Austin Anderson and Jonathan Tzou
We still believe that Game Developers make some of the best problem solvers in the game industry when given a chance to take a crack at the business side of what we do. Our example proof this week are the guys behind Rupie.io a new and noteworthy platform that helps bring developers and game content creators together painlessly while also helping project manage and release games easier than ever. We’ve met with Austin Anderson and Jonathan Tzou before and were blown away by their ideas. This podcast is one of the first byproducts of our meeting, surely the first of many. Here’re the guys and why they believe in Rupie.io
Obviously great businesses start with great teams… So tell us first how you all officially met? Was it playing Counter Strike? Who bought who the first beer?
Jonathan: “I guess I bought Austin the first beer? Austin attended a conference that I was hosting at an organization, a venture capital firm I was working at prior. We got to talking at the event and we found we both really cared about technology as well as creatives. That was many years ago, a lot has happened since then. The industry has dramatically changed since then and yeah there’s just a unique opportunity for something like this to happen especially now given things like remote work and general communication across work platforms has really improved and the barriers for game development have come down.”
When was the first title or time when you guys were actually seeing there’s a huge shift in the industry right now, we need to jump on this?
Austin: “Yea, that’s a great question. We pay close attention and we’re avid gamers ourselves. Early on, one of our four co-founders who worked for Valve, got us a lot of folks onboard at behind Rupie and they all kind of see the same thing. In reality nobody wants to build Call of Duty 15, even though the IP is fantastic, the indie games industry is just shifting and evolving so quickly, we see a lot of these problem areas like crunch for instance, is really controversial. If you work for a games studio you may be overworked or feel that way, the repurposing of existing game titles we see that too… There’s not a lot of room for creativity and we love indie games. FTL… Rust, I love these types of games. We kind of thought, what is it that these indie game studies need to be able to compete in their development cycle and release these titles and not have to do it with early access or something like that right? Where we can create more trust with game studios themselves and the gamers who are actually playing them. How can we help these game developers keep the lights on so they can continue to invest in their small indie projects and actually get it to release.”
Ok it sounds great, you guys want to take care of the indie community with your platform but what if we don’t always stay indie? What about if our company grows? How well does Rupie.io handle a team of 5 developers and can it scale up with that company if it grows to 200?
Austin: “That’s a great question, what’s fascinating is the the term indie has changed so rapidly you know. We’ve met people who say it’s team of 200 people or less is considered indie. We’re pretty much a scaling solution that works across the board. We definitely appeal more to the indie crowd but we actually have some projects that we’re working with and we really want to solve the question of when is my team a studio and I think a lot of times I think your viewers might feel this way, it’s like when do I officiate my team as a studio. We’re trying to create a happy path to solve for that so you’re like, start out as a small team, you can grow it infinitely in size, create an organization layer later on that can manage multiple teams… Really you can scale up.
Jonathan: Yea, this platform is definitely being designed for scaling in mind. Our goal is to be the place where studios can become as big or as small or break out into small teams, however it is they want to run their org, they can scale up or down on our platform pretty seamlessly.”
Looking at everything they you’re presenting and saying this far, I felt like you have a compelling argument for why devs should support them but how did this experience pull me away from some of the bigger or more known platforms? I want to dig deeper and find anything more unique about Rupie or the relationship between the developers and the parent company. So, do you guys get a lot of feedback from people who use your platform and suggest features? What’s that relationship like.
Jonathan: “We have always kept an open communication on our site, pretty much everywhere on the site there’s a feedback entry area where people can just let us know, flag things or offer their opinions. We really value that feedback cycle because ultimately we are servants to the people building and so we look for any opportunity we can to get cool feedback from the community. In terms of features that we have, we have various communication features and form like things that enable community members to engage with each other. We’ve seen various asset handling solutions that people have recommended, work flow kind of feedback, it really does run the gamut. Different studios of different sizes have different needs and ultimately we want to address the core need for allowing future kids to get the best of us.”
Ok then, so what would you say is the biggest headache that you guys solve for the small indie developer, if you could champion one main feature as the selling point?
Austin: “Honestly I think it would be our matchmaking, because I think that’s really what it comes down to is you put a group of people together that have a set of skills… Finding the right match to get your team work if you’re doing that which the majority of teams and individuals that we know outsource themselves at the same time as like building their title because they have to. Especially if you’re building an indie game, you’re not financed you’re going to have to make money somehow right? So why not do it in parallel you know on the same platform and I think in my opinion it’s the matchmaking piece that we can automate that. We can automate your calendar to be like “Hey I’m open to work these days… so lets go” We put teams together, we’re vetted or like hey, somebody’s just inquired for your team to do a six month contract or something.”
Jonathan: “And to add to that, why matchmaking is so good on our platform is we don’t just actively vet for just the hard skills required to determine wether someone is qualified to work on something but we in our research we’ve also found that there are a bunch of soft skills and things in between that lead to turnover within organizations so you could hire someone, I don’t know, some long term veteran from Lucas Arts or from Pixar but maybe you know even though they make great work, maybe the pace at which they make work don’t fit the type of game that you’re making. This person may make amazing work, but is used to working for weeks at a time, and you’re making a mobile game that needs high turnaround. Its little nuances like that in different roles within game development that we really like to vett for such that you know when you’re hiring someone on our platform or putting yourself out for hire, you’re going to be matched to the right project that matches your specific specifications and workstyle, it’s very nuanced and we try to cover all the bases when it comes to that nuance, so you know you’re going to get a good match.”
Jokingly we immediately asked them if they’d be willing to sell the company because we honestly thought that kind of technology was a clear acquisition target. We all laughed. On a serious note though Rupie.io packs some power that helps development teams of all sizes, but it’s specially built with indie studios in mind. Anyone currently working on an indie project or thinking about taking the leap any time soon, would be wise to at least take a peek at what they’re doing these days. And we can confirm more features are indeed on the way!