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Specialized ProfessionI’m a real estate and personal finance expert and the author of 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. AMA!

Feb 22nd 2018 by IlyceGlink • 56 Questions • 15 Points

My short bio: My name is Thomas Brush, and I've been making games for over 10 years. I just released my first commercial release, Pinstripe, on Xbox and PS4.

My Proof: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/80348891/once-upon-a-coma-from-the-creator-of-pinstripe Also, my Tweet about this convo: https://twitter.com/atmosgames/status/966739833350746113

Q:

What's one of the first things people should do when they're thinking of buying a home? I'm hoping to start the process soon and am pretty stumped.

A:

Hello Dr. Kaku,

I don’t hear as much about String Theory as I used to. Are people giving up on it? Are we closer to developing experiments that could prove or further the research? What is the state of String Theory?


Q:

Do Pinstripe and Once Upon A Coma exist in the same universe?

A:

I think you (and whoever is buying this property with you should make what I call a Wish List and a Reality Check. The WL is everything you want in a home. the RC is everything you can't live without. Make your own separate lists then get a big bottle of something you enjoy drinking and merge your lists into one. Then, figure out what you can actually afford to spend - not what the lender tells you but what fits into your exact budget. Once you know those two things, you can start to look for homes to buy.


Q:

Any theory has its ebbs and flows. String theory is so advanced and sophisticated mathematically that we physicists are still trying to find its ultimate form. So string theory continued to dominate the agenda of physics conferences and physics publications, but there are no sensational results that can generate popular headlines. The problem is that the theory is not in its final form, so it has many, many solutions, each one a universe, giving us a multiverse of universes. Which one is our universe? String theory can predict our universes, but it also predicts parallel universes as well. But I personally feel that once string theory is in its final form, we will understand whether or not there is a multiverse of universes.

A:

Yes.


Q:

Thank you so much! How often do you find buyers end up disappointed because they can't get everything they want in their budget? Hoping I won't be in that position...

A:

Dr Kaku,

If we make contact with alien civilizations, then what? And how will we talk to them?


Q:

Sorry if this is wrong or insentitive, but how much traffic did Jack's video bring you? Edit: jacksepticeye

A:

Buyers who spend their lives on Houzz, Pinterest and Zillow (not to mention all the time spent watching HGTV) can be very disappointed when they see what they can afford. But you have to remember, your first house isn't the last house. It's far better to buy a smaller home now rather than throwing more money away renting - as long as you know where you're going to be for the next 5 to 7 years.


Q:

Let me stick my neck out. I personally feel is that within this century, we will make contact with an alien civilization, by listening in on their radio communications. But talking to them will be difficult, since they could be tens of light years away. So, in the meantime, we must decipher their language to understand their level of technology. Are they Type I, II, or III??? And what are their intentions. Are they expansive and aggressive, or peaceful. Another possibility is that they land on the White House lawn and announce their existence. But I think that is unlikely, since we would be like forest animals to them, i.e. not worth communicating with.

A:

I'll say this: within two days of his post the campaign went from 32k to 46k. I don't know if that's all from him, but it was really cool to watch! He certainly has an amazing attitude about supporting indie devs!


Q:

As a current apartment renter, should I find something to where my monthly mortgage is comparable or less than current rent?

A:

Hi Michio Kaku, long time fan.

  1. Who are your favorite scientists today and why?

  2. What do you use to keep up to date with local, global, and technical news?

Thanks!


Q:

So you got the to 30k on your own? Impressive

A:

I'd rather see you spend less (unless you're spending next to nothing now). But even if you spend a little more, you might ultimately be spending the same since your rent is one-way outflow, but when you pay your mortgage, part of that is building up equity.

Overall, it's more expensive to buy a house, but if you stay long enough, you should make money (i.e., price should rise) and have built up equity in addition.

Note: This doesn't always happen, of course. As we all sadly saw during the housing crisis.


Q:

My short list of the worlds greatest scientists are: 1) Isaac Newton, because he created calculus and found the laws of motion all by himself, without using the great achievements of his predecessors (which were extremely few) 2) Albert Einstein, who created Special and General Relativity all by himself, and was the God father of the quantum theory 3) Charles Darwin, because he found the basic principles which go era all living things. As far as living scientists go, of course Stephen Hawking has done path breaking research on black holes. As far as string theory is concerned, Ed Witten of Princeton has been a path breaker and pioneer. Today, its much easier to keep track of science because of great web sites dedicated to brining the best research to the public.

A:

Nope! it was with the help of about 20 or so other campaign creators who gave me a shoutout. JackSepticEye did eventually play the demo, and some other streamers, which certainly helped! It was mainly the other campaign creators :) Thanks for such kind words!


Q:

Is there any common pitfall that no one thinks of when looking to buy a home?

A:

How do you address critics in the skeptical community who have accused you of toeing too close to the line separating woo from legitimate science?


