Hi!

I've been a game developer for over 10 years now. I got my first gig in California as a character rigger working in online games. The first game I worked on was never announced - it was canceled and I lost my job along with ~100 other people. Thankfully I managed to get work right after that on a title that shipped: Marvel Heroes Online.

Next I moved to Boston to work as a sr tech animator on BioShock Infinite. I had a blast working on this game and the DLCs. I really loved it there! Unfortunately the studio was closed after we finished the DLC and I lost my job. My previous studio (The Marvel Heroes Online team) was also going through a rough patch and would eventually close.

So I quit AAA for a bit. I got together with a few other devs that were laid off and we founded a studio to make an indie game called "The Flame in The Flood." It took us about 2 years to complete that game. It didn't do well at first. We ran out of money and had to do contract work as a studio... and that is when I sort of hit a low point. I had a rough time getting excited about anything. I wasn’t happy, I considered leaving the industry but I didn't know what else I would do with my life... it was kind of bleak.

About 2 years ago I started working on a small indie game alone at home. It was a passion project, and it was the first thing I'd worked on in a long time that brought me joy. I became obsessed with it. Over the course of a year I slowly cut ties with my first indie studio and I focused full time on developing my indie puzzle game. I thought of it as my last hurrah before I went out and got a real job somewhere. Last year when Epic Games announced they were opening a store I contacted them to show them what I was working on. I asked if they would include Kine on their storefront and they said yes! They even took it further and said they would fund the game if I signed on with their store exclusively. The Epic Store hadn’t really launched yet and I had no idea how controversial that would be, so I didn’t even think twice. With money I could make a much bigger game. I could port Kine to consoles, translate it into other languages… This was huge! I said yes.

Later today I'm going to launch Kine. It is going to be on every console (PS4, Switch, Xbox) and on the Epic Store. It is hard to explain how surreal this feels. I've launched games before, but nothing like this. Kine truly feels 100% mine. I'm having a hard time finding the words to explain what this is like.

Anyways, my game launches in about 4 hours. Everything is automated and I have nothing to do until then except wait. So... AMA?

proof:https://twitter.com/direGoldfish/status/1184818080096096264

My game:https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/product/kine/home

EDIT: This was intense, thank you for all the lively conversations! I'm going to sleep now but I'll peek back in here tomorrow :)

Comments: 2368 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

STAVKA1125 karma

In your post you mention that you signed on before the Epic store launched and the controversy started. Now that they've launched and there's been very... mixed public opinion, how have they treated you as a dev? Are you still happy with your choice?

diregoldfish1745 karma

It is no secret that Epic is amazing to other game developers, so working with them has been really easy and fun. This was by far the easiest storefront to work with.

And yes, I'm very happy with my choice. There was only one other place offering me funding at the time and they wanted both a larger cut of revenue AND I would have been on an even less known storefront. Also (knock on wood) the backlash against the Epic store hasn't been aimed at me. I didn't ever promise the game would be on Steam, I didn't have a Kickstarter... no one cared when Epic picked up my game! I have been very fortunate.

shrubs311185 karma

It is no secret that Epic is amazing to other game developers, so working with them has been really easy and fun. This was by far the easiest storefront to work with.

From the rest of your comment, it doesn't seem like you were talking about Steam. Did you try getting on Steam before realizing the Epic Store was a better option for you?

diregoldfish594 karma

Yes, I've released games on Steam before and as a gamer the vast majority of my library is still on Steam. Also, I have meetings with Valve reps at different industry events. They are cool people and I am excited about the new features they are adding to their storefront. I'm probably going to have a beer to celebrate the launch with Ichiro (he's the Boston local that made the micro-trailers feature on Steam) later tonight.

There may be a divide between gamers as far as the storefront wars go, but there isn't really one between the devs. I have close friends that work at Epic and I have very close friends that work at Valve. None of my friends are upset that I'm releasing on the Epic Store first. I initially took down the Steam page for Kine when I signed my deal with Epic, but Valve encouraged me to keep it up and they were happy to put it back up again later. Valve wants their customers to be able to wishlist Kine on Steam so that Vale's customers know when the game launches on that platform.

There are gamers that will wait and only play Kine when it comes to Steam, we all know that. Epic is going to try their best to make a storefront that is as feature complete and compelling as Steam is. Valve is going to try and keep market advantage by innovating with their storefront. Devs (want to be able to eat, but also) are going to want gamers to play their games. Gamers are going to play their games where they want to. Everyone is pretty reasonable tbh.

penny_eater119 karma

Valve wants their customers to be able to wishlist Kine on Steam so that Vale's customers know when the game launches on that platform.

Whats the exclusivity deal with Epic like? Not to get into the weeds of the exact contract, but what do you see as the likelihood/timeline for this to happen? Does Epic think of exclusivity as a temporary thing or are they protective since they provided you up front funding? Or am I thinking about this all wrong and Epic would also benefit from the Steam sales, its just a matter of when they feel exclusivity is no longer more valuable?

diregoldfish169 karma

You are correct that I cannot get into the details of the contract - legally you aren't supposed to disclose contract details like this. Epic hasn't really clamped down on devs speaking out a lot though, and a lot of people have broken the rules. You can probably see a strong trend for how long games are PC exclusive on the Epic store before being available elsewhere. (Kine is also launching on consoles today btw...)

