An Unconventional Hiveswap Dev Team Interview
Hey, it’s Cohen. Ash, our Associate Producer who usually runs these, is at E3 this week, so I’m doing the introduction. There was also a weird Affable Karkat vibe when he was answering this own questions, so I rewrote them a little. Here goes:
Obviously people sorta know you if they’ve been reading these interviews, but for the sake of the thing: What’s your name, and what do you do on the Hiveswap team?
Hello there! My name is Ash Paulsen, and I’m the Associate Producer on Hiveswap. As a producer, my basic role on the project is to help organize and sync up each department’s workflow while also facilitating effective interdepartmental communication. In layman’s terms: it’s my job to make everyone else’s jobs easier and do all the “in-between” stuff to help bring the game to the finish line, and that means I do whatever needs doing – which can vary from day to day!
How’d you get your start on Hiveswap?
This is actually a surprisingly straightforward story. Basically, What Pumpkin was looking to fill a producer position on Hiveswap, and luckily they were pointed in my direction by a mutual friend and colleague. So What Pumpkin then reached out to me via email, and I happened to be looking to take the next step in my career at the time. I then began a brief trial period as a part-time producer on Hiveswap to ascertain if the position would be an ideal fit for me. After a while, I was very graciously welcomed into the What Pumpkin family as a full-time producer – I must have impressed them somewhere along the way, and I’m happy I did!
Yeah, absolutely. Having a dedicated person for the work you’ve been doing has made my life easier. You’ve got some experience in 2D animation and video game production specifically, right?
My first production-related job came by way of Nickelodeon Animation several years ago, where I worked for about a year and a half as a Production Assistant on the Butch Hartman cartoons The Fairly OddParents! and T.U.F.F. Puppy. (Prior to that, I’d been working as a Game Master at Nexon – the developer of MapleStory – so this was a huge jump!) I later left Nickelodeon for a full-time position as the Senior Editor at UDON Entertainment, a publisher and art collective specializing in video game and anime art books. Somewhere along the way, I ended up taking on a second gig as an Associate Producer at ShiftyLook, where I got to help make super cool webcomics and web cartoons out of old-school, dormant Bandai Namco Games IPs, such as Bravoman and Wonder Momo.
It was that ShiftyLook job that reminded me just how much I loved producing and wanted to get back into it, so I put some feelers out there and when I was lucky enough to have What Pumpkin come knocking, I was ready to seize the opportunity!
Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into production? I don’t mean me, of course–it wasn’t until we brought you on that I realized how much production work I’d been doing as a matter of necessity, and I don’t want to go back to that life–but just, y’know. Tips and tricks for any aspiring producers.
In terms of advice for launching into a production career, I would say that a self-starter mentality and an honest willingness to take on pretty much any task – no matter how boring or menial – are key. I find that’s the best way to let people know you’re a team player and, in turn, get noticed! If something needs doing, just step up and do it! If you don’t know how to do it, ask questions, but do it nonetheless.
Yeah, including, when you’re not at E3, running these interviews. Speaking of, do you have any favorite games?
For someone who plays as many video games as I do – I’ve been an avid gamer since the original Super Mario Bros. captured my heart when I was just five years old – this is a surprisingly easy answer! My favorite game of all time is Chrono Trigger, a Super Nintendo JRPG you’ve probably heard of once or twice. That game is the total package: a gripping story, memorable characters, killer battle system, legendary soundtrack, and some of the Super Nintendo’s very best graphics. I think my favorite thing about Chrono Trigger is that the narrative can be as complex or as light as you want it to be; if you want to enjoy it as a simple time-traveling romp, you can do that and it’s great. But if you want to read between the lines and really dive into the lore where things get pretty dark and sophisticated, you can play it that way too and it’s even better in my opinion. It’s a game you can enjoy on your own terms, and for that reason and so many more, I just adore CT. My second and third favorites behind that are Okami and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
I just recently finished the Switch versions of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Blaster Master Zero, and Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and right now I’m playing Horizon: Zero Dawn and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Looking ahead, I am unbelievably, ridiculously hyped for Sonic Mania and Kingdom Hearts III!
Do you pull any inspiration from those for your production work on Hiveswap?
Not in particular… I can’t think of much crossover between gaming and production work, either in terms of the skills required or really at all. I suppose there’s some tenuous connection between, like, turn-based strategy RPGs and project management, but even that’s reaching a bit.
Besides, working on Hiveswap is its own form of inspiration: I have the privilege of working with a team of wildly talented, creative folks on a daily basis, and when you’re surrounded by that much awesome every day, it’s hard not to be inspired to work harder and smarter!
Since this is a remote team, we’ve had people describe their workstations, which has been fun. What’s yours like?
I don’t really have a particular workstation, if that makes sense. Mine is mostly the kind of work that can be done anywhere as long as I have my laptop (I run with a MacBook Pro) and an Internet connection, so my workstation is generally wherever I want or need to be that day. Oftentimes that means a local coffee shop because I don’t fancy staying cooped up in my apartment alone every day, but if I have a full day of meetings I’ll usually stay home. The same ambient noise I go to coffee shops to enjoy tends to become a major liability when people are trying to hear you in a Google Hangout or Skype meeting!
Yeah, I can confirm that, having been in those meetings before you started staying home for them. What about music? Do you like to listen to anything while you’re working?
I constantly listen to music while I work – lots and lots of video game music! Game music has been my jam since I started burning line-out recordings of sound test menus to CDRs as a kid. (Not even kidding. The ‘90s, baby!) Usually it’s upbeat, driving chiptune anthems like the sort you hear in Mega Man games and other retro platformers like Shovel Knight, but I also love orchestral VGM like Final Fantasy soundtracks. In fact, Yoko Shimomura – composer of the Kingdom Hearts games, among so many others – is my favorite musician of all time! I also listen to original chip music and a ton of EDM (electronic dance music, which encompasses so many other sub-genres) as well. I’ll give anything a chance, really!
Anything else you want to say to fans?
I’m genuinely appreciative of and humbled by the opportunity to leave my stamp on a universe as singularly compelling and bizarre as Homestuck. Despite my being a relative newcomer to the project and the wider Homestuck community, bringing Hiveswap to the finish line in a form that delivers on your expectations means the world to me and I take my role in that process very seriously. I’m really, really happy to be here!
Is there anywhere people can see more of your work?
As I touched on briefly earlier, I’m one of the GameXplain crew! If you’ve not heard of us, we’re a Nintendo-focused YouTube channel closing in on 800,000 (!) subscribers, though we also cover PlayStation and Xbox titles when time allows. You can find a link to our channel right here, where you’ll hear me yapping away in all sorts of discussions, previews, reviews, news updates, and more!
We’ll have Ash and the regular format back next week.