2 NEIT students hope to hit it big with new video game
Now that 38 Studios is a thing of the past, Corey King and John Groh, both New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) students, say there’s not a company in the state they could utilize their degrees upon graduation. But that’s not stopping the pair from doing what they love, and putting their game development and simulation programming training to use.
King, 22, and Groh, 20, are in the process of completing a new game for mobile devices, like smart phones, called “Parkourasaur.”
The pair met in 2010 when they first started at NEIT. Joining forces with four of their classmates, they started a company called Uranium Squid and began developing video games. In March, Groh came up with the idea for “Parkourasaur” while working a long shift at his former security job. When King caught wind of the idea, he decided to help Groh create the game. They’ve been working on the game since the summer, devoting countless hours to programming, testing and designing the look and feel of the game.
The game combines free-running and overcoming obstacles, a practice known as “parkour,” with jumping and rolling to collect objects for points. The player controls a dinosaur in the middle of what Groh calls the “Dinosaur Apocalypse.” The goal is to quickly collect three dinosaur eggs lost in the meteor shower and subsequent volcanic eruptions while avoiding dangerous obstacles.
“We’re trying to make games that people of pretty much any age can get into and enjoy,” said Groh, who explained that they want to create something simple enough for kids but also challenging for adults.
The game will be available on the Android and iOS markets, for both Android devices and iPhones.
“Right now we are focusing on the mobile market because that’s what’s really taking off,” said Groh.
“Fruit Ninja,” “Sky Burger” and “Angry Birds” are just some of the mobile games that have achieved major success in recent years. Groh and King said everyone likens their game to Angry Birds, a wildly popular iPhone game in which the player launches a bird via slingshot into a green pig. The game was created by a Finnish company, Rovio Entertainment, that is now valued at roughly $8 billion. So is “Parkourasaur” the next “Angry Birds?”
“That’s the plan,” said King.
Both King and Groh will complete their bachelor degrees in game development and simulation programming at around this time next year. The degree, they said, will set them up for entry-level jobs in the game development field but also give them the skill set to create full games on their own.
King and Groh said they knew from early on that they wanted to get into this field.
“I’ve been playing games since I could move my thumbs,” said Groh.
It was during the completion of their associate degrees last year that they worked with the other members of Uranium Squid to create “Heroes of War,” an online, multi-player combat game – it took them 20 weeks.
But this venture is different for them, both because it’s just the two of them working on it and because it will be a licensed downloadable game. Now they’re looking to get community support to help fund the game’s development and completion.
“We’re trying to publicly crowd-source funding,” said Groh.
In a press release, Groh said they're “not looking for million dollar handouts from the state,” a clear crack at 38 Studios’ $75 million EDC loan.
“Game development and Rhode Island are not huge friends,” said Groh.
But together with King, Groh is hoping to change that relationship.
“We’re hoping to really get something new and original out there and sort of put Rhode Island back on the map in a much better light than it is right now for our industry,” he said.
For Groh and King, developing a successful game isn’t just about making money; it would also give them a chance to open a studio and employ other game developers like themselves. The pair both agreed that there are no game development studios in Rhode Island that they could apply to after college.
“You’re most likely going to have to travel if you want to get into a bigger company,” said King.
“It’s pretty unfortunate though, every game developer goes to either Boston or San Francisco. There’s really nothing in our state,” said Groh, who said Curt Shilling had promised him a job at 38 Studios when he completed school.
“It is a little disappointing because it was sort of my plan after school. But that also kick-started our whole project here.”
Now the pair is attempting to raise $7,000 through a website called “Kickstarter.” Groh called the $7,000 a “bare minimum” that will “just cover everything.”
As of press time yesterday, they had 48 backers that had pledged $1,859. The Kickstarter will close on Monday, Oct. 8, which gives the pair just under a week to raise $5,141.
“Pressure’s on,” said Groh.
Without the $7,000, Groh said publishing the game would be difficult. The money raised will go toward hardware for testing and development, software and licensing. The Android market will charge King and Groh a one-time licensing fee of $25, but Apple will charge them a yearly fee of $99.
Without the $7,000, Groh said the worst-case scenario is they won't be able to publish their game; best-case scenario, the release will be delayed. Groh said if it comes down to paying for the game out-of-pocket, it could take a long time for “Parkourasaur” to become publicly available.
Those who donate to the Kickstarter won’t have to pay unless the $7,000 goal is met by the Oct. 8 deadline.
If their goal is met, the pair plans to release the game on Nov. 26, just in time for the holidays.
“It would be a perfect Christmas present,” said King.
The pair currently spends at least 10 hours a day working on the game. Last week they were finishing finals, but this week they said they’ll spend 20 hours a day on their endeavor.
“In a week we definitely put in more than full-time,” said Groh.
And they’re hoping their investment pays off big time.
The game will be offered for free on the Android and iOS markets, but users will have the option to buy accessories and outfits for their dinosaur for small amounts, like 50 cents a piece.
“It will be a very cheap, micro-transaction,” said Groh.
Still, users won’t have to pay anything to play up to 40 levels in “Parkourasaur,” and those who download the game on the first day it comes out will even get a squid that sits atop the dinosaur’s head.
“You’ll be able to completely play the entire game without spending a cent,” said Groh.
“But to have the coolest gear, you have to spend some moolah,” said King.
So what are they hoping for as a return on a $7,000 game? According to estimates, Angry Birds cost roughly $100,000 to develop. King and Groh aren’t exactly sure what to expect monetarily, but they hope it sets them up nicely to continue creating video games.
“If this title is a big success, we should be able to buy an office and set up a studio here,” said Groh. “We’re definitely hoping to make it pretty big with this.”
The amount of money they take in is solely dependent on how many users are willing to buy a hat or shirt for their dinosaur.
“What if a million people download it and a million people buy the 50-cent items?” said King. It’s the “what if” that they’re banking on.
For now, there’s still a lot of work to be done on “Parkourasaur,” but once it’s complete, King and Groh plan to get in some R and R.
“We’ll probably sleep for the first time in months,” said Groh.
But sleep is still a long way away. Groh and King are hopeful they’ll be able to release their game this year, and are sure that, despite their young age, they’ll be able to sufficiently handle what could turn them into overnight successes.
“When you’ve got the idea, you’ve got the motivation, you’ve got the skill set, why not just do it, right?” said Groh.
“You can never be too young to start your dreams,” added King.
To play a demo version of “Parkourasaur” or to donate to their Kickstarter (deadline of Oct. 8), visit www.UraniumSquid.com.