Home grown game development studio, Spyros Entertainment has sealed a deal with Chillingo - the people behind Angry Birds - to publish their new game, Athorus. We catch up with founder Ramez Mokhtar to find out how they did it...
For thousands of years Egyptians achieved very little. After we built the pyramids, we very much rested on our laurels and let things happen to us, rather than getting things done. Then the revolution came along to remind us that we are more than capable to do whatever the hell we felt like doing, and doing it well. Especially when it comes to the digital world. Now, holiday brochures won’t just site Egypt as the home of the pyramids and the Arab Spring, but also the place where chart-topping mobile games and apps are made. You didn’t see that one coming, did you? Founded in 2011, Spyros Entertainment – a home grown mobile app and game development studio – have quietly been working hard to produce Athorus, a Pharaoh-themed role playing game (RPG), that’s set to be published by Chillingo – the UK-based game publisher behind Angry Birds, recently acquired by gaming giants Electronic Arts (EA).
Founded by three self-proclaimed gamer-geeks, Ramez Mokhtar (sound designer), Ahmed Alaa (3D artist and art director) and Mohamed Safwat (lead programmer), the story of how Spyros Entertainment came about is as inspiring as their recent achievements. We caught up with Mokhtar who explained that trial and error were their best friends when founding the company. “We started off by trying to create a console game, like the ones you buy for your X-Box or Playstation. It took us six months to finish just one level! We realised that no matter how much we tried, without a team of 400 and a budget of at least $1 million, this can’t be our field of expertise,” he admits. That was in 2009, but come 2011 and the emergence of social initiatives across the country, focusing on digital start ups, Spyros Entertainment got their second wind when they received a grant from Tahrir Squared. With this, they regrouped and relaunched, this time realising that apps and mobile games were the way to go. “The mobile gaming industry was worth $12.3 billion in 2012,” says Mokhtar. “We realised our skills are better suited to this area of gaming, and it will be much quicker and easier for us to turn out mobile games.”
And turn it out they did. After they had got the details for Athorus settled – a mid-core (meaning a mixture of core gaming [games that have levels and storylines and alternate endings based on user interaction] and casual gaming [games that don’t depend on gamer choices, that can be picked up and put down easily, like puzzles]) RPG, set in Ancient Egypt – they contacted a list of game publishers to give them the push a start-up development studio like Spyros depends on. “Chillingo was top of our list and we were thrilled when they accepted our proposal,” says Mokhtar. “It means we’ve either raised the international bar for mobile games, or at the very least, met it.”
Now finalising the game with a producer from Chillingo, the team behind Athorus plan to release it in just under two months. Aiming for an international audience, and with the world’s biggest gaming companies behind them, you’ll be seeing it in an app store near you any day now. “Though it’s Ancient Egypt themed, we, and many other developers in Egypt, have realised that we have to work to global standards and market outside of our country since the industry here is still young,” explains Mokhtar. Already working on their next game (SPOILER: it’s about robots), the Spyros gang are making a name for Egyptian developers one level at a time, though they're on the look out for another round of investments to help them continue the dream.