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Sponsored: 'Sweat, Swearing and Tears' - A new documentary series on indie game developers

July 7, 2014

"In many cases game design, game play and game feel all come from an emotional time or experience, and when you know that story, you start to look at these games -- and the people that make them -- in very different ways."

- Patrick Haynes, Founder and Executive Producer at Fatbelly Productions, speaks about his experience working with Barking Mouse Studio and Autodesk on a new indie game-focused documentary series.

In a brief interview, Patrick Haynes speaks candidly about what drew his team to work on a documentary series with Autodesk, and the insights he learned along the way about indie game developers -- their passion and drive, the emotional ups and downs they experienced while building their games, and what sets them apart from the AAA scene.

Can you tell us about this project? What is it and how was it conceived?

It started back in March when I met the Autodesk games marketing team at GDC. We were talking about how passionate indie game makers are and how each of their stories is so interesting and unique, and we started to discuss how we could capture and document that passion, so that we could share their stories with the rest of the world. At the same time, Autodesk was trying to take a more authentic approach to how they work with the indie game community. This market is a big focus of theirs at the moment, with lower cost tools for indie game makers, but they wanted a marketing approach that wasn't really focused on their software, but instead on helping indies build their games.

The idea of telling genuine and authentic stories about indie game makers -- and their trials and triumphs as they brought their games to life -- was what inspired us to create a short film series. Autodesk took a very hands-off approach and gave me a lot of creative freedom to find and tell these stories in a way that best showcased the unique experiences of each indie game maker.

Tell us about your background and how that influenced your approach to this project.

I'm a traditional artist with a background in creating contemporary art in mediums such as drawing, painting, sculpting, jewelry, ceramics, photography and filmmaking. Over the years I have had the opportunity to live in many different places and follow my dreams, all while developing my professional training in art history, design, computer animation and film. I've been able to obtain two degrees, one in Computer Animation and the other in Film & Television.

From the beginning of my career I've been fortunate enough to be able to work with music icons and other industry greats creating music videos, Grammy Award videos, and live events, and producing several documentaries along the way. Not to mention, my work with technology giants (Intel, HP, AMD, Amazon, Autodesk and so on) that has extended my career and production network throughout the globe. But, the most important factor to my success has been the team I surround myself with. Having the best creative people with strong work ethics while producing any project is huge! I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of others. It's difficult to be an artist sometimes, but in the end I've found that this kind of team collaboration is what makes us better, and helps us develop.

Tell us about the subject of the series, Barking Mouse Studio. 

Barking Mouse Studio is a two-person development studio founded by Jim Fleming and Danielle Swank. Their first game Lost Toys was fairly successful for them -- they won several awards and were featured on iTunes. Now that they've had that first taste of success, they're dedicating themselves to careers as indie game makers and they've already started working on their second game.

What is it that's appealing about the indie game story?

I think it's the passion and depth to each story. On the surface, many games -- especially games played on phones or tablets - may appear to just be simple time-killers. But, when you dig into the creation of these games, and the mindset of the people that create them, you find amazing stories. In many cases game design, game play, and game feel all come from an emotional time or experience, and when you know that story, you start to look at these games -- and the people that make them -- in very different ways.

How did you approach telling these stories from a visual perspective? 

We really let the story and people behind the project drive the style of the film series. The characters developed while we got to know Jim and Danielle. Their passions, their struggles, their triumphs -- that's what led us to come up with the style of this project. It's more a reflection of them than a creative direction we chose for the project. This kept the truth intact. That's important to us not only as storytellers, but also for building trust between us and the people we are creating films about.

Were you familiar with indie game makers before this shoot?

We were familiar with the gaming industry on a AAA level, having worked with companies like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. But it wasn't until we had the opportunity to work with indie developers like Jim and Danielle that we felt the heart beat of the industry. Indie developers bring so much more to their games. They bring them to life through their own personal experiences.

Can you talk a bit about what you learned about indie game makers?

Jim and Danielle shared their personal stories, and allowed us to enter into their lives and struggles as game makers. It was easy to learn about the indie community through them because they were so honest from the beginning. Building Lost Toys was their dream -- a turning point in their own stories -- our job was to translate to the screen just a bit of that overwhelming passion and drive these indie's possess.

An unexpected insight about the indie gaming community that we learned along this filmmaking journey was how resourceful and helpful indies are to other indies. Being that this is still the wild west of independent video game making, finding others along the way that can reveal new paths or better ideas to push your product to the next level can be so instrumental in getting your own projects and vision out to the world. Jim and Danielle definitively fit that role. They are a studio forthright in presenting a really good game, as well as a powerful message.

The video we've seen so far is just the first of a series of four videos, right?

Yes, we're telling Barking Mouse Studio's story in a series of four videos (the first one is now available at: After the Barking Mouse story, we'll move on to profile other indie game makers and their unique stories. So, by the end of the year, we'll have this amazing collection of short videos I think will do a really good job of documenting indie game developers today. 

Patrick Haynes, Fatbelly Productions

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Thomas Happ
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Is this only about indies who use Autodesk? What about 2D indies?

Pallav Nawani
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Which indie has the money to Sponsor features?

Benjamin McCallister
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I cannot help but watch the video, and as the music swells, and the woman just broke down into tears, and as the guy pensively says: "there's a lot of responsibility in the games we make... we can influence people... we can change people..." they intercut video of the game which is... A 3d puzzle putting together a toy train on a mobile device....

I can't help but be reminded of the running gag from the HBO show: Silicon Valley. Here are some quotes.

We’re making the world a better place............. through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximum code reuse and extensibility

[We're] making the world a better place.................... through minimal messaging transport layers.

Just taking themselves WAY too seriously.

John Paduch
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Yeah, this is bad comedy.

Dave Hoskins
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I couldn't get through the trailer, sorry. Probably a cultural thing, yeah that's what is was...

Felipe Budinich
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While I do think that the 3d puzzle game featured in the documentary is *beautiful*, I think that the documentary (what we can see on the trailer at least), needs to find it's own voice.

The treatment of the subject matter, as it stands, reminds me of "The inevitable sequel to 'Indie game: the movie":

Joshua Wilson
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The tone of the documentary makes it feel like it's pushing an agenda, which it is, it's just a little too obvious. Even the comments in the article above put the indie stereotype on a pedestal while dismissing other developers.

But regardless, I think it's safe to say that many developers think of games as more than just games.

And Barking Mouse were smart to start small and simple, while still trying to give the project some meaning. Something many new or newly independent developers could learn from.

Also, Maya is a great product - it's kind of sad if Autodesk feels they need to do this to sell it to "indies".

Machine Works
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Note to Fatbelly:
Stick with commercials.
Note to Barking Mouse:
Keep your facts straight:
"We both can't draw" --- quote from the interview " I'm a traditional artist with a background in creating contemporary art in mediums such as drawing, painting..."

"3D on Mobile is coming into it's own"
Ever heard of Infinity Blade - years before your puzzle game with graphics that kill you dead!

All smiles, all cool backgrounds, smiling folks with laptops.
You just blew your cred completely.
This is "review by Autodesk PR comittee approved", pasteurized, nauseating content.

You did for the free PR and that's that.
Had you said ONE line to that effect, I would have understood completely.

Note to Autodesk:
This PR effort is making you look bad.

Andreas, Machineworks