Unleashing Player Connections: A Conversation with Irena Pereira

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In this episode of the Player: Engage podcast, we had the pleasure of speaking with Irena Pereira, the CEO and founder of Unleashed Games. Irena is a trailblazer in game design and user experience, with a career dedicated to enhancing player interactions and experiences within games. She has worked on projects for SciPlay and Mythical Games and has a unique approach to game development that combines creativity with a deep understanding of player dynamics.

Unleashed Games Team at GDC 2023

Key Points Discussed:

  • Irena’s Background: Irena shared her journey from being a typography nerd to becoming a pioneer in UX/UI design. She discussed her early days of web design, her time at USC, and how she transitioned into the gaming industry, eventually working on major titles like EverQuest and World of Warcraft.
  • UX/UI Design Philosophy: Irena believes that trends are irrelevant in UX/UI design, emphasizing the importance of usability and the player’s ease of interaction with the game. She also touched on the significance of typography and layout in design.
  • Career Highlights: Irena recounted her experiences working at Blizzard, where she contributed to World of Warcraft, and at 38 Studios, where she worked on Kingdoms of Amalur. She also discussed her time with the Air Force, where she learned agile development methodologies that she later applied to game development.
  • Challenges in the Industry: Irena opened up about the difficulties she faced as a woman in the gaming industry and her commitment to bringing the player’s voice into the development process.
  • Unleashed Games and Haven: The focus of the conversation shifted to Irena’s current project, Unleashed Games, and their upcoming title, Haven. Haven is envisioned as a family-friendly MMO that promotes meaningful connections and mental health through gameplay. Irena is passionate about creating a game that allows families to play together and form lasting relationships.
  • Community Engagement: Irena highlighted the importance of community feedback and shared how Unleashed Games is playtesting their game live on Twitch every Friday. This allows the team to gather real-time feedback and build a community around the game even before its release.

Final Thoughts:

Irena’s passion for creating games that forge genuine connections and her innovative approach to game development make her insights invaluable. Her story is a testament to the power of games in bringing people together and the potential for games to have a positive impact on players’ lives. We’re excited to see how Haven will shape the future of family gaming and community building within the industry.

Don’t forget to tune in to Unleashed Games’ Twitch channel to be a part of their playtesting sessions and join their growing community.

AI Transcript: Irena Pereira

Intro: 00:00: 00:16: Welcome to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and Helpshift. Here is your host, Greg Posner. Hey, everybody.
Greg Posner: 00:17: 01:04: Welcome to the Player Engaged Podcast. Greg here. Today’s guest, Irena Pereira, stands at the forefront of game design and user experience. As the innovative CEO and founder of Unleashed Games and the driving force behind digital experiments, she has dedicated her career to enhancing the way players interact with and experience games. Her expertise extends beyond traditional UX design, delving into creating meaningful connections between her players and their games. Irena’s work, particularly in strategic user engagement and market validation, has significantly influenced projects for notable clients, including CyPlay and Mythical Games. Her approach to game development blends creativity with a keen understanding of player dynamics, making her insights invaluable to the evolving world of gaming. Irena, thank you so much for joining us today. Anything I missed about yourself?

Irena Pereira: 01:04: 01:11: Oh, goodness. That could take a very, very long time. But I’m so grateful to be here. Thank you for having me.

Greg Posner: 01:12: 01:35: Yeah, no, I’m super excited to have you here. I think you’re doing some really cool things with Unleashed Games, which I want to talk about a little later into the podcast. But before we get started, you know, UX and UI design is something that’s awesome to me. And whenever I try and create a PowerPoint and try and design it, or when I try and do wireframes, it all looks terrible. So how do you get into this? And how do you kind of keep up with kind of the trends that go on in UX and UI?

Irena Pereira: 01:36: 02:17: Well, to me, trends are irrelevant when it comes to UX and UI because what really matters is how well people can use something. And the way that I got into it was actually being a reader and deeply into type. And I became a typography nerd before we knew what that was. But it’s really like great design is how well you lay out text for mass comprehension on the user part. And UX and UI is this great extension into visual and interactive mediums of how do you shorten the distance between the game designer and the player and their level of understanding. And that’s UX.

Greg Posner: 02:18: 02:37: So you got, so it all started with typography and fancy pens that kind of do all the different fonts that you can do. And like, at what, what age do you realize this is like, did you do that before realizing this is UX UI? Like, how did that process go? How did you realize like, this is a path that you want to go down?

Irena Pereira: 02:37: 06:41: For me, it was actually a blend of my passion for art. I mean, every class that I would take notes for in high school, junior high, started with me making up fonts in my notebook. So I would do something stylized relative to whatever was inspiring me in the moment. And that sort of doodling brought me to learning how to design web pages while in my dorm room studying at USC. And I actually ended up picking up engineering and studying computer science and getting an engineer’s perspective on development. And this was right as the World Wide Web was growing And there was a space in between engineers and the artists or the designers that was just a gap. There was some sort of like communication disconnect because the engineers couldn’t be visual and the designers couldn’t be engineering. And so UI kind of became born because there was a need to be able to do that for a user. and for a specific perspective and one that could be a kind of a homogenization of both of those intents, but also bringing like really great and clear experiences. So I actually started as an engineer doing front end development and like pioneering as an HTML lead, whatever that was, in an online game called the Hollywood Stock Exchange. And there I led a team of engineers and designers and worked with movie studios, and we threw Oscar parties. We were a pretty big deal at the time, at the peak of the World Wide Web. But I really wanted to actually make games, because at the time I was playing a lot of EverQuest. It was a problem, actually. I played for about seven years, in fact, and I lost myself in EverQuest. And in fact, some friends that I made playing that game have been my friends ever since and they’re my best friends and they’re just as close as family to me and I know so many people that can tell that same exact story about having met a group of friends playing an MMO and some MMOs have spawned marriages, some MMOs have created families and have, you know, created companies. I mean, look at companies like Chris Kalicki’s Notorious. That’s his guild, yo. Like, that’s, that is powerful. I ran a little guild called, well, Well, it had something to do… The spirit of my guild carries on in digital experiments. But that said, my guild was a little notorious on our server. But what it did was actually taught me how to work together with a large group of people and really help them sort out specific roles, have different jobs, and how our collective communication could allow us to take down the plane of hate. And it would take us over a week to clear this thing. People would log in at the same time every day. It was like we were going to work. It was a second job. And that was amazing to me. And we all had an incredible time doing it. We kept showing up. We weren’t getting paid for it, to be killing gods at like three o’clock in the morning. No, we were passionate about it because we had a shared purpose. It was to get Draven that shield because then he could take the dragon afterward And then we could take on a harder encounter. And that is no different than running a business today, right? You have to get through these tough times, but you all have to know how to cooperate, coordinate. Anyway, that was so magical to me, and it really sparked something inside me. And I really, at that point, wanted to make games. And I had been playing games my whole life. I built my first computer at 11. I had been playing RTSs and whatever through, I played a lot of Warcraft in college. I just knew that like games were my future. And that’s where I had to figure out that marriage of that passion. My dad always told me to do the thing that you love and then you’ll never work a day in your life. And so here I am.

