Will and Molly joined us in the Work With Indies Discord in January 2023 for a voice chat with our members about William Chyr Studio, their culture, how they hire, making Manifold Garden, and the strong overlap between jugglers and mathematicians. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Q: Will, Molly, thanks so much for joining us. Can you each start by telling us a little bit about your backgrounds?

Molly: I am new to the games industry. I joined William Chyr Studio almost six months ago as the new operations director. My background is in arts administration. For the past decade, I've been working in not-for-profit and for-profit arts institutions, many of which have been startups. And I've been working in a crossover role between arts administration, program administration, and a lot of operational duties.

So, this is definitely a change for me. But I'm very excited to be working with William and with the studio itself. William and I go way back. We met almost a dozen years ago when Will was working on some of his art installations. And we've stayed in touch over the years as Will started to make the game. So it's just a pleasure to be working on this project and with Will again in this capacity.

Will: I've been in games industry now for a little over 10 years.

I started making Manifold Garden in 2012. Prior to that, I was an installation artist doing large scale balloon installations. I was looking to change mediums and a friend of mine showed me Indie Game: The Movie.

It romanticized the process a bit. I think it made game development seem a little easier than it was. And I thought, "Hey, I can try doing this. How long can it take? Three months." So, I installed Unity and got started. I wrote the first version over Thanksgiving weekend 2012. And then seven years later in 2019 we finally shipped it.

And we're now in that next stage, which is building a studio before we start the second game.

Q: This is really interesting. Molly, coming from the art world, I don't think you're actually changing industries. It's still the same industry because we are delivering games as art.

What are some of the other similarities that you see between games and art?

Molly: I think you really hit the nail on the head. What exactly is the art world or the art industry? When I speak about being an arts administrator, I'm speaking primarily about having worked in the fine art world and the performing arts world as an arts administrator. What discipline is performance versus art, versus games, versus new media art. Those are all shifting questions that continue to be part of the discourse around art. So I think it's all very much combined. And having worked with creatives and primarily in support roles supporting artists I find it to be extremely similar.

It's a lot of the same structures and processes, collaborative processes, creative processes, from working with fine artists and performing artists that I'm seeing already working with the team at William Chyr Studio. So there's a lot of the same similarities there.

We have a lot of collaboration. We have a collaborative team working with creatives. We have different structural models and financial models. So it's very interesting to be working in this new creative industry and in continued support for artists and creatives.

One of the things that is really similar about the art world and the game world is that they're passion driven industries. Most of the people are coming to work in the fine arts or performing arts because, whether they're administrators like myself or artists or curators or art handlers, they're coming to work in that industry because they have a love for the thing itself.

With the games industry, it's very similar. People are usually coming to work in that industry because they have a passion for the thing itself. And so, what I like to think of is that passion driven industries have this wonderful creative energy. There's a lot of commitment. And then there can also be a lot of uncertainty.

From an operations perspective, [.c-highlight]I'm taking all of that in to see how to create a structure of support. That is what I enjoy.[.c-highlight] Also, something that I feel is really important is sustainability. Not only for the organizations and entities themselves, but also for the workers that are involved in these entities and organizations.

Q: Why hire Molly? Why go against the grain and hire somebody from outside the industry? What is unique about Molly and her outsider perspective that's going to benefit you and the team?

Will: One thing I want to mention is that we're a Chicago-based studio. That's relevant because Chicago doesn't have a large games industry.

It did, Midway was here. Bungie started here. But really, in terms of AAA presence, there's Iron Galaxy, Netherealm making Mortal Kombat… We don't have that anchor studio like Ubisoft in Montreal or Microsoft in Washington or the LA area.

So there's not a lot of talent here. When it comes to art, when it comes to comedy, Chicago's always known as the place where people get started and they move away to New York, LA. Chicago is the place to be if the place you want to be is New York.

