On this day 9 years ago two developers who felt chewed up, spit out and betrayed by an industry, but yet still absolutely driven to do something in it, registered a company. June 22nd 2012, Dlala Studios Ltd officially became a thing. At the time there was no plan, there wasn’t even a game idea and, as it’s been well documented, there was no money. There was one thing however. There was the desire to make awesome things and make them together. We were 2/3rds of what we, half tongue-in-cheekily, referred to as the Dream Team (that 3rd guy went on to be lead designer on a little thing called ‘Surgeon Simulator’, I suppose he’s pretty good… still got big love for you Luke). Neither of us could predict the journey we would end up going on.
9 years later Dlala is out of the garage, we have our 2 and a bit buildings round the corner from the garage where it all started and there are nearly 30 of us. I’ve had the absolute honor of being able to hire some of my best friends and having some of the people I hired become my best friends. I had my little sister, Stink, working here before she became the mum to my amazing niece Scarface. My mum is working here now, although she is going to need to stop crying with happiness/pride every 5 minutes or she’s going to start walking into things. I got to make a sequel to one of my childhood favourite games that I used to play with my cousin and, not only that, it turned out to be a game that my two wonderful nephews Ezra and Leo love playing too. As we hit our 9 year anniversary we’ve got team members on track to celebrate their 9 years of working at Dlala anniversaries (Thank you Crickett and Ben), we got a game out, during one of the toughest times the world has faced recently, which has been played by A LOT more people than I could have ever dreamed of and we’re working on the best and biggest game of the studios and my own career.
The phrase “it’s been a rollercoaster” is a tired cliché but it’s only tired because it’s had to be used so much. It has been a rollercoaster. The studio formed out of the love that two game creators had for each other ended up being the thing that pulled us apart and then, as if it was inevitable, allowed us to grow and repair the friendship. Craig may not be at Dlala anymore, although he is a shareholder, but he’s off smashing it at another studio and we put the work in over the last half a year to get the friendship back, in fact that is underplaying it. We worked our absolute asses off to rekindle our bromance, something both our partners were rightly hesitant of. They claim they were hesitant because of how emotionally hard our break-up was all those years ago but we know the truth is they’re hesitant because they know they’ve got to compete with it again!
So I sit here 9 years to the day after registering “Dlala Studios Ltd” and creating something we had no idea about and I’m overwhelmed with emotion but the main one is just pride. We have done, and continue to do, something incredible here. Now you can take that as me being egotistic if you like, and honestly I don’t care if you do, but this isn’t about me. Dlala is way way more than me, something it took me a nasty partnership break-up to acknowledge, but I’m so proud of this strange little studio in nowheresville Essex. I’m so proud of this team, the most wonderful team I’ve ever met, let alone worked with.
Today we’re going to celebrate, and we’re going to celebrate hard. We’re going to eat, drink and be merry, all whilst being appropriately awkward for the games industry of course. In a typical showing of Dlala’s “Honesty and Transparency” we let our (wonderful) current publisher know that we would not be attending our regular meetings tonight and tomorrow because we would not be in a fit state to deliver on our usual standard, in fact I believe the terms used were “On Tuesday the team will be smashed and on Weds they will be hungover”. So as I sit here squeezing a bit of work in before the party begins, I’m thinking about what 9 years has meant for us at Dlala but I’m not thinking about the next 9 years, or the next year even. I’m thinking about now and how lucky I am to get to wake up every day and get to come to this place and do this job working with these people. So I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported us, played our games, spoke to us at conferences, mentored us and helped us to become better people and game creators. Thank you to our partners, especially Harri, who have sacrificed missed anniversaries, valentines days, family dinners and more so that we could follow this dream. Thank you to this team, past and present.
Thank you to the graduate programmer who blew our minds with how good he was, the game programmer who took on the technical leadership of an entire game studio within the first couple of years of his career, the QA guy who quit his job before he got offered the job to become a designer, the synth playing artist who would become lead designer and the little brother who would work every spare second and become lead audio designer. If that ridiculous group of misfits had never been willing to work for free, travel the country, spend sleepless night after sleepless night and take the gamble on the two programmers, who wanted to be designers, that became studio owners then Dlala wouldn’t be here 9 years later celebrating a birthday. Thank you Crickett, Ben, Loud, Grant and Sam. Thank you to Craig for not even taking a breath before jumping head first into this journey with me. Thank you to every Dlalan past and present. I love you and will be eternally grateful.
Craig and I have been told over and over again “Well if you two can do this then anyone can.” Whilst I can’t confirm whether that’s right or wrong I can say this, Craig and I didn’t do this. We just got the be the ones that jumped out the plane and hope that when we pull the cord a parachute came out.
Happy 9th Birthday Dlala and Thank You!