My name's Luther, I used to be an associate game designer at Kabam Inc, working on the free-to-play/pay-for-stuff games 'The Godfather: Five Families' and 'Dragons of Atlantis'. I designed a lot of loot boxes, wheel games, and other things that people are pretty mad about these days because of Star Wars, EA, etc...

A few years later, I got out of that business, and started up my own game company, which has a title on Kickstarter right now. It's called Ambition: A Minuet in Power. Check it out if you're interested in rogue-likes/Japanese dating sims set in 18th century France.

I've been in the games industry for over five years and have learned a ton in the process. AMA.

Note: Just as a heads up, if something concerns the personal details of a coworker, or is still covered under an NDA, I probably won't answer it. Sorry, it's a professional courtesy that I actually take pretty seriously.


UPDATE: I have to go, so I'm signing off. Thank you so much for all the awesome questions! If you feel like supporting our indie game, but don't want to spend any money, please sign up for our Thunderclap campaign to help us get the word out!

Comments: 2827 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Merrcury23255 karma

If your immortal soul had to be locked behind a lootbox or paid content, how would you design it?

IronWhale_JMC8580 karma

Cracks Knuckles Let's do this dance!

  • My soul is the chase prize in a lootbox, along with other, extremely valuable content (gotta be in good company after all). We'll call this box 'The Soul Box'.
  • You can't directly purchase The Soul Box from the store. It's a rare drop on a powerful, Dark Souls style boss monster. High HP, insta-kill attacks, very timing heavy, the works. We'll just call this 'The Boss Monster'.
  • The only way to fight The Boss Monster is with a Boss Fight Ticket, which is the rare chase prize in the 'The Wheel Game Loot Box'. A ticket cannot be obtained any other way.
  • The Wheel Game Loot Box can only be obtained by getting the Five Keys from the Wheel Game. It costs hard currency (currency bought with real money) to spin the Wheel. Getting the Keys is rare, spins usually get you lesser loot boxes. Each of the Five Keys is different, and you can get duplicates. This means that you could have 20 of the other Keys, but still need to get the Fifth Key, just to unlock one of the Wheel Game Lootboxes.
  • The Fifth Key is way rarer than the other Keys. Like, suspiciously so.
  • Keys can be redeemed for other prizes, like event-unique cosmetics, just for that added temptation. They look amazing.
  • The Wheel Game has a ridiculously long spin animation, with lots of flashing lights and grating music. Neither of those can be disabled. You must sit through it. Every. Single. Time.
  • That Boss fight? You can't save up tickets for it. You're not allowed to spin the wheel when you have a ticket (the button just greys out). This means that learning the fight patterns is extremely difficult, as you're looking at hours (and tons of money) between fights.
  • PvP is enabled during the fight against the Boss Monster. If another Player kills you during it, you lose the fight and they get half of the hard currency you spent getting the ticket. Prepare to get mobbed by griefers every time you get within a mile of that thing.
  • Did I mention that the presence of so many PvP players in the Boss Fight will cause terrible lag spikes during the fight? Because that's a thing.
  • The Boss Monster has an unskippable cutscene, every time you fight it. He wants to destroy the world because everyone is too sad. The voice acting is horrendous.

I think that covers everything... I'm feeling pretty good about the sanctity of my soul.

Number2794100 karma

A 12 year old Korean kid is going to have your soul by April.

IronWhale_JMC2313 karma

My only weakness! How did you know?!

peacebuster433 karma

Upvote for Harold and Kumar reference.

IronWhale_JMC1236 karma

True story: My dream is that, when I die, I'll have the time to say "<Cause of death>, my only weakness! How did you know?!" just to fuck with anyone who watches me die.

The more specific about the cause of death, the better.

Like, imagine if I got hit by a car. And there's this terrified student driver (who just hit me) and some EMTs trying to help my dying ass, and I just manage to wheeze out:

"A '97 Chevy Impala... my only weakness! How did you know?!" Then, just die on on the spot! Everyone would be baffled and traumatized for life.

It'd be awesome.

FriendlyCows411 karma

Candy corn shaped anal beads that have been used three times... my only weakness! How did you know?!

IronWhale_JMC461 karma

The EMT vomits. The priest faints. The bank teller just wishes we would leave.

taitaofgallala2622 karma

  • The Boss Monster has an unskippable cutscene, every time you fight it. He wants to destroy the world because everyone is too sad. The voice acting is horrendous.

