Hi Reddit! We’re a small team of indie game developers making a different type of RPG called Meriwether. You play as Meriwether Lewis and follow his journey from D.C. to the Pacific, and back. We’re trying to be as authentic as possible, but we’re also making sure that it’s a great game. The best way to learn more about the game is to watch the video for our Kickstarter.

I’m Josh DeBonis (Sortasoft), a game designer and the lead on this project. I’ve made games like Killer Queen Arcade and Nimble Strong: Bartender in Training. I’m also a founding member of Brooklyn Game Ensemble.

Also with me are:

  • Carlos Hernandez (QuantumSanteria), our writer and another game designer on the project

  • Kyle Staves (AlwaysBananas), our lead programmer

  • Carol Bronson (cbronsonmt), our producer

  • Jim Welch (WelchCompositions), our composer and sound designer

Please ask us about the game, Lewis and Clark, game development, or anything you want!

Proof, More Proof

Edit: Wow everyone. Thank you for the overwhelming response and all of you that are backing us! Keep the questions coming! Especially duck-related questions.

Edit 2: Y'all have truly been amazing. These were all great questions and comments, and so many of you have backed us. I'm calling it a night. Gonna watch an episode of Weeds with the wife and then go to sleep. We'll all make sure to check back in periodically over the next couple days and continue to respond. Thank you so much!

Comments: 588 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

JJohn8174 karma

Please don't let me die of dysentery again...

Sortasoft199 karma

Not to worry. Meriwether has a whole panoply of exciting ways to kill you.

isaiaht73 karma

what surprised you guys the most about Lewis and Clark, the people?

Sortasoft145 karma

Most surprising to me is how different the cultures were of each of the Native American tribes they met. Creating the NPCs in each level was incredibly time consuming but very fun because of this. We've put a lot of research (and continue to put in more) into the details each different culture.

FatzDux38 karma

How will this be similar to Oregon Trail and how will it be different?

QuantumSanteria72 karma

Similarities: You will be crossing a large portion of the North American continent with a small "team." You will have to very carefully manage resources and risk as you travel. Successful hunting = survival!

Differences: We are portraying actual historical figures, not just "types." So we've done a heck of a lot of work to get the history right for the cast of characters that makes up the Corps of Discovery. We're offering many more RPG-esque non-combat solutions than the original Oregon Trail did. The goals of the Corps of Discovery are more expansive than just "make it to Oregon alive": their mission included holding councils with Native Americans to try to broker peace agreements with them, chart their path over river and land with a mapmaker's accuracy, and preserve scientific specimens of plants and animals. In style, Oregon Trail is a short game meant to be replayed many, many times; ours is more of a RPG-hybrid that will provide a much longer play experience. And if the Corps of Discovery breaks a wagon wheel, they'll just make a new one, no problem!

droogans6 karma

As more research is done, will there ever be a "patch" (so to speak) to address any new developments that are discovered post release? It would be a shame to find out the tribe of Native Americans you placed in Montana during the Summer months were later found to be mostly in Oklahoma or something.

Sortasoft3 karma

Yes, and I'm sure there will be patches to correct our own errors as well, as well as tweak gameplay. That's one of the benefits of digital distribution.

chicaneryrow33 karma

What role does Sacajawea have?

Sortasoft57 karma

The same role as she had on the actual expedition--she is an interpreter. Or as Clark wrote, "interpretess." It's a misconception that she served as guide, although she was very important to the expedition in other ways. She and her baby, Pomp, served to show people they met that the expedition was not a war party. And she is great at identifying and gathering edible wild foods (very useful when there is no big game in the area.)

the_zeke22 karma

Can you guys please not forget her husband Charbonneau, Lewis and Clark disliked his ill repute but he was extremely vital. She only knew her Shoshone language, her husband knew also French, as they communicated through a line literally, of almost 6 people.

Source; I'm a historian and done the whole L & C trail including research

Sortasoft25 karma

Don't worry, you don't see him in the video because we haven't had a chance to create artwork for him yet, but he's a major character in the game.

roflbarn29 karma

As a staff member of corps of discovery themed Camp Meriwether on the oregon coast, this makes me very happy

Sortasoft22 karma

Thanks! I want to go to there.

Frajer22 karma

Do you collect Sacajawea dollars?

Sortasoft35 karma

I used to have to pay $6 for parking at the train station. Often I only had a 20 on me, and it would give me back 14 Sacagawea coins in change which I would be forced to carry around all day. So yes.

Journalisto20 karma

Any chance of including beaver tail dinners in the game? Apparently it was an important part of their diet.