But the small scene here has actually been to my advantage. I've gotten to know a lot of people, like the Young Horses who made Octodad and Bugsnax. They've been big mentors to me.

And even though it's a very small scene, you get to know a lot of different people. After we released Manifold Garden, a lot of people that joined the core team of 7-8 people, they all joined towards the end.

At that point, Manifold Garden had a very clear identity. It's almost like it's a train and we know where it's going and what we need to do to get there. After the release of that game though, it's completely different. We're now figuring out where are we going? Are we gonna take a car or a plane? Do we have to build that? It's a completely different entity that we're dealing with.

I remember we had a lot of struggles because after Manifold Garden we immediately jumped into game two. Not recognizing that releasing a game is completely different than starting a new one.

When I started Manifold Garden, that was four years by myself wandering in the desert. And I spoke with Josh Tsui, who worked at Midway back in the day. In fact, he was the face of Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat 2. This is someone who's been in the industry for 20 years. And I said to him, I need help with the business side.

At the time I thought I could hire other creatives and give them feedback while I take on all the business administrative side, which is completely backwards. Because the creative side is really what I'm good at. And he said, you should hire someone else to do that. And I said how am I gonna find an operations person in Chicago?

We just don't have that big of an industry. And he said, you actually don't need someone in games to be in operations, but you do need someone with that experience. Knowing how to make a game, the difference between Unreal and Unity, that's less important than someone who's familiar with payroll, who's familiar with accounting.

Molly and I, we've known each other, I think 13, 14 years. I've always known her as a director of arts organizations and an administrator. I know that she has a lot of experience running creative organizations.

And we randomly got together for lunch and started talking. It just felt right. This is exactly what Josh was telling me about. Bringing Molly on has been the best decision in 2022. And I think this has been a big appeal for people who are applying for jobs because there is that separation of power.

[.c-insight]💡 Editor's Note: This is so good to see from a small indie studio. Remember, actions speak louder than words. Prioritizing operations as one of the first full-time hires, bringing on Molly in this role as a third of the leadership team, this is a strong indicator that this team really cares about their people.[.c-insight]

For a long time we had just three employees. There's myself, Creative Director, Tyler, our Technical Director, and Molly our Operation Director. Which is a bit of an unusual combination that a third of the company is actually not actively involved in game development itself.

But this was also something that Mike Bithell of Bithell Games did. He was a big inspiration. I remember many years ago after the release of Thomas Was Alone or Volume, he brought on a biz dev partner, Alexander Sliwinsky, who used to write for Joystiq.

And I thought, that's an unusual partnership. Usually I see an artist or a programmer getting together. Or artist, programmer, designer. Those tend to be the indie team combinations. And here Mike is bringing another person to do business. But, as I talked to him, Alex really [.c-highlight]provided a lot of the studio support that built the foundation to help Mike focus on the creative stuff.[.c-highlight]

And I thought that's exactly what we need here.

Q: Working as a solo developer for four years, that's intense. At what point did you know that it was time to ask for help? How did you go about building that team? Any lessons learned about building a team from that experience that you are taking into this current experience?

Will: Initially, it was me for the first three, four years. At some point we got funding from Indie Fund. It wasn't a lot of money, but enough to bring other people on. One of the challenges we had though, because we didn't have enough to pay people, was that they weren't staying for very long.

So it was like three, four years alone. And then about two years where it was this rotating door of people coming in and out. The core team that really coalesced around Manifold Garden came together in 2017.

The first person was Arthur, our graphics programmer. He found me on Twitter. I'd been posting a lot about the game. I was streaming development, I think from 2016 until release. So a lot of people knew about the game and they were like, "oh, can I work on this?"

So, I used to not have a job posting. We just post something on Twitter. "Hey, I'm looking for a programmer, send me an email." Fortunately we really lucked out with Arthur and he was incredible to work with. From there, Martin, our sound designer joined. Then Laryssa, our composer. And we still collaborate with a lot of the same people.

