While gorgeous, vibrant games are what this company is known for, their gaming documentation tool helps make game engine changes easier to track.
As soon as you land on Drinkbox Studio’s homepage, you know you’re looking at something really fun. From a logo that looks like a game console controller with a straw poking out, to the bright, colourful graphics of the game studio’s slate of products, it’s more than a website — it’s an invitation to join the Drinkbox world.
Independent video game studio Drinkbox was founded by programmers Chris Harvey, Ryan MacLean, and Graham Smith in April 2008. The three had worked together at Pseudo Interactive, a Toronto-based game studio that had folded earlier that year, leaving their workforce, including Harvey, MacLean, and Smith, unemployed. While many of their colleagues departed the city for other gigs, Harvey, MacLean, and Smith stuck around to co-found Drinkbox Studio. The studio is now best known for its hand-drawn Guacamelee! series of games (the premise behind Guacamelee! is to “frog slam evil.” See? Told you it was fun). Drinkbox has distribution with big-name video game companies like Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo for Guacamelee! 1 and 2. Other games by the studio include Nobody Saves the World, which launched just this past March, Severed and Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, which are available on a number of different console platforms. All of Drinkbox’s products are vibrant and beautifully designed games that are just as compelling to look at as they are to play.
Drinkbox’s successes aren’t just found in their games, either. The language of programmers is, of course, code, and video games are made up of millions of lines of code. Developing and managing game engines isn’t easy; it takes a lot of time and tracking the features and any changes to the code is a challenge. In theory, documenting a game engine is the answer, but that task in and of itself is also time-consuming and cumbersome. Drinkbox wanted to make this process easier, so they set out to create a built-in documentation tool for their team. They knew the help system would have to be automated and user-friendly, but they didn’t have the bandwidth on their small staff to create it on their own. So, Harvey began working on a plan with Dr. Andrew Hogue, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Business and Information Technology at Ontario Tech University (UOIT).
Developing and managing game engines isn’t easy; it takes a lot of time and tracking the features and any changes to the code is a challenge.
After obtaining government funding to cover the costs of the help system build, Drinkbox got to work, but in addition to members of their team, Saad Rustam Khattak, a master’s student in Computer Science at UOIT, began to work on the project with Drinkbox. He worked part time at the studio when he wasn’t in school, and was able to add an internal editor to the help system, fix bugs, and more. In no time, the project was up and running, allowing the Drinkbox team to be more productive and efficient. Harvey also remarked on the help system’s contribution to the company’s future marketability. If they decided to license a game engine, a built-in help system increases the value and success of the product.
Not bad for a company that was built out of bad news.