Where we’ve been. Where we’re going. Why we’re quiet.
So where to begin. We’ve had a crazy 3.5 years and it doesn’t feel like it’s slowing down at all. So I’m going to do one of my usual blogs where I just jump around back and forth between trains of thought, streams of conciousness and generally just chatting shit.
So as I said, where to begin. I’m going to start with the why we’ve been quiet. As we’ve touched on before both publicly and not so publicly the end push for Overruled! was hard. When we started the game it was originally going to be a little project, 4-5 months of development, couch multiplayer only and that was as far as the plan went. As long as we enjoyed making it and playing it that’s all that mattered. Then the next thing you know we took a 10 week old build to EGX Rezzed (2014) and watched people playing it and enjoying it. It knocked us back and we started viewing the game in ways we never had imagined. Then just as we were catching our breathes we had signed to Team 17. Long time friends of Dlala and also creators of Worms which was one of the big inspirations for us to do a same room multiplayer game. Our little same room multiplayer game suddenly turned into an online game. Our PC only build suddenly turned into PC/Mac/Linux/Xbox One/PS4 and the 4 month project ended up being over a year of work.
I want to say this loud and clear now. Making games is not easy, it never has been easy and every time an aspect gets easier it doesn’t mean the process suddenly becomes a cake walk. Especially when you are functioning, or at least trying to function, as a real developer and writing clean, sustainable code. What I’m saying is that I know it’s hard and we all knew it’s hard going in. Now this disclaimer is over…
It. Was. Hard. For those of you that don’t know already the Dlala that started Overruled! had just come out of the backside of a very up and down relationship working internally with the, now-defunct, Microsoft Studio “Lift London”. When we went into the relationship with Lift we had been a studio for less then 6 months, Craig and I had spent all of our savings and were stone cold broke and we were suddenly offered this Golden Ticket into funding and being able to build the product and the team that we wanted to. It was simple maths at the time:
Low Experience As Studio + No Current Funding + Pay Offer + Offices + Team We Want + Games We Want = No Brainer.
Obviously we thought about it but it wasn’t a decision we had to think about for long. Now I’m not going to dwell on this for long, but what we went in to do was not what actually happened. So when we left Lift in January of 2014 we were shaken, bruised, battered and had no funding. Only this time it wasn’t the two of us there were now 5 of us, the guys had chosen to leave behind security and dive into a river of the unknown with Dlala. When I look back now and how I was running the studio and trying to produce the project I cringe. We were planning, designing and developing all in parallel, there was no pre-production, there was no real plan we were just making it up as we went along. Once we signed the deal with Team 17 it gave us structure in terms of publisher milestones but we still weren’t functioning even a quarter as efficiently as we do now, and we’re still far from perfect now. So Overruled!’s development wasn’t smooth add in the fact that we were doing some “firsts” for the combination of platforms, engine and online that we were doing it led to some hellish times. We were completely remote at the time as well so only got to see each other properly once a month and we are a very very close knit family and need time with each other. We were making good progress and the game was fun, which is what mattered to us, but the world wasn’t ready to go easy on us. October 2014, 2 years after we launched Janksy, 10 months after we let Lift Craig and I had a very real situation we had to address.
The funds were nearly gone.
We’d had investment opportunities earlier in the year that we had chose to turn down in favour of keeping the majority of the company. We had raised money from friends and family (around 30kish) and everyone had agreed to work for next to minimum wage to get the game done. Once we signed a publisher deal we had another cash injection but we had nearly burnt through all those funds. Craig and I realised at this point if we just didn’t pay ourselves for the next two months we could make the money stretch out until January, which meant the guys would get through Christmas which is what mattered. The pair of us started taking on projects for the company in our evenings, weekends. Helping with bug fixing/coding on games with our publisher like The Escapists and Schroedinger’s Cat. November 17th 2014 was my 30th birthday and my girlfriend Harri had arranged for me and a group of my close mates to go stay in a house in the middle of no-where (which is perfect for me as I can’t stand people, yes I know I’m a horrible person). Week before we left for the birthday trip a contract arose, a contract which would give Dlala some stability for an 4-5 months. So over my birthday I was sat there working away on this project, alongside one of my best friends Dogg. We got the project shipped in 2 weeks. Start to end. Dlala finally had some run again for me to start finding money. At this point Craig and I vowed that we couldn’t do it like this any more. No more cutting it that fine, the thought of not being able to get our family Christmas presents had genuinely upset us, not just because we didn’t want to let people down but because we’d sacrificed everything to get to where we were and we were still being spit on. But that’s the reality of it, just because we were working hard didn’t mean that it was going to work out. So that was our turning point. The birthday contract led to not only more contracts but an ongoing relationship. At the same time we shipped Overruled! later then we hoped, around a year later then we hoped. It got, and is still getting, mixed reviews. People love it, people hate it, people get it and people think it’s shit and that is perfect. I have always said that if no-one hates your game there is a high chance that no-one loves it.
Now whilst we had been finishing up Overruled!, and working these background contracts we had been pitching around for what Dlala Game 3 would be. We had got ourselves into a fantastic situation with great partners. However it meant that we had 2 days off in-between sending the final cert copy of Overruled! and starting pre-production on the new game. Pre-production quickly went into full production and that’s where we are now.
This time last year the company had just been saved from the brink of bankruptcy, we were in what we thought was the final pass on a game that had spilled well beyond our estimated development period and we were terrified. Now we’re stable, we have our own office, in January our 2 new starters will take us up to 12 total and we’re working on the most exciting project we could never have dreamed of.
So in short. We’ve been busy and that’s why we’ve been quiet ha.
As you can tell by the way I referred to it as Dlala Game 3 we can’t say anything about it yet but as soon as we can we won’t shut up.
For those of you that supported us thank you. You have allowed us to get here.
For the haters, we fucking love you.
Love and kisses
Aj + Dlala