This touched my heart.

Pr3ssAltF4385 karma


Get Scott McNeil (mighty is he) for that shit :)

IronWhale_JMC10 karma

Shit, now I'm afraid the Magpies are gonna steal my Soul Box.

NooB12982276 karma

What do you think about this whole "loot-boxes = gambling" idea?

IronWhale_JMC4687 karma

I have to admit, I'm of really mixed feelings.

Back when I was making them, the justification was:

  • The player always gets something from the box
  • They can't cash anything out for real money
  • The paid content will be grindable in a month or two

This wasn't just internal chatter, this constituted a legal justification in several countries that our games were available.

However, while those criteria take away a lot of the problems with loot boxes/gambling, I also used to be a customer support guy on those same games. I've seen players with lifetime spend counts of over $50,000 on those games. People spend a lot of money on hobbies, that's a given. However, that kind of amount starts to worry you a little. Is this someone who really loves our product, or are we taking advantage of a compulsion?

Still, I don't think classifying loot boxes as gambling is a good idea, because it's going to have huge unexpected side effects. If loot boxes in games are gambling, what about Magic the Gathering card packs (the original pay-to-win lootbox)? What about loot drops on monsters in an MMO? Legally defining a 'loot box' in a game is extremely tricky, especially because most lawyers and lawmakers neither know, nor really care how games work.

coryrenton1524 karma

is there any literature or theory that is popular among f2p companies re: psychology of f2p and how to maximize profits along those lines, or is every company re-inventing the wheel from a behavioral psychology POV?

IronWhale_JMC1659 karma

Reinventing the wheel, constantly. You would be shocked at how non-standardized the game industry is, from a development perspective.

Obviously, different kinds of games have different development needs, but even things as a simple as job titles can mean completely different things from company-to-company. Which is ridiculous and I think that'll need to change within the next 5 years.

At Kabam, we had elaborate spread sheets to keep track of all of our loot boxes and approximate "market values" for items. Still, sometimes things really came down to observation and the gut feelings you get from working on a game, 8 hours a day, for over a year.

marculiu579 karma


IronWhale_JMC2162 karma

Common truths? Hmm... here are some of the guidelines I remember using. Things will, of course vary between teams and companies.

  • Don't publish the odds, it causes more confusion than help. People will think that buying 100 loot boxes guarantees them a 1 in 100 drop, then get angry when it doesn't. That's not how statistics work.
  • Always make the minimum prize the same value as the lootbox cost. That way the player is never losing value for buying a lootbox.
  • The top prize (sometimes called the 'chase prize') has to be something that isn't available any other way. The event is centered around this chase prize.
  • Include several smaller chase prizes, like chase prizes from a few months ago, at better odds. This lets people who missed out last time have a shot at them.
  • Aim for lower lootbox cost when possible. Lower price means a lower barrier to entry.
  • Reward people for buying in bulk.
  • If you're going to do a big event, always give every active player a free lootbox. It feels nice to get presents, it increases player goodwill, and it gets otherwise ambivalent players excited about the event. It's also funny as hell when a new, low level player gets the chase prize in their free lootbox. Rare, but awesome.
  • You can piss the players off, or you can ask them for money. Doing both at the same time is suicide.
  • After every big lootbox event, there will be a 'hangover' where nobody wants to spend money. Make sure that your sales schedule accounts for this.

coryrenton86 karma

That's interesting -- nobody in any f2p company you've heard of has a psychology background?

IronWhale_JMC240 karma

While I'm sure some of my coworkers were psych majors in college, it never really came up. I've never seen (or even heard of, actually) anyone bringing in a practicing psychologist to work on loot boxes.

I don't think it'd be efficient to do so either. I feel like it'd be similar to bringing in an architect to solve a carpentry problem. Yes, they're in similar fields and there's similar study, but one is focused on the large scale problems and the other one is focused on the moment-to-moment problems.

Zongo_Le_Dozo707 karma

Now that some countries are investigating loot boxes and possibly ban them, what are the possible alternatives to monetize players in video games? Also, thanks for the ama.

IronWhale_JMC1386 karma

No problem!