Greg Posner: 06:42: 07:00: You said so much cool there, so many cool things. And I’m sorry if you see me typing, I’m just taking a lot of notes as you’re talking and kind of running it back. You’d probably be a fun person to kind of copy your notes from, I imagine, back in high school, right? I’m sure everyone wants to be like, can we borrow your notes? And you probably had things color-coordinated and crazy, but what’s really stuck with you?

Irena Pereira: 07:00: 07:04: No, it was more doodles, actually. I was drawing the whole time. I wasn’t paying attention.

Greg Posner: 07:05: 08:45: There you go. What I really like is I remember when I started my first company and all my companies I started were failures, so we don’t have to go there. But my biggest thing was like, I would draw a design and I’d send it to an outsourced company in India, and they would just build what I designed. And I realized like, there’s a missing piece here, right? Like what I’m drawing isn’t what you should be building. I needed that middle person, right? That mediator in the middle be like, Yeah. And that’s funny. Like I never really thought about that. That’s what UX and UI is like, yeah, I can draw something, but that doesn’t mean it works. It doesn’t mean that developers can take it. And I love that you identified that right away and you kind of built that out. going on. You said a lot. It was great, right? The MMO stuff. I love that. I mean, I never was into MMOs when I was growing up. My roommates in college were all big into Warcraft. And I remember hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of them playing that. And it’s awesome. I mean, we’re seeing a big rise in community in gaming, right? And that really kind of kicked this off, right? It’s another job, but people love it, right? Like, You get to go home, you get to boot up the game and you get to play as a team and you’re all helping each other, right? Like you’re going in to fight this quest so someone else can get a shield to help the greater good. And it is running a company. The whole company is working together. If development’s talking to support and if support is talking to product, right, everything is working harmoniously. And it’s really cool that you identify all these trends while you’re going through it because. everything just kind of clicks it. And it’s beautiful that you’re in gaming, right? Because then it’s not working. You’re doing stuff that you love it. And we can get into what Unleashed is doing and how they’re showing what their MMO is. And we’ll talk about it in great detail. But I think it’s really cool how you kind of tied that all together and you are where you are today because of that.

Irena Pereira: 08:45: 10:23: Yay, I’m so grateful that you see that because one of the things that was really big when we were working on Kingdoms of Amalur with R.A. Salvatore, he really loved this idea of internal consistency within the world. Like, things have to make sense. We had this concept of a well of souls. This is, you know about it from Reckoning. But the well of souls was magic that was found by the gnomes, and it was a way for players to resurrect. But there was an in-world reason for that well of souls to exist. There was a backstory, there was deep understanding, and it made sense within that context. And I think it’s actually really powerful when you build exactly what it is, how you want to operate, right? We get to build a game about cooperation by cooperating to get there. We get to build a game about collaborating, and we have to successfully collaborate to get there. And what we learn from our collaboration in person can drive some of how we affect the game design on the end of the player. Because there’s this concept called Conway’s Law, that has driven my career. And Conway’s law states that the communication, well, software often takes on the form of the communication pathways on the team that built it. The way that I interpret it is that the quality of the software ends up expressing the personal state of the team.

Greg Posner: 10:23: 10:38: That, you know, as a sales engineer, You see that a lot, right? You see how people are using JIRA. You see how people are using Salesforce and everyone is different. It’s not like this is the standard way to use Salesforce. Everyone has their own workflows. Sorry, I cut you off there, but I thought that was very interesting.

Irena Pereira: 10:38: 11:52: It’s very true. But you look at how JIRA organizes data, and I bet if you look at games that are built using a JIRA-based system, that all of their features have that same kind of JIRA vibe. JIRA comes through with how things are structured, how tasks are broken down and how they are sized. You know, everything has to be an epic, so everything has to be contained. But you know what that does, is it actually interferes with interoperability between features. And you get games like Coin Master, where you have to go down an individual branch into their different game modes. Nothing intertwines, nothing is integrated. Because Jira is not integrated. It’s really hard to integrate two epics together or find joint issues. You can tag things, sure, here and there. But it’s really interesting. I’ve seen game dev companies die because they couldn’t figure out how to make things fun because the team was operating in a death march. to get there. The team wasn’t having fun. So how the hell are they supposed to, sorry, how are they supposed to create a game that’s fun for players? If they’re miserable every day?

Greg Posner: 11:52: 12:07: Makes perfect sense, right? But how do you overcome something like that? Like think of a big gaming company, right? If you think of EA or WB games, right? Like, how do you break that mold? I’m not saying they fit into that mold. But like, how do you? Is it? I don’t know. How do you get out of it?

Irena Pereira: 12:09: 13:15: You get out of it by healing your team first and fixing the communication pathways, which is typically a broken process. And in fact, one of the offerings that we provide through digital experiments is we literally do a health check on your team, your tools, anybody, and we can reflect back to you your process. and then give you recommendations on how to change it and how to put better market validation into your process as you go so that you end up with better features at the tail end and have, you know, greater performing features, um, from your process rather than, you know, your current, like if the process is broken, uh, that’s actually the work that we did with side play and, uh, Jack, jackpot party, uh, took this process and I’m, I don’t know. I think they increased revenue. I don’t know what their numbers were, but their numbers were significantly higher the year after engaging with me, after the work that we put in, getting them to understand how to fix their process.

Greg Posner: 13:15: 13:23: So as a sidebar here, because I love testing new tools out, what are some common tools that you’re seeing people use these days that might be something that normal people don’t think about?

Irena Pereira: 13:23: 14:40: Oh, goodness. This is a podcast in and of itself. I actually have a talk that I gave at the Games UX Summit, in Seattle last year, on my birthday actually, called Why UX Fails. And that talk actually details out key simple tools, gameplay tools for meetings to help facilitate better communication between the team. Things like an Eisenhower matrix or service blueprints. These are things, rabbit holes, that we could certainly jump down into. But these are UX tools that we often use to visualize data, visualize gameplay, create better understanding between game dev teams, design, right? But taking these and applying them into a workshop format to help facilitate meetings to get better outcomes and clear objectives at the end of it. So I can take a team of 20 people, stick them in a room for 40 minutes, get all of their priorities, get them all mapped on to a cost value evaluation, have them grouped together by topic, and then have them dot voted by the team as to what’s the biggest priority to deal with, with an estimation of whatever the cost is.

