Hi Reddit! I've been a game designer in the industry for about 8 years, and an indie developer for the last 1 1/2 years. I just released The Counting Kingdom on Steam Early Access. It's sort of like Plants vs. Zombies meets Math Blasters. Ask my anything!


Edit: This has been amazing, thank you! I have a few meetings that I need to run off to, but either this evening or tomorrow I'll come back and try to answer anything that went unanswered.

Comments: 134 • Responses: 54  • Date: 


First off, this is a rad game, keep up the excellent work! Secondly, in making a game about numbers did you find you had a favorite number? Also maybe a favorite mathematical operator too?

IMakeLittleWorlds7 karma

Thanks! So here's a weird thing about me - I have something called Synesthesia. It's basically a weird cross-wiring in the brain, but the end result is that number have colors for me. I don't literally see the color, but I know for a fact that 2 is blue, 3 is orange/red, etc. My favorite number has always corresponded to my favorite color, so I'd have to say that 8 is probably my favorite number because it's a nice rich dark blue. (7 is a gross brown-orange. No sane person should like the number 7).

darthvannah2 karma

What number is purple? That's my favorite color and I'm curious. :)

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

6 is a really vibrant purple :)

anonymou5e5 karma

Hey, this looks great!

What do you think the biggest misconception is about making games?
How many people worked on the game? How long did it take?

IMakeLittleWorlds11 karma

Thanks! A lot of people outside the industry seem to have this rockstar conception of what it's like making games. The reality is that I spend a lot of my day looking at spreadsheets, or doing the same action 50 times in a row to try to track down a bug. My job is not glamorous, it's intensely hard work. I love it (I wouldn't be doing it otherwise!), but just because you enjoy playing games doesn't mean you'd enjoy making games.

The game has taken about a year so far to develop. I'm the only full-time member of the team, and I do all the design, development, bizdev, most of the marketing, etc. I have 5 or so part-time folks that do art, audio and community management. I can't draw for beans, so you wouldn't want to see what the game looked like if I was doing the art :)

evlncrn84 karma

making math fun.. thats quite a challenge

did you find any part of the getting on steam process tedious or any parts that could have been improved?

IMakeLittleWorlds10 karma

The process was actually pretty straightforward. There's a lot of potential for integration that we haven't taken advantage of yet (like trading cards), but the basic process of getting the game set up for sale was fortunately very doable.

evlncrn80 karma

trading cards can really boost things, steam cloud too for save games and such (if that applies), and achievements... i know some people wont even consider buying a game on steam if it doesnt have any 'cheevies' and others feel the same way with the cloud etc, but that can all come later in updates i guess

what language was it coded in? (purely curious question)

IMakeLittleWorlds8 karma

Yup! We're still considering what things will be the best fit, but I already have plenty of ideas for trading cards :)

The game was actually developed in Unity using a visual scripting plugin called Playmaker. I don't actually know how to program, but tools like Playmaker let folks like me make games! The game is basically a bunch of elaborate flowcharts. It's pretty awesome that we live an a time where that is possible.

emdroid4 karma

I love your approach to incorporating math elements in your gameplay. What was the best advice you received from someone involved in education that helped guide your work?

IMakeLittleWorlds7 karma

Thank you! I got some really amazing advice from a teacher about the tutorial. Tutorials are always hard, but trying to make them for kids is a difficulty multiplier. The teacher told me about a teaching strategy called "I do, we do, you do." It's pretty straightforward - when you want to teach a new concept you first show how to do it (I do), then do it together (we do), then let the kid do it on their own (you do). That framework really helped me structure the tutorial in a way that seems to be working very nicely.

SparklesMcGee4 karma

Favorite ice cream flavor ? :)

IMakeLittleWorlds5 karma

There are so many! I'd have to say mint chocolate chip.. or black raspberry. Really, though, I view ice cream as a delivery method for sprinkles.

SparklesMcGee3 karma

Purple Cow would be good for you then. Black raspberry with white and dark chocolate chips.