Sortasoft53 karma

You can hunt, trap, and eat beavers in the game. Also, as part of our "research" we cooked and ate a beaver tail at my apartment. It tasted like fried pork rinds--pure fat. It was interesting but I probably won't eat it again. I posted about it, including pics, on our dev blog, here: http://meriwethergame.com/?p=127

Edit: "fried" pork rinds, not "friend". But those are good too.

misterchief11720 karma

Wow, he can sure walk pretty fast...

Sortasoft27 karma

Yeah, a lot of people have mentioned that, and we've taken it to heart. It's intentionally fast because we want you to be able feel like you're exploring a very large area, but in a relatively short amount of time. Still, we agree that he seems to be walking too fast and we've slowed it down a little since the video was shot. We've also improved the the animation a bit and tried to make it match the pace better. The game is still a work-in-progress, so any suggestions are welcome.

Madeofwarms26 karma

The thing about the fast-walking of the current design (i.e. anything more than a normal human pace) is that it breaks the immersion -- if that's what you guys are going for. There are plenty of games where walking normal speed (provided there are natural ways to move faster, such as boats, horses, etc.) works best, even though the map is extremely large. These games include: the Elder Scrolls games, DayZ (mod for ARMA II), the Far Cry series, Mount & Blade, and many others.

TL;DR - I think walking at a normal speed is best, because even though it takes more time, it keeps a sense of realism and allows the player to believe in the game's world, by keeping Meriwether's physics as close to real-life as possible.

Sortasoft14 karma

Great point, and I agree. He will probably still be walking a little faster than you might expect, because he walked a lot and he did walk fast.

There will be boats (a major way they traveled), and while there are a few horses, you can't ride them. (They were mostly used as beasts of burden.)

Spam_sammich17 karma

Sounds exciting guys. When you get around to a testing phase, remember your friendly Spam-sammich. I'll gladly help!

Sortasoft11 karma

OK, thanks Spam-sammich! We're really excited to get feedback from everybody and hope to have a playable Beta by August.

VapeitUp16 karma

Will there be females?

Sortasoft18 karma

Yeah, Sacagawea is awesome. And there are many other female minor characters you meet along the way.

Needswhippedcream15 karma

Historical? I always thought it'd be nice to have a button or an extra in the menu that takes you to a drop down where you can select a character's name and it'll take you to the Wikipedia page.

Sortasoft14 karma

We have an in-game database called the Wunderkammer that is similar to the Codex in Mass Effect. It has entries for all the people you meet, places, cultures, etc. When appropriate, we includes links, book suggestions, etc., if you're interested in digging deeper.

BrianSChung14 karma

Hey guys! Josh, I think you once mentioned to me that you visited certain locations, and actually traveled a part of the Lewis & Clark route. Can you tell us about that experience?

  • What kind of research did you originally intend to do out there, and did it end up having a different value for you?
  • Is it something you want to work into your usual process (for a project along these lines, anyway) and/or have your team members go on an expedition, also?
  • Did it help a lot with game design? Art direction? (If you've already written about this before, please link us). :)

Sortasoft13 karma

Hey Brian! Yeah, a few years ago, my wife Amanda and I flew out to St. Louis, rented a car, and spent three weeks traveling and camping along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The trip was just because we wanted to do it, but the trip truly convinced me that it would make a great game.

The Lewis and Clark Trail is not a physical path like the Appalachian trail, but more like a general route. This is because they largely traveled by river, and the course of the river has changed since, both naturally, and because of dams. I have been on the Missouri a few times but the one stretch of the trail I have yet to travel through is the Missouri Breaks--a beautiful remote stretch in Montana. Hopefully when we're finished with this game I will have the time to do it. I have since spent a lot of time all across the West doing reseach, but mostly just enjoying hiking, camping, and meeting all the amazing people that are into this story.

Spending time on the trail definitely has helped with the game design and the narrative design, although in subtle ways. When I'm designing a game I really need to understand the topic holistically and this part of the process certainly helped. I love to travel and I love the outdoors, which is one reason I'm making a game about those things.

countemily11 karma

Oh my goodness! I am freaking out right now out of pure nerdness!

I am a HUGE, HUGE Corps of Discovery / Lewis and Clark Expedition fan and am thrilled to hear about your work. Glee! :)

There are so many astounding, and unintentionally humorous, items in the journals. Plenty of material from which to draw for your game! The more and more that I read the journals, the more and more I find Lewis and Clark to be the original Odd Couple.

