MDS student game Bronzebeard's Tavern finds exciting success on Steam 

With over 40,500 downloads, 128,000 “added to library” and a ‘very positive’ rating on Steam,  the latest game from Media Design School students, Bronzebeard's Tavern, has surged to the top of the Steam’s trending list. Calling their studio The Mermaid MenZ, the team of five: Darren Contreras, Christian Logoia, Ethan Buot, Ethan Uy and Wilbur Arnott, are reaping the success of their hard work. 

Bronzebeard's Tavern is a goofy and playful restaurant manager sim where up to 4 players can co-operate as a team of dwarves. Players can choose to fulfil a number of different roles, from serving a cast of interesting customers to cooking up delicious Dwarven cuisine. 

The main motivator for The Mermaid MenZ was the desire to make a multiplayer game, and so they build the idea from there. With much of the team coming from a retail and hospitality background, they wondered how they could transform their experience into a multiplayer game. The team wanted to capture the chaos provided by games such as Overcooked and Moving Out, with their main inspiration coming from a Roblox mod where players run a gas-station. 

The art style was chosen as the team wanted to go down the route of fantasy, but also wanted to keep the game grounded somewhat in reality. In the end, they decided to combine the two, ending up with a restaurant in the dwarven world, the contrast striking an interesting direction for the artists. Labeled as the ‘goofy group’, the team decided on dwarves as they felt the theme resonated with The Mermaid MenZ perfectly.  

Indie games have a charm to them and allow for a more personal connection to the developers because of the small teams. Even so, the team was surprised by the popularity of their game and found it exciting but surreal. After they’d finished the game, they felt a little burnt out, but once they saw the amount of backing from the community, it reignited them and provided motivation to continue working on their project.  

When you’ve developed [a game] for so long, you can only see it from your perspective. Then you’ll see a review like ‘this game has me crying laughing’ and it makes you feel really good but gives proper perspective on what the general public think. There are people in the community really enjoying Bronzebeard's Tavern which is really nice.” - Wilbur Arnott – General Programmer and Game Designer.

When asked about their future, the team explained how they wanted to investigate their own start-up but understand the value of working in a studio to get the experience of what it’s like, working with things like pipelines and deadlines. As much as they enjoyed working on Bronzebeard's Tavern, the team are also interested in pursuing new projects to push themselves. Fixing and updating Bronzebeard's Tavern has been more of a hobby, to keep up with the passionate community and keep them happy, which the team still finds rewarding.  

The team chatted about studying at Media Design School, and they mentioned that they were taught all the base skills that needed for making games, and in their eyes, is the most important thing you need. They found the connection with the industry important too, as doing it alone, they noted that you’d miss out on all the studio talks that happen at MDS providing both opportunities of learning the ins-and-outs of industry, along with growing your network. Finally, the connection among the team would never have happened without Media Design School. Even though the team has finished studying and they are still working on and looking at future projects together – allegedly a ‘junkyard gladiator’ style game.  

Their plans for Bronzebeard's Tavern is to keep the game free-to-play, but they are exploring paid features such as cosmetics and perhaps releasing the soundtrack.  

Going back to the connections created at Media Design School, The Mermaid MenZ attended a guest talk at MDS from a company called Cloud Road Music. They ended up reaching out to them afterwards to make music for Bronzebeard's Tavern. Cloud Road Music are also alumni of Media Design School, showing the tight-knit community that extends beyond the campus.  

Looking back to when the team first started at MDS, The Mermaid MenZ would never have believed that they would be able to make the games that they have. Further still, having something on Steam seemed inconceivable. Seeing the games that had been made by previous Media Design School students was a huge source of inspiration and motivation. 

We are so proud of The Mermaid MenZ and what they have achieved, and hope they serve as an inspiration to all the students to follow in their footsteps. 

