We're Alexis Kennedy and Lottie Bevan of Weather Factory, an indie microstudio focused on experimental narrative games. Alexis founded Failbetter Games and freelanced at Bioware, Telltale and Paradox. Lottie was Failbetter's producer who left to make jazzy games about cults. In three hours we're launching our debut game, Cultist Simulator. AUA!

UPDATE @ 6PM! We now have to head off to, er, actually launch this game, so thank you so much for all your questions, and we'll pick this up again and answer any questions we missed tomorrow! <3

Proof: https://truepic.com/I2CNXSY1/

Comments: 470 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

hlwroc102 karma

What percentage of your work is done in bed? I can't help but notice the gentleman behind you in the proof picture.

arabelladusk246 karma


sadly, very little of my nerdy development work is done in bed. we work from our shared flat, though, so most of my work is done in proximity to a bed. glad to cut straight to the meat of what game dev really is, 10/10 would AMA again

Self-ReferentialName25 karma

Hail be to the demiurge and light of the Glory!

performs all necessary sacrifices and incantations to have a correct reading of the augury

O great Demiurges, impart upon me this truth! Is our character in Cultist Simulator really, really incompetent? It seems that his/her/its primary means of acquiring lore and learning and power is largely stealing the accomplishments of others, reading books others wrote, plundering their tombs for their artefacts, and the like, never doing much primary-source research, as it were. So... are we all playing imbeciles? And how would a cultist in the time before all those things happen receive lore?

Also, a fair quantity of cannibalism-words seem to have originated from the Factory. If you could eat any one human being, who would it be?

Edit because of debate in Discord: That is, given that all lore's already present and my character never really found anything new, is he/she/it/aaaaahno dim?

arabelladusk46 karma

I mean, unless you always roleplay in your head as Neville...

The Lovecraftian Thing is that there is this big swirly-whirly aether of unknowable power, knowledge and madness just beyond humanity's fingertips. There isn't really a way to interface directly with this aether without going totally nuts/exploding/ruining the drama, so a lot of the narrative is drip-fed through overheard conversations, ancient grimoires you slowly translate, lucid dreaming, being in the right haunted house at the very wrong time...

This is why CS works the way it does. You're not incompetent, you're just human - and we want you to feel powerful in the later game when you've worked your lil culty butt off to glean all that information and compile it into something usable, so you can finally start summoning and murdering and doing all your necessary eldritch biz.

In terms of eating one human, that's a toughie. I think it depends very much on the cuisine in question: nori-roll cannibalism might feature a very different individual than, say, a lovely ragu.

crabbadon25 karma

What's the time breakdown for a project like this – like, writing words vs. programming vs. art vs. social media etc.? What fraction of time is spent on embellishments/easter eggs/indulgences? (Thinking stuff like the butt alternatives or the prospect of getting certain books autographed).

arabelladusk39 karma

It was a weird development cycle, as Alexis left Failbetter, immediately made a Javascript prototype for CS, buggered off to do his whole 'I'm a really great writer' year at Bioware/Paradox/Telltale, then returned to focus again on CS.

As a super rough guesstimate, Alexis was probably 30/30/30 across writing, design and coding over the course of the project. (There're over 70k words in CS but he writes like billy-o.) The last month or so was really where he got to focus on embellishments, like additional interactions between parts of the game which really made it blossom (as you say, something something autographs).

For me, bleurgh, I'm too close to my workload to make a guesstimate right now! But I can say social media/marketing takes up WAY more time than you might think. Turns out 'the rest of humanity that isn't you' is quite a needy segment of society.

Pharo21218 karma

What was your motivation for the Perpetual edition? How do you weigh that kind of goodwill against potential DLC sales over a game's lifetime?

Also, what's the friendliest hour?

arabelladusk19 karma

We always wanted to build a game that would last longer than one launch: we knew we wanted to build CS with DLC and longevity in mind, so it made sense to repay the loyalty people showed us when they backed the Kickstarter with a commitment to MOAR GAME. I very much don't subscribe to the belief that you reach a saturation point with players - certainly not at our micro-indie level! So the goodwill / happy backers / launch visibility we'll hopefully get from Perpetual Edition should outweigh the loss in potential revenue from those particular people!

