Meet Ashley Koett, Community Engineer

You might recognise dbb Community Engineer Ashley Koett from her weekly streams over on the dot big bang Twitch channel. We caught up with her to find out about her processes, interests, and inspirations.

Hi Ashley! Can you describe what you do at dot big bang?
I’m a Community Engineer, which generally means that I make games in dot big bang and help other people make games in dot big bang. More specifically, I work on games for our community, report bugs I find to the engine team, help out folks in our Discord server, and do weekly streams. I also make sound effects and music! The last game I worked on was a tutorial to accompany the initial release of TypeScript, which was a whole lot of fun. You can check that out here.

What’s an interesting aspect of your current work?
With the recent release of Typescript, I can finally start to make games with the community involved. I’ve been doing game development streams and making tutorial videos, and it feels great to show people what DBB is really capable of. I feel like we’ve been waiting forever to share all of this with the community, so it’s been so exciting to finally be able to show our community a whole new side of dot big bang. I’ve been live streaming a new game I’m making from scratch, and it’s fun to teach people all parts of game development, from ideation to coding and debugging. 

You do weekly game dev streams – what do you enjoy about streaming?
For me, streaming feels like the best way to truly “hang out” with people in our community. I like that I can simultaneously teach people about making games while casually chatting and making jokes etc. I also like streaming because I get to very transparently show what making games is like, since I can’t edit out the boring parts or the times when I mess something up. 

The whole process feels very organic to me, and making games and chatting with people is honestly super relaxing. Dot big bang lends itself really well to streaming because viewers can jump into the live session of the game I’m making and join in, so I especially feel like I get the chance to connect with viewers during my stream since I get to literally hang out with them, both in chat, and inside the game I’m working on. 

What are a few ways that you’ve created sound effects?
When I was making fishing sound effects for the Social Hub, I filled up my bathtub and recorded twenty minutes of throwing various things into the tub, then edited it all down until I had my fishing cast and nibble sounds. I made a “babble” nonsense talking sound for the tutorial game by recording myself saying “Ah Eh Ee Oh Ou,” splicing the syllables, randomizing the order, and speeding it all up by like 800%. I also added some audio effects to make it sound kinda robotic. I got a great meowing sound by holding up a bag of cat food and waiting for my cat to meow. 

You also make music for dbb games – could you describe your setup and process?
I’ve got a couple keyboards and a couple guitars, and I record using the DAW Logic Pro X (although I’m currently starting to switch over to Ableton). 

Making music for games is one of my absolute favorite things to do, period. The process starts with a prompt, whatever song I’m trying to make. I spend a lot of time thinking about where in the game my song will be playing and what kind of mood it will be trying to evoke. Do I want to energize the player? Make them relaxed? Stress them out? Make them focused? Once I determine the general mood, then I start to think about the theme. Do I want the player to feel like they’re in nature? On a beach? In a city? In a dream? Nailing exactly how you want the player to feel is essential before you start writing anything. 

Once you know exactly how this song should make the player feel, then it’s time to think about how to make that happen. At this point I’ll start experimenting with different instruments until I find instruments that fit that exact niche of how I want the player to feel. From then on, it’s just about making a song, which is just experimenting with chords, melody and instruments until everything comes together. Sometimes the process comes easily and sometimes it takes days of struggling, but it’s always immediately apparent once you’ve made a song that fits exactly what you needed. 

What’s a piece of work you’re particularly proud of? 
I really liked how Turtle Dash, the first game I made when I started working at DBB, turned out. I tried to keep the art and music style very cohesive and expressive of my personal taste, while also making a cute and fun game. And I also just like turtles. 

What’s a community-made thing that’s caught your eye recently, and why?
I’m super impressed with this game by the creator Verlia. I’m a huge fan of pretty much every voxel object they make, and this world that they’ve built is so detailed and nails the mystical medieval vibe so perfectly. 

Do you have a piece of advice for someone looking to work in video games?
Just make games! Don’t get bogged down feeling like you aren’t good enough at coding, art, or anything else to make a game. If you want to make a game, then you can! Find a game engine or platform that suits the level you’re at and just start experimenting and seeing what you can make. Use your shortcomings to work to your advantage. If you feel like you aren’t good at art, try a unique art style that works for you, like taking pictures or simplifying images. If you aren’t confident in your coding skills you will probably end up finding creative solutions to problems you run into. 

There is always more to learn, so it’s best to focus on what you can do and do that. Once you start trying to make a game, you’ll find out what you need to learn. If you try to do the learning part first, you won’t know where to start and you’ll likely feel overwhelmed. Dot big bang is a great place to start, since you can use scripts and assets made by others, and you’ll have cushion in any areas that you’re still figuring out for yourself. But the bottom line is, the only way to make video games is to… well, start making a video game, no matter how big or small.

What are you playing at the moment, outside of dbb?
I’ve been playing the game Unpacking, an indie pixel art game about unpacking boxes. The art style is gorgeous and I’ve never seen another game approach storytelling like this one does. It’s super cool. I’m also always playing Animal Crossing and The Sims 4 because I will always love games where you build things and simulation games. ^_^

Do you have a closing message, for the people?
Come hang out with me while I build games on stream every Friday at 3pm ET 🙂