I think there is wisdom to having a game launch on another storefront. When we released The Flame in The Flood on PS4 our Steam sales spiked up. Launching on any platform gets you into the news, and then new customers will find out about your game. Those new customers might prefer to buy your game on their favorite store and so... basically every time you launch your game somewhere new you tend to see a spike in sales everywhere. It is hard to say if that will happen when going from the Epic store to Steam since it is the same platform. Though there are kids that spend a lot of time in Fortnite and have a large game library on the Epic Store (and no library on Steam.) Those kids would probably see news about it because it launched on Steam and then they would buy it on EGS. It's unknowable how many people that will apply to later on though. We'll have to wait and find out.

Veranova840 karma

Making games requires a huge set of skills (modelling, texturing, sound effects, music, coding, etc etc)

How was the shift to indie development for you? Did you have to put in time learning all this, or were you able to bring on people to fill your weaker areas?

diregoldfish1370 karma

I was one of those rare generalists in AAA. I worked as a tech artist (focused on character rigging and technical animation) for most of my career. So I have a lot of training in scripting languages and I have a background in art, but that's still not enough to make certain types of games right?

I didn't have money so I designed a game I knew I could make. Kine is a single player puzzle game for a reason - I am not capable of coding a multiplayer game, or anything with AI. That is outside what I'm personally capable of. I don't have Visual Studio installed on my machine, I made a game that I could craft entirely in blueprint script. I leaned into what I could do and designed a game that didn't require skills I didn't have.

slowfly1st82 karma

I have a follow-up question on this one. We had a discussion in r/learnprogramming ( here ) about "how to become a game developer". One statement was, that

Real game development requires serious computer science, including AI, graphics (the scientific foundation, Ray tracing linear algebra etc)

My counter argument was basically "Stardew Valley -> 'nothing fancy about it', one person, but a great game -> You don't need to be a crack to create awesome games"

What's your standpoint?

diregoldfish260 karma

If you are in a forum of people who are excited to learn programming then the art and importance of programming will be emphasized. The amazing experiences in tools like Twine or PuzzleScript or RPGmaker will be minimized. People in a programming subreddit will naturally argue that those aren't "real game development" requires programming. This isn't a bad thing, we all have things that motivate us and some people find programming super fun and interesting.

On the other hand if you hang out on Polycount (a 3D artist forum where a lot of indie devs who are more art focused used to hang out) then the importance of 3D will be emphasized. 2d game development isn't real game development. Most of the silly "programmer art" games coming out of that reddit will be looked down upon. If you are in a Puzzlescript Discord, then the importance of tight puzzle design will be considered incredibly important to the art of making games. Design in its raw form will be considered the most important thing.

There are a lot of different ways to make games. The important thing is that you find the experience fulfilling and that you are crafting what you want to make. To me it is also important that I reach people. I want to make things that make people smile or make people laugh. I don't need to be a software engineer to meet that goal, and I obviously didn't need to understand " serious computer science, including AI, graphics " in order to craft Kine. I don't have visual studio installed on my computer and I don't know shit about graphics stuff. You can argue Kine isn't real game development if you want - people argue all sorts of things. But Kine is a 6 hour game launching in 30 minutes on xbox, ps4, switch, PC, and later on it is launching on Stadia. So... anyone can consider Kine "not a game" if they want, but the world doesn't seem to agree ;)

magneticgumby32 karma

I read your description and immediately thought, "Wow, a game dev that has actual experience in a multitude of areas, that's a unicorn". My brother works in the field and I found it astounding the amount of game devs who lack what you'd think would be key essential knowledge to have that position. The only thing I've found more astounding, is the amount of people in the video game industry who don't play video games, play a very very small sliver of games, or have no interest at all in the industry and just see it as a job.

diregoldfish93 karma

This is important though! At some point you have to let people do their jobs. If one person has spent weeks of time tuning the weapon timing in a game to feel balanced and correct, and then anyone out of the hundred people at the studio can just change that on whim then the game will suffer. You have to let people own specific things on a game and become specialists at it. If 100 people want to each do everyone else's jobs then you haven't correctly utilized your 100 people.

It is okay if a character modeler doesn't have an opinion on the weapon feel. Does that make sense?

ShadoWolf16 karma

Are you planning to learn C++ and Unreal at a programmatic level in the future? I sort of assume being forced into only using blueprints must be limiting your creativity a bit

diregoldfish69 karma

I don't know what my plans are. I still have to figure out what I want to do next... but if I want to make a game with AI or something like that then I'll probably find a way to secure funding for it and then hire a programmer. No matter what I do next I suspect if I start hiring people and staffing a studio the very first hire I'll have will be a programmer. It is the biggest hole in my skill-set right now.

x-Sage-x575 karma

What is your opinion on current monetizing tactics in the dev world?

