Houston Game Dev

Interview: Adam Saltsman

February 8, 2013
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Adam Saltsman is a renowned indie game developer hailing from, admittedly, our much more prolific sister city Austin, Texas. We are honored that he took some of his valuable time out of his demanding development schedules to answer some of our questions. Developers from all over the world, not just Houston, can benefit from listening to the experiences of Adam Saltsman.



Do you come from a corporate gaming background? And if not, what experience did you have in game dev before you were involved in Indie Games?


I don’t actually come from a corporate gaming background, though not for lack of trying. We actually moved to Austin about 9 years ago now in fervent, naive hope of getting a job at Retro Studios… suffice it to say I couldn’t hack it. I ended up getting a more pedestrian job in software, but it was a strangely broad and good experience. I racked up a few years of C++ experience there before working for a few years as a freelance programmer and artist (formerly just a hobby). Eventually I started programming game-making libraries and full games for clients, and then sort of fell into building iOS games through a rock climbing buddy. Pretty much the normal career arc right??




How did you get involved with Flixel?


Making Flixel was just one of those things where like… so right out of college (10 years ago now?) I really wanted to make something like Flixel, but it was actually a pretty big hassle at the time. I started building a really… cumbersome C++/OpenGL 2D game framework, but it was that classic scenario where I spent all my time making a game engine, and not much time at all making a game. The cumbersome nature of platform-specific executables bugged me, so I started experimenting with Javascript, but it couldn’t hack it at the time. Flash was interesting, but at the time it was lacking a lot of features. I actually built something quite similar to Flixel in Silverlight of all things… but fortunately Flash was updated around the same time (2008-ish?) with the features I’d been wanting. But I’d learned my lesson from earlier projects, and rather than building a game engine, I started just building games. I looked for tasks that were repetitive or shared between each of my little prototypes, and started abstracting those tasks and routines into a shared library, which eventually became Flixel.

The motivation for making something like Flixel was purely selfish, I should add – I knew that if I was going to be making games for myself, I would be bootstrapping, which means I’d only be working nights and weekends on my own games, which meant I needed a platform where I could develop very rapidly if I was going to have any hope at all of ever making anything.



What was different about working on a ‘licensed’ product such as Hunger Games:Girl on Fire versus the past products you have created?


For me the big differences are generally this big shift or tradeoff in resources versus oversight. Generally I have basically no resources to call on when making a game, just whatever I am able to bring to the table personally. I also have no oversight whatsoever, which has its own pros and cons. Licensed work is really the flipside – the resources I get access to are unbelievable and amazing, but the oversight can complicate things that normally aren’t something I would usually get hung up on. Ultimately I enjoy both challenges though!




Deservedly, your game Hundreds has been released to iOS with great acclaim. Are you planning on taking your creations to some kind of ‘next level’ of expensive development, staff, etc. or do you still feel there is a lot to do in the game development sector of small micro teams?


The idea of leading a large team basically fills me with paralyzing, crippling fear haha. I am not expecting that to happen anytime soon. I just don’t have what it takes to do that. I am looking forward to collaborating with other designers though – working with Greg Wohlwend on Hundreds was fantastic. And yeah, I think there is still a huge audience for games made by pretty small teams.



Austin has seen a fair share of lay offs in the corporate video game sector over the last months. Also Austin has a vibrant scene of independent developers. What advice would you have for someone pursuing the indie side of game development, experienced or not? Are there any resources available for these people in your area?


Oh man, I wish I could answer that in a couple of concise sentences. I think my main advice is just to approach things with a kind of passionate humility… or some other such zen mindset. Running a small studio is the most amazing thing, but you need to be ready to learn new things every day, you need to be ready to wear a lot of different hats, you need to be ready to compromise and collaborate, you need to reach out to other small studios for advice and war stories, you need to think really hard sometimes about stuff you really wish you didn’t have to think about (like MARKETING, ugh).

SHAMELESS PLUG: In response to this most recent wave of layoffs, our austin indie game collective Juegos Rancheros is hosting a free workshop this Sunday [ Feb.10th, 2013] called NATION OF INDIES – we’ll be doing a rundown on all these things (lots of hats, lots of war stories) with some of Austin’s most dynamic indies (Stoic, White Whale, Tiger Style, Gl33k), and SXSW is buying everybody pizza. Studios folding and rising from the ashes is nothing new to Austin, but it’s rough seeing all these studios fold at once – the risk of talented folks having to leave Austin in order to find some more stable work and provide for their families is a very real risk. We’re hopeful that this workshop can provide a possible alternative to either leaving Austin or diving back into our relatively turbulent AAA scene.

[ The event website ]

[ Important note on the event, READ THIS if you plan to attend  ]



We know you are busy, so Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to game developers in Houston and the world. We look forward to continue following your work!


My pleasure, thank you for the opportunity!






you can follow Adam Saltsman on twitter @ADAMATOMIC




Indies Outside of Houston

February 6, 2013
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Towards the end of December Houston Game Development decided it would be fun to reach out to other developers to help promote their work. The requirements were simple, tweet us a link of what you are doing and we’ll tweet about it and post a link to your group here. Unfortunately since HGD is a volunteer organization we fell behind on this article. However better late than never and here is a list of some indies from all over the place who participated during that tweet fest over the holidays!

Check out their links and support their work!

Laura Talladry

Run Games Run Games 

Martijn ThorigSmall Gaming


SUM Interactive SUM Interactive

TozSoftware TozSoftware

Newtz Games Newtz Games

Sebastián SuchoNeotko

domDungeon Bard

Be sure to check out the next time we ask for devs to send us their links. When will we do it again? Only time will tell!  So follow us @houstongamedev !




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