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

Yes! I apparently also loved cotton candy flavored ice cream as a kid and my parents were really grossed out by it.

evlncrn8-7 karma

you know someones going to ask if you're single or not.. dont you?.. its only a matter of time

IMakeLittleWorlds7 karma

Ah, the joys of being a woman in the games industry.

fillydashon2 karma

Well then, since it came up, have you run into any unique challenges in founding a game studio due to the fact that you are a woman?

I mean like, was it difficult to get people on board with your projects or to take you seriously when you started? I know the game playing community can be an incredibly toxic place for women, but what's the game developing community like?

IMakeLittleWorlds5 karma

I have been immensely fortunate in that I haven't run into any sexism directed at me in the game development community. I'm heavily involved in the Boston indie game dev community and it's an amazing group of people. However, I'm aware that my personal experience is not representative of all women everywhere. Scroll down to 2014 in this timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities and you can see that we've already had quite the year.

OpenRoad3 karma

Counting Kingdom looks like a beautiful game; I love seeing fun-looking educational games. Anyway, a few questions, since you mentioned "the joys of being a woman in the games industry".

Who are some really awesome women in the games industry we should know about? Who are the women (or men) that you look up to in the industry and why? Have you see any changes in the way the games industry responds to women or non-white/non-dude people in the past few years? Thanks!

IMakeLittleWorlds5 karma

Thank you! There are so many amazing women in the games even though it can be a pretty tough place to be (I think women only make up like 10 or 20% of the industry). One of the people I look up to the most is Robin Hunicke. She's worked on the Sims, Journey and Glitch (one of my favorite games), and recently cofounded Funomena. She believes in making games with heart and is just an all-around amazing person. I don't know too many of the women from the triple A scene, but if you walk through something like the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX you'll see lots of women making amazing things.

The industry is sloooooowly getting better for women, though of course we still see things like booth babes. This photo of the line for the bathroom at WWDC sums up the gender disparity pretty nicely.

I would hugely recommend checking out the Indie Soapbox session from GDC this year. Zoe Quinn talks about harassment in games and game development, and Shawn Allen highlights some of the amazing things that are being made by people who are minorities.

SparklesMcGee4 karma

Not OP, but here's a little list of some pretty influential women in games: http://www.forbes.com/sites/women2/2013/03/29/12-women-in-gaming-to-watch-entrepreneurs-edition/

IMakeLittleWorlds4 karma

That's a really great list - thanks for posting!

orionsmark123 karma

What is the biggest challenge with making educational games?

IMakeLittleWorlds4 karma

Hmm. I'm not sure what the biggest one is, but I can narrow it down to two:

First, as a designer you have two very different goals - to make an amazing game that's exciting and engaging, and to make something that helps kids learn. These two goals are frequently at odds with each other, and you somehow have to get them to not only play nicely, but to really complement each other. This is why we see a lot of really terrible educational games, this is not an easy thing to do well.

The second is just the (understandably) negative feelings most people have towards educational games. When I tell people I make games they're always excited, but when I say I'm working on an educational game they immediately lose interest. I always have to be like "but wait! It's actually really fun, I promise!"

orionsmark124 karma

I think there's a big need in the marketplace for more educational games and that a developer who can put out consistently entertaining educational games is more difficult to find then one would think. Thank you for your response!

IMakeLittleWorlds5 karma

I agree! That's one of the biggest reasons I'm doing this. I grew up playing awesome educational games like Oregon Trail and Treasure Mountain, and I just didn't see the same quality of game available now for kids above the age of 6 or so. If I can have a positive impact on even just a few kids I will be a very happy developer!

Throwawayqw1232 karma

What are the steps for releasin' a game over Steam? Is it just an "upload and submit" button and "if we like it it gets put up along with the rest"?

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

There are a few basic steps - first you have to get approval to release your game on Steam. This can be done through Greenlight, or through convincing people at Valve that your game is really kickass. Once that's done you can log into their developer portal and set up all the nuts and bolts (marketing content, builds, etc). Then you submit the game for approval and wait for someone to give you the thumbs up!

CandlepinMan2 karma

What type of conditioner do you use?