Tyler, who's our current technical director, in fact, joined in the last year of Manifold Garden development originally just to help us with the PS4 port. He ended up taking over ports for the other platforms. We worked with other external contractors as well, but he took over maintenance of that. He had a big hand in the Apple Arcade version and now is handling everything from the build machine to our version control system, to the architecture of the new game.

In terms of lessons, in the past we used to hire people based on three things. Were they available? Did they have the skills? And could we afford them? And I think one of the things we've learned is that it is good when things are going well. I think I've heard this phrase, winning teams don't argue.

There's the momentum of things going well. You ignore a lot of the issues. But what happens is if you don't have a good foundation and something goes wrong, then it all comes falling down. And so for us, a big focus when Molly joined, one of the first things she did was having a sit down talk about our company values.

There was a little bit of resistance. People weren't against it, but this was like, oh, this feels like a corporate exercise. Who doesn't want integrity or respect? But as we talked about it, we really got to understand what those words meant and how they apply to us. And they've been these pillars that we can point to.

For example, one of the values is flexibility and independence. We used to have a five to ten minute check-in at the end of the day at 5:00 PM. We could ask people if they were stuck on anything, but you had to be home at that time. If you started working on something at 4:30, you had to stop it to jump on this call.

We found that if people are just proactive, if they are independent, then we don't need that meeting. The studio can be more flexible if people are independent. And so we've actually changed policies by asking ourselves, does this fit our values?

That's been really great for us. So part of our interview process now is [.c-highlight]really getting to know the person, getting to know if they're going to be a good fit culture-wise, and then focusing on the skillset second. [.c-highlight]

Q: You mentioned the three things that you used to hire for: availability, skill, cost. Would you hire somebody today that was was available, was excellent at their craft, but wasn't a culture fit?

Will: No, I would rule that out. There are a lot of people applying. I think we can find someone that fits. [.c-highlight]What I've found is if someone isn't a good culture fit, that can cause problems later on. And I think that can be more detrimental in the long run.[.c-highlight]

[.c-insight]💡 Editor's Note: Remember, there's a lot of really good reasons why we might not receive a job offer. That decision isn't always related to your skills or your abilities. Culture fit, the ability to work well and be successful within the unique way in which each company operates, is incredibly important. And if we're not a good culture fit for the company, that also means the company isn't a good culture fit for us. And we want to find a good fit for us so we can also avoid similar, sometimes detrimental issues in the long run.[.c-insight]

Q: Molly, how did you go about implementing some of these more corporate practices?

Molly: It's not like I was a hundred percent sold on establishing values as like a first thing to do at the studio. I think we figured all together that we wanted to give it a shot. And before we came to the realization that the values need to be established, Will wanted me to speak to past collaborators and to talk to people that were currently on the team.

Not in a call with Will, but in a call away from Will. He encouraged me to give them the freedom to speak freely. To give me feedback on what was successful. Not only about working with the studio and other people, but also working with Will.

It wasn't really about let's create the values, but rather, let's talk to the people here. And in doing that, I started to see what really made someone successful with the company.

We could identify where the strengths were and where there were some holes by talking to people. From there, we could find the commonalities, the things that made us successful in the past. And shape those into what would be termed as values.

Q: We've heard about flexibility and independence. What are some of the other values?

Molly: During one of these conversations one of our teammates said something so smart. He said [.c-highlight]"I think that each one of us would make a great game, but together we're gonna make an incredible one."[.c-highlight]

That was like a real key. It's so smart and brilliant. It's a key piece of these conversations that helped us develop this value of collaboration equals innovation. Collaboration and the collaborative process is a key part of what we're doing. Working together to make this incredible game instead of just having a singular vision where we're making a great game. That was one of our key values that came out of those conversations.

We also have well-being, which is something we felt was very important. We wanted to steer away from crunch. We wanted to make sure that people had the flexibility and independence to work in a way that was helpful for them.

