Episode 7: Lost Your Marbles

Christa Mrgan: Like the Cheshire cat told Alice, it really doesn’t matter which way you go. You’re sure to get somewhere, if you only walk long enough! Instead of a white rabbit, as Prota of Pomegranate Village, you’re searching for your lost dog Minty. And even if you’re pretty bad at the marble shooting game mechanic that lets you choose your path in this branching narrative adventure, if you keep working your marble through the maze, you’re sure to get somewhere and meet some fun characters along the way.

Welcome to the Playdate Podcast, bringing you stories from game developers, designers, and the team behind Playdate, the little yellow game console with a crank. I’m Christa Mrgan. Today, I’m talking with some of the folks behind Lost Your Marbles, which was narrative development company Sweet Baby’s first game for Playdate, but also their first in-house game ever, as they had previously focused on client work.

Slight spoiler alert: we talk about the premise of the game, one of the opening scenes, the core gameplay mechanic, and some of the characters. We also mention two other games that Sweet Baby is working on for Playdate.

But with Lost Your Marbles, there’s a huge variety of paths to take and multiple game endings, so you may or may not meet all of the characters mentioned in today’s episode. Okay. Let’s meet the Sweet Baby team, and hear what this game is all about.

David Bedard: My name is David Bedard,

Will Herring: I am Will Herring.

Neha Patel: My name is Neha,

Kim Belair: and I’m Kim Belair. I’m the CEO of Sweet Baby, Inc. And I was the writer on Lost Your Marbles.

So the premise of the game is that you play this young woman named Prota, who is excited to be starting her first day helping this this eccentric, mad scientist Professor Marbels get this new invention off the ground. She can’t wait, but she’s forgotten the responsibility of walking her dog. So she decides to kill two birds of one stone, walk her dog to the lab, and what we find there is that Professor Marbels is of course a cat, and Professor Marbels and Prota’s dog Minty immediately, you know, lock horns. And during this, Prota is kind of knocked aside while wearing this device Professor Marbels has created called the marble-izer. And what the marble-izer does is that it makes every question you ask, it tries to find the right answer. But because of this incident with Minty, it’s gotten all, you know, poorly calibrated and messed up. And so she has to go through her day, making every decision based on these marbles and so the game premise, I think, from that is ridiculous. And so the story that you kind of experience-- what’s fun about it is that it is ultimately inconsequential. Like, it is a girl finding her dog in the lead up to this festival that is also unrelated to her experience, but she’s really excited to go there, called the Festiball. And along the way, it’s these little departures and these weird little people that you encounter that are gonna shape your journey. And it’s, it’s meant to be kind of at once very funny and hopefully a very nice place to spend the day.

Christa Mrgan: In Lost Your Marbles, to progress through the game, you have to use the crank and the accelerometer by tilting your Playdate, to navigate a marble through different little labyrinths and over obstacles to find the right answer for Prota at each fork in the road, in her search for Minty. The answers are often funny and absurd, especially if like me, you’re not great at the marble maneuvering mechanic. But this often leads to hilarious results along your adventure, through the town of Pomegranate Village, where this all takes place.

But let’s back up a bit to how the Sweet Baby team first heard about Playdate.

Kim Belair: I heard about Playdate probably on Twitter when it was first announced and everyone was losing their minds over it.

Neha Patel: The first time I saw it was like, I want one. I mean, there’s like a crank and it turns, and like, it was just super nostalgic for some reason. But I never thought I would be working for a game on it. So I was super ecstatic.

David Bedard: So I heard about Playdate I guess when everybody knew about it. And so when Playdate was announced, I saw it blowing up my Twitter feed. And I’m personally like a handheld game enthusiast. I have a small, but very powerful Game Boy collection, things like that. So I’m really all about, you know, small, short form handheld games. And it seemed like a perfect fit for me specifically, but like my interests and never considered the opportunity that we would be able to make a game for it. I knew Felix Kramer, who was involved in the project.

Christa Mrgan: Felix Kramer is a studio manager, producer, and does, business development in the games industry. They helped panic with Untitled Goose Game and a bunch of games for Season One of Playdate.

Kim Belair: It was through Felix Kramer that I started talking about, you know, maybe pitching something and they had talked about what the Playdate could do, what was possible on it. And it was something that immediately, I looked at the team that we had at the time and I thought, okay, this is something I would love to take part in. And maybe we can come up with something fun to do. And at the time it was relatively early in our Sweet Baby career. We just thought, wow, it’s gonna be really cool if we can put a project together while we’re working for clients, you know, something that feels like ours and it ended up working out and it was. Yeah. One of the most special experiences I’ve had at the company and in the industry.

