By @SimonCocking

Describe the company – the elevator pitch …

Howling hamster Is a three person game development studio. We have just released our first game Goldbeards Quest on the Google play store and we are in development of our first P.C. game Sub Species which should see the light of day sometime in 2016… maybe.

How are you different?

We like to think that what makes us different is our approach to development. Everything we do is done at a low cost. Our equipment is old, we use as much open source software as possible. What little money we have is used in the most cost effective way we can. Anything superfluous is disregarded.

The result of all this is that we are not in any debt. Were beholden to any private or state investors. If it all goes horribly we wont leave any financial craters in our wake. If we get it right we could have a nice return on our investment, which so far has been a few software licences and a lot of hard work.

This low cost, low risk approach reflects in the design process. We don’t have to follow any trends or styles that currently popular to try and make a quick buck. We get to make the game we want to make, and that’s exactly what Sub Species is.

Why will the company / product do well?

We have no idea if the game will sell well or not. Sub Species is a solid concept. The majority of the feedback we have received for it has been overwhelmingly positive, some of it even came from people we don’t know.

When the game is complete our job then is to get it in front of the right people. The Games Industry is full of king makers, a good review from a well known You Tuber, Web Site or well connected blogger can pull your product from obscurity to the mainstream. If we hope to have any chance of success this is what we need to do.

Goldbeards Quest is a simple platform game that’s basically an Aldi version of Mario. The game is free, with revenue generated through ad support. Any money made with Goldbeard goes to supporting the development of Sub Species. It also allows us at an early run at marketing, something with which we have little experience with.


Where are you based?

Were based in Galway. Initially we were scattered in various spare bedrooms across the city, meeting on a weekly basis in one of Galway’s many fine drinking establishments, to compare notes and tackle problems. Problems like “we cant keep working like this”. Eventually we managed to convince our lead Programmers nephew, to allow us to turn his unused dining room in to Howling Hamsters Global Corporate headquarters.

Currently we are working with the Bank of Ireland’s Startlab initiative that provide incubation space, mentoring, marketing support and networking opportunities for businesses at an early stage. Everyone here has been really cool and supportive about what were doing.

When was the company launched?

OK so I’ve just had a look at our Certificate of Incorporation and according to that, Howling Hamster games officially became a thing on “Monday, the 16th day of November 2015”. Its a fancy looking document with intricate borders, Harps, a flowery signature and everything, seems legitimate. However before we got the official stamp, we been together as a development group in one guise or another since 2013.

What have been your biggest wins to date?

Getting Green lit on Steam. Steam is the largest digital distributor of P.C. games in the world, with well over 100 million customers. The Greenlight section of Steam allows the community and customer base to decide what they would like to see available for purchase, if your game gets enough positive votes it can be sold on Steam.

In early 2014 we made our submission with Sub Species (which was then under the working title Trench). We were prepared for a long wait, as we have heard stories of games taking up to and over a year to get Green lit. It turns out that someone out there likes what were doing because less than two months later we got an email saying we made the cut.

Up until that point all we had was a very early demo. By getting green lit we had a distribution deal and the knowledge that we had a small but enthusiastic fan base.

What type of people (market segment) are you trying to attract to your product?

We target our products to a very specific area of the gamer market, namely those who identify themselves as gamers. People who like a challenge, that are looking for something a bit different. Who would like some variety in their collection, to complement the offerings from the big triple A developers.

Tell us about your team?

“Your team” implies that there is someone in charge. If you ever seen how we run things it would be clear that’s not the case. The three of us make important decisions with as much consensus and compromise as possible.

My name is Trevor Burke, I am the Graphic designer of the group. My background is in traditional pencil and paint artwork but I have been going digital for the past fifteen years or so. I’m responsible for the 2D and 3D asset creation, the character animation and the overall look of the game, so no pressure there.

Steven Kelly describes himself as “old school techie.” even though he’s 25. “Building websites, Game Programming and Audio design are main role but I’m no stranger to a soldering iron either.”

Manus Burke is the lead programmer with the team, “I completed my MSc, that focused on analysis of Social Engineering Attacks, from NUIGalway in 2004. I promptly put the degree to good use by spending the next 10 years running poker tournament around the country and managing a casino in Galway. In 2013, after 10 years without a good nights sleep, I got back to my programming roots and teamed up with the Trevor and Steven to take the world of game development”

What are you long term plans for your product / company?

From here on out, all our focus is on getting Sub Species completed in a reasonable time frame. If it is successful on the P.C. it may attract the interest of Sony Microsoft or Nintendo who may want it on their console, that would be dream come true stuff.

Also expanding the business, employing new people, working on new projects would all be long term goals, but all this is predicated on the success of Sub Species .

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

I love my P.C., its this huge Black ugly thing with Gaudy lights that weighs a tonne. If was any bigger it would require planning permission, but there is nothing It cant do.

What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?

If I could get my hands on a Wacom Cintiq I would explode with happiness. Its basically a giant touch screen tablet that you draw on. I currently use one of the Cintiqs ancient Ancestors to help me with my Photoshop and Zbrush work.

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