I've been actively working as a designer, producer, and director in the game industry since 1992, with credits on almost 50 games, including producing the original Far Cry.

Currently I am the Creative Director of Boomzap Entertainment, one of the pioneers of the virtual studio environment (100% home-based and pants optional). Our latest projects include: Super Awesome Quest (upcoming worldwide release) and a Kickstarter campaign for Legends of Fire & Steel. AMA!

My Proof: https://twitter.com/boomzap/status/614278270360522752


EDIT: OK - that was fun. Since these linger on Reddit... forever, I'll check in daily for a week - if anyone has any more Q's feel free to ask, and I will answer for the next week or so. And thanks for all of the great questions. If you enjoyed this, and want to show your appreciation... I do have a Kickstarter you can tweet/blog/facebook about or support. (cough cough) :) Check it out here: https://goo.gl/P5V1fx

Comments: 197 • Responses: 74  • Date: 

ChapWOP11 karma

What's up Chris! Since you produced Far Cry 1, do you still make money from it? I have been playing a lot of game dev tycoon and I know it's not realistic but what is the point a big game like Far Cry starts to not make money anymore?

Thanks! Have a good morning!

Natsuume18 karma

When I produced Far Cry, I was an employee of Crytek, who owned that license. I never made a dime of royalties - nor do most developers at large studios. They earn a salary. Entrepreneurs and game studio owners earn royalties - which is the reward for having taken the risk of funding the title. In that case, the Yerli brothers who started the company made the royalties. Which is as it should be - they are the ones who took the risk to start the studio and get the staff paid.

As for when a game stops making money... depends on the game. We did a bunch of HOPA games (Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure) like Awakening and Dana Knightstone, and some of them still bring in a small amount of money even now - but my general forecasting math for those was that they would do 1/3 of the month before royalties every month. But those are very disposable games - they are heavily puzzle/story based, and have limited replay value. Other games with more replay value may stay profitable much longer. The solution to this, of course, is to franchise them... Awakening (one of our HOPAs) made 7 titles - and each made more money than the last, because they went to a receptive audience. That's why you see so many sequels - they are just more certain money.

Jeffums9 karma

What's the deal with airline food?

Natsuume11 karma

Wow - you've asked like... every AMA that question. I guess I'd ask: "Whats the deal with you asking about airline food"? - Seriously - I'm genuinely curious - is this like a reddit meme I am unaware of?

allansimonsen3 karma

The trick is always order the non-vegetarian Hindu religious meal. A good curry's hard to spoil. It does make the poor air stewardesses look at me a bit strangely, though.

Natsuume4 karma

Actually, I always get the fruit plate now, and bring onigiri (rice balls) with me. You can't fuck up fruit, and onigiri is always nice, and travels well. I always feel bad thinking that animals actually died to become whatever the hell they serve on those planes.

niccoloman28 karma

Also, how do you guys approach game monetization now? Especially since the Free-To-Play model is so rampant.

Natsuume22 karma

F2P is a curse on the industry, and it was born from the "race to the bottom" on Apple, where games went from $20 to $10 to $5 to $3 to $0.99 (the lowest price Apple lets you charge) to $0 and PLEASE PAY ME LATER! It's a shit model, and while we have made a few Free to Play games... I think the classic "you can't play now until you give us more money or wait until your energy renews" model is... broken, needy, and shit - we won't make any more games like that. We hated putting that monetization model in the ones we did... and in many ways, I think we ruined our audience from the Awakening games by forcing that model on them.

That being said, I think the model of "play as long as you damn please for free, but if you want to grind faster, you can pay to do that" is not a bad one - it's what Hearthstone uses, and I'm a very content and happy user of that game. It's the model we're using on Super Awesome Quest and on another upcoming game, Monster Roller.

But I also think there is a place for premium games at premium prices with extra content that you can buy later - much like Crusader Kings or Civilization - both of which are doing very well with their respective audiences. And that's the mosel we're using for Legends of Fire and Steel: Play the demo for free, if you like it, buyt the whole game, and get the whole thing unlocked.Then, later, you can buy expansions. As a gamer, that's the model that makes the most sense to me, and keeps the monetization the fuck out of my game design. Good luck trying to sell a publisher on that model, though. All of them want to shove energy based F2P down your throat...

choconeko8 karma

Hello Chris! Congratulations on Boomzap's success and really looking forward to Super Awesome Quest's worldwide release!
Some questions: 1.) What's the worst thing about working in a Virtual Studio setup? 2.) Assuming you had all the time and resources in the world, what kind of game would you create?

Natsuume4 karma

1) This model is better in almost every metric. The only real problem we have seems to be social - the team gets lonely sometimes working at home and want to meet. For the guys in Manila, that's solveable 0 they meet up and work together in restaurants, coffee shops, etc. But for soem of our more remote staff, like the guys in places where they are alone - like Vladivostok, Koh Samui, or Danang... they really lose the sense of getting to "be with the staff" sometimes... We try to fight that with company meetups and things. The other problems are largely based on the shit-quality of some of the internet and power infrastructure in places like Sumatra, Java, and the Philippines - where power outages and internet slowdowns are... constant and annoying.

2) Probably a big epic MMO.

allansimonsen3 karma

It can also sometimes be difficult to separate work/life; your computer is your workplace (and often your entertainment machine), your den is your office, and a lot of the people you hang out with online and play games with are your colleagues.

A lot of us like working with a laptop, so we can take it out to a coffee shop, sit down and work there while watching life go by while working.

Natsuume6 karma

Yeah - I can't do that. I need my desk and a couple of monitors to be happy working. But that's the joy of the virtual studio - my answer doesn't have to be the only one. Everyone is free to build the sort of situation that works best for them. For me, its a small home office with a good sound system and my wife and children in the next room. There is nothing I enjoy more than the fact that I get to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my wife every day. Money can't buy that kind of satisfaction.

AQ907 karma

How can I get to be a game developer and/or programmer?

Natsuume25 karma

Best advice I can give: Go to a solid 4 year school, major in Comp Sci. Take every graphics and AI class they have, and make sure you understand your math really well. Even if you want to be a designer, I suggest this route. Programmers are the power-players in this industry - they are the ones who actually get shit done, and they hold all the cards. You want to have that power to just MAKE what you want to make - even if your end goal is designer or producer. Don't go to a special game dev program - it's unnecessary, and the better professors in programming are at the big 4 year schools.

Once you have your degree... you can do one of 2 things:

1) Go get a job as a coder. It's good experience, and you'll get paid to learn how to make games, which does not suck.

2) Make a game. Hell, you can start while you're in school. Pick up Unity and build some stuff. Nobody is stopping you. You don't even have to make a GOOD game - just make a few small games, and learn your craft. Sooner or later, you'll not suck. And then you're a game developer.

aplfalcon7 karma

Hey Chris! I'm a big fan of your company's games. Boomzap for life! What was the greatest challenge in your career and what did you learn from it?

Natsuume9 karma

Thanks so much for the kind words - they mean a lot.

As to your question: Honestly, my greatest challenge is what I am living through right now. This is the hardest life has been for me in the industry - transitioning into making new games on mobile after years of making HOPAs, starting a Southeast Asian publishing division, Kickstarting a strategy game... it's been a real struggle to make this shift, and fund it all internally without outside publishers... I haven't slept more than 6 hours a night in months. But that's the thing: You want to do something big and difficult, it ain't supposed to be easy.

What did I learn from it? Ask me in 6 months. :)

RedstoneRay7 karma

Hey Chris, when Farcry was released, I was too young to play video games, my question is, was there a lot of controversy about the content in the game? And is so, was there anything in the game y'all had to take out of the final product?

