The Lodgge Podcast Episode 15

Meet Darnell Lysius-Dicette, Creative Director of Ocean Mouse Studio

Published On: 28 March 2023Categories: The Lodgge PodcastTags:

In this episode of the podcast we meet Darnell Lysius-Dicette! Creative Director of Ocean Mouse Studio! We discuss running your own studio, coming up in animation, Ontario game development and much more!

Scott  0:01  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the lodge podcast. I’m your host Scott Milley and we are back today with episode 15. I am so excited to announce today’s uniquely talented guest Darnell Lysius-Dicette. Darnell, how’re you doing today?

Darnell  0:13  

I’m good Scott, glad to be on the show heard a lot of good things of the podcasts watched a few episodes and I’m really excited to be part of something that’s covering the Ontario gaming scene. Looking forward to it.

Scott  0:26  

I appreciate that we’ve been wanting to have you on for a while and I’m glad we could finally make it happen. So Darnell is a very accomplished animator, a wildly talented character artists, check out his Instagram, it’s ridiculous. And the owner and creative director of Toronto’s very own ocean mouse met studios, with over a decade of experience to pull from today we’re going to be talking about running your own studio coming up in animation, working here in Ontario, and much, much more. So without further ado, let’s get into the conversation.

Scott  1:03  

So, first thing I have to bring up there now is I have been able to talk to very few people that have actually ran the gauntlet in the last 10 years like you have starting off solely as an animator making your way to Montreal to work as a 2d artist design lead in all kinds of character artists positions all throughout. Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like to bounce from so many cool roles all in such a short period of time.

Darnell  1:32  

very chaotic, is the first thing I can say. It’s funny because it wasn’t intentional to want to bounce between a lot of projects like this, but it kind of just evolved like that I kept getting offered positions that I really wanted to pursue, I kept seeing opportunities to like, oh, I want to work on this. So I can like build up this skill. And then eventually it went to, oh, I want to work at this place. So I can build up the leadership skill and eventually led to working and creating like a company. I think the best word I can say for that is like chaotic, very rewarding. But yeah, it was a lot of learning stuff on the fly a lot of late nights teaching myself things to be able to like match the quality that my clients wanted. But honestly, I can’t complain. It was a it was a Yeah, it was fun.

Scott  2:27  

Was there any like one particular role that you think that you took, like the most out of it or something that you were like, remember fondly, because obviously like you had like such a crazy track record of like small studios, big places like Snapchat, and some others like it kind of everything all in between? Was there one that you think back on fondly? Even if it was for a short period of time that you were like that one, that’s something that I’m really proud of, or was just like crazy to be able to work on.

Darnell  2:51  

So this is not gaming related. But when I worked in Montreal, I worked at a small company called sardine productions. And it was one of my first times getting to be a character designer on a really cool, snappy How do I describe it, it was very snappy, like animation, which is something that isn’t done as much anymore. And it was a nice change of pace from the more rigid kids shows that I had done before. And I always think back to that experience really fondly. It wasn’t even that big of like a project that was only there for like, seven months, roughly. But the team was really nice. The show was really cute. I got to learn a lot about like just doing raw character design. And I think back about that experience a lot.

Scott  3:39  

If you did you always want to go into animation and character design was just like you were just drawing drawing cartoons in class in high school sort of paying attention, things like that.

Darnell  3:48  

Oh, yeah. Nailed it right on the head. Yeah, I guess I was always an artsy kid growing up. I had doodle pads. I didn’t really get my own my first sketchbook until like, late high school, I guess. But I was always doodling in notebooks. I was the kid who always drew like elaborate things on the side of tests, like whenever a teacher would give you on and then you’re waiting to hand it in and you just sketch stuff. It got to a point I remember where a teacher made a comment. not addressing anyone specifically but said don’t draw on the side of the page anymore. We don’t want to see that and I kind of dropped but yeah, it was always like I was always doodling in class, I guess it’s a really common artist thing where you can focus on something but you need to be distracted with something else at the same time. I guess it’s I’m describing ADHD but yeah, the data wasn’t me to a tee.

Scott  4:49  

Nothing wrong with that. It’s like it can be incredibly peaceful. Like I’m one of those people that I always have like Lo Fi on in the background. Just like just having it doesn’t matter what it is as long as no lyrics for me. It’s any words is what like pulls me As long as there’s something you know, in the background, then it’s it’s create creativity happen, right? You actually focus on something. So you mentioned like, a bunch of different things, I want you different roles that you were kind of able to jump into. What was it that made you decide, you know, what video games is where I want to be? Was it? Did you start as a kid also playing video games? And you’re like this the industry I want to be in? Or did it go from I love art to ooh, this industry is, you know, I can really establish myself and like, use my skill set to its fullest.