Q:

[deleted]

A:

I don't know about common pitfalls, but there are some general mistakes home buyers - particularly first-time buyers - make. Like, not running the dishwasher during your final inspection (Guilty!) and making sure everything works in the property. Timing mistakes are a problem, too. I just heard from an investor who had rented a house to two people and two weeks later they announced they had bought a house - even though they had just signed a year-long lease. Go figure.


Q:

It used to be that research scientists who interacted with the public were criticized. Carl Sagan, in a very embarrassing episode, was actually denied entry into the National Academy of Science by scientists who declared that he was "a mere popularizer," not a real scientist. But times have changed for several reasons. First, the Supercollider, the $10 billion machine that was to be America's premier scientific laboratory, was cancelled because the public did not understand the machine. At that point, it was humiliating to know that scientists had no one who could tell the public what the SSC was all about. After that, scientists realized that they had to engage the public, or else the public would cut their budget to zero. Second, the rise of Stephen Hawking showed that it was possible to engage the public without dumbing down the science.

A:

Zero. He's such a nice guy he just said "Sure I'll play!" when I emailed him! :)


Q:

Don't just run it, run it for a while. Previous owner of the house we bought knew the furnace would run for about 10-15 minutes after the circuit breaker is reset before inevtibably tripping the breaker again. Turns out that the heat strips were arching and the unit was so old there were no replacement parts. Required replacing the whole furnace, they don't make furnaces so small anymore (this was actually built in the early 70s and the "furnace" is actually just a strip heater attached to the venting and uses the A/C fan to blow the heated air through the system) so installing a new one meant cutting a large opening in the ceiling as well as cutting out some ceiling joists. The home warranty company would only finance the furnace and installation of the furnace, they would not cover any of the joist modifications or ceiling sheetrock replacement. So it turned out to be extremely costly for us.

A:

My question is do you think SpaceX will achieve the feat of getting humans to Mars by 2024 or you are skeptical about this timeframe?


Q:

I'm guessing this person asked how much you paid Jacksepticeye, or some other streamer?

A:

Sorry - if the seller knew that was a problem - and failed to disclose it to you - and you could prove it, then you may have a seller disclosure case. An attorney can advise you further on that. But I'll just say that old homes have expensive problems. And, things do break. Occasionally I'll hear from someone who has lived in a home for 10 years and is still blaming the seller when things break.


Q:

I think Elon Musk has made a great contribution in creating a genuine moon rocket, the Falcon Heavy, and doing it with private funds, so now we have 2 (not one) moon rockets, the SLS and Falcon Heavy. That is what is important. Time tables, of course, come and go. So personally I think his time frame may be a bit optimistic, but that is not the point. The point is that he is making it possible to enter a new Golden Age of space exploration, almost free of charge to the tax payer.

A:

Yep. I pay nothing to streamers


Q:

Don't just run it, run it for a while. Previous owner of the house we bought knew the furnace would run for about 10-15 minutes after the circuit breaker is reset before inevtibably tripping the breaker again. Turns out that the heat strips were arching and the unit was so old there were no replacement parts. Required replacing the whole furnace, they don't make furnaces so small anymore (this was actually built in the early 70s and the "furnace" is actually just a strip heater attached to the venting and uses the A/C fan to blow the heated air through the system) so installing a new one meant cutting a large opening in the ceiling as well as cutting out some ceiling joists. The home warranty company would only finance the furnace and installation of the furnace, they would not cover any of the joist modifications or ceiling sheetrock replacement. So it turned out to be extremely costly for us.

A:

What are you thoughts on Deep Learning and recent AI trends? Any plans to write an updated version of "Future of The Mind" that would include all the success field of AI has achieved?


Q:

A lot of people seem to forget, a streamer may play an unknown game on the offchance that it really takes off. Then their video was one of, if not the first of said newly popular game. Markiplier's career basically started on various, mostly crappy (some really good) horror games. If he had played only mainstream games I question if his popularity would have rocketed off the way it did.

And on top of this, it seems like 30% of the population thinks that 50% of the internet is being paid to say things.

I've already been accused of being paid by disney to say I like the new star wars movie.

A:

I do think real estate can be a good way to generate income over time. But, it takes time for rents to absorb the costs that go into buying the property.


Q:

In The Future of the Mind, I wrote that, about 50 years ago, we scientists made a big mistake. We assumed that the brain was a digital computer. Big mistake, because the brain has no programming, no pentium chip, no CPU, no subroutines, etc. In fact, you can remove half the brain and it can still function, yet if you remove one tiny transistor a computer fails. Why? Because, as I wrote, the brain is a learning machine, some sort of neural network. Your laptop today is just as stupid as it was yesterday. But I wrote in my book that eventually scientists will begin to explore learning machines. Guess what. A few years later, now Deep Learning is all the rage. But it is, in some sense, 50 years late. This should have happened 50 years ago.

