Developer Edd Parris started working on his first commercial game, Jack Move, as early as 2013. Over the following nine years, he would build a game studio around it. At the beginning of So Romantic’s inception, Jack Move was a small turn-based RPG, but throughout the journey, Parris found a team to help him polish Jack Move into a multiplatform release with an original story and compelling gameplay.


The game is inspired by JRPG classics like the Cyberpunk-themed Final Fantasy 7, Game Boy aesthetics, and anime. Jack Move combines all these elements to create a familiar-feeling game with a refreshing take on classic themes and mechanics. Game Rant spoke to Parris about life before joining the games industry, Jack Move‘s long development process, the struggles of being a solo developer, inspirations behind the game, and more. Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Q: Let’s start with So Romantic. Can you tell us about the game studio and yourself?

A: So, the game studio literally is just myself. I worked with a bunch of freelancers on the game, and it was set up to work on Jack Move. I quit my job, and then I was like I need a company to do a bunch of stuff, to get funding. If you’re going to ask for a lot of money, people are generally not just going to give it to you. They want some kind of liability behind it. That’s about it, really.

Q: Jack Move is not your first game, can you tell us about your games before it?

A: The previous games that I made were like little jam games. This is our first commercial game. The other bits I worked on, one was like a weird fighting game, where you are not directly fighting each other, but you have a pinata in the middle, and the first person to pop the pinata is the winner. You can stun your opponent. It kind of works, it’s a little bit broken. You can just stun the enemy and jump up and hit the pinata. That was my first attempt at making a game. And it wasn’t great.

The second one was a pong-ish game with big beefy muscle men. You’re on a beach hitting a frisbee back and forth. Kind of inspired by the old arcade game Windjammers. An old Neo Geo game. There are some powerups there, where you do like a super smash and you’re trying to get it into the opponent’s goal.

That was for a party I used to run. There’s a big game developer conference in the city I used to live in, Brighton, UK. It’s kind of like GDC in the UK, and loads of developers descend on the town, and there are a lot of parties. My friends and I knew that they never have video games, they are just drinking. We thought there are lots of great party games, there should be an event that has cool party games. There’s other stuff going on at the time, like Wild Rumpus and Fantastic Arcade in the States. There are a few similar parties and events, and we thought we could do something like that in our hometown.

So we did it and I made the second game, especially for one of those parties. Which was stupid. Don’t make a game and also try to organize a party at the same time. It was very, very stressful. But it was fun, I think people enjoyed it. It is very silly, it wasn’t going to be a grand thing. And that’s it. That’s the only two games I’ve previously made.

Q: So, game jams were something you liked to do, and it all kind of grew from that?

A: They weren’t really game jams. I organized a couple of game jams previously, as well. But running a game jam, you don’t really have time to be also making a game. So, I came from marketing. I used to work at a marketing agency, and I wanted to get into games. Game jams and running events was a way to try to get into the games industry. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I’ll meet some people that will want to give me a job.

Q: It seemed to kind of work. You are now making games.

A: Yeah, it happened to be around when mobile stuff was kicking off. This is like 2012-ish. More free-to-play stuff was kicking off, and I noticed my skill set in making these marketing websites and engineering backends and stuff can also apply to games. They also need that. So you make the jump from one to another. All of this was just in my spare time.

Q: Let’s move to Jack Move. Can you briefly explain the concept of the game?

A: It is a Japanese-style RPG set in a Cyberpunk universe, where you take on the role of a sassy young hacker, called Noa Solares, who is out to find out why her estranged father has been kidnapped by the evil megacorporation, known as a Monomind. It’s a bit of a mouthful. It’s like turn-based battles. You are running around in a Cyberpunk world, meeting people and getting in trouble. And fighting bad guys in Cyberspace.

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Q: As you mentioned, it’s a JRPG, turn-based game at heart. Is there anything that separates it from the classics?

A: What I was trying to do was partly game design-wise and partly budget-wise, I thought it would be cool to only have one party member. Normally you would have your healer, your tank, and your other characters. You would control three or four people. I thought if you only have one person that’s going to cut down on the amount of work that I need to do. It’s also going to make Jack Move quite interesting because you have to then swap out your spells. You’ll have to swap in all your buffs, buff yourself and debuff the enemy, and then swap out to offensive spells. When I started, it was much smaller in scope than it ended up being.

Q: You mentioned a little bit about the main protagonist. Can you expand on the story?

A: It’s so hard to remember. Jack Move took just over nine years to make. Not all of that was full-time. For four or five years it was me working on it part-time as I had a day job. Then a couple of years full-time, and a year off because I ran out of money. After that, I found a publisher and was able to finish it. It was a really long process, so trying to remember all the origins is a bit difficult, to be honest.

