Our bio:

We're a group of indie game developers and open source tool developers -- we made the games Anodyne, Defender's Quest, Incredipede, NEO Scavenger, and several others (see below).

In an age when all the cool kids are using Unity3D and other proprietary tools (not that there's anything wrong with that!), we feel supporting open source projects is just as important, and that's why we've gathered to talk about that (and other topics!) here. People should use what's best for them, we just want to make sure open source alternatives get the proper support and attention they deserve.

For instance, many of us are current and former Flash developers transitioning to the open source language Haxe. We also have the developers behind the Haxe, OpenFL, and Ren'Py projects here today. (Here's a widely-read article one of us wrote on why many Flash developers are moving to Haxe: Flash is dead, long live OpenFL!)

Our Proof:

Others friends of ours who might unofficially join in, timezones/life permitting:

All our games are currently on sale in an effort to support the aforementioned open source tools.

UPDATE: Kevin Penkin is asleep now due to inconvenient time zone!

UPDATE 2: Seems like questions are winding down. Post your questions while we're still here :)

UPDATE 3: I think we're done. Some of the devs might comment if you leave a question, but no guarantees. Thanks for participating!

Comments: 237 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

ZedCodex17 karma

Why is open source development important to games? (I wanna hear you guys lay it out :D)

trothamel22 karma

As someone who's developed an open source game engine (Ren'Py), I think the important thing is that it's telling people "this is your tool, as much as mine. If you want to make money with it, feel free. If you need to see how it works - or even change how it works - you can. If something happens to the developers, the tool will still be around, and someone else could start maintaining/improving it."

And I think that sort of ownership is empowering to the creators who use our tools.

larsiusprime6 karma


larsiusprime20 karma

I laid out my particular case in this lengthy write-up on gamasutra.

The gist of it is that proprietary tool-chains put you at the mercy of a company that could change gears any second. A lot of us Flash/AIR developers have been left hanging out to dry by Adobe who seems less and less interested in supporting Flash development, for instance. We could always switch over to, say, Unity, but then we're in the same boat. Now, I trust the Unity TEAM, but you never know when somebody's going to get bought out, and then some investor gets bored, and your whole toolchain gets flushed down the toilet. Obviously, that seems unlikely for Unity right now, but we said the same thing about Adobe years ago.

Beyond that, when you use proprietary tools you are at the mercy of someone else's development cycle. They fix bugs and add features when they want to, and you can't just roll up your own sleeves and do it yourself, or even pay someone to do it for you. You just have to wait and hope.

There's definitely downsides to open source development, but overall I prefer "freedom" to "security", so to speak.

Babaganoosh1316 karma

So Kevin, Nobuo Uematsu eh?

Darkenshade5 karma

I cried tears of joy when I read about that...

kevinpenkin7 karma

It took some time to come through but one couldn't ask for a better person to compose a main theme for a game.

Eldiran8 karma

If it's not too personal -- how on earth did that happen? ; )

kevinpenkin11 karma

Not at all. It's an AMA! I was very fortunate to work with Uematsu and his manager, Ogawa, from 2011 on a small-medium sized project which being released in Japan on PSP. They hired Uematsu for the main theme and I was put in charge of writing all the other music. This is almost identical to what's happening now!

larsiusprime8 karma

Additional context: Kevin is Australian (close to Japan!) and speaks Japanese.

MOOMANiBE6 karma

Sean - What was the philosophy behind Anodyne's surprisingly expansive, but mostly unhinted-at postgame?

Lars - Has the time spend translating DQ1 into other languages paid off? Additionally, of all your updates, what do you think was the most valuable thing you added to DQ, post-release?

Kevin - Why can't I find anywhere to buy your music standalone? Bandcaaaamp? :D

Daniel - What's your core philosophy in adding things to NEO Scavenger? What are your big priorities at the moment?

larsiusprime2 karma

Lars here.

Yes, for the high-profile languages like German. We have enough numbers to say, "yeah we made more than we spent in time+money." The tricky bit is you have to have enough historical data to be able to say, "these new german sales we're seeing are a result of the translation."

For our less-big languages like Czech and Korean I think we've basically broken even on the time it took to integrate the fan translations.

