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Solo dev Tuomas Auronen (Redbeak Games) “Hardest part is financial uncertainty”

Solo dev Tuomas Auronen, operating under the name Redbeak Games, looks pretty relieved three days after the launch of his game Mortal Glory 2. When his last game, that he spent 17 months working on, flopped, Auronen felt the pressure to make enough money to support his family. Especially since he recently became a father. But in a picture he shared on X, he happily points at the screen that shows revenues are coming in through Steam. “Mortal Glory 2 has been a financial success so far”, he says. “It won’t make me rich, but it will give me peace of mind when making my next games.” 

Mortal Glory 2 is a turn-based fantasy roguelike where players manage a team of traveling gladiators. It’s a sequel that offers ‘more variety and smoother gameplay’. Building upon a successful predecessor gave Auronen confidence during development. “Having an existing fan base helps a lot”, says the Finnish solo developer. “I didn’t have to spend a lot of time marketing since many fans of the first Mortal Glory wanted more and were interested in the sequel as soon as they knew it was coming.” 

Why did you become a solo developer?

“I was getting bored at my office job and decided to learn how to make games. Thanks to the surprising success of my first game, I was able to become more serious about it and turn gamedev into my full-time job.”

What are the biggest advantages of working solo?

“No wasted time on communication and alignment. The design & technical implementation are always aligned. The bar for “success” is also lower than with a team since there is no team split for revenue.”

and the biggest pitfalls?

“I need to do everything myself (what a surprise, right?). There are a lot of boring things I would love to “gift” to someone else. Being able to finish projects faster with a bigger team would also likely enable to meet the market demands better. During hectic times (like release), it would also be nice to be able to share tasks to maintain higher output over a short period of time.”

What’s your creative process?

“It’s mostly just brainstorming alone. So far I haven’t done any prototyping either as I feel it would have taken too long to validate my ideas that way. I get an idea and then start working on it right away. I often also bounce high-level ideas off my wife to get a second opinion.”

How do you stay motivated through (years of) development?

“I don’t. I usually start gradually losing motivation 6 months into a project. After that it becomes more and more about determination.”

Will you ever work in a team or is it only solo for you?

Working in a good team would likely be the most ideal way to do indie game development. But I think it comes with so many risks and question marks that realistically I will likely stick with being solo. But I’m also not completely opposed to a team either if the stars align.”

What was your idea for this sequel? 

“In general I wanted it to be smoother to play and I also wanted to add a lot of new variety to boost the replayability of the game.”

What’s the biggest lesson learned from this project?

“That having an existing fan base helps a lot. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time marketing since many fans of the first Mortal Glory wanted more and were interested in the sequel as soon as they knew it was coming.”

The toll on your mental health can be quite high for solo devs. How do you deal with that?

“I just push on and try to focus on the freedoms and positive things that come with being an entrepreneur. For me the biggest mental toll came from financial uncertainty as my last game flopped after 17 months of work and soon after I also became a father. It became more of a reality that I need to generate revenue to support my family and not go bankrupt. Luckily Mortal Glory 2 has been a financial success so far. It won’t make me rich, but it will give me peace of mind when making my next games.”

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.
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