Arthur: How you guys decided “we should probably make games” and what is your story of success? dsfgs
Andrew: We started in 2010. My brother and I worked in enterprise software and haven’t worked on a project together for years. Corey (Andrew’s brother) got his first touchscreen nice Android phone, and I got around the same time a Samsung. Maybe the very first Samsung Galaxy. Both phones that can play games.
We started working on a very hobby project called Star Traders RPG – it’s a space game where you fly around, it’s very Firefly or Dune like. Like keep flying, pay your crew, do missions across the galaxy. We posted it to Google Play only, and we got people play the game, which was a surprise. We were just making something for the two of us to share. We lived on different coasts of the country. He was in California, I was in Boston. We didn’t intend to turn it into a game that we would be paid for, but there were so many people that started playing and emailing us with questions and suggestions and complaints about solar distances and how big the universe was, and all sorts of things.
We eventually put in on sale and interest just snowballed. So we realized we can make money making games and decided to keep doing that. And we’ve been making games ever since.
Arthur: What is your vision of video games, what makes your games stand out? What makes me say “hey, that’s the game Trese Brothers made!”?
Andrew: We never shy away from the complexity in games. In fact, we probably lean into complex systems really hard, which creates games that have a lot of depth and replayability. We give players a lot of options and let them really come up with their own story and their own way. Players will tell their own story about the game emotionally, based on the choices they can make.
For example, in Star Traders Frontiers, our last game, when we set down to build a game where you needed to be a galactic Han Solo, like a space smuggler, bounty hunter, intergalactic spy, a space pirate, and an explorer. We layered out nine professions and set this all have to play completely differently. You have to mix and match all the elements. You have total freedom of how to play the game. So people will play a hundred-hour run of the game playing one way and then they can play a hundred hours another way.
Arthur: And when you are creating a game, do you make all those ideas yourself or you draw some ideas from your audience, from players?
Andrew: We have always been a very community-focused game company. Partially that’s because of how we got started. We really wouldn’t have turned Star Traders RPG into a game that we could sell if the community hadn’t gathered around us and made it happen. Like they demanded that we create a forum. We got so many emails with so many common questions, so we were like “oh, we have to create a forum”. And then people piled on there and from there it kind of snowballed, and that became a part of our company DNA.
And I would say that another big thing that if people were to identify stuff about Trese Brothers games is that we hang out and talk to the community. We source a ton of good ideas from them, for sure.
Later this year the Cyber Knights alpha will go out to the thousand players on Kickstarter, who paid to be on that alpha team. And we are very excited to gather as many good ideas from them as we can and take suggestions. We always read and take the suggestions very seriously cause we have a history of finding that that stuff makes our games better. You know, we have players suggest straight-up items with stats, and if there is the right item we will put it in the game. It’s really helpful.
Arthur: I wonder whether the community influence on your development process can be not a benefit but quite the opposite, can it?
Andrew: Yeah, it has the potential. That’s the big part of the decision for us. It’s very important that we come up with a really clear version and we know what the game needs and what we think is important. So as people throw out suggestions, we have to be very careful. We say no way more than we say yes to people who have ideas. Usually, we have a system in place that needs to be there to help the game stand up properly. And people are saying, “well, that system shouldn’t be there. That system could be better.” Or “you should do this entirely different thing.” And we’re very likely to take the middle option of like, “what if you just changed, you know, how guns work, what if you added this rule” and that kind of tweaking is more useful because we’ve usually looked at the systems map and are happy with all the interplay.
And there have been times where we have completely removed things because of player feedback. So that’s a big part of it. You have to really be careful not to just bring it around and make the game that the loudest player wants you to make, right? Which is not a game that everybody’s going to enjoy or the game you set out to make in the first place. There are some very loud players who have some very big ideas.
Arthur: I also wonder whether you focus on sending a message when you develop a game. For instance, your upcoming game is in a cyberpunk setting. The most popular messages that cyberpunk products deliver are transhumanism, the Theseus ship paradox, and trolley problem, and so on. Do you focus on such things or rather on the gameplay?
Andrew: Well, the stories will often explore those themes. We are often trying to create stories that cause the players to think about them, and that have more questions than answers.
Well, the stories will often explore those themes.
We’re not really trying to ship an answer. So much as set up scenarios that would leave you kind of, forced to make hard decisions left sort of in a gray zone. And then maybe outside of the game, you might think about those things more. We’re not really trying to push one or the other direction in any of these given cases.
We like to tell mature stories, like not simple hero stories that were popular in the ’90s. More of that kind when the choices are okay, but they all have some bad consequences. There’s no right answer here. There may be no wrong answer. But you have to still make a choice. So our stories are sort of more in that vein.
We get a lot of players on our community forum, arguing the merits of the story. Like, “should I support this person? Should I not?” And asking questions about it, which I think is where we’d rather be than trying to say too much with fiction about 2231, 200 years in the future is kind of a stretch.
Arthur: Considering Cyber Knights: Flashpoint, it is the second game of the Cyber Knights franchise that takes place 14 years later from the Cyber Knights RPG. So how does it differ from the first part and why you decided to make a sequel?