What started out as a hobby project for video game programmer Eric Stock has evolved into an indie video game studio based in St. John’s that recently released its first game.
Dreamy Snakes is the first product offering from Chummy Games, a company owned and operated by Stock, who handles programming and design, and his Newfoundland-born girlfriend Kim Stagg, who takes care of the business side of things.
Stock, a programmer analyst and computer systems and networking instructor at the College of the North Atlantic, had been toying with the game for a couple of years, making small changes and never really settling on a theme.
It was Stagg’s twin children, Olivia and Alexander Mackey, who ended up inspiring Stock’s iOS opus.
“They always complain about how there are monsters and at the same time their rooms are just covered with toys. I had that idea, ‘What if the toys would defend the kids from these monsters as they’re dreaming?’” he says.
“Stuffed animals against these monsters would work really well with that, but the snake gameplay is something I’m familiar with, so I thought I could make that snake gameplay work with this monster theme.”
The game, free to play with in-game purchases and available only for iPhone and iPad, has been downloaded a shade over 300 times since its launch and Stock admits most of that was within the first couple of weeks.
That said, Chummy Games has been collecting game data it will use to develop some new features and improve the gameplay experience in an effort to keep gamers coming back for more.
“I am going to be working on Dreamy Snakes over the break and I’ve got a lot of small changes that I think will hopefully improve the retention of the game.”
In doing so, they’ll have a chance at being featured on the Apple app store.
Chummy Games is already into the early phases of developing its next game, a chess skills development game featuring arcade style elements called Chess Blacklist.
“When you start the game you’ll be shown a city map and there’ll be different characters that will appear on the map and they will present you with different challenges that you can choose to take on.
“These challenges could be solving different puzzles, or playing a match against that character and you earn points from these challenges and take on what’s called a Blacklist character and if you can defeat them then you go to a new area in the city and new characters and challenges to complete.”
Unlike its predecessor, Stock is hoping to publish Chess Blacklist on Steam, the largest digital distribution platform for PC (personal computer) gaming.
In developing the latest game, Stock and Stagg took part in the Genesis Centre’s evolution program, an eight-week workshop that helps entrepreneurs identify their markets and validate their idea.
“It’s been a great learning experience because I don’t have much experience on the business side, so it was great being able to go through that process of validating your idea and customer interviews with game players to try to get feedback on what type of game they would like,” says Stock.