If we had had all of them available from the beginning, I think it would have been a very different story, the languages were added so late that it blunted the effect. I'm looking into having more languages professionally translated from the very beginning, and thanks to everything I've learned (distilled into my open-source firetongue library for Haxe) it will go faster this time.

As for "most valuable thing added post-release," that depends on when you count "release." If it was since we went on sale, then obviously the huge gold edition upgrade + bonus maps + better art + new-game+ was the huge winner.

If you count from when we launched on Steam, Workshop support was the hugest thing. Not only did it give us a lot of attention from modders, but we were able to get Steam to give us a front-page promo for it, which was insane.

MOOMANiBE2 karma

I had a feeling Gold was the big one, haha. And yeah, front-page promos seem to be the new "on steam at all" in terms of sales, yeah?

Interesting, re:languages. You don't see a lot of indie devs with language support these days, esp. not from the very beginning. I think it's super interesting to hear how this stuff goes!

larsiusprime5 karma

Yeah, re:languages it's REALLY hard to quantify ahead of time.

Example: should we add a Norwegian translation?

Well, Norway is actually one of our top selling countries, even given its small population. Seems like it's a good market!

HOWEVER: as a Norwegian, I know almost all the gaming population speaks English. Are we seeing that many sales just because they're so fluent in English? How many additional sales will a Norwegian translation give? We can't know, and we have limited time/resources.

I'll probably eventually get around to getting a Norwegian translation done for purely sentimental reasons, but this describes the basic dilemma. Wish more devs would post numbers.

ericmbernier6 karma

I saw a few brief mentions on Twitter that Josh was attempting to talk to Sony reps at GDC. I also read the latest DQ2 update, in which Lars states that he's not regretting the switch to Haxe when discussing consoles. Are there plans in motion to get console support into Haxe/OpenFL?

larsiusprime11 karma


Details later :)

TheTimeTravelersWife5 karma

Hmm. I think I might know some of these guys.... Congratulations and may there be many pineapple sausage mobiles in your future!

larsiusprime8 karma

may there be many pineapple sausage mobiles in your future!

So this person just outed themselves as someone who knows me personally, or crossed paths with me in college.

Context for everyone else: I have Tourette's Syndrome, and people with that disorder sometimes have uncontrollable vocal tics where they sometimes repeatedly say the same strings of seemingly random words.

"Pineapple Sausage Mobile" was one of my recurring vocal tics, dated to about 2002-2008, if I remember correctly. So I'm guessing this is an old college friend :)

LastResortGames15 karma

@All - What are your plans for the near/distant future in terms of expanding the sizes of your teams/companies? Are you hoping to remain as the two/three/four person teams you are or would you be interested in hiring/creating larger teams in the future or are you possibly already actively looking?

If a bunch of Indies wanted to band together to start a (significantly) larger operation would you be interested? I know there is a certain mindset to being Indie that can lead to a 'too many cooks in the kitchen' situation, but I was curious if it was anything that had crossed your mind at some point.

dcfedor9 karma

I've enjoyed being the "only cook in the kitchen" for a while, but I'm starting to realize how limiting that can be. I think part of my reason for going solo was to prove that I could do it. I'm pretty happy with what I've done now, and that need to prove myself is diminished.

That said, I still have a major problem "letting go." I am a control freak, I guess. But despite that, I think some of my coolest experiences have been when collaborating with a team of a few to a dozen. Larger than that, and it starts to lose luster.

I'm strongly considering running my business as a single-employee shop with 100% contractors on an as-needed basis. I've read about various film and game projects, and there's something cool about teaming up with the right people for the job, doing it well, disbanding when you're done, and maybe reuniting again in future projects. I'd like to try a "rotating roster" like this.

I think I'm soured on the idea of full-time employees because of my experience at BioWare. A lot of effort and money went into keeping people busy all the time, even if they weren't strictly needed. E.g. downtime between projects, or projects that didn't need certain skillsets at the time. We couldn't just fire them and re-hire later, because that wasn't very respectful of the person.

And as a result, I think dev costs were much higher than necessary. It also severely limited what games we could make. You can't suddenly do a 2D, hand-animated game anymore, because what will you do with the 100 3D modelers, animators, and riggers from your last 3D AAA game?

larsiusprime3 karma


larsiusprime2 karma

I like to stay small and lean. Even with all our success, Level Up Labs still has only ONE full-time employee (me). Back in early DQ1 days we didn't even have me on full-time!