Sweet Baby is a narrative development company based in Montreal, but kind of working all around the world. We work primarily in narrative development and that means that we do scripts, story development, character stuff, barks, everything, you just, you name it. We do it: indie, AAA and everywhere in between and beyond.

David Bedard: For the most part, most of our day is working with clients to help with their game’s narrative. That can take the form of story, characters, actual writing scenes, writing barks, you know, up from top to bottom, depending on, on the client.

Kim Belair: And our secondary goal, and something that kind of merges with our first is we strive to help new and especially marginalized talent, get into the industry with credits, payment, and kind of on the job training.

David Bedard: So the outreach part is very different, but also very much at the core of the company, because we do a lot of work to bring in marginalized voices into the industry. It’s a really hard industry to break in and people have not that many resources to do that. And so we spend a lot of time scouting, reaching out, asking people to reach out if they need help giving, you know, help with portfolio reviews, things like that. And through that process and taking time to talk to people, we found a wealth of great talent that is just waiting for their chance to jump into the industry.

And And the third bit is development, which is, we never set out to make our own games. But then I guess through conversation with Panic we decided to just take a crack at it, for Lost Your Marbles. So it’s the first time any of us made our own game. We just jumped into it head first and it was a super rewarding experience. We had a lot of fun. And so we just decided to keep doing that.

I’m David Bedard co-owner and Chief Operating Officer at Sweet Baby, Inc. But generally what that means is I do a lot of the team management. I do a lot of narrative design and do a lot of editing. I do some writing and in the case of Lost Your Marbles, I did direction of the whole project, which, you know, is kind of a combination of production and creative direction, I guess.

So I guess like a third of the company at this point is like making games ongoing and finding projects that we can, you know, both onboard junior developers on, and also, you know, have an outlet where we can have our own projects and, and not always be working on client stuff.

Christa Mrgan: Yes. So thrilled that Sweet Baby’s first adventure in making their own games was in making Lost Your Marbles for Playdate. So where did the idea come from?

Kim Belair: It was David Bedard and Ari Macgillivray and myself kind of just spitballing ideas around and Dbed was, is-- David, I call him Dbed, this is his name-- he’s so good at identifying playability and things that are fun and things that haven’t been done much.

He has this catalog , of like old games that he’s played through and loved that I can’t even begin to touch. And we kind of started with what cool mechanics do we want to explore? So we kind of thought like, maybe we wanna have a fishing thing. Maybe we want to have something that’s like a marble game.

David Bedard: I was just thinking about like, you know, what are we gonna pitch? And thinking about the types of gameplay you could do with the crank.

Will Herring: It’s such a cool device for gameplay and such a cool control mechanism. And we started thinking about those old kind of like the analog, get the marble in the hole game that you would have-- you know, the little physical games.

David Bedard: And you know, we’re a narrative development company. We’re about stories. So trying to find ways of merging story driven game slash visual novel style with like how do we work the crank into a visual novel?

Kim Belair: We ended up settling on this kind of hybrid traditional marble game and because we’re a narrative development company, we said, okay, well, even if we’re gonna focus on a little fun game mechanic, we have to add some element of story. So that’s where that visual novel element came in. And we kind of married the two by saying, every choice you make in the novel is determined by how your marble moves.

David Bedard: It didn’t even have a story or characters or anything. It was like, “Hey, what if we made a visual novel where choosing your answer it’s a quirky mini game?” Essentially. So that was the genesis of the idea.

And then the first thing we did is we made a deck with like six pretty wild pitches. And the response was great. Talking with Felix and talking about opportunities and meeting Cabel and Arisa and the whole team, it became more and more clear that we would have an opportunity to make a game for this if we wanted to. The response was like, " make the one you wanna make!" And so we went back and looked at, you know, what we think we could pull off as our first game.

Kim Belair: It’s funny because this was made of course, during like at least half of it, or more than half was made during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, we had actually managed to assemble a lot of members of the team in an office space and it seems like forever ago.

David Bedard: The first two people we brought on board were… so two Wills. So our friends named Will Herring and Will Stacey. We’d worked with Will Stacy at a previous gig. And we knew he was, you know, sort of a, very, very fast prototyper.

