Meet the Dev – Rebekah Saltsman of Finji

Continuing with the momentum of our Meet the Dev interviews, I am pleased to bring to you Rebekah Saltsman, Co-Founder and CEO of Finji.

Rebekah and her husband, Adam, have published several award-winning indie games including ‘Canabalt’, ‘Hundreds’, ‘Feist’, ‘Panoramical’, and ‘Night in the Woods’.  They are currently hard at work on ‘Overland’ and Andrew Shouldice’s ‘Tunic’.

What is your preferred gaming platform?

It would have to be the SNES.  However, I also love the Switch and playing games on my iPhone.

Who or what inspired you to become a games developer?

Adam Saltsman. We started dating about 20 years ago, and he has never wanted to do anything other than making games. I never wanted to be a game developer- I fell into being a game developer. As we were ramping up Adam’s independent projects and our tiny studio, I kept taking on more and more responsibilities, until it became apparent that I was running most of the studio and I was also doing a lot of design work with Adam. In 2016, after working in games for seven years, I realised I was a game developer.

What are you most proud of in your gaming/development career so far?

I released five console ports in 15 months (which also included the SIM launch of Night in the Woods on Steam/GOG/Humble/ + PS4)- we are a very tiny studio, and one console port is a heck of a beast. I released Feist on Xbox and PS4 in December 2016, and then Night in the Woods in February 2017. Then I launched both NITW Xbox and Switch (Dec 2017 and Feb 2018). I am super proud of my work on these projects- especially since our internal project, Overland was in development for all this time, as well as several other projects both big and small. I spin a lot of plates! For design work- I am super proud of my work with Adam on the games that we have worked together on- Hundreds, Alphabet, Overland and our tiny experimental stuff like Uncomfortably.

What is your goal in terms of games development?

I want to keep getting better and more efficient at juggling all these plates. We aspire to launch super high-quality games in a way that reflects the intent of these projects. I spend a lot of time taking stock of the industry and the ways that it changes all the time and I bring these changes back to build out a plan to launch. I never want to be caught unawares- my goal is to remain flexible and question everything.

What is your gamer handle and the reason for choosing it?

Bexsaltsman – In high school, I was bexxt- which was part of my name before I got married. When I decided to change my last name after getting married, I shortened the name to what I was actually called by friends (Bex).

What is your favourite genre/s of game and why?

Two answers: casual puzzle games and Secret of Mana. 1) Casual Puzzle Games: Because I spend a lot of time only able to play in short sessions. I am also good at them, and I can be distracted while playing (like Threes, Drop7, Mini Metro, Dr Mario, Tetris, etc.) 2) Secret of Mana: Because I have played this game so much, I don’t need to pay attention while playing. I am just going to call it a genre because it is for me.  If I had time to play games, I would probably pick Adventure (maybe even Action Adventure) or community simulation like Animal Crossing.

What is your favourite game of all time?

Secret of Mana for the SNES.

What is your most memorable gaming moment?

I spent nearly my entire preteen and teen years playing Secret of Mana with my brother and sister. It was our favourite game, and we still play it together when we visit. I keep a copy of it on an old Wii system and (because I am terrified to use my second cart- what if it breaks again!?) we just continue the game from the last time we played (sometimes years between opening the save file).

What is your Gamerscore/trophy count and how long has it taken you to get it?

I can’t even answer this with a straight face! I am sure I have a trophy count and I am also very certain I have never looked at it.

Which achievement/trophy has given you the most pleasure?  Why and how long did it take you?

To be honest, I had to play Night in the Woods so much that I had to get all the cheevos to see if they worked (this is another long and boring story and involved a lot of playthroughs post-launch).  At the time a lot of this work was drudgery- but it was dang cool to see every single bit of that beautiful game. I’ve played hundreds upon hundreds of hours of Night in the Woods both pre and post-release (this is what it is like to be a game developer – the game you play the most is your own).

What is your gaming guilty pleasure?

Animal Crossing. It is a pit that I will fall into, and it is probably something I should not play. Although – I cut JRPGs from my life years ago because of the limitless hours of grinding required… I absolutely would play these forever, and it would be very bad for my professional output.

If you could pick a video game character, who would you be and why?

Yoshi. He seems like a useless pet and is the closest thing to a pug.  Something less dumb- probably Lori M in Night in the Woods (she is the teenage mouse that wears the black hoodie and hangs out at the railroad tracks). It feels like she is the person actually residing in my soul that is probably not an okay person for me to be in real life.

If you could pick a location, from any game, to visit, where would it be and why?

I would really love to meet Santa in Ice Country. But I LOVE the Upper Land Forest in Secret of Mana. Those pink trees!  I would totally go camping here.

Finally, where do you see gaming heading in the next decade?

I see our passive user base continuing to grow – people who watch more than they play. I have all sorts of ideas about this- how to find lower skill level buy-ins to games that take practice to be good at (and if you didn’t play a lot of games as a kid, you might miss the skill building time to be good at them when you have expendable income). Anyways, our industry constricts and then gets big and squishy all the time – my goal is to be flexible and build out space inside of that flux.

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