Hi Reddit,

Welcome to our AmA! Eric (u/ ShrikeGFX) and Alex (u/laderexan) here from Flow Fire Games, ready to answer your questions!

We started working on our game Synthetik in 2015, we just wanted to make the best game we could and would want to play ourselves, hoping it would work out somehow.

When we ran out of money at the end of 2016 the game was not finished and we tried Kickstarter, which was a big fail, we had no marketing or following. We reduced spending as much as we could and made a few bucks selling tools and art assets for Unreal and Unity engine and kept on developing. In March 2018 the game came out and we were blown away by the reactions. The Feedback was very positive and the game even got covered by big Streamers like Lirik and Sodapoppin! We kept on releasing big updates for the game, and we now have a wonderful, active community!

In case you don't know the game:

SYNTHETIK is an unforgiving shooter rogue-lite in a world overrun by machines. Your main objective is to battle hordes of robotic forces and brutal bosses through the Machine Legion headquarters. With Synthetik we wanted to bring new depth and mechanics to the genre while leaving a lot of freedom for experimentation and different playstyles.It is inspired by the late 90’s Era of games when people put in all the Features they enjoyed against the recent trend of streamlining.

Screenshots of the progression of the game can be found here: https://imgur.com/gallery/ckpVXIf you want to know more about the game, check out our website: https://www.synthetikgame.com

Proof: https://twitter.com/FlowFireGames/status/1047862276269793281

Feel free to ask us anything about the challenges we came across, the game or the new expansion!
Edit: Ending the AMA at this point! Its been 9 hours and very fun! Thanks everyone for stepping by!

Comments: 604 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

WhistleMaster181 karma

Any plan for Switch support ?

ShrikeGFX202 karma

Yes, working on it!

bklatcher2 karma

Day one buy when it comes to the switch! Cannot wait. Ball park time frame when it might come?

Just heard about the game today and I'm telling all my buddies about it. Looks great

ShrikeGFX3 karma

Early next year most likely!

ImLike9SoSTFU97 karma

How much where you making selling assets? Was it enough to afford housing and food for the team or did you need to get jobs to supplement the income?

laderexan135 karma

No, selling assets was pretty good in terms time spend vs earnings but we did not want to get sidetracked too much. A bit of freelancing, debt and some money from family & friends. On paper a very stupid idea though :)

antwanrockamora10 karma

[deleted]

ShrikeGFX137 karma

Yes, this is really survivorship bias here, statistically I think 98% of games on steam are not profitable (?) and spending 3 years on something you have no clue if it will work is definitely crazy and not to recommend at all

Jovis00149 karma

How did you get into video game design? Do you have any advice for aspiring game designers?

navidshrimpo66 karma

To contrast OP's perspective, bigger companies usually do not expect designers to be artists or programmers. Indie usually necessitates cross-functionality in all roles.

I work at a 200 person company on a 10 person team. We have 3 designers on our game, none of who do anything other than system design and build content (mostly level design). All depends on the genre of game.

That said, you be to bring more to the table than "I have some ideas". In all seriousness, if any educated or impressive person contacted us, was extremely knowledgeable of our genre, and was passionate about learning the business, yet had 0 experience, I'd bring them in for an interview in a heartbeat. Problem is, most people interested in design are more excited to tell you their own ideas than to listen and learn. And a lot of time the ideas make no sense or are entirely impractical from a production standpoint.

ShrikeGFX19 karma

While this is true, getting a job as a designer without any programming (or other) skills will be a nightmare and by my experience overwhelming majority of designers are not very good, and everyone seems to think they can do game design because its very vague, hard to prove competency and the barrier of entry is basically zero while people can't see the big picture behind most good designs. A Designer should at least be able to prototype his systems somehow else you are missing extremely crucial practical experiences and learnings you would never get from theory.

Level design is a very different story but all good level designers come from a practical experience background such as mapping for existing games.

iSeth_42 karma

The game looks awesome! But is there any chance for native Linux support?