I.e, in game purchases, free to play models vs paid games, FreeLC vs paid DLC, etc.

Is there a difference in the quality of game that can be brought to the table when utilizing pay models that often are seen as "unnecessary" - mainly like loot boxes, etc.

An example i could give would be the EA controversy over Battlefront 2, where players could "pay to advance" rather than grind it out, or the loot box fiasco in general.

I'm not asking this question to shout out "EA BAD" like everyone else, but i generally want to know if these models actually go towards supporting a better game, or are just going to your bosses pockets / etc.

And as a developer, if there was one thing you could tell us players / consumers on how we could properly show support for the games we love, what would be your tip to all of us?

-side edit;
Also it's kind of cool to see that you worked on MHO.
It's a shame that game got shut down, as it really was a ton of fun to play.

diregoldfish1300 karma

I had to take time to think on this one. It is possible to ethically use any monetizing scheme, but things like randomized loot boxes are often crafted in a way to take advantage of people. I personally prefer to make a game and then sell it for a fixed price. As a gamer when I buy a game I like having the comfort of knowing that I have bought the entire game and I wont need to pay some other, unknowable amount of money in order to enjoy the full experience.

If you love a game reach out to the devs and ask how you can best support them. Sometimes it is buying their game off of a website rather than a storefront, or buying merch, or simply promoting their work with good reviews and sharing their work with your friends. Self promotion sucks and most devs are slow to promote their own work, but EVERY dev loves seeing fans promote their stuff. This is true in both indie and AAA. When BioShock Infinite launched we read what people were posting about the game on different subreddits. It means a lot to us when we see people saying kind things on the internet. It just feels good to hear that your hard work is appreciated :)

Vetcenter381 karma

What does your game have to do with cows?

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kine

go86em306 karma

It’s always the toughest questions that AMA’ers ignore.

diregoldfish330 karma

lol

Fangirlhasnoreality374 karma

What are the last few days at a closing studio like?

diregoldfish731 karma

The last few days are like every other day at the studio. Then they bring you into a room, tell you that the studio is going to close, and you get escorted out of the building within an hour.

At least that is my experience. They want to do it fast, like ripping off a band aid. And then they don't want you around the office breaking equipment or getting revenge on the company in some way afterwards. They want you to go home and cool off.

CapstickWentHome41 karma

Next week I hit my 25 year anniversary of starting in the games industry. I've experienced just three closures during that time.

The first one, we heard about a couple of months before they actually pulled the plug, but it was supposedly a "secret" while the powers-that-be figured out the legal/financial details. Presumably how to get rid of the place while paying out the minimum without running afoul of the local laws. But we came to work, pretended everything was ok, waited until that final meeting was called, then were all escorted out.

The second time was a bit more of a surprise. We knew things weren't great, but didn't realize quite how bad things were until I turned up for work one morning to find the doors locked and a security guard turning people away. The final meeting was called in the parking lot a few days later. It was several weeks until we were able to be escorted back into the building to retrieve personal belongings.

The third time was a tiny company - about a dozen employees - and the owner decided to shut up shop at the end of the current round of projects. We got a fair amount of notice and he helped people find jobs with his contacts in the area. This one was a slow wind down... people gradually disappearing, furniture being sold off, until there was only a couple of us left in a mostly bare office space.

diregoldfish30 karma

Hey, I'm sorry you went through those. This industry is super turbulent and I'm kinda shocked you've only lost your job 3 times in 25 years. As much as it sucks to say that's actually a really good ratio!

I think a lot about how we need to grow and change as an industry to minimize the number of layoffs like this. It is difficult to take bold risks and make innovative/experimental things but keep a steady cash flow. I've given talks about what businesses can do, but as an American I think one thing the American government could do is put a law in place so that if you lay off >25 and >5% of your workforce at once then you must pay them for 2-3 months after you let them go. It seems like a small thing but that makes such a huge difference in these situations. Obviously it wouldn't help if a company is going bankrupt, but most of the time these companies aren't going bankrupt and they have the funds to do this.

wokka1131 karma

Was Kine a solo effort in the end after signing or did you wind up hiring help?

Congrats on the release!

diregoldfish271 karma

I ended up hiring on average 4 artists for 4 months on contract. I also hired someone to port the game to other platforms (through Disbelief) and I hired a studio to translate the game and give me QA.

Also I obviously paid a composer to make music for the game! So it wasn't truly a solo project :)

concretebox5 karma

How did you decide who to hire to do the music?

diregoldfish44 karma

I was heavily inspired by La La Land when I was starting this game. It had just come out and at the time I was so happy to watch a film about hope and following your dreams. Trying to make it as a musician is one of the few things int he world crazier than trying to make it as a game developer.

Anyway I went to this local game dev meetup and there was this kid that had just graduated college. He loved jazz, played first chair trombone, and he really wanted to make music for games. He had no idea what I was working on (no one did then) and he talked on and on about Smash, game audio, and also about jazz music. It kinda seemed like fate or something, so I hired him to make the OST for Kine. He crushed it!

