Games developer going great guns

Balancing Monkey Games creative director Sam Barham in his studio in South Dunedin. PHOTO: SHAWN...
Balancing Monkey Games creative director Sam Barham in his studio in South Dunedin. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
A computer game developer is building a thriving business from his new South Dunedin studio - fingers crossed it does not get eaten by a space whale.

Balancing Monkey Games creative director Sam Barham, of Calton Hill, said he began developing his computer game Before We Leave as a hobby nearly three years ago.

The city-building game is set in a corner of the universe. Players have to build a planetary network of thriving colonies, but the universe contains planet-devouring space whales.

So the civilisation must advance to a point where the whales can be pacified.

He developed the game while juggling a full-time day job as a server programmer and raising his three children with his wife Anna.

Hence when he registered his business in 2017, the name containing "balancing" was a nod to his busy life — the second part indicated he liked monkeys.

In 2018, the game was named a finalist in an annual competition at the New Zealand Game Development Conference.

“Which was very cool,” he said.

The exposure from the competition resulted in a “successful New Zealand game developer looking to pay it forward” to offer him funding to further develop his game.

The funding allowed him to quit his day job and work full-time developing the game from home and hire contractors.

“I had a guy in Poland doing the art and a guy in England doing the music.”

He entered the game in the same competition last year and won.

An image from Dunedin computer game Before We Leave. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
An image from Dunedin computer game Before We Leave. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

In June last year, the game was “announced” - letting the public know a new game was being developed for imminent release.

He contracted a “guy in New York” to help market the game.

Late last year, he was given multiple offers but decided to sign a deal giving “exclusive” rights to video game publisher Epic Games Store.

As part of the deal he was guaranteed a set income and received 88% of each sale.

The game, which is available in seven languages, has been on sale since May 8 this year.

“It’s done extremely well - which is just wonderful.”

He declined to reveal any numbers on how well it had been selling because it was commercially sensitive information.

The game had been nominated for three prizes in the New Zealand Games Festival Awards on August 29.

After the game was released he employed a programmer in Dunedin, and a community manger working remotely in Auckland.

His wife Anna, who works as the Dunedin South Medical Centre practice manager was set to start as Balancing Monkey Games managing director next month.

In the studio, he has a desk name plate with the words “professional nerd” — a gift his wife gave him about 14 years ago.

Since the game was launched, he had leased office space in South Dunedin late last month.

He decided to establish an office in South Dunedin because he lived nearby and wanted to be part of the community.

He felt “incredibly blessed” to have been able to have made his hobby his day job.

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