Kim Belair: Will Stacey is a puzzle designer and a really, really talented dude.

David Bedard: Somebody who can do like level design and game design pretty much like on the fly and is very good at it. And we knew that this particular game concept had challenges that we needed to figure out, you know-- is it even fun? Or is it frustrating to roll a marble around in a maze? We don’t wanna make a game that people will get tired of. We didn’t know at that point, like how the crank was gonna behave, necessarily.

Kim Belair: And then we got Will Herring who now works with Sweet Baby. He’s a phenomenal artist to help us with art.

David Bedard: We knew Will had a really, really killer cute art style, who could, you know, just design, like these incredible characters that we would need. And the world that we would need to create for this. And so we brought Will on board to sort of like come up with the art direction for this project.

And both Wills had some programming experience. But turns out because the Playdate is in Lua, we needed a dedicated Lua programmer. We put out a couple emails and we found Ayla Myers, who is this incredibly talented and powerful Lua programmer.

Kim Belair: Ayla Myers is an absolutely dope programmer who, who led that side.

David Bedard: She’s amazing. And she quickly gave us the tools we needed to actually build this game.

And the last piece of the puzzle was, was Neha Patel, because we knew we wanted to have a a soundtrack that would like evoke the actual world of this game since we only really see it in backgrounds. And then a lot of it is in these marble levels. We still wanted to have like a feeling of like making this whole place, Pomegranate Village, feel like home. And so Neha totally understood the brief and made a really really great soundtrack for this little game.

Kim Belair: And that was the core team of the game. We had some other folks who helped us with editing and stuff, but largely, that team came together and we were able to work separately during the pandemic.

Neha Patel: This was the first project that started and ended during the pandemic. I didn’t really get to see the team members. We thought that, you know, it was gonna be a temporary thing that maybe, you know, I’ll see the office later, but that never happened. But the team was super accommodating and things went quite well. Having made a game during the pandemic and being able to stay healthy and not feeling pressured by them and just creating a game in such a happy environment was already more than I could ever hope for.

Kim Belair: And it was also honestly, something that I think was really good for all of us to have during this time, because it kept us working on something that was very light, very silly and very ridiculous throughout like one of the hardest times for many folks on the team. It’s one of the things that we kind of look back on now and go like, wow, I can’t believe we made anything during this. And I can’t believe we made something that is just fun and very, very ridiculous.

And, you know, we even did like a virtual wrap party where we just all hung out one evening and we just bought everybody like Uber eats dinners for the evening. Said, “all right. Order it to your house.” And yeah. And then we ended up also doing like, team shirts. And it’s something that I’m sure we wouldn’t have done if it was something we just kind of did together over a little bit of time, but it really did feel like we were so bonded and excited to be doing something like this during quarantine. That, yeah, it was a very memorable experience

Christa Mrgan: Yeah, there was just so much happening during 2020. So how did this suddenly all- remote team manage the logistics of organizing and creating their first game?

Kim Belair: For this project, we kind of broke it down based on the core mechanics. So we knew that what we wanted to have was this idea failing forward, because the biggest problem with like little games like this is that they can be a little bit alienating to those who aren’t necessarily great at that minute to minute gameplay in the marble–

yeah. Like, like me and, and like a lot of like a lot of folks. So what we wanted to do was create an experience that even if you are terrible at the game itself, you can still have a lot of fun. So we made every maze kind of have, super like on point answer, one that was like a little bit off. And then one that was super weird. And throughout the story, we kind of make it so that your path is determined by that. So if you mess up every time you still get an ending, it’s just different from the one that you’re gonna get if you, if you nail it and it’s not judging you for it. It’s not gonna be like, oh, you got a bad ending or a good ending. It’s just, it’s gonna be different because your experience was different.

Will Herring: I think the key to it is also that they’re almost all weird answers, so there’s no wrong answer here.

David Bedard: Yeah. We built the game with like "fail forward" mentality. We realized at some point, you know what, there are no good answers. There are no bad answers. There are just answers and finding an answer and the maze will lead you somewhere. And all of those things because of the people you meet and the connections you make with them will lead you to where you need to go eventually.

You know, the first level we made was the doctor sandwich level. And you know, this idea of like making a sandwich with like wax and paper in it. And I forget what the other ones are, but that was like, I don’t know. We put things that we thought were very funny, essentially. And characters that would, you know, react to these things differently. You know, not every character thinks that your dumb answers are funny. Sometimes they get annoyed with them. Sometimes, you know, completely deadpan ignore them. And it makes for a super fun experience, I think.

