Zugalu Entertainment: Indie Gaming in Calgary
Branden Sloane started gaming back in the ‘80s. A fan of classic consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System and sci-fi classics such as Star Trek and Star Wars, Branden found gaming offered the perfect escape. When Starcraft 1 came out, Branden discovered he could create missions and challenge his friends and that hooked him more than gaming itself.
Flash forward a few years and Branden made the decision to study computer science at the University of Calgary. After graduating, Branden took a bit of a longer path before going into tech. He initially bought a Taco Time location and it was this decision that allowed him to work towards his own gaming company. After winning awards for the fastest-growing franchise and most valuable franchise, Branden sold the location and used the proceeds as seed money to start Zugalu Entertainment.
So… How did he get it all started?
Branden launched Zugalu Entertainment in 2014 after spending some time working in marketing and websites. In the beginning, his team took on outsourced projects, including games, apps and websites, but this worked out well for the team. Branden is great on the coding side… but recognizes that his drawing and design skills begin and end at stick figures. While Calgary has a diverse talent pool for tech, gaming design experience is limited, so Branden brought in model builders from oil and gas tech and designers from the movie industry. By starting with outsourced projects, and small games, the team had a chance to get their feet wet and build up their skills. And it gave them a chance to gel before they took on building their own games.
Their initial games were small, four-month projects, developed in multiple formats with Scavenger, a PC title; Epic Food Fight, a virtual reality game where players throw food at people; and Technolites, a first-person shooter game. After finding success with each of these, the team is now working on their first AA title—Thrive: Heavy Lies the crown (T:HLtC).
With a budget of $3 million and a plan for a late 2022 release, the Zugalu team has a big project in front of them. T:HLtC is a medieval game that offers players the opportunity to build their own kingdom, with options to make good, evil or neutral decisions as they rule their subjects.. A neat twist is that players can change their minds through the game and go from good to evil or vice versa based on their choices. Initial design is underway, and right from the beginning, the gaming community is being invited to take part. Using a 60,000-strong email list and Discord, an app that allows group chats, Zugalu is gathering feedback from test players on everything from design to modelling. Branden loves the community involvement and plans on using it to create a great experience as they build and develop. Interested in signing up? Visit https://discord.com/invite/VESRyBM.
Branden chose Alberta because it was home. Based in Calgary’s Mission neighborhood, he has made a point of getting involved in the local community. Zugalu had an open door policy that encouraged gamers to come in and test games in person. From our interview, I can tell that Branden misses the personal connection he had with gamers and can’t wait for things to get back on track.
Wondering where Zugalu Entertainment got its name? I did. Branden wanted something that was shorter, memorable and both unique and a little crazy. When he hit upon Zugalu his Google search only brought up one page of search results—and he decided he had a winner.
Check out our full interview to learn more about Branden and Zugalu Entertainment:
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