A:

Exactly. The marketing for Coma has been all grass roots. It’s all I can afford C:


Q:

What’s a good age / price range to begin looking to buy a home? Is there ever a time that’s too early?

A:

Hi Dr Kaku how long do you think it took for humans to terraform planet like Mars? Are there any physical constraints regarding this? Thanks.


Q:

In your opinion, why some kickstarters fail horribly in delivering what they promised, and what is the hardest part of doing stuff via crowdfunding?

A:

The younger you are when you buy your first home, the wealthier you'll be later in life.

While that sounds like one of those truisms that can't possibly be real, buying a home forces you into making a million decisions about what you spend and how to prioritize.

It also doesn't hurt that every mortgage payment helps repay your principal balance (building up equity).

As for buying too early - only if you don't know where you'll be for the next 5 to 7 years (it's expensive to sell and you need a few years of appreciation to recoup those expenses) or if you're below majority age in your state.


Q:

Terraforming, in my book The Future of Humanity, will proceed in slow steps. 1. using lava tubes to form underground bases to protect against radiation 2. mining ice to get drinking water, and oxygen for breathing, and hydrogen for rocket field. 3. using genetically modified plans to thrive on Mars 4. using methane to create a green house effect 5. using solar mirrors to beam sunlight down to the ice caps to melt them.

A:

I had lunch with a friend of mine who I consider a successful business man. He started a really incredible jean company, and he told me he despised Kickstarter. Basically, he told me so many individuals set out to make something great, and they have a super cool trailer and rewards, but they don't know a damn thing about actually starting a company or finishing a project. So they actually just dug themselves a hole. So I'd say that's one of the hardest parts! Knowing the cost of creation going in, and ensuring your budget is accurate! I'm guilty of this to some degree: if Pinstripe hadn't raised 100k, and only raised the goal of 28k, I'm not so sure I would have made a game that people actually felt proud of. Are you talking about a specific campaign in general?


Q:

In your opinion, the most overlooked question that people fail to ask or always forget?

A:

After watching 2010: Space Odyssey; what WOULD happen to Earth if Jupiter became a second, tiny, sun?


Q:

The current Kickstarter campaign happens to have a goal of 28k... do you feel like you need less this time, or did you set it low to ensure funding with the belief that you were likely to exceed your goal?

A:

I can't remember what number Questions this is in my book, but it's the lifestyle Question: How will these fixed expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance) work within the lifestyle you want to have?

That's particularly important for millennials.

And, on that note, the other hat I wear every day is CEO of Best Money Moves, which is a financial wellness platform. Everyone here is welcome to use it to calculate their own lifestyle costs. You can find it at my ThinkGlink.com website. (It's free and there are no ads on it.)


Q:

Actually, Jupiter would have to be many times larger than it is in order to become a star. You have to reach what is called Lawson's Criterion in order to create a thermonuclear explosion capable of creating a star. But if we assume that Jupiter were more massive than it is, and attained Lawson's Criterion, then, depending on where it is locate and how big it would be, there is a change that it might (a) disturb the orbit of the earth around the sun (b) light up the sky with two stars, like in the movie Star Wars (c) raise the temperature of the earth and change our climate.

A:

28k ensure we make... a game. But the Stretch Goals are there to make the game even better. Sometimes it's a bit scarier setting the goal really high, because you need to hit your goal to get the money. I'd rather get 28k just to ensure the game gets made :) But I'm super grateful we're knocking it out of the park!


Q:

I've poured my life savings into purchasing the treehouse of my dreams. I'm having a little trouble moving all off my furniture up the ladder and into it, what would you suggest doing to help me in this process?

A:

Hello Dr. Kaku. I'm a fan of your work and have two questions for you.

  1. What design of spacecraft do you think is the best for long-term space flight?

  2. How do we balance the need to pursue long-term goals and projects for humanity while also dealing current societal problems that people face?


Q:

Well....How did you learn to start your own business or finish a project?

A:

Treehouses are great. Wish I had one in my backyard!

I think you'd want to use a pulley system. Or, install an elevator. Either should do it!

:)


Q:

For sub-light speed rockets, I think a. fusion rockets b. antimatter rockets c. ramjet fusion rockets hold the most promise within 100 years. The ramjet, for example, is like an ice-cream cone that scoops hydrogen in space and then fuses it, so that it can run forever without any refueling. For greater than light speed, the details are much less clear, but it might be possible to warp space in 2 ways. One way is via a wormhole that can rip the fabric of space time, which were first introduced by Einstein himself in 1935 with his student Nathan Rosen (so these are called Einstein Rosen Bridges) and also the Alcubierre drive, which compresses the space in front of you, so you hop across vast distances. Also, I think the urgent questions on the earth (e.g. global warming, nuclear weapons) have to be addressed first. No rush in reaching for the stars.

