So things have been slower for me lately. I was supposed to have this interview out last week but I’ve been recovering from a nasty stomach bug that completely knocked me out. As a result, some content is being delayed as I recover, sorry about that!
I have a cool interview today with developer nobodyshalleraseyou, who’s immersive sim game Deadeye Deepfake Simulacrum released last Thursday. I hope to have a review of this out in the near future, but you can pick up the game right now by clicking on the link. Don’t let its archaic graphics fool you: this game has some serious depth to it.
In the meantime, enjoy the interview!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you do?
I’m 26, currently finishing up my PhD in computer science. I spend most of my free time making games, playing games, and spending time in the great outdoors.
What does being a game designer actually mean?
I think it just means you’re someone who knows how to put all the pieces of a game together into a greater whole.
There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years about microtransactions in gaming. Not so much an opinion, but why do games tend to cut out content to sell later as DLC and loot boxes? Is it to do with development costs? Or is it time related?
I haven’t worked in the industry for a larger company so I’m just going off what I’ve read and what friends in industry have told me. Microtransactions and loot boxes are so prevalent today because they pull in an absurd amount of money, usually from a tiny minority of players who are fine with spending thousands of dollars to unlock everything.
Content being cut and sold as DLC can happen for several reasons. One reason is again, just maximizing the amount of money brought in. Another reason is that projects can go over budget or run out of time and so non-essential portions that aren’t complete are set aside for later.
I’m pretty critical of micro DLC, where a game sometimes offers hundreds of small additions for a low price individually but a ridiculous price in aggregate. Paradox Interactive is a particularly egregious offender in this regard.
I think DLC can be a really good thing when it’s substantial and provides new story or gameplay content. Fromsoftware has a good track record with DLC expansions to their games which provide entirely new locations to explore. I’d like to think that DLC is generally easier to develop than a brand new game, and it can give developers an opportunity to experiment. Prey’s Mooncrash DLC provided this whole new game mode using mostly existing assets, and appears to have served as a primer for some of the mechanics used in Arkane’s next game Deathloop. If a game is good then players will probably appreciate the opportunity to get a little more of it.
Tell us about your current project.
Deadeye Deepfake Simulacrum is a top-down immersive sim set in the horrific shadows of the far future (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ It’s a game about conquering open-ended missions at the behest of your corporate masters. DDS can be pretty challenging but I try to offer players lots of customization options so they can discover their own way to play and subvert that difficulty. A player’s build can allow them to turn invisible, freeze time, run at the speed of light, summon a succubus, ride a horse, and so much more! The game also features a text-based hacking system that allows you to hack into anything, even the cyberbrains of enemies and the computers inside of individual bullets flying at you.
DDS was envisioned as a synthesis of Hotline Miami and the immersive sim genre. I drew the most inspiration from E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy which is probably the craziest immersive sim ever made for better and for worse.
As anyone who creates anything, we must all deal with criticism from consumers. How do you go about it particularly in the prolific and viral standard of gaming today?
When I first started putting my stuff out there I made a conscious effort to not get defensive or insecure when I receive criticism. A lot of high profile developers come off this way to me and I really didn’t wanna be like that. I haven’t been entirely successful with this but making a conscious effort has definitely helped me take better advantage of the criticism coming my way.
Another challenge is separating good criticism from bad criticism. Usually this involves experimenting and prototyping systems even when you’re skeptical of them. I’ve been dead wrong about so many of my design decisions so I’ve learned to take user feedback more seriously. Sometimes you have to take a chance on a weird idea from a fan to see the genius in it. Lots of bad or contradictory suggestions get thrown out too though so you have to be careful taking seemingly obvious ideas for granted. Again when in doubt, prototype where possible.
What advice would you give new developers taking the plunge into game design?
Everyone is different so my advice isn’t going to apply to all new developers. This is also going to be directed at solo developers since that’s all I have experience with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Here are some tips I’ve found helpful
Play lots of games, take notes, find out what appeals to you as a developer.
Game jams and tiny projects are a great way to learn, but don’t be afraid to go bigger if you’re getting bored.
The easiest way to fail is giving up. Gamedev is hard so make sure you’re working on an idea you’re in love with. It won’t feel worth it otherwise.
Second easiest way to fail is getting too ambitious. Keep the scope of your project as small as possible and shave things down to the essence of what you’re interested in.