The story, I will admit, is not the most adventurous and boundary-pushing story. It’s quite simple. Trying to keep the budget low, trying to make something feasible to make. I took a lot of inspiration from classic Cyberpunk stuff where there’s a big, bad corporation, and they’re going to do something evil. But also some traditional JRPG’s where an evil person kidnaps the princess, or in this case your dad. So, I was just trying to keep Jack Move simple but interesting. Also, try and turn some of this on its head, so it’s not the same as everything else out there.

The protagonist is female, rather than a young boy in the village, or what have you. Trying to mix it up, and make it a bit more interesting. There are some twists and turns in there, some backstabbing.

Q: Any specific issues that the long, drawn-out process brought about?

A: It’s nine years since I started a post on TIG Source, an indie game developer forum, where developers will post developer blogs to track their progress. I think there was one thread from Minecraft originally. It’s an old site that’s been around for ages. I started a thread there in 2013.

It was a weird production process. It started out as just me, with a very, very small scope. It got bigger and bigger. I got a demo that was, looking back at it now, terrible. I showed it at a show in the UK, in 2016 or so. It seemed like enough people liked it, that it was something worth pursuing full-time. I spoke to a couple of publishers there, and they thought it was okay. They didn’t laugh at it, so I thought maybe this would be something I could do full-time.

At the time, my now wife was moving back to Taiwan. I thought if I wanted to spend time with her, I need to quit my job and put some of my savings into this game, polish it up and try to find a publisher to finish it. The first bit was quite drawn-out, and the scope was very small. Then I got serious about it and the scope grew a bit. I started paying some freelancers to do some art on it and polish up the story.

That was in 2016. In 2019, I found a publisher in HypeTrain, and that was when I could actually hire people full-time to get everything done. Write a real script and polish the story even further. Get the music and sounds effect. Quite a long and drawn-out process, and maybe not the best way to make a game. However, it turned out surprisingly well for such a weird production cycle.

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Q: Freelancers were a big part of the development process. What parts were developed by you, and which ones you left to the hired freelancers?

A: I’ll start with what I did myself. I did the programming and game design. I also wrote the overall story, but then a lot of people made it ten times, a hundred times, better. I did level design and art for all the world maps. In terms of freelancers, Joe Williamson was the lead artist and animator, Amalie Kae was the writer, Charlie Fieber did the music, and Adam Hay did the sound effects. Then there are a bunch of additional animators and artists that we worked with. Like the background battle scenes and a bunch of character animation.

There was a core team of five of us, and a bunch of additional people. Joe had to take some personal time off during production, so we had to scramble to find more animators to pick up when he wasn’t around.

So, finding Joe. I knew I wanted to make a pixel art game. I was looking on Twitter and contacted a bunch of people. They wouldn’t contact back or they were busy. Then I found this guy whose stuff was so cool. His style of animation and style of pixel art was so different from anything else I’d seen. It was very modern, and the animation was super slick and cool. I knew I wanted to work with that guy.

He was busy as well, but I really, really wanted to work with him. It took a year or maybe 18 months to actually start working together. It was worth it. There’s also another artist I started working with before Joe because he was unavailable. A guy called Gary Lucken, who goes by the name Army of Trolls, who’s done tons of stuff. Loads of edge covers, and he was really good as well. Set a lot of the tone up front.

Adam and Charlie, who did the audio, I already knew. Adam from the indie scene in Brighton, and Charlie from when I used to make drum and bass and jungle music many many years ago. Amalie, I just put in a call for writers, and someone suggested her. As soon as I spoke with her, I knew that she’s got the right attitude and seemed very excited to work on the game.

Q: Back to the game itself. How did you come to combine anime and Cyberpunk?

A: I think that kind of Ghost in the Shell and Akira stuff has fascinated me a lot. That was some of the first anime I got into when I was younger. The aesthetic that we ended up with, is not super anime. You could definitely make it more anime. I think that’s down to Joe’s style. I wouldn’t want to change it. Saying Jack Move is anime and cyberpunk, is an easy shortcut to describe the game, I think.

Q: There’s a lot of funny technical lingo and puns. Did that come naturally or did you plan on it?

A: A lot of it was there in Amalie’s first drafts of the script. Then we gave it to a bunch of people to give us some feedback on and check that we were going in the right direction. A couple of people said that we should turn up the cyberpunkiness a bit more because there was a lot of regular slang. To give it a bit more flavor. A few people have said that it might be a bit too much, but it’s a fine balance that we got right. Maybe it’s a little bit too much if you’re not quite into it.

Q: You decided to release the game on several different platforms. How did this affect the development process?