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

Whatever's not too expensive at the pharmacy! Usually Pantene, I think?

AgonistX1 karma

This looks like it would do well on a touchscreen. Do you have any plans to expand into the tablet market post PC release?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Absolutely! We'll be releasing on iOS as soon as possible after the full Steam release, so hopefully early to mid-fall.

AgonistX1 karma

Sweet. I just bought it on Steam. Best of luck!

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Thank you so much!

AgonistX1 karma

No problem.

May I also suggest to expand into the Android Windows Phone markets as well, I know some developers are iffy thinking there is no money to be made but you would be surprised at how fast it is growing and some money is better than no money.

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

It's definitely something I'm considering. Developing for Android is actually much more challenging than developing for iOS because there are so many different devices. Trying to test to make sure your game works across all of them (or enough of them) is a pain.

iFozy1 karma

Is adding the only mathematical operation in this game? It would be cool to see it ramp up the difficulty with multiplication and division, then perhaps modes that go even further with more advanced maths. Any interest in doing this?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Hey iFozy! I answered this a little ways down but here's the short version: I'd love to do this, but the mechanics of the game wouldn't work. The way the probabilities are set up right now works beautifully for basic addition, but the mechanics would need a drastic overhaul to work for anything else (sadly).

neonr4in1 karma

Btw, What's your favorite music ?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Recently I've been listening to lots of video game soundtracks because I picked up an awesome bundle. My favorites right now are: Bastion, FTL, Luftrausers and Device 6. The Device 6 soundtrack always makes me feel like some sort of sneaky, badass secret agent, and sometimes you just need that in your work day!

Acetius1 karma

I've got a calculus final in about a week, will I feel guilty about playing this instead of studying?

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

Even calculus requires an understanding of basic addition!

Mantisbog1 karma

Darma and Greg was my favorite show ever. Thank you.

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Haha I have no idea what you're thanking me for! I've never seen Darma and Greg. but.. you're welcome?

ezrablue1 karma

What future do you see with making video games? Do you want to continue with education games or would you eventually go towards the more "conventional" game style? Also, do you see your self returning to the gaming industry?

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

We'll see! I'm trying to stay as flexible as possible because there are so many unknowns at this stage. My background is in more "conventional" games but I'm really enjoying the challenge of making educational games. I also absolutely love being an indie! To be completely honest, a lot depends on how well this game does. I just want to make enough money that I can afford to continue making my own educational games. (I'm not trying to grub for more sales here, just trying to highlight the financial realities!)

someguyinahat1 karma

Considering how many people remember educational game franchises like Reader Rabbit and Super Solvers from playing them on school computers, have you considered getting in touch with some school boards to have your game distributed there? Putting games on Steam is great for home use, but if you really want to touch a lot of hearts and minds with an educational game, getting it in a school is the way to go.

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Great question! That's definitely part of our long term strategy, but there's a few reasons why we're targeting the at-home market first. There's honestly a lot of bureaucracy involved with getting into schools. From what I've seen, it seems like a pretty long and arduous road compared to the simplicity of releasing on Steam or the app store. A lot of teachers I've talked to have also requested detailed reporting so they can see how little Timmy and Jane are doing without having to watch over their shoulders. With the current educational climate, this kind of reporting is much more crucial for teachers than it was when I was growing up. As a one-person development team, that kind of feature is honestly out of scope for right now Hopefully it's something I'll be able to tackle down the road.

deathlord90001 karma

Whats your favorite video game?

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

Ack! That's such a hard question. There's no way I could narrow it down to just one, but here are some of the games I think are brilliant: Braid, Threes, Minecraft, and a few oldies but goodies: Monkey Island and Pharoah.

BorisTheButcher1 karma


IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Thank you so much! Please let me know what your son thinks!

BorisTheButcher1 karma

He's really enjoying it http://imgur.com/XWIiY4C

This is a cool game

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

That makes me so happy!! Thank you so much for sharing that!

heromitch1 karma

What would you say was your biggest obstacle(s) when starting Little Worlds Interactive?

