In the lobby of a Greater London hotel, a small team of fledgling developers are making a PlayStation 4 game. While this may sound like perfect fodder for a future Lenny Henry commercial, it's the real-life story of De Mambo – a so-called "spicy, single-screen action platformer" currently going through some eleventh hour crowd funding on Kickstarter.
The game – being built by the brilliantly named The Dangerous Kitchen, and also in production for the PlayStation 3 and Vita – is being pitched as an amalgamation of Super Smash Bros. and Breakout. But as we take a seat in the team's makeshift Premier Inn office on a surprisingly sunny early autumn afternoon, there's only one question on our lips: how the heck did you end up making a game here?
"We needed a place to work and each of our houses had some sort of complication that prevented us from working," laughs artist-cross-writer Shaun Roopra as we bed ourselves into a hotel bench chair. "A friend mentioned that his sister works at the Inn and that the meeting space could be cool to try out. After we checked it out, we never left!"
We can't help but raise an eyebrow. "In all seriousness, the free electricity, barely functional Wi-Fi, and booths were a godsend. Just having to leave the house to work on a game showed our dedication to friends and family. We tried to work on a game years before, but video chatting just wasn't for us." Premier Inn: bringing game developers together.
In an unexpected example of 'small worlds', it turns out that The Dangerous Kitchen formed at Birmingham City University – the very same educational institute that this author attended not too many years ago. But while Roopra and his team were busy playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl at the grotty Gosta Green campus, your humble host was studying SQL at the equally dingy Perry Barr.
However, with the educational not-so niceties exchanged, we still can't wrap our head around the whole hotel thing. Don't the other guests find it all a bit strange? "Actually, that's the best part," beams Roopra. "No one pays that much attention to us. A lot of people assume that we're students of some kind, so they leave us be." Fair enough.
Handily, the team aren't too far from a Costa Coffee, and the staff there know exactly what the group are up to. "They seem to really like us and are super supportive," adds Roopra, tapping on his takeaway latte. "They must like the fact that we're using the space to accomplish something instead of wasting it I suppose."
And what is it that the team is trying to accomplish again? "De Mambo is a game born out of limitations, as our team member Amit [Rai] learned how to code while making it," Roopra smiles. "It's our first game, [and it] uses its limitations to enable an accessible control scheme. You use the D-pad for movement and one button that's charged for three attacks."
Despite this simplicity, the developer hopes that the title will have a lot of depth. "The only thing that we set out to achieve was to make a good game for real people," continues Roopra. "There's a lot of rampant consumerism going on lately, with games being made for machine people who play one game and then move on the next. We want De Mambo to be more than just a throwaway title."
The team's asking for £15,000 on Kickstarter to make the title a reality, but if it meets that goal, will it consider renting some real office space? Roopra tells us that it recently won some time in a professional working environment, but despite this, Premier Inn still has a proper workplace beat in many departments.
"Networking and the business side of things definitely boomed in the office space, and it was great that we could eat without fearing anyone would kick us out, but the actual development of the game was harder for us," he explains. "The Inn is an open environment so anything can happen at any moment. This is key to absorbing a lot of inspiration."
Roopra expands: "There's a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme that also frequents the Inn. Watching [the people associated with that] scuttle around with cheap aftershave snail-trails and confidence boosting rented suits is enough inspiration to keep you going for a lifetime. Any office space is the antithesis of this. De Mambo was made spontaneously and could only grow out of the craziness of the Inn."
We offer that this whole story sounds like a hipster's wet dream, but there are no bad beards and bare feet here – just honest people trying to realise their ambitions. "Hopefully our journey just proves that you can accomplish what you want as long as you devote yourself," Roopra says as we shake hands at the hotel reception.
And as we squeeze past people trundling suitcases through the front door, we leave with a better understanding of what it truly means to be an independent game maker.
A huge thank you to The Dangerous Kitchen and Premier Inn for hosting us. You can back the game on Kickstarter through here.