Darnell  5:31  

So a little bit of both. So my growing up I Okay, how do I rephrase this? So I started video games fairly late compared to other kids, I guess I didn’t really get my first console until I was already a teenager. And my brother and I, as soon as we got it, we were essentially like, addicted. Like we would play video games constantly. Like it was our Saturday afternoons we’d have friends over we played stuff all the time. So it was something that I grew up with. Grew up with to an extent. But it wasn’t something that I pursued as a career until, actually, I moved to Montreal, I had always wanted my goal in life was always to get into animation, become a character designer, and then eventually, I wanted to direct. Oh, wow. But when I was offered a job at a small startup in Montreal, they were like, oh, we need a character designer, just to help out with some concepts for a game. I thought, Oh, I mean, I know games need artists to be worked on. But I didn’t really understand the full scope of what that entailed until I started working in the field. And then realize, this is amazing. It combines this, like the stuff I love about animation in terms of like storytelling and character development, just a really cool design. But now you get to interact with it, as opposed to animation where you’re mostly just consuming it. And there was something cool that I was like, Oh, I love that you can make a career out of this. And I would love to pursue it. Which is why I stayed in gaming for five, six years before, eventually coming back into animation and then going back into gaming again.

Scott  7:11  

You went to animation, you were like i You knew then that you’re like I need to go back like this is something that I really want to do. Clearly the fact that you’ve kind of created a home with with ocean mouse, which I definitely want to jump into let’s jump into it. Now. Why not? Check. So Ocean mouse studios, it seems like you’ve You finally made yourself a home, right of jumping, jumping from job to job. Now it seems that you seem to be a little more solidified. You’ve built a team? I believe it was it was seven less I heard Denzel correct. So with a team like that, and you’re working on your first official project, which I know we can’t discuss today, but hopefully we’ll get to have you back when you are able to discuss it. What is it about running your own studio that makes the late nights and stressful panic attacks, all worthwhile?

Darnell  7:57  

Honestly, I think as creatives not just in gaming, but in animation, we’re constantly striving to want to leave our mark on the industry. And I feel like having my own company or having a team that also feels that also has that same I guess goal. That’s one of the been one of the most rewarding experiences of it, like getting together and then putting a pitch together putting game design docs together, but also seeing how over on the same page for this, or oh, how do we push this and really getting to leave our mark on the industry with the project that we did from scratch. I like that, to me is like the driving force of the entire company. I wanted to leave my mark on the industry, I wanted to tell stories that reflected more of my experiences and my team’s experiences. And with the project that we’re currently developing, we get to do more of that. When you work in animation, well, I guess in gaming, or any industry, really, and you’re working for somebody else. Yes, you get to work on cool projects, but you’re not working on a story or a project you made like you’re working under a company, you’re working under somebody else. So having ocean mouse is a way for my group to essentially be like, hey, we want to tell these kinds of stories. Why don’t we focus on that and see if we can get that off the ground and being able to work on that has been honestly like, it’s the reason I wake up in the morning. Like getting to just sit down like I have the doctor my project open in front of you right now and getting to sit down and be like, Oh, this is mine, like I got to do this like is something that I hold really dearly about this whole experience.

Scott  9:40  

That’s incredible. It’s yeah, definitely. I think we were discussing like that 10 years of like running the gauntlet that you must have came up with the decision that you like, you know what I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to do this myself, rather than constantly especially because you’re you’re constantly answering to different people. So it’s like learning the new managerial flow and like learning how your company runs and you’re like, I feel like you probably took a lot of lessons from there. From places good and bad, I really want to do this, I really don’t want to do that. And kind of implement it all into like one place that you can call home,

Darnell  10:08  

which is awesome. Yeah, you are hitting all the nails on the head this Yeah, that’s exactly.

Scott  10:15  

We’re doing this for a while. So what’s one part of I really wish we could get into the games, but of course, we’re gonna have you back. And I’m really looking forward to that. But one thing that is very apparent in a lot of Ontario studios, that I get to talk to is the company culture, right like that, that I think that’s used. It’s just a buzzword is used in a lot of different places. But then you see, especially from a lot of these great indie studios like yourselves, that you’re able to kind of bring in a lot of the lessons that you’ve learned and help shape the culture from that from the jump. It’s not You’re not retro actively trying to fix it, or you’re not trying to, to mitigate some other issues, you were able to kind of come in ground floor clean slate and say, Okay, these are our rules. These are our guidelines to live by this is what makes ocean mouse ocean mouse, it will, it will make you your identity. So what are some of the parts of the culture that you’re incredibly proud of, and that you guys work on that you focus on and say, This is important to us? This is part of what makes us the studio that we are today.

Darnell  11:15  

So this is a lot more internal, just because our public image is still.

Scott  11:21  

That’s what I mean 100%. Like, internally, how do you guys, how do you guys conduct yourselves in a way that you’re proud of?

