The process of creating a game is similar for most developers. First they start with an idea, they break down what they want for their game, and then set out to create it. This normally allows studios to have a plan laid out. This streamlined process makes sure that developers can carefully take into account potential risks and hurdles, and allows them to prepare for what may come.

This is in no way what PWNEE Studios did.

Instead, PWNEE Studios opted for the “problem for future me” approach in making their game Cloudberry Kingdom. While the journey may have been difficult and seen its fair share of hurdles, the studio has come out stronger as a result.

Gamer Assault Weekly had a chance to sit down with PWNEE at this year’s Rooster Teeth Expo and talk about what it was like to simply jump in naked and head first into the world of game development.

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While most games begin with an idea that is eventually forged into a game, PWNEE started with a few lines of code and an algorithm. This algorithm would form the basis behind Cloudberry Kingdom, a platformer that offers truly infinite levels. That’s right, we’re not talking about that dirty back ally near infinite level type of design. This is, as PWNEE Studios President and developer Jordan Fisher puts it, “Infinite… We go all the way.”

The engine is the brain child love baby for Fisher and was originally created simply as a personal challenge to himself. That’s right, the man created an infinite level generator because he was bored. Let that sink in for a minute, we’ll wait. While that’s an impressive feat all on its own, it’s something that comes naturally to Fisher.

Vice President for PWNEE Studios TJ Lutz and Director of Business Development Michael Suswal affectionately joke on Fisher’s skills. Suswal cites Fisher as constantly working on “crazy [stuff] in college, originally as a way to relieve stress” while TJ jokingly mocks “he was working on smart stuff.” Throughout the banter, it’s clear to see that this studio isn’t just compromised of coworkers, but rather friends who know each other well.

It’s quite possible that their friendship is what has allowed the studio to survive as long as it has, with Lutz commenting that one of his biggest challenges personally through development was “not giving up.”

“I had completed the entire campaign at one point…it was twice. And twice, it got completely wiped. And that was 324 hand picked levels out of 5,000 randomly generated.” Lutz states.

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Pictured Here: Lutz’s almost exodus from the studio

Fisher chimes in explaining the frustration that Lutz felt, “Each random level has a seed right? And the campaign is actually fixed levels, and TJ, he played like 5,000 levels picking the random seed that would make the level, and he did that for the Xbox version. It took him months…and we finally finished the Wii U and PlayStation port, and it turned out the level generator made different levels for the same seed.”

To which Lutz’s only response was “Yea, I disappeared for a while.” But despite those frustrations, it’s clear to see what holds PWNEE Studios together. While retelling the story of his near departure, Lutz simply laughs, taking it in stride. Even when we asked about whether or not the studio felt worried by him walking out, Lutz once again jokes “I had nowhere to go… I was like an angry child saying ‘I’m running away!’ and they’re just saying oh he’s just around the block.”

Lutz and Fisher themselves have been friends for a long time, that much is obvious. But the same familiarity is also shared by Michael Suswal, who came in during the early days of PWNEE. During their first days Fisher and Lutz attended different conferences to find the help they needed with the business side of development, and while many faceless suits handed them a card with promises of helping them make a game, it was Suswal who actually came through. A week or so later after meeting with him, they already had meetings scheduled with companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Valve. With that, Lutz and Fisher knew that Suswal was the one for them.

Next challenge was finding artists, music, and sound designers. With no experience in that aspect
, it was up to Lutz and Suswal to reach out and make those connections. “It was different,” Lutz says, “It was new. At the time our funding was low. We had to decide, do we eat this week or do we get sound effects.”

The process involved a lot of legwork for PWNEE, looking up songs on sites like soundcloud and then reaching out. “It was very strange reaching out first because we were absolute nobodies,” Lutz said. Luckily, the studio managed to find several artists willing to work with them, often for just a chance to get their name out as well.

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Speaking of obstacles…

But with every obstacle they cleared, it only made room for several others. Fisher talked about reading several accounts from other companies stating how hard game development was. He said his initial response was  “You say, yea I get it, it’s hard,” it was quickly followed up with “You have NO idea.” In the end, their journey came with a huge learning curve, often times making decisions without understanding the scope of their implications.

“We thought if we’re going to make it for one platform, lets just make it for every one. And launch it world wide, in every language in existence,” Suswal jokes about their initial mentality in making a game, with Lutz adding “It’ll only take like a month right?” Four years later, we get Cloudberry Kingdom.

In the end however, the studio managed to pull through despite some misconceptions.

While PWNEE’s approach to game design might be unorthodox, it’s their drive and mentality which will put them on a path to success. They are a group of people who have a strong passion in what they do, one where they are willing to undertake any risks. Like Fisher puts it, “there are risk adverse people and there are risk blind people, like me,” a sentiment that applies to the entire group. So while the road to development might have been an often stressful trip, it has not dissuaded the people at PWNEE studios.

So much so, that the studio is currently working on releasing a new game. Thanks to their experiences and what they’ve learned their first time through, PWNEE now plans to apply that knowledge in working towards their second title. While it may have taken them around 4 years to produce Cloudberry Kingdom, this time around the studio hopes that they can have development done around a years time. As Suswal puts it, “Now we actually have an approach.”