DB Creations


Dustin Kochensparger & Blake Gross


Bellevue, Washington (US)


Table Trenches (Operation Living Room)



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Table Trenches

Breaking new ground in gaming to turn our everyday world into a space for collaborative, imaginative fun.

8 min read

Gaming experiences that leap off the screen and into real life


Blake Gross & Dustin Kochensparger

Founders of DB Creations

Inspiration struck over hotcakes. College friends Dustin Kochensparger and Blake Gross had recently left their careers in the gaming and tech industries to put more focus on the independent video game studio they founded together – DB Creations. And they were looking for their next project. Sitting in a cafe, they wondered: what if we could make games that interact with the physical world? What if we could turn the table we’re sitting at into a playable map?

It’s an idea that highlights the type of studio they aim to be. As they put it, DB Creations was created to “use the power of games to bring to life the imagination of players of all ages, around the globe, in order to create a world where play is anywhere you dream of it.” AR is key to their inclusive, optimistic vision for gaming. “We want to create new kinds of experiences that bring people together. A lot of contemporary games (especially those in VR) tend to be isolating, or encourage negative interactions. AR offers a new way to play, where games can draw people together for shared experiences unlike anything they have ever seen before.”

They began experimenting in Lens Studio, sharing their work with the lively developer community. Their progress was spotted by members of the Ghost team, who reached out about the program, and DB Creations seized the opportunity and applied. “We were excited to find folks that were interested in AR gaming,” Dustin says. “Even within the AR space, it's a pretty niche vertical. It showed us that maybe there's a path to being able to build a team and do this more full-time, which is what we wanted to do.”

Pushing AR gaming forward, and solving new challenges


During their Ghost Fellowship, they began development on Operation Living Room (OLR)—their most involved project so far, and one of the most successful AR-native mobile games to date. It’s a charmingly addictive strategy game that turns our everyday world into a space for collaborative, imaginative fun. Lens Studio turned out to be an ideal platform for the work they do. “The creative vision for the platform is really well aligned with our goals, like being able to monetize content and building long-form experiences for AR. With Lens Studio there's just so much less friction. It’s a purpose-built AR game engine so it accelerates development and prototyping a lot over the competition,” Dustin says. With access to experts on the Snap team and the latest developments in Lens Studio, they were able to solve some key challenges for playability. “Developing Operation Living Room pushed us to move beyond the basic challenges of AR and tackle some truly new scenarios that will become more and more common as the technology grows,” they say.

At Snap, it’s an authentically supportive environment, like, ‘We're going to give you the resources that you need. We're going to try and remove roadblocks to success.'

Blake Gross, DB Creations

One of the things that makes OLR special is the ability to turn any room into a strategy game map. That means users have to scan the room, which has historically been a time consuming affair and can be unfamiliar to new players. “That can naturally lead to player drop-off,” they say. “So we spent a lot of time ensuring the scan phase was as short as possible, so players can get into the game quickly. This required novel approaches to the underlying scan technology, as well as many revisions of the user interface to make these processes as clear and painless to users as possible.”

Beyond technical development, DB Creations note the supportive nature of Ghost as a welcome departure from similar programs they’ve taken part in. “Blake and I were just like, is this real? We’ve never had developer relationships that have been this positive before. With Ghost, it’s an authentically supportive environment, like, ‘We're going to give you the resources that you need. We're going to try and remove roadblocks to success.” That support didn’t just come from Ghost. It also came from a highly collaborative community of Ghost cohorts and Lens developers, who they met at events like Lens Fest and the Ghost program kickoff. “It's so valuable for us to just see what everybody else is doing, share feedback, and learn from each other. Having those networks of people to get feedback from was really helpful for a small company like ours.”

For monetization, DB Creations designed a traditional storefront that players would be familiar with.

A team with a dream

DB Creations’ story doesn't end here. In fact, their relationship with Snap continues to this day, as their Ghost Fellowship has been extended to give them the opportunity to work on a full series of games in the Operation Living Room universe. 

The ongoing support and resources they’ve received – including help with promotion and marketing on Snapchat – is another aspect of Ghost that they appreciate. “That was great, because we saw way more users playing the game than we ever could have had on any other platform. We're at 1.25 million players now and gaining more every day, which is so exciting.”

Meanwhile, their solutions to the technical challenges they encountered while working on OLR have proved to be useful as they move onto new projects. “The lessons learned in minimizing friction in onboarding have been brought into every product we have worked on since OLR. These challenges were also a big part of growing our team’s skills in building for AR. Team members who were on the OLR project have many new tools to use in building our next batch of games, speeding up development times.”

Helicopter_concept art

Vehicle Asset Development

Overall, they both agree that Ghost has been more than a rewarding experience – it’s helped them realize their dream of becoming full-time independent game developers. “There’s a lot of momentum that has been built out of our first Ghost project. We’ve been able to hire more people, grow the studio, and do this full-time, just like we hoped. Those things are happening because of Ghost's support.”

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