Anyways, you have no idea how much joy this brings me (and how much headshaking this will cause my boyfriend and friends as I spread the word to the masses).

Thank you again for your work!

Sortasoft9 karma

We are constantly cracking up about all the weird and funny things related to the expedition (and also the culture around it.) One of my favorite things that you encounter in the first level of the game, The President's House, is the Mammoth Cheese, a 1500 pound round of cheese given to Jefferson inscribed with the motto "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." Supposedly it eventually ended up being dumped into the Potomac.

And thank you for helping spread the word!

Elshar10 karma

Dysentery? Will it be in? Please say yes.

Sortasoft16 karma

Yes. Also syphilis, appendicitis, broken bones, a frostbit penis, and Lewis gets shot in the ass!

Hoganbeardy6 karma

In the actual expedition, were any of them afflicted with frostbite penis, and if so, how many?

Sortasoft10 karma

Yes, just one, York. (Poor dude.)

onemessageyo2 karma

Wouldn't you want to keep edu-tainment rated G?

Sortasoft4 karma

Yup. This isn't edutainment.

smind10 karma

How do you go about researching real-world history for use in a game? Also, how have you avoided questions about finding duck-sized horses on the trail?

Sortasoft9 karma

To answer the other (far less important) part of the question, our historical research usually happens like this: First, we will choose an aspect of the game that we are focusing on at the moment. This is usually a level, a conversation, and event, etc. Then I will read/watch/play everything I can find related to it. I'll put my ideas together in a document and share them with the team for feedback on the gameplay, and with Barb, our historian for feedback on the history.

Barb will then give a scholarly look at the information and correct me where I'm wrong, but more importantly she will dig up additional details or ideas that feed back into the gameplay. This iterative process usually goes back and forth a few times.

We also have a panel of other experts to run things by for final approval. And we are constantly getting suggestions from the public all of which we take to heart. I just got an incredibly detailed email from a researcher showing me new research that the "Girandoni" air rifle should actually be spelled "Girardoni." Going to fix that right now!

Copywright8 karma

Can I come by Brooklyn sometimes as a game dev groupie?

(I live in Queens, 16, been learning about game dev for a year now)

Sortasoft19 karma

Sure thing! Once the Kickstarter is over, you should come by one day while we're working and hang out. Send me a PM and we'll get in touch. Is there a certain aspect of game development (coding, design, art, etc.) you're interested in?

Sortasoft7 karma

Also, Carlos and I started a group for game designers to bring board game prototypes to playtest and critique each others' work. It's a great way to meet other designers and learn about the design process. We meet every first Saturday in Manhattan--you should come join us! We did an update about it here. In fact it's how Carlos and I met. You should also sign up for the group's mailing list here.

fanaticus7 karma

What is a rough estimate of how much creating a game like this costs? I've always wondered, but have never asked due to it sounding rude... I'm not being rude, just curious I swear!

Also, I went ahead and bought the game so do your best to get this made! :)

Sortasoft11 karma

It depends on how you define costs, because many of us are working just for ownership of the game. But very ballpark is $250K.

Augray_Sorn7 karma


Sortasoft11 karma

Within a level, you can fast travel between locations you've already explored. You cannot just fast travel right to the Pacific though, as much as it might please Jefferson.

Augray_Sorn7 karma


Sortasoft5 karma

Thanks! You're awesome too. I won't deny that making a game--any game--is a ton of work. I would suggest starting by making a boardgame. It's a lot easier and you have all the fun parts without the expense and technical hurdles. What you learn about game design in doing so will apply very much to videogames too. If you're set on making a videogame, choose a high-level engine that's well suited for a genre (Unity for a FPS, GameMaker for a 2D platformer, etc.) and build something very close to that genre. Or, find a programmer who wants to collaborate. Start very very small.

I got into making games when I was very young. In the 80's, my Dad had a home office and bought one of the early IBM PC's. I wasn't supposed to play with it so I'd sneak into the office at night and play games on it. Most of the games were written in BASIC so I started messing with the code and eventually programming my own. I always loved making games for myself but never really thought of it as a career until about 2004, when I bit the bullet and decided to do it full time. At first it was hard, but it's always been enjoyable.

SnakeyesX7 karma

What market research have you done for the game? Who is your target audience?

Sortasoft10 karma

We are creatively driven, rather than market driven. Even though this may seem like a recipe for disaster, it has helped us secure funding from grantmakers, who realize that this game couldn't exist if it was entirely a commercial endeavor.