Kim Belair: And that was super important to us, to keep the mood light and keep the game play feeling like you can always just get through this and, and experience it regardless of your skill level.

David Bedard: And we have these people that we really wanna work with. What’s the most we can make in the time we have, in an, you know, efficient and sustainable manner where everybody gets paid properly for their time and effort. And is also because this is a small project, like has time to work on other things at the same time, because we, you know, everybody we work with were freelancers at that point. So we didn’t want to also like, you know, monopolize anybody’s time with the small project and, but giving them the space to also express themselves and bring something to this project at the same time.

And then I think the other thing was making sure that the game’s scope was manageable.

So the, the first thing that we decided to do , was a short demo to go, okay, well, here’s a level. Here’s how this mechanic functions in the game. Here’s how many different conversations we need to write based on the branching of these marble mazes and how this thing plays out.

So we finished that part first, and then we knew, okay, well, based on this, we have X number of weeks left. And we know exactly how many we can make. There were three levels extra that we cut from the game, essentially based on like our plans.

And we just made something very modular that we knew if we cut something we could still get to a place where it would work because despite it branching, the fact that that each scene is a vignette that brings you closer to a goal that is established at the beginning of the game means that we can add or remove as much as we want.

Christa Mrgan: Just wanna jump in here and say, I can’t even imagine being this organized when it comes to a creative project! Like time is this opaque box for me. I never know how long anything is going to take, regardless of how many similar projects I’ve created. So this level of logistical awareness is super impressive and even kind of mind blowing to me. Anyway,

David Bedard: And so we then treated every single level as like its own thing, stitched them all together, myself and Kim, just kept an overall view of like, is this game story gonna work? You can see all these different characters, all these different things can happen with these characters. And we still want to bring you to a satisfying ending with all these people.

And, and based on that, I think we were able to accurately gauge how, how much we can make in the amount we had. And still make a game that like, has lots of re-playability has lots of value. If somebody likes the game and want to see everything it has to offer. You can play this game for a long time and, and still not see, all the different endings, all the different, you know, states that these characters can end in. But so each playthrough is very unique and very, you know, special to whoever played it.

Kim Belair: What I was surprised by working on something this simple and small, in terms of visual novels, was like the idea of branching mattering so much. And, and it was funny because we would have moments where we were like building it out and we started to realize, oh, this is getting complex.

Like the amount of endings that we’re having, the amount of options that we’re creating. Like, wow, we’re working on something that seems so small, but contains so much. And I think that that’s what surprised me the most. It was the ability for us to use the Playdate to create something that was very, very short, but very, very deep.

And I think for me, the potential of something like this is, is so huge because we are conditioned, I think, as an industry, a lot of the time to think of games as huge and as flashy, and of needing to be a certain amount of time to justify like the mass expense and the joy of playing something that lasts like, you know, thirty minutes to a couple of hours is, is so wonderful. And I think that it made me want to explore more experiences like that and to keep building them.

Christa Mrgan: Yeah. The Sweet Baby team built a world that feels really broad and detailed, but still fairly contained and approachable. It’s full of unique characters that absolutely had me laughing.

Kim Belair: We wanted to create a world in which like, the mad scientist can be a cat. Where Prota exists. I don’t really know what Prota’s age is, like she could be 9? 25? Anywhere in between. And she lives in this town called Pomegranate Village, where everybody just kind of wants to be nice and wants to hang out and wants to have fun.

And ultimately, you know, everybody’s going to get to the end of the game, but we want to really make the feeling like, oh, because you met this person along your path, something will happen with them later, or you might become more attached to them later, or they might help you out later.

David Bedard: The way I like to direct people is find people who, you know, have the same sensibilities as you, and sort of like, let them do what they want within the parameters of what we have defined. Saying something like, “oh, this character’s name is Spiky Jon, he’s a cactus.” And then knowing that Will would come back with something that would be great . We hadn’t even written lines for Spiky Jon yet. We just knew he would make something great that we can then write lines about.

Will Herring: My name is Will Herring. I am a designer, artist and writer at Sweet Baby, Inc. And I was the art lead on Lost Your Marbles for the Playdate.