Greg Posner: 14:40: 14:42: Fascinating. It’s crazy.

Irena Pereira: 14:42: 14:50: Like 40 minutes. And we have an artifact afterwards that we can use to drive prioritization. These are things that I learned while working in the Air Force.

Greg Posner: 14:51: 15:17: So let’s talk about your background. I think it’s fascinating, right? We talked about high school. Now you take notes, you go to college, right? And college, you start building websites. I think timing is probably right with you going to college, people starting to build websites, right? How do you, like, why did you decide to start building websites? Was it something you just recognized? Was it something you enjoyed doing? And how do you actually sell that service? Were you born as a salesperson? Like, is that your background? Or how does that go down?

Irena Pereira: 15:18: 20:50: Oh, I’m an engineer. So, you know, I, I built my first computer when I was 11. I had a PC. I had a 486 actually, it was screaming at the time, in my dorm room. And in fact, my buddy Jared and I, we wired the entire dorm hallway. It was the co-ed floor of the cinema television floor at USC. We wired the whole hallway with RJ45 and dropped it into all the game, into all of the rooms. And we were running LAN parties in the middle of the night for Hexen and Quake and Doom. Nice. It was a blast. It lasted for about 14 days before the RA found out and we had to rip it all down. But that was a great two weeks. So I’ve been trying to play multiplayer games pretty much since the beginning and multiplayer was really the jazz that I was going for. But really, I had this computer in front of me and I just I was a drawer, an illustrator my whole life, but I didn’t quite get there with that artist capability. But I had the initiation. I had this blend of art. I had the taste of an artist. I was a photographer. I was a typographer. All of these things. I’ve called myself a jack-of-all-trades, but never quite completely skilled in one direction. But I found code. And I found HTML and I found Photoshop because my professor at the time, this is going to go a little wild for a second. My professor, Dr. John Zuckerman, who is a forensic archaeological photographer, was photographing the Dead Sea Scrolls. And I worked with him as an assistant and we separated out Aramaic letters from different layers. We would identify what was an ink smear versus an actual written letter and use Photoshop. This is how I learned how to use Photoshop. I was working on the Dead Sea Scrolls and separating it out. And that, in and of itself, took me into my dorm room, and I started making collages of my favorite bands. I made a website for my favorite band, for my favorite author, I made one for Tori Amos, like Catherine Wheel, and like, so I was just building an HTML one. And there was always like this thing where I wasn’t quite a coder, I couldn’t get into object-oriented code programming, and I wasn’t quite the artist. What was there in between that I could fill in the blanks? And then that’s where I just like, that’s where I vibed. I sang and I got a bunch of website jobs. where I was the HTML person and I was often the only girl on a team. It was all a bunch of dudes. I got into a web design agency where I, you know, worked on the website for Stone Temple Pilots and ran like Muscle and Fitness Magazine and Young Pregnancy. What an awkward magazine title name. Men’s Fitness and all those. And then I got into the Hollywood Stock Exchange. And from there, when I found gaming, that’s where I needed to be. So I got in actually working on EverQuest as the web designer for the Sony station. That was my in, right? I was the programmer. I could get in from the website angle, the web developer angle. I had to find a crafty perspective. But that led me to working at Blizzard, right? Where I got to work on World of Warcraft. And that completely transformed my life because I was a full stack engineer. They brought me in and they taught me how to code in Lua. They gave me a coding test. I passed it, thank the Lord. I got the job. They told me that they had been looking for me for two years, and I was like, I’ve been applying to you for five. What took you so long? But then they gave me the first task of building a tutorial on how to build an add-on for World of Warcraft. I’m like, I’ve just learned Lua last two weeks. Now I’m going to build a tutorial. So that tutorial got built. That was my first job and it was a great way to teach me, but Blizzard was commonly the type of place that they just toss you into the deep end and then you sink or swim. That’s just the way it went. But I was on the engineering team, so everybody, and I was actually the first female engineer on the team. So that was, made me kind of, everybody was very protective of me from the engineering team. They were really great. John Cash was a phenomenal manager. But I got to work on Vanilla WoW, I released Burning Crusade, I designed PVP 2.0, the arena system, the banners that are on the backs. of the players in the arena battles. That was my idea. I designed the whole system for doing the logos. In fact, the bunny and, you know, there’s a bunny and a monkey and a robot that I drew that are some of the logos that you could have for your arena teams. But then Wrath of the Lich King as well, the vehicle UI, the barbershop. So many systems that I’ve been a part of building for World of Warcraft, the glyph system was my very favorite. These things were peak of my career and the team that I got to work on there was, work with there, was absolutely phenomenal. It was the best job of my life.

Greg Posner: 20:51: 20:59: I can’t imagine the excitement of someone growing up playing, you said Diablo, you played Warcraft. I’m assuming you’re talking about the RTS Warcraft before you got into there.

Irena Pereira: 20:59: 21:01: Warcraft, Warcraft 2. Yeah.

Greg Posner: 21:01: 21:07: Starcraft. Yeah. Imagine walking in the door to Blizzard and just be like, oh shit type of moment.

Irena Pereira: 21:07: 21:09: Oh my god, hero worship.

Greg Posner: 21:09: 21:21: Yeah, right? Like you’re part of making younger kids’ dreams that are playing come true, especially World of Warcraft, because that was the biggest phenomenon at the time for years. That is awesome.

Irena Pereira: 21:21: 21:53: Yeah, there was a moment where I was debating with Eric Dodds. I love that man so much. And we had these awesome debates. And that’s where Blizzard was great. They welcome debate. And you were supposed to argue your point and be very reasoned with it. But we were having a debate over a UI change. I don’t even remember what it was. And Eric Dodds reminded me, he said, the change that you make is going to affect 15 million players daily. So make sure that that change is worthwhile.

Greg Posner: 21:53: 21:54: No pressure.

