Some Q&A with Phil Tibitoski on Octodad, Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight

First of all, I hope you have seen Octodad, because it looks great. If you haven’t please check out our preview of the game here. If you like what you see you should probably mosey on over to the Steam Greenlight page for the game and give them a quick upvote. It similar to “liking” something on Facebook, except this actually helps make games come to Steam.

I recently asked one of Octodad’s primary developers, Phil Tibitoski a few questions about not just his game, but about the state of his development, his thoughts on Kickstarter funding and even what he thinks of the new Steam Greenlight process to approve games. Honestly I thought some of the questions were pretty hard-hitting, but Phil came through and answered them all impressively. Hit the jump for the full Q&A!

Octodad I’ve heard was originally a free mod. Approximately how large was the community from this mod before you began development of the larger project?

The first Octodad was not actually a mod. Octodad 1 was a student project out of DePaul University back when we were all attending there. The game itself was created entirely from scratch after many prototypes and uses the Irrlicht rendering engine, PhysX physics engine, plus FMOD audio engine. The game was created entirely by us and is not based on any other game besides some inspirations.

We don’t have exact numbers on the size of our community, but before we started work on Octodad: Dadliest Catch we had a large following of Octodad fans. If you simply search Octodad on YouTube you can begin to see the scope of our community among all of the ‘Let’s Play’ videos.

I’ve read that several of the developers from the mod left for other developers, how much of the development team today is comprised of the original people? Could you tell me which developers some of the original creators left for?

The current team is entirely comprised of the original developers, but there are only 8 of us left from the original 18 person team. A few of our previous teammates now work at places like Disney Mobile, Ubisoft, Phosphor, and NetherRealms.

You ran a successful Kickstarter last year. Are you still running on this capital or have you needed to raise money elsewhere?

We’re currently still running off of our Kickstarter, but the thing is that we don’t actually pay ourselves for our work at the moment. All of our Kickstarter money has been used to fund actual development costs and also things like booths at various cons like PAX.

Otherwise we all work day jobs to pay for our living expenses. Then we go home every night and weekend to work on the game in our free time.

After the success of this year’s Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2 we’ve seen a lot of big Kickstarters with lots of money get through the gate. Do you think if you ran a Kickstarter again today it would do even better than it did originally? Are you looking to do another Kickstarter in the future?

We are simply happy we got funded in the first place, and although more money would definitely be helpful we try not to think too much about that. We may run another Kickstarter in the future, but I think if we did it would most likely be for our next game.

Octodad has not made it through Steam Greenlight as of this writing, have you looked into any other avenues of distribution?

We’re constantly looking around for different marketplaces and distribution outlets for the game, but Steam is currently our white whale. We’ve also been looking into things like GOG and Desura. We would also really like to sell the game directly through our own website for those folks who don’t like distribution platforms like Steam. We’re definitely interested in using a service like the Humble Store though.

How far along are you on development at this point? When do you think Octodad will be ready to ship?

Right now we’re at the point where a vast majority of the tech required by the game is near completion, but we still have a large amount of content to create. Most of our time is currently spent building all the levels of the game and creating all the various art, audio, and written assets for said levels.

Our current target for launch is mid-late 2013, but that can always change as creating games is a bit unpredictable in how and when things will turn out the way we want them to.

What has the response to your Greenlight campaign been like? Has there been any challenges?

We’ve been receiving a solid amount of attention for Greenlight and have had a ton of visitors to the page as of now. We can’t tell exactly where we stand as even the Steam team are currently adjusting a lot of the benchmarks in order to adapt to how all of the games on the service are fairing.

It’s been hard to not sit and watch the comments roll in. We want to respond to everyone, but we know that if we did that we would be sitting there all day doing that instead of making the game.

Being a part of it, what are you thoughts about Greenlight? Does it seem any better or worse than the original method Valve used? What do you think about the $100 donation fee to use it?

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Greenlight is mainly to take the load off of the Steam team as they really are not that large. For them to rifle through thousands of games at an almost constant pace takes a lot of work, and so many things have slipped through the cracks in the past simply because there is a limited amount of attention that can be paid to every single game submitted.

From what I know the old way of getting games on Steam is still possible as the Steam team is still ultimately curating which games make it onto the service. Greenlight is simply a filtering system for Valve so that they can easily see which games their customers want the most and then more easily contact those creators to invite them to the service. Before this system was in place this had to be done manually and many developers had to essentially prove their worth through press, fan, and PR buzz. This is still essentially the same situation, but now there’s a definite place to measure and see this accumulation of support for each title.

As far as the fee goes I definitely think there needs to be some sort of barrier to entry for Greenlight. The first few days before this fee was instantiated there was a flood of garbage troll projects on the service that cluttered it to the point of sometimes not getting to see the real gems hidden beneath. It could probably be less than $100 as that’s a bit steep for some people, but I also think that if you desperately want your game on Steam or think it deserves to be there that you will find a way to either save or make that money.

Not every game is meant for Steam and ultimately it is Valve’s private platform to do with it what they will. Many games simply don’t fit on the service. When we were considering where we should sell Octodad we looked at the games currently on Steam and said, “Okay so we need to at least match this level of content and quality. We’ll try to do even better, but now we know where the bar is set.” This shouldn’t be taken as an insult or inflammatory comment as some games are simply meant for certain audiences. If you make an extremely personal or niche game I think it’s slightly audacious to assume that a large audience is just going to want it. You have to test the waters and find your audience, as well as find out where they look to for their entertainment.

Now having said this I still think it’s important that you push your work to as many people as you can. It’s taken us roughly 2.5 years to get Octodad to where it is now, and that is not luck. We still aren’t done, and even though it’s doing well we still are not on Steam.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the game that you think people should know?

We make games that we enjoy creating, and we’ve lucked out in finding an audience that agrees with us. We want to continue to create weird and quirky games even after Octodad: Dadliest Catch so please continue to support us if you’d like to see what else lies deep in our oddball minds.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch is currently on Steam Greenlight. You can still play the original Octodad for free here.

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About Ryan Saul

Hailing from Portland, OR I work by day and blog by night. I like to consider myself a video game connoisseur, playing as many new things as I can get my hands on. Its hard to hold me down to one game for very long before I move on to the next big thing. Luckily, that works pretty well in terms of video game blogging.

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