A:

I found support from people all around me. I emotionally leaned on my dad for the business side of things (he also helped me understand budgeting, taxes, and accounting), while I found financial support from publishers when I was in college, and KS in 2016. I like to work with publishers that are honest, because they support you from the marketing side! Marketing is tough, so having that part knocked out is really important to be able to have time to make a great game.


Q:

What's your take on how Silicon Valley/Bay Area residents should think about home buying? I'm specifically curious if you think it's totally insane to buy around here or just mildly dumb. Renting feels brutal here, but getting a down payment together also feels impossible.

A:

Hi Michio, if I were to travel to the boundary of our universe right now, what do you think will be there? Is it possible to "fall off" this universe the same way we fall out of our bed? Thanks in advance!


Q:

A game I was in love with ad Kickstartered to help support their development just had to basically shutter the company after a financier pulled out of their deal at the last minute. It's shitty as a consumer to see how mercurial the development of what we love can be.

A:

There are two ways to look at it - what will it cost you to rent and what will the home you buy today be worth tomorrow?

If it costs you $4,000 to rent per month (or $8,000 if you're renting a bigger place) and you can find a place to own for the same amount (probably not in the same area), you should buy. My sense is that while there is probably some sort of bubble in Silicon Valley, as long as there are plenty of people earning crazy amounts of money, prices will continue to climb.


Q:

No one knows. But one possibility is that the universe is a bubble of some sort. We live on the skin of the bubble. If you travel in one direction far enough, you come back to where you started. So the farthest object is the back of your head. In this way, this bubble universe is infinite in two dimensions, since you never hit the end, but finite in three dimensions, since its just a bubble. Likewise, our universe might be infinite in 3D, without boundaries, but finite in 4D, because it is a hypersphere. Sadly, our data is not developed enough to determine if our universe is finite or infinite. But the leading theories (e.g. inflation) seem to indicate that the universe is infinite. But in inflation, our bubble universe can have big bangs all the time, so baby universes can peel off our universe. In other words, we live in a bubble bath of universes, the multiverse.

A:

Oh wow. That's horrible...


Q:

what are some things to consider when buying an apartment?

A:

As we're developing smarter and more effective machine learning algorithms, it seems inevitable that AI will start to replace human intelligence for more precision and efficiency. Professor Michio Kaku, my question to you is will Artifical Intelligence eventually render human labor and intelligence obsolete? If so, in what areas can humans excel at that machine learning algorithms can not?


Q:

Can I borrow $30K?

A:

Some things that are different from buying a house:

  1. Check building board minutes for the last few months to see what's being talked about.
  2. Make sure you get a copy of the building rules and regs, particularly if you have animals or plan to rent.
  3. Check real estate taxes and monthly assessments to make sure you understand them.
  4. Ask if any new big projects are being planned and what those costs will be.
  5. Look at reserves for the condo.

Q:

Right now, robots have the intelligence of a bug. They can barely walk across a room. Simple tasks done by humans (picking up garbage, fixing a toilet, building a house, solving a crime) are way beyond what a robot can do. But, as the decades go by, they will become as smart as a mouse, then rat, then a cat, dog, and monkey. By that point ,they might become dangerous and even replace humans, near the end of the century. So I think we should a chip in their brain to shut them off if they have murderous thoughts. But what happens centuries from now, when robots and evade even our most sophisticated fail safe system?? At that point, I think we should merge with them. This may sound strange to some people, but remember that it is the people of the far future (not us) who will decide how far they want to modify themselves to deal with supersmart robots

A:

Hahahah.


Q:

As a compromise you could look into buying a townhome, the best of both worlds. Our townhome is fee simple and we actually own a bit of the land behind it which is big enough that we grow some vegetables out there, have our laundry out there, a storage shed, bbq, doghouse. So that's all nice. Plus we don't have anyone above or below, only shared walls.

A:

1 - Telepathy? 2 - Uploading minds to computers?


Q:

That's not a no

A:

Thanks for spending the hour with me. I enjoyed the conversation. You can find me online at ThinkGlink.com.

Thanks, #Reddit!


Q:

A simple form of telepathy is possible today. In The Future of the Mind, I write that (in epileptics, for example) one can put a patch of sensors directly on the surface of the brain, connect it to a computer, and have software decipher the messages. Then it is possible for this person to type and communicate mentally. In fact, my colleague, Stephen Hawking, using this. He has lost control over his fingers and vocal cords. So in this glasses ,there is a chip which picks up radio signals from this brain, and feeds this into a computer, which then deciphers the message and types out what he is thinking. (This is, however, a very slow process). Also, it is now possible to upload and record memories in mice. Also primates. Next: Alzheimers patients. So they will wear a brain pacemaker that reminds them who they are and where they live.

A:

Hahahhahahahahahhaano ;)


Q:

Is there anything you can do to keep closing costs down? They are ridiculous.

A:

Do you think EVERYTHING that exists could be explained through mathematics and physics?


