Phil Tibitoski, CEO of Young Horses

Aug 14, 2013
Octodad 3

The Young Horses have been making an impact lately. From their appearance at PAX East to the PS4 announcement at this year's E3, their game Octodad: Dadliest Catch has been steadily growing in popularity. Phil Tibitoski and the rest of Young Horses have been hard at work at the game, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the time to send out a couple tweets every once and a while. If you've been on Twitter in the past couple of weeks, you might have seen the mess that was #indieccsnafu, Phil Fish quitting game development, or Jonathan Blow criticizing the us of his tweets as news. I asked Phil his opinions on promoting games, the use of Twitter, and Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Check it out below, then follow Phil and Octodad on Twitter, because they'll make your feed much more interesting.

Sprites and Dice: You talk pretty openly about Octodad: Dadliest Catch and your feelings working on it on Twitter. Has this backfired for you in any way or is any publicity good publicity?

Phil Tibitoski: Talking about Octodad itself hasn't really backfired, but I have noticed recently that the more followers I get the more polarizing my opinions seem to be. This makes sense, but it's weird to get used to because now I have to sit and think for a minute, "Who might I piss off by taking this tone?" Generally I still say what I want to say, but when it comes to anything relating to console wars or allegiances I've learned to keep a bit quieter. It's interesting how much passion and rage is locked inside many of these players. I've also more recently become aware of the fact that if I say something about a current topic it can turn into news, and not always be interpreted in the way I intended. This is something I hadn't had to worry about until now.

SnD: There was a lot of talk about the #indieccsnafu last week on Twitter. It sounds like the person who sent out that email went about it in a bad way. You Tweet pretty often about similarly spammy emails and Tweets. What do you think would have been the right way for them to have gone about promoting their game? What do you think makes a worthwhile email?

Phil: The email originated from a new website planning to cover indie games. They sent one form-factor email to hundreds and hundreds of devs. However, they forgot to BCC everyone in the group and instead CC'd them. This resulted in everyone in the chain seeing everyone's email addresses. Then a horrible reply-all monsoon resulted where people thought it'd be great to email 500+ people about their game in the name of promotion. What this really did is most likely put those people on everyone's shit-lists, invade their privacy, and jam up their inboxes until they filtered out the spam.

I don't pay a lot of attention to an email if it's clearly a cold call or form-written message. Usually those go straight to the trash after a quick skim to make sure I'm not missing something important. I think that was the first mistake they made. If you want people like game developers who have so little free time in the first place to respond to you then you could at least do 5 minutes of research and write somewhat of a personalized email.

Yes of course you're going to have repeating information such as your pitch, your website, etc. But you should also make sure to mention things about the person your contacting or their work to let them know you respect their time. Spell their name, game title, and company correctly. Talk about where you might have seen it before, and then go into what you're contacting them about. Really an introductory email should be 3 paragraphs tops. So be aware of the length of the message as well.

I could go on. Really the thing to remember is to keep your etiquette in check when you're trying to start a conversation with someone for the first time. First-impressions are important, whether they're fair to judge a person by or not.

SnD: How did you guys manage to become a launch title on the PS4?

Phil: We've been in contact with Sony since GDC 2011 (Game Developers Conference) when the original Octodad was a Student Showcase Winner in the IGF (Independent Games Festival). Ever since then they've checked in on us from time to time at things like PAX. At PAX East 2013 we were asked if we'd be interested in bringing Octodad: Dadliest Catch to PS4 and we said yes.

We aren't a launch title despite some of the messaging going around. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is coming to PC/Mac/Linux via Steam first. Currently we're planning to do that in January, and that's where the game will first be released. Shortly after that release we hope to launch on PS4. So we'll be in the "launch window" as long as everything goes well, but not at the console launch.

SnD: I fell in love with Octodad: Dadliest Catch at PAX East this year. How important have conventions been in getting your game to the public? Has awareness of the game shot up because of PAX, or is networking the biggest reason for indies to go?

Phil: Things like PAX have been crucial for us in getting the word out about the game. Especially when it comes to players who may not pay much attention to independent games like ours that at first didn't get much attention. You have to do work to get the press to check out the game, and you have to spend time talking with fans. You learn a lot about yourself, your team, and your game by doing these things. From my point of view you should always be looking to improve and there's no better way to do that than examining outside perspectives of your work.

SnD: Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish talked a lot about games press handling things poorly. Is there any kind of behavior you'd like to see less of in journalism? Have your game or your tweets been talked about in a way you didn't expect?

Phil: Unless it's clearly an announcement I don't like the idea of someone referencing a tweet of mine as news. And if an outlet insists on that I'd at least appreciate an email before referencing or quoting it. I have had this happen to me, and it wasn't fun.

Thanks to Phil for taking the time to answer my questions! Pay him back by liking Octodad: Dadliest Catch on Facebook because it's Octodad and you have no reason not to.

Zoë Wolfe

Co-Founder, Webmaster