Irena Pereira: 21:54: 24:58: And like to think about that in terms of the DAU at the time, that was in 2006. Right. And, um, Even beyond that, the number of people that have touched World of Warcraft, that have touched that game. I had somebody at Gamescom tell me that if it weren’t for the tutorial that I wrote, they wouldn’t have their career. And he was the founder of a $13 million… He just raised a Series A of $13 million for his game studio, and he was the CEO of that studio. But it was incredible. Even now, it’s incredible to think that I had that sort of effect on people, and that I got to contribute to something so great. And I’m so excited to build this kind of a game again, but to do it with all that we know now, we’ll get into that. But yeah, part of what I think a core mistake that I made, or was it a mistake? I’m not sure. No, it wasn’t a mistake because of the people that I met. But I got a phone call from one of my EverQuest 2 guild buddies. And he said, yeah, we’re building a game studio out on the East Coast. Kurt Schilling wants to give you a call and would love for you to come work with us. And so I took a call from Kurt Schilling and he was like, OK, Irena. Here we go. This is what we’re doing. And he laid out this incredible game. We’re going to make the ultimate MMO of all time. In fact, I heard this sales job before from a gentleman named David Allen of Artifact on a game called Horizons, which I worked on and it was released. But Kurt Schilling says to me, Irena, you’ve got to come out to the East Coast and help us build this ultimate game. Like, we’re finally going to get the chance to build the game that we have always wanted to. And we’re all going to be wildly successful. And he’s a massive, you know, World Series winning baseball, Red Sox ballplayer. Sure, he does a great sales job. My partner, my fiance and I packed up our house and moved out east to go work at 38 Studios out of Massachusetts. And I left everything behind, all my family and friends in Southern California, because that’s where I grew up. And we spent the next five years working on Kingdoms of Amalur, at the time Project Copernicus. That game was absolutely stunningly beautiful. Our art director was Tom Ang, and he’s actually our art director now at Unleashed for very good reason. This man is a genius. And so he and his team, his art team, had built the most stunning and beautiful world for Amalur. And we built the game. It took us about six years. And before it ever could go public, actually, within about three months of going into closed beta, the company went bankrupt.

Greg Posner: 24:58: 25:00: Big, big news in the gaming industry. I remember that.

Irena Pereira: 25:01: 25:13: Yeah, and over 400 people lost their jobs. Many people had to declare bankruptcy and Curt Schilling went into hiding and then became whatever.

Greg Posner: 25:13: 25:20: Go from the bloody softball game to a game fan.

Irena Pereira: 25:20: 25:26: Yes. He went from, you know, famous to notorious.

Greg Posner: 25:26: 25:36: You know, it took a chance. Fortunately, it doesn’t always work out, but you learn stuff, right? There’s no such thing as failures. There’s learning experiences and it depends on how you take it.

Irena Pereira: 25:36: 25:46: Exactly. Exactly. The difference between those with grit and not are those that allow failure to impact them or not.

Greg Posner: 25:47: 26:01: So going back to, you know, you were at Blizzard, you were doing engineering work there and creating the demos and the tutorials, right? You didn’t quite, unless UX and UI is already part of this, right? Did we explore that part of this yet? Did that like kick into you yet?

Irena Pereira: 26:01: 29:52: Oh, yeah, yeah. So at 38 Studios, I was a senior game designer. I had always been working to get recognition for UX as a game design role within the industry and was advocating for that. And there was no set, like even just getting a position for UI on teams didn’t exist. I would always interview as some other role and talk about or bring attention to the fact that there is this gap. So UX did not have a formal role on the team before I got there. And so I asked to be the lead UX designer. And I was going to report directly to the game director, and we were going to be responsible for the front-end development of the UI, but also the art and the game design, or at least have consultative services to the game design team to make sure that they are always considering the player in their design work. And to make sure that the UI that they were requesting was in line with player needs, and then we would have a means of validation in some way. And that was really, like, for me, it was, from my understanding, that was the first time there was ever the game design position that was committed to UX within the game industry. And I knew that this would be a necessary trend. So I was very vocal about it my whole career. So after 38 Studios, after my time there, After the company went bankrupt, I actually stayed in Rhode Island, and I’m still here now, primarily because I started my family out here, and my family is here. So… And because of the… Because of… Sorry. Because I was out here on the East Coast, and the game industry somewhat imploded after 38 Studios went bankrupt, There were no game jobs out here, really. I mean, I did some work. There was a point where I worked with Warner Brothers, and we worked on Game of Thrones Conquest, or what later became Game of Thrones Conquest, and Batman Arkham Underworld. There was no game industry out here, and really a lot of companies to go work with, because Rockstar had had left, take two had pretty much left. There wasn’t a lot. So I became an entrepreneur. I started a photography business. I started photographing babies and families and weddings and built up a really strong business as a single businesswoman. And at the same time, took on a lot of consulting gigs, working with companies. And this is where I learned really how to Do customer success and sales. it was finding these consulting jobs where I was, as a designer, bringing gamification to apps. I worked on a conversational AI before natural or proper, or at the time, I worked on conversational AI, which was our precursor to the AI that we have now. And so I would create experiences, gamified experiences, bring, you know, gamification to something that might be really, really dry. And I got to work on smaller dev teams where I made mobile games, like one of my favorites from Duo Fun Studios, which was Chief Puzzle Officer. It was a multiplayer PVP match three RPG TCG.

Greg Posner: 29:52: 29:53: Everything.

Irena Pereira: 29:53: 30:36: I was not the game designer. I was just working on the brand and the IP, but it was a game about corporate espionage and it was full on animating. And you had to break into corporations and steal files to steal secrets, but you did so through like these four quad match, like a match three battles. It was, it was epic. Chief Puzzle Officer, you can find a trailer on YouTube. But I really got into mobile development. And also, I got a chance to go work for the Air Force. Which that, my friend, that was life changing. Working with the military.

Greg Posner: 30:36: 30:48: Yeah, how so? I mean, I’ve heard other people who’ve worked for the Army or Marines or something like that being a good experience. But why would you say it was a life changing experience?

Irena Pereira: 30:48: 33:14: So for the Air Force, I worked in a unit called Detachment 12 out of Hanscom Air Force Base that we lovingly referred to as Kessel Run. And we even had a logo that was the Millennium Falcon. And there I learned a form of agile development, I think initiated by Eric Schmidt and Google Ventures, that ended up becoming a consulting methodology for a group called Pivotal Labs in San Francisco. And then they contracted with the US government and spun up this experimental lab, the software development lab, where they just threw up all development methodologies out the window and started from scratch with super lean, gamified, facilitated meetings with a specific pattern every week that prioritized psychological safety, and equal consideration of voices in the room. What? Like this was the Air Force, right? I was walking into people in fatigues and people saluting each other. We didn’t really salute in the lab, but it was an in-person gig prior to the pandemic. And I would travel up to Boston every single day and be there for an 8.36 call time for our all hands stand up. We would hit a gong. And we would do announcements. We had a very specific pattern. Every single meeting took exactly seven minutes, approximately. And then we would go into individual stand-ups for each individual product team. And then you would go into paired work, where you’d have to literally develop with another person right next to you. two designers working from the same computer, two engineers working from the same computer. They took extreme programming to the nth level. They had small product teams, which would be in a game team like a feature team, that were super tight-knit, somewhere between five and 15 people max. That’s it. And they would change the world. They were affecting our national security. They were figuring out how to fuel jets in the air in the Middle East. They were figuring out how to vet and validate intelligence to make sure that we weren’t bombing the wrong things. These were apps that they were creating across the entire DoD that were saving the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars a month.

