Two teenage indie developers quite innocently helped some strangers order a cab. A short drive and a few casual conversations later they found themselves attracting the attention of publishers and veteran game developers. On a yacht.
Deni Martin Patafta and Don Emanuel Vuckovic are two young indie developers studying in Graz, originally from Croatia. They came to Reboot Develop in Dubrovnik last weekend hoping to promote their game, Holes - The New Classic, and maybe have some fun as a bonus.
AltChar talked to the teenage duo about a night that might have very well changed their lives. "We were relaxing after the day's panels and were told that mingling at after parties is a good thing for a small studio in the making, so we decided to go to one of the event's after parties", says Deni.
The two developers, 18 and 19 years old, have built their mobile game in the time between and after school classes. They are both students at a private gymnasium, who met in school and got together based on a shared birthplace and a passion for playing and making games.
"We went over to one of the two bars that hosted the official after parties on Reboot Develop that night. The first bar didn't have any tequila so we moved on to the other one, when we were told that we could find the drinks we wanted there", Don continues.
Holes - The New Classic has the simplicity FlappyBird, the devs explained, with a pixel art-style. but the concept is turned on its head because the player manipulates the environment and not the character.
"Before we even got to order our drinks at the bar, we approached a man who looked like he was in need of some help and he asked us if we knew how to call a taxi in Croatian, to take him and some other people to a yacht. We asked the bartender if we could get a cab there, and he said - sure, but it would be costly. Our new acquaintances said that money wasn't a problem. We then told him that, sure, we can organise a taxi, but would like to come along to the yacht, where they were going. He said it was a fair trade so we got on our way", Don told us.
The two indie devs told us that they came up with the idea for their game as a diversion during classes. They say that they ended up drawing lots of square shapes on paper during class, and figured that they might as well start turning those doodles into a game while they were at it.
"We ordered three cars to take us to the boat. When we got there, we took our shoes off and were welcomed aboard. A man approached us and asked us if we were bored. We were thinking that we are going to some party like in a club, and I asked if there was a DJ, and if I could play a few songs since I do DJ-ing as a hobby. I asked where the DJ deck was and the man handed me a smartphone with Spotify on it. We laughed a little and got to talking."
Don and Deni soon found themselves seated next to some developers and creators of a few very high profile games, and then exchanged experiences. After talking about the games for a short while the young developers were asked what they were working on at the moment, so they explained and showed their game.
"He tried the game, said he liked it and gave us some ideas on how he thinks the game might be improved. Somewhere at that point another man we didn't know joined the conversation. After a few minutes the two of them went out for a cigarette", Don says.
The two student indie devs were approached by a publisher before, after promoting the game on social networks for a while. They said that the price they were offered was not what they had in mind for the game, and that the emotional investment in their project was too great to sign away in what they considered a compromise in terms of price. Not taking that initial offer seems to have been a wise choice.
"When the two men went out for a cigarette we got really scared. Something was unusual about the way we were left there. We thought that someone figured out that we are talking about our game here and that it wasn't appropriate. We thought we will be thrown out when they return. The opposite thing happened. When they got back, they told us that they talked about our game, and that they liked it. All of a sudden everything turned around. People started approaching us there, asking about our game, and that continued through the rest of the conference. During the first days, we were the ones running after people to show them our game, now people were coming to us", Don and Deni told us.
Holes - The New Classic was already released on the App Store, and the two indie devs were even generous enough to give away 5% of their in-game transaction revenue to charity. They said that if everyone would do such a thing, the world would be a much better place.
"A lot of important looking people came to us later, and said Boys, you can relax now and have a pleasant evening. This night might change your life. It was a great feeling, after running after people for several days, suddenly we were the center of attention. It felt like a rush. We got asked to contact a lot of people that night, who wanted to talk about us and the future of our game. The replies are starting to come in", Deni said.
Don and Deni are now in the process of working out a deal and are being approached by publishers from several sides. In conclusion they had this to say "Never settle for a drink you don't want, and if someone asks you to call them a taxi, do it because you never know where that taxi might take you."