed the development of Taco: Hamster Hero, the results of playtesting the game in soft launch, and what to expect from the team in the future.


PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us a little about how you got started in games and what led you to co-found Global Outlier Gaming?

John Lorge: I suppose I got started with games when my dad got us an NES in the late ‘80s! Professionally, I joined PopCap Games as a marketer prior to the EA acquisition and eventually led EA’s mobile user acquisition program. Marketing games is great, but I became passionate about building games and leading a great game studio, which meant going the entrepreneurial route. I took the long road and did a tour of duty in the insurance industry, building Assurance IQ from the ground up to an eventual $3.5B acquisition by Prudential. In late 2022, after leaving Assurance, the first person I reached out to about founding Global Outlier was CJ Chaney, who was also at PopCap back in the good-ole-days, and we co-founded the studio in January of 2023.

We plan to focus on many different genres over time and believe mobile is the best platform for that strategy.

John Lorge

How have things been going since you got started? You’re an indie team with a mobile-first focus, so why mobile? And how many people are a part of the team?

We love mobile because of the massive and diverse player base across the globe. We plan to focus on many different genres over time and believe mobile is the best platform for that strategy. We’re not mobile-only, though; we plan to launch our game on the Apple Vision Pro and Google Play’s PC platform.

In terms of the team, there are 12 of us full-time at Global Outlier, and we have a handful of amazing contractor partners as well. We built out the team in the first half of 2023, and it has been the same group heads-down building since the summer.

There are many challenges in the current games market. How do these impact a studio like yours, and how are you looking to stay ahead of the game?

From day one, we knew we needed to fully embrace this new world of AI if we wanted to get ahead. At every step of the development process, from creative ideation through publishing, we’re integrating AI in data-safe ways to give us a competitive advantage.

The layoffs have been tough to witness, LinkedIn has resembled an obituary for the past few years.

John Lorge

The layoffs have been tough to witness, LinkedIn has resembled an obituary for the past few years. I use it as motivation to make the best game we can and prove indies can still succeed.

In terms of UA, we don’t have any legacy programs that were disrupted by the tracking changes, which I know was a major challenge for the industry. It is more difficult now than it was, but as long as the playing field is level, we just have to go out and compete with ads that showcase our great gameplay. I was marketing mobile apps before we had any install attribution, marketers always find a way to spend money!

Let’s talk about the studio’s first game, Taco: Hamster Hero! What was the decision process behind choosing what type of game should be the first, and how did you ultimately settle on this idea?

Building this game has been a very organic and artistic process. As a team, we first agreed we were all excited about this roguelike-survivor-bullet heaven genre, but we didn’t want to be another zombie shooter. Our tech director, Jason, had the idea of an imaginative world involving a hamster with an affinity for pop culture. That is when Taco the Hamster was born, and we’ve been leaning into his main character energy ever since. As players progress through Taco’s hero journey, they will unlock different costumes for him that will radically change their gameplay; there is only one Taco, but players still have agency over how they play.

How long has the game been in development? What are some of the key selling points? You also did playtesting; what have the results from that shown, and how beneficial has that process been?

We started prototyping shortly after starting the company. In April of 2023, we looked at the talented team we’d built and what Taco could be and decided that we wanted to go all-in, creating a game that players could play for years. We decided we couldn’t rely on asset packs to make a truly unique game and IP. We invested in custom art and animations for Taco and over 100 enemies & bosses, a bespoke UI, and each level environment has a custom soundtrack done by Alexander Brandon.

Everything looks and sounds amazing, which is amplified by the hard work of our engineering team to deliver best-in-class gameplay on the mobile device. We have tremendous particle counts and VFX, which give players a true bullet heaven experience. As players progress, they have deep equipment upgrade trees, changing the way the game is played.

We’re biased but we believe Taco is an IP that will live on shirts, as plushies, and maybe even on the big screen one day!

John Lorge

In terms of playtesting, we soft-launched in Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil in Q4, which has helped us balance the game and redesign features. We’ve been using playtestcloud.com for formal user testing throughout the development process to see the game through the player’s eyes and glean sentiment. To date, all of our female play testers in the US have given us 5/5 scores. They really loved the dichotomy of this cute hamster dressing up like a hero and then the skill-based and enthralling gameplay.

When does the game launch, and do you intend to provide new content and updates, or is it more about building an IP to expand upon in the future, or both?

Launch is right around the corner! We just completed our last big feature release prior to going live worldwide on iOS and Android in over 20 languages. After launch, our first big update will contain events, and we are ready to support the game with new content and features for years. We’re biased but we believe Taco is an IP that will live on shirts, as plushies, and maybe even on the big screen one day!

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