Welcome to the second Tales From GameDiscoveryLand podcast in Season 1. In this episode, recorded a few weeks back, we talk to James Tan of Digital Confectioners, one of the key creators of smash hit social deduction game Dread Hunger. He talks about the project’s ‘hook’, its surprise Chinese success, and post-1.0 path to 1 million units sold (!).
Presented by Simon Carless, founder of GameDiscoverCo, this bi-weekly, limited series podcast features conversations with smart people in the video game industry on how games get discovered and played. Below is a lightly edited full transcript of the entire podcast.
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Podcast transcript: Dread Hunger’s James Tan!
SIMON: Imagine you're an explorer, trapped on a ship in the Arctic tundra, with your crewmates. Some of them may not be entirely who they seem. How do you survive, find the traitors, and win the game? This is the conundrum in the Digital Confectioners-published social deduction game Dread Hunger. It's one of the top titles on Steam right now, thanks to its massive viral success in China.
For our latest podcast, we had a chance to explore these wild viral discovery moments for the game with James Tan, one of the main creators of Dread Hunger. How did the team approach development? Why did the game take off shortly after its 1.0 launch? And what can we all learn from his success?
I'm Simon Carless, founder of GameDiscoverCo, and this is the Tales From Game Discoveryland podcast.
SIMON: Great, so here I am and I'm here with James Tan, how's it going, James?
JAMES: Hey Simon, this guy really well, thank you.
SIMON: Cool, yeah, I'm excited about this because you're one of my first guests on the podcast, and I get to talk to you about Dread Hunger. And Dread Hunger is a game that's doing pretty well recently. So firstly, congratulations on that - are you happy with how it's being received right now?
JAMES: Thank you. Likewise, this my first podcast so I'm very excited to do this as well. Yes, I would say we're extremely happy with the results, and extremely happy about the success of the game.
SIMON: What I wanted to start with was talking about the background of the creation of the game. I know that social deduction games have been around for a while - even before Among Us. And Among Us is obviously a well-known one. But there's also games in VR - like Ubisoft had Werewolves Within that I think was social deduction as well. So I wanted to ask - what made your team want to make a game like this? What's the genesis of the project?
JAMES: So this project started around late 2019, when we got together with a good friend of ours, [Killing Floor creator] Alex Quick. We had made games together in the past - we made Depth together way back. 2012 was when we started that project together with him. And essentially, I gave Alex and my lead product designer Neil free rein to do whatever they felt like doing. And given that Depth was an almost hardcore, PvP, asymmetric style shooter, they wanted to do something a little different.
They explored around all these different genres and all these different themes - and they settled upon social deduction. It wasn't very popular right at that moment, and they've been playing some really popular board games surrounding social deduction, things like The Resistance, card games like that.
I think that sort of sparked this initial idea of: “Oh, what happens if we try asymmetric from a different angle of hidden information, rather than one side is sharks and one side is divers.” They are obviously very different. But in this case, it was more about “Oh, what if the asymmetry was about information, and how asymmetrical that that can be?”
And it sort of evolved from that idea, rather than looking at: “Is social d