We work in a synchronous and asynchronous environment, so we have about four core hours that we work together, and then we have the rest of the hours where people can work independently.

Creating that schedule where it's not only about the working style, like being able to work together and then work independently, but also to have the flexibility to have work-life balance. Maybe you really enjoy working at 2:00 AM at night. It’s important to us that you have the wellbeing to do the work the way you want to do it in the work style that works best for you.

And then of course, intentional respect was huge for us. Not only that we be respectful, but that we practice intentional respect so that we see it as an ongoing practice. Since we have people working in many different countries and with many different backgrounds, we really practice active listening with intentional respect.

Those are pretty much our core standard values.

Of course, we're still working and we're still developing. We might end up with more. For now, those are our four core values.

Q: Can you provide a little bit more detail on what intentional respect means? Or an example of how that has played out on the team?

Will: For us, we're always giving feedback on the game. Often it's like, "Hey, this is a bug or this is not working." The way I see it is when you're making a game we try not to focus too much on the final release version. Because that comes at the last day of development. The rest of the time the game is a mess. It's broken and things need fixing. When we're giving feedback, we want to be proactive in understanding what people are thinking. It's not just, “I'm not going to be mean” or “I'm not going to be rude”, but “I actually want to understand someone's approach”.

When you're going in, it's not passively respecting. It's taking a proactive role in understanding their position and what they’re thinking so that we can make decisions accordingly.

[.c-insight]💡 Editor's Note: Intentional respect. I'm stealing this.[.c-insight]

Q: You mentioned sync and async with four hours overlap, four hours independently. What's that actually look like?

Will: It's 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM central time. We found that to be, at least for the US time zones, not too late for Eastern and not too early for Pacific. We do have one member of our team who's in the UK, but he's a bit of a night owl, so those hours work well for him.

We try to schedule all of our meetings during that time. The way we treat it is from 10 to 2, if I were to message you on Slack, I would expect a response in 10 to 15 minutes – within a reasonable time. Outside of those hours, I don't expect you to respond to me until the next day.  

This way, if you're going to be away at a dentist appointment from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM, you don’t need to let us know you’re out of office. At that point, we're not expecting you to be available. It's very clear; now we're on, and all other times we’re off.

When I was a college student I saw this theater director, Mary Zimmerman, give a talk. Somebody asked about her writing schedule. They asked, “When do you find the time to write?” And she said, I go to bed at 10 and I wake up at 2 in the morning. Then I write from 2 to 6. Everything's quiet, she gets a ton of writing done. And then she goes back to sleep and wakes up at 10:00 AM again. We want people to have that option.

I can't do 10 to 6. I can't work for eight hours straight. I have to take a nap. I’ve got to go for a walk. We find that four hours, that's the minimum amount of time we need to get all the meetings done. But outside of that, people can really work as they please.

Q: Given that you're a remote team, do you do any happy hours or game nights so the team can socialize together? How do you how do you bring folks together outside of work?

Wil: There are a couple regular meetings. We do these standup meetings on Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 10 in the morning. Also a sprint kickoff and a sprint review. That's where a lot of the socializing happens.

Especially with online, we've just found sometimes the games are a little bit awkward. We also don't want to make people stay later. So, we would do them in that 10 to 2 timeframe, but oftentimes it would just mean you have four hours of meetings. You get the work meeting done and then you do another hour social and we just found it too exhausting.

Q: I read on William's site that you worked in physics before getting into art. I was curious how this background influenced your creative work and what made you change in?

Will: My undergraduate studies was in physics. I actually spent a summer working in a nuclear physics lab in Italy. It was an hour outside of Venice. I had a great time there. Outside of my studies, I was actually involved in a student circus. We were jugglers. That's where I learned to twist balloons.

An installation from Will's first solo exhibition SYSTEMS/PROCESS

I remember during my fourth year I was considering going to a graduate program in physics and I passed by my roommate. He was sitting in his bed and he was reading a math textbook. I asked him, “What class is that for?” And he said, “It's not for a class.” And he's gone on to get a PhD in math. He's a math professor now.