Darnell 11:27  

So we very much value open communication at the studio. And I know that’s something that a lot of people will be like, oh, yeah, we love communicating with the team. We love having like open dialogue. But I found that as the bigger you get as a company, the harder it gets to implement that. So right now ocean mouse is at a point where we’re still small enough where we can enforce everyone gets involved in the conversation, everyone’s opinion gets heard. Obviously, not everyone’s opinion gets selected, but everyone has a voice at the company. It’s never a case of, oh, I’m in charge, I’m going to make all the decisions. And you guys just say yes, it’s an open conversation. It’s an open dialogue, we share ideas, and we make sure that everybody is at least satisfied with decisions that are made before we go, Okay, let’s move on to the next step. And that’s actually something that a lot of my employees or like teammates have said that they really value because they don’t get that at other jobs. But again, that is something that’s a lot easier to do, because we’re smaller. So hopefully, if we get any bigger, we’ll be able to keep that, that vibe going. That’s something that I’m very proud of with the company just being able to have that open dialogue. voices are heard and opinions matter. With decisions made for the project or just the company in general,

Scott  12:47  

I think as long as long as it’s something that you guys are building. Now, that gets a little bit easier to, you know, continue to eliminate it as you add team members, because the last thing you want is to not have those, you know, ideals set in place. And then you hire up a bit when you get to the next project and you’re at 20 people and then that’s when things can really start to the communication pipelines really start to crumble, and some people can feel left out. So that’s that’s awesome. That that’s such a focus for you guys.

Darnell  13:10  

Yeah, very much.

Scott  13:14  

Is there anything that you can you can discuss about ocean mouse most when it comes to just your the way that you plan out a project? So of course, I know you guys are working on your first big project yourselves, you do have done some service work as well. But is there anything I know what the culture it’s very much about open communication. But anything that you’ve learned in your experience, as well as your team’s experience of like, kind of how to manage a project when it comes to pipelines, and all the other buzzwords that we could throw out? Is there any anything that you use or any, any strategy that you’d like to put forward, it’s a major thing, a lot of listeners jumping in they, they really want to make their own studio, or one day, you know, like, Ontario is the biggest spot in Canada for micro studios. For more people or less, we have such an entrepreneurial spirit around us. And it’s awesome, it’s really great to be able to see all these small studios, but a lot of people come in, I want to make a game, rather than I want to make a company, you seem to have learned that beforehand. And you’re coming in with both in mind. So what is one thing that you use that you practice that is going to be able to, you know, evolve and continue on as you get more and more projects. And as you continue to grow as a company? Well,

Darnell  14:25  

I just want to say first off, when we did start the company, it was very much of a learning process of getting to that point of, oh, we have to make a company, not just the game, because like most people who get into this industry, like you mentioned, that’s not the thought process at the beginning. But early very early on, thankfully, we realized, oh, we can’t just be focusing on one project at a time. We need to be aware that this is a company that we have to keep going for as long as possible. We can’t just be thinking one project at a time. We need to be thinking how does the lead to the next project. How does this grow our company? How does this grow our culture? But yeah, it was kind of we kind of learned that the hard way. Because as we started to talk to other people in the industry, we were like, they asked us this question like, Okay, well, how does your company? Where do you see your company being in five years? And we’re thinking, Oh, we just want to make a game. I guess we have to think about this. But thankfully, it was not like it wasn’t an issue. Because we hadn’t started pitching for stuff yet. But we did learn that like, in the process of like, establishing the company at first. And also, can you repeat the question? Because I answered one part of it, but not the other part. And then I

Scott  15:36  

continued on in questions, I also have a problem with doing that. So is there something that you implement or rule or a style of production or strategy? Like when it comes to like the pipeline? I know, you mentioned over communication, but is there anything that you you guys value, or you use that it’s like this is how we’re going to be able to manage projects across departments or something that you guys continue to grow?

Darnell  16:02  

That’s a broad question. I guess in terms of kind of going in parallels with open communication, one of the things that we want to do when ever we establish a project is I want to make sure that everybody has access to all of the materials and tools that we were using to set up the project. So everyone is able to see, okay, well, this is what we’re thinking for game design. This is what we’re thinking for story, even if they’re not involved in that step of the process. It’s something that they’re all in, it’s information that’s all available to them. So that wouldn’t be coming to meetings, and we’d start to move through the project, everybody is on the same page, even if it’s not their department. So everyone on the team is always aware of what’s going on with marketing, everyone on the team is aware of what’s going on with story. Even though the animators might not be involved in story as much because they’re focusing on art and animation. It’s stuff that we try to keep available, so that everybody’s always on the same page. And it’s just essentially up to you like the team members to be like, Okay, well, I’m gonna inform myself on this part. So when I come into a meeting, I know exactly like what’s going on. And we can essentially breeze through issues and obstacles very easily, because everybody’s aware of what’s going on with the project at all times.

Darnell  17:19  

I think that’s a massive thing. Already, I don’t know if you realize how big of a deal that is from like the amount of studios like to talk to not on the podcast, but like, just in person, yeah, of like, that is such a big thing that is really going to be able to help you in the future of not having people feel isolated. Exactly. And there’s more of you dealing with a big issue. And then you have your animator on the side, that’s like, okay, they’re not entirely sure what’s going on, or they don’t have any input themselves. Just because we know that department, you guys seem to be very open doors get in here, let’s figure this out together, let’s talk about this together. Even if like sometimes it can be better for you even having that one person that’s kind of, you know, outside of it, to see it from that

Scott  17:58  

perspective. Actually, that’s a very good point. It’s also very nice to bring in people like sometimes I’ll have my marketing director come in and just take a look at the state of the project. And having somebody who hasn’t been involved in the game design itself, getting an opinion from them is very enlightening. And then at the same time, it lets them be aware of what’s going on with the state of the project. And I do want to reiterate that this is a lot easier to do with a smaller company, because I’ve done it with a bigger company, and it becomes

