MANILA -- Wrapped in anime visuals, strangers fight to stay alive in a haunted mansion in "The Letter," a mobile game created by a young Filipino couple who refused to let their pursuit of developer stardom get in the way of raising a family.
Danni Ann Taylan and John Pineda named their company YangYang Mobile after their firstborn daughter. Their "inspiring" story earned them the lone spot for the Philippines in Indie Games Accelerator, a Google initiative to raise the quality of games on its Play marketplace.
Taylan said she built Yangyang with her husband while nursing her daughter. She later gave birth to their second child, a boy. Pineda said he moved the family home closer to Yangyang's Ortigas Avenue office so that they could be hands-on parents.
"To start the company has always been the goal for us ever since we were students... medyo napaaga lang kasi doon sa daughter namin (but it came earlier than expected due to the birth of our daughter),” said Taylan, who met Pineda in during their student days at the De La Salle College of St. Benilde.
Their “inspiring” story and passion of Yangyang’s founders qualified them for the IGA, said Mervin Wenke, head of communications and public affairs at Google Philippines.
Google chooses developers with strong portfolios and a long term vision for the IGA, he said.
As part of the Google program, Pineda and Taylan were taught how to maintain and improve the app’s design and marketing. They will “graduate” from the course on Dec. 8.
“The Letter” was inspired by classic Asian horror films “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” and adapted a decision-based gameplay with the fate of the characters decided by the player.
It took 2 years to produce the game, which cost P10 million and was funded through Kickstarter, said Pineda. It has been downloaded 500,000 times on Google Play.
Yangyang Mobile later released “The Diary” which is a prequel of “The Letter.” Their latest-release, “Love Esquire,” is an adventure-dating simulator game which focuses on a squire, instead of a knight as the main character, was launched October.
The game has the “biggest” fanbase in the United States with a large following in the Philippines, Pineda said. One fan wrote to the couple saying the game inspired him to writer a book, said Taylan.
Taylan and Pineda said they planned to localize their existing catalogue with Tagalog language option. "More localized" games are part of the long-term plan, they said.
They also included a Filipino character in “The Letter” to give their Filipino fans a sense of pride.
Taylan urged struggling game developers to network within their community, citing her own experience. "Attend events, the gaming community is very small. Find connections," she said.
“The Letter” is available on Google Play and Stream.