REPOD Episode 5: Six Artists & One Programmer – Barry Meade on Creating The Room

In episode 5, we had a lovely chat with Barry Meade, founding member of Fireproof Studios and one of the co-creators of The Room, an incredibly vivid mobile game first released in 2012.

The Room had a tactile, immersive quality to it, from its haunting soundtrack, to the weight of physical objects, to how the environment handled the lighting design. These design elements, combined with a series of intricate puzzles, have delighted and inspired countless escape room enthusiasts and designers.

It was fascinating to hear about how a limiting set of circumstances created the perfect recipe for an evocative 3D puzzler. What came through clearly was their sharp sense of focus. They knew what they were good at and didn’t waste resources trying to be too many things. After chatting with Barry, we could see how Fireproof Studios really embodies the spirit of an indie design studio.

Episode 5

Topics Discussed in this Episode

  • David tells us how The Room had such a huge impact on his life and how, in some ways, it changed the trajectory of his life. [0:46]
  • Barry talks about how his company’s background in creating AAA console games led to their decision to create a fully immersive, realistic game for mobile gaming – something that was groundbreaking at the time. [3:15] 
  • Barry discusses some of the techniques they used to create realism, including adding physics to doorknobs, adding weight to objects when you manipulate them, giving inertia to the camera movement, and tactile feedback. [3:45]
  • Barry talks about the origins of Fireproof Studios, and how they were six artists that formed a company, doing freelance work until they could save up enough money as a company to create their own game. [5:35]
  • Barry talks about other notable features of the game that started off as cost-cutting measures, such as creating a shorter game, only supporting certain operating systems, and creating a dark, dimly lit game. [8:50]
  • We discuss how many escape rooms make use of these same lighting tricks to direct focus, create a certain atmosphere, and mask certain things. [10:20]
  • Barry talks about why Fireproof Studios purposefully decided to stay a relatively small company. [11:25]
  • Barry talks candidly about how they all left large multinational companies to pursue smaller indie projects and why they prefer avoiding the politics of working in large companies. [14:00]
  • Peih-Gee talks about being a jewelry designer and understanding the desire to stay small and independent, rather than being held to the demands of large-scale manufacturing. [16:03]
  • Peih-Gee notes that the escape room industry tends to operate in much the same way – smaller cottage industries with creative and entrepreneurial spirits. [17:01]
  • Barry talks about the false choice between being “creative” and being a business, and the importance of creating something that’s inclusive and accessible. [17:30]
  • Barry tells us about where the initial idea for The Room originated, and how they really wanted to create a game that took advantage of the new touch screen technology. [19:15]
  • Barry talks about the most significant design changes made when designing a new chapter of The Room for VR. [21:47]
  • Barry discusses the world-building and Lovecraftian horror in which their games are set. [23:08]
  • Peih-Gee mentions how transformative the audio experience was for The Room games. [25:23]
  • David and Peih-Gee discuss with Barry the impact that The Room series of games has had on the escape room world. [29:55]
  • David talks about how Roger Shembry, another founding member of Fireproof Studios, has proposed an official The Room Lego set that is up for votes on the Lego Ideas website. [32:07]
  • Barry talks about how he started his career working on 16-bit health-edutainment video games, and what he learned from his early experience. [32:55]
  • Barry talks about his work at Criterion Studios working on the Burnout series of video games and how it helped hone his sense of focus. [35:20]
  • Barry tells us that one of the reasons Fireproof Studios was formed was that the founding members were the six leads working on the environment team for the Burnout games, and they enjoyed working together so much that they wanted to make sure they stayed together as a team. [36:25]
  • We learn about the design process of Fireproof Studios and how much it evolves through iteration. [38:30]
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Resources

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Mentioned in this Episode

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Guest Bio

Barry Meade, co-creator of The Room (Fireproof Studios)

Barry’s career started in Dublin, Ireland in 1992 working on health-related ‘edutainment’ titles for SNES, Amiga, and PC. In early 1994 he moved to the UK to join Bullfrog Productions, where he spent his time as a lead designer and artist/ animator on titles such as Magic Carpet 1 & 2, Syndicate Wars, Dungeon Keeper, and many others.

Over the next eight years Barry worked for various studios as a game designer before being hired as a character artist by Criterion Studios in 2004, working on BLACK and subsequently Burnouts 3, 4, and Paradise. In 2008 Barry and five friends left Criterion to form a small contract-art team, Fireproof Studios. After many years of saving money, Fireproof released their first game The Room in 2012. It went on to be #1 in over 60 countries.

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