At 16 years old, Dan and his friends entered the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition with their gaming concept: HAMSTER: accidental world domination. It went on to win the YGD Award that year, with the judges selecting it because 'its funny design meant people would probably want to play it again and again'.
As part of their prize, Dan and his team mates met with EA and TT Games and saw their winning idea turned into a fully fledged playable game.
In the years since winning, Dan has become serious about developing independent games and went on to develop a second game 'Castles in the Sky' which he released in Oct 2013 whilst still at university.
Dan has now set up his own games company called 'The Tall Trees'. Their first game, '10 Second Ninja' will be released soon.
Dan applied and was successfully chosen to be a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2013 joining 16 other young, talented Film, TV and Game newcomers who BAFTA have recognised as being future British talent.
"It’s incredible", Dan said, "I’m really flattered. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to converse with people who I really respect and look up to. It's a tremendous opportunity to get the right advice, and from people who I find really inspiring."
We caught up with Dan at the end of 2013 to ask about his YGD experience and to see what he's been up to recently..
- Were you already considering a career in games before entering YGD? Or was it winning the competition that made you think game production could be a career for you?
Games were something I'd been designing in my spare time since I was about ten years old anyway, and I'd decided I wanted to pursue game development a couple of years before I spotted BAFTA YGD at the Eurogamer Expo in 2010. Young Game Designers was certainly the thing that turned it from a kind of flimsy aspiration to "I think I can actually do this".
- What was it like to make Hamster: Accidental World Domination?
Hamster was a learning experience for sure. It taught me a lot of key lessons about production, scaling the game to suit the development team, and communicating my ideas well so they'd become better, and not worse.
I can't think of a project I've worked on since that I've learned more from.
- What did you study at Uni?
I studied Game Development for a while, before leaving to pursue independent game development full time.
- Tell us about how you came to make your next couple of games?
I like to make games that I need. Like a lot of independent developers, I started by trying to make pretty emotional stuff, stuff I cared about a lot. The downside to this was that, like a lot of newer developers, my attention when it came to my projects would eventually dwindle, and that ended up being pretty emotionally draining.
This is why I started 10 Second Ninja, my project due out sometime early next year. I wanted to make a game that was just a game, a fun thing with reasonably objective design that people could just enjoy. This is what gave me the stamina to start and finish Castles in the Sky, a personal project I did as part of The Tall Trees, which released in mid-October.
- What's next?
Get 10 Second Ninja really polished and out the door, while my partner at The Tall Trees and I figure out what our next project is going to be.
Ending things and starting things.
- What's your advice to anyone thinking of entering YGD?
Don't bloat up your idea with stuff it doesn't need, you can worry about the details later. A pure, brilliant, primary mechanic will be a far better starting point for you to design and keep on top of in the long run, and it will also be far easier to pitch and understand. Keep it simple.