The Creativity and Drive of Alexis Kennedy
Alexis Kennedy is a video-game developer, and he is the co-founder of boutique gaming company Weather Factory. Previously, he ran Failbetter Games. The games he produces are generally narrative based and highly innovative. He is involved personally in all aspects of development and is skilled at writing, coding and business. In short, he’s a creative and effective individual.
He was born in West Germany, but he now lives in England. Before becoming a game developer, he worked as an English teacher and also as a software developer. He is a well-rounded person with the unique skill set it takes to develop innovative and visually appealing video games entirely from scratch.
When it comes to writing, Alexis Kennedy switches back and forth between crafting a narrative and putting down lines of code. He usually starts his workday at a whiteboard and sketches out the broad outlines of the work for the day, and then he physically moves to a chair and desk where he gets down to the business of writing narrative and code. He finds that the physical movement of moving from one work area to another keeps him focused.
When he encounters a development problem that he can’t immediately solve, he steps away from the work instead of banging his head trying to find a solution. He believes that it sometimes takes some time away from the computer to figure out what the best path forward is. Having said that, he works consistently and daily to develop his ideas. He isn’t afraid to ask others for help when he is stuck.
Although the games that Alexis Kennedy develops are narrative based, much of his inspiration comes from visual images. He’ll see an image that catches his imagination and interest, and then he’ll start to develop a story line around it. Often, he will take the narratives that have been generated in multiple, unconnected threads and weave them all together into a story that is greater than the sum of its parts.
A trend in the gaming industry that he is very enthusiastic about is the advent of “idle” games where players can pause the action and step away from the screen for as long as they like and not lose anything when they return to the game. For a gamer such as himself who doesn’t have hours to play, these kinds of games are very refreshing. In general, he likes indie games that are developed at a low cost and focus on a single theme.
His philosophy is that it’s better to develop a game that is perfect for a small group of players rather than developing a game that partially pleases a large group of people, and this is what he sees the big studios do. As far as business goes, he is all about focusing on long-term success rather than getting rich fast, and he cautions new developers that they aren’t likely to make a profit until their third game because it takes a while to build a reputation and develop a base.
“Cultist Simulator” is the signature game from Weather Factory, and it was developed by Kennedy and his partner in a single year. He explains that a big challenge was making the game difficult but not too difficult. Early versions of the game were simply too difficult, and players walked away from it. Therefore, Kennedy worked to leave more hints, especially through the user interface, and players were able to find their way through the game’s challenges surrounded in an atmosphere of H.P. Lovecraft-era magic.