You're certainly asking the right question. Games cost a ton of money to make, to promote, and operate past launch. AAA titles started getting into the loot-box thing because $60 per unit isn't enough to reliably recoup the $100+ million investment it took to make the game. You also need to pull a healthy profit, so you can have enough spare cash to start work on the next game.

However, the price of individual games can't really go above $60. Remember when it went up by $10? It was pandemonium, despite the ridiculously good fun/dollar ratio games provide.

A drink in a bar costs me $6 and gets me 1 hour of fun. A movie costs $10 and gets me 2 hours of fun. Wasteland 2 cost me ~$50 and got me over 80 hours of fun.

Still, people can't afford games being more than $60 right now (economy, etc...). I think micro transactions/opt-ins have a place in all of that, so that people who are really into the game can spend more to get more out of it. It just needs to be done elegantly, in a way that doesn't feel grimy and bad. Expansion packs are a perfect example of this.

Liked the campaign? How would you like more campaign, but in a different enough setting that it wouldn't have fit into the regular game?

Spoiler: I shell out for campaign expansions all the time. I love stories in games.

CuddlePirate420687 karma

When using sliced pancetta for antipasto, do you need to heat it up first or can it be eaten straight from the packaging?

IronWhale_JMC1023 karma

Pancetta is a cured meat, so you should be able to eat it straight from the packaging safely. In the case of antipasto, I actually like keeping it cold, as it provides a contrasting temperature against the other dishes.

Food isn't just about flavor. Texture, temperature, spice, acidity, and color all have a role to play.

marculiu469 karma


IronWhale_JMC908 karma

I'd say that, on average, pay-to-win tendencies increase as a game's popularity goes down over time. When the game first starts out, balance and preserving the player ecosystem is everything.

As the game gets older, people start moving onto the next big thing, but a core sticks around. There's less of them, but they tend to spend more, on average.

As the game reaches it's final stage (sometimes called Farm Stage), a very small team is in charge of keeping the game on life support. They may love the game, but their development resources are tiny. The only thing they can do is fiddle with numbers. If you can't get your remaining players excited with new art, levels, or mechanics, what do you turn to?

The same items, but with bigger numbers.

Also, check out the Extra Credits video on Design by Accretion. It's a great insight for folks who aren't in the industry.

TheDisillusionist279 karma

"Check it out if you're interested in rogue-likes/Japanese dating sims set in 18th century France."

Wouldn't it have been easier to just email that guy personally?

IronWhale_JMC154 karma

Would you believe I tried? I think I got caught in his spam filter.

BloonWars263 karma

Are loot box revenues accounted for, or expected, when budgeting to build a game? As in, if they didn't plan on having them would they adjust the cost of the game up front?

IronWhale_JMC370 karma

Generally speaking, yes. Every company is different, but I worked in Free to Play and even when a game was in the planning phases, metrics were getting set. For example:

Servers cost $ a month, the team running the game costs $ a month (pay, health insurance, office space, etc...), and total cost of development for the base game is projected to cost $$$. The game's expected lifespan is X.

These costs together show the amount per month the game needs to pull in, in order to make a profit. You don't just to stay neutral, you need to pay back the development costs, and get enough money to pay for the next game the company wants to make.

AhegaoButter250 karma

How do you feel about the public response to your Ambition Kickstarter?

IronWhale_JMC362 karma

It's been extremely encouraging. We've been working on Ambition for over a year, and the game is different enough that I started to get those little doubts creeping in: "Maybe this is too weird, maybe we're the only ones who care about this..." Not enough to stop, but it's the kind of thing that makes it difficult to fall asleep sometimes.

Then we launched and people seem to really love it, even people from a more 'mainstream' games background. They really want to play as a Disney villainess going around pre-revolutionary France, ruining people's lives at parties.

It's extremely validating to launch something risky, and have such a good reaction from potential fans. Makes me remember being a dorky teenager going to an anime/sci-fi con for the first time and seeing all of these weird people, just like me. You stop feeling alone for a moment.

Now I'm just a dorky adult with dorky friends. Life could be a lot worse.

Of course, the Kickstarter's not fully funded, that's still stressful as all hell. One step at a time!

Shuk247142 karma

A roguelike Japanese dating sim set in 18th Century France is definitely.... niche. There seems to be a pretty loyal fan base for that stuff, though.

IronWhale_JMC223 karma

The way I see it: let's say we made a different game. Like, a World War 2 shooter, but with zombies.

