On GDC Podcast episode 19 we welcomed Adam Hines and Sean Krankel, cofounders of Night School Studio, developers of games such as Afterparty and the iconic indie game Oxenfree.
We covered topics such as narrative design, working in a triple-A studio versus a small indie studio, what it was like making Oxenfree, and injected a bit of sage advice for indie developers.
Sean and Adam on going from AAA to indie
Sean: "It was kind of this perfect nexus of having already worked at other places before and being passionate about what we wanted to build with this one. So while we were making [Oxenfree] we weren't just looking at it as...our first game for the studio. It was more like, this is our big swing and our pivot away from working in larger companies."
"Right before that I had been at Disney and had gotten laid off and Adam was at Telltale, and we both were like, if we're going to make this thing work, it's gotta be the best thing possible. And the rest of the team had either been in great spots at larger companies but wanted to try something different, or were just kind of looking for something new in general...We did feel like we did something special...We keep trying to maintain that feeling internally, where it's almost our first game every time and we want to stay as scrappy as humanly possible."
Adam: "For me personally, the big difference is that when I was at a larger studio, when you have 200-300 people there, one of the hundreds of people will pick up the slack if I'm sick or if I'm just lost or just don't know how to execute a thing. And at a smaller studio you're not only the water's edge for your department, but your tentacles are in every single department at the same time, so you just really need to be a motivated and organized self-starter."
Sean on focusing your talents
Sean: In general...we tend to [bite off more than we can chew] every time. So the biggest thing [I'd advise indie game makers] would be to work in as narrow a range of creative potential as possible, because you're going to bring the stuff that you can make special to a game...it's inherently going to come out. That doesn't mean [the game] needs 50,000 different features. It's more like, pick one or two things and try to do them to the best of your ability and that means lean on the strengths of your actual team."
GDC Podcast music by Mike Meehan