We want to keep our burn rate down as low as possible, not only to stay alive, but to avoid having the awful situation of having to lay off your friends. Right now Level Up Labs is a little magical carnival tent that pops up a few times a year and has little bits of work for all of our favorite contractors and partners (like Kevin, our writer James Cavin, our artist Karen Petrasko, animator Dean Dodrill, etc).

That way if we ever go under it won't be sinking anyone's livelihood (except mine of course!). It also keeps the pressure low enough that I don't feel the urge to compromise creative decisions just to desperately pay the bills.

HereForGames5 karma


hanakogames2 karma

The game I most recently sank a whole bunch of hours into was the free adventure game Heroine's Quest which is in the style of the old Sierra Quest for Glory games. Those games were practically my favorite thing ever as a little girl.

I've only done one runthrough so far trying not to spoil myself too much, and I know I've missed a lot of secrets, so I look forward to playing it again more later.

larsiusprime1 karma

Oh wow I need to play that!!!!

larsiusprime2 karma

Let's see, I should mention one that isn't already getting tons of Press (ie, Papers, Please!)

Coin Crypt on steam is my current fascination. Amazing coin-based roguelikelike(or PDL if you prefer), where you collect coins, and have RPG-like battles where each coin is a unique verb to attack with. Very crazy cool.

haxiomic5 karma

Hey, I'm a big fan of you guys, the haxe language and Joshua's projects!

As a ball park figure, how long does it you to create a game from start to release? I imagine it varies a lot, but is it more often months or years?

larsiusprime1 karma

A really long time. Like 1-2 years of full time work when all is said and done.

HereForGames4 karma


larsiusprime1 karma

There was this one time I don't really want to talk about... suffice it to say I know what internet hate mobs can be like.

larsiusprime6 karma

Something I can talk about is the challenges I've had trying to get contract work. For a long time I supplemented my indie stuff with a "stable" day job of chasing educational game grant projects and marketing myself as a specialist in that field.

Probably one of the worst situations I got into was when I let people really exploit me, not paying my invoices for months at a time, but still demand that I keep their projects afloat.

One of these was for a facebook games company (that shall remain nameless). That wasn't so surprising.

The one that really surprised me was a edu. game grant from a university team. This one was particularly bad because the Primary Investigator had the gall to discuss, right in front of me (hadn't been paid in months) -- "we need to spend our money before the end of the grant period so we can get the same amount next time. Lars -- is there any hardware or something you think we could justify purchasing?"

Yeah I've got an idea -- how about you pay your contractors??? I was so naive.

When I talked to the P.I. in private, week after week, that person would always blame others on the team, which made me sure that when I left the P.I. would do the same to me, demonizing me to others behind my back, to deflect blame from the P.I.

I expected a university team to be less sharky than a facebook company, but I wound up getting the same treatment from both.

Relevant: F*ck you, pay me -- NSWF language, obviously.

Unpaid internships, contractor exploitation, for-profit "make your dreams come true" game schools, crunch time, unpaid overtime -- issues with worker exploitation are rampant.

We talk a lot about identity/diversity issues (which is really important don't get me wrong), and I think we should also spend as much time talking about how the industry's insidious equal-opportunity exploitation of the common worker.

HereForGames4 karma


larsiusprime5 karma

Lars here.

I have no idea! I'm not sure how much of my weird path to success is repeatable. Besides all the requisite hard-work/determination/etc, a lot of it came from simply stumbling into the exact right group of people at the right time.

So, posting my early terrible games on big web portals was a good idea that anyone can repeat, I think. That's how I first met my current biz partner, Anthony Pecorella (co-founder of Level Up Labs). He was (and still is) a Kongregate Employee, and he happened to have a grant for a research project called CellCraft, and he saw Energy Apocalypse and said, "Hey maybe that guy can be our programmer, he made an educational game thing that doesn't totally suck." I desperately needed a job and said yes!

Then he went on youtube looking for musicians and saw this young guy from Australia who would post footage from Final Fantasy games overlaid with his own music. Anthony liked him, so he hired him as the musician. That's how Anthony, Kevin, and I all became friends, working on CellCraft.