Natsuume6 karma

Yes, there was some. I remember there was one specific feature, which was the "floating body physics" - which made a fully jointed character move correctly in the water... It was really cool technology, but was best seen when you killed someone in the water and then pumped rounds into his dead body... A number of people were less than thrilled with the realism with which you could play with dead bodies... but f-them - it was cool. I spent hours playing with that. : )

SylvesterGraham6 karma

Please tell me... who was responsible for that volcano part at the end of Far Cry? Why? Who could be so cruel? Why were there so many rocket trigen-guys? WHY WERE THERE NO QUICKSAVES? THAT GAME HAUNTS MY MEMORY... Ahem, sorry about that... Just curious about the though process behind certain choices in the game design (but I'm sure you're cool)

Natsuume7 karma

Haha. Yes. That volcano. TBH, I could never get past that myself. Not even close. But we had a bunch of awesome testers, and they were... too good. They could make it happen, and we thought it would be cool to end the game with something really phenomenally difficult to beat. I always thought it was too hard, but... I was convinced otherwise. We live, we learn.

Now the lack of a quicksave... that one is totally on me, and is one of my biggest design errors as a developer. The thing with that was that the AI was actually really great in that game - and it really reacted to what you were doing. We felt (wrongly, it seems) that the game would show the AI better if you only could start from certian sections, to make the tension greater, in an old school kind of way. That way you'd see the Ai react differently every time. That theory was correct. You DID really get to see the AI react differently, and you did get to appreciate how bright they were... but you also got to get frustrated as hell by getting ALMOST to the next save and dying. In the end, my theory was wrong - and we should have let the player save where they wanted. In the end, player control wins, and this was just... a shit decision on my part. It happens. You move on.

slartibartfist2 karma

Yeah - this ain't a question, more a request (how often do I get the attention of someone on the game-making side of things?!): Please, pretty please, don't forget the sector of your game-buying audience that has limited time on their hands. Don't stop making the games challenging, but please give us a way to switch to easy, or skip a battle if we need to... they're supposed to be entertainment, after all, and some of us (sniff) are lucky to get an hour of gaming every few months. Let us have our fun and get to see the final cut scene... FC1 went back on the shelf unfinished because of that damn volcano. Wanted to see how the story ended but couldn't afford the time to become an expert...

Natsuume3 karma

Yeah - you're totally right. It's interesting because Boomzap has been a long journey into exactly that part of the gaming audience. For games like Awakening, Dana Knightstone, and our other HOPAs... we made sure that all of the games:

a) Could be turned off at ANY time w/o loss of progress

b) ALWAYS had ingame help available

c) Always allowed you to skip hard puzzles

d) never sent you back or lost your progress for failing

At first, I was like "wow, this is like making games for babies or children!" but then I realized, no - it's exactly what you said. It's making games for people who have LIVES and can't spend the next 4 hours getting past this puzzle or challenge just because you think it's cool.

Like all things, game development is a series of lessons... that Volcano was one of mine. As were the save games. :)

marshallswing6 karma

What is the thing you do when you Have an idea for a new video game? (The first step in the process) what is the most challenging step in the process?

Natsuume11 karma

Talk to a bunch of people on my team about it and see if it's really a good idea - most ideas don't survive that journey without major changes. For every game that gets made, I'll sort through 100 ideas like this, and we'll maybe prototype 10-20 of them in a very rough form before we actually greenlight real production. But all of this is the easy/fun part. the real challenge is about 80% into production, when you've invested a lot of time and energy into the game... and it's still not as good or fun as you want it to be, and making changes then, when you're deep in, is hard, frustrating, and pretty damn annoying. This is where most games die.

nocontroll6 karma

Hey Chris, If you have a gaming studio with 73 people spread across 14 countries, how are you able to maintain any sort of managerial consistency?

Natsuume6 karma

I start by never using the words "managerial consistency" :) (sorry, just poking fun)

In general, even when I worked in a brick-and-mortar studio, most of the communication we had was in text chat... so having that change into a distributed model where it is ALL chat/Skype wasn't really as much of a challenge as you might imagine. We use a couple of tools: HipChat is the big one, we use that as our sort of "office" with each project group having an individual channel, as well as a number of interest/role based channels, like "all coders" or "all artists" - being "in the office" means being on HipChat. We use Basecamp as a sort of online repository of more defined information, and we use google docs for documentation/spreadsheets/etc. It works pretty well, actually.

nocontroll4 karma

Thanks for your quick response! Follow up question:
Do you think that tablet/phone games are a permanent fixture in the gaming world? Or is it a bubble waiting to burst?

Natsuume3 karma

As long as people have tablets and handphones, there will be games on them. But unless the financial model for developing them changes, a lot of the developers making them will not be here in 2 years - so in that sense, yes - there is a bubble. But no, people arn't gonna get tired of games on their portables. Not any time soon.

Inumin6 karma

What is your opinion of Big Fish Games selling out to Churchill Downs? How does it make you feel that your previous games now belong to a gambling company?

Natsuume8 karma

Well, lets get one thing straight: All the games we did for BFG were BFG's games. So my opinion on what they do with them don't mean jack. They paid us to make them, and we got some royalties as a bonus, but those were all their games. That's how IP works. Don't matter who had the ideas or who did the building: What matters is who paid for it all, and they paid us well. I have no complaints on that relationship.

As for them selling to a horse racing company... well, the owners of BFG had a very, very big payday, and that's what they worked for years to achieve. So it was a prudent move, I guess. I am not sure it was the best thing for the gamers on their site, but if they stop making HOPAs, their audience will move elsewhere, and someone else will fill that void. And maybe that's not all bad. Change is good sometimes.

Inumin5 karma

Thanks for your answer. Do you still get good royalty from your games on BFG? Should a developer not bother making HOPAs anymore?

Natsuume5 karma

There's still money in HOPAs. We get a few residual revenues, but they are drying up pretty fast. The problem with HOPAs is that they are very content heavy, and you kjust have to keep building them. It's a hamster-wheel of content that is hard to keep going... especially with the flattening of the revenues. I wouldn't suggest it as a new line of business... but I could be wrong.

SpiderPigUK6 karma

Do you ever feel upset/angry about what has been made of Far Cry now? For example Farcry 3/4 or Blood Dragon.

Why are you no longer a producer for Far Cry?

Natsuume5 karma

I left Crytek about a month after Far Cry shipped to go to business school. (shout-out to my peeps at the University of Washington MBA program!). Crytek was a great place, and I love the Yerlis dearly - Cevat is the best mentor I ever had - but when you work for a company that's owned by 3 brothers, and you're already reporting directly to one of them... your career path is limited. I knew I wanted to own and run a company someday, and that wan't going to happen there. So I went to B-School to learn a bit more about business, and started Boomzap with my best friend, Allan Simonsen. Best damn move I ever made.

You can see my thoughts on other Far Cry games earlier in this thread - but let me say that I think the idea behind Blood Dragon is f-ing awesome.

Wolfen2313 karma

Do you think business school had any affect in your design decisions when you finished that education?

Natsuume6 karma

On my design decisions? Nah. Not really. But it did help me to figure out how to run a company, and in that sense it was way useful. Sadly, running a game company is not what I had imagined.

When I was at Crytek, I basically ran the whole team, and I nievely thought "hey, I can run the whole team in a company, so I must be able to run a company!" This was... stupid of me. I didn't fully understand all of the business that was taking place quietly around me, in dealing with taxes, visas, publishers, payments, contracts, banking, cash flow... I thought then that knowing how to make games was enough to know how to run a company. I was very, very nieve. B-school helped - but... in the end, you just have to do it if you want to learn. And the learning curve us very steep.

poorgamedev6 karma

How's the experience so far with the Kickstart campaign for Legends of Fire & Steel?

