When a game has been out for two years before finding overwhelming mainstream success, surely that must come down to the unwavering belief of a developer in its game. There has to be unimaginably long nights, excitement, and a whole lot of trust. In the case of Among Us developer InnerSloth, it was all of the above — with, maybe, just a little bit of giving up.
Given its current status as the most viewed game on Twitch, you have probably heard of or played Among Us in its current form: the local and online multiplayer party game that gets you to silently complete tasks while impostors attempt to kill off your whole crew. Every time a murder is reported, the game really begins as you shamelessly lie about your true identity or aggressively accuse your friends of being an impostor. It is exactly the kind of stupid fun chaos that we all needed at this point in 2020, despite the fact that the game came out over two years ago.
Now, obviously InnerSloth never really gave up on Among Us; the team has spent its post-release period refining the game with very quiet success, so you can understand why they announced that Among Us was complete back in January. But this wasn’t the first time the three-person team at InnerSloth thought the game was done.
“We kind of gave up on it several times,” laughed sole programmer and business lead Forest Willard. “I mean, the original vision was local multiplayer only. We made that and we released it, and there was definitely a point where we were like, ‘That’s it. We’re done. We’re gonna move on to the next game.’”
They didn’t. Instead, Willard redeveloped the program for online multiplayer in the space of a month. “We put online out and it was received better, but you know, nothing too special. And we put it out, and said, ‘Alright, we’re done.’ We were going to move on to the next game.”
They didn’t. InnerSloth kept adding new content like customization features, new maps, and tasks. “We added a bunch more stuff, added a couple more maps, and, you know, at the beginning of this year, our New Year’s announcement was, ‘Alright, we’re done. We are moving on to the next game,’ and that also didn’t really happen,” said Willard.
Every time they thought the game was finished, a small but vocal player base was watching and hungry for more. Determined to not let them down, InnerSloth would get straight back to work. “I feel like every time we saw big waves of players, that pushed us to get excited and want to do more with it,” said Marcus Bromander, artist and designer of Among Us. (Artist Amy Liu was not available for this interview.) That excitement served them well, but with a team of only three people, that came at the cost of self-inflicted pressure and intense working hours.
Shortly after the game launched, Willard mentioned that a Korean YouTuber picked up the game, which brought in a few thousand players. “At the time we were running off, like, a totally free Amazon server, and it was terrible. Thousands was way too much, and so, I think it was like the five days prior to Christmas, I was working like 14-hour days, and that was the actual crunch pressure where I felt that I had to get this fixed.”
Willard added, “You release (the game) and someone takes notice, and suddenly that’s where your, like, 80-hour work weeks… come in. Like, it’s those intense bursts of, ‘Oh, something’s happening.’ You must react quickly. You don’t want to lose this moment.”
It turns out those moments would keep coming and last a lot longer than just a moment. Most of InnerSloth’s decisions about the game’s future took place well before the unprecedented spike in player numbers that occurred in July. “When we saw the game explode we kind of went back, like, ‘Alright, what should we do now?’” chimed Bromander. “It would be almost irresponsible to not do anything about this, and so we had always kicked around the idea of an Among Us 2. So we kind of decided that this would be a good time to actually go in and do Among Us 2.”
Knowing that the sequel has been floated since the early days of Among Us and given the excitement that fuels the InnerSloth team, there is a lot of creativity ready to be channeled into the new title. Surprisingly, the team was able to contain its enthusiasm when inspiration for features struck. “That’s the reason why Among Us 1 stayed so simple. We would always just say, ‘This is so cool.’ It’s so much extra that we’re not gonna do it,” Willard said. “Probably in the first couple months, we’d already decided that there was gonna be an Among Us 2, or you know potentially.”
Seeing the game find enough success to allow the dream of a sequel to become a reality comes only second to InnerSloth’s delight about the Among Us memes being shared across the internet.
“They are just so good! It really is the best part!” Willard laughed. Bromander then added, “We’re getting sent really cool animations and stuff too. That’s, I think, my favorite thing to see; other people draw the characters that I created in their different styles. Even though they’re so simple, they can still look different. I think that’s awesome.” It may have taken two years, but finally, InnerSloth is able to see its passion shared back with it from its legion of fans and the memes it has inspired.
The most delightful thing about InnerSloth is that they are fueled by excitement. Whether it be for the memes of the community or for creating a better experience for Among Us players, their motivation to create has always come from a positive place, even from the game’s inception.
“I thought about a way to bring (Mafia) to a mobile party game setting and pitched it to the others,” Bromander said. “We were all excited about that idea and our other game idea was kind of struggling, so we went where the excitement was!”
In every word they shared, it was clear that InnerSloth was never the type of people to give up on their game. They chased excitement as it found them, allowing them to use fun as their driving creative force. A force that will continue to weave its way throughout the course of their careers. So it was apt that, when asked how developing Among Us had changed their lives, a particular word popped up again.
“We’ve worked through a lot of things with each other and made something we’re really proud of,” said Willard. “So now that we’re in the spotlight, we have a lot of trust in each other as we’re growing super quickly and tackling all new problems. And this success opens a lot of doors for us which we’re excited to explore.”