A: It didn’t, really. The original plan was to only PC and Switch. Then, last year in April or May, talking to my producers they suggested putting it on everything. I did the Switch port myself, so they said that that is good and will run on anything. I mean it’s pixel art, it’s going to run on anything. They decided that they wanted to put all platforms to give it the best chance of success.

I think they started doing that with their other games, but I’m not entirely sure what the decision was. It seemed fine to me. If it’s on everything, it’ll have a better chance of reaching a broader audience. I’m sure there was some sort of Game Pass thing involved. Or a hope that we’d get to Game Pass. I don’t really remember.

Q: Are there any differences in the platform versions, and if you had to choose, which one would you pick?

A: Switch is my favorite. My first console was a Game Boy, so having something on a handheld Nintendo platform is the coolest. Having made the port myself, and made sure it runs at 60fps – except for one small spot in town where it dips a little bit, which is annoying. But making sure it runs at 60 on Nintendo Switch was a top priority. For me, that’s the best platform, but generally, it’s exactly the game on everything. The only difference is that Switch doesn’t have trophies. Xbox and PlayStation do, and Steam has achievements.

Q: You talked about the inspiration from anime. What specific games inspired you with Jack Move?

A: I am a massive fan of PS1-era square stuff. Final Fantasy is a huge inspiration. Final Fantasy 7 was the first JRPG that I played, and I just love that kind of turn-based battle. I was sad that not many of the big franchises do it these days. So, that’s kind of one reason why I wanted to go for a turn-based battle system. So Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8, Final Fantasy 9, and Final Fantasy 10.

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The battle system was very much inspired by Final Fantasy 10 because it’s kind of chess-like in that you have specific ways of dealing with enemies. For me, the challenge is how can I deal with these enemies in the most efficient way possible. I liked that stuff that they brought in FF10.

Grandia is super cool. We took a lot of inspiration from Breath of Fire 4 on PS1. A lot of the art stuff, and the way battle moves. Golden Sun on Game Boy Advance. That was one of my favorites. The scene behind the battle is very much inspired by that.

Q: The game launches just recently on both PC and consoles. Tell us a little bit about how it has been received.

A: The reception has been good, I think. Having worked on it so long, it’s a bit weird having it out there and people playing it. I think it’s been well-received, and I am very happy with the reception. The reviews have been way better than I could’ve expected. I think when you make the game, you know what the flaws are. If someone has criticism, it’s easy to understand that. You’ve been so close to the game and understand it so well.

There hasn’t been anything really surprising. Apart from how well people have liked it. People that didn’t like it as much had a couple of reviews that were like six out of ten. I can understand why they would mark it down. It is short, that’s for certain, and the battle system isn’t super, super deep. But that’s because it’s short, and I’m absolutely fine with that. That is what we were trying to deliver. A snack-sized RPG. The people that understood what we were going for, I am happy they clicked with it. The worry when you put something out is whether it’s going to find an audience.

Q: Game launches can be stressful. Were there any specific issues that you struggled with to get the product finished?

A: Just getting all the platform-specific stuff done timely. PC is fine, you can push it to whatever store, they don’t care about patching or anything like that. But Switch, if you want to patch something last minute it can take three, four, or five days. There were a couple of bits last minute that were a bit stressful. And there are still bugs that we missed, it’s impossible to get them all. It was stressful after the launch when people are getting stuck. The biggest bugs were like out-of-bounds stuff, where people were stuck and wouldn’t be able to continue. There are a couple of other UI bits and pieces. The most stressful thing is that you don’t want people having a bad time. I need to fix this as soon as possible and get it out as soon as possible. But I think we did okay. I hope.

Q: These days it’s becoming more important to have post-release content. Are there any plans for that?

A: There’s nothing huge planned, at the moment. That is purely because I need to take a break. It’s been nine years of my life. Especially the last couple of years have been incredibly intense, so I want to have a little break. Maybe in the new year, I’ll think about something. I have ideas, but I don’t want to say anything or promise anything, because I need some downtime.

Q: Anything at all that you can reveal for the future of Jack Move or So Romantic?

A: No. I want to make another game, that’s for sure. I don’t know if it would be a sequel. I have an idea of what I want to make. It would be another RPG, and now that I’ve done it once, try and improve on the whole process. Push the story a little bit, and make it a bit more interesting. Push some boundaries there. Do something more interesting with the battle system. Generally, just try to go a bit bigger and better. It all depends on how Jack Move does and finding a way to do it.

Q: Before I let you go, anything you’d like to add or anything to thank?

A: Just the whole team, who were fabulous and made this game what it is. I wore a lot of hats on the project, and I did a lot of things, but it’s everybody else that actually made the game into something actually good.

[END]

Jack Move is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

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