Natsuume5 karma

Honestly, slow. I had hoped for a bigger response, but I think we're not really fitting the mold of a Kickstarter, which is to either be a famous developer or have a famous license, or to be something really "indie-as-fuck" - you know, pixel-art-anime-rogue-alike or something like that. We're neither - we're a solid mid-core game with a solid, but not famous team... But we'll see.

I also thing we underestimated the amount of promotion required to get the word out. The project is solid, and the KS page is solid, but we didn't really reach out to the gaming press as fast as we should have, and we're doing that now - which seems to be bearing fruit. But still, we have a long walk ahead of us and only 19 days left... Feel free to go back us! (cough cough)

niximer036 karma

So if you produced Far Cry 1, what do you think of the later games in the series? Love them or meh?

Natsuume8 karma

TBH, I wasn't that into them. I loved the cheesy, B-Movie quality of the original. I loved the idea that Jack was in a Hawaiian shirt, and his only motivation was "those assholes blew up my boat!" I always saw him as more of a Bruce Campbell kind of figure. When Ubisoft took over the development with the sequels, I feel they went a different, more safe direction with the license, with more serious characters and a more heroic hero. They were good for what they were, but they were not the games I would have made. :)

webbiestcow2265 karma

What do you think of the financial trouble at crytek right now? I know you have been gone form crytek for a lone time, but I was wondering if there were any signs when you were working there? Love the original far cry by the way.

Natsuume4 karma

It's been almost 11 years since I was there, so I know very little about what is happening. I still have friends working there, so I wish the best for them - and the Yerlis were so formative in my career, I wish nothing but the best for all of them as well.

That being said - the Yerlis are the scrappiest business people I have ever met. I am sure they will succeed.

lukeburtis5 karma

Hey Natsuume, How important is it to have connections in the industry before you release your game?

Natsuume7 karma

Less and less important with every day. Especially in mobile. For most of the world (US, Europe, especially) in the mobile space, you're selling your game in 3 places: Apple, Google, and Amazon. All three of them are very open to newcoming developers, and will feature anything that's good enough, regardless of connections.

I would worry less about connecting with the industry and more about connecting with FANS. Getting out there and directly developing relationships with the key opinion makers who will be interested in what you're doing, and talk about it n places like facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and (cough) Reddit. :)

memnoch_875 karma

I run a multi-cultural gaming website www.haogamers.com

Do you have any tips on organizing a small time in different timezones or what I should be looking for when I make new hires?

I am based in China which also complicates issues.

Natsuume4 karma

The real struggle is when you have to do Asia Pacific Rim, US west coast, and Europe - thats the devils triangle for time zones. Someone is gonna be up in the middle of the night. You can make any 2 of those work, but not 3.

I use a silly little app called Anuko Clock to replace my Windows clock with time zone clocks to help me keep track of time, and when I set up meetings, I use http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html which works OK. But the real truth is, we just kinda don't hire people too far off our time zone. Most of us are in the Manila/Singapore/KL timezone or just an hour or two off (I'm one off here in Yokohama). Didtance can be fought easily with tools, but time zones... you can only fight that by making some folks work late/early. Our Russian and Ukranian staff have to wake up pretty early as a result. On the good side, they finish work early. :)

As for what to look for in new hires:

1) People who are naturally intelligent. Skills you can train, but you can't fix dumb.

2) People who are dedicated and driven. You can't train "giving a shit"

3) People who are genuinely interested in games. If you don't love games, you'll never survive this job.

Cool website by the way - feel free to mention our Kickstarter on it. :D

zizl5 karma

Did you ever play that Tallulah and the Sexy Empire game?

Natsuume4 karma

Tallulah and the Sexy Empire game

Nope - never even heard of it. Sorry. :)

mfsteele5 karma

How did it feel to see a game you worked on get adapted into a horrible movie?

Natsuume10 karma


There is a long story behind that, but the short version was that during the development of the game, we really needed the money, and Uwe Boll threw down a very large wad of cash - and it got us all paid. So, I love that man, and I don't care what movie he made - if it weren't for him, the game would have never shipped. He could have made the whole movie about incestuous goat love in the Sahara desert, and I still wouldn't complain. We got paid, and the game got shipped.

LanghapSarap4 karma

Hi Chris I hope I was still able to catch you here (Manila traffic sigh) Im one of those fresh grad game devs wannabe that attended your talk last Game Jam. It was totally worth it. Any chance we'll see you back here in Manila along with your team?

Natsuume3 karma

Yes. I know that traffic. It sucks balls.

I make it down to Manila about 3-4 times a year, and will be setting up more opportunities to talk to young devs when I am down. I did a dinner with a bunch of young devs that Gwen set up when I was down last time, and it was really awesome. I'll try to do something like that every time I am down now. I still say, the Philippines is about the most exciting place for game development in the world right now.

And of course, we'll be at the next Game Jam - Next year will be our 6th year supporting it, I believe. I'm even trying to talk a few of the crew into joining it with me, and having Allan compete in the one in Singapore or KL - and we can see who makes the better game. :)

LanghapSarap2 karma

You competing with your staff would be something to look out for. I've seen and played 3 of your demos on one of the gaming conventions last year. Any chance we'll get to see that match 3 game soon here in PH? I think the title is in Korean or Japanese. Also looking forward on your kickstarter project. Hopefuly it still get the funding it needs to complete its production. Already pledged sir! =)

Natsuume2 karma

Thanks so much for the support! And yes, Rescue Quest is set for a Southeast Asian launch later this summer. It's much fun!

hidr44 karma

What do you think of steam? Why boomzap doesn't approach that distribution channel?

Natsuume6 karma

Actually, Legends of Fire and Steel WILL be on Steam (assuming we get greenlit) - so, I have no problem with it as a channel. In all, I would consider it a good in the industry, and like the Apple, Google, or Amazon marketplaces, a good way to get the developer closer to a direct relationship with the customer - which is what we have been bitching about wanting for years.

I will say - I am not a fan of the bundling and bargain basement pricing that has taken over all of these channels. People are buying hundreds of games for a couple bucks... and that's not really helping the industry. Or over on the mobile channels, giving away free games, and then hoping to make the money back through in app purchases. My biggest gripe with these models is that they make the monetization get in the way of the gameplay. As a gamer, the last thing I want is a game that's constantly asking for more money - but if you give the game away for free... that's what you have to do. If you want to eat, anyway.

I am hoping that we'll see a renaissance in premium quality, premium priced content - where you get a real game, and you pay a reasonable price for it, and never get bothered again. The Apple "Pay once" channel is a nice move in that direction - and I am hoping that as the shine of Free-2Play wears off, this will become resurgent. I also want to ride a unicorn. We'll see if either happens.

efectss4 karma

I just applied for QA/Game testing at your studio, its awesome that I can work from Canada if I get accepted! What personal tips do you have for getting a QA job in the industry? is a game development diploma enough?

Natsuume5 karma

A game development diploma is more than enough for a QA job. Almost none of our testers have specific game dev diplomas - we have people who studied art, comp sci, literature, marketing, even library science - but that's not what's gonna get you the job.

Most companies (including ours) see QA as an entry position into further carers in the industry - be that design, production, localization, or QA management. So what they are looking for is someone who they can grow/mold into those roles. For that, you should show that you are truly interested in the industry. How?

1) Join beta test groups and test games

2) Start a guild or league and manage it in your favourite game

3) Make games - using tools online, level editors, etc.

4) Get involved in local game dev clubs, game jams, etc.

