Dragon Game Studio is a Bali-based game studio founded in 2012 by Jonas and Joan Johnsson, who is also husband and wife. After an amazing cliff-side wedding in Uluwatu, the plan was to move to Bali and settle down in the “Island of the Gods.” There was just something about Bali that mesmerized them and, impulsive and adventurous as they are, they decided to take the plunge!
Dragon Game Studio’s new game Balified is in the Indie Prize Showcase at Casual Connect Asia.
Jonas is a self-made businessman and Joan has a background in Marketing Communication. Working together as a couple was a completely new challenge for both of them. They are married, a team, partners and they work together. Not a lot of couples can do this, but here they are, at the beginning of their careers in the game development industry.
Before this big adventure, neither of them has been involved in the game development industry. Jonas has always been a typical hardcore gamer, but that’s where his experience stops. Joan started her interest in playing games when Jonas made her play Tetris against him on the Nintendo DS. Before that, she occasionally played games on the PC, but nothing much besides that. This made the adventure all the more exciting.
Setting Up a Game Studio in Indonesia
The first challenge was to find an office. It was necessary that they would get all the help that they could. They found a company with specialized services helping expats starting up their business in Indonesia. What was supposed to take only three months ended up taking one year! The hunt for the office was a tough one, but in the end, they managed to find one that seemed just perfect for the small studio they had in mind.
While looking for a studio, they were also busy finding the right people to build their Dragon Dream Team. Funny enough, the first employee they hired was someone they bought a dog from! He was a freshly graduated student and was looking for a job. By that time, there was not much to do, but they offered him the opportunity to study Corona SDK (in which BaliFied is built) while helping them set up the company.
Then there was the sudden application from their Art Director Gilbert. They were intrigued by his resume, so they went to Surabaya to interview him. Immediately, they realized that Gilbert was the right guy to have on board. After adding him to the team, they also met up with him during Casual Connect Singapore 2012. They felt they learned a lot from CC, and attending made them realize that they had a VERY long way to go before they could reach their goals…
After Gilbert, the other Dragons came in one after another. Everyone is just as talented, and has the great team spirit and attitude that they strive for. Dragon Game Studio nowadays consists of three programmers: Rocky, Jim and Christopher, one Art Director: Gilbert, one Studio Manager / Game Designer: Yon and an intern: Chris.
The first two games
The Harlem Shake vs Gangnam Style Dance Game was released on the App Store on 26th of March 2013 and was made in seven working days. It was a side project to give the team a breather from working intensively on BaliFied. Jonas wanted to do something with the two dance crazes that ruled YouTube. It has a simple gameplay: you choose the role that you want to play, either Harlem Shake or Gangnam and you tap on the right icon as soon as they appear in the white circles at the bottom of the screen.
The second game Don’t Steal My Banana was released on 27th of March 2013 after being rejected by Apple twice. But the third time’s the charm! This game was made in five weeks and was another side project for the team. None of them had released a game on the App Store before, so all this, from the creative journey to the launch of these titles, was perfect to learn about the whole release process by trial and error.
Both games were received pretty well. Harlem vs Gangnam got to the #1 position in many European countries and the Indonesian store, and reached the top 10 in the US store free music games category. Don’t Steal My Banana reached the top 50 in the free games category in the Indonesian store and got them a lot of new fans.
The masterpiece and the dream that Dragon Game Studio was built upon is called BaliFied – Word Game of the Gods. It’s a project that they hope will blow casual word game lovers away. They are both huge fans of word games such as WWF and Ruzzle, so when Jonas stumbled upon an old board game from 1950s called Bali on the internet, they knew that this was it! They realized that this was something they had to turn into a new and improved word game, with all the multiplayer functions today’s market offers.
The beginning wasn’t easy. A lot of adaptation processes was needed– communication, work standard and learning a new engine were just a few of the hurdles they had to get through. They were a group of people that never had worked together before. Luckily, most of the team members have a background in the game industry, but there still was a lot of stuff that they didn’t have a clue about. The GUI was changed many times before the team was completely happy, and a lot of time was spent on trial and error. After more than three months of developing, they began to wonder: can this game even be finished? But they got through it by dropping the project for a while, and then came back stronger than ever! This is something they recommend every developer to do if they get stuck: take a break from the project for a while, maybe make a few simple projects, and then go back to the main project.
When the focus was back on BaliFied, the team was feeling great about it. Fortunately for them, Corona had just released the new Corona Cloud feature at exactly when they needed it the most. Once again, the Balinese gods were on their side! After that, they did some super intensive beta-testing, and finally, Balified was finished and ready to be published. And here they are, ready to launch BaliFied in the summer of 2013.
Developing a game from scratch with little experience from the decision makers, but with all the knowledge from the team was a very hard process. They lived and learned and were not afraid to start over again when an idea was not completely supported by the whole team. It’s a give and take process and at the end, they are very proud of all that they have achieved so far. They are ready to take this new word game to another level! The level of the Gods.
Look forward to the release of BaliFied this summer.