Greg Posner: 33:15: 33:16: Crazy.

Irena Pereira: 33:16: 35:30: And they were doing this with a continuous DevOps release cycle where they were releasing like 700 code changes a day. And it was all with this methodology. It was absolutely incredible. And then the pandemic hit and then I realized I could get back into games because I could work remotely. And so I was like, Oh, man, what if I take this methodology that I learned in the Air Force and go apply it to game teams? Because I know maybe there’s like one or two game teams that are not happy. Okay, maybe there’s a few more than that. Right? Just a few more. But like, this is this is like, there are books written about the death march of software teams that are managed poorly. And that is more likely to happen within the game industry than not. And that’s, you know, completely anecdotal right now. But I’m sure that there’s data to support this. You can look at, you know, but if you could take a methodology that doesn’t point any fingers to anybody, but just makes the communication pathways better on a team, you’ll make the games better. I came to Scopely and I introduced some of these methodologies, as well as some of my UX know-how with persona development, market validation, and bringing audiences in early and setting up like surveying systems and play tests within organizations. I brought that to the Monopoly Go team. And that didn’t go very well because the leadership team was very allergic to some of these other methodologies. Because it got the team talking a lot more, and some of their unrest was turning into, like, they would have to make changes to what their priorities were, and they were unwilling to complete that cycle of feedback. Which is fair, it was their choice. But they did get out of me a complete culture shift from when I was hired being asked, like, hey, Irena, can you really, like, we really need your help because this team is just in a death march. to getting the team like celebrating a Christmas party together and having fun and like realizing that they had these great bonds. Like we turned that team around. It was actually incredible to watch that. And then, you know, look at the game that they ended up building after the fact.

Greg Posner: 35:30: 36:22: It’s just like just like World of Warcraft, right? It’s a cultural phenomenon game right now. It’s taking off. And I find it interesting. I guess it’s kind of like I’ve heard the saying, don’t kick a sleeping dog. Right. Sometimes teams need a shock, but no one wants to deal with the aftermath. There has to be some turbulence to start to find some smooth sailing and some ways to be happy. I guess some companies are afraid of seeing what will happen if we do that. We don’t want to lose some of the people that we have here. It’s fun that you were able to bring all these different tool sets that you’ve learned. I mean, from the Air Force is a crazy one, right? You may mention that you were building all these apps. And when you were at Blizzard, they said, hey, when you make this change, it’s going to affect 15 million people. Then all of a sudden, you’re doing this for the DoD, and you’re doing stuff like that, that’s protecting the entire country. It must be like this crazy thing that’s, I don’t know, it’s just not seeming.

Irena Pereira: 36:22: 37:53: It’s absolutely humbling. Because, you know, it’s not about you. It can’t be about you. And actually, there’s this funny thing because, you know, I don’t know if I’m beating a dead horse, but I’ve been a woman in games for a very long time. I’ve gotten talked over. I’ve gotten, like, ignored. I’ve gotten literally pushed up against a wall by my neck. I’ve gotten ass slapped. I’ve gotten, you know, whatever. We can go on. I’ve been through this and I’ve had to find a way to make my voice heard within this industry in a way that was irrefutable and didn’t come off as personal. And I think that’s been part of the driver of why I’ve been working so hard to develop UX and UI in this industry is because we need the voice of the player. And if I can bring the voice of the player to the team and it validates my assumptions. It doesn’t matter what my ideas are. Like, we have the player having an influence. And so I made a commitment early on in my career to always be the one who is shortening the distance between the dev team and the player, however it is through whatever tools that I could. And it makes for better and better games, ultimately.

Greg Posner: 37:55: 38:40: We did a podcast with women in games, and I don’t want to cut this subject short because I think it’s a very important subject in gaming, making games inclusive for everyone, especially now in the day where my mom’s playing games. My grandma probably has games on her phone. younger people playing games. It’s really for everyone, right? And be able to hear their feedback that they’re sharing. And again, this is probably a whole nother podcast in itself on how that’s important and why that’s important to hear the voices of everyone that’s playing. But I want to make sure we take a lot of time to talk about Unleashed Games too, because that’s why we’re here. But before we do, I’d like to do kind of in the middle of the podcast, although I think we’re past the middle, I kind of like this fireball around. I’m going to throw some questions at you. They’re really simple-ish questions, so don’t overthink it. But it’s about five questions, so you’re good to go.

Irena Pereira: 38:41: 38:42: Yeah, let’s go.

Greg Posner: 38:42: 38:46: If you’re going to a bar, what’s the drink you’re ordering?

Irena Pereira: 38:46: 38:54: Oh, goodness. Lately, I’ve been trying to be good. So it’s a seltzer water with a splash of cranberry and the lime. So it looks like I’m drinking a cocktail.

Greg Posner: 38:54: 39:00: Good move there, especially when you got to pitch stuff every day. Exactly. Dream vacation.

Irena Pereira: 39:00: 39:06: Oh, dream vacation. Right now it would be Santorini with a horizon pool.

Greg Posner: 39:06: 39:09: There you go. Over the last game you played.

Irena Pereira: 39:11: 39:23: Uh, last game I played was I think Stardew Valley. We did about three days of Stardew Valley with my kids. Uh, we absolutely love that game.

Greg Posner: 39:23: 39:25: Fourth question is last book you read.

Irena Pereira: 39:25: 39:34: Oh goodness. Um, the last book I read is actually meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Greg Posner: 39:34: 39:37: Last question is my favorite. What did you have for breakfast?

Irena Pereira: 39:39: 39:47: I had a cup of coffee with a protein shake as my creamer. That’s pretty much my go-to.

Greg Posner: 39:47: 39:56: I just started doing that. I don’t know why I did not think about that earlier. I make myself a latte every morning. I was just like, I should just put protein powder in there and then it’s breakfast.

Irena Pereira: 39:56: 39:59: Exactly. It’s like, why do a shake when you can do a latte?

Greg Posner: 40:01: 40:13: So let’s talk about Unleashed Games, because I think you’re doing some really cool things. So you told us your story up until about Scopely, where you’re trying to transform the kind of what’s going on there. How does Unleashed Games get born?

