When they founded Brinkbit, Bryan Bamford, Evan Fuller and Justin Livi had a fairly straightforward goal.
“We were just going to make games,” said Bamford, who along with Livi is a MICA grad.
But as they built computer games like Playing Favorites, the trio confronted the numerous challenges that didn’t involve development and design. Then there was the issue of picking an engine to build it on, distribution. And when the game finally launched, there was risk that it could crash if it got too popular.
— Brinkbit (@Brinkbit) July 15, 2014
“There’s a lot of problems you have to solve at a technical level when publishing a game,” Bamford said.
In response, they ended up pivoting from building games to building a platform that’s designed to help other game developers. Now, Bamford says, “We’re making our dream tool.”
Over lunch at Dooby’s this week, Bamford and Fuller pointed out that studios like Epic Games and Valve produced their own game engines in Unreal and Steam, respectively. In Brinkbit’s case, new technology also helped.
Around the same time they reached the pivot point in the fall of 2014, the coding language HTML5 was formally finalized and published. In that language, the trio saw a future for building games. They compared the open source language to an engine with a closed, proprietary language like what developers used in Adobe Flash.
“A lot of functions that were only available in Flash are now available by default in the [web] browser,” Bamford said. “It allows us to package the games in this HTML5 technology, and then it just runs instantly with no plugins. Any future device that has a browser, I already know that it’s going to run because it’s a standardized language.”
They believe standard web languages will replace proprietary languages like what was used in Flash. And, as it turns out, Flash was retired by Adobe last week.
But even with the code opened up, barriers remain for game developers. While the code itself is standardized, it’s an open source technology being developed by a worldwide community. So it remains fragmented, and requires a lot of research to fully understand on your own, Bamford said. That leaves room for Brinkbit to introduce tools that will make development easier.
Brinkbit is a cloud-based platform, which is designed provide a secure place to save progress and interact with multiple people building games directly in a browser. And since game development also involves packaging a game for the App Store or Google Play, the platform also assists there.
“You can make a game, test a game, ship your game and monetize a game all without leaving one interface,” Fuller said.
Brinkbit is looking to focus mainly on indie developers and students looking to build games. Initially, the platform will be free to use, but their long-term business model includes a subscription model and revenue sharing for games that are played directly on Brinkbit.
Fuller said they’ve seen others that have “aspects” of the platform they’re building, such as PlayMax but nothing that provides distribution or is completely online.
“Our hope and our bet is that we’ve most fully realized the potential of making a game development tool that’s cloud based,” he said. “And rolling distribution into development is part of that. Having it in the browser is part of that.”
The team worked on building the platform and their business model as members of the 2015 AccelerateBaltimore cohort. Since then, they’ve spent more time building the platform. That effort got a boost in the form of a recently-finalized $100,000 investment from TEDCO’s Technology Commercialization Fund. Along with servers, the new money allows Livi to join the company as a second full-time employee, and hire a part-time developer. (For now, Fuller, who heads up the startup’s marketing efforts, is keeping his full-time job with Millennial Media.)
“They were really what validated and gave us the steam that we needed to keep focusing on our idea,” Bamford said of TEDCO and AccelerateBaltimore.
They’re also set to release a closed beta, which will debut today, Dec. 9, at an event at the Emerging Technology Centers’ Haven campus. But with room for about 20-30 developers this round, he also has an eye toward an open beta in March 2016. Bamford called getting to this point where the team can see what other developers think and drill down on improving the system a “huge milestone.”
“I can’t wait to put it into people’s hands on Wednesday,” Fuller said.