We’ve got Spiky Jon who’s a, a cactus fellow who loves to eat mozzarella sticks and has a degree in architecture. And everyone else on Pomegranate V illage is kind of a, just a, a really distinct, interesting character. Our main character is is Prota, she is a goofy absentminded girl with a heart of gold and she is on a quest to find her her lost dog, Minty, who is a little, canonically, I think she’s a Shiba Inu/ Pomeranian mix. That’s a little up for debate, I think, but she is a very goofy, mischievous little creature who is always getting into shenanigans.

And we also have Professor Marbels who is the cat scientist genius tech wizard, who Prota is working for doing her internship.

We have the the Mayoress is who also may or may not be a demoness and a whole bunch of other fun characters.

Randy, the vintage Viper who is a snake with little beret who runs a vintage store out of the landfill on Pomegranate V illage and a whole bunch of goofy characters with a bunch of really distinct little visual cues that made it a lot of fun to draw them. And you know, with visual novels too, you’re always doing a bunch of different expressions for each and it’s just very fun to see the shapes those expressions can take with something as goofy as, you know, a cactus man and a big ol’ snake with a beret on.

Kim and Ari and David came to me with some, some initial sketches, just some little goofy whiteboard sketches. And so yeah, we, we think this person is a triangle. We think this person is a cactus, we think this person is a snake. And you go, okay, well, let me see what what I can kind of build off of that.

Both from like a sketch perspective and a one bit character portrait perspective, and then try to see how it all meshes together and looks kind of like, they all belong in the same game at least, or the same universe to a certain extent. But I love having the idea that the writers have for characters.

Cause I think that that is such a essential part to figuring out what they, what they look like. And even if it is just the little, a little sketch on a whiteboard that is a wonderful blueprint for building them out to kind of a fun lovable little sprite that you get to interact with.

Christa Mrgan: We’ve somehow gotten to episode seven of this podcast without me explaining what sprites are! So a quick aside about that:

In video games, a Sprite is a bitmap image-- meaning a discrete set of pixels, as opposed to a vector image-- that game designers and developers can move around independently from background elements. You can also use a series of bitmap images to create an animation. And sometimes each frame is called a Sprite and other times the entire animation is referred to as a Sprite. It’s a little fuzzy. In a Playdate game, typically, anything that moves around or has interactivity is a Sprite. So any given scene in a game may contain multiple sprites for characters and objects. Usually designers will collect and organize all of their sprites into a single Sprite sheet to improve performance. A Sprite sheet is just one big image that’s a grid full of all of the various sprites created for a game because it’s generally faster for the computer to grab one big image and just show part of it than it is for it to pull up a bunch of different images.

And fun fact, according to Wikipedia, sprites got their name from Danny Hollis who worked at Texas instruments in the 1970s. And they’re called that because like ghosts or sprites, they kind of float around without affecting the background data. Okay.

Will Herring: I love a little minimalist sprite of a small thing, rotating or exploding or whatever the UI is for, for a little handheld game.

So I had a lot of fun, just kind of going ham on those little sprites and animations and loops and trying to see how much character you can fit into like a limited, four or five frame animation that is going to be in a rotating environment. And you know, leading from the visual novel segment into the gameplay and you see how those sprites kind of bounce off one another, or working on some transition animations, and seeing those all come together on the Playdate itself is just, it’s so much fun.

And Will Stacey and Ayla Myers just did incredible work designing the actual levels and creating the level art, but creating the obstacles that you bounce into and all the little extra bits and pieces in those levels was so much fun. And a very fun counter to working on just the characters and the backgrounds and the UI elements. You know, every single thing that you do in a game artwise requires kind of different part of your brain in a different way and different set of references.

The big learning curve for me was mostly the one bit aspect of it. I’d done quite a bit of art in the past, but you know, nothing that was more limited than even a Game Boy color palette.

So that, that was really the thing that I kind of had the hardest time wrapping my head around was A, how do you integrate the right amount of personality and distinct visual design into something that is ultimately pretty limited, and B how do you create animations or sprite sheets that feel like they are as fluid as you might want them to be if you had, you know, a bit more real estate to work with, but that is honestly a thing that I, I really enjoyed figuring out because it, it really makes you break down the the base idea of what pixel art is, you know, saying like if I add one pixel here and subtract one pixel from this frame, it really does make a momentous difference. And honestly, I’m, all about those limitations. There’s something very, very fun about working within, you know, the lower resolution and the limited color palette, in this case, black and white. And it was so much fun to kind of get more accustomed to that and get more comfortable doing that. It was a one of those types of pixel art that was always a little intimidating to me but the more that I worked with it, the more I just realized you can really have so much fun and make the characters feel so impactful and color colorful, even if you aren’t actually using colors, which is very fun.

