Crushing it with Croatians: Rea and Tiny Meow gaming studio

woman on a motorbike
Rea of Tiny Meow gaming studio riding her motorbike

PUBLISHED: 3.5.2024.

Welcome to Crushing it with Croatians, a series where we feature Croatian citizens who live in Croatia.

In this series, we explore the realities of living in Croatia, including why Croatians love their country, what they do in their lives, their experiences traveling abroad, and their advice for people who want to move to Croatia.

We spoke to Rea Budić, the founder and director of the Tiny Meow gaming studio, who lives in Zagreb but carries Dalmatia in her heart. She shares her experience with living in Croatia, managing a gaming studio, the Bura video game, and the Croatian gaming industry.

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Take it away, Rea!

Crushing it with Croatians: Rea Budić

Marija: Hey Rea! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rea: Hi, my name is Rea, and I’m a 30-year-old from Croatia. I have my own business called Tiny Meow studio; it came as funny wordplay for our two cats. We are a small team of 4 people full-time and 2 people part-time, doing what many children dream of – making video games.

We are developing mostly cozy and wholesome video games with a story. If you imagine animated movies or maybe some children’s tale you were reading as a kid, they all have a message they send. Our games are similar, with the only difference being that the video games are interactive, and your choice leaves an impact on the whole story.

Marija: Where are you from, and where do you live?

Rea: I was born and raised in the Croatian capital, Zagreb. But even if I’m currently living in Zagreb, I always lean towards Dalmatia, as part of my childhood was near the sea. Part of my family lives on the coast, and I love spending time with them.

Marija: What is your profession, and what is your job?

Rea: I am the CEO of Tiny Meows, but I also work as a Creative Director. I do everything related to the visuals of the game, marketing, and communication with the team and our partners. Currently, we are in production of our first video game called Bura: The Way the Wind Blows, and we are happy to share it with the world in 2025.

[Read: Why wind is important in Croatia: bura vs. jugo]

When I need a little rest, I make 3D models, which I find meditative. I usually model 3D characters as I find it interesting to give them personality. I can make a basic human model, and with some details, I can create a whole person with unique traits and backstory – I find that amazing.

Rea Budic Tiny Meow 5
Rea’s video game Bura: The Way the Wind Blows

Marija: How did you decide to open your own business? Why did you pick the gaming industry?

Rea: When I first started 3D modeling 9 years ago, I remember watching an animated movie, Moana by Disney. I was fascinated by the way characters were animated and how their hair and sea moved.

As time went on, my love for 3D modeling remained but went from animated movies to video games. First, I started learning it from YouTube tutorials, but I soon enrolled in a POU Algebra’s 3D modeling class. Later, I finished 3D modeling from Incubator PISMO in Novska, which specializes in classes for video game development.

In 2021, I took national grants to fund the founding of my company, and Tiny Meow studio was launched. The gaming industry in Croatia is small but strong. There are many video games from Croatia that are internationally famous, such as Serious Sam, Talos Principle, Scum, and Escape Simulator, to name a few. But I wanted to make games that are a little bit different, and I’m happy this is becoming a reality.

[Read: Government grants and loans for entrepreneurs in Croatia]

Marija: Have you ever lived or wanted to move outside of Croatia? Why and where?

Rea: I haven’t lived outside Croatia, but I traveled a lot as a child for sport, from many European countries, to Mexico in the west and Singapore in the East. I trained taekwondo for 11 years and traveled mostly for international competitions as a Croatian representative.

I was also in Trat, Thailand for a month to volunteer. I wouldn’t call it “living” there for such a short period of time, but I definitely felt accepted within the community and learned a lot about Thai culture. I worked at a school as a teacher, and it blew my mind to see how different their teaching system is. The school I worked at was called Watwiwakewararam, and it is a very small school.

The thing that stuck the most with me was the feeling of a community – after classes are done, the last hour is spent on the huge playground area where all the kids and teachers play together. Even the principal of the school is there, and they know each child’s name and family background. They all help each other, which is very different from the Western style of education, where there is more focus on individuality than community.

This experience definitely shaped my outlook on life, and I would love to be able to bring it closer to people in the games I’m making.

View our education articles:

Marija: Why did you decide to stay in Croatia? What was the main reason?

Rea: The main reason I still live in Croatia is the company I’m growing. I wouldn’t say entrepreneurship is easy, but as long as there are options to work and grow, I am staying here. I have friends and family here, and Croatia is beautiful, from people to nature.

woman in front of the tree
Rea enjoying Croatian nature

Marija: What is it like to be an entrepreneur in an innovative industry in Croatia, such as gaming? What challenges have you faced?

Rea: Video games were just recently recognized as an audiovisual industry, and I’m grateful for the people who made that possible because it wasn’t an easy process. Our industry is very specific, as production for one game can last from one to three or more years. We have to secure funds throughout that period, knowing we will only get profit once the game is fully finished and out.

