Local game developer Clayton Belcher expands reach

WWhen he was 16, Clayton Belcher built a video game demo of a color-based puzzle called Tasks. It wasn’t his first experience as a developer, and it wouldn’t be his last. “Ever since my dad came home with a coworker’s old Super Nintendo when I was a kid, I’ve always loved the idea of ​​making my own games,” Belcher says.

The game that grew out of that demo, however, will be its first on a Nintendo console when it releases live on the Nintendo Switch early next month.

While launching on such a large platform is a breakthrough, it’s not the game’s or Belcher’s first big breakthrough. His company, Jolly Crouton Media Ltd., offers four games and two apps, and plays an active role in the Cincinnati gaming community. It celebrates old-fashioned play with groups like Cheat Codes, which are dedicated to reintroducing hidden Easter egg content into indie games. Belcher himself is a local vice president of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and his early successes with Tasks helped make it all possible.

Belcher has developed the original demo into a full game with little more than tips and tricks from a game developer forum. His original commercial release helped him pay for his education and put the game in front of thousands of people, but he wasn’t entirely satisfied.

“There were rough edges and my knowledge of the craft involved in making games had grown,” he says. “So like crazy, I did it again.”

DECEMBER 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED BY JOLLY CROUTON MEDIA LTD.

With the help of Jacob Borison – with whom he made another game, Rodent rush—Belcher got to work adding puzzles, improving the level creator, and introducing more intuitive mechanics. This project also took the connection of the two developers to the next level. Belcher and Borison were friends on the Internet. They first spoke on the phone to congratulate each other after Tasks 2.0 was released in 2018 on Steam, iPad, and iPhone.

The game features music by Johan Hargne, and a small group of beta testers and puzzle contributors have helped things fall into place. But even with great teammates, game development is a slow process, and that next evolution took four years.

“There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of assets to manufacture, a ton of testing to do – it almost always takes longer than expected,” says Belcher. “We joke that there is the first 90% of game creation, then the next 90% of game creation.”

Belcher, however, is a man who wears multiple hats, and he rarely does one thing at a time. He’s working on bringing two more Jolly Crouton titles to Nintendo Switch—Match point, developed with the employee of JC Austin Huebner, and Franchise Wars created with Brandon Song of Tiny Warrior Games in Chicago. He is also excited about two prototypes of games in progress. It’s a good time to take care of things because once again, Tasks sets things in motion.

“Having a game on a Nintendo console is the fulfillment of a childhood dream,” Belcher says. “It’s also a huge new audience for Tasks, and which corresponds very well to the target of the game. It is a big official step for our studio.

It is a success story that he intends to keep local. “My plan has always been to develop Jolly Crouton Media as a studio here in Cincinnati,” he notes. “We want to create characters and universes that become familiar and affectionate, and alongside other developers in the region, help establish the city as a game development city.”