Samobee Games are a wife/wife team from Canada, composed of programmer/writer Tobey (she/her) and artist and game designer Charlene (she/her), and creators of the exciting puzzle game Princess Farmer.
During our interview, Tobey tells us about the struggles she and her wife face, support they’ve received from the indie development community, and their past careers at the beloved nostalgia classic Disney Club Penguin!
How did you become a game developer?
I programmed my first game when I was a child on the Atari 520ST in Basic. It was a word game called The Adventures of Super Pickle!
I didn't really get into game programming though until 2017 when I started learning to use GameMaker through tutorials I found on YouTube. I jumped into the deep end and started making games right away!
The (probably) coolest place to meet new people!
What games have you worked on?
We both worked at Disney Club Penguin, although I was in administration. Charlene started working at Disney Club Penguin in 2007, first as an artist, then a team leader, then a producer, and then a game designer.
She also worked on some games at another company, Hyper Hippo.
How many games have you two developed so far?
We have three games, the first of which was a huge learning experience. Our biggest game so far is Princess Farmer, which was released on all platforms through our publisher, Whitethorn Games.
We're working on a new game in GameMaker right now called Elemental Survivors. It's an action-roguelike/RPG with party members, attacks affected by stats, and elements. We're having a lot of fun developing the game and engaging the community to help us grow it.
The demo is out now on Steam, and there's a streamer build with a lot more content.
What inspired the creation of Princess Farmer?
Charlene injured her hand and found playing games one-handed on Switch helped her stay positive while she healed. We wanted to create a game that was easy to pick up, play a quick round, get some warm and fuzzy vibes, and then go on with their day feeling like they've just been hugged.
As for Princess Farmer herself, Charlene wanted to create a royal magical girl out of a mundane job. A simple farmer turned magical girl.
How does your game explore the themes of being queer?
Mother Gaia is a trans goddess, Princess Farmer has "transitioned" from being a simple farmer to be a magical girl - for example, her deadname is blacked out in dialogue, there are many trans characters with various pronouns. Rowan, the shoppe keeper, and Jasper are they/them, Bunbot is it/its, the Mysterious Bunny is fae/faer.
There are plenty of cheeky queer flirting options, blushing, and gay panic. There is no negativity or queer trauma. It is entirely positive, inclusive, and safe.
Mother Gaia, the trans character from Princess Farmer
Is game development a friendly space to the LGBT+ community?
I think that the indie game dev scene is incredibly inclusive, but finding players is a struggle as the majority of gamers do not seek out queer indie experiences.
I have found such fantastic support from the indie game dev community, but there seems to be little crossover with triple-A game dev.
Who are your favorite LGBT+ developers and/or games?
I'm seriously in love with Calico by Peachy Keen Games. We also adore Super Lesbian Animal RPG, Spirit Swap, ValiDate, and Unpacking. Fantastic folks and beautiful games.
Why did you choose to work with GameMaker?
I first tried GameMaker back in 2015. I struggled a lot with it and gave up. I tried Unity, and I again struggled to understand how everything was connected. Finally, in 2017 I tried the newer version of GameMaker and followed several tutorials and it finally clicked for me.
I love the objects and object events, as they just make sense to me. I love the supportive community. I love the folks making tutorials. I love that YoYo Games is continuing to build on the platform and provide fantastic quality of life improvements.
Is there anything that frustrates you about GameMaker?
I think the biggest frustration is that, if I chose to seek employment outside of being an indie game dev, there don't seem to be opportunities for GameMaker devs. I also struggle to find more advanced tutorials.
Princess Farmer features a diverse cast of characters
What do you find most challenging about being an indie game developer?
Honestly? It's the gamers. Either not being able to get their attention due to lack of coverage, or because of their attitudes towards queer content. Steam is a beast to crack into, although it's the main platform for indies.
The time required to do streamer outreach, social media, community management means less time spent on actual game development. Getting attention has been our biggest struggle. Although there are many diverse showcases and opportunities, these are less viewed than others, and they are difficult to get into since there are so many indies vying for slots.
Being neurodivergent, it is extremely difficult to have the confidence and mental energy to network and reach out to others. I'm a bit of a sensitive marshmallow so I struggle when we get angry messages from gamers.
What do you do when you’re not busy developing your games?
I homeschool our trans daughter, and we play a lot of games ourselves. My current obsession is Halls of Torment, but I also have recently enjoyed Foundation, Elder Scrolls Online, Terra Nil, Vampire Survivors, Hundred Days: Winemaking Simulator, The Battle of Polytopia, and Powerwash Simulator.
I'm also a big fan of Kairosoft games. Otherwise, I enjoy spending time with my wife cooking, watching Real Housewives and movies, and playing Elder Scrolls Online together.