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

This is going to sound weird, but one of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out what game to make. When I worked at a larger studio I would daydream about what kinds of games I would make if I was an indie. When I transitioned to being an indie developer this was actually kind of paralyzing - I could make anything! How do you possibly narrow that down? How do you pick that one idea that you then invest a year or more of your life into? One of the reasons I started making educational games was because it was such an interesting design challenge. It also lets me have (hopefully) a positive impact on people's lives, which is why I went indie in the first place!

heromitch1 karma

I hope that I can too be part of the video game industry, whatever part that maybe. How would you describe and compare your experiences from being apart of a large studio to being an indie developer?

also, what studio did you used to work for previously?

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

I've worked at these places:

  • Turbine (summer internship in the art department, making art for DDO)
  • Hangout Industries (small startup making social virtual worlds for teen girls, art and design)
  • Stomp Games (designer for Robot Rising)

Being in a larger studio lets you tackle much more ambitious projects. I could never make something like World of Warcraft, for example. You can also really specialize if you want (you can do just level design, or just UI design), and there's the benefit of having lots of people around to learn from.

Working in a smaller studio puts a lot more responsibility on your shoulders, and you get to do many different things. Right now I'm doing all the design, development, management, bizdev and most of the marketing for my game. On most days that's awesome, but some days I just want to hide in a corner and work on the game uninterrupted. It can also be incredibly tough financially, though at least I know that nobody is going to lay me off without notice! I personally love the freedom of being an indie developer, but everyone's different.

(Edited because apparently I don't know how to format)

OmarBessa1 karma

Your game looks nice and interesting. Any tips for an aspiring developer?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Thank you! The most important thing for an inspiring developer is to just make games. Even if you can't program, there are so many toolsets available for developing. I use Playmaker in Unity, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg of what's out there.

Networking is also crucial, and fortunately there are lots of meetups available for most folks. Here's a list, for example, of just some of the many meetups available if you're in Boston! If you live in a more remote area something like Twitter can be a great way to connect with people.

evanmc1 karma

I am a recent college graduate with a bachelors in computer science struggling to find a job. I want to get into the gaming industry, what can I do to get myself out there?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

That's great, congrats! There are two crucial things for you to do right now:

1) Make games. I'm sure you're busy trying to find a job but make sure you always have some sort of project going. People are often defined, for better or for worse, by what they've worked on. Also make sure you've finished a game! Even if it's just something very small, showing that you know how to complete something is crucial. Make sure you have a nice portfolio website that shows off how awesome you are.

2) Network, network, network. If you're living in an area where there's a thriving games industry, great! Find local meetups and talk to as many people as you can. Don't lead with the fact that you're looking for a job, but get business cards and swap them with everyone you talk to. If you're in a more remote area it gets a little tougher. Try to get yourself to some big conventions (GDC is a must), and network with devs through online communities like Twitter.

KingradKong1 karma

I think what you are doing is awesome! I remember, at age six, playing Super Solvers Outnumbered for countless hours! Now that I think about it, math was always a breeze for me throughout school and I can't help but think that my childhood gaming habit helped with that. Being able to incorporate these basic skills into a childrens game is a noble cause and I wish you the best! If this game works out as you had hoped, will you be continuing a 'learning' series of gaming or is something else in your future?

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

Thank you so much! I don't think I ever played Outnumbered, but the whole Super Solvers series was amazing - I sank countless hours into Treasure Mountain. I would LOVE to continue working on learning games, but it's so hard to know what the future holds. A lot hinges on how successful this game is, but I'm giving it everything I have!

panda6011 karma

Hey I've just finished a degree in games development. There are quite a few opertunities in my home town, I was wanting to know if it would be "more exciting" working with a large firm e.g. rocksteady, EA... or working in a smaller group releasing a series of short games?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Hmm, I think this really comes down to your personal preferences, and it may not be something you really figure out until you've worked at a few different places. I personally prefer smaller teams and smaller projects, but that's not necessarily for everyone.