Scott  18:28  

long, long meetings. It feels like we haven’t gotten anywhere, but like, that’s the thing. That’s the attempt at open communication. But it’s so hard to implement when you have like, you know, 1520 people in above these big studios here in Ontario, you know, hundreds of people. It’s like it’s a true like testament to like the ideals of the management team that have been implemented to make sure that that communication stays open, no matter how big the studio gets. Yeah. It’s awesome to hear that that’s like clearly something that’s really important to you and your studio. So one thing I do like to bring up especially with people that I know are avid gamers, what are you currently playing right now, I know we all really try to focus on Ontario, the lodge is an Ontario bass podcast, I want to make sure that our audience is always intrigued by that. But we get our inspiration from other studios we get inspiration and like passion for for video games in general from all over the place. So I don’t really want to talk to you What are you playing right now? What’s in your Swift what’s on your Playstation? Whatever, whatever you’re using right now. What is the thing that has gotten you up at night?

Darnell  19:34  

So I’m currently obsessed with wildhearts I’m not sure if you’re familiar with

Scott  19:40  

I’m a diehard Monster Hunter world fan and I have downloaded wildhearts It is on my list.

Darnell  19:47  

Okay, I will highly recommend it because I’m also a diehard Monster Hunter fan but not just world like I played

Scott  19:54  

all of them. My one of my best friends is the same way he’s what got me into world world is my 400 hours. Yeah Rise I have I might get a waiting on World Two if that ever comes. But yes, yeah, so

Darnell  20:05  

I’m currently playing wildhearts. And it’s a very fresh take. For those of you who are not familiar, it’s a fresh take on the monster hunting formula. EA is the no code. Techmo is the developer and EA is the publisher, if I remember correctly, I believe. And it’s kind of a weird mix of like fortnight building with monster hunting,

Scott  20:26  

which is what turned me off of it was the fortnight building I was I need to get hands on obviously, like they have the demo, and I can’t speak to it until I’ve played it. But that’s what kind of originally threw me off was like, that’s why I never got into fortnight. I just wasn’t a fan of the building. Oh, yeah. For me. Yeah. So with this, like, how is that implemented? Is it implanted in like a fun and cool way that you feel like it’s added to the Monster Hunter formula?

Darnell  20:47  

100%. So the game is still, I feel like there’s a couple of bugs that they need to work out. But the developers have been very vocal about making sure that things are working in top shape. They released a huge patch not long ago, that fixed a lot of issues. And that was actually my main deterrent. Originally, when I heard about the game. I was like, Oh, how am I going to build mid fight? How am I going to keep track of structures, but they do a really good job of making it feel seamless, like your building is essentially just one button and you map it to different face buttons on your controller. So in the middle of a combo, you can just hit the button, build something and then becomes part of your combo. It’s very nice. Oh, damn. Okay. It does take some getting used to because as a Monster Hunter player, I’m not used to having a structure helped me with anything. It’s just my weapon and whatever skills I need for the hunt. But with this, they do a good job of integrating the structure building the resource management and the hunting all in one fight very well. I definitely recommend that this game is getting dunked on right now because the PC version is terrible. But if you’re playing on console, it’s very fun.

Scott  21:56  

I’m much more of a console person anyway, so I think that works out. And yeah, I think there’s a free demo or free trial right with

Darnell  22:02  

10 hours I feel like I’m promoting the game like 10 hours

Scott  22:07  

a day. But no, that’s good to know because honestly like I have a couple friends the other like diehard diehard Monster Hunter and they haven’t jumped into it. And I need someone that is a huge monster hunter fan to pitch it to me, because that’s my my hesitation with it is I love worlds so much. But I am hesitant when it comes to the building. That’s good to know that it’s simple. It’s integrated because that sounds and it looks fantastic.

Darnell  22:28  

It’s it’s absolutely gorgeous. Must have designs are really good. The soundtrack is. I don’t want to like shoot any shots, but I do prefer the soundtrack of this one more than the Monster Hunter soundtrack.

Scott  22:40  

Wow, that’s a statement.

Darnell  22:42  

Yeah, but keep in mind that I am a fan of both anyone watching I have like 1700 hours on one of the PSP titles. So I’m by no means like, not a fan. But the soundtrack of wildhearts did a really good job and it’s stuck with me a bit more than the soundtrack of Monster Hunter up till now. But it probably is because I’ve heard the soundtrack of Monster Hunter for so long like the themes of the monsters are the same like

Scott  23:09  

Yes. So it for me it’s just like the I remember hearing the trailer because I had watched the trailers for the ones before and I was really excited for the next one whatever was going to come to console I was that person. And then as soon as you have the trailer for Monster Hunter world are sitting beside like one of my best friends Doug shadow and his reaction like he heard the first note and which is like on his feet. I was like whoa, like this is a big deal. And like I obviously end up getting into it after but like I think music is something that is so like under appreciated sometimes depending on on what type of gamer you might be. Which actually leads me into I wanted to make a comment that we actually ran an event in December the IO connect about the future of video game audio, right CD, Projekt RED and Supergiant Games in keyword studios and you were there. And there was a great announcement that I didn’t even get to talk to you while you were there. But I got to see you on stage for a moment.