There are metric shit tons of those games, already on the market. Even if the demand is large, are we really adding anything by making another one? Can we reasonably compete with larger teams, who are already established in the space? If we make something really different, it's risky, but at least we're guaranteed to stand out.

Games can be about absolutely anything, so why not try something really different?

AustinInDallasTx235 karma

I think the model that Elder Scrolls Online uses of paying for cosmetics and content only is the fairest method. Would you agree?

IronWhale_JMC377 karma

Sorry, I haven't played ESO (though a few members of our team are active players), so I can't give a detailed answer.

I definitely think that paying for cosmetics is a great way to go for online multiplayer games. It doesn't hurt the game, as long as your clever with the cosmetics (changing character silhouettes too much can cause confusion in PvP).

However, the cosmetics thing only works in online multiplayer. Single player games will need to find another solution.

AustinInDallasTx86 karma

Thank you for your response.

IronWhale_JMC107 karma

No problem! Thanks for asking questions, it wouldn't be interesting without people like you here!

roboticphish143 karma

Big picture question:

Do you perceive video games as an artistic medium? If so, does this necessarily mean that making a game with the intent to keep a company afloat is artistically destructive? If not, what worth do video games actually have?

IronWhale_JMC373 karma

I absolutely see games as an artistic medium of expression, similar to theater, film, or performance art. I was actually a Fine Arts major at university. One of the first people to recognize games as an art form was Marcel Duchamp (one of the founders of the Dadaist movement). He was an avid chess player, and said "While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”

The act of playing games can be seen as a kind of performance art, where you suspend your priorities in the 'real world', choosing to subsume yourself in an artificial one. How many times have you seen someone go utterly apeshit during a game of Monopoly? To them, in that moment, that game is more real than the actual world around them. If they win or lose, their material world is unchanged, but that means nothing to them. Those pieces of tin, card and paper are their world, and the injustice or triumph they feel is real, in their heart.

Those who make games construct these circumstances for such performances to play out. A painter cannot control the reaction to their painting, but they can influence it by painting a particular way. Game creators cannot control what our players do, but we can guide them in certain directions with mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics.

I do not see art diametrically opposed to material profit. Some of the most profitable games have been the ones that have made us feel most profoundly. However, these paradigms do often come into conflict. A ceramic mug with a stupid Minions meme on it is still a sculpture, even if it's not a very good one. However, that mug and its replicas will probably sell more copies than the avant garde work of some person trying to convey the feelings of their latest breakup through abstract forms in clay. Which is better? Depends on what you want to accomplish. Is it artistically destructive for an artist to be able to pay their rent, buy groceries and pay for medicine? I don't think so.

I don't know if that actually answered your question. I'm sorry.

roboticphish64 karma

It did and it didn't. What it tells me is that you, just like me, don't really know where the line between art and money really exists. It's a hard question, I just wanted to hear your thoughts on it.

nezmito42 karma

I give my take on it, because Reddit. Art always relies on patrons. There is no Renaissance without the church supporting the Ninja Turtles. Through technological changes including political(government is a form of technology), artists could become less reliant on single benefactors.

Since art is in the eye of the beholder you want many benefactors and many artists. This means reduce income inequality, reduce political inequality, decrease the growing concentration of media, increase/experiment with pay models for art. Thank you /u/IronWhale_JMC for making a go of it and thank you to your former employer for helping to train you.

PS This post became more than I expected. Thank you for the "writing prompt."

IronWhale_JMC13 karma

I'm... proud?

AhegaoButter133 karma

What are games you have played that have inspired you to be a game dev?

IronWhale_JMC325 karma

In no particular order:

  • Mechwarrior 2 - First thing I ever saved up for (I was 8, or so). From the moment I watched the first cinematic, something in me clicked. I knew that I wanted to make games.
  • Fallout 2 - First serious RPG I ever played. The idea of a super violent game where you could still talk you way out, absolutely blew my mind when I was a kid.
  • Planescape: Torment - Best writing in any game (personal opinion, obviously). Solidified my love of pacifist runs in any game that allows them. I legit teared up in a few places.
  • Final Fantasy 7 - My first JRPG, it introduced me to my love of playing as set characters in games (as opposed to build-your-owns). It just felt so grand. I'd never felt anything like it, at the time.
  • Dungeons and Dragons - I've been playing since 2nd ed, back when it was still AD&D. Tabletop will always have a special place in my heart, and is what first got me into writing for games.

