New Innovators: Fungus Games

Development platform enables people unfamiliar with coding to create games easily

Fungus Games cofounders Chris Gregan and John O’Kane

Fungus Games cofounders Chris Gregan and John O’Kane

 

“Everyone loves a good story and the Fungus platform helps people create beautiful story games easily, for free, and with no coding,” says company cofounder and veteran games developer Chris Gregan.

“I started making games when I was seven years old on my trusty ZX Spectrum and I’m passionate about making games development more accessible, especially for artists and game designers with limited coding experience.”

Gregan’s original idea was to make short storytelling games. However, he found existing game-building tools left a lot to be desired and decided to create his own. This led to the formation of Fungus Games in December 2013.

Gregan (below left) is the former chief architect responsible for global games technology strategy and cofounder of the Irish operation of US-owned mobile games developer, PlayFirst Inc. His cofounder, John O’Kane (above right), previously founded SnowGlobe Games and Instinct Technology.

The company’s third partner, Ronan Pearce, is the former director of engineering at PlayFirst and also a founder of Instinct Technology and Similarity Systems.

Fungus currently employs three people and it has been running open beta testing in Ireland for the last year. It will have its official launch on the Unity Asset Store (which sells game development tools) this month and Gregan expects this will lead to significant growth in user numbers.

Strong relationship

“We will primarily market Fungus through the Unity Asset Store and have built a strong relationship with them as they can help to promote Fungus and we can bring new users to their platform.”

While other game-building tools exist, Gregan says they are primarily commercial, closed source products. In theory the company could charge people to use Fungus, but Gregan believes this would be counterproductive as the main aim is the widespread adoption of the software.

“We decided early on to release Fungus as a free open source resource to give something back to the game development community,” he says. “Within three weeks of release, two teams of DIT students had won prizes at the Games Fleadh competition with Fungus games. That was when we realised we had something special that could really help people.”

New Frontiers programme

Blanchardstown IT

Many start-ups see existing competitors as a threat. Gregan takes a much more laid back view. “Most developers use a range of different extensions to create their games and we actually see more value in being compatible with these and even using Fungus to extend the power of these ‘competitors’ rather than trying to displace them,” he says.

“It’s not a zero-sum game; it’s about giving people the tools they need to realise their dreams.” Gregan’s aim is to grow Fungus into a mass market website similar to theonion.com or theoatmeal.com which attract millions of visitors per month.

“We recently ran a Fungus workshop with 18 people and by the end of the day they had learned how to make a storytelling game from scratch and how to deploy to the web and other platforms, all without writing a line of code. One great thing is that we usually see a 50:50 female/male ratio at our workshops. We think this is mainly due to the diverse appeal of storytelling and the accessibility of our platform.”

– OLIVE KEOGH

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