ShrikeGFX18 karma

Thanks! A chance yes, probably at a later point. So far it works emulated however.

LikeAThousandNinjas22 karma

What's advice you can give to a small team of developers who want to also launch a game via kickstarter?

ShrikeGFX18 karma

Alex answered already but it seems to be key to really bring home the people in the first 2 days, you need 30% in the first days else its going to be very hard. Some people that gave us tips even went as far as saying you should invest the first 20-30% yourself / bring those from an investor or such, but yeah we did none of that.

FluffyRam15 karma

Where did you guys draw inspiration from while creating Synthetik? I'm a scifi- and future-nerd myself so i'd really love to know!

ShrikeGFX16 karma

Its a bit of a retro futuristic 80s style but kinda evolved in something different, Chris Foss is a great artist to look up which inspired the patterns. Also C&C Tiberium sun a bit, but I totally dislike the generic sci-fi angular shape style most games go for and tried doing something simple and functional but generally I think the room layout is one of the big weaknesses tho.

desk_fan14 karma

3 years of working in the Dark

Did you use f.lux or are you now legally blind?

ShrikeGFX4 karma

The implication is that you have no clue if it is going to work with no outside feedback

Esty8nine13 karma

Is twitch.tv/esty8nine the dopest SYNTHETIK broadcaster you know ?! ;) <3

ShrikeGFX7 karma

Definitely!

Gerdazaurus13 karma

What has been the hardest challenge overall for you guys during the whole project?

ShrikeGFX11 karma

Game wise, definitely the environment layout and generation. The 2D Perspective made it very abstract and way way harder than it should be and we remade the entire room layout multiple times, which easily cost half a year of stress in total. Now all is in multiple 256x256 blocks basically and its still one of the biggest weaknesses in the game, mostly visually however. I was seeking help from other artists even but nobody could provide me anything that made it look good. In the end it is pretty ok I feel but it looked awful for years (as seen in the progress link)
https://imgur.com/gallery/ckpVX

TEFAlpha912 karma

I love this game!

What do you enjoy the most about video game development, and how did you stay committed to the project after such a rough start? Did you ever get tempted to throw in the towel and get a job at wallmart?

Keep up the great work Shrike et al. !!

ShrikeGFX16 karma

Creating something cool that works is easily the best part

Like when I have a good idea for an item, and I make the 3D model, write the code, and then it works and blows something up or does something cool and it feels really nice to use with a sound I mixed, thats one of the best feelings that exist for sure

At one point I was tempted to take a job in the industry at a large company doing a city building browser game, thank god they didn't take me (apparently due to my spoken english)

reinhardrules8 karma

What was the exact moment you realized that the game was going to take off?

ShrikeGFX14 karma

Friends who played the first alpha 4 months before release played for hours on end, that was the first time I thought it could really work well, but then our stats for the first open beta test had shown that the average player played 39 levels which surprised us a lot.

Still we were 50:50 torn until launch from "Its going to be great / Its going to be a trainwreck" - In the end it worked out "well"

jimkill1237 karma

The game looks very stylistically interesting. What are your future projects like? Have you already started working on your next game?

ShrikeGFX5 karma

Can't tell much yet, we are in the concept phase still. There will one new project in a new engine and something smaller based on Synthetik coming out also

nacl10101016 karma

If you knew how things would turn out before you started this project, would you still do it?

ShrikeGFX4 karma

Well it worked out but its really a crazy process, I didn't even know how to program before I started.

Knowing how hard it would be would probably be off putting, hard to say

DonIongschlong6 karma

did you have any experience with shooters or even just similar games? because this game seems very polished and considering your problems it looks like you have very talented people working there. unfortunately i can only play this game every once in a while at a friend since i don't have the ability to spend money on games right now. but from what i have seen this game is awesome :b

ShrikeGFX4 karma

Thanks! For the previous FPS project that we scrapped I researched/tried nearly all FPS on the market, including the Chinese / Korean ones and generally specialized on the genre a bit, but with Synthetik I could finally implement my ideas for the shooter genre but without being required to make first person animations, as animation is really my/our achilles heel and nobody can do that from us

Zybba6 karma

  1. Did you remove the option to reroll daily perks with the current update? If not, where can I do that?
  2. Did the game bring in enough money to have finance your next game with less pressure?