Mitchel gets all of the royalties from any soundtrack sales. Check out his work and consider supporting him:
https://mitchelwong.bandcamp.com/album/kine-official-soundtrack

icanfly119 karma

Hey Gwen,

Since it’s an ama - and I’m all bouts that ui... How did you approach the UX/UI side of your project and what have your learned along the way?

I did so enjoy working with you on Bioshock Infinite, Getting to know you over the years and watching the development of Kine!!! It’s so exciting that you chased your own path and found your platform - your skills and abilities never cease to amaze me!

Congrats on your launch!!!

diregoldfish91 karma

I did a big write up with this with several time lapse videos. You can check it out here:
https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/tech-blog/from-blockout-to-launch---a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-kine-s-level-design?fbclid=IwAR15eTX-wi-Xb2RAa3wu9n9K1qagvm0wmigKNquFnI1J9LVy5ajN9sk1fP4

I'm pretty sure I went into UI, but that was honestly a massive struggle for me. I didn't know what the game was going to be like at first, and I had a hard time achieving the vision that I wanted. I tried having a world map that you would click (and that failed) I tried having narrative flavor text (And that was largely cut.) In the end I stumbled into what I have and while it works well I'm not convinced I couldn't have come up with something better.

Let me know if you have any specific questions from the article :)

Ethelea01118 karma

When you decide that you want to make a game because you really like the idea and you would like to play something like that (if that happened to you), do you actually end up playing the game that you made?

I'm asking this because I am a pianist and a lot of the times it takes a long time and a lot of work to learn a piece of music, and when I finish I get kinda burned out and the piece becomes boring to me because I played every part of it so many times. I'm guessing that the same thing happens with game development.

diregoldfish154 karma

I mean, this is definitely true in a way. A puzzle game is fun because you are working out the solutions, but I know the solutions to every puzzle by heart so I can't experience that fun.

LavySavy116 karma

How long did it take for you to design, develop and create your new indie game?

Do you have any tips on gaming up with concepts for new games?

diregoldfish147 karma

I did a very write up complete with video footage at different stages of development here:
https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/tech-blog/from-blockout-to-launch---a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-kine-s-level-design?fbclid=IwAR15eTX-wi-Xb2RAa3wu9n9K1qagvm0wmigKNquFnI1J9LVy5ajN9sk1fP4

If you want me to dive further into anything else let me know!

lemonilila-3 karma

This is amazing. I’ve started making an indie game a few weeks ago, and I love reading all of your replies. Do you have any advice for someone just starting out, with basically no knowledge? I’ve been using UE4 and following along to video tutorials to get the skills I need but I still don’t know if I will be able to develop it all individually. How did you go about finding other freelance people to help you?

diregoldfish13 karma

You know, it is actually really hard to give advice to people just starting out now. I started making games over a decade ago, and a lot has changed. Any advice I give you relative to my experience wont work any more, ya know? "Get involved in the modding community?" "Make friends at industry events like GDC?" That advice is terrible!! GDC is way to expensive to students now and not a great place to meet devs if you are new.

So... I can't help much. I think if I was new now I'd probably find someone that has just gotten the job I want and ask them how they did it. It sounds like you want to be a solo dev or an indie dev, I suspect you should figure out what you are good at and use tools to help you make something that is very small in scope and very good. Consider: twine, rpgMaker, PuzzleScript. Figure out the genre you want to work in and finish something small in that genre. Try different things until you find the thing that interests you. When you start working on a larger project... that moment wont be a choice. Your passion will drive you there against your will at some point. So try really hard to make small at first.

I hope that is good advice, but again, it is hard to be sure :-/

MaxMhad53 karma

What's your favorite game?

diregoldfish119 karma

That is a cruel question... I would need to give you a list.

By hours it was probably Civ (anything in the franchise, but Civ 5 hooked me the most)
For inspiration as a dev it is probably Inside.
The one I just started last night and I'm already in love with is Disco Elysian. I've only put 30 minutes into it and it is already jaw-droppingly good.

kenmorechalfant12 karma

INSIDE is a damn fine piece of art. Can't wait to see what they do next.

diregoldfish5 karma

Amen.

sirenCiri7 karma

Civ has a way of stealing hours. PS I loved flame in the flood and am sorry to learn it didnt do well!

diregoldfish13 karma

The launch wasn't strong, but it did a lot better over time. The Switch sales specifically were great for us! I'm happy to say the The Molasses Flood (my previous studio) is doing well now! Their next project is fully funded, and they are pitching yet another announced game to different publishers as we speak :D

Kelter_Skelter43 karma

How much did Epic pay for exclusivity? Are they paying you to do this AMA?

diregoldfish73 karma

I can't legally say how much they paid for exclusivity. And they are not paying me for this AMA. I didn't even tell them I was doing this.

You could tweet at Tim and let him know I guess? It would probably help me get noticed ;)

StartupTim43 karma

Hey there, been a follower of yours in Twitter for a bit! I'm working (on GamingVPN.com) while writing you. Thanks for the AMA!

Question: What are your thoughts on how people are so divided on the whole Steam vs Epic store bit?

diregoldfish107 karma

I think it is a mixed bag - there are some people with legit complaints and there are some bad actors who just want to rage.