So I got a lot more comfortable with it over the course of making it, and and yeah, one bit is, is a real blast. Everybody does it a little bit differently. So every time I see a game on the Playdate it’s always so striking and interesting and cool to see how people approach it and what they do with it.

Christa Mrgan: And informed by Will’s art, Neha Patel helped round out the characters in the world of Lost Your Marbles through her rich sound design and musical score.

Neha Patel: So my name is Neha and I did all the music and the sound design for Lost Your Marbles. The art and the narrative was very advanced when I jumped in on the project. I saw all the characters and all the settings were already done. And so I got to read a lot. I got to see a lot and that was super inspiring. Like the tone was already set and I was just there to fill in the gaps.

I’m very visual. So seeing the characters helped a lot and reading about them helped a lot. And I felt instantly that the music should be a bit chiptune-ish, a bit funky synth, just to match the vibe that they already had going on. And I wanted to keep it a little bit nostalgic too, just because of how like the Playdate looks and like the, the visual part of it. I wanted it to be almost Game Boy -esque. And keeping the music to be very hum-able, very singable, stuff that’s catchy. 'Cause I feel like games at least, you know, earlier GameBoy games were very hum-able. It sticks with you. So that’s kind of the direction I was trying to go for.

And sound design , for me, has just as much of an emotional impact and can tell as much of a story as music can. So like for me, like good sound design, it’s like giving a vibe, giving feelings, it’s telling a story of its own.

So I started as a composer and quickly learned that to survive in game audio you a little bit have to branch out. So I tried my hand at sound design and I actually really loved it. I had no idea I was gonna love, sound design as much. And I approach it very musically cuz I just think they’re both musical fields.

And so with Lost Your Marbles, I was trying to keep the sound design, quite light, quite quirky, quite goofy sort of match a narrative in the characters.

It was really fun cuz I felt like I had a lot of freedom. So I could make it a little bit quirkier, but I tried keeping the marble sounds a bit more realistic and a bit more on the satisfying side.

Christa Mrgan: And Neha has also been working on another Sweet Baby project for Playdate!

Neha Patel: So I’m on a Recommendation Dog! But with Rec Dog!, I’m actually a mentor on the project. So I wrote a little bit of the music and a little bit of sound design, but I have a wonderful mentee with me and she did amazing work and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

Her name is Eleanor Hebert and she’s a fantastic composer and sound designer from Montreal. So yeah, it’s a collaborative work this time.

Kim Belair: Sweet Baby is currently working on two more projects for Playdate that I’m super excited about. One of them is called Recommendation Dog! And the other is called Reel Steal.

David Bedard: After completing Lost Your Marbles last year, and given everything that was happening in the world, we started doing a bunch of outreach at that moment. And again, the team at Panic reached out to us and in a very humble manner asked us, what can we do? You know, we have these resources. We have this hardware, we have these things, what can we do to help? And we proposed, “Hey, well now we know how to make a game for Playdate. How about we take all these people who are reaching out to us and build a team where they can learn on the fly and still get the meaningful credit out of it?” Build a full game that’s gonna be released on a real platform. Learn from mentors that we’ll find, and still be paid for it. You know, it’s not like an internship or something like that. You know, the, the team loved the idea and it took us a while to find all these people. But in the end we ended up staffing two full teams and making two games at once over the past six months.

Kim Belair: And one of the funny things is that Reel Steal was kind of a concept that we had kind of thought about when we were doing Lost Your Marbles.

And when we brought it up to the teams here, it was like, that’s the one that’s, that’s what everybody was really, really excited about. So the two projects, what makes them interesting is that they are the result of collaboration between veterans in the industry who we’ve kind of collected including like Will Herring, who I mentioned before, Julian Minamata, Xalavier Nelson. Ayla is also back with us. And we’re pairing them with a team of first- time or aspiring game devs. And we saw in the time that we had these folks who initially came to us saying like, I’m not really sure I know how to do this, or like I’m aspiring, but you know, I don’t really-- to you know, full fledged game devs who know how to do this, who have seen every side of, of production.

