Interview Published: 03/04/2016
Timothy Courtney interviews Scott Reismanis aka INtense, an independent developer who founded some of the most popular game sites on the web like ModDB, IndieDB, SlideDB, and soon VRDB.
Timothy Courtney: Hey Scott! Thank you for taking time to do an interview. What are some of your most fond memories from childhood? Did you grow up in Melbourne?
Scott Reismanis - INtense: Melbourne born and raised. I was an active kid, so always enjoyed heading to the beach with my family.
What is the one thing or maybe series of things that made you go, "I'm going to learn how to program"? How did that come about?
I’ve always been a creator. It started with lego as a kid, moved to circuit boards and slowly turned to programming. I began programming in high-school, our TI82 graphics calculators. I enjoyed making programs to solve equations and from that point never looked back.
Did you have failures and failed projects before your successes with things like IndieDB, and if so, can you explain what they were and how it impacted you/what you learned from the experiences?
So many failed projects. My first site was Gamerzoned, which became Gaminzone, then Chaosrealm and Modrealm. These sites were all short lived, but taught me a huge amount. The most important of which was how much I enjoyed working with the community, and instead of making another editorial site, I wanted to create something that the community ran. It freed my time up to program, whilst also giving developers control - win win!
If you can pick one adjective to describe yourself, what is it?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps as a developer and entrepreneur?
Start small, you want to hit your goals and not get bored or worse fail. Then slowly refine your idea and build on it. Focus on creating something you are passionate about. ModDB was a hobby for 8 years before it became a business, and it still feels like a hobby today.
You started ModDB and IndieDB in 2008 during the financial crisis. Were you surprised by how fast it grew, and what would you attribute to it?
Actually ModDB was started in 2002, IndieDB came later in 2008. It has been one hell of a ride, the sites have grown every year for 10 years now. I put it down to the amazing tools, games and engines which people can build on. There are a lot of creative people in the world who want to share and get feedback on their work. Our aim is to help them do that.
When you're not working, what do you like to do?
I live with my girlfriend Bec, we have a lot of fun doing normal things like going out to bars, sport, movies. When i’m not spending time with her, I’m most likely playing board games or magic the gathering. Also a big fan of old-school lans, with classic games / mods from Doom, HL and Quake - after all it is where I got my start!
Do you think it's possible to start from scratch with no connections today and cultivate something, like a 'Steam', or is that best left for big business?
It is extremely hard, I’m fortunate that I have a site which is well respected and gets 200,000+ visitors daily, and I still find it tough to launch new ideas. The key is determination. I’m extremely motivated and will just keep trying until I find the solution. I also don’t expect my ideas to be as big as Steam, I just want to make a robust business and a product that people love using. Do that and you will eventually see success.
Besides the normal getting dressed, etc., what is the first thing you do every morning?
I never ever miss breakfast. Not sure how people can skip that meal. Oh and I don’t drink coffee - so it doesn’t count as breakfast.
How important is work/life balance to you? Is it something you struggle with or are you guilt-free working a gazillion hours a week?
I like working far too much, so I don’t have great balance but it doesn’t feel that way. When i’m working on ModDB i’m enjoying my time so it blurs the line between what is work and what is fun. I need to learn to strike a bit more balance, as I’d like to spend more time with my friends and family than I do - and not always be distracted by a new idea i’m working on.
What do you love most about modders?
I love that modding is an entirely selfless pursuit. It is done by creators who love creating solely for the reason that they want to see how others use and enjoy the work they create. It is free from commercial pressure and deadlines and I believe that is a big reason why so much innovation in games (be it big or small), has been the product of modders creativity. I mean the biggest game ideas in the world are all the result of mods (team fortress, counter strike, dota, dayz - pretty amazing history)
What do you love most about indie game developers?
The variety of games they create. As someone with not much time on their hands, I find it hard to sit down and play epic AAA games. Indie games offer me puzzles, challenges and many experiences I can share with friends, and immediately enjoy.
If you could design a perfect society in some alternate universe, what would it be like?
I think the thing I struggle with most, is how reactive we are as a society. We never take action or initiative to fix problems until it is too late. I fear that global warming will be like that. So I guess I’d like a society where been proactive and taking initiative is rewarded and encouraged.
Do you surf?
I love the beach but don’t surf. I kite board and body surf on occasion though.
It seems like you take a very measured approach in business as far as development and growth goes. What are your thoughts on being measured in developmental and business environments?
It depends what you are trying to achieve. I want a robust, self funded secure business. So that means taking a measured calculated approach and is why we have survived and remained independent for 10 years now. If you want to take risks and expand that’s fine, but expect to give up some control and face different challenges.
Some people think the game industry is producing too many games and they're becoming more difficult to stand out. Do you agree and why or why not?
Advanced game engines have made game development more accessible than ever, leading to more games than ever. So yes I agree. The challenge is stores really only promote the top X games, and unless you make it into the top X, your game will get buried. The key is to focus on slowly growing your fanbase, utilising all the tricks and contacts you have and doing something different that is headline worthy. And of course putting free resources like our sites IndieDB.com and ModDB.com to use. We welcome all content and will share it with our community.
What does a typical day for you entail?
Get up around 8:30am, ride into the office by about 9am. Then I usually work pretty hard until lunch, before taking some time to play boardgames or PC games on occasions. I work pretty hard in the afternoon, mostly on backend stuff like fixing issues that no one notices (you’d be amazed how many random challenges pop up when running a community with millions of members). Then if there is time left working on cool stuff like new designs and features. Finally I head home for a meal and to relax with Bec. I generally finish the day reading Hacker News - catch up on all the tech headlines.
What is your favorite type of food to eat?
Probably a good old fashioned Aussie BBQ.
What trend or opportunity in the game industry are you currently excited about?
Loving VR, been working really hard on VRDB.com for a while now. Also excited about the future of mods. Content has become so important to games, and nothing beats modding when it comes to content. It has come at a cost though, there are most cosmetic mods than ever before and less total conversions, so that is one downside of the growth for me.
What is the next step for ModDB and IndieDB, and where would you like to see them in the future? Also, are you working on anything else right now?
VRDB.com is our primary project. But next step is redesigning ModDB.com and IndieDB.com and bringing them into the 21st century with modern easier to browse and mobile friendly designs. Beyond that sitting on a number of ideas. Modding we need to better support cosmetic smaller mods from games like Skyrim so we will be exploring how we can do that - to help communities like Nexus keep modding open and independent. On the indie front we want to expand our platform and host games homepages, as we believe we have a lot of tools to offer developers.
What is the best way for people to find you and your work?
💘 Interview by Timothy Courtney
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