Copyright Tobias Hermann

Berlin has a large network of support and knowledge for indie game developers

Friedrich Beyer, Till Freitag and Johannes Knop, Founders of Randwerk


Randwerk is a cooperative indie game studio in Berlin – the first game studio to use the German cooperative form. What this means for their daily work, how their community shaped their first game ABRISS and how everything changed since they have a publisher, we discussed with on of Randwerk's founders, Johannes Knop.

Congratulations to your Best Graphic Design Award at this year’s DCP for your first project ABRISS. Please tell us more about the game and what this award means to you as an Indie studio.

Thank you so much! "ABRISS - build to destroy" is a physics-destruction puzzle game where you build constructs to destroy brutalist-futuristic cityscapes. You combine parts with different functionalities to get the physical behaviour you want, and if you succeed you get spectacular explosions. We worked a lot on the VFX and simulation system to get these really cool, complex destruction physics, and put a lot of visual development and, to be fair, just a lot of work-hours into the environments to get the look of the game we wanted, and of course it's a big honor to get this officially recognized by the award jury. There's also money connected to the award, which makes a difference for a small studio like us.

How has the community influenced the game in Early Access?

The players of our community really supported us with feedback and feature requests as well as just plain bug reports. There were a lot of instances were we went "we thought people would get this, but they don't" or "I think people are expecting something else here. It's also just motivating when people react to things you changed in a positive way. I think the game would be different without our community, for sure.

You are the first game studio to use the German cooperative form. What does this form mean and how does it shape your daily work?

To us, it means real ownership over what we do. It also has a lot of legal implications for how the studio is run internally, but I don't think we're big enough for this to make a difference yet - I think it just makes a lot of emotional difference in us. For us, talking about everything and being responsible is not just something we do, it's - self-evident. We would never just leave work lying around for someone else to do or something like that. We care for the project, the studio and each other. Everything is really our own.

With the cooperative you want to find a new and healthy way to work. What have you found so far?

We've started to restrict our potential working hours to Mon-Thursday, because we noticed we didn't really do much on Friday anyway. And because we're a coop, we just sat down and went "ok let's just not do it". We can just decide stuff like this. That doesn't mean that we're really never working on Friday of course, but if your standard work hours are shorter, the maximum overtime shrinks too, and if more needs to be done everyone is more rested to react to a challenging situation. I think we have a good situation with how we work right now, we would never just "come to work" and be there and wait until the time is over. If there's stuff to do, we do it, if not, we just go home.

You want to create games that haven’t been done before. What inspires you and how do you ensure that your idea truly is original?

I don't think completely original art is possible, but if you combine unlikely influences, something familiar yet new comes out. We're inspired by everything we see, our city, the music we listen to, the books we read, the games we play, seeing something on vacation. I think there's too many original ideas, having original ideas is not the problem, making the game is. Getting money, doing paperwork, making a product. And for the originality of the original idea to survive that process.

You were able to sign with Astragon Entertainment as a publisher. How did your daily work change after that?

It's strange how we suddenly weren't just us three and a couple people we knew, but had a whole apparatus of people working on the project, too. It for sure took a lot of work off our shoulders. Someone just booked a hotel for gamescom and organized a booth, and we just had to show up and show the game. It's really nice to not have to do everything anymore. We need to do a lot more communications with them of course, and we worked with professional QA and so on, so we have more tools and communications going on than when we were just us three.

Berlin and the HTW in particular brought forth many successful games in the recent past. Why do you think that is?

I think Berlin just has a large network of support and knowledge for indie game developers, there's a lot of events that are unique even internationally. That brings a lot of talented people together. I also feel confident that the education you get at HTW is quite excellent. Of course it's also a network, so everyone is talking and helping each other, but I think that's also a result of the institute just connecting people. If you're there, you're surrounded by great, communicative and talented people, and you get the resources, the time and the freedom to run against walls for a while until you know what you're doing.

Can you tell us what comes next for Randwerk?

We have some ideas for new games and we're prototyping right now. We don't know how big the next project will be, but I think we will succeed in making it feel and look good like ABRISS in a way. I don't really know what a Randwerk Game would be, but I'm sure there'll be mechanical, stylistic and thematic overlap in some way.