Irena Pereira: 40:14: 46:20: Well, that’s where it didn’t work with Scopely, you know, and it’s not that I wasn’t successful. It was that the culture wasn’t necessarily ready for it because it’s really hard to change a culture that’s already in motion and to be in respect of the organization that exists. So I tried it on a second game team at Scopely and that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped either. So I realized that after those two experiments, my data clearly showed that I needed to just start up my own team and start up from scratch. So I started my entrepreneurial journey in a little bit of a bumpy way. I tried a company initially that was focused on diversity and inclusion. I built a company called Rainbow Unicorn Games. with two co-founders, Athena Peters and Nikolina Finska. And we wanted to create a studio that was building games for diverse audiences by diverse developers, right? And we had some great game concepts that we wanted to develop. But the process, if you think that fundraising from VC as a female founder is hard mode. Imagine fundraising from VC as a only female founding team. We just, we hit a brick wall. And also it turned out that we weren’t the right founders for each other, which is actually a great thing to learn, by the way. It’s not a failure. It is absolutely a great thing. So I ended up spinning off and starting a new company. I started Unleashed Games. And Unleashed came as a two-fold problem. One, I wanted to build something with a little bit more broad appeal that wasn’t necessarily the games that we were making at Rainbow Unicorn. I really loved MMOs and RPGs and that that kind of semi-action gameplay. And that’s the kind of game that I really wanted to make. And at that time, I also lost one of my best friends to suicide. And his name was Travis Day. And he was the itemization, he was the item guy on World of Warcraft. And he was absolutely brilliant, one of the smartest people I have ever met. And he was the game designer, systems designer on Diablo III. And he did all of itemization and fixed the real money auction house and all sorts of other problems with Diablo III. And was just absolutely brilliant. And he was also troubled. And we wanted to make a game. And having lost him, The entire team from World of Warcraft got together and all of his co-workers from Blizzard and the other game teams that he had worked on. But I joked that Travis et al. hearthstoned us back home because we went to his memorial and I was able to reconnect with some of my co-workers from World of Warcraft. And we realized that there wasn’t a lot in games that actually helped improve mental health outcomes for gamers. And if you look at the Harvard Longevity Study, they found that the number one factor for a long and happy life with humanity, with a human, is the quality of their relationships. If there was any kind of game that we knew that created really incredible relationships, really deep relationships that lasted and would stand the test of time, it was MMOs. And so Chris Zierhut and I were like, we could actually build that game. we could build a friendship engine where we drive players to meet each other. And instead of, you know, meeting people in a bar, you log on and you meet people and you go on adventures together and become friends with them. It’s like the thing that you do, it’s an activity. And we could actually help people who feel isolated at home, people who have disabilities, you know, disconnected families, separated families, or parents who travel that might want to play with their kids. Because the other thing is that there’s not a lot of games where you can play on the couch with your kids, because here I am playing Stardew Valley or Minecraft, and there’s nothing out there that actually scratches that RPG itch that I can play with my kids. It’s Diablo III, which, mind you, I will neither confirm nor deny that they have played that game, but it’s not necessarily family-friendly entertainment. I have three kids. I want to play games with them. I want to run dungeons with them. I want to play EverQuest-style adventures with them, but there’s nothing on the market like that that we can do that enables that sort of game experience. So what do you do when you see that? And what do you do when a lot of people tell you, like, they’re desperate for content like this because they grew up playing games like EverQuest. They grew up playing games like WoW, and they wouldn’t what they wouldn’t give to have a game like WoW that they could play with their kids because they can’t play WoW right now because it’s only on PC and the kids have a tablet. But also, it’s like a completely different game now. It’s super meta and super hardcore. It’s all about the rating and it’s a single player experience all the way up. So there’s a massive gap in the market for something that we’re building, and we can turn that around and make it actually positively affect human health outcomes. Like, we literally could build a game that could change the world by connecting people in a virtual space, but truly connecting people and not just, you know, giving lip service to it. That’s what’s unleashed.

Greg Posner: 46:21: 47:46: Yeah, I think that’s the most important thing. I think that’s the greatest thing in the world. I mean, you said it in the beginning of the podcast, right? People meet their spouse, they meet friends. My brother-in-law has been playing Call of Duty with a group of guys for the past 10 years and they met up in Florida. Is he going to get killed? Maybe, but maybe not. true friendships are made in this, especially I think some people that struggle with some anxiety or social issues, right? It’s much easier behind the screen. And if you can create that game, right? Wow is great with that, right? They built long lasting friendships that stand the test of time. And I think it’s such a great cause to go after, because there are people that do have those feelings. And it’s much easier from behind the screen to interact with people than it is face to face. And I love that Unleash is giving people that place where they can be themselves, for lack of better words, even if it is a video game. And I think this is what excites me about the whole future of video games. I don’t know if I’m a believer of the metaverse type of stuff yet, but the more you see people connecting, the more people are working together. It’s like, this great feeling. And I love the fact that you talk about it with your kids, because I have a five year old that’s into gaming now and trying to find a game to play with him. And right now we’re doing Lego Fortnite, which is fun enough, but like, it’s not his jam. And I think having those games, you can play with your family, like side by side is such a great experience. And I agree with you, there’s a huge gap there. So I’m excited to see what you do with it.

Irena Pereira: 47:46: 47:47: Thank you. We’re really excited too.

Greg Posner: 47:49: 48:03: So what I love is that something you’re doing that I think is unique is that you are playtesting on Twitch on Fridays, and we will have a link to that. But how was that decided upon? How is it going?

Irena Pereira: 48:03: 50:13: That was my choice. I was like, hey, we’re playtesting. We should stream this on Twitch. Let’s just build our audience now. Because again, it’s market validation, right? We get a response, we get to grow a community, grow a fandom. And these days, they say you need influencer marketing in your go-to-market. Well, what if you become the creator yourself as the game developer? Game developers as creators, who knew? But here we are, right, where we record everything that we do. All of our meetings are recorded. So if there’s a cool demo, like we’re collecting all of those into little bits that we’ll share. We are interviewing our co-founders. We’ve filmed interviews of all of our co-founders and how, you know, and why it is that we’re building what we’re building. And we’re putting that together as a content stream because, like, We love what we’re doing, and we know that people will care a lot more later about what we’re building now. So we might as well start collecting this data, and we’ll figure out what to do with it. And we did figure out what to do with it. Now we can actually post some of these, like, our before videos on YouTube, right? We posted a, like, how it started video of what the game looked like when we, in the first month of development. And now on Twitch, every single week, we show our latest changes. Now, for the holidays, obviously, we’re slowing down and not going to have a lot of changes, but we’re going to still playtest because we see it as like a, this is our television show. This is where we go out and we prove that people like what we’re building. and make sure that we’re building the right thing. So we’re still the originators of the idea. We still, you know, we’re still swinging for the fences with a specific bet of what it is that we want players to experience. But we’re going to put it out there, even if it’s not done, just to get feedback and to get the response, because that’s so powerful. And we know that by the time we’re ready to release, the quality of the game is going to be so much better because of it.