Friendliest hour: unquestionably, the incorrigible Vagabond.

itspladd14 karma

Hey! I've been following Cultist Simulator's development since its announcement, and I'm super excited to play it again after trying the proof-of-concept from the Kickstarter.

I've seen a lot about the game from Twitter and dev blogs, so I've already been exposed to parts of the game that new players might be surprised by (the Mansus, in particular). Are there any other "whoa" moments or twists in the game that y'all have kept under wraps, besides the twists and turns one might already expect to find when plumbing the forbidden mysteries of the universe?

Thanks for doing this AMA!

lessofthat21 karma

There's nothing else as big as the Mansus.... yet.

There is a cameo from a particular NPC which I know has blown a couple of fuses for players, and a couple of the endings have popped eyes, though.

True story: we put the Mansus in after we had lunch with Ian Livingstone (yes, the gent who co-founded GW and Eidos) and he suggested we put a map in the game.

j_patton11 karma



arabelladusk29 karma

I ended up sitting next to him on a train for three hours. I didn't know who he was and ended up advising him about kitchen chairs, before realising he was responsible for Tomb Raider which got me into games, FOR WHICH HE APOLOGISED, smiling abashedly and saying, well, it *was* the 90s.

He's bae and we're friends.

j_patton13 karma

Is there a game (or style of game) you would love to see, but you know you could never create yourself?

arabelladusk26 karma

We actually have one we really want to make, but aren't set up to make it yet! I can't go into too much detail without spoiling everything for everyone, but suffice to say it's a much bigger multiplayer project using some of the same lore that exists in Cultist Simulator.

Alternatively, one of my favourite studios out there currently is Playdead, who are absolutely top of their league but make the opposite types of game to us. Playdead is all perfectly aligned sound design and minimalist animations; Weather Factory's all tangled lore-lace and apophenic holes in the game for the player to project themselves into.

j_patton11 karma

What is the most arcane, ritualistic thing you have ever done? :P Related: candles or sigils? Tarot or astrology? Walpurgisnacht or Halloween?

arabelladusk26 karma

I went to an all-girl's boarding school. You've seen The Craft, right?

j_patton9 karma

This is one for Lottie: if you were given a year to make a game, what sort of game would it be? (I feel this is not one for Alexis because he's kind of already doing this.)

arabelladusk19 karma

I have a game I'd like to make myself! But it is very protoplasmic at this stage. Its working title is 'Rainrose'; its mood-board is Gormenghast meets Blade Runner; its future is very uncertain at this stage. :D

Solipsicon9 karma

How much playtime can I get out of Cultist Simulator, if I'm being thorough and trying not to get spoiled by external sources?

How many different cards are there in the game?

How long can I expect to keep being surprised and finding out new things before repetition starts settling in?

How much is it gonna cost??

arabelladusk29 karma

We'd expect one run-through with one character to take anywhere between 2-8 hours, depending on how lucky/experienced you are, with a whole-game experience clocking in between 20-40 hours, depending on how often you choose to replay roles/how many times you die etc.

The game also doesn't include everything you need to know: it's designed to leave spaces for you to connect the dots, both mechanically and from a lore point of view. So it has a lot of potential to surprise you, even if you've played up to that magic 40 hour mark!

It'll cost £14.99 / $19.99, but there's a 10% off launch discount for the first week, AND anyone who buys it gets a limited edition called Perpetual Edition which gives you free DLC for life. Woot!

Finally: there are a plethora of cards. I know, because we massively underbudgeted for art. :D

Chronomath7 karma

How does your marketing plan for Cultist Simulator look? When did you start marketing and how? :)

arabelladusk17 karma

LIKE SOMEONE MAKING IT UP AS THEY GO ALONG, BUT TRYING VERY HARD! More truthfully, it looks like a production roadmap (very dependency-heavy and planned based on time/deliverables), but incorporating marketing beats like announcing the game, previews, reviews, etc.

Alexis has a good following already from having been a badass games writer/designer for nearly a decade now, which was a great starting point! But I joined WF in December 2017, which is when WF suddenly had the resource to start doing 'full-time' marketing.