Later, Anthony pitched me the idea for Defender's Quest, and we teamed up to make it together, and of course invited Kevin to be our musician again.

Then after DQ1 was done I was browsing Kevin's Website, and noticed a "Nobuo Uematsu" in his list of collaborators... a frantic Skype call immediately followed, and things snowballed from there.

Now, we had no clue if anyone would like DQ at all. It was kind of a huge risk for us as we weren't getting paid up front like my "safe" contract work in educational games.

It's like taking that shot in X-COM where it's a 50% chance (or whatever). Everyone hails you as a hero if you make it, but if you miss your whole team dies. But you had the same information beforehand either way :)

Jourdy2884 karma

Are any of you guys coming to PAX East?

larsiusprime3 karma

Afraid not. My disabilities and family obligations make it kind of hard for me to travel a lot, so I'm lucky if I go to one or two conferences/conventions a year.

I think Anthony will be at PAX East in the Kongregate booth, tho!

Jourdy2882 karma

Not to pry, but disability?

larsiusprime3 karma

I brought it up, no problem. Tourette's Syndrome + Narcolepsy. Neurological disorders, that manifest in weird ways under stress + crowds + lack-of-sleep + irregular blood sugar. Suffice it to say, travel == major risk of difficult-to-explain behavior.

MenDude2 karma

Talking about that, what happened to Tourette's Quest?

larsiusprime2 karma

It was a side project I was working on when I had time, turns out having a main project and a new baby AND a side project is 1 thing too many :)

TouretteQuest is on my shortlist for projects-after-DQ2.

MattofEng3 karma

So Defender's Quest II is in an entirely different world. I'm not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, the DQ1's characters will always be brilliant, and won't outstay their welcome, but on the other hand I want to see more of them. Any chance of a return to the world of DQ1 at some point?

larsiusprime3 karma

We very well might. One of the main reasons we wanted to switch settings was to avoid "Megaman syndrome," where in order to raise the stakes for a story-sequel, you undo or undermine everything the characters achieved in the first game/story.

In short, we wrapped up all the loose ends really tightly in DQ1, and I wouldn't want to unravel that just to have another go at the story, we wanted to respect the story and characters, if that made sense.

MattofEng2 karma

It does! I'm one of the fans that everyone hates to design/write for - I want something to be different, but at the same time the same as what came before. One thing that sometimes helps with this is to keep one element, such as the setting, and give a different angle on it, with an entirely new cast. But don't think I'm not interested in DQ2! Already got it preordered!

larsiusprime2 karma

One day we may or may not return to the world of the Valley of the Forgotten (if not that exact setting)... we'll have to see :) No promises! But maybe!

neo16913 karma

I am a starter. I aspire to be a game developer. I love open source. I have started with CPP. What are the career options of working full time in an opensource game development environment?

What are your advice for starters like me? Can we get involved in open source gaming projects from now on? Or should I wait and learn all the basic if game development and should know the game loop and other basic concepts before entering in this field?

ColinNorthway5 karma

Whatever you do is good as long as you are MAKING STUFF. For some reason open source games tend not to get finished? I'm not sure about this but I can't remember any open source games that ended up finished and released... Someone please correct me if this isn't the case.

So I'd suggest just starting on your own. Start making very small games and work your way slowly up. Enjoy the feeling of making little creations that people can play with in their own way.

neo16911 karma

I agree, I started a thread on the same topic and got the same reply. Thanks for the advice!

But how good is open source when looked from a full time prospective? Can I make a career out of it?

larsiusprime2 karma

Finding full-time work supporting open source projects is very, very, hard. It's a noble goal, but I wouldn't recommend starting there.

Baeocystin2 karma

No question, just want to let you guys know how much I enjoyed Defender's Quest. (That damn sheep!) Not only was the gameplay fresh & refined, but I remain impressed by how much work and support you put in to it long after you first shipped. Thanks again. You can tell it is a labor of love.

(I'm looking forward to DKII!)

larsiusprime2 karma

Thanks so much :) !

Piziforme2 karma


singmajesty2 karma

OpenFL (and NME before it) were part-time projects, while I worked at Palm and BlackBerry. What better way to support developers than to provide tools to easily get native performance, targeting both the most popular and less popular platforms at once?