If possible, stick to 2 dimensions for your first project. It saves an unbelievable amount of time and it’s easier to get by without learning modeling, animations, lighting, and other skills.
Don’t do an MMO or a competitive multiplayer game for your first project, especially as a solo dev. Just don’t do it. Harder to develop and way way harder to playtest.
Get your project to a playable state ASAP. Not finished, just playable. Get eyes on it as soon as you’re there. Feedback and criticism are really necessary for improvement.
Don’t forget to have fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
I play a lot of other immersive sims. Lately there’s been a sort of indie resurgence for the genre with games like Cruelty Squad and Ctrl Alt Ego, so I’ve been diving into those with my free time.
I’m also a huge FromSoftware fan, the Dark Souls series and Elden Ring are my go-to games when I need something to play. Modders recently came out with a seamless co-op mod for Elden Ring so me and a buddy have been playing through that together.
I also love simple games that focus on bringing joy. TOEM is something I’ll probably name drop TOEM later on since it’s relevant to my next project. I’m working through a small-profile release called Vacant Kingdom right now. It’s an adorable bullet hell and a contender for my game of the year spot.
What inspires you to do what you do?
I’ve always been looking for a creative outlet and gamedev just really gels with me since I come from a programming background. I’m really picky when it comes to games and have a hard time finding stuff to play despite the sheer number of releases. The immersive sim scene felt kinda dead in particular when I first started this project with the exception of the occasional Arkane game. I wanted to contribute to that genre and hopefully make something that other picky gamers with my sensibilities would enjoy playing.
Playing good ass games is also inspiring, especially when their goodness comes from weird and creative mechanics.
What is the hardest part of your job?
I have a problem with stagnation. I’m very hesitant to pick up new skills but you can’t really get away with that as a developer of any kind. DDS has a simple artstyle for a few reasons, one was just minimizing what I had to learn to make it look cohesive.
What was your favorite thing about game development?
My favorite part is just making goofy ass stuff that no one can stop me from making. While developing DDS, there was this one week where I decided that individual bullets needed computers inside of them because “an immersive sim where you can hack the individual bullets flying at you” was a fun tagline and steering them around sounded goofy. The memory of that week and all the extremely weird problems I encountered is gonna stick with me forever. I recently had a similar story when I allowed DDS to simulate movement speeds surpassing the speed of light.
Another highlight is seeing people enjoy what you’ve poured all your time into. When I see people talk about the fun they’re having it’s a huge boost to my sense of self worth.
Is there anything you find difficult or challenging in dealing with the struggles?
I think I’d just be repeating my answer from the “hardest part of my job” question here. If there’s something I’m missing about this question please let me know and I’ll try to provide a better answer!
What lessons have you learned from your first game?
A game’s looks don’t matter as much to the player as many people think, but they matter a ton when trying to gain attention. Making things visually recognizable and understandable in screenshots is something I completely overlooked before. I plan on moving in a slightly new direction with my next project because of this.
What are your future project(s)?
I’m in the design document phase for my next project “Lunchbox Reverie.” Some inspirations include classic Zelda, Monument Valley, and the more recent TOEM. It’s planned as an isometric RPG with lots of character customization and imsim elements. In the game you’ll explore a land of dreams and make delicious lunches!
After working on DDS I’m finally eager to learn some new art skills and improve the visual fidelity of my next project. Hoping to make something cute and beautiful.
If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’m working to become a university professor. I love to teach so that’s my current plan. Gamedev is a side hustle / hobby for me. While I’d love to work on it full time, working conditions in industry really suck for the most part and I don’t think my solo efforts will bring in nearly enough money to survive off of.
Finally, what is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
Haven’t thought about this much before. If I had to give an answer, it would be some absurd action RPG with tons of character customization where you take your loot home to play a Frostpunk style city builder. Something like that sounds pretty good.
I find it hard to separate myself from limitations. A lot of DDS was built around the idea of maximizing worthwhile content while minimizing effort. This mindset is partially to blame for the simple art style, and responsible for the incorporation of procedurally generated elements. It’s allowed me to add so much goofy stuff on a conceptual level however so I don’t regret it.
Even now that I’m researching art styles for my next project, I find myself fetishizing the process of simplifying styles down to the point that they’re extremely scalable. This idea of prioritizing scalability over everything else has become part of my identity as a developer in a weird way.