BottleSage7 karma

How do you decide on the "harder" rewards for Kickstarter, like the physical ones or tattoos?

arabelladusk15 karma

i BEGGED (ineffectually) for alexis not to agree to a tattoo stretch-goal, because humanity being what it is i was certain someone out there would be happy to pay £5k for the opportunity to tattoo genitalia on another human's face. BUT fortunately nobody bought that tier so yay :D

the primary process was 'what would be really cool', then douse those ideas in an ice-bath of 'sure but a) how much would they actually cost, and b) how much of a pain in the butt would they be to actually fulfil'. as we're such a small team, we have to prioritise what's simple and easy over what's the coolest thing we can think of, though we try to strike a good balance between sensible for us, but fun for players!

SteamPunk_Devil7 karma

Lottie and Alexis, what is the single bit of media (books, films, games, etc) that has had the biggest impact on who you are?

arabelladusk8 karma

gawwwwwd for me, probably books? i read english at uni and my nerdy love for lit is responsible for me getting into narrative games. that having been said, i watch a *lot* of netflix... let's not pretend i don't sit there binge-watching Voyager until netflix shows me the Screen of Shame

PatriotCreeper7 karma

Excluding failures, how many endings are there in your new game?

arabelladusk16 karma

Failure is a bit of a misnomer, as the game's designed for you to die, and there are some hidden perks to 'failing' in certain ways. But excluding things that end without big swirly lights going 'woo woo you won!', there are currently around 6 endings in-game. We plan to add more post-launch!

systemchalk6 karma

I would like to reset all the progress in order to attempt a speed run. What is the best way to remove the terrible understanding of things best left hidden that have been burned into my mind?

arabelladusk20 karma

I would recommend living in Ottawa, where the snow is good for hiding corpses, and the river is deep and dark and good for chucking illicit books into

Wyrryel6 karma

There is still a lot of time left until then, but what have you planned to do after Cultist Simulator? Also, how many DLCs are planned?

arabelladusk7 karma

oh my god, SO much! alexis may go off and selflishly do some freelancing with a Really Great Games Person i'm not allowed to talk about yet; we may work on a larger multiplayer game set in the same universe; we may work on a number of other smaller games we have rattling around our brains.

the primary objective immediately after launch, though, is sleep :)

in terms of the DLC, we've been estimating 4-6 separate pieces internally, but nothing is yet confirmed! a lot hinges on how launch goes in a few hours...

theexterminat6 karma

Hi, Alexis and Lottie! This is Nick Laborde! waves

What is the most important thing you've learned in the making of this game? Especially since it was through crowdfunding and largely built on community feedback. I'm interested in your thoughts on this process vs. previous processes at Failbetter and others.

Additionally: Should Americans adopt the term "Crisps" over "Chips" or should we all assimilate to the British version?

Congrats again, I'll keep sending weird tweets your way!

arabelladusk19 karma

Hey Nick! <3

I've learned so much on this project it's hard to pick just one, but if I had to I'd say something about managing the psychology of the people developing the project. Open production (where you develop transparently along with your community) is absolutely the best way of making a game I've encountered, but it does mean your design gets a beating from multiple voices at all times: you have to have a clear goal for the end-game, while not being too pigheaded to recognise and address problems before you reach launch. And that takes an emotional and psychological toll! We were in a good place to support each other through the tough times, being a shmoochy couple and all that, but it's a valuable lesson in being aware of the humans behind game dev.

More importantly, Americans should adopt all Britishisms forever, except for 'swell', which is one of the best adjectives ever.

FoldedTwice4 karma

How have you found transitioning from a studio setup, to a smaller setup working from home? How have your design, development and production processes shifted?

arabelladusk29 karma

Weather Factory consists of only two full-time people, so we do things very differently to larger studios! The main reason for this is we have to split multiple roles between ourselves (Alexis: writing, coding, design; me: production, marketing, some arting/some biz), whereas usual processes in a studio are built around multiple individuals doing specific, single roles.

The major difference is our processes have shifted towards facilitating personality than the machine that is a studio, as with only two people the two are essentially the same. For example: we chose work hours that suited us personally, rather than what's the average best time for a group of people to work for; design can go esoteric as it likes, as we deliberately keep our running costs low so we don't have to sell 100000000000 copies to break even; and we always choose simplicity/ease over optimum output because this is a lifestyle business, not a studio attempting to make as much money as possible.

Also, we make sure our monthly strategy meetings only take place in conjunction with large bacon sandwiches. Om nom nom.

