Though the company has carried precisely one name (and one face) since we started, this operation has always been a husband-and-wife effort. We incorporated back in 2012 so we could launch our first game, Home, to a wider audience on Steam. Of course, at that time, we didn’t know it was “our first game”; it was just something we created for fun. The thinking behind the oh-so-creative name of “Benjamin Rivers Inc.” was that since we needed a company name, Ben could always use it for freelance design work he was doing at the time.
But then to our surprise…
We’re not even going to waste time talking about the general events of 2020 — henceforth known as the “thirteenth floor of the 21st century.” Instead, we’re going to stay positive and dive straight into what we did as a independent video game studio! (Spoiler: it’s a lot more than we thought.)
NintendoLife introduced their brand-new Indie Spotlight in September as a way to showcase new games from independent studios like ours. We were honoured with two features in the 30-minute presentation: announcements of new, Nintendo Switch versions of our first two games, Home and Alone With You.
I’m working on eight-year-old code. Specifically, I’ve dug my hands into the barely-cold remains of our first commercial release, Home — and it’s been a while since I’ve been inside this twisting mass of awful code and panicked comments.
The deeper I slosh through Home’s innards, the more horrified I am. Did I really think that was a viable way to display a text box consistently? How could I have possibly made those door objects that convoluted?
It only feels like a short time ago that we published an article detailing the major lessons we learned while working on a new game and releasing new versions of previous ones last year.
And here we are, ready to do it again! So if you’re a small studio making games, or looking to get started, keep reading for a quick summary and three important lessons we learned this year.
We’ve been developing and publishing games independently since 2010, and every year has been some wild new adventure. But like many devs, we get a little freaked out in the year or two between new game releases – it’s easy to worry that when you’re not in full marketing and release mode, championing a new product, that you’ll be forgotten and left for dead.
So for other studios who might be in the same boat, here are a few lessons we learned this year that kept us alive.
Creating rich, compelling characters for games works a bit differently than with other mediums, especially in titles that are designed to appeal to players’ affections.
We struggled with this for our 2016 title, Alone With You. The game is a “sci-fi romance adventure,” and it’s designed to get you to feel something towards four main interests – Winnie, Pierre, Leslie and Jean – as you complete adventure-game missions and engage in visual novel-style conversation scenes. …
June 1st, 2017 marked the fifth anniversary of Home – the “unique horror adventure” game that I initially launched with zero expectations in 2012 to surprising success. And now, after completing and shipping its follow-up, Alone With You*, I wanted to look back on the game and present five important lessons that continue to drive what my studio does, even five years later.
With Home, I bet that I could create a lo-fi horror game that used sound and one very specific gameplay mechanic – that the game’s story is being retold based on the player’s actions – to do…