I can understand someone being upset if they were really, really looking forward to a game and then found out they couldn't play it because it moved to a storefront that doesn't support their currency. As a gamer that would suck! I would be upset! Things like that I totally understand. However, a lot of the people raising their voices don't have very clear complaints (other than the Epic Store not being as good as Steam yet). I think that is valid - the Epic Store doesn't have all the features Steam has right now. But as a developer that makes single-player experiences and doesn't need community forums/etc I don't need most of those features. My customers mostly don't care if Kine is on Steam or on the Epic Store, and I get way more of my sales revenue and way more discover-ability on the Epic Store. I actually do want to support what Epic is doing because I'd rather not have to pay for a bunch of Steam features that I don't use. In the long term I like the idea of only paying 12% vs 30% to my digital storefronts. I also think competition is good and healthy so... I'm obviously very pro-Epic right now.

The_SpellJammer36 karma

So...

What you playing these days? Or what are you trying to find time to play, since you're busy lol.

diregoldfish50 karma

I have a lot of down time right now actually! I just played Eliza over the weekend. I never liked visual novels before, but this one really spoke to me. I loved it.

I just bought Disco Elysium (as soon as it came out). I got busy with some Stadia work and I could only put 30 minutes into it so far, but I'm already floored with how innovative the narrative is.

Jearil5 karma

Is your game going to be on Stadia?

diregoldfish17 karma

Yes! It is a launch title on Stadia :)

FusRoTaco29 karma

Hi Gwen, this is probably buried at this point, but in the off chance you are still reading, I'm curious of your opinion of the state of the gaming industry as a whole currently.

A few years ago it felt like we were getting some of the best games ever made, and now we're seeing AAA titles being made like mobile games. With the success of remakes, backlash to questionable mechanics and broken games, and excitement around games that appear to put art before investment, do you see the trajectory of game development changing?

diregoldfish42 karma

I can understand why you feel this way but I strongly suspect AAA will have a resurgence next year. AAA games take many years to make, and everyone knew the next console generation would be in 2020. If you want to launch a massive new franchise then you want to do it on a fresh new console. Getting in early on a new console historically can seriously bootstrap new franchises. (Halo, Uncharted, and many major franchises were launch year titles) Also the exclusivity deals us tiny indies are making are NOTHING compared to the money being thrown at AAA for those new PS5 and XboxWhatever exclusives. AAA games take 35-100mil to make.

Q4 this year has been amazing for indie games. There are TOO MANY incredible indie games coming out right now... and very few AAA. There is a reason for that and I suspect we'll be hearing announcements about what is coming very soon :)

whooo_me24 karma

(possibly an obvious one, but...)

I'm an experienced (non-games) developer, but always wanted to develop some games idea of my own. Can you recommend any learning path to do that? Should I improve my animation or modelling & rigging skills (any good inexpensive online/offline resources for that)?

Or just focus on gameplay / AI etc. with placeholder graphics/models and hope some day I can afford to pay a professional to do the graphics/modelling side? :)

Thanks, and best of luck with your new venture!

diregoldfish36 karma

There are two things I'd focus on here. First, I would figure out what inspires you or what interests you. You wont stick with something if it isn't fun (at least not at first.) Is there a game that you love and want to emulate? Second I would strip the experience down to just something you can personally craft, at least for now. There is no reason you can't make a game using simple shapes. BaBa is You is one of the most successful games this year and the graphics for that aren't prohibitively difficult to craft. Focus on what you are personally capable of making.

Also keep in mind that the single hardest discipline to find is a programmer. There are loads of artists and designers looking for engineers to work with. If you did want to work with a team, or bring people on later, then you have a serious advantage!

davidwestray17 karma

I'm late to the game but Bioshock Infinite is one of my favourite games ever. Is there anything we the gamers have never found within that game?

diregoldfish24 karma

How many cats did you see in the Opening (Paris scene) of the DLC?

Did you find all 12?

Also... did you find Schrodinger?

the-nub17 karma

Assuming you could get any resources and support you'd need, what would be your dream project? Doesn't have to be limited to games, if there's anything else you'd be interested in working on.

diregoldfish45 karma

Maybe this is lame but it would definitely be a game. It would be a AAA tactical rpg. Think XCOM, but instead of shooting guns you fought using positioning on a grid sort of like how you do in Into The Breach. I would love to have a proper budget and lead a team to make that.

That's sortof my pipe dream. Tactics & Strategy games require very large budgets to be competitive. (Same with FPSers, but I don't really care about making those)

NewbGaming16 karma

I picked up "The flame in the Flood" off a whim and it's one of my favorite indie games. What was your role in that project?

diregoldfish25 karma

That was made by a team of 6 people: a designer, 2 programmers, 2 artists, and an animator/tech artist. I was the animator/tech artist. So I did all of the rigging and animation in the game, some FX stuff and some shader stuff. I also did the first pass scripting of some of the behavior for the various characters.

litvac16 karma

First of all, congrats on launch! So excited to try the game. I was wondering what inspired you to make Kine? The premise seems so charming!

diregoldfish28 karma

At the time I was obsessed with a film called La La Land. There was something so heartwarming about that movie! It was about following your dreams and having passion. I was pretty down at the time so this film really meant a lot to me.