Greg Posner: 50:14: 50:20: So I really love the playtesting idea. How can people become a part of this? How can they find where you’re doing the playtesting and become a part of that community?

Irena Pereira: 50:20: 50:56: Yeah, so we actually stream every week on Twitch. It’s on Fridays at 2 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m. Pacific. And you can catch a half an hour playtest of us playing our game and seeing where it breaks, seeing where it’s awesome, and also giving your feedback. You can catch us at twitch.tv slash unleashing games. And, uh, you know, drop in, say hi. We, we love having questions from the audience asking about our future gameplay plans. And we, you know, spitball game design ideas and new features or find that we’ve really want a very specific emote. So, uh, come and join the fun.

Greg Posner: 50:56: 51:06: You, uh, you mentioned kind of hearing the feedback from the community. Are you looking at other channels as well to kind of interact with people, whether it be discord or Reddit or some other.

Irena Pereira: 51:07: 51:39: Absolutely. We actually have a staged plan to build out our community, but we’re starting off with our Twitch stream because that’s where we’re kind of getting our sea legs and figuring out what the personality is of this particular community. you know, the individuals that join in. So the best place to engage is on Twitch. And we’re hoping that early next year around GDC time, we’ll be opening up our our Discord server. And then things are really going to go off the hook.

Greg Posner: 51:39: 51:45: Nice. And plus, it’s more fun to start where people can watch the game and see the game in action, right? Because that’s what as gamers we want to see.

Irena Pereira: 51:45: 51:52: Yeah, absolutely. And actually, we’re hoping to get players into our game as early as summer next year. So, you know, cross your fingers for us.

Greg Posner: 51:52: 52:09: Nice. So, you know, I’m really curious because, you know, you were an engineer at some point, you were UI, UX, you wanted to dabble with design and now today you’re a CEO. So how does your day to day change when you start kind of taking on these additional responsibilities and how do you manage your time?

Irena Pereira: 52:09: 53:09: The time management is the biggest challenge, just because I have to wear so many hats. I’m in there wanting to be adjusting UI in the game, and then I’m jumping into a creative discussion about our IP development, and then I’m jumping into investor meetings and talking about our roadmap and finances and projections. It’s really challenging, but I… I’ve had to become a little bit more proactive about my day and section off pieces. So, you know, morning time is deep work. Afternoon is when I can meet with Pacific Time and Eastern Time folks. And then evening time is family time. But juggling all of these things, I’m like, literally, I have a hat rack over here, just swapping things out and multitasking and multithreading as best I can. If anybody has good tips on how to manage time, I’m also all ears. You know, I love coaching. I love being coached.

Greg Posner: 53:09: 53:18: I think we’re all learning as the days go on. So not counting family time, what hat do you still enjoy the most? Is it the UI UX or is there something new that you’ve learned to love the most?

Irena Pereira: 53:19: 54:03: Oh, I love the creative direction and brand development hat, that art hat. You know, how do we build a world? What does that world look like? What sort of environments and challenges are we going to take the player through? And what is their overall experience? Because I feel like that’s that area where a player can form a relationship with a game. And the game’s personality really comes out and kind of acts as its own beacon for the right player. So, um, you know, when we get into those meetings with our, with Tomming, our art director, and Fisirhut, our game director, those are really the best meetings because it’s just like a round robin of creativity. It’s incredible.

Greg Posner: 54:04: 54:19: Let’s flip the question, right? As a sales engineer, right? There’s things I dislike about my day or I’m not excited about when I wake up. Are there certain things that you’ve learned through this process that you’re happy to hire people to take care of and you’ll stay on the sidelines and help where you can?

Irena Pereira: 54:20: 55:04: Oh, goodness. All of the personnel things and the like, not just not the finance management, it’s the, the books, the invoicing, the managing the throughput of the money and all the busy work that you need to have in place. Like there’s so much overhead work of being a CEO. That is, it feels like I’m paper pushing half the time, you know, while everybody else is getting to be creative and create like cool animations or VFX, I’m over here. writing an email that has to, you know, go out to the team or go to investors, or I’m making sure contracts got signed or, you know, inventorying our NDAs. All the fun creative work that comes with running a business.

Greg Posner: 55:04: 55:13: All the busy work. I love it. I think I asked you, I don’t remember if I asked you this in the beginning, but a lot of times I like to understand what did you want? Like when you were in grade school, what were you dreaming of being when you were growing up?

Irena Pereira: 55:13: 55:17: First, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer or an orca trainer at SeaWorld.

Greg Posner: 55:18: 55:21: I hope you still want to be at heart. I mean, that’s come on.

Irena Pereira: 55:21: 55:48: Oh, well, yeah. I mean, that’s your world. But yeah, exactly. And then I wanted to train racehorses. And I wanted to train the first Philly to win the Kentucky or the Triple Crown because a Philly had won the Kentucky Derby in 1991. And then then Like I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be a genetic engineer. I wanted to colonize a new planet, you know, really practical jobs.

Greg Posner: 55:48: 55:51: Yeah. Easy stuff though, compared to gaming.

Irena Pereira: 55:51: 55:58: And now, now I play video games and make video games. What do I do? I, yeah, I, I make them.

Greg Posner: 55:58: 56:00: Beautiful, beautiful part of being in the industry. We, we make video games.

Irena Pereira: 56:01: 56:04: Yeah, we make the thing that we love, right?

Greg Posner: 56:04: 56:26: Exactly. And I think that’s the fun part of it. This whole community, even getting feedback from the community, it’s all just driving what we love as a kid, as an adult, right? And now with kids to help understand what they want to play, like some of the games we were seeing at the Game Awards are just like, I could imagine it playing with my son. I’m just like, this is gonna be like, awesome. I’m excited as time goes on, the new technologies that come out. We’re in a good world of gaming right now.

Irena Pereira: 56:27: 56:53: We certainly are. And I definitely cannot wait for our first family game night where we’re, you know, running a dungeon together in Haven. It’s… I just… I cannot wait when, you know, my life is on the line and the kids are in there casting the right spells at the right time to save me. Like, those are the moments that matter. Those are the moments that bring our family together.

Greg Posner: 56:54: 57:05: I don’t know how much detail you want to go into about the game, but can we talk about the game? What type of game? You said MMO or RPG. Sorry, that’s what I’m trying to say there. Can you talk about the game?

