Video Game Developers

Adam Mayhem

September 30, 2014

Founded in 2012 by Chicago native Adam Mayhem, Mayhem Games USA is the developer and publisher of Barter Empire, a retro role-playing game set in the massive open world of war-torn Dithera, where the king is dead, the queen is missing and the fate of the kingdom rests in your hands. You play as Malice, a young adventurer seeking to unlock her past and find her fortune. Featuring over 30 playable characters and numerous homes, farms and establishments that the player can purchase and operate, Barter Empire is a epic tale of power, wealth and adventure.

Since Barter Empire‘s release in April of 2014, Mayhem Games USA has turned their attention to other projects including Urban Explorer, a first-person exploration game and their latest project, The Scoundrels Guild: A Tale of Thieves, a modern take on the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books and Sierra games such as Quest for Glory.

Adam Mayhem, who began making games in 2001, is Mayhem Game USA’s lead developer, story writer and animator, and it is his goal to create independent games that deliver amazing, memorable adventures like no other. To learn more about Adam and Mayhem Games USA, or to purchase Barter Empire, visit or To donate to the development of The Scoundrel’s Guild on Kickstarter, click here.

Adam_Mayhem-200How did you first become interested in video game development?

Too many times I find myself watching a movie, reading a book or playing a game and finding different ways that I would have done it. Not necessarily better, just different. When I was a kid I made stupid little radio shows with my sister. Of course they were never broadcast; we just recorded them on cassette tape for our own amusement. As I got older, I dabbled with everything I possibly could. I made a web comic that lasted three issues, built my own entertainment website that did spoofs of whatever was popular at the time — this was in early 2006, before YouTube got big, and the site is now defunct. I self-published a novel, started a home business. Basically anything I had total control over.

I first discovered indie game making in the early 2000s. Back in those days, it was a lot harder to make a game and have anyone take notice. The engines available at the time were primitive, mostly 8-bit open source. We didn’t have anything like Unity or the Unreal engine. I used AGS (Adventure Game Studio) and RPG Maker 2000. None of the games I made were very long and they were all non-commercial. I think maybe five people played them, haha!

Growing up, what was your most memorable video game experience?

As a child of the Nintendo generation, I grew up in a time when massive multiplayer meant getting together with about five friends and having an all-night video game sleepover. I remember when the Super Nintendo first came out, my friend brought it to one such party; there were about seven of us there and we stayed up ’til the crack of dawn eating candy and playing games like Star Fox and Another World. It was a great time just being with friends and sharing stories; I still remember that night like it was yesterday. My brother and I would also have all-night video game parties that were always a blast; half the time we didn’t even pay attention to the game, we just shared great stories and great memories.

Who are your biggest creative influences?

I’m a big fan of Rob Zombie and Stephen King. Weird, huh? Stephen King worked hard to become the writer he is today; he started out living in a tiny trailer with his wife, they barely made enough money to keep the gas running. His first desk was the washer and dryer in their trailer, which is where he wrote Carrie. He would tell his wife, “Someday I’ll be a famous writer.” I tell my fiancée the same thing, except a famous video game developer, haha!

Rob Zombie is just a very creative person, his style is his own, but inspired by the things he loved as a kid. I admire that.

What inspired the story of Barter Empire? And what were the biggest challenges you faced during the development of the game?

Barter Empire actually evolved over the course of its development. When I first came up with the idea, it was going to be a dating sim. The more I worked on it, the deeper the story became and it became less and less dating sim and more and more RPG. I love revenge stories, and that’s basically what Barter Empire is, a big revenge story. You have a girl with amnesia who slowly discovers what happened to her, and who did it, and she wants to set it right. Our new game The Scoundrels Guild is also a revenge story, but this time the protagonist knows what happened and who is behind it.

I guess the biggest challenge was funding. There was a lot I wanted to do, but didn’t have the funds to do it. Our Kickstarter campaign really helped in that area.

When developing a game, what is your creative process?

I always try to make a game packed to the gills with variety and detail. The story always comes first, after that I build from there. I start contemplating what great features will be added to the game, will it have crafting? Will it have a fishing system? Will you be able to date and get married? Dating always finds its way into my games, it just gives the game a little something extra that most players enjoy. I don’t think I ever stop adding new features until the final version is released. If a backer or a fan suggests something, I make every effort to make sure it gets implemented into the game, if it’s possible.

How have you evolved creatively since you first started developing games?

There are times when I’ll hit a speed bump in development; it happens to the best of us. Either something isn’t working or just doesn’t make sense. I used to go back to the drawing board, scrap everything and start over, but now I like to find a feasible workaround. Just recently, my modeler for The Scoundrels Guild ran into a rigging snag for the latest project model. The problem hindered something from being animated. He was ready to scrap some articles of clothing that the model really needed. I told him not to worry, I would find a workaround that won’t hinder any quality. It saved both of us a lot of time and frustration. It really speeds up the development process as long as it doesn’t take away from the game.

From your perspective, what are the pros and cons of using Kickstarter to fund a project such as The Scoundrels Guild?

This is the third campaign I have run, so I have learned a lot about running a campaign. Mostly from trial and error. Kickstarter is a great way for anyone in the indie game scene to not only get funded, but also develop a fan base and get some great exposure. In the old days, you had to go through forums and website posts to get noticed; Kickstarter has opened new doors for indie devs to show off their creative works to thousands of people instantly. I wouldn’t have such great fans without it. Most of my initial backers for The Scoundrels Guild were backers of Barter Empire.

The drawbacks would be the great disappointment and feeling of anxiety and rejection when a project fails. Running a project can be emotionally draining. You don’t get much sleep because you are constantly answering questions, doing updates, networking with other project makers, and most importantly, doing everything you can to get funded. Ask any project maker, and they will tell you it’s a full-time job. You don’t just submit your campaign and go relax.

What are your thoughts on the current console generation? Have the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One lived up to your expectations?

I grew up on console gaming, but when I was about 22 or 23, I made the jump to PC gaming. The last console I owned was the PS2. I think the current generation is doing everything they need to do to keep up with current market trends. Microsoft dug themselves out of a hole when they retracted a bunch of poor judgment decisions that would have surely put a nail in their coffin had they not. Unfortunately for them, the damage was already done and the Playstation 4 won the market share. If I was going to get a new console it would be the Playstation 4 so I could play GTA 5, but I hear it’s finally being released for PC sometime early next year anyway.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?

Thinking about that video game party from when I was a kid. Good times.

What game show do you think you’d be good at?

I liked Who Wants to be a Millionaire when it first came out, but I don’t know if I would be good at it. I’m good at it from home, but being under those lights with all eyes upon you and the mounting pressure, I think I would choke on the $100 question.

If you could offer one piece of advice to someone looked to get started with video game development, what would it be?

Do your research first; jumping head-first into it will only spell disaster. I did months of research before I decided to make Barter Empire a full fledged game. I needed to know what I was up against and if anyone would even want to play the game. I released a very pre-alpha demo of the game eight months before launching the Kickstarter just to get feedback. The feedback was very positive and people started flocking to my Facebook page for the game. That’s when I knew I had an audience.


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