People who have done this kind of stuff rise to the top of my resume pile. And it's a very, very big pile... you want to be at the top.

efectss5 karma

Thank you! I already have a diploma, make games & levels but only have had 2 interviews, I'll have to better demonstrate my potential QA skills by joining test groups! thanks for the reply, I appreciate it.

Natsuume3 karma

One thing to keep in mind is - this is a VERY hard industry to break into. Don't get discouraged, and keep at it long term. You may have to take some other job for a while to pay the bills while you keep trying... but if you keep at it, sooner or later it will happen. If you are brand new... get open to the idea of moving at your own cost to get that first job. Nobody is gonna pay to relocate you as a tester, but if you're willing to go to them, some may be willing to hire. Breaking in is HARD. Once you are in, and if you do well, it gets easier. The sad truth is we get a LOT of resumes - but we don't get a lot of GOOD resumes, so if you can get there, you'll succeed eventually.

efectss3 karma

Thank you again! I graduated about 8 months ago, its hard and most people don't understand that, there's a lot of pressure to stop pursuing the dream so you can pay the bills or harsh judgements from family and friends if you can't find a job while actively pursuing it. I guess its just passion that drives everyone in the industry. I've definitely considered moving to a more game studio heavy area like Montreal once I get the money, maybe I'll do that!

Natsuume5 karma

Don't wait. Apply to studios in Montreal NOW - and just add a line like "I'm planning to move to Montreal" in your resume. Which isn't a lie - you ARE planning on moving... as soon as they offer you a job! You can do that all across Canada, and that's going to really improve your chances. Also - try at smaller studios - like Gogii in new Brunswick. There's a lot of opportunity in small companies like that for fast learning and advancement, and they get a lot fewer resumes, so you're odds are better. It might even make it worthwhile living in... New Brunswick. :)

Also - don't think because they said no that it means NEVER NO. It means "Not Right Now" - Reapply every 3 months to everyone you applied to. Shit changes. People change. Needs change. QA people quit. New prohjects get signed. Just make sure you're doing enough stuff that you have something cool to add to your resume every 3 months. Keep an excel spreadsheet of all the people you contacted, when, and what their response was... update it every time you communicate with them.

Ellesor4 karma

At the moment, games are either hardcore (sold thru traditional distribution channels + some online stores like steam), indie (steam, kong, self-published and funded thru kickstarter,etc.), or mobile casual / midcore (505, chillingo, gree, dena, and so on). I know that model I presented is vastly simplified, but you get the illustration (I hope.) Looking at your new game on kickstarter, it doesn't fall neatly into a category. It's like opening up a new market or finding players who liked these old games, but putting them into a new platform. Anyway -- the question is, what is your plan for discovering and reaching out to this new/old/I don't know market? Most kids don't even remember games like Alpha Centauri or the original Civilization, and those who are old enough to still play their 'games on a spreadsheet' on their PC.

Natsuume1 karma

Well, kids aren't the only ones playing games. In fact, the average gamer is in his/her 30's, and strategy gamers skew even older.

The plan is to reach out to them direrctly, and in many ways, that';s what the Kickstarter is about - giving us a chance to present the game directly to the core audience, and get them involved in the final development stages, balancing, tuning, etc. We'll use the same channel;s we're promoting the Kickstarter with to then follow up and promote the release. I have a whole team of designers/testers who are helping us out by scouring the internets for twitter feeds, websites, blogs, forums, and places where these strategy gamers hang out, and we're trying to reach out to them directly. Will it work? Dunno - but it's honest, it's indie, and it's the best we can come up with. I'd be thrilled to hear other ideas. :)

Obliviam4 karma

A few questions come to mind:

1) Are you focusing on primarily-Mobile games? I know one of your videos you had PC and Mac, but it seems like the bigger titles are mobile-focused.

2) The mobile revenue landscape feels like a 95% of the mobile funds are dominated by like Clash of Clans and Candy Crushes. They can pump these millions they are making right back into the factory to pump out basically rebranded cash crops -- how do you try to penetrate that?

3) I coded an indie game for iOS and found it very difficult as an indie developer to break into the landscape. Graphics, marketing, expectations of quality... Does someone looking to turn an idea for an iOS need to have a studio behind it to make it worth a dime?

Natsuume7 karma

1) Yes. Everything we do now is on mobile - though some, like Legends of Fire & Steel are also going to be on PC/Mac through Steam.

2) You can't beat them. Don't try. Make a great game, focus your audience, and make them really happy with what you've built. You don't have to be CoC to be successful. Every game in the top 50 grossing chart is making more than enough money to keep even a mid sized independent developer paid. Be that game, and then build on that audience.

3) Not at all. It certainly helps - but then you also have the cost of a studio to pay... and that's a hungry beast that has to get fed every month. I pay out 6 figures every month to our dev team - it's like buying a house and setting it on fire every month - regardless of how much we earn. Finding that cash every month is a 4-score bitch. Keep your team as small as you can.

meatball_sea4 karma

How do you attract the best talent to work for you and how do you keep them?

Natsuume8 karma

That's easy: Pay them well. Treat them well. Make good games. The recruitment takes care of itself.

noeyeno4 karma

Did you enjoy Super Mario 2?

Natsuume4 karma

I play Mario on the Wii with my son a lot... he's way better at it than me. He's 9.

eijei-eich4 karma

Hi Chris! Ex-Zapper here. :) Two questions: 1. Will there be a time when Boomzap will leave the HOG scene entirely, or will it still be the main source of revenue for the studio? 2. What's the weirdest idea for a game that you thought of?

Natsuume2 karma

1) Yes. Now. We'll be shipping the last port of our last HOG here in a couple of months when it's through testing... and that's it. No more HOG/HOPA games from us.

2) There. Have. Been. So. Many. The one I really want to make, though, Allan won't let me make: Pressy Button. It's my "fuck, I fucking hate fucking F2P games" game. It's just a button. That you press. that does nothing but some silly cosmetic change, like changing the color of the button. Thats it. But it has all of the F2P features in it - like limited clicks of the button in a certian time, pay more to get more presses, pay more to get energy chargeup faster, get free clicks for spamming other people, etc. But every time you press, it reminds you of how pointless and bullshit F2P is with a little text message like "Dude, if you would just pay for games, we wouldn't ahve to make garbage like this for you!"... Someday I'll take a weekend, and just make the damn thing myself. Someday when I have a weekend free. 2027, I think.

niximer033 karma

Seems you already had a market for casual players, so why the big change with Legends of Fire and Steel instead of a casual non-HOG game? Why do something so different?

Natsuume4 karma

The honest answer is because we WANTED to. It's not always about market research and finding exactly the right financial angle. I have been making games 22 goddamned years, and I thought it was about time I made a game that I wanted to play. Even Far Cry... that was always Cevat's dream game, not mine. I don't even like FPS games. And I suck at them. I enjoyed making HOPAs - they were fun and pretty, and it was nice to get that involved in storytelling, but after 30+ of the things... I guess I (and the rest of the team) just really burned out on them. We started losing staff that didn't want to make them anymore, and we were getting pretty disenfranchised. So we asked, what do we really want to make.

Super Awesome Quest is kinda Allan's dream game - he put a lot of himself into that game, as did Jay and Greg and Carol and the rest of that team. But even as cool as it is, that isn't what I always wanted to make. Legends of Fire and Steel IS - it's a real live honest to god strategy game - like the ones I play when I am not making games. And I think it's got some really new angles on the genre that make it special, like the synchronous multiplayer and the control scheme that makes it really tablet friendly.

And it's been great building it. Sometimes you really just have to do what you believe in. That's what life is about, not just making money.

wastedweek4 karma

You're a massive fan of Whisky, if you were stuck on a desert island which whisky would you take?