As far as the mechanics go there is a game called Stephan's Sausage Roll that I really, really enjoyed. It is punishingly difficult, but for some reason I find moving around the space in 3D to be intuitive and the puzzles were very satisfying. I think working in 3D for my entire career has primed me to be really interested in 3D spacial puzzles.

Hellmark14 karma

Since you've gone Epic, how do you feel that you won't be able to sell to Mac or Linux users?

diregoldfish19 karma

I'm bummed that I wont be able to sell to Mac or Linux users. However, because of the money from Epic Kine is in available in 8 other languages that it wouldn't have been available in. It is also available on Xbox, Switch, PS4, and Google Stadia.

If I just launched Kine on Steam then it would have been available to English users that use Mac and Linux, but it wouldn't have been in all these other markets. That was a trade-off I felt was worth making.

MatNomis12 karma

I apologize, this is a two parter:

How is the Boston game development scene compared to other places you have lived and worked? How important do you think geography is to success?

...and...

Did you go straight from school into the game industry? Or did you have a prior "real" (as you referred to it) job before your gaming career? I ask this because I am in a "real" industry, but find a lot of appeal in the notion of going solo.

diregoldfish13 karma

There are advantages and disadvantages to living in certain places. If you live in a tech hub (like SF, LA, Seattle, or Austin) then you can more easily meet collaborators. You can get to meet ups and get ideas and support from others. However, those hubs are often expensive. If you are willing to lean into online communities you can live somewhere cheaper, but you wont have access to that awesome local community.

Honestly Boston is expensive and the game dev scene is not as active as LA/SF/etc. We havea tight-knit crew here and I enjoy living here... but if I was starting out I'd move to Austin or Montreal instead.

The economy was collapsing while I was in my last year of college. I went to GDC, got a job offer as a character rigger, and I was so scared at the time that I just took it! I left college before I actually graduated because I was worried I wouldn't get work if I waited any longer. In the end my professors let me finish up the last semester from CA :X

TrayThePlumpet10 karma

Is it too late? Did Gwen up and leave? Anyone know where she Gwent?

diregoldfish9 karma

Sorry, I had to hit the launch button ;P

Some_Gun_Nut9 karma

As a programmer in this industry, any advice you can give even though we're in completely different disciplines?

diregoldfish11 karma

I don't know, but I'll try. How long have you been in the industry? What kind of advice are you looking for?

blammotheclown8 karma

Is this a first-person puzzle game?

I'm happy for you that things worked out. Sounds very exciting!

diregoldfish9 karma

Nope. It is 3rd person. Here is a trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hKu5u2IZ5w&t=5s

Crater_Animator7 karma

Will your game soundtrack be available to stream on spotify or for sale?

I gotta say, I watched the trailer, and those beats and rhythms gave me a great sense of euphoria. I'd love to listen to this while I work. Thanks again! You've got yourself a customer here!

diregoldfish10 karma

I hired a composer to craft the sound track. He is allowed to sell the OST for royalties and I would love it if you supported his work! Here is his band camp:

https://mitchelwong.bandcamp.com/album/kine-official-soundtrack

BaBbBoobie7 karma

I hope you're still answering questions, and someone hasn't asked this.

What is your opinion of the hire/layoff cycle that big companies always seem to go through every couple of year, despite some of those layoffs coming after record sales of games? And the fact that these places can have toxic work culture (things like working long, unpaid hours to prove yourself). Do you think unions are the answer?

diregoldfish5 karma

I have very strong feelings about this and recently did a twitter thread on it. You can read the long form of it here:
https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1177968720834154496.html

You can reply here if you disagree, I just didn't want to type it out again :)

LyzbietCorwi7 karma

Hello Gwen! First of all, congratulations on finishing your game!

Here are some questions I have:

  • I just discovered about your game yesterday and even though the aesthetic is different, the complexity that the movements can have reminded me of Stephen Sausage Roll. Is that an inspiration for your game? What other games did inspire you?

  • In terms of difficulty, how would you rate Kine? Something that i find very curious in puzzle games is that a huge amount of players never finish them, getting to a point where they just can't advance anymore. That's not something I see that much in other genres. In the testing part of your project did you have a lot of players getting stuck?

  • Are you planning to include some kind of level editor?

  • How many levels is your game going to have (you can answer that one with a spoiler tag if you prefer, I just like knowing this before buying and not many devs include that info in the store page)

  • What are your favorite puzzle games?