Even if it’s at a small scale, it really is the same. Like the production woes exist as much on a AAA as on something that is Playdate- size. And it was so cool to get to do that and to see folks just given access and able to, you know, capitalize on their talents and, and, and really use everything that they know and everything that they’re hoping to apply to their work, actually get done. And I’m super proud of them. The games are very fun, very weird, and exactly the kind of thing that I would hope a collaboration like this is gonna generate. And the thing that I am proud to say, like genuinely, as, you know, a veteran of the industry for nearly a decade now is like, I barely touched anything in these games.

These are things that we have helped facilitate that we have helped support and that we have helped guide, but the teams really, really made these happen.

David Bedard: It honestly couldn’t have gone better. Even the mentors, everybody learned so much during this experience and it solidified our belief that like, there’s so much talent out there that’s not getting a shot that deserves to get a shot.

And that it’s honestly pretty easy to give people a chance if you just, you know, have the right framework. And if you have the right conditions for people to learn and try things and maybe they mess up, but they have, you know, time and resources to learn and push through that. And it really makes for, reevaluating what the industry is like right now.

Will Herring: I really took a lot of everything that I learned from building one- bit art for Lost Your Marbles. And I’m super, super proud of how everything turned out for Reel Steal. So I can’t wait for everybody to see that. And I can’t wait for everybody to play Lost Your Marbles, too!

Kim Belair: We’re just psyched that they exist and we can’t wait for people to see them.

David Bedard: I hope that they fall in love with the characters they meet. I think that that’s my biggest goal I think for Lost your Marbles. I don’t think there’s, you know, two different people who will have a very similar playthrough because of the way that the marble gameplay is. It’s, you know, easy to use, hard to master type of thing. The level of bespoke-ness of this experience, I think makes for something that will hopefully feel very unique to each person, knowing that so many things could have happened, what did happen to the player is their story throughout this world. Now that being said, if somebody, you know, wants to explore everything and, and find everybody, I think they’ll find more characters to know and love find all the different states that these characters can end in. They’ll find secrets and things like that. They’ll find different endings. And hopefully they learn to love the whole universe that we created. Yeah. I hope they laugh.

Neha Patel: So I hope like they laugh that they can relax that they catch a little bit of sass. Like the characters are very, they’re very sassy and um, marbles are not to be like underestimated. I mean, they, they look innocent. It’s like, oh, this run little thing. I just gotta, you know, move it this way, do that. And like, oh, there’s so much more! It’s a very challenging thing.

David Bedard: We’re just really happy that we got the chance for this to be our first game. It’s very surreal it’s going to be out soon and that people are gonna play it. And that it’s, you know, it’s the full expression of of this company’s sensibilities and all the people that we worked with sensibilities and that it led to so many other great things I think is, yeah, we’re we’re over the moon about it. Can’t wait for people to play it.

Christa Mrgan: Me, too. I hope you have fun on your journey through Pomegranate Village in Lost Your Marbles. And keep an eye out for news about Recommendation Dog! and Reel Steal. You can learn more about the Sweet Baby team at their website, sweetbabyinc.com, and via the links in the show notes. Thanks so much for listening and stay tuned for more episodes, coming soon to the Playdate Podcast feed.

David Bedard: Let me know who you meet and what happens with them. Bye-bye.

Will Herring: It’s it’s been a blast. Bye-bye

Neha Patel: Thank you. Bye.

Christa Mrgan: The Playdate Podcast was written, produced and edited by me, Christa Mrgan. Cabel Sasser and Simon pan Rucker composed the theme song. Additional music and sound effects were composed by Neha Patel, and come from Lost Your Marbles.

Huge thanks to Tim Coulter and Ashur Cabrera for wrangling the podcast feed and working on the website. As well as to James Moore for making me this super handy app, that lets me directly access sound files from a Playdate game, instead of having to record off the device or from the simulator. And to Neven Mrgan who created the podcast artwork and site design, and thanks, as always, to everyone at Panic.

Playdate is shipping now and available for pre-order at play.date

I really love how Sweet Baby has embedded in their mission this idea of taking chances on people, especially people who might otherwise have a hard time breaking into the games industry, and giving people opportunities to use their talents in new ways.

David Bedard: Gradually we found ways to bring these people into our projects, whether it’s with clients or, you know, in the case of Playdate, on some of the actual Playdate projects that we’ve set up. So we’re gonna keep doing this however we can. I think that’s the goal, 'cuz it’s, it’s incredibly fulfilling and it makes me very hopeful for the future.