Darnell  24:04  

Oh, right. The X box

Scott  24:08  

which is wild. I’m really happy to see it go to you. Oh my

Darnell  24:10  

goodness, it was fantastic. So I actually so funny story. I actually didn’t even get to be there for the announcement of me winning. I had just left like five minutes ago. Yeah, one of my close friends who was the one who essentially her company gave out the Xbox was the one to message me like literally while I was on the subway being like, hey, you won this you need to come back and I was like, I can’t I’m home already. But I like essentially ended up contacting every like the people from IO just to like make sure that I to say thank you and everything. But yeah, that event was fantastic. Like I was so impressed with just I guess the quality of everything like I didn’t really know coming in like what to expect but like everybody was so cool. I got to meet so many people from interactive Ontario and then winning the Xbox at the end of the night was like the cherry topper.

Scott  25:07  

That was awesome. Because yeah, I heard your name get announced. And I was like that. Awesome. Good, good. Yeah, we’ve got another one coming up the launch podcast, but I’m pitching in rural Ontario right now. But we’ve got the next hour Kinect is actually coming up in April. At XP. Yeah. So hopefully we get to see everybody there. Yep. So one thing I do want to just go back to when we’re talking about like, the games that you’re playing, is there. There’s your experience working in animation and working in character design? Does that enrich? Or does that kind of deter from your enjoyment of certain games? Like now that you kind of you get to see the matrix in a way? Yeah, to see how some of these things were built? Do you think you get more from it? You’re like, oh, wow, that’s wildly impressive. Or do you think that some things that I may not notice, are driving you insane?

Darnell  25:57  

Oh, man, that’s a big question, because I did for a bit. But I had to learn to kind of turn that part of my brain off, or else I would never enjoy anything. It definitely comes up more with animated content, where I’ll look at an animation piece and be like, Why did they design it like this? It’s just looks really hard to animate or, like, I’ll see how a character is built. I don’t know if you’re familiar. But in 2d animation, oftentimes, it’s not fully hand drawn, they’ll use a rig. And sometimes I’ll be able to see like, Oh, why did they build the rig legless, it looks weird. So to an extent it did, but not as much lately, I tried to be a lot more open minded when I play a video game. Like if the presentation of the game appeals to me, then I’ll play it, even if little things about like a character design, or the way something is put together isn’t quite right. Just because if I start to look at everything with that critical eye, then you just never enjoy anything.

Scott  26:52  

That’s always the worry and certainly talked to a few people about that as well. That it’s like they can sometimes they get much more of an appreciation for something that you know, the regular person might not notice. Or it’s that you see something that you’re like this is why did they do it this way where you know, your regular person would just not not even notice. Is it something that you find impressive when you see you know, like, a lot of especially a lot of like anime games, right that you have these traditionally 2d characters in 2d worlds brought into a 3d space. Is there any one that you remember that you can see that you’re like, I can’t believe they did it that well, like being able to actually implement that you’re looking at like Dragon Ball Z Kakarot. And like fairy tale and like things like that, that it’s like they manage to kind of pull that off without giving you that weird like uncanny valley feeling.

Darnell  27:39  

Actually, you mentioned in Dragon Ball made me totally give me my answer. So I’m a big fighting game player. I love anything. That’s like competitive fighter like I play Guilty Gear Super Smash Brothers. I got into DNF duel recently, and I’m very impressed with the art systems work. Ability to make anime 2d characters feel like 3d Fighting characters, if that makes sense. Dragonball Z fighters, right? Yeah, essentially, well, that’s the engine that they use for essentially all of their fighting games, just that 2d, cel shaded animated look, but translated into 3d. And then the camera work that they use to trick you into thinking that things are a lot more dynamic than they are because it’s still like a 3d model and how they push certain parts of the character during dramatic moments that blows my mind. Like I absolutely love all of that. Like that’s an aspect

Scott  28:34  

right there. That’s, that’s something that with your experience that you can see something that I’m like, Oh, that looks beautiful. And you’re like, No, that’s crazy. Yeah, it’s like that they were able to do something like that and implement it so smoothly, and still sort of like true to the source material, which is always important, as always. Is there anything else even playing right now? Is there anything besides wild hearts that you’re that you’re looking at for inspiration? Or you’re looking at for that you’re like, Ooh, this is really cool. I kind of want to steal, you know, this art style, or I kind of wanted, like, inspired or influenced by, you know, this person. Okay. Yeah.

Darnell  29:05  

So whenever we do game design for anything, I tried to play as many different titles in that genre, just to get a feel for how a certain company did certain things. Maybe you don’t want to be too specific then because I know you don’t as I am aware of that. But even then, like I’m still playing like a plethora of games that are not that genre, just because there might be some elements of it that I like I like like, currently, I’m playing Pusha nomics, which is an adorable little shopkeeper game with a very heavy with a very heavy, lean towards narrative. So it’s a story driven shopkeeper game, which I like, and I just liked the way that they matched our style. It feels very Blizzard, but cute, if that makes sense. Yeah. 100% Yeah. So I’m playing that right now. I’m also Link Katamari Damacy I like there’s so many things about that game that I love. I hadn’t played it in a long time. So when the the Steam version got on sale, I bought it for the steam deck, and I’ve been playing that and just enjoying it all over again. And then seeing how like they put a few levels together like a lot of the hidden details in that game are like, really well done. So that I’m playing a lot and I just recently finished Pokemon Scarlet and violet. Oh, yeah, so that was a Pokemon

Scott  30:33  

fan. I saw your I’m always gonna forget the name because I don’t really talk about anymore. Cindy quills. Cool lava.