Count_Sack_McGee23 karma

Great list of games. As a guy in my mid 30's I grew up on a similar stable of titles and in many ways it has influenced my gaming habits today. None of these (obviously) are pay too win or had micro transactions at all.

My concern, and I would guess the concern for many, is that there a time rapidly approaching where the only way to beat a game is through micro transactions. You've already seen this in online multiplayer titles (COD games, Battlefront Battlefield 2, destiny) where PvP is all but ruined when those who pay get an advantage. It's now entering the realm of AAA titles to simply finish the game. Shadows of War, for example, forces you to go through an absurd slog at the end during the "Shadow Wars" sequence that makes it almost impossible not to pay.

My question is, does it concern you that there won't be games like the ones you mentioned above because micro-transactions have simply made it too profitable to make a game that forces you to get good and win? Are F2P and Pay to Win games raising a generation of young gamers that will only know that and thus leaving our generation doomed to only play older titles?

IronWhale_JMC10 karma

The industry is constantly shifting and I'm sure a new financial paradigm will show up to displace loot boxes. Will it be better or worse? No idea.

As for older styles of games, I don't think they're going away. Television didn't kill movies. Movies didn't kill theater.

'Old School' style, micro-transaction free, games will always be getting made, just maybe not with the same level of financial investment as AAA titles.

I thought the Isometric PC RPG was dead, but so many new, good ones have come out in the last 5 years that I haven't even had the chance to play all of them.

There hasn't been a AAA 2D platformer in forever, but indie studios are cranking them out at a rate faster than anyone could ever play them.

Will the younger generation play different games? Probably, but that's always been the case. Tastes change. I could never get into Undertale, and Friday Night at Freddy's feels moronic to me and I've never even played Minecraft, but that's what the next cohort was playing a few years ago.

The world changes, but rarely are art forms truly abandoned.

Basqueinmyzakism124 karma

Luth, what was it like growing up in a small town, and having your big brothers best friend be so cool? Playing paintball in the jagged teeth with them, driving around in his "super cool" dodge stratus, and uhhh... yeah I got nothing else. Super proud of you buddy!!! Grats on the game and the AMA. Love ya dude!

IronWhale_JMC88 karma

Love you too, bro!

flatchampagne96 karma

What’s the most rewarding thing about being a game designer?

IronWhale_JMC269 karma

Suspension of disbelief. When someone talks about your game, which is really just a bunch of blips on a screen, like it's something tangible and real.

No matter how big, visually stunning, or immersive a game is, there's still a huge gap between the game and reality. The space in-between has to be made by people. When their eyes light up and they tell you about the cool thing they did, or happened to them in the game, you can see a moment that was only possible when they put themselves in your game.

As a designer, you can never do that. You can never bridge that gap for them, but the player can do it themselves. It's rewarding. It's also extremely humbling, the first time it happens.

Matthias72090 karma

Why do you think that AAA game companies are rushing to monetize as much as possible when indie successes like Stardew Valley or Terraria can survive without putting in any monetizing elements in?

IronWhale_JMC211 karma

Successes like Stardew Valley and Terraria are extremely rare. For a point of comparison, around 20 new games are released on Steam, every single day. Most of them will never make their costs back, even some of the really good ones will get lost in the flow.

Small indie studios go broke all the time, it's just that nobody notices.

Big companies need guaranteed wins, because they're answerable to their stock holders. It's why they go so nuts with marketing and finding a way to get a financial edge with every, single, little thing. Big ads? Go for it! Celebrity endorsements? Pile 'em on! Branded Dorritos? Sure!

Bigger isn't always better, but it's often more reliable. When you're making huge AAA titles, you automatically stand apart from the indie games, just with size and production values. Your competition shrinks massively, but the costs are enormous.

Muff1nmonst3r52 karma

Did you work on Realm of the Mad God, that Kabam acquired but sold off to DECA recently? If so, what was your opinion on the permadeath game which would encourage more players to buy the gear available for real money?

IronWhale_JMC115 karma

I never worked on the Realm of the Mad God team, but I sat a few sections away from them a few years ago. They were fucking awesome.

I once walked by them having full-on meeting discussing the cost/benefit analysis of their team pooling their personal money, to have their team join a 'pie of the month club'. There were Powerpoint slides and everything. They knew how to have fun, but still get the job done.