Irena Pereira: 57:05: 01:00:07: Yeah. So the game itself, we’re really… We’re really excited about it because it’s not too far of a departure from what we’re used to. Because we love the MMO gameplay style. We love how it feels to be out there with other players of different classes and different capabilities. So we’re really leaning heavily on what we learned playing EverQuest, RuneScape, World of Warcraft. That experience of playing in a multiplayer RPG setting, that’s what, you know, it tickles us. So that’s what we decided to build. But there’s another game that got really, really close to our experience of playing early WoW and playing early EverQuest, and that was Valheim. Valheim, it was absolutely transformative for us. And so we actually just came together as a team and built what we imagined to be our game in Valheim. Because what we want is a game like World of Warcraft, but where we have our own house in it. And then we can have a house with our friends in a village. And then maybe if we have a bigger group of friends, that village can expand out into a town. And then our bigger group of friends can then expand out into a city. Because again, from the RTS world, we have tech trees and this idea of building different buildings to unlock different units. But what if that was applied in an RPG context? Right? You’re playing World of Warcraft. Sorry, I don’t want to say you’re playing World of Warcraft. But as you’re playing Haven, and you want to level up and you want to become a mage, well, you need to find a mage tower, first of all, to find a mage to train you. But then you can bring that mage back to your village and have them come into your village as another member of the village with your other essential village mates. So then everybody in that village can train up in that mage skill and develop new spells, new capabilities. Same thing for a blacksmith, right? You can build a forge and then that forge unlocks the ability to even bring a blacksmith to your town. And then that unlocks further items, equipment, and deeper capabilities. So we imagine this game where your village is really where you go to gear up. your village is where you go to level up and get all the equipment that you need and all the things that you need to be able to go out into our adventure land, which is a generative AI dynamic adventure space. Time and space doesn’t exist, and you’re just going to jump in there and find the next adventure with your friends. And so instead of, like in Fortnite, you’re jumping into a battle royale round, you’re jumping into a generated terrain. Nobody’s ever seen this before. There’s dungeons in there. There’s a, you know, maybe a tower, there’s treasure, there’s crypts, all these things that just are begging you to come and explore them.

Greg Posner: 01:00:08: 01:00:49: I love the co-op sense there, right? Again, I’ve been playing Lego. I want to say Lego Minecraft but it’s Lego Fortnite, it is Minecraft. But like, there’s a sense of working together and I love that. The problem is with that, it feels like there’s no end game. So like, we’re kind of confused on what to do but with Haven, it sounds like, hey, we can get a blacksmith, let’s start building weapons, let’s start doing this. Like, I love that you’re turning like an RPG sort of into a RTS, well, not really RTS, but kind of how you can build at the village. Like I’m thinking city builder as well. Like that sounds like an awesome experience to be able to work together and jump out and jump in. And if you miss the mage, hey, someone else brought the mage alone and you can just level up right away. Now you don’t have to go look for it yourself.

Irena Pereira: 01:00:49: 01:01:50: And what’s great about this adventure space is that you’re not the only ones that are going to show up there. Because though you and your group of five friends are jumping into this space and going to explore because you have a specific mission that you’re trying to accomplish, there will be other players that we will be dropping in there for you to meet dynamically, people you’ve never encountered before. But we know, based on some certain factors, that we think that you’re going to likely get along. Or we know that you need a mage. So we’ll drop three or four. And then maybe you’ll run into them as you go. Or if you enter a dungeon and you’re underpowered, what we’ll do is we’ll lead other players from another instance into your dungeon to meet up with you just at the right time where you can join forces and take on a bigger and badder boss. So there’s this interesting matchmaking component to it where we literally want you to find new friends. We want you to run into people and find people to team up with so then you can make yourselves more powerful by banding together.

Greg Posner: 01:01:51: 01:02:00: feel like you’re going to start people fighting with each other when you’re trying to win someone over to come to your village from someone else’s village and try and woo them.

Irena Pereira: 01:02:00: 01:02:05: Well, that’s actually part of the game, right? In our game, it’s going to be really easy to pack up and move.

Intro: 01:02:05: 01:02:07: Yeah, I love it.

Irena Pereira: 01:02:07: 01:03:09: We’re not going to make it like, oh, you have to spend all of these resources to pack yourself up and to move or not be able to move at all. We actually want to make it very easy to just say, oh, you know what? I don’t like this village. Scoop up your house and go to another village and plot your house in that one. So that you can have these dynamic communities or you can even just like temporarily travel your house from place to place. You know, no promises on the game design. We still have to tune all this stuff and test it, but we like the idea of, you know, people banding together and wanting to be there. And if they don’t want to be there, that it’s easy for them to go try someplace else because we also want to incentivize the exploration. So, um, It’s really cool how this is all working out. And we’ve got kind of the first expression of the game completed right now that we’re play testing on Twitch. And we’re actually doing some tweaking on the look and what the environments look like right now that I’m so excited to share. It gets better and better every week.

Greg Posner: 01:03:12: 01:03:42: It sounds like you’re in an exciting place and I think it’s very cool just to hear your story, especially getting your start from making websites in a dorm room to now running your own gaming company. Irena, we learned so much cool stuff from you today. I’m so excited to A, see what Haven does, how it continues to be able to play or watch you do play testing on Twitch. The whole story is really cool and I think we’re going to get a lot of cool bits from this podcast. So I’m really thankful that you came out today. Before we do say goodbye, is there anything you’d like to say or where people can find you?

Irena Pereira: 01:03:42: 01:04:11: Oh, it’s just a complete cheap shill because my dev team, you know, we’re fundraising right now. So what better way we imagine to fundraise than to sell t-shirts? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? You fundraise by selling t-shirts or cookies. That’s what I learned as a kid. But we’ve got t-shirts. So we just announced our merch store. We have a merch store on our website where you can buy t-shirts, hoodies, and a mouse pad. So come and rep us, fam. Buy a t-shirt, support our game team, and catch us in the new year.

Greg Posner: 01:04:12: 01:04:34: Cool. Well, again, Irena, thank you for coming out. We’ll have all of the information she just said, the Twitch stream, the store directly on their player engaged site. We’ll also send it on social. Also check them out at unleashedgames.io. We will have that on our site as well. And again, I can’t thank you enough for coming out today. I had a lot of fun with this. I learned a lot. So best of luck with everything. And thank you again.

Irena Pereira: 01:04:34: 01:04:40: Thank you so much, Greg. And thank you for the opportunity. So I’m so happy to have met you.

Greg Posner: 01:04:40: 01:04:41: Yeah, same. Thanks and have a great day.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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