But [.c-highlight]that moment I realized I had never ever read a physics textbook for fun.[.c-highlight] But I had a copy of Cirque du Soleil's book next to my bed. I would read that for fun.

I was much more interested in creative work. That was this moment where I realized if I go to grad school, those are the people who are going to be around me, the people who read physics books for fun. And while I'm interested, I didn’t love math that much. I was a street performer making balloon animals in parks.

That was a wake up call for me to find what it is that I'm passionate about and follow that.

Now, physics has been very useful in game development process. You have to be very detail-oriented. I remember when we were working on the PS4 version, there was this bug where an hour into the game, it would crash.

It was very hard to find. And we ended up creating this test suite. We would check off different features and methodically go through that until we collected enough data. It was like being in a lab again. You have a hypothesis and you're performing these experiments and you just keep doing that until you have enough data that you start to see a pattern.

And sure enough, over time we started to see that every time this one feature was on after an hour, it would cause a memory leak and the game would crash. So there was this methodology in my studies that I would continue to use to this day.

Q: Nice. Did your study of physics help with juggling?

Will: There is actually this weird overlap between jugglers and mathematics. In fact, there's a book, The Mathematics of Juggling. Within the population of jugglers, there's a higher proportion of mathematicians, engineers, and physicists. And amongst mathematicians and physicists, there's a higher proportion of jugglers. I'm not too sure what the connection is, but there's a lot of overlap between those communities.

Q: I'd love to hear about the team environment. How big is the team today? The different sub-teams such as art, et cetera?

Will: We currently have five full-time employees. There's Molly, Operations Director, myself, Creative Director, and Tyler, Technical Director. We just hired a QA tester and a producer. We also have four or five contractors that we work with. I say four or five because some of them are on an as-needed basis.

Lukas is a programmer based in the UK and he works with us regularly. We actually don't have an art team. For Manifold Garden, we had art direction, but a lot of that was in the code. That was one thing where I knew I didn't have strong art skills. And we made the game to take advantage of my strength as a programmer. So it's all in the shaders.

Q: Given that some of these roles are contractors how do you feel about those contractors having their own projects on the side?

Molly: We have some stipulations in our agreements with contractors and employees related to that. Obviously, we don't want any competitive puzzle games or VR puzzle games. We don't want the contractors or employees working on those. But we do have space and we do encourage our team to work on their independent projects.

Q: What can you tell us about the new game and what are you working on now? Did you immediately lean towards exploring AR/VR tech with your prototypes? Or did you prototype an idea that sparked pushing into exploring the tech?

Will: How much can we talk about the game? Not much, except yes, it’s in VR and it has similar themes as Manifold Garden. How did we get started? VR was not our first choice. We prototyped a bunch of different things. A large part of it was really figuring out the process of prototyping.

Like I said, a lot of the people joined towards the end of shipping. We shipped Manifold Garden on I think 9, 10 different platforms. That's just such a different pattern and skillset. So I think we did make a few prototypes, but it was really just to figure out how to start a new project as a studio.

Originally, the thinking with VR was we're going to make a straight port of Manifold Garden in VR because that’s not a game 2, but a game 1.5. We thought, we haven't gone through the entire development cycle as a team, so why don't we start with one where we have a sense of what it's about.

It turned out to be much more of a game 2 than a game 1.5, just because with VR you really have to reinvent a lot of stuff. We call non VR games pancake games because they're flat. Just to differentiate, when people say 3D, it's 3D on a screen or 3D in VR.

With taking pancake games to VR, a lot of the design, the UX, the game design, you have to throw out. So you have to reinvent that. We had to reinvent the mechanics, which means the puzzles are different, which means that the levels are different. And so the architecture is different.

