Ask An Indie: Danika Ragnhild, Naming Is Hard


DanikaAsk an Indie: Danika Ragnhild, Producer/writer/composer, Naming is Hard.

What inspired you to start making games?

I have to say every type of art I enjoy I make, but it wasn’t true until Shanti approached me about moving from professional theatre to game development. As to what really inspired me it would have to be my lifelong love of games. They’ve always been a part of my life and I can’t imagine myself without them.

At what age did you create your first game? What was it like?

I created my first game in 9th Grade when I was in the advanced math track and they gave us Ti-83s. I immediately started programming in ASCII movies.

Most of them where about armies clashing or the occasional your mom joke played out visually. From there I introduced choices in the movies that allowed for different endings. Finally, I made a siege game where you used a catapult to destroy a castle. The rocks would have random weights so you would have to change your trajectory and force with each throw. I had started to fill in plot when the semester ended and the school took the graphing calculators back.

What formal training (if any) do you have that has helped you?

My degree in playwrighting has been extremely helpful in creating interesting stories in video games. It has been said that the reason theater can be a more persuasive medium than film and tv is that live interaction with the audience. I’ve always felt that fundamental has linked games and theater closely. It wasn’t until I read “Computers as Theater” by Brenda Laurel that I started to see that I wasn’t unique in this belief.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

For game development Unity has been a great aid to our efforts as a business.

When making music for the games, I stick to two different programs, Reason and Ableton.  I’ve found that Reason’s synthesizers and drum machines are unbeatable for my purposes. Their virtual consoles really accurately recreate the experience of using the physical synthesizers and drum machines. I think it really emphasizes creativity and experimentation.

Nothing feels better then when you twist some nob just the right amount and you get that perfect sound. But that perfect sound can only get you so far. You’ve still got to arrange and master the tracks. For me this is where Ableton comes in strong. Ableton’s effect rack allow for rapid implementation from a variety of presets, although every preset always needs tweaking. I think Ableton offers a much friendly interface for arranging. Not being able to copy/paste while playing sound in Reason has always kept me from being able to effectively finish a song in it’s program.

How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?

Our studio is Shanti Pothapragada – Lead Programmer, Anne Hayes – Artist, and Danika Ragnhild – Producer/writer/composer.

What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?

We currently have one game out, Chimera Ascent. You can buy it on IOs, Android phone, and soon windows phone.

What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?

I really think the biggest challenge for game devs in the Twin Cities is showing how much talent and how much good work is coming out of here. Really working on creating an identity, coming together as a community, and supporting each other. Without that I think any individually successful studio will have to leave to get the talent they need. In the end I think it’s a matter of talent retention.

What is the most rewarding?

Oh, seeing people play our games is a huge motivator for us. Whether it is the finished product or a newly completed slice, everyone here comes back from watching people play our games with vigor and new ideas.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?

I think it really depends on what you want to do in games. If you want to write or do sound design, I think you’ve got to get experience working for television. If you’re a programmer a degree from a college seems to be the ticket in. Art I’m not so sure about. Lately a lot of modders have been snapped up after creating good work for games like Skyrim.

We found Anne because she had been creating and selling custom work on Second Life. What I think all of this has in common is you’ve got to work hard…like really hard and all the time. You never really know the thing that will get your foot in the door. It might be something you made years ago or something you made on a whim but you’ve got to have evidence to back up the work you’ve done.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We’re still hard at work on Chimera Genesis release date still TBD. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter!