Game Development Reference
Interview with Newtoy, Words with Friends
Q: Tell us a little more about the goal of Indie Fridays, and how they make
the Newtoy culture unique?
DB: Indie Fridays started as a result of the Google 20% idea. I'm actu-
ally not entirely sure what the Google policy is, but the way we phrased
it was, “Do whatever you want, so long as it contributes something back
to the studio in the end.” That could be anything from learning a new
programming language to working on a new game prototype you've had
bouncing around your head for a while. It sounded cool, so we decided
to give it a try and change it if it didn't work out. It was pretty tough the
first few weeks. I remember Paul sending me an email one Friday saying,
“This doesn't feel right, I think 20% is too much.” I suggested we wait a
couple of weeks and reevaluate, and I'm glad we did.
Indie Fridays have become a place where many of our new game
ideas are generated and allowed to incubate. Both Hanging with Friends
and our next still unannounced title both were born out of Indie Fridays.
Developing new game ideas is an extremely difficult and highly creative
process. Often what you need is time for an idea to bake in between iter-
ations. Fridays allow us to take an idea and get it up and running in a
rough prototype very quickly, often just a pen-and-paper prototype at first.
During the rest of the week, the game sits in the back of your mind, or if
it's far enough along, it's already in prototype on our phones and we're
playing each other all week. By the time next Friday rolls around, we have
a solid idea of what's working and what's not, and a list of new ideas we'd
like to try.
It continues to be a difficult practice to embrace. Folks here often want
to work on their mainline projects all week. It can be hard to switch from
the game you're working on Monday through Thursday, but we continue
to encourage it. It wasn't obvious at first, but now that we've seen the
output, it's become apparent how valuable and important it is to our stu-
dio and its success.
Q: Any other advice you'd like to share with game designers who are mov-
ing from the world of AAA retail game development into the mobile/social
PB: There's nothing quite like the thrill of working on a game that every-
one plays, from your wife to your mother-in-law and your kids. Fast
development cycles; small, tight teams; cutting-edge game design
challenges—it's the most fun any of us have had making games.
In other words: come on in, the water's warm!