The target audience is indie gamers--people who are looking for a different and deeper experience in a game. We realize there is also a large secondary demographic of history buffs and educators.

xandrodas7 karma

My father tracked records of my family back to a man whose name was Gibson who we believe we are related to, who was also on the Lewis and Clark expedition and died by a bear attack sometime when they got off the boat in one of the Western states. Will he be featured in the full version of the game? RIP Gibson

Sortasoft9 karma

Very cool! Private George Gibson is most certainly in the game. You can even sponsor him. (hint hint!)

bonerapier7 karma


Sortasoft4 karma

Yes, although not quite in those words. They were overly confident when they heard about the grizzlies but sure changed their tune once they had a few run-ins with them.

BenLeafMe6 karma

Cool!!! I loved Oregon Trail and seeing someone try to make a game similar to that makes me cheeky!! MY question is that I am a current psych student and I wanna get into the game industry without coding or "drawing" I know QA is the most entry level job I could get, so to get to the question, do you guys have any advice on getting into the industry itself??

P.S if yous are in need of someone willing to beta test your game or just give a generally feedback, I would be more then happy to help!!

Sortasoft4 karma

To echo what AlwaysBananas said, just make a game. It doesn't have to be a videogame. Make a board game or a street game or whatever you think would be fun. Hang out with other designers and developers. Also, volunteer to help with someone else's game for free. But to volunteer, you need to be able to contribute in a meaningful way, so tell them specifically what you can do to help.

Here's some books I highly recommend:

  • A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster
  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
  • Rules of Play by Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman
  • The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell
  • Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton

xtrafluffy2ply6 karma

Hows traveling going to be? Will you be able to make the wrong decision along the Missouri like they did?

Sortasoft4 karma

Traveling by river is generally linear--it's more a matter of managing your speed and resources, and deciding how to explore the surrounding landscape. There are a few times when the river branches, like at the Marias, and you can choose to scout out the correct path, or risk going the wrong way. When you're traveling by land, it is more open-ended.

ceepington6 karma

This makes me extremely happy. I'm a huge fan of "Undaunted Courage," by Stephen Ambrose.

Have any of you read it? If not, I absolutely recommend it.

At what point in time will the game begin? Will you start in D.C., Pittsburgh, or Louisville?

Sortasoft10 karma

Undaunted Courage is what got me hooked on Lewis and Clark in the first place. I am really interested in WWII and had read most of Ambrose's WWII books, which led me to Undaunted Courage. Two other books of his that I highly recommend are Pegasus Bridge and Nothing Like it in the World (about the transcontinental railroad.) And of course, Band of Brothers!

lightningusagi6 karma

Please say you will include the term "thunder clappers" in the game.

Sortasoft10 karma

Some of the dialogue about the pills jokingly refers to "thunder clappers", although in the game we always refer to them as "Dr. Rush's bilious pills". Technically the term "thunderclappers" is a more modern term (first used in the 1930s.) But you can get an tin of of thunderclappers as one of our rewards! Fortunately (or unfortunately?) they're red hots and will not make you erupt from both ends like the real deal.

theostorm5 karma

Oregon Trail was already cranked up to 11 on Xbox with Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, the best dollar you will ever spend.


Sortasoft5 karma

Hey this looks really cool! I'll make sure to check it out tonight when we're done with this.

dirtyewok5 karma

if its like Oregon Trail cranked to 11.....will i ever be able to ford a river without dying?

Sortasoft4 karma

Yes! The Corps of Discovery had a whole bunch of boats, so rivers were more of an asset than a liability.

XmRyan4 karma

Best AMA from a group of people, and from game devs, I've seen so far. On a scale of hospital to thrift store, how many silly hats do you think we'll be seeing in the finished game?

Sortasoft5 karma


Coelacanth883 karma

What made you guys decide to do a Lewis and Clark expedition game? As a student studying Computer Science (with a Game Design focus) I am interested in understanding your creative process so to speak. I have a couple of potential games that I've thought about making, and I even have one that I've written a few hundred pages of story for. What is your biggest inspiration when creating story? Even in the smallest of details?

Sortasoft4 karma

I fell in love with the story through reading Steven Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, and then even moreso by traveling along the Lewis and Clark Trail. As a game designer, I'm always thinking of how my interests and experiences relate to my work. And I knew this topic would be great.

The story for this game is all the details that were already written about by Clark, Lewis, their men, and the multitude of scholars that have written about the topic since.

You should take one your game ideas--the simplest one--and prototype it. Just make a really simple version out of paper and cardboard and bits from board games and such. Play it, see what fun, revise, and repeat!