Here's what the team had to say:

"I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my family for being supportive from the very beginning! Starting a second degree was not easy, but having them backing me the whole way was the secret to success. From making my first 2D game to teaming up with The Mermaid MenZ, my family was always there to congratulate me! In all honesty, I didn’t know how studying in games would turn out, but it has all led to creating artistic pieces that I had never thought of accomplishing. Seeing our game shine amongst the gaming community is pretty surreal, but all of that comes down to the passion and determination by my teammates. Countless hours and sleepless nights from everyone just to make sure we could make the game the best it could be. Not only my teammates, but the rest of my cohort as well. Just being around different people and witnessing the spark that everyone had to succeed, and even just having fun within the learning spaces was an awesome day brightener that motivated me to push on. This industry is awesome, and I can’t wait to step foot into the future of games!" - Darren Contreras, Main Character Animator and VFX Artist.

"I took a big risk moving to Auckland to study game art at MDS. I was often told to keep any creative ambitions as just a hobby and because of that I was very hesitant. But after my first year in MDS I can wholeheartedly say that I'm glad I took the risk. I'd like to give my thanks to my friends back home that have been with me since the very beginning, the extremely talented mates I've met through this school and the amazing lecturers that has guided me through the years. A huge shout out to my family who encouraged me to follow my passion, even though it meant moving out to a new city. I truly believe the gaming industry has a bright future in New Zealand and I hope that it continues to grow stronger." - Ethan Buot, Environment Artist.

"The team of people I’ve been able to work with is really what has made this game as good as it is. All of them are incredibly skilled, kind and hard working, and while the success of the game to me feels a little like stumbling into it by chance, it’s clear that all of this effort and passion has paid off and can be seen by those who are taking the time to play it. It’s really heartening to see so many people have so much fun with what we have been able to make, and I want to thank everyone who has downloaded, played, joined our community in any form and given any type of feedback, positive or negative. I am overjoyed reading all of it, and the enthusiasm that some people have for this game is equal parts bewildering and awesome. Thank you to all of my lecturers too, who have taught me everything that makes this possible, everyone involved here is amazing and this really just feels like a gift to experience." - Wilbur Arnott – General Programmer and Game Designer.

"I want to start with a big thank you to my family who’ve been extremely supportive of me during my time at Media Design School, Throughout the highs and lows they’ve had my back and have always been eager to help out wherever they could. I’d also like to give my thanks to everyone who’s checked out the game on Steam, Seeing the reach the game has had all over the world has been such a surreal experience (shout out to the Russian Dwarves for getting it all started!). But it also wouldn't have been possible without each and every member of the Mermaid Menz, The level of passion and hard work each of you put into this project from a Prototype to our Steam release and beyond has been so inspiring, I’d like to thank you all for being an Awesome team and I look forward to whatever projects the future holds!" - Christian Logoia – Technical Artist, Character & Prop Designer.

"As I reflect on the past year, it's hard to believe how far we've come since we first laid out our game ideas. We started with little knowledge of Unreal Engine and networking, but over the year, we managed to push beyond our limits and deliver something we can be proud of. The most valuable lesson I've taken away is the importance of a solid team and effective communication. Navigating through tight deadlines and maintaining high quality wouldn't have been possible without the collaboration and support of each team member. I want to express my gratitude to our lecturers and our mentor, Ivan, for their guidance in refining our game throughout its development. And, of course, a big shout-out to our incredible team. Working alongside each of you has been an honor, and I appreciate the unique talents and efforts each one of you brought to the table this year." - Ethan Uy, Project Manager, Back End & System Programmer.

You can play the game for yourself here

Bronzebeard Tavern was a game created by students of Media Design School in their final year

Bronzebeard's Tavern was created and developed by MDS students known collectively as The Mermaid MenZ, available on Steam.

Bronzebeard Tavern was a game created by students of Media Design School in their final year
Bronzebeard Tavern was a game created by students of Media Design School in their final year
Bronzebeard Tavern was a game created by students of Media Design School in their final year