We’re proud to announce that we are going indie! Wooohoo!
inbetweengames are three former AAA developers who worked together at YAGER in Berlin on Dead Island 2. When that game got cancelled, we started thinking about what we wanted to do next. Turns out we wanted to keep making video games! So now we’re happy to announce that we’ll keep doing that as an indie team!
To celebrate, we’ve released our Ludum Dare 33 game, The Mammoth: A Cave Painting, on iOS and Android! You can play it here!
Here’s who we are and also a little interview:
aka Disruptive Technology – 1st Horseman of Indiepocalypse
Isaac Ashdown is the best gameplay programmer you’ve never met. With over 7 years in the industry including at YAGER and Zeroscale he worked on a myriad of games including Demolition Inc. and Dead Island 2. He’s also very excited to be finally responsibile for his own failures: no more blaming it on the publisher! Even though according to credible industry source KPOPSTARZ he was ‘Deep Silver Boss’ all along!
Jan David Hassel
aka Low Barrier of Entry – 2nd Horseman of Indiepocalypse
David was raised on German medieval festivals before being adopted by YAGER for 8 years where he helped develop Spec Ops: The Line, an undisclosed project and lastly Dead Island 2 as Staff Designer. In his spare time David enjoys talking to imaginary characters and his cat while hitting people with swords and wearing silly costumes.
aka Lack of Differentiation – 3rd Horseman of Indiepocalypse
Stemming from a dynasty of classical artists in communist Poland, from an early age Rafal had nothing but crayons and tons of art supplies to play with.
This gave birth to the 15 years industry veteran we now know (or in your case: don’t) who in his free time likes to obsess about art a lot.
What is this, are you guys interviewing yourself?!
Isaac: Someone’s gotta do it.
Rafal: I treat it more like the FAQ. Sometimes it’s good to stop for a while, question yourself, look at yourself from afar to establish who you are and what you do want to achieve.
David: We are doing a lot of prototypes right now for Art, Design, Tech, etc. in a way this is one of them.
Who are you guys anyway?
Isaac: I’m mostly a gameplay coder. That’s what I’ve done most of my time in the industry. But like all gameplay coders, I’m really just a game designer who can actually get shit done.
Rafal: We are three game developers with quite some years of professional experience. Maybe tiny bit tired of bigger, “AAA” projects. The game designer, the coder and the artist. I frankly couldn’t imagine working with better coder or designer than these two guys.
David: These two guys happen to be a dream team of everyone I worked with over 8 years condensed down to the minimal team size that makes sense for us. For some reason they decided it would be OK for me to join too. I guess I fill up the middle of whatever isn’t covered by them. Overall we’re covering the major disciplines of tech, art and design with 30 years of combined experience in professional game development. We’re also all out of gum.
So you guys are going indie, why should anybody care?
Isaac: Well if you like playing video games, you might be interested in the video game we already released The Mammoth: A Cave Painting. If you like that you might want to play our next game, which will happen in the future.
Rafal: Also we’re going indie but we’re not doing pixel art nor puzzle platformers.
David: We’re doing this after getting repeatedly cancelled for what.. the last four years? So while we have Spec Ops: The Line under our belt we still feel like we have something to prove. We want to make games and give them to you. That’s what we’re here for. That didn’t really work out in AAA the last couple of years for us. So we will have a go at this indie thing and don’t hold back intending to punch above our weight class as hard as we can. It will either work out or it will go up in flames. But it will be fun. You should watch.
Rafal: We decided to go indie to take responsibility for our potential success or failure in our own hands. You are kindly invited to witness that, to join our journey. Either we fail or succeed – it will be rather spectacular.
Going indie in the times of #indiepocalypse: you think that’s a good idea?
Isaac: A few weeks back when we were putting this thing together there was a tweet from Jonathan Blow about how if you’re thinking of quitting AAA to go indie you’re 3-4 years too late. But I’ve been doing this for other people for 8 years and have lost my job 4 times. Can indie be any worse than that? What’s the alternative, go work for a bank?
Rafal: As fun as it is to create video games – we also have serious approach to it. Our past experience in AAA development taught us that. It’s the work we love and we would like it to pay our bills also.
David: People are I think wondering about the fact that you may be can’t be an amateur indie developer and make money quiet as comfortably anymore. So you either have to take this seriously and try to set it up as a business or just accept that it is going to be your hobby which will not pay all your bills. But we’re not here to do this as a hobby. This is what we do.
Wait, weren’t you four people last time I checked?
Isaac: Our team member Daniel is staying with YAGER and has joined the Dreadnought team. So has our friend Bairbre who was The Mammoth’s narrator. You can actually recognise her voice from the Dreadnought trailer, and she’s joined that team too. We hope we’ll manage without them!
Rafal: Daniel, our Fourth Horseman of the Indiepocalypse, decided to stay with our former employer, YAGER. He wants to ship a big game so that decision is understandable. He is among the best game designers Yager currently has and I am pretty sure he will be an amazing addition to the Dreadnought team.
David: He’s going to kick metric fraktons of ass on Dreadnought. You should watch that too.
So you guys didn’t ship anything since Spec Ops? What happened?
David: Follow the money.
Isaac: I didn’t actually work on Spec Ops, for the record. I joined YAGER when Dead Island 2 was going into production. But yeah I haven’t shipped anything in a while either.
