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Horse Talk: Come get your Phil

Austin, TX. Photo by Rami Ismail of Vlambeer

‘Horse Talk’ is a series here on the Octodad blog where we run intra-team Young Horses interviews. The first 2 or so questions are the same for each horse, but afterwords we crowd-source the team for things they’d like to ask the interviewee.

Who are you and what is it that you do at Young Horses?

I’m Phil Tibitoski and my technical corpy corporate title at Young Horses is President & CEO. I handle a lot of the business related work for the studio and I’m also in charge of community management/outreach. If you’ve ever talked to us on Twitter or Facebook it was probably me you were chatting with!

What are your favorite games and why?

It may sound lame, but I really like games that have a lot of heart to them. I don’t usually praise games for feature-sets or things like that. Games that cause you to feel differently or just have the ability to change your mood are the ones that usually captivate me most. They aren’t always from the same genre and they don’t always make me feel the same way, but they do evoke changes in my mood. My favorite thing about games is that they can completely change your outlook on a day or time in your life if they’re well made. Some games that have done this for me include Halo, Gitaroo Man, FEZ, Brütal Legend, Hotline Miami, Rock Band, and The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.

How did you get into game development?

I’ve wanted to make video games since I was really young. I don’t think I’ve every actually had a big desire to do anything else. Ever since junior high I’ve been researching or thinking about what I would do to become a game developer, but it wasn’t really until college that I started to pursue the goal seriously. I spent 4 years at DePaul University in Chicago where I helped create a few smaller games for various classes and in my spare time. The first couple weren’t all that great, but not many people’s first games are.

In my 3rd year at DePaul I applied to be part of their DePaul Game Experience program; which had the goal of formulating a balanced team to work on experimental games for the purpose of entering the Independent Games Festival (IGF). The year I participated in DGE we ended up creating Octodad. After we realized we had created something people actually seemed to dig quite a bit we decided to form Young Horses to create Dadliest Catch.

What is your favorite beer?

This is a hard question to answer. Probably Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale.

What games have effected you emotionally?

See above. :P

What about Octodad still makes you laugh?

While working on the game you get really used to all the gags that we’ve built into it. They’re funny at first and then it usually gets to a point where they warrant just a smirk. The things that are continuously funny even after the year and a half or so we’ve been working on the game are the situations you can put Octodad in. Even just sitting in a chair in a particularly unique way or accidentally falling off a shelf sometimes makes it so that I can’t resist laughing. Octodad is just such a dorky character in general, but reminds me of all the same kind of things that I do sometimes and I think it’s that connection that makes him naturally funny.

What kind of game have you always wanted to make? Follow up, what game are you afraid that we’ll never make?

I’ve always wanted to make a game that takes people a while to really get everything out of. I like games that have a lot of hidden depth. Many fighting games tend to have this sort of feel to them, especially if you haven’t played a ton of fighting games. The realization that, “Woah, I had no idea you could do this and that opens up this entire other world of possibilities.”

Sometimes I worry that we’ll be stuck with our quirky style or humor and that we won’t really be able to spread out to explore other feelings. It’s not something I’m upset about, but it just seems unlikely seeing as we’re all naturally a goofy bunch of people. I think it would be a mistake for us to try and force ourselves to make something that didn’t flow from us freely though. So I’m afraid we’ll be stuck in our own style, but I don’t really know if that’s a bad thing or not. It’s hard to estimate how I’ll feel about this in the future, but right now I’m happy with the kind of games we create.

How do you get all of the indies to love you without being funny?

Being a somber and unfunny person is a tough road to travel. Somehow though I’ve managed to make a lot of new awesome friends in my time with game development. In my life in general I spend a good chunk of my time seeking out things that I can be invested in. This tendency of mine has led me to finding lots of indie games that I feel really passionate in supporting, and usually the games that I really like also have people attached to them that I end up talking with often. The value in a lot of these conversations is kind of indescribable. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my lifetime have been game developers or involved in games. I find something with these people that I don’t find elsewhere.

It’s always nice to speak with people who can really empathize with your situation. Learning from people who have either been through something you’re currently going through or discussing something you’re both going through is helpful in staying (relatively) sane.

Basically I talk to a lot of people every day and this leads to making a lot of good friends who I get to see a few times a year at conventions and/or festivals.

What’s been your most memorable game convention?

This is tough as we’ve been to a ton of different conventions, conferences, and festivals at this point. I think I’ve enjoyed Fantastic Arcade in Austin the most as it’s more of a vacation where you get to hang out with lots of super creative people. On the other hand I will never ever forget being nominated in the IGF and seeing Octodad up on the big screens in the ballroom of the Moscone Center. Hearing the large amount of applause we got for the game and realizing people actually dig what we make is a validating experience to say the least. I think the IGF is something that cemented in my head what I wanted to do with my life, at least for a long time.