Darnell  30:41  

Oh, yeah, typholsion.

Scott  30:43  

typholsion. Thank you. I saw that on your Instagram. That was like, that’s amazing.

Darnell  30:45  

That’s all Thank you. Yeah. So I just finished playing Scarlet and violet. And I play competitive Pokemon. I mean, not as much now because I’m too busy with like the project, but I’m like an avid competitive Pokemon player. So that was really something that I like, dove into. Well. Yeah. That’s a good reaction. Because when I tell people Oh, yeah, I play Pokemon competitively. They’re like, what? How do you do that?

Scott  31:16  

That’s awesome. Yeah. Yeah, it was really nice. Really like working in an industry that any any person that you say that to, they’re like, that’s cool. Instead of like, wait, what?

Darnell  31:25  

Yeah, I’ve had a couple of people who work in the industry be like, I didn’t know there was competitive Pokemon. I’m like, oh, yeah, it’s been going on for decades.

Scott  31:34  

There’s competitive most things and especially when you have a franchise as gigantic as both the money better believe there’s there’s some competition there.

Darnell  31:46  

But yeah, so I just finished playing Pokemon. What else did I play? Oh, bluebloods was one of my oh my god, that was like my favorite game of last year, I played so many hours of that. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s kind of like a cozy Pokemon like, game where you’re collecting creatures and like battling them, but it’s a lot more casual. There’s no PvP or anything. So I went into it, because I had been following the developers for years. And I love the art style. And I thought they were just like, they gave off really good vibes. And funnily enough, I’m not like, I haven’t played that many cozy games. But this one I got into so much, and I was like, I love coffee games.

Scott  32:30  

It scratches a different part of your brain, right? Where you’re like, you use so much of your creative energy throughout the day working at a studio like that. That is like this is something that you can still breathe and relax and not be so not 100% of your brain power is going back to it and you’re able to just to feel

Darnell  32:46  

cozy, which is awesome. It still hits a lot of like the the gamer points where it’s like, Oh, I feel like I accomplished something in game or dopamine spikes. Yeah. Yeah. Like, like, essentially, like all gamers, where do you want to complete something or you want to hit a goal in a game, even though there’s no, like, the pacing is very slow. I feel like every time I play it, it’s like, oh, okay, I got the town to this level. Oh, I got my google it to this level. And I know it’s very, like basic gamer logic. But I don’t know if I really got into it. And I played like, I must have played like, hundreds of hours of that game. Oh, my God.

Scott  33:22  

That’s awesome. I think it’s like, I love those kinds of games. I always like having like a game like that on the go. And that’s why I’ll always have a switch. No matter what it’s just to have that it might be bad. You mentioned before, like, it feels like we’re kind of describing ADHD. Yeah, it’s like having on you know, like a show that I’ve seen before in the background and like playing something on my switch or like the steam deck. And it’s like, there’s, there’s something that’s very relaxing about doing something like that, where you’re, you’re not 100% focused on one thing, which again, is probably encouraging that multitasking brain that isn’t exactly good for us. It’s relaxing. So one thing I do want to bring up too, is of course, as being an Ontario podcast, I always have to ask. So you worked Ontario and I know you were in Montreal for a while and you came back with you know, ocean mouse most being in Toronto. What is it about the Ontario video game industry that you think makes it something special? Something that you enjoy being

Darnell  34:13  

a part of? Oh, my gosh, I feel like I could talk about that for hours. Well, that’s good. Yeah. To be honest, I felt so the Montreal industry has been established for like a long time. And even though it’s very like, when you think gaming in Canada, I do think a lot of people’s default is to go to Montreal and not a lot of people realize that Ontario is also like a great Gaming Hub. But I feel like Ontario just supports India a bit better. Montreal is very much about it felt like a lot more established studios were getting more opportunities to experiment which is great. You have a studio like Ubisoft or a smaller studio. What the name escapes me, but you have smaller studios that get government support to, hey, let’s try a new idea, oh, hey, let’s like push this further. Whereas Ontario was very good about fostering new talent. And that’s something that I valued a lot, especially when we went from working in Montreal to working here and then trying to get into the space here. Everyone is just so welcoming and supportive. It’s like, very cool and different.