It's still inspired by the same, surreal physics architecture, infinite geometry, and beautiful art style, but in a different direction. It has the same seeds as Manifold Garden, but it's growing into a very different flower.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your interview process? How would you filter out those that do not fit the company values we talked about earlier?

Will: In our job listings, at the bottom of the listing, we always say, “In order to apply, send an email and put this in your subject line.” So, for the illustrator position, we'll say WCS illustrator. And then, we'll ask you to list your hourly rate, where you’re based, et cetera. [.c-highlight]If we don't see that subject line, it gets labeled "do not consider".[.c-highlight]

Q: What percentage of applications do you put into "do not consider"?

Will: Way too high. And it’s heartbreaking because some of them have really great portfolios. But we just know that if you're not reading through this job description, how can we trust you to read our feedback? Or how can we trust you to meet our assignment? I don't want to have that doubt. And this is just not off to a good start. That's the first filter. And [.c-highlight]it probably eliminates 40 to 50% of the applicant pool[.c-highlight]. I really think that the job is yours to lose. It's much easier to take yourself out of running.

[.c-insight]💡 Editor's Note: People are always asking how to stand out in job applications. I frequently encourage them to stop overthinking it. It's not that hard. Just don't be one of those applicants. Simply following instructions will vault you into the top 50%. Follow that up with well-written, relevant, and dare I say, intentional resumes, cover letters, and portfolios, and you'll quickly find yourself in the top 10%.[.c-insight]

Molly: Part of that review where we ask for something specifically and if the exact subject line is not provided, the applicant gets weeded out is because we know that, on our team, this type of [.c-highlight]attention to detail is extremely important.[.c-highlight]

In terms of the interview process and the conversations around the values and understanding if someone is a good fit, the [.c-highlight]fit has to go both ways. It's not just having us assess if the applicant is a good culture fit, but being transparent with the applicant about what our values are so that they are also able to assess if we’re right for them.[.c-highlight]

Fit has to go both ways. It's not just having us assess if the applicant is a good culture fit, but being transparent with the applicant about what our values are so that they are also able to assess if we’re right for them. – Molly Feingold

Everybody wants to get the job and win the game. But we want to be really transparent and really clear about what it's like to work with the studio so that people can make the right choices for them and we can make the right choice as well.

In terms of the interview process, we do interviews with every member of the management team, which is currently three: operations, technical, and creative. Depending on what the applicant is applying for, we distribute the first interview, second interview, and third interview.

The initial interview is really just about getting to know the applicant and having the applicant have a relaxed atmosphere in order to ask us questions. We really try and keep that first one relaxed.

We do a lot of shared note taking and communication between management so that the second interview is a little bit more focused. And then, the third we'll focus on any remaining questions or things that we want to target. That's how we work together collaboratively as a team to understand and get different people's point of view.

When we started to put the management team together, it was very important to Will that we no longer have a Will who has to make all the decisions, but a management team who can make decisions with different points of view and different perspectives. That filters over to our interview process and is really important for seeing 360.

That's been our interview process thus far and it has worked quite well. We hope to iterate to make it better for the future.

Q: You mentioned over email writing an employee handbook. Are you writing one? Do you have one?

Molly: We wrote one! We wrote one!

I did a lot of the writing, but a lot of this credit goes to Will. Just giving the space and the time and the dedication to actually making an employee handbook. Not putting it to the side as something that happens in operations, but really saying this is important. We made like a 45 page handbook.

Will: There were a couple of different references, but a big inspiration was Valve’s handbook. They covered so much and the presentation is beautiful. Ours doesn't have the drawings yet, maybe in a later iteration. But, that was one of the inspirations.

Molly: We just onboarded two new employees and we have almost a week for review of that handbook. I know it sounds like a lot. But review of the handbook and the tools and all these kinds of things, we really want to give that space to say culture fit is really important to us.

It's not reading the handbook into your free time. We’re giving the time to spend with this document. In the future, we want to make it a little bit more fun, add some illustrations and stuff like that.

