Our tech start-up of the week is BatCat Games, a Dublin-based indie game company that is developing immersive, story-driven games for the mid-core console and desktop markets.
Co-founded earlier this year by software developers Andrew O’Connor and Andrea Magnorsky, along with Sean McDermott, a 3D artist, BatCat Games is an indie game developer that is aiming to make its mark in the mid-core gaming marketplace.
The first game to emerge from BatCat is a twin-stick shooter called P-3 Biotic. In January, the game was released on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games marketplace, while P-3 Biotic has been available as a PC version since the summer via IndieCity, IndieVania and Desura.
The trio had initially been bootstrapping the start-up while also holding down their day jobs, but they decided to devote their energies by going full time into the venture earlier this year.
After securing funding from Enterprise Ireland under its Competitive Start Fund, they took on another team member, Tom Moore, a 2D artist.
Since then, BatCat Games has also moved into the incubation space for indie game developers that was set up by the venture-capital-backed indie game studio Digit when it established its studio in Dublin during the summer. Bitsmith Games has also joined the incubator.
Screenshot from P-3 Biotic
As to BatCat’s first game, P-3 Biotic, O’Connor says the PC version is much more enhanced.
The game is set in a petri dish and centres around killing infectious bacteria.
“Users pilot a nano ship around the dish to protect an organism at the centre of the dish that is trying to grow. Bacteria are invading the dish and are trying to attack the organism," explains O’Connor.
He says BatCat Games does not do retail so the game is currently available on sites such as Desura, IndieCity and IndieVania.
"We’re possibly going to have a retail version of the game before Christmas. I don’t believe it will be in Ireland, but around Europe."
In development: Jiro
Right now BatCat is focusing on developing its next game, which O’Connor says will involve a Samurai warrior called Jiro and will be set in feudal Japan.
"Its working title is Jiro. It’s a 2D, side-scrolling, beat-’em-up game set in feudal Japan."
He says the game is not likely to launch until 2013, possibly around August of next year.
"We want to try and get a publisher for that game and some of the publishers have their own schedules so even if we have the game finished, the publisher might hold off on releasing it until it fits into their own programme."
He says the game will be available for PCs initially. "If we can we will get it onto consoles, looking at Xbox and maybe PlayStation Vita."
Screengrab from the current game BatCat Games is working on
O’Connor and Magnorsky are also headed to Gamescom in Germany in August to talk to publishers.
"We’re at the point now where we have built up a lot of momentum, especially in Ireland, and we believe we can use that to convince an investor to help us out," explains O’Connor.
He says being accepted into Digit’s gaming incubator has also been instrumental.
"For two months the four of us were working in our homes. That worked, to an extent, but it is just so much more productive when you can just walk over to the other side of the desk to see what someone else is working on. It has been a huge boost."
In terms of future plans for BatCat Games, O’Connor says the company is concentrating on mid-core games.
"These games are more involved than casual games. They are games that have a story and require some level of skill from the player. We are trying to build these games that appeal to people who don’t have a lot of time to game and don’t want to play games that demand too much time."
He says the ultimate aim is to get large investment from a venture capitalist to try to grow the company to two to three teams of people and develop between two and three games a year.
O’Connor says the climate for indie game start-ups is "exciting" in Ireland at the minute.
"People are starting to recognise it as a valid job, which it has been outside of Ireland for years."
And, on that note, the BatCat Games crew is also organising Dublin GameCraft for game developers next weekend.
The event is taking place on Saturday, 17 November, at Engine Yard’s Dublin office on Barrow Street. Game developers who go along on the day will have 12 hours to create a game.
"The idea is you come on your own or with a team, or you join a team on the day, and you make a game in 12 hours. There will be a panel of judges there and we will have a few prizes for the winners!" adds O’Connor.
And, finally his advice for other start-ups? "The investment is there. Go to Enterprise Ireland and try to get into the Competitive Start Fund. You give away 10pc of your company for it, but there are no strings attached other than the equity. It comes with a mentoring programme. They can connect you with people outside of the country."
He says it’s also about networking. "Get out there. Do some community events," adds O’Connor.