Natsuume5 karma

Desert island? That's not whisky conditions - that's gin and tonic. And that's Hayman's Old Tom gin and Schweppes tonic. With lime - because lemon in a G&T is a fucking crime against alcohol. And don't even get me started on the hipsters who put cucumbers in a G&T. You might as well take a shit in my drink.

Now - trapped on a rain-swept island in the north Atlantic... that's Scotch. And that's gonna be a Balvenie Doublewood. Though it might be a Taketsuru whisky... The Japanese whiskies are way awesome... but every time I come back to a Balvenie or a Macallan... I remember my roots.

keybol3 karma

What do you think of an individual developer who's has made some mark teaming up with a company who has the resources (people, workflow, budget)?

Natsuume2 karma

I think the industry is big, and I have seen all kinds of models work. The challenge in that kind of relationship is going to be to make sure that the indie developer really brings something to the company that the company can't do themselves. That being said, there are a number of indie devs in the industry, including Southeast Asia that I think are terribly talented, and I'd love to find a way of working with them more closely.

Obliviam3 karma

Hi Chris!

How do you determine whether a game is going to be worth all the investment, since the payoff can only be realized after it is completely built?

Natsuume3 karma

If there was a magical formula for doing that, we'd have a lot more games and a lot more rich developers. :) We try our best to build rough prototypes that can kinda let us see how much fun it might bne... but the sad truth is... you can't know until you are pretty deep in... and then... sometimes you just have to say "Damn, this ain't fun. f-it, I'll do something else" - That decision always sucks. But sometimes you have to do it. You only get to make so many games before you die, and you shouldn't waste time on good ideas that didn't pan out.

meatball_sea3 karma

What's up Natsuume. What is the typical audience for your games and how do you ensure your game designers understand your audience well enough to design games that appeal to them?

Natsuume3 karma

Howdy, Meatball_sea! Different games have different audiences - and you're right to clue in to the idea that targeting and satisfying a specific market is critical. For instance, our HOPAs were designed primarily for women in their 60's. We thought a lot about when they played our games and why. Unlike younger, more aggressive players, these players were playing to relax, usually after a long day or work or dealing with family. They didn't want to be too challenged, they didn't EVER want to "lose" and they NEVER wanted to be stressed or frustrated, especially time-based frustration. We also knew that they would be interrupted often - called away to do things around the house, etc. - so we made sure to make games they could never lose, that never timed them, and that always offered them help in game if they got lost or confused. This works for THEM, but may not be the way you'd design a game for, say, a 20 year old guy who wants to run around a jungle with an assault rifle killing things. How do you learn this? talk to your users. Hang out in forums. Play your competition. Go see what people bitch about in the forums of your competitors.

eflemingo173 karma

That's amazing that you've been able to hold a career in such a highly pursued field for so long! Good on you!

If you had five minutes to create the world's most disgusting burrito and everything in the world was at your disposal, how would you create the burrito?

Natsuume3 karma

I would order anything from Chipotle. Those things are a fucking crime against decent law-abiding Tex-Mex.

GMFrost3 karma

Which would you play? World of Warcraft or DOTA? Also have you ever considered developing an MMORPG?

Natsuume3 karma

I used to play a lot of WoW... but after a while I just realized I liked Hearthstone better.

Boomzap actually worked on a casual MMO for a while, but it got cancelled. Was fun, but TBH we never really got to the hard part of development, so I think we see it with rosier tinted glasses than we should. I'd very much like to take another swing at it, but that's something someone would need to fund, and finding that funding is going to be very, very difficult in today's publishing landscape.

kornballit3 karma

You mentioned that you're starting a Southeast Asian publishing division - are you offering advance payments to developers or help fund the games?

Natsuume3 karma

We are actually focusing on Southeast Asian distribution for already completed games - since we ONLY distribute in SEA, it doesn't make sense for us to fund new games, since most of the revenue for those games will be made outside of SEA.

For the right titles, we are guaranteeing marketing spend and doing full localizations into the major local languages (Thai, Vietnamese, Taglish, Malay, Indonesian, Chinese) at our cost, as well as QA for the localization - so we're contributing to the development costs in that sense.

kornballit3 karma

Ok so basically you're a regional distributor, not a publisher. We get similar offers (same kind of language - for the right titles, guaranteed marketing spend, blah blah) from 6waves and Chillingo so sounds like you're doing the same.

Good luck in your plans but imho, it's not that attractive to small developers like us.

Natsuume3 karma

You're terminology is probably correct - distributor is likely the word I would use - but many people call it publishing. I agree with you on the terminology, though.

As for it's utility to small developers... It depends - the localization is real work and real spend. Solid localization and testing for a title with any real amount of text (assuming you want it done correctly, and not just google translate garbage) is thousands of dollars of investment. As is the marketing spend. If you have the resources to do that alone, then by all means, go ahead.

TBH - in most of the world (Europe, US) where the channels are very straightforward, we've decided to largely self-publish. But that has meant doing all of our localizations in the European languages ourselves - which, in addition to the Southeast Asian languages is... 14 languages. that's been RealWork(tm). If you genuinely feel that you can do all of that alone, then you should - it's certainly more profitable if you can do well. Also keep in mind - Southeast Asia has a lot of distribution channels, and payment issues. if you want to do well there, you're going to have to work with a lot of these channels - and setting up those relationships is a lot like work.

But what we have found is that a lot of people simply don't have the resources to do the legwork and marketing in Southeast Asia to do the job well - or if they did, putting all of those fixed costs against the success of just one title is not effective - or they would rather spend that time/money on larger markets, like Europe and US. This is actually why we started SEA distribution - because we did all of that work and realized that we could reuse much of that fixed cost/knowledge far cheaper than it could be built from scratch, and that it may be a cost effective way for developers who don't have our knowledge/connections/resources to be successful in a region they really don't think about that much. So far, the demand for that service has been... more than we can easily handle, and we'll be shipping our first titles soon.

kornballit3 karma

Ok, I see. Do you have any succesful titles that you've released in SouthEast Asia? I've browsed through your site and I only see Super Awesome Quest which is in Phillippines. As far as I can tell that game hasnt taken off. In any case, thanks for answering my questions.

Natsuume3 karma

Not yet - this is a new development for us - and our first real launches happen over the next couple of months. The Super Awesome Quest launch you are seeing was just a soft launch - we'll be launching the full version of that here in a couple of weeks - not just in SEA but worldwide and in all languages (current softlaunch is English only). We'll be putting our whole marketing efforts behind that and see how we do - it was always our plan to launch a couple of our own games through the pipeline first, to make sure we know what we're doing and can really add value to our developers.

Xanshard3 karma

Any tips on building a resume and a portfolio on getting into the game industry (preferably as a game programmer)? If you have one, could you share it with us? Or any good examples you could recommend?

Natsuume3 karma

The best resumes and portfolios have games in them. Games you made. As a programmer, you have no excuse for not having something playable out there. Make some flash games, make something in unity. The app stores will carry whatever you make. If it's flash, put it up on the web - there's no shortage of places that will host. Kongregate, for one. Not only will it look great when you apply for a job ("Hey look! I can make games, see?") but it will be something productive to do while you are looking - building games is a craft, and the more you do, the better you get at it.

For designers - the same advice holds. There are level editors and game editors to make mods for all kinds of stuff. Pick one up and make some levels. Your resume will look 10x better if it has a link to some great stuff you actually made. And no, nobody wants to read your game design docs. Sorry.