Anyway, thanks in advance for any answer you can give.

diregoldfish13 karma

  • I loved SSR. Another game in this genre that I loved is Pipe Push Paradise. Check that out!
  • As far as difficulty - if your game is linear you have to make it easier. If your game is harder you have to give the player a larger number of puzzles to try out and you have to make them comfortable with the idea of walking away from a puzzle so getting stuck doesn't feel as bad. I think PPP and SSR are great examples of how to make a harder puzzle game. An easier (and linear) puzzle game would be something more like Thomas Was Alone.
  • No
  • Over a hundred
  • My favorite puzzle games to date are probably Swapper, SSR, PPP, and... god there are some amazing puzzlescript games out there. I have different reasons for liking each one of those so it is hard to choose! I tend to put more hours into tactics and strategy games than straight up puzzle games though.

trellos5 karma

What puzzle games have inspired you?

diregoldfish6 karma

I've said this before but Inside was a massive inspiration for me. That is a game that used mechanics to capture a feeling. Along these same lines I like The Swapper. I like how tightly the puzzles and the narrative are interwoven.

Stephan's Sausage Roll and Pipe Push Paradise are both excellent examples of 3D spacial puzzles.

In the Sokobon space I really like trying out the experimental puzzle script games. This is a fun way to spend your time and really gets your creative juices going.

The Witness and Portal 2 are massive inspirations because they are reaching for AAA quality in the puzzle genre. That just isn't something you see very often and it is very inspiring!

videovillain5 karma

Did you do the writing and programming and scripting, etc all alone too?!

diregoldfish6 karma

All of the gameplay code and the PC version of the game I scripted myself. For the console ports I hired a programmer buddy of mine to help. :)

Thalefeather5 karma

Did you contract out any work for your solo project?

If you did how was that experience for you?

If you didn't how was it doing almost everything yourself?

diregoldfish7 karma

I spent many months working on Kine solo while I had a job, and then I spent a year working on it solo as I had a part time job. I managed to get funding from Epic not long after I quit my job to work on Kine full time. After I had money in the bank I was able to hire some people: a programmer friend of mine to port the game to other platforms, and an art outsourcing house to help me uprez the art.

You can see the difference in this link. Look at the art in phase 2 vs phase 3 of production. That was the difference the money made.
https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/tech-blog/from-blockout-to-launch---a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-kine-s-level-design

I love working with other people and I vastly prefer that to working solo. However a large part of that might have just been that it was so stressful trying to dedicate the time to Kine that I wanted to while also having a steady job.

LiquidSnake135 karma

How was your experience with Epic Games? Did working with them cost any creative control?

diregoldfish24 karma

Absolutely none. It was fantastic! We signed a contract, they gave me money and they told me to get in touch when I needed to.

I have a channel in their slack and I ping them when I need something. That's it.

Cowmist5 karma

I love seeing devs branch off and do their own thing. It allows you to have such creativity and free reign in so many aspects. You can make the game exactly like YOU envision it; as well as not having a deadline. Do you plan to continue developing games? If so will you continue solo, or adopt a team to work under you?

diregoldfish6 karma

I will make games. This is what I do!

As for how (solo, grow a team, get a job) I have no idea yet. I need to make it through the next 48 hours and then I'll start to think on that more :)

high_byte5 karma

how did you think about the game's mechanics? it's a familiar concept but funky twist to it. I love the artwork as well.

diregoldfish7 karma

When I first started making this game I wasn't making a puzzle game at all. I'm not a designer and I've never tried to design a game. I'm a technical animator by trade.

I hate animating run cycles and I wanted to make a game where a character tumbled around a world by somersaulting and kicking off of walls. I prototyped this on a grid with a cube because that was the easiest way to get the tech up and running. Uh... then I draw a face on the cube. I loved this idea and I thought it would be a great puzzle game, but I didn't know how to make anything fun with it. I tried a 3D tetris kinda thing, but it didn't work well.

A few months later I played a game called Stephen's Sausage Roll and everything clicked. I realized it had to be a small grid based puzzle game. That was how the initial idea came to be.

Ssme8125 karma

Any keepsakes from working on BioShock infinite?

diregoldfish9 karma

Fuck yeah man! I still have all the vigor bottles, and a Songbird statue :D

jpfeif295 karma

How do you feel about epic?

diregoldfish23 karma

Epic is the company of game developers that built my favorite engine. I've built my career out of becoming an expert in that engine. I've shipped AAA games on their engine and when I needed help fixing something on BioShock I always knew I could message an Epic dev and an actual developer would help me.

When I first went indie 5 years ago We struggled to get noticed. Epic thought The Flame in The Flood looked cool, so they featured it in their GDC booth. Because of that we were noticed by the press and by our peers. This was huge for us. When I showed The Flame in The Flood at PAX my booth cost half what it should because Epic covers half the booth cost of any dev showing a game in the indie mega booth. This isn't just a PAX thing - Epic sponsers events for game developers all over the world. If you look at ANY developer event you will see that Epic has sponsored it.

The Unreal Engine became so powerful that me - an animator with absolutely no programming experience - could craft and ship a multi-platform title. When I declared that I was going to make Kine and I was going to make it entirely in blueprint script Epic cheered me on. They gave me a grant, which was how I could afford music for Kine in the very, very beginning. For years and years Epic has given 100s of thousands of dollars in grants to people that used their engine for cool shit. Google it - the mega grants have always been there.

