Leveling up opportunities
Will Winn Games formed around the time the COVID-19 pandemic began. The team faced an immediate challenge: The original version of “Plunder Panic” was designed to be played locally, meaning all the players had to be in the same location. At the time, in-person gatherings were limited to a certain number of people, which meant the game needed to be retooled to succeed in the market.
“We wanted to keep the community aspect of our original game, but we also needed to support internet multiplayer options and allow players in different locations to connect and play the game together,” Winn said.
“Plunder Panic” now supports up to 12 players in different locations, as well as computer/AI players. It is available on eight platforms, including Xbox, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch. It also supports crossplay — a rarity in gaming. This means, for example, a player on Xbox can play with a player using Playstation.
“It’s very rare for an indie studio to start up from scratch and make a game available on as many platforms as we did and also offer crossplay,” Winn said. “I’m proud we were able to accomplish both.”
This achievement is especially noteworthy, as Will Winn Games operates with a small team. This means everyone plays a critical role in product development and rollout.
“You're not a cog in the machine of hundreds, if not thousands, of people,” Winn said. “On my team, everybody has a big impact, and everybody has to wear multiple hats as they’re working on the game.”
Tatum Cho, former lead artist at Will Winn Games, said working for an indie company creates more opportunities for collaboration and impact. Cho now works as a digital graphics artist illustrating special edition covers and inlays for books.
“I really like how interpersonal Will Winn is and how you can offer a hand in or have a say in a lot of things that aren’t your direct, immediate task,” she said. “If I was at a bigger company and on art team of 100 people, I probably wouldn’t have had a lot of say on some of the elements of the game outside of the visual identity. But at Will Winn, I had a say in every aspect of ‘Plunder Panic.’”
Cho graduated from MSU in 2020 with a major in media and information and minors in game design, graphic design, comic books and graphic novels. As a student, she helped design the splash screens for “Plunder Panic.” Splash screens are logos and graphic elements that pop up before you start playing a video game.
“I thought the splash screen illustrations were the only things I was going to do for ‘Plunder Panic,’” she said. “When the pandemic hit, the team planned to make it so that the game didn’t require a bunch of people in the same room together, and they decided they wanted to grow it a little bit more. That’s when Brian reached out and brought me on to the Will Winn staff full time.”