Ex-Miniclip exec’s new studio is all-in on AI – and built its debut in five months


UK startup Half Moon Studios has used a raft of AI tools to create and soft launch its debut game in just five months.

And ex-Miniclip exec and Half Moon founder Pieter Kooyman tells us his five-person team could have released the game even sooner if it hadn’t started work on three more AI-powered titles.

Kooyman was at Miniclip for 13 years as it pivoted from web to mobile games and was later acquired by Tencent. His new venture Half Moon Studios raised funding in January of this year, hired its first staff in February and just soft-launched its first game, Picture Quiz, with the help of a suite of AI tools.

The team of five are all London-based, but fully remote; a sixth member of staff joins next week. Kooyman tells us that by using AI tools his small team is “trying to have the execution capability of a team of 25.”

Half Mooners Pieter Kooyman, Jamie Lee, Afranio Fonseca, Bogdan Predescu and Chloe Penfold.

“We have an incredibly flat structure,” Kooyman tells us. “Everyone must wear multiple hats and everyone is hugely supported by AI tools and automation. This means a lot of the boring bits get done automatically, or by our AI friends. Jamie, our data engineer and data analyst, genuinely has an objective to automate three new things each week.”

The array of AI tools Half Moon uses includes ‘usual suspects’ Dall-E 2, Midjourney, ChatGPT and Stability AI, plus Elevenlabs.io for sound, Scenario.com for consistent game assets and Replai.io for UA creative. Otter.ai is also used for recording and summarising meetings.

“It becomes really powerful when you ‘nest’ or ‘connect’ your various tools and there are some great open-source pieces of ML that we’ve added into various processes,” says Kooyman. “At the same time, these tools often have a mind of their own and models change on an ongoing basis!”

All images in Half Moon’s debut Picture Quiz have been generated by a mixture of AI tools.

“It’s as much about the utility of the tools you identify, and how operationally and culturally you weave them into your business,” he continues. “OpenAI and Midjourney continue to steal the limelight. Meta’s recent Llama 2 LLM news is very interesting…we recently went really deep on OpenAI’s Code Interpreter – it will shape how Half Moon Studios does data analysis going forward.”

Kooyman’s team is also using AI to re-think how it approaches marketing and social media. “There are certain things like UI that you can’t yet rely on generative AI for, and we’ve worked with an incredibly talented UI/UX designer on that,” Kooyman continues.

“Where possible we co-develop using AI tools. As ChatGPT power-users, we know its limitations, however…and sometimes old-school coding fundamentals just can’t be beaten.”

Picture Quiz is currently soft launched in eight markets, and Half Moon has three more titles at the prototyping stage. “At the moment, we’re putting this to work to re-imagine quiz games,” adds Kooyman. “but our AI tools’ utility is incredibly broad.”

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