And then when I went solo to make my artsy indie thing because I was so damned burned out on the industry... that was right when Epic happened to launch their store. They invited me to be a part of it and the completely funded Kine. They encouraged me to pursue my dream and make this into something real. They retweet my work, they are feature my blog posts on their blog, and Kine is at the top of their store right now. I am financially secure for a bit thanks to Epic.
Epic Games has supported my efforts to make games for over a decade. I honestly sincerely love Epic Games. They are my favorite company in this industry. They have supported me for literally no reason for literally a decade now. I will do everything I can to make sure their storefront is a success. In all seriousness: I'm bummed that there isn't more that I could do.

Bodhisattva90015 karma

You're insane for answering 8 hours straight! Lol take a break!

Question:The Flame In The Flood was definitely one of my favorite games/experiences of all time.

I played it through the Xbox Game Pass, how do developers make money from putting their game their? Does Microsoft just pay you a big chunk or something?

diregoldfish4 karma

I can't say exactly what we did, but I can say that there are a lot of services like this out there (Humble Bundle, GamePass, PS+, etc) and they typically give you a large up front sum of money in exchange for giving your game away to people in their service. The sum depends on which platform it is and how long your game will be free in their service. Typically you look at how well your game is selling on that platform and do some math to figure out how many sales you are giving up if you go into their service, and then you ask for a sum of money that is greater than that.

There are newer subscription services out there that pay based on the number of hours that gamers are spending in your game. I personally hate this as a developer. I prefer shorter quality experiences over longer clicker-type experiences. But hey... mobile games are popular for a reason! It's just not my cup of tea.

creamiememe4 karma

Oh shit you made The Flame in The Flood? I love that game

diregoldfish3 karma

Neat!

tfresca3 karma

How has life been as a female developer? Do you get a lot of shit? Did you have reservations even doing this ama?

diregoldfish6 karma

Heh... look at this thread. It actually reflects my experience over the last year very, very closely.

When I went solo to make Kine I was worried about 3 things: that I would get a bunch of shit for being a chick, that I would get a lot of opinionated/grumpy devs giving me shit for not using a real programming language to make a game (this is a big deal in my industry) or that absolutely no one would notice my work. All of those scenarios would really suck and I braced for all of them.

Never in a million years did I imagine that I would get shit for launching my game on an unreleased storefront. I never saw this Epic Store controversy coming. And again, when I made this post I figured it would get buried - which would suck, I don't have a great marketing plan. I worried that Reddit is about 110% dudes and there's be a bunch of weird chick questions, and I figured there'd be devs that were overly suspicious about Unreal Script's potential to make a decent game. None of that mattered, easily 1/3 of the posts in this thread is about the Epic Storefront stuff.

Whenever you do anything you are going to get shit for it and you'll never really know why or see it coming :-/

Avijit972 karma

Hello. Congratulations on the release.

I wanted to ask which console was hardest to deal with while porting the game and making the deal with the console owners?

diregoldfish7 karma

By far the hardest was Stadia - for many reasons. They are a new console with a brand new cert process and they are ironing out the kinks. This is a "console" that works on any screen size, which means your UI has to work on a phone and also on a 4k monitor or a TV. This is a HUGE consideration. You have to support any input... just in general what they are trying to do is very difficult and really very impressive!

After that the hardest was probably Switch, just because (again) you have to support 2 different states for your game, and that platform has the lowest min spec. (The hardware in the xboxOne and PS4 is more powerful.) However the Switch was definitely worth it and I suspect that is the platform most customers will buy Kine on. I personally love my Switch... 100% worth the trouble imo!

eimas_dev2 karma

Hi. Looked at the teaser, looks beautiful and fun, congratz !

If it's ready to launch and you are going to do nothing, why did you schedule it 4 hours later ?

diregoldfish2 karma

You schedule these things weeks in advance. Kine is launching at the same time on Xbox, PS4, Switch, and PC. That kind of thing requires coordination and I had to get approval for the launch date/time way in advance.

HaitianFire2 karma

Have you ever met game developers who came from a wildly different background from what they were doing in the industry? If so, did they seem to enjoy their new jobs and handle it well?

diregoldfish3 karma

Devs come from all sorts of backgrounds. The animator that sat next to me at Irrational (Pete Paquette) was an ex-marine that trained himself as a film animator after leaving the military. He went from active duty to animating Horton Hears a Who. Then he ended up working with us at Irrational on Bioshock Infinite. He's an incredible father, a good friend, and well rounded person.

Life is crazy man.

messican_781 karma

What platforms will your game be available on? Will it also have DLC content, or will everything be all inclusive?

diregoldfish1 karma

Today is launches on PC (Epic Store) XboxOne, Switch, PS4. In a month it'll be on Google Stadia.

There is no DLC, this is a complete game :)

ticktockmaven1 karma

What kind of a game is Kine? And which platform do you think is the best to play it on? Good luck with your launch!

diregoldfish2 karma

It is a narrative 3D puzzle game about machines that dream of being musicians. It can get pretty difficult at times. I think you should buy it on whatever platform you prefer. I worked hard to make this a good experience on any of them!