Q:

How about me? I'm a super trustworthy dude. :)

Edit: Also, I just signed up as a Co-Producer! I'm excited to be a part of such an awesome game!

A:

You can ask sellers to pick up some of the closing costs. Otherwise, no. And, I agree, they are expensive. I have a list of current closing costs you can expect to be charged as a buyer or a seller on my website, at ThinkGlink.com. https://www.thinkglink.com/2009/07/28/seller-and-buyer-closing-costs-state-by-state/


Q:

There are things which science and math may have difficulty explaining. As Galileo once said, the purpose of science is to determine how the heavens go. The purpose of religion is to determine how to go to heaven, i.e. the purpose of science is to explain natural law, while the purpose of religion is ethics, to determine what is right and wrong, to be nice to each other, how to behave, etc. So science by itself cannot dictate what is absolutely right or wrong. There is no law of physics that tells us what is proper behavior and what is right or wrong. It all depends on the society you are talking about.

A:

Wow thanks!!


Q:

What exactly does one have to accomplish to earn the title "real estate and personal finance expert" and who was it that bestowed that title upon you?

A:

Dr. You study string theory. For someone who is scientific illiterate can you explain this study?


Q:

Hey Thomas! Pinstripe and Coma backer here! I love the work you've done and can't wait to see this new project! I was just wondering, what inspired you to start making games, and what inspires your story design?

A:

My expertise comes from more than 25 years of covering the real estate and personal finance industries as an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, book author (100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask is my 14th book and I have almost 1 million books in print), radio talk show host (WSB for nearly 18 years and now WGN radio), and TV reporter (WGN TV for 8 years). That's in addition to many other publishing titles I have had and companies I've published this sort of information for.

I think the "real estate and personal finance expert" title was bestowed on me by various journalists, my publishing house (Random House) and just about everyone else who introduces me.


Q:

Briefly, each sub atomic particle we see (and there are hundreds of them) are nothing but tiny vibrations of a string, a rubble band. So each particle is just a musical note. That explains why we have so many particles. Then physics is the laws of harmony of these strings. Chemistry is the melodies we can play on these strings. The universe is a symphony of strings. And the Mind of God, that Einstein searched for for the last 30 years of his life, is Cosmic Music resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace.

A:

There were a lot of games on Newgrounds that I really liked, and I always kind of idolized the devs. I obsessed over newgrounds games for years. They motivated me in strange, almost spiritual ways haha. As for story design, I'm unashamed to say M. Night Shyamalan movies are my fave. I love how he tells emotional, haunting stories salted with beauty!


Q:

How do you respond to criticism that your comments are sometimes over reaching?

What impact do you feel that has on science communication?

A:

so what you're saying is, we can expect a plot twist near the end of your game, gotcha.


Q:

I am a futurist, in that I have interviewed over 300 of the worlds top scientists (many Nobel Laureates) who are inventing the future in their labs. So my predictions are based on the latest scientific research. But some people come up to me and ask "where is my flying car?" But the prediction of a flying car did not come from a scientist. It came from a cartoon show. Unfortunately, most people's understanding of the future comes from cartoon shows and science fiction movies, which have no obligation to be scientifically correct. So I personally feel that we need more scientists to engage the public concerning future technologies which will affect their lives in the future (e.g. AI, biotech, nanotech).

A:

He was dead all along...


Q:

Hi Doc! do you believe there is a God?

A:

Hey Thomas! I supported your first game because you were from Greenville. I will support your second game because Pinstripe was amazing. Do you write all the music? It's seriously amazing.


Q:

Einstein was asked this question. He replied there are two kinds of Gods. The first is the personal God (that answers prayers and smites the Philistines). He did not believe in that God. But he did believe in the Old One, i.e. the God of Spinoza, the God of beauty, harmony, and order . The universe could have been ugly, random, lifeless, but its not. So he believed in the God of order.

Sorry for the two answers...just getting the hang of it.

A:

Are you from Greenville? Yep, I write all the music!


Q:

Dr. Kaku, may I expand on that question:

  • Which relatively "godlike" beings/civilizations would you deem possible? (e.g. "we're in a simulation", "super-aliens watching us" [& fermi-paradox], "beings of higher dimensions", type 3++ civilizations, classical religion [our existence is a divine test], etc.)

  • If we eventually (want to?) make contact, could they have "higher" ethics or will universal "Good vs Evil" continue?

A:

Yes sir! Been here since 1999. You can usually find me running up and down the swamp rabbit.

You seriously have a talent. Glad we can benefit from your creative avenues.


Q:

I get asked if the aliens are evil and want to destroy us. Maybe, but I think in the main they will be peaceful because they have had thousands of years to resolve sectarian, fundamentalist, nationalist questions. However, they still might be dangerous if they simply don't care about us and we get in the way. In War of the Worlds, the aliens did not hate us. We were simply in the way. In the same way that a developer is a threat to forest animals because he can pave the first, the danger there is from someone who sees that we are just in the way. But for the most part, I think they will be peaceful, but view us like we view forest animals.