Scott  35:27  

That’s awesome. That’s something obviously we tried to foster. But I’ve always liked hearing it, hearing it from from people like you. But yeah, that’s, that’s something that obviously, we’re very proud of in Ontario, and something that I think everyone together as a community continues to, like thrive for is that newer studio is coming in, it’s like, they’re open doors, like come in, you’re gonna have people with no egos. You know what I mean? Like, that’s something that like, I wasn’t necessarily expecting, when I first came into the industry in Ontario, is you see so many people that have been doing it for 20 years that are so happy to help someone that’s been in it for six months. Yeah, with even some to them. That’s something they’ve done 100 million times filling out this EMF form or, you know, doing their taxes or insurance or whatever it might be on the business side, that a lot of studios coming in, they have a game, like we mentioned, they have a project, but the business side was like, Oh, shit, like, what do I What can I do here? That you see so many people in the industry? Like, yep, you know, call me set up a meeting, we’ll talk, I’ll help you out with this, how we deal with that. And it’s just like, such a fun thing to be able to watch. And then you see, six months later, the collaborations of like, a lot of them are service companies that oh, we need you, you know, you’re gonna call you’re gonna call that studio that is, you know, just starting out or are really engaged with the community. And that’s always fun to get to see all those people.

Darnell  36:43  

And yeah, again, you hit the nail right on the head. Because that’s essentially what happened with us. I had expressed interest in starting a company and I’m not I imagined you know them. But do you know that people who’ve run alien trap?

Scott  36:56  

Yeah. 100% Yeah, Lee’s actually coming to the GDC. Booth. We’re running frontier.

Darnell  37:02  

So I’m friends with Jesse from college.

Scott  37:06  

We actually had them on the podcast not too long ago, Jesse and, and Lee. Yeah, there’s like three episodes ago. Oh, okay.

Darnell  37:11  

Yeah, they’re awesome. Yeah, they’re fantastic. But when I expressed interest in starting a company without even really bringing it up, they were just like, here, all these resources here, like if you have any questions like, and it was just such a nice and comforting way to start a business, I guess. Like, I had an idea of like, obviously, like I mentioned before, we knew we wanted to make a game, but we didn’t know how to. We had, we weren’t focusing on making the company. But with their help, we might have managed to shift our thought process to more Oh, yeah, we need to build it more like a company. And it was just essentially because they gave us the help and support just of the goodness of their hearts. Like, if they’re listening to this, you guys are awesome, by the way. They are.

Scott  37:56  

They’re all made sure I’ll make sure to send this out to him. But no, yeah, they’re they’re a fantastic studio. But yeah, that just speaks to exactly what we had already been discussing. That it’s there’s so many people like that, that are like, oh, yeah, here’s the you know, the years of knowledge and experience and the ups and downs I had to go through, here’s all the lessons so that you don’t have to do that. That’s so fun to be able to see that and just like yep, you know, anything you need, give me a call and like it’s not, you know, one or two studios. And it’s not like the the anomaly it’s not a rare occurrence. It’s there’s so many talented veterans in Ontario that are those people that are, you know, open to helping and oh, you have any questions. It’s one of the reasons why we have like the IO discord, that it’s like, hey, how do I do this? And there’s six people being like, Oh, I know, that drove me nuts last year. This is how we fixed it. This is how we figured it out. You can call

Darnell  38:43  

  1. I love reading through the IO discord and just seeing everybody’s like, if I have a question about something, usually I can search the discord and somebody will have brought it up. And then like 50 answers will be posted to it. It’s like, oh, my gosh, like, this resource is invaluable.

Scott  39:00  

But it’s so funny, the people that are just like, Oh, I know, like the you don’t realize like, especially like as a business. Like I’m sure there’s many times where you’re like dealing with an issue that you’re like, I wonder if anyone else has had to deal with this before. And you go in and there’s 50 responses being like, Oh, I know, right? Yeah, this that. And like all these responses, you’re like, Oh, I’m not alone. Like there’s so many people that are dealing with this issue or how to fill out that form or this form? And it’s like, yeah, we’ve been through this many times.

Darnell  39:27  

Now, it’s a it’s a great community. It’s a great resource.

Scott  39:30  

I love it. It’s one of my favorite things. So is there anything about the community or anything that’s coming up that you’re looking forward to? Because now that we’re slowly getting back to in person events, like we mentioned, the autoconnect being in December, and we have like XP gain Developer Summit coming up. Is there anything that you’re in particular looking forward to kind of getting out there and getting to see a lot of these people? Most of the time you’ve been in a studio, it’s been working?

Darnell  39:56  

Yeah. Are we incorporated in the pandemic? We You most of our operations were remote. Funny enough, we had plans on getting a workspace pre pandemic. And we essentially realized we didn’t need to, we didn’t really need it. So we’re probably going to be staying working from home for the time being. But yeah, for future events, I mean, I’m very excited about XP Summit, to be honest. We attended for the first time last year, and it was such a treasure trove of information and meeting people and connecting with like, industry higher ups. And like, I’ve met so many people that I’m still talking to right now that like, update me on like the random status of their project. And it’s like, oh, it’s so great that you like want to keep in touch and everything like I love it. There’s XP summit, I don’t know if they’re still doing it. But before the pandemic t cap had a gaming section for indie games. And if they’re bringing that back this year, I would love to attend that as well. It was a great way to like meet other indie developers play demos, and to see a bit more of like the grassroots. Like smaller studios, like get a chance to shine. actually played a really fun game there. The last time I was there, and I still think about it today. It was called bravery network online, promoting for them.