As for permadeath, it was a fascinating decision to have permadeath in the game, and eliminating that would have destroyed Realm (permadeath was such a central pillar to their design). However, community management was a nightmare for them. Everyday, some high level player would die, lose a ton of stuff and go nuts all over the forums, which would make everyone else angry that someone is spamming and flaming everyone within 50 miles of them. I can guarantee you that they never wanted to kill players, just to reap a few extra dollars. The hassle was way too big.

For those wondering, I don't know if they ever managed to put PvP in there, but they really wanted to. The problem was making the server code reliable and exact enough for it. You can fudge numbers a little for PvE and nobody cares. PvP? With permadeath? It has to be utterly perfect, which would have required them to tear out and remake the netcode. That's too big of an investment and way too risky. What if they fuck up and break the existing game?

Pauliton43 karma

Dude I cannot believe I just found a DoA dev while scrolling down reddit! I had a great time playing it with my brother and some randoms on facebook. I remember getting out of school and opening the challenges prizes, checking with my brother who got better loot. Loved your game so much :).

Were you aware at Kabam of the amount of "cheaters"? Tbh literally everyone used add-ons and etc, how did you tried to fight against it? If I remember correctly there was a point at which players got kicked of the game for opening stuff too fast, being marked as cheaters, but that decision received a lot of hate for slowing down a core of the gameplay. In what ways did you have to change designer stuff, what did you learn from that?

IronWhale_JMC81 karma

Dude, you would not believe the meetings we had about add ons. The main reason we banned add on users was because the code in the add ons was complete amateur bullshit. The calls were so numerous and inefficient that it was slowing down the servers. The crazy part? People were even paying for some of these add ons!

An engineer and I were constantly pushing the idea that we should create our own add ons, that integrated smoothly with the code base, then sell them at a tiny price (like $0.99) and cut those guys out of their own market. The game would go faster, we'd make a little money and everything would be fine! Nobody would ever listen to us.

The way I see it, if people are trying to automate away a part of your game in order to have fun, something went wrong and needs to be fixed. The problem is justifying the cost of fixing it, to your superiors.

Pauliton13 karma

Totally agree with you. I'm glad I found a cool dev open to talk about this matter and that even shares an anecdote, you made my day.

IronWhale_JMC14 karma

No problem! Glad I could help!

negativeeffex40 karma

How big is the target demographic for rogue-like Japanese dating Sims set in 18th century France?

IronWhale_JMC88 karma

According to our Kickstarter so far, around 646 people. We're also getting a surprising number of people for whom this is the first project they've ever backed. That signals to me that there's an opening in the market that isn't being met. People want to play something like this, it's just not being made.

Though, to be fair, 2 of those backers are my parents. Not sure if they count.

tstorm00430 karma

What is your favorite loot box/crate opening animation?

IronWhale_JMC103 karma

Hearthstone packs. The Hearthstone team has that shit on lock-down so hard that I actually felt a little disappointed the first time I opened an Overwatch loot crate. It helps that the Hearthstone UI feels so tactile. It makes the cards and movements feel more significant than standard UI, that just looks like boxes and lights.

Also, flipping over the individual cards, one a time, with the different audio reactions/particle effects? Perfection!

SuperPants8724 karma

Is consumer trust a calculatable variable when making games?

For example, if instead of loot boxes, you could just buy the outfit you want.

I feel that would produce consumer trust in your product, meaning more long term revenue, but less short term. Is this something that's accounted for when considering monetization of a game?

IronWhale_JMC54 karma

You've really hit the nail on the head with a real problem in games (and in companies, in general). Consumer trust cannot be meaningfully quantified, so it's often left on the back burner. However, it obviously has real, tangible value.

EA and Nintendo could announce the exact same decision on the same day. People would hate EA for it, and love Nintendo for it. A few months later, a 'hot take' would appear on Twitter, pointing out the disparity, but nobody would care at that point.

So, even though consumer trust is real, and extremely valuable, it's undervalued because it can't be quantified. This happens elsewhere in business too. The sales team makes more money than everyone else because you can easily quantify the money they make for the company (how many units did they sell). But if the product wasn't as good, how would they be able to sell it? Surely the designers and engineers have an influence here, but you can't quantify it because the market is affected by a ton of intangibles.

