My Q&A with Indie Game Dev Studio, Random Salad

Jake Poznanski

Jake Poznanski and Sam Kaufmann lived in LA and Seattle respectively when I first met them, and now I guess you could say they live in LA and Seattle irrespectively. That is, they switched - Jake has moved up to Seattle (Bellevue actually) and Sam to LA, but the distance doesn’t keep them from running a very active and progressive indie game studio that - judging by user reviews - is also very successful.

Jake and Sam attended Carnegie Mellon, and after graduating and working for a relatively short time at what many (including themselves) would consider dream jobs, the game duo - decided their after hours work on Windows Phone games was where they wanted to throw all their efforts, and they did exactly that.

I want to introduce you to this pair and give you a little glimpse into their daily game dev lives. My goal is to fire a barrage of questions at them and see what they say. Hopefully their answers will be inspiring and encouraging and motivating, but no pressure, guys.

Here we go…

Who is Random Salad?

ME: Hi, guys. How are you? And who are you?

JS: Hi Jeremy, let us just give a quick introduction about ourselves. We are Jake Poznanski and Sam Kaufmann, and we run Random Salad Games, a small indie game studio. We focus on Windows Phone and Windows 8 primarily, though we’ve branched out into Android as little bit as well.

ME: Tell me what you think would be your favorite among the many games you’ve created. And while you’re at it, tell me what is your favorite among games you haven’t created as well.

JS: I think our favorite game would be Paper Dash. It’s sort of our new and modern take on an old classic game, and I think it was a lot of fun. We had a lot of chances to put in little easter eggs in the levels, and we also put in a lot of nice touches like a custom soundtrack. Sam had a chance to record all the game music himself, and it really gave a nice feel to the game.

We are both fans of simulation games, like the Sims, or even some crazy titles like Dwarf Fortress, but I don’t think we are ready to tackle such a challenge just yet. In good time… perhaps :)

ME: What was the most difficult game you’ve developed and why was it so difficult to make?

JS: I think the most challenging game we’ve done so far is Super Golf Land. It involves a fully featured 2D golf simulation, so it was a lot of work to get that tuned and working just the way we liked it. There were also a huge number of levels and courses to create, and balancing the game required a lot of testing. We think it turned out really well though.

ME: And finally the most obvious question - who in the world came up with the name Random Salad for your outfit?

JS: Haha a very funny question indeed…

We were at lunch with a friend when we were trying to figure out the name for our company. We wanted the word “random” in it and we started looking around the restaurant for things to put in front of that word. Someone was eating a salad, and the rest is history :)

I wish there was a more intense and significant reason for our name but we are happy with the result nonetheless.

Sam Kaufmann

Advice for other developers

ME: Do you think one person can run a successful game development venture?

JS: Yes, it’s definitely possible to be successful with Windows Phone and Windows 8 development. I would suggest starting small, with one or two smaller games before tackling a larger game project. Don’t get discouraged, and remember that the last 10% of any project is where 90% of the work lies.

ME: Do you motivate yourselves with the hope of a runaway hit game?

JS: Of course, everyone dreams about creating the next Angry Birds. Remember though, you have to start somewhere, and it’s not likely that your first game will sell millions of copies. Start small, learn from your earlier games, and listen to your users.

ME: What do you think about the opportunities in the relatively small and young Microsoft marketplaces?

JS: The best part of Windows Phone and Windows 8 is that they are still emerging markets compared to Android and iOS. This means that your indie game has a much higher chance of getting featured and noticed. Also, the market is still large enough that if your game sells well, it can end up being a nice investment.

ME: What does the breakdown of a day’s work look like for someone in the indie game development business like you?

JS: Usually in the morning we review our game statistics and see what sort of feedback our users have sent in or left in game reviews. In the early afternoon, we are usually working on coding, creating game graphics, or often times simply running errands. Usually by the evening we are planning our steps for the next day. The best part of being an indie developer is that we have flexible schedules, sometimes it’s nicer to code in the evening when it’s nice and quiet too :)

ME: I think a lot of potential game developers doubt they’ll have the capacity and resources to develop for the many platforms that exist. What would you say about the prospects of choosing fewer platforms and concentrating your developement efforts?

JS: I think it’s totally possible to develop for multiple platforms, especially with the tools available today. I would suggest taking a look at the very nice Monogame framework, which lets you run XNA across Windows Phone, Windows 8, but also on Android and iOS. These tools are at a sweet spot right now, as they are mature enough for production-quality games.

ME: After being game developers for a considerable time, would you say you still have fun in your job? Do you still have fun playing games yourselves?

JS: We get to stay at home everyday and make games, so it’s a great experience. We are really glad to be where we are, and we continue to work hard everyday at it. And we certainly play games, both indie and large publisher. I know I had a lot of fun recently with Sim City, and also this great indie title called The Swapper :)

Well, thanks a lot to Jake and Sam for answering a few questions for me and my readers. I definitely wish them massive success in their venture, and I hope my readers too will have success in their endeavors. If there’s anything I can do to support, please ask.

By the way, if you are a student or a startup and want access to a lot of free Microsoft software and resources, make sure you checkout DreamSpark and BizSpark. Furthermore, our AppBuilder program will give you some good resources and even rewards for doing what you love!

You can find Jake and Sam and more information about Random Salad Games on their website

Please leave comments below. Jake and Sam will be monitoring and responding.