How Developers Survive Zombie Apocalypses: Little Red Dog Games Interview
1. Why did you decide to start Little Red Dog Games?
Because nobody is telling the kinds of stories that we are. We build fun and challenging games that subvert tropes and expectations while maintaining a sense of humor. Rogue State (2015) is a high-stakes geopolitical thriller based on contemporary issues, but it also doesn’t hestitate to throw a despotic bantam rooster into the mix to keep you on your toes. Deep Sixed (2018) is a game where you use real-world chemistry to construct obscure chemical compounds, but also has you connect a monster-brain to a computer with some cables and duct-tape. We’ve got a strict no-dwarves, no space-marines policy, focusing instead on game themes and mechanics that are actually novel in a crowded marketplace. We survive in a really tough indie scene because people know our games are going to bring them something they’ve never seen before.
2. What do you find hardest with game dev?
All recent evidence points to a statistic that a disheartening 90-95% of game developers fail after releasing their first product. I think I heard at GDC last year that the average game on Steam makes only a few hundred bucks in its lifetime. Deep Sixed launched the same day as 130 other games, and some of them were/are good titles that deserved recognition. There are still amateur developers out there believing the hardest part about making games is creating a product that is polished and flawless and that if they put enough time and effort into it, the people will eventually come. The reality, however, is the hardest part of game development is dividing your time between developing the game and breaking through the noise of tens of thousands of other indie developers out there, all making labors of love and all trying to be heard. Making a good game isn’t enough anymore — now you must make a great game and figure out how to show it off to people that would love it.
3. I’ve been using this question a lot recently because I really enjoy reading answers but What would you do if a zombie apocalypse started right now?
I like this question because you’re getting straight to what’s important. We already live in an extremely remote location so regardless of the nature of the zombies involved, there will be plenty of notice to prepare and we won’t be dealing with the kinds of huge swarms that urban residents will. Long-term, however, you want the most defensible position possible, so the biggest challenge will be relocating from the residence to a really big luxury yacht somewhere, presumably in a big city, without attracting a swarm, and stealing it. Most of the coastline of the Americas is populated with cities rich with resources like fuel and food, and deprived of humans, assuming the zombies are effective at all. Our best hope would be to cruise along the coastlines, stopping only where an opportune warehouse, grocery store or gas-station is visible on the horizon, getting what you need, and moving on. You now only ever need to worry about zombies when you go looking for provisions, and don’t need to build and maintain elaborate fortifications. Luxury yachts aren’t hard to find in big coastal cities, and a lot of rich people are going to be dead. The biggest risk with this plan is a) it depends on our ability to hotwire a yacht, which I’ve admittedly never tried, but how hard can it be to learn when your survival is on the line and you’ve got a few days to prepared; and b) everyone else with a brain will have the same idea and there will be no boats left to steal or hijack. Good intel on the boat situation would be handy, so securing some drones first might be a smart idea.
4. What tips do you have on marketing for free?
A few days ago, a guy on Reddit decided to give away a game he had been working on (Geneshift) to everyone for free. Within a few days, it became the 10th most played game on Steam of all time. Has it done much to drive up paid sales of the game? Based on what he’s said, a little….but that exposure is incredible. You want to market for free, give people something to talk about. Like a free game that isn’t garbage. Or a game that does something nobody else has done before. Or a game that deals with subject matter nobody has dealt with before. It’s hard to be original, but it’s harder to make a living in gamedev.
5. There are a lot of new game stores at the moment, Where do see the game store market going and what stores do you as a developer have your eyes on?
I’m interested in the Discord and Epic efforts to give developers a better deal, but I don’t think people are going to walk away from a platform where they already have hundreds or thousands of games licensed. Anyone who thinks they will be “Steam-killers” doesn’t really understand the problem. They’ll more likely be “Steam-alternatives”, where people will use both platforms for a time, if anything. I’d love to sell my products here, there, and everywhere (and I do). But I know that 99% (not an exaggeration, literally 99+% is the figure) of my sales always come through Steam, and as a developer I can’t ignore that.
6. What ignited your love for game development?
It’s always been there. I’ve been making games for decades, the only thing that’s changed is the medium of choice, and my personal capabilities operating in that medium. If you took away my computers, I’d be making boardgames, if you took away my dice, I’d be making gamebooks. I’m just wired this way, and if I wasn’t making something, I’d be a fundamentally miserable person. The real test question I ask young people interested in this business is “If you are gifted three hours of free time with no strings attached, would you spend it consuming somebody else’s product, or working towards your own?” If you’re meant to work in this industry, you don’t have to convince yourself to get into the saddle every morning — you need convincing to step away from it and live a little. 7. One film that you would like to be able to develop into a game and one game that needs a film?
7. One film that you would like to be able to develop into a game and one game that needs a film?
Movies that I would love to acquire the IP for: Dune. It’s my favorite big of sci-fi IP, and there’s so much I’d love to do with it. That’s not to say they’re the most accessible books out there, or that Dune-themed games will do much in the marketplace, but you asked me what I’d like. As for games that should have been movies: System Shock, oh and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but only if we could go back in time and use a younger Harrison Ford. Or Deus Ex. That’d be amazing.
Little Red Dog’s Links:
Showing off precipice on their youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-kI6TDFgInYK2cxzq8Y2xg
Their beautiful Tumblr: https://lrdgames.tumblr.com/
Check out their art feed on their insta: https://www.instagram.com/lrdgames/
Learn about the team on their website: https://www.littlereddoggames.com/