We had both just moved to Kansas City to start working at a corporate job at a healthcare IT company. Austin and I became friends at our company’s orientation and we started hanging out, partying, and playing video games. We were both new in town and happened to live a mile or so apart. He was an iOS developer and had a few years of work experience, I was a fresh grad from Indiana University’s Human-Computer interaction and design program. Neither of us realized we would eventually combine our skills to start a video game company. I am grateful to have found a motivated co-founder that I can be friends with and also work with, a harmony that I understand is quite rare.
On a cold winter weekend in 2013 we were recovering from our demanding corporate life. My memory is fuzzy on the exact conversation, but we decided that we should try making a mobile game. Austin already had some experience making small apps and I had some design experience.
We watched indie game the movie, and I think we were subconsciously unlocked. We could make games too if we really wanted to, we would just need to stay passionate and persistent. We both recognized that successful artists don’t give up easily.
Our first game was inspired by a movie called “The Grey” by the universally recognized badass Liam Neeson. In the movie Liam continually stares death in the face when his plane crash lands in a snowy mountain range. As soon as we started putting together some ideas and prototyping, the seed of an idea started to grow. We created a simple winter themed action-platformer on iOS which we named Yukon Warrior.
We sacrificed many weekends and weeknights chipping away at this novice sculpture of a game. For me, making games on the weekends and weekdays felt like an escape and a creative release. I was unhappy with many things going on in my life, but working on Yukon Warrior felt important. This first game took 1 year to create part-time and we made around $200. This barely covered the AppStore developer fee.
In the process of creating Yukon Warrior, I could feel the passion and dream being cultivated. It was a slow process that grew with every goal being accomplished. We didn’t meticulously plan any of this out, I don’t think many things in life work that way.
*We removed Yukon Warrior from the AppStore in 2016.
6 months before our 2-year mark at our corporate job, we discussed leaving and becoming full-time indie game developers. For many it’s terrifying to leave a secure income for something as unpredictable and volatile as the game industry. Young and without dependents, I was not very concerned. I was happy making games. By the time we left the corporate world, we didn’t have anything finished except a decent prototype of an iOS game. We saved our money and moved into an inexpensive apartment in Bloomington, Indiana (my hometown). Our budget and overhead was lean.
We released the iOS game Furdemption in June, 2015 — 5 months after leaving corporate life. It was released as a $3.99 premium app and was featured by Apple in best new games. It did OK for an indie game, bringing in a little over $20k in proceeds. It took over a year to develop Furdemption and our savings were dwindling fast. $20k between us didn’t give us much time to create a new product from scratch. I would consider Furdemption an indie success but commercially it wasn’t enough.
We were in a tough spot — we needed to create something with high value as fast as possible, or we’d have to go back to slinging code and pixels for someone else. Players loved Furdemption and there was a lot more we wanted to do. We decided to make a sequel.
In March, 2016 we released King Rabbit. A fresh theme, new levels, and tons of improvements. King Rabbit started as a paid app with optional In-App purchases like level hints and customization options. We eventually made it free with the support of interstitial ads. These business model changes weren’t planned from the beginning but we pivoted as the game evolved. King Rabbit turned out to be a success. In 2016 we had over a million downloads and our net income for 9 months exceeded $100k.
Austin and I have been working on the same codebase for the past few years, and we want to start developing another product. At the same time we really want King Rabbit to live on.
The biggest problem with King Rabbit is the content bottleneck. We’d spend weeks and months building levels to have players complete them in a single sitting. To solve this problem we decided we should take the time to build out and release a level builder. This will also make King Rabbit a deeper experience where you can exercise your creativity.
I think many developers would have just moved onto the next game, and we almost did. Creating a level builder with good production quality takes a ton of time and effort. Here we are almost a year after the King Rabbit release and now we’re about to release the level builder to the public. After beta testing for a few weeks, 191 players have built almost 500 levels. To put that into perspective, King Rabbit only has 256 levels in total. When we release this month, everyone will get to build and play unlimited content for free.
Our monthly active user count tends to fluctuate between 50k and 100k depending on feature spots and release cycles. With our current player base, if only 2% of players build a level there will be 1k–2k new free levels each month. I believe this will exceed the goal of a constant flood of free content for everyone to enjoy. This update will birth a community of builders and players and an avenue for creative expression. Our plan is to hire another person to help maintain and update King Rabbit, so that we can get another game in the pipeline. We believe it is important for apps to live and evolve!
The level builder will be released for free on iOS on January 26, 2017.
Get notified when its ready.
At the end of February, we’ll be in San Francisco attending the game developers conference. After the conference Austin and I will be heading to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to live and work until further notice. I will be ridding myself of all material possessions except for two bags and a carry-on.
No dependents, no investors, and no flashy offices. We’ll be digital nomads with complete freedom to work how and where we want. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple and taking it one step at a time. Sloth and steady wins the race.
Thanks for reading. If you like, you can follow our company on twitter.
Co-Founder of RareSloth