A:

I'm five mins from Swamp Rabbit. Come say high. Email me at my email on atmosgames.com


Q:

What have you found to be the most effective method to help to change the minds of individuals who are firmly anti-science?

A:

I saw you were 17 when you started thinking about the story to Once Upon A Coma. Are there any tips you would have given your past self (and current aspiring game developers) while making a game?


Q:

Sometimes it is futile to argue with someone who, for deeply ideological and personal reasons, is against science. But one way to win some of them over is to explain how the wonders of modern technology, which have more than doubled our life span and lifted us from poverty and disease, have benefited us. Modern medicine, for example, would be impossible without evolution. The space program and telecommunications would be impossible without understanding basic astronomy. Then explain what our world would look like without science, when we lived to only 30 years of age on average, when most of us died of starvation and plagues.

A:

This might sound cheesy... but only work on what you're passionate about! Especially when you're doing it in your spare time. It's really hard to finish something that 's only motivation is "success" or money. Do something that makes you feel something, because you're going to need to feel it for perhaps years. Are you working on a game?


Q:

Thanks for the advice! I'm in high school and just finished an 18 day game jam with two other friends. We do want to work on the game a lot more to improve and build upon it, though it's hard to tell what we'll actually achieve with it in the future.

A:

Just try and have fun, and remember, you can always work harder. Plenty of my friends in college and highschool felt they were working hard enough, but it's crazy how much time in the day is spent not creating, but just consuming crap :) Thanks so much for your question!


Q:

You put up the Switch as a stretch goal, which probably will make it. Yet why does your schedule read:

Once Upon A Coma will be released for PC, Mac, Linux, and Nintendo Switch, all because of you.

Seems like you already decided to go for the Switch?

A:

Good catch! Yep, I actually intended to make the campaign start with the Switch, but after some research I knew 28k for that was just not realistic. Not at all! Thanks for finding that! I've adjusted it: "Once Upon A Coma will be released for PC, Mac, Linux, and maybe even Nintendo Switch, all because of you."


Q:

Which lesson did you learn from creating Pinstripe and will you use or don’t in Once upon a coma?

A:

It's super important to plan and prototype. Years of creating garbage and then removing it were why Pinstripe took so long. I would illustrate and design things fully, and then realize they didn't work, so weeks of work would be flushed down the toilet. In Coma, I spend a lot of time just planning and thinking :)


Q:

What do you think the best form of marketing is for an indie game? More specifically a new developer...Kickstarter? Ads?

A:

Kickstarter is a marketing+pre-order+funding epic combo! If you do it right, it's HUGE. But it can also be a real gut punch if you go into not planning or knowing much you're doing. I've never seen much benefit from Ads, but probobly because I just don't understand them. The absolute best form of marketing is GENUINE KINDNESS and NETWORKING. Caps because I think they are HUGE. Genuine kindness allowed me to stay in communication with large youtubers who I have friendly relationships with, and networking has allowed me to take inspiration and get clever marketing ideas from other indie devs and successful industry veterans. Are you a game developer? :)


Q:

I am not, but my boyfriend is.. he is about to release a new game in the coming months and I keep stressing the marketing thing as he hasn't really pushed his games in the past. Thanks for the info, much appreciated!!:)

A:

Expect zero success if you don't market the game. Great games don't sell themselves anymore... unless you are extremely lucky. My blunt answer :)


Q:

The prologue of the game has the main character dabbing back, and that sets up the narrative of the entire game.

A:

It's interesting... the first puzzle of the game uses the piano notes D-E-B-A-B. Debab. It's a new kind of dabbing.


Q:

Heh, well that's a bit of a coincidence. But I was trying to infer that the action of dabbing back was severe enough to incur the Coma :p

A:

Interesting plot idea... This IAmA has served to be quite useful...


Q:

Since it's doable in Yo Noid 2, it should be doable here :')

A:

Haha. Exactly.


Q:

Hi Thomas! Across the development of both Pinstripe and Once Upon A Coma, what has been the weirdest/funniest bug you've encountered during testing?

A:

In Once Upon A Coma, I was watching a YouTuber who somehow launched himself so high he broke the camera.


Q:

What has pushed you to keep creating indie games? You are crazy talented and am excited for the new game 🔥🔥

A:

There's a book called Think and Grow Rich, and although I don't advocate thinking about money as your only motivation, it certainly inspired me and taught me how to meditate on goals, and visualize them. My goals included being able to pay my family's bills with game development, launching on PS4 and Xbox (one of my childhood dreams), and being able to show my dad the finished game (he's pushed me for years and years, and it was special showing him).


Q:

Great reason! Thank you for all of the hard work you put on for the amazing games!

A:

Are you specifically passionate about a creative field yourself?


