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Origins, Part 1: Why I quit my PhD at MIT to start a gaming studio 1436

[This article contains actual instant message conversations from the founders’ Google chat histories]

It was 6:52 pm on Tuesday, September 28, 2010. I had just sent my good friend Will Ma the following message over Google Talk:

me: current temperature in waterloo according to weathernetwork.com. if it’s odd, I’m black.

For the next several hours, Will and I exchanged a series of cryptic alphanumeric messages resembling this:

Will: W9: hhebcy ns 13plg 3f2aw

These incomprehensible strings of characters were punctuated only by occasional, marginally less cryptic messages like the following:

me: B11: gg wp
me: re?

It was the beginning of a 4-year-long obsession with the game that would eventually be known as Prismata, though at the time, we referred to it only by the codename MCDS (in honour of 4 other strategy games that inspired its creation that we stopped playing in favour of it). Prismata was, and still is, the most addictive strategy game I have ever played. But my choice to throw away my promising academic career in favour of full-time game development wasn’t an impulsive gamble fueled by obsession. Rather, it was a calculated, market-driven decision born from a series of remarkable coincidences.

In the Origins series, we’ll share some anecdotes from the early days of Prismata: the fierce arguments we had over the game’s design, the insane development choices we made when building the game, and the highly unconventional ways we went about building our studio from scratch and funding the game’s development. This article shall give a brief overview of the game’s history, with a focus on the factors that convinced us to withdraw from our PhD studies at MIT to found a full commercial game development studio. ]

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