J. S. R. Varma
Lead Games Designer - Indie Author
James Varma is a London based Games Designer with experience working in a variety of different games companies, in various positions since he started work in the games industry in September of 2009.
James went to University at Leeds metropolitan where he was one of only two groups to be chosen to present their final year project at the screen yorkshire 2009 Game Republic Student Showcase.
His wide range of skills cover many things from development tools like Unity or Perforce to Development processes such as Agile. Anything he doesn't know he is happy and eager to learn!
After joining Roll7 in 2021 James joined the Bafta Nominated OlliOlli World team, taking over from their previous Lead Designer to create the two DLCs promised for the Rad Edition, both of which were released to 80+ scores on metacritic.
The first DLC James worked was the VOID Riders DLC. As this project was already ongoing, and many of the questions were already answered, James took on the role of Managing Facilitator. Rather than trying to come in and make changes, he took the time to see how things worked, got to know his team and helped to clear the way ahead of them.
This approach allowed him to quickly and easily cement his place wihtin the team and help to bring Void Riders out to almost as much critical acclaim as the base game. In it's first months it rested at a solid 85 on metacritic and has not moved much since.
When it came time to build a second DLC, Finding the Flowzone, James had a much more significant role on the Design side while maintaining a strong Managing facilitator approach. Using what had been learned from the base game and the first DLC, James was able to guide the team to release a second DLC that also remained around 85 on metacritic.
James designed the new metagame that changed up the formula for the final DLC, as well as oversaw the creation of each of the new levels, challenges and rewards. At the same time he worked with the art and narrative departments to ensure that they both followed the established rules and fit the new aesthetics.
James worked on Hungry Shark Evolution (HSE) as its primary designer for 2 years, QA lead for 1 year and 9 months, and as a Qa Tester for 3 months. During James' tenure as the design team on HSE he had little to no oversight. With this autonomy James freely designed content that took a waning game that was on it's way out, to the most profitable mobile game in Ubisoft and - at one time - the most played game of any Ubisoft title, boasting 'more Daily Active Users' than all of Ubisofts other titles combined.
James was the sole designer who worked on the Hungry Shark Evolution 'Space Sharks' update which was the most well recieved update that the franchise and Ubisoft's mobile division had ever and, at the time of my writing this (20/07/2017), has ever created. It broke all records made by the division for revenue and downloads, reaching highs of $300k and 2m downloads a week while not going below $225k or 1.5m downloads during the first month of it's release.
James Designed HSE's Mosasaurus update, The Space Sharks update, The Pyro Shark Update, The Natasha Narwhal Olympic update, The Moby Dick update, The Shark Squad update, several partnership updates and various smaller content Updates.
During James' tenure as acting Lead Designer on HSE he ran the live ops content of the game, including (but not limited to) in game events, social posts and sales (both of in game items and in app purchases).
James Worked with several outside companies, both external to Future Games of London's parent company, Ubisoft and internal.
Working with Redlynx to create cross promotional content between HSE and the mobile game Trials Frontier, the update that James Designed significantly increased the downloads and revenue of Trials Frontier.
James designed in game promotional content while directly colaborating with Ubisoft Chengdu to promote the release of their title 'Rabbids Crazy Rush'.
Working directly with Discovery Channel James delivered new and interesting content for the channels annual Shark Week celebration for five consecutive years as a partner. These updates included the 'Air Jaws' update, 'Findependence Day' update, 'Shweekend' update, and the Volcano Level update.
James worked with the charity, Oceana to create in game content for HSE, the proceeds of which went to the charity. At the time of writing this (20.07.2017) the HSE Oceana sales had earned over $150,000 for the Charity. In mid 2017 James also took part in a trip with Oceana to learn about and tag sharks in Miami.
Finally James lead the QA team and cut his design teeth creating a korean version of Hungry Shark Evolution, working with a Korean co-dev studio to make big changes that would appeal to the Korean market.
James worked as Lead Designer and Product owner on the unreleased Hungry Shark Rocket Ball title. James directly managed a team of 1 junior designer who he trained up to the level of games designer. He also indirectly managed a larger team of upwards of 20 coders, producers, artists and QA as the Product owner on the project while working with Marketing and User Aquisition through several Live tests.
James also worked as Lead Gameplay Designer on the unreleased Pinata bash, a competetive, sychronous eat-em-up. Working directly wiht the Product owner and Creative Director.
Prototypes: James was asigned as the Designer on Future Games of London's prototyping 'incubator' team. Over 9 months the team took six prototype ideas chosen by the company as a whole and, working through several iterations of prototypes, wittled the list down to one prototype that became Hungry Shark Rocket Ball.
Later James ran one of three prototyping teams creating a series of prototypes. Each prototype was created in a 2-4 week span and presented with documentation to the Senior Leadership team of FGOL. During this period James managed a team of 2 coders with UX and Art supporting as an external resource.
As well as his time working on Hungry Shark Evolution, James has worked on several other projects at Future Games of London.
Little Raiders: James worked with other members of the design team to edit and update the game's narative.
Hungry Shark World: James worked on the beginning stages of Hungry Shark Worlds development creating the foundations that the rest of the design team built upon to create the hit sequel.
Later James took a larger role in crafting HSWs direction, working with the Design team to develop upcoming features and improvements.
Finally James was a member of the team that created the console re-imagining of the hit mobile game. He worked generally on the balancing of the game, having a hand in all areas of the project, but focussed primarily on creating and implementing the 270+ missions and on re-balancing the White tip and Black tip sharks to be over powered 'end-game' rewards for the players.
Starling Press is the publishing identity for James's self
published works. This includes novels, short stories and
tabletop RPG content.
James writes a mixture of high fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction and mystery stories. His most recent published works can be found on Amazon, or DMs guild for D&D5e TTRPG content.
For more informaton and to keep up to date with James' Author work head on over to Starlingpress.co.uk or Follow @StarlingPress .
In James' free time he enjoys writing novels and short
stories. He most enjoys writing Fantasy, but has dipped into
the Crime and science-fiction genres, occasionally merging
them together in various ways. During his time at FGOL he
organised a weekly writers club for people to come together to
share ideas, ask for help with their writing and to complete
short writing exercises. He also organised a weekly 'Writing
retreat' in the evening, using an office meeting room to allow
members an aloted time each week to sit and be creative in a
James also spends his free time developing table top role play naratives for games that he DMs with his friends and co-workers. James started doing this in 2015 and has run four seperate campaigns from four seperate rulebooks with three groups in his office. He is currently running a long term homebrew D&D 5E campaign.
At the end of his long running 5 year campaign James put together a D&D source book set in his homebrew world of Stjarna. It can be found here:
The Voyagers Guide to the Silver Starling Alliance
James plays games in his spare time, prefering real time action games including shooters, hack and slash, and similar genres. James' main drive in games is to follow a narrative.