The Road to Reus
I don’t know if it was something boiling in my heart for a longer time, or if it was inspiration that struck while watching this video, but Reus is a game that had to be made. It went with lots of ups and downs, so making it happen was, and still is, a crazy ride. Please embark with me on our journey of making a game out of nothing, and with virtually no money.
Bas and I were both students at the University of Utrecht (famous for Game Maker). Bas was an ace student, while I was an average one. See, the course was very technical, and while I’m extremely happy that I learned how to code (relatively well) there, programming was not my passion. Those were games, of course. I’ve worked on a few student games before, but nothing that interesting. Now Bas, he was the King of the Course, arguably one of the best programmers dwelling the university.
We met each other through DGDARC, the Dutch Game Development and Research Club, where I was that year’s chairman, in the second half of 2011. I picked up a lot of organisational skills on the way, and we first started working together in a game jam I organized with DGDARC. See, I had a rare skill (at least, rare on the university), and that was my ability to draw something decent-looking. We created our first game (Momo and Mia, a co-op platformer) that I thought was pretty fun. From that moment on, we kind of knew that we shared the same goal (make original games), and we could REALLY use each other’s skills.
In the background, we also met Maarten, who was a member of DGDARC, and Manuel, who also participated in that game jam. After a few projects together (most notably, Llamapalooza which still hangs around here on the website), Bas and I decided to do something a little bit bigger. Reus was born. We could live from the student loans our government provides, while we make this game in like half a year in the basement of the university. Of course I was a complete idiot to think we could do this in 6 months with only 2 guys working for free. Luckily, we quickly realized this, and added two of the most talented people we knew to our team: Maarten and Manuel.
The bussiness begins
Together we started thinking about a company, which started with the name “Martian Flytrap” but was quickly turned into “Abbey Games”. We wanted the name to reflect our care and craftsmanship, just like abbey wine. Behind the screens, Bas was already actively trying to get a spot at the famous Dutch Game Garden. The Dutch Game Garden is an incubator that hosts a few of the coolest Dutch Game studios, like Vlambeer and Ronimo. Surprisingly, we got a spot in April 2012, which was a very big step for us! Spots for the Dutch Game Garden were extremely limited, and we were super lucky that the folks there saw potential in us! We collected some money from our savings to pay the rent and officially start the company. In April we moved into our new office…which was directly next to both Ronimo and Vlambeer! Awesome!
A lot of our older blogposts are from this time, like my game design posts featured on Gamasutra, Some of our adventures and this post about games that influenced our design.
In this time, we made a big shift towards being more than just some fanatic students. We started working with other people, who joined us in our goldrush. They, just like us, work for free, in the hope that we would sell something. Of course, we had no money for computers, so everyone had to bring his own laptop. Our art got a lot better, and we had to think about agreements, profits and the market. People were now officially counting on us!
Production and Feedback
From there on, it went really fast. The Dutch Game Garden helped us become better game-developers and better entrepreneurs. The game got up for testing several times, and we went to Gamescom in Köln to speak with big distribution parties. The game became better and better, while we learned from our mistakes regarding taxes and organisation. After 8 months we started with PR, with a less than optimal teaser. We learned a lot from the mistakes we made there, and it’s super fortunate that we started out so early. We were backed up in our endeavor by a team of creative artists, crafty coders and talented interns.
Finally, it was January of 2013. From that moment on, things went amazingly big. We could not have hoped for the attention that we got. All in all, we now are super excited about the future of Reus and Abbey Games, even though we started with practically nothing. However, it’s all very scary too. Can we make it true? Are the anticipations running too rampant? I have to work harder to make stuff happen! It’s a mix of joy, anticipation, anxiety and stress. But I’m absolutely loving it.
Thanks for reading, and we sincerely hope that we can create something awesome for you!
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