Youre awesome guys! Keep up the good work and communication! Your discord is really a nice place.

ShrikeGFX5 karma

Hey, the Prestige shop is now in the difficulty menu for the moment as there was no place with all the new perks
Yes we can work on the next game but there is definitely still a kind of similar feeling pressure

theawesome123235 karma

Hey! I baught Synthetik a while back and I loved it!! Its such a satisfying shooter to play. Plus pretty much anything with large guns and cool explosions gets my vote!

Out of interest what was your inspiration for the game?

ShrikeGFX8 karma

Nice! No direct inspiration, it was more what the other games were not, so more of a opposite inspiration. But indirectly, I saw risk of rain and that only 2 people made it, so I thought "I can do that too" - that was the inspiration to start programming for the project

fairchild_6705 karma

Congratulations!! The game looks great! Given what you've been through, I was curious what your criteria was to consider the experience a success?

ShrikeGFX12 karma

Thanks! Success means for me the game has a great rating and people play a lot, and we make enough money to afford renting an office and scale up, so being able to continue with the game and future projects, so it is also a financial success even if not wild.

etymologynerd3 karma

Why did you run out of money? How will you avoid that problem going forward?

ShrikeGFX3 karma

Well we just didn't have a lot, so we eventually ran out. Now we have a better budget for the next project but we can definitely not put the legs up at the slightest

Razrblade953 karma

What inspire you guys to develop this game and its unique game mechanics?

ShrikeGFX5 karma

At first I wanted to make a game where you feel like operating a bolt action rifle and really bad-ass with the best weapon feeling, and I wanted to bring the genre up to par with FPS and implement my ideas for weapon mechanics and other things. After the first prototype I realized the other weapons being too much fun so I scrapped the idea of a "marksman game" where you try to ricochet from walls, It was a pretty different concept at first.

foreverwasted3 karma

Would Synthetik be different if money was no problem, and if yes then how?

ShrikeGFX5 karma

Probably not extremely different. Maybe I could have let someone made nicer looking environments and we would have much more music at launch, but the Addon solved that thankfully. Also I would have let artists made more weapon models instead of buying and modifying / doing them myself but Im very happy with the result there.

Metric_Banana3 karma

Great work on the Legion Rising update, You guys have come along way.

Anyway are you going to be implementing support for 4 players?

I'm a gamedev myself so I can understand why it hasn't been done, map size, balance etc. but some hope for the future maybe.

ShrikeGFX2 karma

Thanks! Maybe but the chances stand something like 25%, it is a lot of work definitely

bluesbrothas3 karma

Best advice you could give to a game dev who is in early development stages of his first game?

ShrikeGFX7 karma

Statistically its 98% chance that it dosnt work out, don't hang too hard into the details, try getting it out and do the second, and the third will then have a realistic chance. If you are solo, try to team up, IndieDB is a great site, most projects will never be completed but you can find a team if you have a good concept.

Really depends on your current level. For 98% I would recommend taking 6 months off after graduation to pump out and learn, try to take a job in the industry, crank out stuff on the side and then try the transition after a couple years when you feel ready.

We already did some projects before but not commercially and I personally had a huge advantage with art school, art highschool, gamedev school and I spent crazy amount of time learning and reading about game design and all kinds of stuff in my freetime for all my school years, and I now can program and make sounds too, but I wouldn't make it solo.

itsmeyuii3 karma

I am going to be honest with you, Eric. I LOVED the art style of this game, the idea, the gameplay I saw on Steam, everything. I don't have the money right now, but as soon as this is on sale I will be buying it to support more games from you, guys!