Q:

I have been creating youtube videos for almost a year now and I love the editing part in all of that so i hope to make that a career one day whether its in filmmaking, music videos, or youtube! How does it make you feel when youtubers play your game on their channel?

A:

Having YouTubers play my games is one of the best feelings. Easily #1 feeling, especially when JackSepticEye or GameGrumps play! Super exciting!


Q:

Congratulations on that! Are you planning on creating any merchandise for once upon a coma? I would definitely get me some!

A:

I'd love that, if the studio can afford it!


Q:

Motion graphic artist/video editor here, freesound has been an absolute godsend! Once learning to search it correctly, I’ve never looked back

A:

Sure you can :) If it's creative commons, you just need to credit: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/


Q:

That Coma game you did way back when was one of my biggest inspirations going through multimedia school. thanks for that, Also can I be a QA tester on Once upon a coma? (it's an AMA I just thought I'd ask)

A:

Aw thx that means a lot! Email me via my email on my website (atmosgames.com) about being a tester!


Q:

I follow like a million indie devs on Twitter. Even the ones whose work looks amazing seem to toil away in obscurity. They have like 100 followers. They post amazing things and get 3 likes. The do a kickstarter and only get $10 from their mom. Some of these people have been working for 20 years or more.

Then there are people like you. $50k kickstarter, thousands of followers, "influencers" play your thing, etc. So what's your big secret, eh? Are you just super cool? Have you been building a fanbase slowly for a long long time? Was there some event that was a major inflection point for you? Is it just that your game has more levels of parallax than the competition??

A:

This is my favorite question of the day, mainly because I am not super cool. I am real though. I like to spill my guts as often as possible because the gaming industry needs real people making emotionally impactful stuff. Just my opinion. I don't know what my big secret is. Tbh I feel like a big fraud. I really do, I'm not just being self deprecating. But I do have to counter that mentality with almost foolish confidence, every day. And yes, the fan base has been building slowly. I've been making games for more than a decade, so it takes a long time. Yes, a major event was my inflection point. I was very lucky and blessed when Unity Technologies reached out in 2015 and asked me if I wanted to be in a little mini doc that was going to be shown at The Game Awards. If anything, it didn't really do much in terms of gathering steam or a following, but it made me realize my worth. The truth is we all carry infinite worth inside of us, but we wait for someone important or someone famous or some company with money or a boss or a teacher or social media to tell us about it. We have tremendous value, but most of us never see it, and never let our talents shine in public, let alone in private when we are alone. The single most important thing is to look yourself in the mirror, remind yourself of your infinite worth, and go out and make a fool of yourself.


Q:

Boom, just funded your KS! This oddly reminded me of Limbo, so naturally I had to take a look.

You mentioned your father being a huge support of yours; is he also a video gamer... possibly a software engineer too?

A:

Hey thanks so much archangelmdc! My dad is an accountant, and a super duper supportive father. He was the one who pushed me to not get a job my summer before college and just make Coma.


Q:

Thanks for your games. I backed Pinstrip unsure of what to expect but loved the game. Coma looks interesting and I am excited for it.

My Question is what keeps you motivated during the times where you don't see a lot of progress in what you are working on?

What keeps you from giving up on your dream of making video games?

Thanks

A:

Moments like this. Yeah yeah, perhaps that's an eye-roll statement, but it really is true. I certainly strive for a second wind, and if I can find it on Reddit or Kickstarter, I'm going to focus my energy on that. getting the community involved, and hearing their praise/criticism puts a fire in my belly I can't quite explain!


Q:

As a indie dev looking to break into the market what kind of advice can you give those dad of three building his first commercial game?

A:

One big piece of advice: you have more time than you think. I have a daughter, run a game studio, work out 5 times a week, am writing a novel, and spend way too much time on Reddit. I once told myself I didn't have enough time, and then decided to test that. Turns out I can get a lot done in my free time, especially because my wife is so gracious about it!


Q:
  • How long did it take you to master the basics of game development?
  • What's your game engine of choice?
  • What engine would you recommend for people who are just picking up game development?
A:
  • For me, I've been constantly learning since I was 16. You're never really a master because the industry is always changing.
  • Unity 3d
  • Unity 3d!

Q:

Do you plan to ever intertwine your games in a way that Bioshock has with unexpected connections, since you say the games take place in the same universe?

A:

Certainly! My games tend to focus on the spiritual and cerebral, which I think allows various characters and concepts to mesh in ways they wouldn't in the physical world :)


Q:

Do you still find time to play games your self? If so what game are you currently enjoying the most?

A:

I have the time yes, but I don't do it often. Believe it or not, I don't find it very pleasurable. I'd rather watch let's plays. I know, I'm a huge hypocrite! :/


Q:

Erik here, programmer for Coma. :)

Coma uses a pretty customized engine for a lot of parts- Particularly the physics.