As for "breaking-in" - make a list of every game company in the world, and send 10 targeted resumes a day. Targeted means looking at who you are sending it to, and making sure THEY know that YOU know who they are and what they do. that's gonna get your resume read, at least. Just do that every day, and work on your games. Sooner or later, you'll either get a job or make a great game, and you won't NEED a job.

vicenterusso3 karma

What's the deal with the Ukranian Hooker?

Natsuume3 karma

(ahem) Sometime analogies don't work out the way you thought they would... and that's never gonna translate well on the internet. But all press is good press, so... there's that. :)

LadyR0uge3 karma

Hi Chris! I am a big fan of Boomzap's games. I didn't know it was a virtual game studio. How this business organization idea came to you? Would you say it's easier to develop a game within a virtual game studio environment instead of the more classic studio office kind?

By the way, I checked the job page since I am a 3D artist currently based in Singapore. I was wondering if you plan to have some job opening in the art department in the near future.


Natsuume2 karma

We didn't PLAN for it to be a virtual studio - it just ended up that way. When we started, I was living in Seattle (I since moved to Yokohama) and Allan was in Singapore. Neither of us wanted to move, so we worked together online. Our first artist was in Kuala Lumpur - and he didn't want to move either, so... suddenly, we were a virtual studio in 3 countries. We just kept growing like that. For a while I think we thought someday we'd get an office... but somewhere along the way we decided we never wanted one, and never looked back.

As for "is it easier" - no. It's not harder either. Just different. What IS nice is that we can hire people from anywhere (23 cities and counting!) and those people don't have to commute. This leads to a lot of good happy things.

And nope, we're not hiring artists any time soon. But you never know when that might change.

studentofgame2 karma

Dear Chris!, Do you have any reference about Gaming Dev (Like the forum, Game Engine, the Programming Language I may take first, and the Collage for that?) Thanks

Natsuume2 karma

See my earlier answer on breaking into the game industry - the same applies. There's no magic bullet or school that's gonna make you a game developer overnight. It's a craft - just like learning to polay a musical instrument, or draw. You just have to do it. A lot. Make mistakes., Learn. You'll never learn without doing - and doing is easier now than it has ever been.

If you have any coding experience, pick up Unity. You can make simple games with that pretty quick. If you have no code experience... get some. There's no shortage of resources for people interested in coding - the internet has a million. But the short answer is... Just Doooo It. (as the meme goes)

akaelripley2 karma

Hi Chris! Thanks for the AMA. Just wondering - the original Far Cry was revised a bit for its XBOX release, and while it was really good it would play the very long intro movie every time the game loaded. I'm assuming it was loading the island up front, but didn't anyone at the company notice how annoying that was in testing?

Still loved it though, and the PC version more so :D

Natsuume3 karma

The XBox version was Ubisoft, not Crytek... I have no idea. :)

MrValdez2 karma

HOPA games (Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure) has a bad reputation amongst gamers. What would you say to gamers who dismisses HOPA as a game?

Natsuume3 karma

Everyone has their own style of game - and everyone hates some kinds of games. I can't stand flight simulators. That doesn't mean they suck... just that I don't like them.

That being said - HOPAs have brought a lot of new users into the world of gaming - same as other casual games like Match-3. Anything that expands our audience is good for the industry as a whole.

poorgamedev2 karma

Hi Chris, so you have now mobile game published by a publisher (505) and by your company. What can you tell about the experience so far in the wild west of mobile game publishing? What is your tactics on user acquisition, analytics, etc?

Natsuume4 karma

We actually have a few great mobile games out. Pocket Ages was our game with 505. We also did Rescue Quest, which was published by Gravity in Asia and Chillingo in the rest of the world. We also ported most of our back catalog of Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure games (HOPAs) to iOS. So we've been on mobile quite a while now.

As to tactics... the biggest thing you can do is... make a great game. I know it sounds flip, but as much as people want to complain about the dominance of Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Clash of Clans, or Candy Crush... they were all first and foremost... great games. They may not be the game YOU (or I) would have made, but they were solid, slick, and touched a specific audience in exactly the right spot. Without that, anything else you do is just wasting time and money.

But I think you can get lost and disenchanted wondering how you "become the next Candy Crush" - the simple answer is ... you aren't going to. Instead, what you need to do is find an audience, and make them happy. You don't have to make millions a day to run a successful small independent studio - you just need a solid game, targeted at a specific audience, that is marketed and supported well.

poorgamedev1 karma

Thanks for the response! Anything you could add about "Super Awesome Quest" app discoverability since it is self-published in Philippines?

allansimonsen5 karma

Hi, Poorgamedev; I'm Allan Simonsen, Chris' co-founder. Just rolled out of bed (it started 7am here, and 6am in Japan where Chris is based :)), and came over to check out the AMA.

So Mobile marketing, and more hardcore games like Super Awesome Quest specifically. There's right now two primary paths; CPI and organic.

CPI (Cost Per Install) basically boils down to pay multiple middlemen to go spam ads in Facebook and as in-game advertisement; as long as your Cost Per Install is less than your Life Time Value (LTV, the total amount of cash you expect to extract from an average user), you'll make money. You'll end up giving most of that to a bunch of middlemen, but in theory it's an engine you can put money in on one end, and get more money out on the other.

I don't personally believe in CPI based installs; you end up having to tune to game exceedingly aggressively towards maximizing LTV, which makes it a worse game in the long run. To me, games like Heartstone, Fallout Shelter and Crossy Road are more interesting; 'light touch' free to play games where the game is entirely playable without spending a dime, and where if you DO spend anything it's to do something fun (get valuable new stuff, get a cool new feature), not to avoid something bad (having your crops destroyed, having to sit and wait for 30 minutes for a timer to count down). Light touch games don't work with CPI, so you end up trying for Organic distribution (which Chris covered earlier). That means talking to websites, talking on forums, talking to the AppStores, talking to youtubers/twitch streamers/vloggers

For SEA specifically, one thing we're doing that's quite unique is supporting local languages. It's coming out (soon; GMC submitted to Apple last week for worldwide launch) in Thai, Vietnamese, Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Indonesia, Simplified Chinese and Taglish (the creole of English, Tagalog and other Filipino languages that people actually tend to use, translated by the Filipino lead designer, Jay). I think that's really cool, personally; we'll see if the world agrees :)


Natsuume3 karma

What Allan said.

KC-NL2 karma

Hi Chris! What is your opinion about the current gaming industry, specifically DLC and Pre-orders. And what are you gaming at the moment?

Thanks for doing this AMA :)

Natsuume5 karma

I tend to have a couple games - and they usually fall in a pattern: Weekend game (what I play for long stretches on weekends, usually on a PC), Bed game (what I play on the tablet before bed) and [ahem] the game I play on my handphone in "odd moments" [yes, the toilet]. Crusader Kings II is my weekend game, and the smartphone gets a lot of play on Orbital. I know it's really old, but I keep coming back to it. Hearthstone used to be my bed game, but it is rapidly being overcome by Legends of Fire & Steel, our newest game... it was designed specifically to be my "before bed 30 minute to an hour strategy game" and its become exactly that.

As to my thoughts about DLC - I am all for it. It's a hell of a lot better plan than energy based free to play. As to Pre-orders, I assume you mean people doing preorders through crowdfunding? Again, I am a big fan. Anything that removes middlemen between the player and the developer is a good.

Elvaron2 karma

Guten Morgen from Germany, 横浜へこんばんは ^^ On a scale from 1 to awesome, how much do you love Extra Credits?

(In case you DON'T know Extra Credits, game design themed video series)

Natsuume3 karma

If I say AWESOME will you guys cover our Kickstarter?

In all honesty, I think the videos are pretty damn cool - I have actually linked a couple of them to teams I work with because they talk about issues in a pretty reasonable way. I thought the ones talking about harassment and toxicity were particularly pertinent - and they addressed real issues our industry needs to deal with.