Will: Giving people time to read the handbook is because [.c-highlight]we want you to be a member of the team first and your role second.[.c-highlight] If someone is a QA tester and that first week we're already giving them QA tasks, it's saying the employee handbook then becomes secondary, that the employee handbook isn’t as important as doing a QA report.

We want you to know what our culture is, how we work, how to take days off, how to request PTO, sick days, stuff like that. We want you to have the space and time to become familiar with that before we start adding the actual tasks you're gonna be doing.

We want you to be a member of the team first and your role second. – William Chyr

Q:Would the handbook be something that you're willing to release publicly?

Will: I would love to. There's some confidential information we’d want to sort out. We're really proud of it. Molly spearheaded that project and honestly, it really makes a good impression.

The producer we just hired, who found the job through Work With Indies, when it came down to deciding whether he wanted to take the job or not, asked to look at the employee handbook. We sent it to him and reading that really gave him an accurate impression of who we are as a company.

Q: I believe you're using Unity today… Would you consider creating your own in-house game engine? What's your perspective on the value cost equation of creating your own game engine?

Will: We would not create our own game engine. One, I don't have experience writing my own engine. Two, from the economics of it, it's really hard to justify not using Unity or Unreal. Because Epic is essentially giving you the tools that they're using to make Fortnite. That's an incredibly large company spending a ton of resources on an incredibly successful game and they're just letting you use that tool.

Now there is a revenue share, but I just can't see how on our own we'd be able to... especially, on Manifold Garden which runs on iPod Touch all the way up to PS5. There is a very wide range of platforms it's running on and a lot of that is thanks to what Unity provides. We did have to do a lot of work on top of that, but we were really standing on the shoulders of giants there to pull it off.

Nate: There's also just the benefit of people coming in and knowing the engine right from day one versus having to ramp up on your own internal engine.

Will: We brought Manful Garden to mobile in three months. I think we signed the Apple Arcade contract in June 2019. We came out in October 2019. That would not have been possible had we not had a lot of existing tools. We brought on other studios to help us, and they were already familiar with Unity. If they had to learn our own engine, it might have taken a year and a half. We would've missed that window.

Q: In one of your job descriptions, you say you're looking for people that are both independent and self-motivated, but you're also looking for people that are comfortable working in an iterative creative process and strong creative direction. Manifold Garden obviously had very strong creative direction. Can you tell us a little bit more about the dynamics and the creative between the team and a little bit about this iterative process that you have today?

Will: That is a great question and something we actually have been very intentional about.

One of the things that we're all following as a studio is Richard Lemarchand's book, A Playful Production Process. Richard worked at Naughty Dog for many years. I believe he's also a professor at USC. He calls it a book on production for designers. When somebody joins the team, we send them a copy of it. That's how much we love the book.  

One of the things he talks about is being very clear about the pre-production process and production. During pre-production, there's ideation. When we started working on this project, we were also asking for funding at the same time. There wasn't a clear separation of what stage we were in. One of the things we did after reading the book was we went back and said, we're going to go back to doing pre-production and we're going to have a dedicated time for ideation.

Anybody can come and present an idea that they have. We really believe that good design can come from anyone. Everybody has good ideas. You don't need to be a designer. That being said, we also make it very clear that the designer is the one who has to make the final call. In the past, we’ve struggled with people feeling like their ideas weren't heard because they weren't implemented.

And so, we were very careful about everybody being heard. But there are key decision makers. It's not a democratic process where the majority decides. The way we see it is that everybody's idea is heard, then we choose the best one and everybody gets on board with that.

Q: Do you have any other books that you send out during the onboarding phase?

Will: We haven't found another one that we really like. When our producer joined, he already had a copy of it. We just think that it's such a great book because it talks about crunch, it talks about work-life balance.

The way we approach things is a little bit different. But I think, it really captures the spirit and the approach that we want to go for.