Teaming up

(tl;dr)

During the summer of 2011, I started working on a frighteningly ambitious project. I wanted to let players build games together. Whole games. From scratch. For real.

CraftStudio

I had a clear vision for what I wanted it to be—though I was truly unsure of whether it could be done— and soon I spent day and night working on it. Along the way, I made lots of mistakes, many friends, a few close friends and just enough money to keep at it. I’m thankful for that and owe so much to everyone who supported CraftStudio one way or another.

Creating and sharing this very experimental project as I made it has been fun, worrisome, exhilarating and stressful all at once. A true adventure with its highs and lows.

The day-to-day has been a mix of design & coding, communication, paperwork and a little bit of promotion.

Average day working on CraftStudio. Not pictured: the less fun parts.

The greatest of times though, were in-between all that. Epic game jams! awesome conventions! Whole games springing out of nowhere, somehow made possible by my software. Children designing their first characters and writing their first scripts. First-time game makers seeing their creation played by strangers. And people helping out newcomers get started in turn.


Looking for group

CraftStudio is all about cooperation, teaming up and being a community, yet I’ve been working on my own for the better part of the last three years. Early this year, I started feeling like maybe I was reaching the end of my rope. I longed to work with a team again, to find talented like-minded people and share the highs & lows of crafting something great.

I tried my luck at a game company I like, they showed some interest but didn’t have an opening at the time. Spending time looking for a new environment in which I might thrive again furthered my resolve: I needed a change.

I’ve been daydreaming about getting a team of passionate game makers together, but didn’t really consider it a realistic option as I had no money to hire anyone and finding the right people, getting them interested and available seemed very unlikely. And yet…


A crazy proposal

I met Bruno and Nicolas while working on Porté par le Vent, our first CraftStudio Ludum Dare entry (what a fun time that was!). Most of you might know them better as Pixel-boy, a very talented artist and Bilou, the guy who gets the (scripting) job done while I’m asleep during most of the game jam ;). They’re both genuinely nice people with a love for making stuff. Over the summer of 2012, Matthew joined me for a couple of months for an internship. He’s a mighty fine person, a longtime buddy of mine and we had a blast working together.

Avatars Pixel-boy drawn for us

Back in March, after mulling the idea over for a while and discussing it with Rosalie (my girlfriend)—who shared my enthusiasm— I told the three of them that I’d love to team up and that we should all move in together to try and make games for a while!… yeah like that would ever happen.

As it turns out, they were all very interested and fast-forward a few months later: Bilou and Pixel-boy just moved in! Sadly, while Matthew would have liked to join too, he won’t be able to work with the rest of us on a day-to-day basis. We’ll try and work together with him on select projects when possible.

From left to right: me, Bilou, Rosalie, Pixel-boy


What’s next

Now, you might be wondering what this means for CraftStudio. Here’s the battle plan:

As mentioned a bunch of times in various places, I’ve been thinking a lot about the platform’s shortcomings and how they should be addressed. Although I might be partial, I’d say CraftStudio is a fairly nice piece of software. But it’s quite monolithic, can’t be extended easily and has some built-in constraints like its use of cubes everywhere and its lack of support for lights or shaders. Truth is, when I started this gigantic monster of a project, I had to pick my battles and for the most part, I don’t regret those choices. They allowed CraftStudio to be not just a pipe dream, but a reality.

CraftStudio fries

With CraftStudio coming out of beta soon, the time has come to step back and think about the future. With all the knowledge, experience & feedback accrued over the years, we’ve been discussing and experimenting around what a new incarnation of the core ideas behind CraftStudio could be.

As a team, we’ll be focusing most of our efforts on building a few commercial games first. Assuming our new experimental game-making software comes to fruition —we might fail, it’s very much a research project right now— we’d like to release it to the public at some point. We believe there’s a lot we can do to make game development more fun as a community and as a platform, both for beginners and with a new interest for full-time indie developers like us.

Logan Decker, then editor-in-chief at PC Gamer, once tweeted:

In some small ways and for a limited number of people, it has. But for the most part, that didn’t come to pass… yet! Thinking back to early versions of CraftStudio, it’s pretty amazing that people like Mr. Decker took it seriously at all, that means a lot to me.

Together with my new teammates, we’ll do our best to get many more game lovers crafting their very own games! And wherever we end up, I’m thrilled for the journey. It’ll be fun!


Surprise preemptive FAQ

Q. I own a CraftStudio Premium account. Will I get access to the new platform if & when it gets released?

We haven’t decided how we’ll release the new platform. The business model of CraftStudio (limited free demo, paid full version) has been doing okay but it probably had its part in preventing the community from growing a lot more. This needs fixing.

Providing a beefed-up free version would be a nice start. Maybe we’ll focus entirely on selling project hosting & useful services and make the software itself free. Or maybe we’ll figure out an even better approach. When we do, we’ll also try and come up with a fair deal for CraftStudians. It might be a rebate or a free license or whatever.

Either way, if you’re worried about getting screwed with all these changes or just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to send me an email and we’ll talk about it!

Q. Will the new software still be called CraftStudio?

CraftStudio’s successor will have its own name. We’ll announce it… later I guess? :)

Q. Will I be able to automatically migrate my existing CraftStudio projects to the new software?

Nope! We’re completely rethinking the whole thing and that means it won’t be possible to just have a button to carry everything over. But since one of the new software’s goals is to be extensible, writing importers for assets should be possible!

Q. Will we see [major new feature] make its way into CraftStudio?

Most likely not. While there’s a lot of cool stuff in CraftStudio, I painted myself into a corner and the current code base can’t accommodate big new features without a major rewrite. That’s one of the reasons we’re working on this new incarnation!

Depending on how fast we move and the needs of the community, bug fixes & some minor features might still get released.

Q. What games will you be working on?

We got some ideas but I ain’t telling! If you want a little taste of what we’re capable of, check out Inspector Badass, made in just 72 hours with some friends.

Inspector Badass

I still owe many backers from the crowdfunding campaign a reward game too. I haven’t forgotten you folks and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet. You’ll get a great game at some point!

Got other questions?

Come discuss the news on the CraftStudio forums!