Scott  41:18  

Yeah, no, absolutely. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Yeah,

Darnell  41:22  

they were the that was a really fun game. Actually, I played that not too long ago on my Steam Deck, just because I was nostalgic for it. And like, I’m gonna get back into this for a bit. So I’m gonna play local sometimes. Yeah. to the community, and

Scott  41:36  

you’re like, This feels good. Yeah.

Darnell  41:38  

Um, there was that one, we didn’t want to attend GDC. But just things didn’t line up for us. So we’re probably going to be going next year. But that’s something I’m already looking forward to. But yeah, in terms of events,

Scott  41:50  

we got Toronto Games Week is coming up in June. A lot more details coming out about that over the next few weeks. I always gonna be a part of it as well. But there’s a lot of a lot of great companies a lot of exciting things coming. That’ll be the first week of June. So hopefully, everyone you know, stay tuned to that, check out the website, we’re going to be announcing something really fun. I’m very, very excited to get involved into to share some more details. I’ll definitely be shouting out to you. I feel like something you might be interested in. Okay. Yeah. But yeah, so I’m really looking forward to that. But yeah, being able to do XP, like same with me, like I started working at IO in 2020. So it’s very, very much the same thing. I always work from home. I’m out of Ottawa. Okay, I didn’t get to meet the team for the first year, right? Because we just couldn’t Yeah, and then now we’re finally getting to that point where all these studios and all these amazing people I’ve been able to work with and talk with all these studios for years now. I’m finally able to meet them for the first time. And so yeah, XP should be really exciting. Any IO members? Make sure to reach out discount code. And then yeah, we have the IO connect, we have to be like after, yeah. After Party, as it were the networking event that we’re doing on the first night on the 20th. So that’s going to be really exciting, too. And hopefully it gets you there.

Darnell  43:02  

We do have plans to attend. I gotta check. Like, I’d have somebody else do scheduling right now. So I just have to like, make sure everything is set up. But I do believe we are planning on attending.

Scott  43:14  

We’ll talk I’ll make I’ll make sure of it. But yeah, so I think honestly, that’ll probably about do it for the lodge podcast episode. 15. Darnell, are there any final words? Anything else that you want to let the people know that you got going on in your life?

Darnell  43:30  

Oh, boy. Play wildhearts No, I’m kidding. No, honestly, all I can say is thank you for having me on the podcast, honestly, in Ontario, interactive, Ontario has been doing such good work with getting people on the right lane for developing their projects and just navigating the indie field. And to be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact that we had joined, I feel like we’d be in a very different place right now. Like, just because shout your praises a little bit. Yeah, the fact that you have like, it’s like podcasts like this just information sessions, the indie super booths have been super fun. Yeah, just I guess I just want to say Keep up the good work on your end. This has been great.

Scott  44:21  

Thanks, man. That was very unnecessary. And I greatly appreciate it though. I’ll let the team know. Yeah. So thank you, everyone. Oh, good.

Darnellr  44:29  

Oh, one sec. I think the dog realize I was talking about him earlier. He just came.

Scott  44:36  

There he is

Darnell  44:40  

my little baby boy,

Scott  44:42  

Natalie, our producer right now is losing her mind.

Darnell  44:48  

He’s a handful, but adorable

Scott  44:50  

big fan of Corgis’s. So yeah, so again, thank you, everyone for joining us today. We always appreciate you guys coming out. Thank you to Ontario crates for your continued support of the Like I mentioned, shout out to Natalie on the ones and twos always making sure we look good. And honestly, Darnell, a big thank you to you, I know how busy you are, especially running an independent studio like this, you guys are obviously hard at work heads down. And I know taking an hour or two out of your day to come and join us is no easy task. So I really appreciate you coming through and offering your advice and your experience and sharing it with our audience.

Darnell  45:26  

So much for having us like, I mean, well for having me, I offer I extended the invite to the rest of my team. And they’re like, I’m too nervous to be on the podcast. But thank you so much for the invite. It was. So like, I love being able to share our experience with everybody and just being able to show people that it’s like making a company does have a lot of steps. But like if you know where to look like you can achieve it as well. And so outlets like this are what’s getting the word out there. So appreciate being invited on.

Scott  45:58  

Oh, yeah, we’re happy to have you guys. So everyone, make sure to go follow Oshiomole studio on Twitter, check out little Darney on Instagram and Twitter as well. Check out all the amazing art that he’s doing right now. It’s honestly out of control. I rarely use Instagram and I’m back on and I’ve read download it to make sure I’m checking all your stuff. And I know you guys got a lot of great things to come some big announcements coming up. So everyone can make sure to tune in and stay on top of that, obviously check out the but we’ll have all the latest info as soon as we we get it ourselves. We’ll be back next week with a brand new episode launch podcast. But if we don’t see you then hopefully we will get to see you at GDC 2023. Interactive Ontario will be running Ontario creates booth at the event. So make sure to come by say hi. If you’re out that way on the West Coast. If not, then we’ll see you on the next one and everybody take care.

Darnell Lysius-Dicette

Darnell is the company owner at newly established animation/gaming studio Ocean Mouse, in Toronto ON. They specialize in animation, visual development, indie game design/production and story development.

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