It fulfills a personal goal of mine, to enable others to "communicate" freely, sharing their vision with their world, unencumbered. OS developers encourage vendor lock-in, but we believe developers want a free pass.

When I was leaving BlackBerry (I was traveling far too much for a guy with four kids), we had to make a hard decision about where to go from there. I believe the world needs something like OpenFL. I believe that this cannot disappear as a "good idea" that "could have been" -- the distance from there to a practical tool, we felt, was investment.

We are very excited about the progress made in the past year, but OpenFL is not going to reach its full potential without all of us contributing time or financially to help it grow.

We would love to expand the team, but we also believe that a small (focused) team can accomplish incredible things :)

larsiusprime1 karma

The answer is put some money in this bucket :) ---> http://www.patreon.com/openfl

ncannasse1 karma

Just a complementary note : OpenFL rely on Haxe which itself is supported by Haxe Foundation, for which companies using Haxe such as TiVo, Prezi, Motion-Twin and others are supporting financially in exchange of tech support.

larsiusprime1 karma

Does the Haxe Foundation have a money bucket I can link to?

Jukka_Sarasti2 karma

Any plans to port NEO Scavenger to Android? I love the desktop version and, IMO, it would make a great port for tablets.

dcfedor3 karma

I agree! I could totally picture a nice, lazy afternoon on the couch (or a commute via train/plane) being filled by some turn-based, single-player, RPG goodness.

I'm not sure how I'll do it yet, but I definitely want to explore that option after finishing the PC version!

larsiusprime3 karma

If NEO Scavenger isn't processor-intensive the way most AS3 flixel games are, you could probably wrap it in AIR for mobile and do just fine. Seeing as it's mostly turn based, the usual performance hit you get in mobile+AIR with blitting engines like flixel shouldn't apply to you.

globalkoz2 karma

Where did you learn programming? What path would you recommend a complete neophyte take if they were interested in learning?

larsiusprime3 karma

If I were you and you were interested in making games, I'd get my feet wet with one of these:

If you just want to learn programming for its own sake, maybe Python? Haxe is great but I'm not sure it's the best language to start with.

Reichaos2 karma

How do you approach the topic of Flash development with other people? I would think that some people perceive Flash developer as meaning you either make games for the flash game portal websites (e.g. newgrounds, addictinggames, etc), or you're some newbie (maybe a young student) fitzing around with his/her first game.

dcfedor3 karma

I WAS a newbie futzing around with my first game :)

Seriously, though, way back in 2011, the landscape was a bit different, and so were the goals. Originally, I thought I was making a Flash portal game, following in Andy Moore's footsteps (Steambirds).

As months turned into years, the game I was making looked less like a portal game, and more like a "premium" app for desktops. At that point, I was already neck-deep in Flash, so porting to another language wasn't an attractive option.

So I've made do with what I've got, and try my best to keep the browser and Win/OSX/Linux versions all working.

The thing is, back in 2011 anyway, Flash was actually a pretty good deal. Surprisingly powerful, mind-numbingly easy to develop for, nearly 100% browser adoption rate (@1 billion users, counting web population then), no barrier to try the game (no scary EXE to download), and it "just worked" equally on everyone's machine. Even the projector format was passable as a desktop alternative.

It just fell apart in the last couple years, is all. Failed to adapt to changing marketplace.

larsiusprime3 karma

I had exactly the same path as Daniel. We started thinking Defender's Quest would be a "quickie flash game" that we'd sell for a sponsorship, then we pivoted to making it a desktop-downloadable commercial release.

The saga is laid out here:

  1. Defender's Quest by the Numbers part 1
  2. Defender's Quest by the Numbers part 2

dcfedor3 karma

Seriously. I feel like Lars is my parallel self from 6 months into the future or something.

larsiusprime4 karma

It must be true because I'm the evil one with the facial hair!

MugalonDotCom1 karma

Why do you invest so much time to promote OpenFL? Is there any financial incentiv?

larsiusprime3 karma

If by that you mean "is OpenFL paying me," then absolutely not, they're a pretty lean operation, and so far the only money flowing has been me specially contracting them to work on features I need.

But if you mean, "does it save me a lot of money and pain and hassle and do I desperately want something sane to replace Flash, and do I want to not have to pay to port my game from scratch each time I want to hit a new platform", then YES. There is a financial incentive :)