AH_drew1 karma

Would you ever port the game to other platforms such as xbox or playstation?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Maybe? Are there kid's games on those consoles? It's not something I've really looked into, but releasing on a Nintendo console would be kind of amazing. I'd be perpetually giving myself high fives.

icykum1 karma

Hi Jenna,

I am in the development of a game for mobile phones. Me and 3 others (graduated from high school 2 weeks ago) are working hard on this game. Any tips?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

That's great! I love seeing people in school really excited about working on games. My advice is this - mobile is a really, really tough place to be in right now. I don't think I can overstate this enough. You're competing against a million other apps, and most people only ever see what's at the top of the charts. Just make sure your expectations are aligned with reality - the chances of anyone making money on mobile are very small. As long as you go into it with your eyes open, and see the value in the experience of making the game and the joy of releasing it out into the world, I think you'll be great! Also - reach out to developers! We're generally a friendly bunch, and happy to talk to people like you. I'm on Twitter at @jhoffstein - say hi!

Maldrantus1 karma

Are you in need of an experienced community manager?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

We have an awesome community manager, but thanks for asking!

Javin0071 karma

How many people are on your team, and what's the average wage?

IMakeLittleWorlds0 karma

I'm the only full-time member of the studio, and I have 5 people that do contract work for me. This either means that I pay them for groups of assets, or they do a certain number of hours per week. Right now my wage is zilch because I haven't had any revenue yet from the game, though since we're now in Early Access that will change! I'm not really comfortable posting more details on what I pay folks (sorry!)- with the understanding that my budget is small, I try to pay fairly.

Optimash_Prime1 karma

Are you hiring?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Not at the moment.

LolCamAlpha1 karma

Hey, first of all, congrats on your game release! I can't even imagine how much time and hard work you must've put in, so great job!

My question is fairly straightforward: What was the biggest challenge you faced while making this game?

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

Hmm, that's a tough one. I think one of the biggest challenges that comes with making any game is just maintaining any sort of perspective. When you are so immersed in something day in and day out, you kind of get to a point where you have no idea if it's good any more. Does that make sense? I try to playtest as much as humanly possible to get around this. It's been a massive relief to see that all the reviews left on Steam so far have been hugely positive!

drmasgnificent1 karma

Did you consider adding in a harder mode that uses higher level maths? Also, how do we know you're not secretly frog fractions II?

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

Haha, well you'll just have to hop into the game yourself to see!

I've definitely had a lot of people asking about whether I could add higher-level operations. The game was designed for basic addition and it does that one thing really well. Unfortunately, once you get into much higher numbers, or try to do multiplication or division, the game just doesn't really work. The mechanics would need to be changed pretty dramatically... maybe in the next game!

REDDITOR_Cat1 karma

One question. Do you like peanut butter?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Yes! Also, peanut butter and chocolate is perhaps the best flavor combination of all time.

REDDITOR_Cat1 karma

Haven't tried that yet. What kind of chocolate?

IMakeLittleWorlds3 karma

WHAT. You need to drop what you're doing and immediately go out and buy some sort of Reese's Cup. This is a chocolate emergency!

REDDITOR_Cat1 karma

I wish I could but I'm at school. :(

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

Your mission, if you choose to accept it (when you're out of school), is to try chocolate with peanut butter and report back about how your life has been changed forever!

Lurk3r_1 karma


IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

That's great - congrats! I'm learning this business thing as I go, so take anything I say with a massive pile of salt.

I would recommend forming an actual company - Little Worlds Interactive is an LLC, but I know some other indies are S-Corp's. This will give you some shielding if somebody decides to sue you. I would also put down some sort of operating agreement on paper that everyone agrees to and signs. Make sure you think of all the worse-case scenarios - what if one of your colleagues decides they want out halfway through development? What if the three of you end up putting in unequal amounts of work on the game? Right now you are probably splitting the revenue equally three ways, but under what circumstances could that change?

Good luck!

DoctorSteve031 karma

Obviously game-based learning is a rapidly growing field right now, but there's still a pretty substantial divide between the educational psychology and game development communities. This makes me especially curious about three things:

1) Have you and your team have enlisted help from the academics who study games and learning? Why or why not?