Alfray_Stryke4 karma

Meta-question: which is better for an AmA, discord or reddit?

arabelladusk9 karma

the AMA we ran on our Discord a month or so ago was busy and delightful, but harder to track than reddit - it was easy to lose questions in the flurry of messages. so i'm very pro reddit for amas! and not just because the mods, our overlords, are watching :D

Donteventrytomakeme3 karma

Hello Delicous Friends! i'm a huge fan of your work especially within the Fallen London universe. how on earth did you guys, even as a studio, find the time and resources to develop such an expansive and interactive lore & world? it's great and i love it but even with a large team i can't imagine making something like this! (also, i am looking forward to Cultist Simulator, and once i am no longer a Broke Bitch(tm) i will def be picking up it along with your other works!)

arabelladusk3 karma

thank you very much! alexis is an absolute fiend when it comes to writing content, and his mind is always whirring. between you and me, i had to talk him down a lot near the end of development from his fear that people would find CS 'empty' - this is the designer's curse, always seeing the potential/original idea of a project rather than the lovely thing it is they have actually made.

ANYWAY the tldr version is basically alexis is exceptional and i work quite hard too.

Jonax3 karma

This is weird - This is probably the first AMA where I know the people involved. :S

Congrats to you both on the release, but now I've got to make a question that hasn't been seen yet... thinks

...Given that CS has some similarties to it (in that both are unusual, spooky, slightly spine-tingling with unpredictable events), are there any easter eggs in the game referencing The Room? ;)

(Slightly) more seriously - Given the verification photo, has Alexis ever considered shaving his bonnet off and simply wearing an Ushanka for easier maintenance? :-"

arabelladusk3 karma

! how DARE you suggest alexis shaves his hair. i have made him promise he will never go shorter than 2inches at least, as his byronic locks must not be tamed and weirdly he goes a bit American Marine when he goes very short.

i don't think Alexis has actually played the room - he's not usually a big puzzle-game fan, though i bloody loved all of 'em! however, i may be making eyes at a mobile version of CS, so you never know what might change between platforms...

JoelMB122 karma

Has there been any particular challenges since the kickstarter to now. I Notice because for Alexis and you deadlines are huge! It look like you to put a lot of features in the post release category. So how do you handle the workflow , how do you make choices of what will be in the game at release and what is going to put in right after words? And one more burning question how do you pull off being partners in every sense of the word both business and relationship without killing each other because you seem to do both do it. It show the amazing strength of both your abilities to work together and of your relationship.

arabelladusk10 karma

we wanted to tightly scope CS partly because we didn't want to spend oodles of cash on the game and put pressure on its launch, but partly because as an 'experimental' game we needed to have some clear end goal to give the game its shape as a commercial project. alexis is really aware of production, having made games for nine years and run a studio for seven years, and i'm a producer, so we didn't find ourselves ever in a crunch period! we were just sensible about designating what were core features which we really needed to get in, and what were features alexis really wanted in, but weren't essential.

in terms of being baes, it's been about 95% wonderful working together, and 5% difficult when one of us was grumpy or stressed, as there's no buffer between that work-stress and your romantic relationship. but the months i've spent at WF have already been the happiest months of my life, and i hope (!) alexis feels similarly :D

littlbat2 karma


  1. Is jam good?

  2. Why are we awaiting an empire and what do we do when it comes?

  3. Has the moth ever been in the mansus?

arabelladusk12 karma


5533772 karma

you mentioned that the game is an "experimental game", what are your thought and feelings about this, why do you feel makeing experimental games are hard, how could there be more space for them?

but most important question what do it mean for you to make this kind of game?

arabelladusk5 karma

the problem with 'experimental' is the whole biz side of making games. the more experimental it is, the riskier it is that you might not make any money from it. so we were very happy being as experimental as we liked until we suddenly thought, oh, maybe all our reviews will be terrible and nobody will buy it! but fingers crossed we've made a high-quality enough game that isn't a problem...! WE WILL KNOW IN A FEW HOURS

gilliganxr351 karma

How do you feel about the band Radiohead and can you say "Irish wristwatch" out loud at a normal speed?

arabelladusk2 karma

that is an impossible feat and one which was used in medieval times to discover witches.

radiohead is obvs great but sometimes they could do with cheering up a bit