Since they were old enough to operate controllers, brothers Enrique Dryere BA’09 and Paul Dryere BA’12 have been infatuated with video games. By middle school, what started with NES games such as Super Mario and Zelda turned into a full-fledged obsession with multiplayer online games like EverQuest and consumed the duo throughout high school and college.
“We grew up with it,” Enrique said. “It became our identity. There was a summer where that was basically all we did besides eating and sleeping.”
Today, the Dryere brothers are the founders of Triple B Titles, a small game development studio that was born out of their love for gaming. But before they joined forces and turned game development into careers, the brothers traveled down different paths.
Older brother, Enrique first ventured from the family’s home in McAllen, Texas, to attend The University of Texas at Austin, where he received a degree in psychology. But midway through his undergraduate career, he realized that a future in psychology wasn’t for him.
“I just became a bit disillusioned with the profession,” Enrique said. “But I knew I could devote myself to a creative pursuit like gaming.”
He decided to move to Houston to live with his mom and brother. A year later, the family relocated to Dallas so Paul could pursue a degree in programming at The University of Texas at Dallas. But like his brother, Paul realized that a degree in programming wasn’t the route for him, and switched paths to pursue a degree in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC).
Paul’s move to ATEC inspired Enrique to go back to school for game development, and the two became roommates at UT Dallas. It didn’t take long for their gaming habits to reemerge.
“We went pretty hard with World of Warcraft,” Paul said. “We’d play for 12-plus-hour sessions in the summers.”
A video game design competition at the University sparked the two to create their first game, Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages, a role-playing saga and space-shooter. Enrique and Paul spent less than four months developing the game, but still placed in the competition.
“We started Ring Runner when we were still in school, so we didn’t have the skillset to make a modern 3D game,” Paul said.
Although the game included a simpler setup, the experience helped the brothers divide responsibilities.
“We needed to have a partition so we weren’t stepping on each other’s toes too much,” Enrique said. “It was very easy for me to handle the sound, the modeling, the music, the story, while Paul took care of the core structure of the game.”
The brothers continued to develop Ring Runner, now available on Steam, after the competition. Through crowdfunding, proceeds from their publisher, Humble Bundle, and money from their own pockets, Enrique and Paul were able to establish Triple B Titles and release their first game, as well as Dungeons and Deuces, a card game. After graduating in 2012, the siblings were able to jump headfirst into their new roles as entrepreneurs.
“It’s scary, but it’s thrilling as well,” Enrique said. “It’s still very unstable.”
In 2014, Enrique and Paul launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop their second game, Popup Dungeon, with a goal of raising $80,000. The two had no marketing team, no publisher, no additional help — just an idea and a dream. They reached out to influencers to spread the word, collaborated with other projects and eventually received $100,946 in pledges from more than 3,000 backers.
“We like games where you get them and you think, ‘I can play this for 1,000 hours,’” Enrique said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do, and it’s extremely hard to do as a small studio.”
The small team, as well as the sheer amount of time it takes to develop a game like Popup Dungeon, is part of the reason the game has taken almost six years to create. Triple B Titles hopes to release the game through Steam by 2020.
“You’re going to make a lot of mistakes with programming, but I try to take a very methodical approach,” Paul said. “The game has gotten to a size where if any little part is not working, it could take a long time to find out why.”
Which is why, on an average day, Paul spends about 12 hours programming in front of a screen, making sure each line of code is accurate and each step is carefully executed.
“He’s the one that’s responsible for our projects taking twice the time but being twice as good,” Enrique said.
This time around, Triple B Titles has expanded their team to include Enrique’s wife, Courtney Dryere, a 2D artist. The indie game studio also worked with a composer, voice actors, artists and a publisher to ensure that Popup Dungeon is a success.
“We’re trying with this game to deliver an experience that can give you as many hours of enjoyment and entertainment as a big studio,” Enrique said.
So far, Triple B Titles has given about 3,000 players access to Popup Dungeon in order to receive feedback and get a sense of the user experience. The brothers also test the game themselves, often playing on Saturdays with a group of friends. The role-playing game allows players to create their own weapons, abilities, enemies and heroes in the setting of a papercraft board game.
“It comes with all the tools that we built for users to use,” Paul said. “Everyone has responsibility for what they create, but other people can use it.”
Although the hours they logged gaming as kids put them on their professional paths, the brothers credit their UT Dallas degrees for taking their careers to the next level.
“The main benefit we had was room to grow,” Enrique said. “We had a lot of resources; a lot of people you could ask questions. It didn’t feel like we were caged in, and that is what allowed us to become actual game developers.”