Starting Up: Stormburst Studios

Video games – we’ve all played them. Whether it’s Candy Crush on your mobile phone or Call of Duty on your Xbox, I have no doubt that you’ve been exposed to them in some way. So it comes as no surprise that people like me enjoy making them as well as playing them.

My name’s Derry Holt and I’m the CEO of Stormburst Studios, a video games developer specialising in mobile games & gamified technologies. I come from Tamworth, a relatively large town just outside Birmingham where I took a very standard route through education (GCSE, A Levels, degree). I bandied around a lot of ideas in my youth: astrophysicist, games programmer, chemist, pilot and a couple of others. No matter where I went with my studies games were always a huge part of my life.

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I’m intrinsically competitive and I don’t find the same adrenaline rush video games give me anywhere else. Ultimately this is what led me down the path of choosing De Montfort University as my place of study for BSc Computer Games Programming.

I’ll spare you my life story for the most part; whilst others vocalised their ambitions to join hugely successful studios like Lionhead, Codemasters and Rebellion, a coursemate (James Heath) and I whispered our dreams of forming our own games development studio. Sure enough, we did just that! In November 2014 we incorporated Stormburst Studios and the gears began to turn. Our first move was identifying exactly what we wanted to do and how we’d do it – fortunately, the Enterprise Team were on hand where we got to talk with a very capable woman called Kate Cowan who gave us some excellent pointers to get us moving. We applied to the Business Venture Competition in which we bested five other businesses to receive 36% of the audience vote and £250. It was a great way of validating our idea and seeing so much support for it spurned us onto the next step: finding office space. A few months later and we’re now on DMU’s Crucible Project in Leicester and Entrepreneurial Spark’s accelerator programme in Birmingham. With such a wide range of mentoring, contacts and investment opportunities available to us the future’s looking very bright for Stormburst.

CEO Enterprise Award winners Derry Holt and James Heath

CEO Enterprise Award winners Derry Holt and James Heath

So that’s our story – but that’s not all you’re here for, right? 
There’s a lot more to it than coming up with a name you like, hitting a few buttons on a website and beaming from ear to ear whilst you plead with people to support your idea. There’ve been ups and downs, as there are for any entrepreneur. Starting your own business is a roller coaster ride; not everything goes your way all the time. You have to take it on the chin and just keep pushing forward. We made a pretty big decision in adding gamification to our roster of services but it’s paid off big time – people love the idea of gamification breaking into education, medicine, HR and plenty more. If we’ve learnt anything, it’s to never be afraid of change. Any change is progress and it helps you make your progress more tangible.

We’re hoping to release our first game in February and not long after that take on our first artist; we’re using a few freelancers at present and there’s only so much two programmers and a couple of part-timers can do. We’re seeking to maintain our connections with DMU to make use of the fantastic talent on the Game Art & Design course which is regarded as one of the best art courses in the country.

Either way, it’s going to be an exciting few months; why not follow our journey on Twitter @StormburstGames?

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