It's all built on top of Unity, but starting out, the idea for the game was a lot simpler than it is now. As such, we really didn't need all the fancy collisions and physics of the entire Unity physics engine- It just felt like a bunch of junk we wouldn't use. So we built our own, simplified version.

Then the game got bigger, and so did our physics. It's still a much simpler system than Unity's default, but it has the advantage of feeling complex. Pete can be nice and bouncy, with fluid movement. The Spiders are jittery and random. Other enemies are heavy and stompy, or light and floaty, all built on the same system with some tweaked variables. The trick was to create a physics engine that felt complex and dynamic to the player, while in reality, keeping everything nearly identical in terms of functionality.

It's been a ton of fun to write so far. :)

A:

Erik's physics engine is crazy robust. Let me say that I used Unity's built in physics for Pinstripe, and it was a huge pain. It's not super conducive for 2d games. Way to go Erik!


Q:

Given that it's Kickstarter, did you ever consider not actually developing the game, taking the money and fucking off to a private island?

A:

Hahahha Nope! Believe it or not, 50k doesn't really get your very far in life. I can imagine I would be stranded on the private island in less than a year haha.


Q:

This is a little late into the ama, but Erik is a great friend of mine and I'm glad the game you guys are making is doing well!

My question for you is, how do you feel about working with such a great dude as your games programmer? Would you be able to do this as well without him or do you feel fortunate that he's working on the game with you?

A:

If u/Shadowspaz was not on board I wouldn't be working on this game haha. He's been super instrumental in ensuring the game feels tight, fun, and enjoyable! He's also a really good friend, and an honest dude.


Q:

How many people are on your development team?

A:

I do all the art, music, design, and story. Erik Coburn is the coder! He's brilliant, and gives me time to focus on what I do best :D


Q:

Following this question for you and Erik: How easy is it for you two to communicate your ideas to each other? Do you ever have moments of misunderstanding? If so, how quickly do you solve the issue?

A:

We sure do. I’m a very fly by the seat of my pants kinda guy. I’d rather things emotionally feel a certain way, so I’ll change things to fit a global feeling. Erik likes to keep things pretty scheduled and stick to a plan to ensure we are staying on budget. It really is the perfect relationship because he balances me out. Any time there are confusions we just hop on the phone and work it out. It’s always pleasant.


Q:

What was your first reaction to noticing how much you raised and how much everyone has backed this idea? :)

A:

I was thrilled. I remember picking up my daughter from her crib, and walking her through my neighborhood, grinning ear to ear. I just knew then that I didn't have to look for work, and I could continue making great games!


Q:

What do you plan to do with the money? Hiring more talented people than you? Just surviving? Drugs, alcohol and sluts? Bitcoins?

A:

Hahahaha. There's a budget in the Kickstarter campaign that you can take a look at, and then stretch goals for additional funding. Indie game development is tough and expensive, so no, no drugs and sluts haha.


Q:

So alcohol and bitcoin is still on the table?

A:

Actually just finished up a bottle of vodka. Need to run to Costco. Regarding bitcoin, makes me a little nervous. I think I'd do better just investing in alcohol. ;) Edit: Costco


Q:

What engine did you use and what kind of hours were you working on it? I'm thinking of making my own game but because of work and school I don't have much time.

A:

I used Unity. In college, I worked on Pinstripe after school (and sometimes during lectures). I was absolutely obsessed :D When I got married, I would wake up around 5:30 or 6 am, work for an hour, and then go to work as a graphic designer. I'd work through lunch, and then often times come home and work for another hour. My wife was very gracious during this time!


Q:

What's the worst and hardest part about making a game?

A:

Hardest part is abolutely 100% staying confident! I spent 5 years working on my previous game, and even after release, I really wasn't sure if I spent my time wisely. A lot of family, friendship, and time was sacrificed during development, so I'm never fully sure if my time was worth it :)


Q:

Kevin's friend?

A:

Sure am. Me and Kev are good buddies.


Q:

What was the best and worse part of making the storyline?

A:

My favorite part was "pitching" the storyline to my office wall. Basically, I find it super helpful to pitch your story over and over to a pretend audience, for me, I pretend to pitch to a studio in Beverly Hills, and imagine them being super skeptical and impatient haha. If you feel that audience is glazing over, it's important to re-craft your story so it's sticky, punchy, and makes sense in a couple sentences!


Q:

Love your work, man! You guys are in South Carolina, right? You think we'll ever get more game development in the state?

A:

Maybe if we adopt stuff Georgia is doing!


Q:

Will you add an FPS component to the game?

A:

Like Banjo Tooie??


Q:

Will it have any Switch Physical copy pledge?

A:

Still looking into this! Keep your eyes peeled!


Q:

Hi! Do you mind telling us about the process of creating a game? Like having an idea first, thinking about story elements, drawing until eventually programming - what is your personal workflow? Also which software do you use? Thank you!

A:

Certainly. I think the best answer I have is here: https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2018/02/07/pinstripe-available-now-xbox-one/