5 June 2014
Breaking the rules sometimes pays off, as a group of Victoria University gaming graduates have discovered after pooling their skills to form start-up company One Legged Crab to build apps for clients.
They are now building their own games and products for commercial sale through a second company, Crablink.
Chris Mather and Ryan Loader became friends at intermediate and stayed that way through high school and into university, where they took some of the same design courses while studying for a Bachelor of Design Innovation at the Victoria School of Design.
“But we were always discouraged from teaming up on design projects,” says Chris, “and advised to work instead with students from different disciplines in order to get a wider skill set in the team.”
The message was the same when they were accepted into the Viclink Futures Programme, a digital boot camp run by the University’s commercialisation company, in the summer of 2012/13. But this time Chris and Ryan decided to stick together and also team up with two others taking part in the boot camp.
Eighteen months on, three of those four (Chris, Ryan and Alistair St Pierre) are still working together and have several successful games and applications in the marketplace.
Viclink’s Abby Buchanan has been invaluable to the company, helping the team take its first product, Proleague, to potential partners, clients and investors.
Proleague is a Facebook arcade game, designed in conjunction with the Wellington Phoenix Football Club, that allows players to invite others to come to Phoenix games at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Further developments are in the planning stages and could see players meet up at half time to play the game on their devices and compete for prizes.
Although Chris says none of the team members are sports fans, their second project also targets the sporting world. Called Advantage4me, the app is an online management tool that helps coaches, players and match officials analyse performance on the rugby field.
The most recent game developed by Chris, Ryan and Alistair—called Snappy—gets players busy catching flies while dodging bombs and is available free from both Apple and GooglePlay.
Chris says support from Viclink, including initial funding to help get the company underway, has been crucial to the company getting established.
“I had always wanted to start my own company but the boot camp was the first thing I’d experienced that brought all the essential ingredients together—the team, an opportunity to find out if you can work together and backing for your idea.”
Chris says it also led him to mentors—one being Sunil Vather, Chief Executive of Im-Able which makes a games system to help people rehabilitate after a stroke, who is now a director of Crablink.
While Chris and his co-workers, all of whom are aged just 22, don’t know exactly where their company will end up, they do know they’ve found their calling.
“We just want to make games—ones that are experimental, fun and different. We know it won’t be easy—we recently attended a talk by Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds, who told us they made 51 other games that were unpopular before striking the jackpot—but it’s what we are determined to do.”
And the friendship between Chris, Ryan and Alistair now that they see each other every day?
“Even better!” says Chris.