Amazing job, especially with how many hours I have been putting on rogue-likes recently.

I do have one question though which I am not sure if it has been answered: how many hours per week did you guy put onto this game? I have a friend who is currently working on one entirely on his own and he spends 2-3 hours daily and, after 2 months, he finally released a pre-alpha for his friends (which has a lot of bugs, but at least it's an improvement, obviously!

ShrikeGFX3 karma

Thanks! That is very hard to say, it feels like a lot but how much are effectively productive is nearly impossible to judge. Now in the office we have more ordered times but often stay late, although with some larger pauses in between often

rhett8162 karma

Glad to see the AMA is doing well!

Do you guys get to play anything other than Synthetik?

And will you ever take a day off? Seems like you guys are always working on the game around the clock.

Thank you for your hard work, and pouring love into this game that I adore so much.

ShrikeGFX3 karma

Last week was every day until 11 AM, I didnt have realy vacancy for years but I don't really feel like I need it so much, when you work from home, its always vacancy but also never. This is different with the office tho, but its so close to home, I feel very little stressed usually, aside of the Legion rising launch right now, that was too much.

Aside of Synthetik I play Dota2, FPS in general, recently a bit of Vermintide and Dirty Bomb, 2 months ago we played minion masters in the office quite a bit

DominicVahn2 karma

So I'm a huge fan of Top down shooters, rogue-types, games like this one basically. I really would want to play if not for the terrible controller support. I play almost exclusively with a controller, I don't want to play with a mouse and keyboard. I saw on your roadmap that you plan to improve controller support. When do you think that might be a thing?

Also, is local co-op still planned for a console release? Do you have any ideas about when that might be? I'm looking forward to playing this in the future.

ShrikeGFX1 karma

Personally I really like the free look, it has a bit of a getting used too (as with varied things in the game), but if you have it down it has much higher possibility space than default shooter aiming behavior / locked look and is more relaxed to play with but we will definitely improve the locked looking mode in the near future, there was just no time left for the expansion

benthesheepdog1 karma

If it hadn’t have worked out and you had to go do a ‘normal’ job instead, what would you both be doing now?

Great looking game BTW.

ShrikeGFX3 karma

I would probably be working for a web city builder exploitation game, thankfully that didn't happen
Otherwise I don't know, maybe I would be trying on the steam workshop again

critical22101 karma

Will there be a battle Royale mode? In your games.

ShrikeGFX1 karma

Highly unlikely : P

nirem1 karma

What is the best way for someone to get into game design if all they have is a desire to make good games and no experience, background, or artistic skill?

ShrikeGFX2 karma

The only real way is learning programming in that case from as far as I see. Try learn C# and go for unity tutorials on the side as much as you can

RedBaron421 karma

Love the game! Did you guys ever have something unintended happen but decide that you like it, so you kept it in the game?

ShrikeGFX3 karma

One of the craziest things is when I made a sound for the Legendary Orbital Laser item 'Redline'

I made varied sounds for it, but there was a oversight in the looping code for the looping beam sound, which made it play every frame instead of every second but ingame it sounded like a very nasty alert sound that somehow fit much better than my original sound and thematically fit the item even, so I recorded the sound through windows audio and cut it into a real loop and put it back ingame with proper code.

Also a small recent thing, when the pressure chargeup weapon is jamming, the heat still raises and it overheats if you don't unjam it quick enough, which makes total sense but was not consciously intended

DawgPoundInc1 karma

Nice job guys. As a SIM racer I find it hard to land sponsors or support for what I do from companies and in general. How did you guys recover from hitting bottom to where you are now?

ShrikeGFX2 karma

No idea, the Kickstarter failed and I got pretty motivated for some reason and pumped out tons of improvements after we had kind of a downtime before, one downtime was a couple months even

In retrospect it was pretty mental as we did 1.5 years after that. When Alex reminded me last week I was like "What? No way"