2) Have you considered the problems associated with transfer (e.g., infrequency, difficulty of measuring it)?

3) Where do the learning objectives for your game come from, and how have you aligned them with the game's underlying mechanics (i.e., do the play mechanics serve as an additional barrier to learning the math, or are they actually part of the problem-solving process)?


IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Hello! This is, honestly, one of my weaknesses as an educational game developer. My background is in game design, so I know relatively little about educational psychology. This is where I've relied on my conversations with parents and teachers to steer me in the right direction. Let me answer your questions individually -

1) Some, but not as much as I would have liked. I've spent more time speaking with kids, parents and teachers. If you can recommend anyone that I should talk to, please do!

2) Again, it's honestly not something I know that much about. If you have any feedback or thoughts on this, please share!

3) The learning objective for the game is simply to get kids comfortable with basic addition. I've dug into the Common Core a little, and this seems to align with the basic addition fluency that kids are supposed to develop in 1st and 2nd grade. The play mechanics are 100% part of the problem-solving process, that was my goal from the very start. So many educational games are simply quizzes with some trappings of meta game or gameplay on top, and we can do so much better than that. Kids deserve so much better than that!

saathe1 karma

Would you like to have a volunteer consultant? I have a Masters in Education Psychology and would love to chat about your design ideas and iterations.

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

I would love to chat! I'm not sure if it's ok to post my e-mail address, but you can get in touch through the Contact page at littleworldsinteractive.com

Tomhap1 karma

Are you considering an ios release when it's done so you can reach the target audience (children) easier?

Why did you choose for early access? Did you need the funding early on in development? Did you want to publish it ASAP?

Edit: first question already answered.

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

There are a few different reasons we chose to do early access. It helps us spread word of the game before the proper launch, which as a small studio is hugely valuable. The community input is at this stage is also crucial to help really polish the game and track down all those bugs! I've been working on the game for a year, so it's also just immensely satisfying to get it into more people's hands.

cuttincows1 karma

Saw you presenting at Champlain College's Green Mountain Games Festival a while back, and though the game looked really good. Best of luck on Steam!

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Thank you! The Green Mountain Games Festival was lots of fun, I hope you guys will do it again next year!

CinnamonSouls0 karma

Do you think of this as a method of cheap marketing?

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

Well, that's kind of a weird and maybe cynical way to put it. As an indie my budget is miniscule, so I rely a lot on outreach on outlets like reddit, Twitter and Facebook to let folks know about my game. I try to do it in a way that provides value to people - interesting screenshots, videos, etc. I'm also happy to answer questions about other things besides my game - that's the whole point of an AMA!

anonymau50 karma

5 X 3 - 2 = ?

IMakeLittleWorlds1 karma

Unlucky number thirteen, come on down!

lantanadan0 karma

BostonFIG? :D

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

Absolutely! I had a blast showing the game there last year, and can't wait to be back!

DaRealDucane-10 karma

Can you stop releasing early access games and ruining the gaming industry? thanks

IMakeLittleWorlds2 karma

I'm sorry you feel this way. Whether you believe it or not, I put the game on Early Access to make it better. I've already gotten lots of great suggestions from our players, and a few have found bugs that I hadn't seen yet.

I understand the frustration when a game is put on early access much too early. I made sure to wait until The Counting Kingdom was in really good shape for exactly this reason - it's playable and fun! It's honestly about 80% complete, and getting input from as many players as possible at this stage will help me make it that much better.

DaRealDucane-5 karma


IMakeLittleWorlds6 karma

The model for game development has changed in the past 5-10 years. For the most part, we no longer have the "ship it and forget it" model - take a look at MMO's, Facebook games, mobile games, etc. Many games on Steam are released and frequently updated. Any good game developer should be eager to get input from players, but not let it sway them from the game's vision. That's part of my job as a designer, to filter that feedback in a way that's beneficial to the game. There are a ton of amazing games on Early Access - Kerbal Space Program, DayZ, and Starbound just to name a few. You personally may not enjoy the notion of Early Access, but many people do.