The sales team makes more money because their value is obvious. Everyone else lags behind because it's easier to minimize their value.

PS: If you solve this particular problem, you'll win a goddamn Nobel Prize in economics. I'll also give you a hug, because I used to be a community manager and tried to argue this like, every other week.

Kataclysm20 karma

Loot boxes are a kind of hot topic at the moment. Are you considering any kind of 'Loot Box' system in your indie games? If not, how do you plan to (If you even do plan to) additionally monetize the game?

IronWhale_JMC50 karma

Our title is single player, so I don't see a compelling reason to include loot boxes in Ambition: A Minuet in Power.

As for additional monetization, I'd love to release any stretch goals we miss in the Kickstarter campaign as a dlc pack to the finished product. It'd allow for the best of both worlds.

If we reach a stretch goal, then that content would just go in the base game for everyone.

Mr-Zero-Fucks20 karma

What does Satan look like?

IronWhale_JMC42 karma

No idea, I'm supposed to see him in mirrors, but he's never there. Maybe he's hiding behind me?

domogrue20 karma


IronWhale_JMC22 karma


Llys7 karma

There has been talk/speculation that in some games loot boxes are designed in a way to in a way "know" what you want and decrease the chance you'll get it.

Did you ever engage in this practice and also do you believe other companies do?

IronWhale_JMC8 karma

In all honesty, I've heard the idea, but I've never seen it happen. Nor do I think we'll ever see it happen in a major title.

Too many moving parts. Stuff breaks in games, constantly, especially when you have tons of players online, all hammering it at the same time. Things will break in ways you never thought possible.

The more complexity something has, the more likely it is to break. Even if you did want to make some sort of predictive, loot box denial system (which I don't, that sounds awful), you'd be adding a major break point in the one system that makes all of your money. What if, when a player buys things in a particular order, the system screws up and gives them exactly what you want on the first try, no matter the rarity? You just lost a lot of money, with no real way to get it back.

Simple drop tables are more effective and harder to break. It's highschool level statistics. So it's the industry standard.

balne6 karma

Do you think in the future we'll change from discs for game distributions to either pure internet dl or some other form of storage drive (with more capacity ofc)?

IronWhale_JMC12 karma

Pure DL looks like the future, maybe even with games being streamed onto your machine as you play them (one level is loading in while you're playing the other level).

While this will be convenient, it'll create all sort of problems for anyone trying to make historical archives/galleries of games. What happens when that server goes offline? What happens when future operating systems can't operate that game? Is it just gone forever? How do we guarantee that our gaming legacy doesn't just... disappear?

Imagine being an art history teacher, 100 years from now, fumbling with your holo-brain-interface, trying to get a goddamn Sega Genesis to run.

TheMuffinDragon5 karma

When working at an Indie company, do you need to be able to code to work? Are there positions for people purely working on the over-arching design choices?

IronWhale_JMC8 karma

Indie teams are extremely small (like, 5 people). Which means that few people are a 'pure' anything. Our engineer edits videos. Our art director designs t-shirts. I do some code, I also write, and run all of our marketing.

If you want to design, be prepared to sit down and learn how to code. You're a designer, laying out systems according to a series of logical rules is literally your job.

If you have any code experience, I'd recommend starting in the Unity engine. If not, start with Twine or Scratch and work from there.

notsowise234 karma

How did you survive, and how do you rate your chances with St Peter?

IronWhale_JMC20 karma

My mother's the only practicing Catholic left in the family. I think the collective plan between my Dad, brother and I, is to hide behind her when she walks through the gate and hope they don't notice the rest of us.

marculiu3 karma

Did they ever fudge the probabilities depending on how much money the player previously had spent? Did the amount of money a player had spent in any way affect the game (besides the things they bought).

What was the worst/most immoral things, from a money perspective, that were implemented in a game?

IronWhale_JMC6 karma

I've never seen a system that altered probability based on spend. The idea was floated in meetings, but got shut down because it's just too fucked up.

It'd also be an absolute nightmare to QA. First you have to open a statistically significant amount of lootboxes and check the results against the stated values. Do they add up correctly? Ok, now do it again, on a different test account, with a different spend level. Now do it on the third test account, etc....

Much in the same way, we often got accused of messing with the odds on a box halfway through an event and not telling anybody. We couldn't, even if we wanted to. The testing requirements are too much of a pain.