Rafal: We “shipped” The Mammoth! But seriously – we went through bunch of prototypes and two cancelled projects. I also worked on the prototype for Dreadnought. I am not sure what exactly happened with Dead Island 2 cancellation – I guess that’s the question you should ask Deep Silver and YAGER respectively. For us the good side of what has happened is that we probably would never have thought of going indie and doing something together if Dead Island 2 wouldn’t be cancelled. And here we are.
What’s up with the name inbetweengames and the logo?
Isaac: The name started off as a pun on being in between jobs and stuck. The Ludum Dare was just a week before we were all made redundant but we knew it was coming and it was rather on our mind at the time. Mammoths are cool.
Rafal: We came up with the name before Ludum Dare 33 and it stuck. We were in between projects then after we learned that Dead Island 2 was cancelled. Also the three of us are always in between games: either playing them or creating them.
The logo was a little bit of the struggle. We spent quite significant amount of time, went through 100+ ideas from more figurative to more abstract ones. It’s hard to be satisfied with whatever you come up with if you are emotionally attached to something like our endeavor.
The mammoth, we call him Rupert now, is the character from our first project together – so we thought using it as the reminder how it all started would be cool. When you put it on the tightrope you get interesting contrast – something heavy, yet in the air, balancing between the two safe places of the beginning and the end of the tightrope. We also wanted it to be easily verbally described: “you know, those guys with the pink mammoth on the tightrope”.
David: There are a lot of different layers to the meaning of the logo by now. I guess we might have been overthinking it. But that’s ok because I expect us to keep on doing that. We also presented 8 different options for our logo on Twitter and Facebook to see what people’s reactions would be. I also expect us to keep on doing that.
The Mammoth game and Ubisoft?
Rafal: Haha… straight coincidence! I was really surprised when I’ve seen announcement trailer. We have this running joke that we are the “trend-setters”, but of course that’s not true. To be able to ship it in 2016 – they must have been working on it for at least 1 year now. It’s an interesting direction Ubisoft is taking for Far Cry series. I am really curious about the story, narration and dialogues. i.e. will the characters speak English?
David: We were joking with some artist friends of our about making a AAA version of the Mammoth were you would play stick figures on a realistically lit cave wall. But it seems like Ubisoft has that covered now so I guess we can move on now.
Where can I play that Mammoth game you made?
Rafal: Ask Isaac…
Isaac: On PC. On OSX. In your browser. AND NOW…On Android and iOS too. Find your platform here: http://www.inbetweengames.com/mammoth
David: It’s also going to be touring through France on its own Arcade machine soon! Not the most reachable option from where you are now perhaps but we’re still pretty excited about that one.
What engine are you using? Unity right? Unity is so great! Everybody loves Unity!
Rafal: Everybody does! At least majority of indie developers are using Unity… But for now we are sticking to something three of us knows pretty well – Unreal Engine 4. We have combined around 20 years of experience working with Unreal. We only have heard great things about Unity and how easy it is to build prototypes with it. Maybe we will give it a go at some point.
Isaac: We’ve been using Unreal Engine 4 since before it was publicly released. My first thought when Epic announced the public release was, indie here we come. Frankly, it’s just so great for rapid iteration, that’s my main reason to use it.
David: Yeah we are sticking with what we know. Hopefully this will also help to distinguish our games and keep them visually interesting.
What about VR and AR? That’s the future right? Why aren’t you doing that?
Isaac: We don’t have any experience in it at all. Generally it’s good to stick to your strengths.
Rafal: I am very curious about these technologies but we are only three guys and we would have to spend all our resources on research itself. Maybe it is the future and it could happen that in the future it will be our future also.
David: People are really excited about VR and AR right now. But it seems to me that this is mostly an idea in people’s head. Sure there is prototypes, great tech, demos and lots of marketing hype but it’s not like you walk into any subway in the world and see people playing AR games there or in their homes. The reality is that people are playing games on PCs, consoles and mobile. So we will have to see what the future really becomes. We just want to make games now that people can actually play already and the real future is time travel anyway.
What kind of games do you want to make?
Isaac: Ones I’ve never made before.
Rafal: The ones which our small team size allows us to pull off properly. It’s probably easier to say what kind of games we will rather stay away from: first person shooters, MMOs, racing simulators, puzzle platformers, etc. We want to explore various art styles like stylized 2d or vector art rather than realistic 3d or pixel art. We want to dig out and explore different gameplay mechanics and mix them up.
David: I hope we’ll make games that choose which conventions they follow and which they break for a purpose and that this purpose will be the experience of the player. Also even though we’re going to make a game we can do with a small team in not a lot of time it’s not going to be a puzzle platformer. People seem to have those covered well enough and personally I suck at platformers so that probably wouldn’t work anyway.
So what’s your next project then?
Isaac: Good question! If only I knew…
Rafal: Ask David…
David: We’re working on it! Currently we are making a lot of prototypes and are exploring different approaches to it. We have a general idea that we think could be fun and interesting. However you never know with those things so if it turns out that our assumptions are wrong or we find something more interesting along the way we will change direction and go with something else instead. But we will drop whatever we can share as soon as we can.
When can we see something of that upcoming super secret project?
Isaac: Well one thing that’s really exciting about working independently is that we can be totally open about what we’re doing! So once we’ve got something we want to show, we won’t have to wait for any publisher to tell us it’s ok. So hopefully pretty soon!
David: We have given ourselves the rest of the year to explore those ideas we currently have and then hopefully can really show something off the beginning of next year. Until then you should follow our Twitter and Facebook to see what we’re up to. As soon as we have any bits to show we will do so there and we will also ask people’s opinions a lot like we did for deciding on our logo.