Elvaron2 karma

I'm, unfortunately, not associated with Extra Credits :) Just a dev myself ;)

Since I like your answer I'll go grab a Noble pledge though. Good luck on the KS campaign!

Natsuume2 karma

very cool - thanks!

GamerMcGame2 karma

Why do most game devs suggest coding games 'in a language you are comfortable with'?

Is there a program that makes it easier to animate a character after creating the model?

Do you think people are ceasing to buy games for the single player and are now buying for the multiplayer?

Why does it seem most new games don't get the concept of symmetrical maps? Why has multiplayer started using load outs where you can use perks/different guns from the start rather than having guns/perks on map that need to be fought for?

In your opinion has this killed competitive multiplayer for the sake of looking 'cool' or 'flashy'?

Natsuume2 karma

OK - that's a lot of Q's - let's see...

Re - Code: I dunno what game devs you talk to, but most serious code in the game industry happens in C++. If you're learning a language, learn that. You'll have twice the street-value of a Unity or specialized games coder.

Re - Animation: Most serious animation in the industry is done in Max or Maya - and there's no shortcuts to good animation. Like any art, its a skill that yoiu build with experience and time. The animators in the game industry are some of the best in the world, and are as serious as any other professional artist.

Re - Multiplayer vs. single: I think both single and multiplayer games are selling well - but social and multiplayer features in games increase virality, and help sell games and boost marketing - so they tend to get more love from publishers. For good reason

Re - Maps and weapons: I think people are trying to expand the genre away from established norms... so they are experimenting with different maps, loadouts and missions. its hard to not stagnate if you are always following the "established wisdom" of older games. Sometimes its an improvement, sometimes its not - you never know until you try. And no, I don't think it's killed competitive multiplayer. As with all things, different tastes for different people.

thussi2 karma

Hi Chris! I am an young wannabe game developer/entrepreneur, just finished high school, I don't plan on going to collage since I don't like the school system overall. What I want to ask you is - how do you suggest to market my games? I have been making games for years, I love them since I was a kid, and recently i decided to start publishing games in the google play store. Not to brag or anything, I consider my games good. I consider myself good at programming designing and so on, but my problem is marketing. I would really appreciate if you give me an advice, two.

Thanks! Best regards!

Natsuume2 karma

Go talk to gamers where they are. They are on Facebook. Twitter. In forums. They read gaming websites. Advertise in those places. Talk about your game in those places. Send press releases to those people. And most of all: LISTEN. They will have opinions about your games. You want those. Listen, adapt, and then show them what you ahve done. Indie development is about building communities.

Sherr_Khan2 karma

Hey Chris, if i want to get in to game industry as game producer.... can you guide me where should i start at ? or what i should be doing to progress in that direction ? .. if i plan to do MBA which specialization should i choose ?... any tips from would you be really helpful :)

Natsuume2 karma

I wouldn't suggest an MBA as a great move for someone wanting to be a games producer. Instead, I would suggest testing. The best producers either come from code or design, and the best designers come from testing. So those are your two routes. But school isn't the answer - industry experience is. The game industry is highly dismissive of advanced academic credentials. God knows, nobody gives a crap about my MBA. :)

Natsuume2 karma

Let me also add - there are some specialized production roles that people rarely think about - like Localization - that always need great people. A solid localization producer in a game studio is pure gold. As is a good producer for porting (usually from a code background), or someone who really understands metrics. Data analysts and marketing specialists are also in increasing demand in the industry - and are rarely easy to find. Having great skills for those roles would make you a very interesting hire to many companies.

Slaughtz2 karma

Warning: Personal Advice question someone probably already asked or you already addressed.

My friend is volunteering to be a producer for an indie game studio. I'm wanting (hoping I'll be needed, basically) to get hired on as an assistant producer for acquiring experience. I am interested mostly in the design, production and directing "game feel" (UI Feedback such as screen shake) and slightly experienced in marketing.

What would be the best way to work my way up to becoming a video game designer or producer like yourself or getting involved in one of the aforementioned roles? I know the ABC's of coding but I haven't mastered any specific language.

The biggest hurtle I see for myself is either my own skills and time (making the game myself) or the investment capital to get a game off the ground. The dream of making my own game aside, I'd like to help with the production of another's game and learn all of that - is there a shortcut besides just working up from being a programmer or should I start there like everyone else has?

Natsuume4 karma

First - I am not a big fan of unpaid work in any industry, including this one. if you're working, you should be earning cash or equity, never just experience. So, maybe pass that thought to your friend...

Honestly, my biggest suggestion is what nobody wants to hear: go work for someone for a while. Game development is a craft. Crafts require experience. You can either pay to get that experience yourself, or you can have someone pay you to do it. Start out as a tester - everyone needs testers. And from there, you can work up to assistant producer or assistant designer, and then up from there. But that way you're getting paid to learn, and (this is important) working with serious professionals who can teach you.

Or, you can try it yourself - but the odds are against you that way - you'll run out of cash, you'll get discouraged, you'll get offered other employment, shit will come up, your game will run late or be no fun... and you'll get depressed, discouraged, and give up - and you'll have very little support network to help you through it. 99 out of 100 people like that won't still be in games in 3 years. Its sad, but those are the statistics I have seen.

Slaughtz2 karma

I had just read your post on being QA and it seems that would be the best route for myself if I'm not going to go the programming route, no? Is there a distinction between tester and QA?

I definitely foresee failure if I went at production and design alone, which is why I'd rather just focus on marketing (in the tech. industry) if it's a choice between that and solo production.

I didn't know being a QA tester actually (potentially) opened up so many opportunities. However, I also heard nightmare stories about long hours, sometimes unpaid, and being abruptly let go after the game is published. That dissuaded me from pursuing it further.

If the nightmare stories are true, it seems the only respectable way to work up to the design and production level is through becoming a programmer. Do you know of anyone who has worked up from QA to the design or production level?

I'll pass your message along to my friend, along with this whole AMA. Thanks for the info.

Natsuume3 karma

"I also heard nightmare stories about long hours, sometimes unpaid, and being abruptly let go after the game is published. That dissuaded me from pursuing it further"

I have some bad news for you... that's the whole industry. Don't matter what position. The game industry is a hard place - that's the curse of working in entertainment.

ThunThinger2 karma

Hi Chris,

What is your favorite video game, and why?

Natsuume2 karma

Ape Escape. It was this amazing game that came out to showcase the new Dual Shock controller for the Playstation, and it was triple awesome. You went around and caught monkeys with flashing lights on their helmets. It was pure fun, and used the controller in a lot of fascinating ways. I couldn't put it down.

mostyque2 karma

Hi Chris! Im fresh from highschool and looking forward to a career in the game industry. Id like to ask a few... rather long questions.

Would a company prefer a specialist in programming or art skill, or a jack-of-all-trade who is not as specialized (and generally crappier than that guy who has been a programmer/artist his whole life) but can get shit done from both departments. I dont know if Id like to work as a programmer or artist, theyre equally challenging and fun, but would that cost me "specialization" ?

My ultimate goal is game designer, which Id like to fantasize as a job where you hurl ideas and the accompanying database at people and should it be accepted, watch as it is developed. I dont know, most pages I searched seem to either be too general or dont even know what designer/developer/producer differ from one another. What is the truth to it? I look at that guy Todd Howard from Bethesda and thought, what does this guy do? Is his job thinking up ideas and get the ideas approved and worked on by the dev team? If so, its the sort of job I want too. And last but not least, what got him there?

