April Rockstar – Eliot Lash
Soomla’s recognizing active, passionate community members each month. This month we want to spotlight, Eliot Lash, a former Disney mobile employee turned indie game developer. He was recently in the Soomla offices and we had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with him and hear about his time working in the gaming industry. Eliot is originally from San Fransisco, California and is currently traveling the world coding games.
1. You originally worked for Disney mobile, why did you decide to go Indie?
I have had a dream of making my own games full-time for many years now, since before I joined Disney. I had a great four years there; I was privileged to have so many talented people to learn from, and even just to get paid to make games. I finally got to the point where I wanted to really go for it. I now have a lot more experience and some savings to live off of while I try to figure out how to support myself independently.
2. What motivates you to participate in the Soomla forums? And in the Open Source community in general?
I love open source and open content. Much of the world benefits from free, open source software in ways they may not even be aware of. The health of our technological ecosystem is hugely dependent on open source as its foundation. People might be aware that some software they use every day is open source, like Chrome or Firefox. But also if you use a website or even a smartphone, chances are it’s running on some flavor of the Linux or BSD operating systems.
Open source is a breath of fresh air because it’s something altruistic in a world which often seems purely profit-driven.
I benefit immensely from the growing body of open source and open content. I plan to use media from Openclipart, Freesound, and ccMixter in my games in addition to a number of awesome open-source frameworks like TouchScript, and don’t have to pay a cent. As a programmer, an open source framework is so much better than a proprietary one, since you have the ability to see what’s truly going on, fix problems, and add features on your own. And even with projects that use a permissive license like Soomla where I have no legal obligation to release the source for my modifications, I often do. I like knowing that the work I’ve done to benefit myself can, with very little effort, be put out in the world where people I’ve never even met can benefit from it too.
The domain we’re in is not a zero-sum game. When we share and cooperate, we all benefit. I believe that for us, a rising tide lifts all boats.
So when I discovered Soomla Store, I was delighted to find an open source framework that met my needs perfectly. Because it’s open source, I’m able to scratch my own itches and improve it. And I felt it was only right to contribute these changes back to the community. 🙂
3. How are you incorporating Soomla into your game?
At the moment I am using Soomla Store to handle in-app purchases on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon. I am also trying out Soomla GROW for analytics. If my future games need social or progression features I’ll definitely check out the other modules; integration is pretty easy and having a whole system like this working off-the-shelf lets me focus more on building the game.
4. What do you think is missing in today’s mobile game industry?
Diversity and innovation. A few years ago there seemed to be an exciting promise in mobile because there were all these wild, experimental games coming out and many seemed to do pretty well. Now, it seems that things have started crystallizing more into genres, not to mention the glut of clones.
It’s great that game development is becoming more democratized. The barrier to entry has never been lower, although we still have a long way to go. The medium of games sorely needs more diversity of authors and players if it’s going to blossom into a ubiquitous art form. Mobile has helped here, but we are now facing the same discoverability problem that is happening in other forms of entertainment like music, books, and films. The internet has made it viable for more creators to connect with a niche audience, but we’re missing a better way for people to just find all that stuff that fits their tastes; most of them don’t even know that there are alternatives to the big mass market stuff. This is a really hard problem to solve (Netflix awarded a $1M bounty for a 10% improvement to its suggestion algorithm a few years back) but I’m hoping that we will see significant progress on it over the next few decades. And the curation approach seems promising too, I like what Steam is trying out there.
5. What are your plans for the future?
I’m just getting started with my indie game stuff, so I’m hoping that I can figure out how to make a living from it which seems like it will be challenging.
I don’t know if I want to make games forever. I’ve also thought that other things could be rewarding, like working with an organization that’s trying to improve education or equality.
6. What do you like to do in your spare time?
This is probably not a surprise, but I enjoy spending time with my loved ones, cooking, riding my bicycle (it’s a recumbent!) and getting out into nature when I can. I also love reading books and comics, and listening to awesome podcasts like 99% Invisible, Planet Money, and Reply All. And of course I love watching Netflix and playing video games when I actually make time for it! Right now I’m trying to get through my massive Steam backlog, and I’m really excited for Broken Age: Act 2 to come out.
Well, there you have it, April’s Rockstar of the Month, Eliot Lash. We’d like to thank him for his involvement in the Soomla community and for visiting us in the office. Make sure to check out Eliot’s personal website and Github account!