There is very limited funding for video games in Croatia, especially as the industry is rapidly growing each year. We have yearly funding from HAVC (Croatian Audiovisual Center), and we are happy we got grants for pre-production and production. But still, in 2023, their fund was 200.000 euro, and the sum of all applied project budget was little less than 2 million euro. This is a big difference, and I’m hoping the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media will recognize and change this so we can be more on par with our European neighbors.

[Read: All the Croatian government ministry and what they do]

Marija: Tell us more about your video game Bura.

Rea: The original idea for Bura: The Way the Wind Blows came from discussing how people from Dalmatia live – how the wind changes our mood, how we like to take things pomalo (easy, slowly, a little bit), and especially how we all together built our villages in the past, forming communities.

I have photos that show how Dalmatians brought stone and built the streets and bridges together. This was very interesting to me, and I wanted to show it throughout Bura. While designing the game, we decided to include cultural heritage and folk tales from this region, and that is what makes Bura so special.

[Read: Why you should restore your traditional Croatian stone house properly]

Bura is a 3D narrative adventure game that follows a young girl on her journey. Her exploration includes riding donkeys, diving in our beautiful Jadransko more (Adriatic sea), and gliding in the skies. We decided to put our roots in this game, so the game is set on the Adriatic coast.

Throughout the adventure, players will play balote – a traditional sport in Dalmatia, or try traditional čipka (lace) making, like our grandmas made. The world is filled with folklore, old Croatian folk tales, spirits, and cultural heritage. The game is inspired by Studio Ghibli animated movies, so the visuals reflect that.

We have been working on Bura for 2 years now, and we are very happy with the progress. We are launching the Kickstarter campaign in July, as additional funds would make the game even better. We would like to add extra content and make the story more wholesome with cutscenes in the style of Studio Ghibli movies. The full game will be released on Steam and Nintendo Switch in 2025.

[Read: Legend of the 3 bura: Croatia’s groundhog]

video game screen with a young girl
Young girl, a virtual character of the Bura video game

Marija: What does your typical working day look like?

Rea: After I founded my company, I worked constantly. When I wasn’t making games, I was thinking about them. With time passing, I found balance. It is very important for mental health not to become exhausted, even if it is your hobby or work you love doing.

My routine is balanced now: I do 5-10 minutes of yoga or stretching after waking up. I’m not a morning person, so this routine was very hard to maintain at first. We work from the home office, so I just make coffee and start with the work – I check in with my team and check on the task.

What I do specifically is hard to say – it ranges from level to 3D design, from animation to marketing, communication with our partners, and administration. Of course, I take breaks, but mostly when my cats decide it is time to give them attention. 🙂

[Read: All you need is “pauza”, your break from it all]

After work, around 16:00 – 17:00, it is time for everything else. I have lots of hobbies, so I just do whatever I’m in the mood for – from crafting random stuff to riding my motorbike or hiking. I try to be more active after work to balance sitting on the computer all day.

Marija: To stay updated with the latest industry, do you have to play a lot of games? Which games are your favorites?

Rea: I love video games, and I play them all the time. At work, we have a joke about calling it “doing research”, but it is usually just leisure time.

I mostly play games on Steam, but sometimes I play PlayStation with my friends and family. The current game I enjoy playing is Baldur’s Gate 3, but I love all kinds of genres: RPGs, survival, strategy, etc.

Marija: What is specific about the gaming industry in Croatia and in general? What are the opportunities, benefits, and disadvantages?

Rea: The gaming industry in Croatia is small but is rapidly growing. You can easily connect with lots of people with the same passion, as we all meet at the same events like Gamedev Meetup and Drinkup or Reboot Develop Blue and InfoGamer.

This is awesome ground for networking. On top of that, information is shared freely and there is no gatekeeping. We’ve got a lot of help there with writing applications for national funds and Kickstarter when we first started. When a Croatian video game development studio succeeds, we are all happy.

Marija: What do you like and dislike about Croatia and living in Croatia?

Rea: For me, the best thing about Croatia is its nature. It is a small country, so you can go almost anywhere in Croatia for a day trip. We have many beautiful national parks, and I love hiking, so I find that very important.

[Read: National parks in Croatia PLUS detailed visitor guides]

The biggest problem here for me is politics. An average Croatian can’t live here without worries: the Croatian salaries are low, and the prices are somewhat the same as in Great Britain or Germany.

woman on the shore
Rea at the Adriatic sea

Marija: Where are you now with your life in Croatia? Do you have any plans for the future?

Rea: I am happy where I am now. Even in this highly stressful life, we are all living, and Croatia offers lots of peace. I have lots of plans for the future, especially for business growth. We are already in pre-production for our next video game and are looking forward to growing our team.

Marija: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to move to Croatia in the future?

Rea: Feel free to reach out to anyone – Croatians are warm and kind, and will help you if needed.

Marija: Do you want to share anything else with our readers?

Rea: I know how hard it is to get started, move to a new place, or get a job in the video game industry. Nobody needs to go through that alone! I would love to say that if anyone needs to talk or get advice about entrepreneurship or video game development, feel free to reach out to us!

Contact Rea and Tiny Meow Studio:

View our other crushing-it-in-Croatia interviews

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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