Also, Im told stories like artists and programmers dont get to apply a lot of creativity into their work, they receive requests and do shit for people want done for them. Like "I got this cool idea for an enemy", "No Jim you gotta finish modeling that godzilla ripoff and let us do the idea-ing for you". I want to make games that are games I want to make, or at least work on the content that I want to make. Is this a dangerous attitude? Since you said you didnt even like FPS games but you worked on Far Cry and it was a blast. Maybe I should learn to want to the things that others want and get shit done accordingly?

Natsuume2 karma

My ultimate goal is game designer, which Id like to fantasize as a job where you hurl ideas and the accompanying database at people and should it be accepted, watch as it is developed.

See the problem is... this job doesn't exist. Al of those artists and programmers - they have ideas too, and they aren't interested in a guy who knows nothing about how to actually make games - or who is unwilling to do the work - telling them what to do. They want a real Designer working WITH them, who helps them soort out their various dreams, put that into a whole vision, and then uses the tools the build (scripting engine, level editor, etc.) to build that thing. Maybe 5-10% of your time will be "generating ideas" and the rest will be implementing them, testing them, and hating yourself for not going into an easier job. :)

As for who gets to decide WHAT gets built - that's easy. The guy who pays everyone. You want to make your dream game... be that guy, or find someone who believes in your vision. I made FPS games because thats what Ubisoft would pay for. I made a game based on the Monsters Inc. license because that's what Disney would pay for. We made HOPAs because that's what BFG would pay for. And I put my heart into every one of those projects, because that's what craftsmen do - they try their best to make something with what they have. Now that we've saved up some cash, we are making a few things WE want to make, like Super Awesome Quest and Legends of Fire & Steel... and if they fail... we spent a LOT of our own money for that failure. That's the cost of creative freedom. :)

Xsythe1 karma

I run a virtual studio too. Do you have any key tips or articles about challenges faced/conquered?

Natsuume1 karma

See my note to I-rez :)

natalyeli1 karma

Hey Chris! Thanks for doing this AMA, your answers so far have been very insightful. Like many others here, I'm looking to get into the game industry, in game design and/or programming roles, and I'd love your advice.

  1. How beneficial and crucial is it to work in a large game company before trying to make it as an indie developer? And what is it that is most helpful about doing that (knowledge, connections, credentials in the eyes of consumers)?

  2. Do you feel a virtual studio environment is a good option for someone starting out in the industry, or would I learn significantly more by being in a physical location with experienced people?

Thank you very much :)

Natsuume1 karma

1) If my own son were wanting to get into games, I would tell him to do 3-5 years at a company, get paid, and let someone else pay for his real game dev education. But thats me, and my personal feelings - there are plenty of devs who just start up themselves straight out of school... but most of them don't last. Working in a studio provides a lot of experience, and pays for that. That's pretty cool for a long term plan.

2) Depends on the rest of the team. We bring a lot of fresh grads into our virtual studio here, and they work out fine.

I-rez1 karma

Do you have any particular advice on what to do and what not to do when working in a virtual office environment?

Natsuume3 karma


1) Work normal hours, and demand that the staff be around and contactable regular hours

2) Dictate that the staff all have solid internet connections, and be available on them during core hours

3) Have a good online chat with permanent history that everyone used - I suggest HipChat - its cheap and good

4) Tell your friends/family that you are AT WORK during those hours, and expect them to show you the same respect for your time that they would if you were in a normal office

5) Set up a special place that you can work, with a comfortable chair, air con, good desk with lots of desk space, and a door that you can close the rest of the world out from - so you have a private quiet space to concentrate

6) Buy portable equipment - like a laptop instead of a desktop - so you can move when you need to and work from other locations


1) get in bad habits of sleeping and working late - your life will get all screwy like that.

2) Try to work on your bed, or in an easy chair or something like that. You are at work. Sit at a desk and take it seriously

3) Get in habits of putting things off for later, because nobody ios watching you

4) Forget to go outside and get sun and exercise - you still need both, or you will get sick and depressed.

5) Forget to make time for friends and family - schedule it like any other thing you do, and make sure you keep to that schedule - worlk will eat your whole day if you let it

I'd be curious if anyone else has anything to add?

pandaposse1 karma

Hi Chris, I really enjoyed playing the Awakening & Dana Knightstone games, thanks for making them! Has BZ cut ties with BFG for future games? Would there ever be a possibility for BZ to revisit these series?

Also, what was going to be behind the door in the main hall of the castle in Awakening Kingdoms? :)

Natsuume1 karma

We never "cut ties" with anyone - BFG is still a good company, and there is possibility we'll work with them again someday... but we have no plans to do so any time soon. And we have no more plans to do HOPA style games - they just became too difficult to make money on for us and for BFG. They still have some east European studios making them for lower costs than us (and I have no idea how they do such great work so cheap over there total respect for Serbians!) - but I doubt that will last much longer either. I think you have seen the golden age of the HOPA come and go - I'd be suprised if anyone was making them ion 2 more years. At least not in their current form.

As for us doing any more Awakening or Dana Knightstone - that's not our call to make. The licenses belong to BFG, and they have no interest in making any more with us. They may, for all I know, have someone in Serbia working on them now - who knows? But no, we won't be doing any more in the foreseeable future.

As for what was behind that door... I honestly have no idea. We never decided. :)

philosopher_b1 karma

How was your GPA's in high school and what college did you go to that allowed you to pursue your career? By the way I'm rocking that retro gaming, Far Cry 1 is the best!

Natsuume2 karma

I was somewhere in the top 10% of my class in highschool (honor roll) but nothing special. And I went to a pretty crap public high school in Garland Texas (Go Red Raiders!) - then I went to University of Texas at Austin for undergrad, where I dropped out of the Comp Sci program and got a degree in East Asian History. If I had it to do over again, I would have finished the Comp Sci degree instead. What got me the job, however, was not my (largely useless) degree, but the fact that I worked as a designer and technician at the opera house, and spent a lot of time studying and working in the arts in my spare time. Art education is largely practice and experience - serious academic training is not really all that necessary - though it may be helpful.

AVAVT1 karma

Hi Chris, thanks for the great replies in this thread.

1) Where and how were you 16 years ago? I'm asking this question because I think I'm about 15-16 years younger than you.

2) I have a passion for riddles/problem-solving puzzle games. But my only 2 games are not well received. What do you think could be the charm of a slow-paced, brain intense genre like Puzzle? What can make people choose such games instead of the fast-paced, easy to hop in games that are getting increasingly popular nowadays?

Natsuume3 karma

1) In 1999, I was a Game Director. Allan and I were working for a company in Scotland called Vis Interactive - we were making a 3rd person platformer called Brave, that shipped like 5 years after I left. It was not a great company, and had a lot of management issues... Allan and I used to go out to the pubs on Rose Street and get VERY drunk and talk about how we were gonna do this all better some day. After that, we both left Vis - I went to Salt Lake and worked for a company called Kodiak for a few years making platformer games, and then to Crytek to make Far Cry. Then to B-School, and then we started Boomzap. So yeah - I put a lot into that 16 years. :) But there's no need to measure yourself against that - there are dozens of devs ywho started just 5 years ago who are doing way better than me... and many who started the same time as me who have long since left the industry. You progress as fast as you can, all you can do is make sure you are working on your craft every day.

2) Thats a pretty broad question - link the games, and lets have a look and maybe I (and other people here) have better feedback?

g4mer6551 karma

Have you played the other 3 main far cry games, and have you beat your own (far cry 1) on the hardest difficulty?

Natsuume1 karma

Hell no. I've never even heard of anyone who did other than a couple of the testers and the one sadistic designer (hello Ben!) who designed the Volcano section.