15 March 2018

Abertay games graduates sign six-figure deal

Abertay games graduates sign six-figure deal

Minecraft Console Editions developer 4J Studios has invested a six figure sum in indie studio Puny Astronaut - a team of top Abertay games graduates - to help bring their first game to market.

Puny Astronaut (above) won a prize at Abertay's 2016 Dare to be Digital competition, which included funding from All 4 Games, and an Unreal Dev Grant.

Since bagging the prestigious Dare award, the team - Chris D'Arcy (Sound Designer), Cian Roche (Managing Director), Erin Stevenson (Character Artist/ Animator), Grant Stranaghan (Gameplay Programmer), Harry Haston-Dougan (Systems Programmer), Mark Cully (Technical Artist)and Sam Donaghey (Environment Artist) - has been quietly developing its first title, Skye, an engrossing exploration game for children, families, and casual audiences.

Currently based at Abertay, Puny Astronaut was founded by a group of former students as part of Dare, now known as Dare Academy.

Since winning, the team has been based at Abertay, focused on developing Skye while also looking for the right partners to help take it to market.

The search led them to games industry veterans and founders of 4J Studios Paddy Burns and Chris van der Kuyl, who immediately recognised the potential of both the game and the studio.

“When we met Puny Astronaut, and were first introduced to Skye, we could see instantly that the team and the game had enormous potential,” said CEO Paddy Burns.

“Both are a perfect fit for 4J as our philosophy is based on developing ‘games for everyone’.

"Although the team was understandably keen to bring Skye to market as soon as possible, Chris and I felt rushing it out would be a mistake.

"So, we offered to invest in them instead, which would give them the time, space and resources they needed to complete the game in line with their initial vision and to really do the idea justice.”

Puny Astronaut’s MD Cian Roche added: "We have invested blood, sweat, and tears into developing Skye both whilst as students at Abertay, and since we graduated last summer.

"We're a small, fresh developer and up until now we had no other option but to rush Skye out to market and hope for the best.

"With 4J’s investment, though, we’ll be able to produce the game we first set out to create, and share our plans with the rest of the games community.”

Following completion of the investment deal, Paddy Burns and Chris van der Kuyl both joined the board of Puny Astronaut as directors, with Chris taking on the added role of chairman.

“When Paddy and I met the team at Puny Astronaut we were bowled over by their talent and enthusiasm,” said Chris.

“We both saw real similarities between them and ourselves when we were first starting out. We remember exactly how tough a journey it can be to make it in this industry.

"Being able to not just provide the financial backing but also help the team to navigate the spider’s web of the market is something we are really looking forward to and it’s fantastic to see a new team – with such a massive future – being supported in this way.”

Finally, a spokesperson from All 4 Games ended: “All 4 Games originally provided some funding for Skye as part of the Dare prize prior to 4J Studios, who were able to provide funds to make the game even bigger and better.

"We were happy to be involved at the start and can’t wait to see what happens next.”


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