The Man Behind the Game

The man behind Ratatosk Games — I’m emphasizing the singularity of the matter — is Lars Kroll Kristensen.

Ratatosk Games (site)

Lars Kroll (Twitter)

The Meek (site)

The Meek (Facebook)

Lars, just to mention a few of his credentials:

#1 Used to work as development director for Unity Studios.

#2 Used to run Runestone Game Development.

#3 Has worked on projects for LEGO (although because of an NDA, there are no details on this project).

#4 Has worked as a tech lead for Mjølner Informatics.

#5 Does talks, workshops, and consulting on game design, gamification, and real-time 3D graphics.

Lars is currently working on a stealth survival horror game called The Meek. In the game, you play as Janet Patrick, a special effects technician trying to escape a city gone mad. It’s your responsibility to use your brains and wits to face an apocalypse and discover the truth behind its origin.

However, you can try The Meek at Game Scope 2018, so let’s talk to Lars about going indie — and most importantly, going solo.

Let’s make a timeline from what Lars has told me about his journey from wanting to make a game to actually making a game.

When I was 12-13 years old in the 80’s, I made a roleplaying game rule system, and tried to convince people around me to play it with me.

At the time and because of where Lars lived, there wasn’t any store where you could play actual roleplaying games, so Lars went out and made his own.

After making his roleplaying game rule system, he, of course, tested it with friends and family, but, in his words:

[it] didn’t work out super well, partly because my family and friends from school at the time didn’t really care much about roleplaying games, and partly because my roleplaying rules system sucked.

Later he luckily found some friends that shared his interest, AND he also found a commercial roleplaying game.

Fast forward some years, Lars is out of high school and heading for Aarhus University, ready to enrol in Computer Science.

From there it became clear to me, that making video games should be part of my future.

A questions could be, what did Lars do to further his dream?

It’s a simple answer, really. Doing his studies, he went back to making roleplaying games — more precisely, roleplaying game activities.

He then joined a telecom company — a sidestop from the dream, but “funding”, especially or presumably for the fridge, apartment, and internet is important for any aspiring developer.

Not long after, he founded “Runestone Game Development” with friends and set out to make an MMO. A pretty bold move for an indie team. And the question remains… did they succeed?

Didn’t end well, but we learned a lot […].

Unfortunately, not all endeavours end as we might want them to. Lars learned from it and he has used that knowledge to grow, which is a lesson in and of itself. Another lesson worth learning is Lars’ call to action:

He didn’t NOT continue to hone his creative skills. He didn’t NOT learn the practical means he would need. He pursued his goal, which led him to down paths that wasn’t necessarily pointing towards his goal, but they were adjacent to it.

Some of the steps maybe weren’t the “right” ones to take in hindsight, however, the second-to-most important things about failure, is to learn from them and by doing so, grow.

I asked Lars if at any time he’d experienced setbacks while on his journey, and this was his answer:

Going bankrupt with Runestone, of course, was a major setback, but I personally decided I would not leave the game business unless I was carried out.

A setback like that is hard to return from, and although the game industry requires skill — skill is only one side of the coin, where on the other side is luck. Through Lars’ journey, he, admittedly, also had some luck.

First, he convinced an investment manager to provide the necessary investment capital to start Lars’ first company, “Runestone Game Development”. Second, after his company had gone bankrupt, and after doing freelance work, he was hired at Unity Studios in Aarhus and with Allan Kirkeby, grew that from nothing to 30 people. But that wouldn’t’ve been possible without Unity Technologies having had their own remarkable success.

I want to end on a high note as game development is tough but you shouldn’t be discouraged from trying to follow your dream. Lars has a talk at Game Scope, which he and I, highly encourages you to come to.

This could be your call to action.

If you want a small taste of it here, then here are Lars’ tips.

Lars’ 101 Game Development

#1 Know your strengths and weaknesses.

#2 Actively seek feedback from an early stage.

#3 Be self-critical but believe in yourself and your idea.

#4 Exploit the Hell out of asset marketplaces and third-party tools.

#5 Don’t solo if you can avoid it at all. A team is stronger.

#6 Exploit the Hell out of the low cash burn you enjoy by soloing.

#7 Set goals realistically.

#8 Exploit the Hell out of the agility you enjoy as a solo.

If you want ANY of these explained in further detail. Well, too bad, this article is done. But I would suggest you go straight to the source.

See you at Game Scope!