Making games at sea – Hundred Rabbits and how they build games by boat

Posted May 3, 2020

Working from home is now very familiar to a lot of us. With the future of the world and how we perform our jobs most likely to be changed forever, a duo of software developers feel right at home.

Rekka Bellum and Devine Lu Linvega are software developers, game makers, and toy producers who live and work on the seven seas under the moniker Hundred Rabbits or 100r. Rekka is a cartoonist and writer, Devine is a programmer and musician. With their creative intuition and ocean inspiration, the team is bringing unique projects to life that most of us wouldn’t be able to imagine.

Their “house with wings“, Pino, takes them around the world, waking up to nothing but the deep ocean and tranquillity.  They’ve travelled, developing their projects from Canada, down to Mexico, over to French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji, The Marshall Islands and all the way to Japan.

For a long time, Hundred Rabbits have been working in a quarantine-like environment. They revel within the isolation, cool sea air, and are inspired by the natural freedom of their incomparable lifestyle.

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I reached out to Rekka and Devine to discuss their experiences working abroad, floating along the sea, building games and chasing dreams. Of course, my first question was to ask about what it’s like to work on the boat. Hundred Rabbits explained.

Our studio is subject to the whims of nature. Because our vessel moves with the wind, the view from our window changes all the time. Our work schedule is tied to hours of sunlight. The most difficult aspect of working from a boat is power management, as we have to size our projects to the energy we have stored, but it is also what we enjoy the most because we thrive within constraints.

The two weren’t obviously born on their boat, making software and impressive games. They met in Japan a few years prior to moving aboard Pino in 2016.

…We found that working while travelling impacted our projects in positive ways. We wanted to keep moving but also wanted to exit the loop of buying and selling the various things you need when moving abroad (furniture, tools, etc).

A sailboat solved our issues with travel. Lack of experience aside, we knew we could learn to sail and thought that travelling was a good catalyst for learning new languages, developing interests in foreign cultures and ultimately for building empathy, curiosity, and creativity; traits that we value and believe that, as a species, will need to foster if we want to survive the years to come.

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Naturally, I was interested in knowing about Rekka and Devine’s favourite games to play. I was curious whether they even had time for leisure or if working and maintaining their boat was more important.

We work on our own projects mainly, but we enjoy playing card games in the evening. We enjoy games like Hanabi and Star Realms. We play games on our Retro Pi too, we completed Zelda: Minish Cap together while in the Marshall Islands. We don’t play games whilst sailing, we prefer to read books or listen to music and podcasts. We only ever play games while at anchor, but we definitely spend most of our time working on personal projects. Devine maintains a list of favourite games here.

Hundred Rabbits have an unparalleled development routine. No studio or publisher has ever worked like this, besides maybe Pirate Radio. Their schedule and work ethic are otherworldly compared to what we know.

Our experiences continue to change how we work and think. We operate on a loose schedule, we have to make room for the unexpected, as conditions change quickly on a boat. On sunny days, we have plenty of power and working is easy, but when the weather turns our priorities change. Work is second to safety.

Devine has a Macbook Pro 2012, and Rekka has a Macbook 2011. We both run the Elementary OS GNU/Linux operating system, and we both use Intuos tablets. Rekka draws using Krita and writes with Left. Devine writes music in Orca, and create procedural graphics with various homebrew tools.

Hearing about their hardware setups, my mind started boggling. What if they have hardware issues? Hard drives failing? Their key computer just decides not to work one morning?

“Life without internet is pretty okay. It’s a forced vacation, of sorts… spending hours staring into the distance… everything is amazing on the ocean.”

We repair our working computers when they fail, sourcing parts when we are near ports. We use Raspberri pi computers as backups if ever we can’t get the parts that we need. We prefer to continue repairing our devices than to purchase new ones, as discarded electronics don’t always get recycled properly, and clog up landfills. Redundancy is important, as boats exist in a very hostile environment.

Rekka and Devine’s incredible resourcefulness and ease with such limited supplies is inspiring. Their games Markl, Oquonie, Donsol, Hiversaires, and more are so beautifully outlandish. I began to wonder what inspires them abroad? Does making games on the ocean bring their unique ideas for small stories and projects to life?

Learning to repair, and maintain a boat has advised the way we build things now. We like to think that we approach sailing and living on the water according to some of the unix tenets:

  • Write simple modular parts connected by clean interfaces.
  • When a program must fail, it should fail noisily and as soon as possible.
  • Design for the future, because it will be here sooner than you think.

 

Working according to the sun and the wind has been an excellent exercise toward mindfulness, something we much needed to better navigate today’s attention economy. We learned to do more with less.

I wondered the adverse side of the question; how they deal with a lack of inspiration, the dreaded brain fog. How do Hundred Rabbits stay creative within such a confined space and restrained movement or stimulus,

The space doesn’t feel small, we do our best work aboard Pino. Our boat has large windows and a lot of room to walk around on deck. When near land and struggling with a project, we go out for a walk, a swim or do some maintenance work outside. We use our time at sea to plan projects. We take notes and talk things out, we don’t do any drawing or coding and prefer to let our minds wander. Because we brainstorm on passage, in an environment with few distractions, we don’t suffer from brain fog often.

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I wanted to return to how things first began for Hundred Rabbits. How Rekka and Devine first met and found their skill sets were ideal for the unimaginable.

We met through common friends. We collaborated early on, we published books and made toys together, games came later. We started working on Oquonie a few months after Devine’s first commercial release, having gathered the skills necessary to make more complex projects.

We’ve lived together since 2007, mostly working from home, with our space growing smaller and smaller over time. By the time we moved aboard Pino, we were already accustomed to each other’s quirks. Because we have compatible personalities and a similar work ethic, there is little animosity, to begin with. As a preventive measure, we discuss problems when they arise so they don’t have time to fester.

“We have to go on land for internet most times… one thing we did was optimise the devices we use… not that it would allow us to work after hours but just so we can play Final Fantasy Tactics.”

Rekka and Devine seem so in touch with their life and habits. I was curious, is working and making games on the sea better than the traditional grind?

Considering that we both cannot deal with working at a desk, and within rigid schedules, working aboard does not give an edge over someone who is comfortable at office work, but we both know that we find our best selves when working close to nature.

My time with Hundred Rabbits was rapidly coming to an end. I wanted to learn about what their future ambitions and projects may look like, what the land world can expect from the nomad developers.

We’d like to build a Paint Program for the Famicom written in 6502 assembly, in the vein of MacPaint. We are currently creating small tools for macintosh(1991) in Pascal, we like exploring new ideas with old systems, and so hopefully give old electronics a second life.

We want to inspire people to do more with less, to promote a culture of re-use by producing inspectable, repairable and backward-compatible software and games.

Rekka and Devine stoically had nothing more to add. They continue to sail the peaceful seas as we continue to work from home. Seeing how Hundred Rabbits embraces their restrictions should blossom hope for all of us locked inside on land.

Official homepage: https://100r.co/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzdg…
Support Hundred Rabbits on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/100



Omi Koulas

About the Author

Omi Koulas

Follow on Twitter for an assault of diverse gaming, music, and film talk that will probably definitely better your life.