Adam Saltsman is the designer behind the game Canabalt. It’s an endless runner that is a game distilled down to its fundamentals. It’s a great game in execution and realization. Since then, Adam has moved on to other projects and establishing his own studio Finji Co. Adam is one of those people who’ve been in the industry long enough that I got nervous when I first met him. But after a quick hand shake and a few late nights, I asked him to come on the podcast during IndieCade 2015 and this is our conversation after eating a few In-and-Out burgers.
Overland is the latest game thats being developed by Adam. It’s a game about inevitability. It’s about a mass extinction event and what people would do in the face of something massive and outside an individuals control. It’s also a game that has been long in development and mired by issues that plague most developers. If you are unfamiliar with the projects history and Finji’s history, I suggest you read this wonderful post by Adam titled The Making of Overland: The story of how we eventually bootstrapped our indie dream game.
The article linked above and this podcast gives a great look into how Adam presents himself. He is extremely friendly, easy to talk to, and unabashed to admit mistakes when they are made. So having the chance to sit down for an hour and discuss the nature of Overland, and more importantly his own development process was fascinating.
Game development still appears to be black science to those outside the industry. Things go into a box: art, code, design, music; and out comes a video game. Ta-da. But the reality of a game developer, as Adam puts it, is failing as a profession. That’s not to say that failure is a terrible thing, but much of development is trying things and seeing how they break. To experiment, to tweak, to take risks to figure out the best possible system and method to produce something new. So failure isn’t some big event, failing is part of the job. This is the necessary devil of development. There are some ideas and systems that can’t just be created on paper and snapped into place later. Much of it is to break it all apart and put it together again, over and over and over.
This isn’t the only way, for sure. However, to many of the creative types out there, this is the one of the few ways to work on something that is exciting.
Overland is a game that is looking great, even though it still has time yet to go before it’s ready. It’s a game that Adam hopes to be a great introductory game to the tactics genre. Much like how Canabalt was a way to introduce more hardcore game concepts, like deft mechanical speed, to those who like the casual nature of a one button game. This is how Adam likes to make games, bridging genres to new audiences.
Finji is also involved in other projects, like helping bring the coveted Night in the Woods to markets, as well as publishing the transformative PANORAMICAL earlier this year. While Night in the Woods is not out yet, the companion game Lost Constellations is out and ready for your enjoyment.