I spoke with Sam and Adam from the awesome Butterscotch Shenanigans team about their inspirational journey creating Crashlands…
When and why did you guys start making games?
Sam: Seth and I started about 5 years ago. I was at it off and on during my final years of college while Seth went into it full bore. He was getting an MBA/JD at the time and found himself slowing sliding to the back of the classroom so he could code instead of participate in lecture! We made a game together for the Global Game Jam in St. Louis in January of 2012 and got hired in the parking lot by a local studio. That Fall we decided to take the leap into our own studio.
Adam: I joined because Sam and Seth got the ball rolling and I wanted to be a part of what they were doing. I enjoy problem-solving, programming, and data analysis, which are all essential tools for running game studio, so it was a straightforward career shift.
I see you develop with Game Maker and Inkscape. Why use these tools when there are much more powerful tools on the market?
For some reason a lot of people think “powerful” means “has every feature in the universe.” To us, “powerful” software is something that we can use to rapidly and reliably turn our ideas into games, and make those games accessible to as many people as possible. For what we’re trying to do there aren’t any more powerful tools on the market, though there certainly are other powerful tools.
What tool is most helpful for productivity?
Depends on what you’re trying to be productive at! For Sam doing art, AutoHotkey has enabled him to spend much more of his time drawing and less time working with menus. While we do try and use productivity tools, there is no better alternative to frequently revisiting your workflow and designing your own tools to improve it. Aside from that general flexibility with tools programming, we use a combination of Workflowy, google Drive, and Leankit Kanban.
What changed in your game development process after the cancer diagnosis and how do we see this in Crashlands?
Sam: The cancer diagnosis brought a lot of things into sharp focus – the main one being the use of living time for important things. We spend a lot less time on useless things now than we used to, and also generally get less personally affronted when trolls or negative folks make their usual, internet-only comments. We’ve always been lean and efficient, but I think the diagnosis just gave us that extra edge of certainty about the importance of using our time wisely. And not letting others waste it.
Crashlands has a lot of funny/goofy characters. What inspires their look and feel?
Sam: Our design process is highly iterative, almost like a long-form improv session more so than a heady design debate. Seth will say “Hey, we need an enemy that shoots stuff like this…” and I’ll take that for a few hours and make up some weird beast, which then gets animated and put into the game. If ever something isn’t ridiculous enough we’ll just throw it away and give it another go, with a freer mindset. We’re always trying to surprise each other and get some chuckles, so that helps a ton.
Crashlands is a beautifully crafted RPG with many cool features such as crafting. How did you make Crashlands different from the other crafting games on the market and why?
The biggest design goal we had for Crashlands was to remove the tedium usually found in crafting games and let the sense of adventure and exploration be the core focus. To do that, we had to step way back and annihilate the concept of inventory management. Once we did that everything else clicked into place, and the whole title gained the slick user-experience we were aiming for.
The procedural generation of Crashlands is awesome. How did you guys get it just right?
Procedural generation is easy – making it feel good is hard! We’ve been changing the way the land creates itself about every 2 months since the beginning of the project. It was just out of the sheer number of iterations that we finally landed on something that felt good. The breakthrough was when Adam pointed out we could have Sub-biomes, which would generate a sense of change across one of the Biomes and push back against that “randomly boring” feeling most procedural terrain has. It worked like a charm!
What is all of your guys’ biggest lesson learned from your game development careers?
Patience. Everything takes longer than expected, and you’ve got to lay plans that will pay off in two, maybe three years in order to start actually getting ahead. Then it’s just the game of surviving until those plans can come to fruition.