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St. Pete Startup Seeks Local Support On Kickstarter For Mobile Game

Tired of the generic grind of games on social media sites like Facebook, Solvent Studios of St. Petersburg aims to redefine what people consider casual gaming.

"We're into cool characters, original story lines, and focusing on the fun of the game as opposed to hammering all your friends to join,'' says Chris Jenkins, CTO and project leader at Solvent Studios.

For their latest project, "Amoeba: Big Adventures for Little Microbes,'' Jenkins and his team hope to attract funding via Kickstarter, a web-funding platform for creative projects. On Kickstarter, every project is independently crafted and supported by friends, fans and the public in return for rewards.

"Most gaming Kickstarters are not successful,'' says Jenkins. "But we really want to solve what we think are some of the biggest problems in social gaming.''
 
The idea behind their game starts with Gooey, an Amoeba in a research lab who has been marked for destruction. As Gooey manages to break out of his dish, he must escape the lab before being destroyed. Along the way, he meets and frees other trapped Amoeba, absorbing their powers. Using the absorbed powers, he overcomes obstacles and faces challenging enemies while racing toward freedom.
 
"Amoeba is only the beginning,'' says art director Stephen Nauman, a student at The Art Institutes - Tampa. "We're working on taking the aesthetics from classic games and applying them in new and unique ways.''

It Takes A Team

Solvent Studios formed when Jenkins, an experienced techie, challenged Nauman to put together a team and pursue his dream of creating classic games. The team, made up of a group of college students who want to share their joy of gaming with others, came up with the concept for Amoeba after many late night conversations and Google Hangouts.

Team members include lead designer Ryan Gholson, a graduate of The Art Institutes - Tampa; lead developer Michael Yang, who is working on his PhD at the University of California Riverside; application developer Matt Welch, who studied computer science and worked in the SERVIR lab at the University of Alabama Huntsville; and COO Laurie Puckett.
 
"Everyone brings their own unique skillset to the table,'' says Nauman. "We all pull from our own expertise to see what is lacking in the field, which brought us to mobile games.''
 
The funding they seek through Kickstarter would help the team buy pricey software licensing, upgrade their server and add hardware for the game, which will allow for expansion packs and projects in the future.
 
"It allows us to work with the mechanics and focus more on a character and story that people will like,'' says Jenkins.

A Litmus Test For Local Startups
 
The funding sought for Amoeba is the most listed on Kickstarter for any start-up in St. Petersburg.
 
"Starting in a smaller town like St. Pete is a great challenge,'' says Jenkins. "Kickstarter can really show how much your friends and family support you.''
 
There also are benefits to getting started in a town like St. Pete.

"Most of us who do business here are fans of local businesses,'' says Jenkins. "If it's something we can get here as opposed to somewhere else, we definitely will.''
 
Since Kickstarter takes an all or nothing approach to fundraising, the team at Solvent Studios will get nothing if their project isn't backed by the full amount before Aug 18. The project still needs more than $10,000 to reach the goal.

Meghan Hoodhood is a graduate of the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg with a degree in Mass Communications and a concentration in Journalism and Media Studies. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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