Episode 6:
The Story of Playdate

Jesper Kouthoofd: 25th of October, 2011, 10 years ago: Hi Jesper, We're a small software company that makes Mac/iOS apps. For our 15th anniversary, I've been tinkering with an idea: find our 150 best customers, manufacture something incredibly special and send it to them.

[MUSIC]

Christa Mrgan: Welcome to the Panic Podcast, a podcast about Portland's Panic, but maybe not exactly. I'm Christa Mrgan. Join me as I follow the quirky subplots and surprising characters that round out Portland's most lovable indie- software and game-publishing, and now game-console-making company.

Today: How an offhand idea to mark the 15th anniversary of a software company launched a decade-long saga of twists, turns and mini-boss battles that led to the creation of a gaming console as surprising and unique as its creators. Pre-order day is finally here, but it's dangerous to go alone. Take this adorable yellow box, and let's get crankin’ on the story of Playdate.

Our story begins around 2011, though it's hard to say exactly.

Steven Frank: It's been going on for so long that I'm actually having trouble remembering how it all started.

Christa Mrgan: That was Panic Co-founder Steven Frank. And while it's maybe a little fuzzy now, somehow he and Panic's other co-founder Cabel Sasser got to talking about the company's 15th anniversary, which was coming up the following year. Panic had been making software applications for the Mac since 1997, and they wanted to create something to mark the occasion. Not software, but something tangible.

Cabel Sasser: We wanted to do something that felt kind of like a keepsake-y kind of thing, or just like a special thing that came out of nowhere. And the goal was to do something that we haven't done before. Not that we're experts at you know, what we do now. There's always room to grow. But just to try to tackle something completely unknown and see what we can learn from it. And so that is why we ended up deciding to do hardware of all things, for a software company.

Christa Mrgan: That's Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser. And he and Steven quickly realized that if they were going to make some kind of hardware device, it probably wouldn't be finished in time for their 15th anniversary. So they set their sights on Panic's 20th anniversary, instead.

Cabel Sasser: You know, 20 years is a long time of doing the same thing. We enjoy what we do obviously, or else we wouldn't still be doing it 20 years later, but part of the reason I think why Panic is Panic and one of the reasons why we never, so far, haven't sold the company or taken investments or stuff like that is because we really appreciate the freedom of being able to do weird things. Adventures and strange side projects and just having total creative freedom without having to be beholden to anyone or make a lot of sense or, you know, justify everything. We can do whatever we want to do and I feel like as Panic has lasted longer and longer, I have begun to appreciate that that's really unique and rare. Especially talking to other people at different companies, that is a strange and special thing.

Christa Mrgan: So what better way to mark two decades of zany tangents and Panic rabbit-holes than by setting out to create some kind of novelty hardware keepsake, and then releasing it 10 years later as a quirky handheld gaming console with a robust SDK, a speaker dock,and two dozen surprise games from a variety of indie developers?

But let's back up. The earliest ideas for this commemorative hardware project actually had nothing to do with games.

Cabel Sasser: We talked about a lot of things in the beginning. I think one of my first ideas was a clock. Just a cool clock, and had all sorts of bonkers ideas like… God, had an idea for something that could maybe be made out of porcelain and the case itself could ring or chime. All sorts of unique ideas on clocks.

Christa Mrgan: So, yeah, we could have just made a cool clock. Happy anniversary! But, you know, Panic being Panic, and Cabel being Cabel…

Cabel Sasser: As I was researching displays, I came across this Sharp memory LCD display. Actually, I'm not sure whether the display informed the idea of the device or vice versa.

Steven Frank: As best as I can remember, it was Cabel finding the screen, which is called a memory LCD screen. And it has kind of the reflectivity of e-ink, but it's not e-ink, it's like an LCD.

Cabel Sasser: It's not quite like e ink ink screen you have this big refresh rate thing that happens every time you update it but it's still kind of has this feeling of a old LCD games like a Game and Watch.

Christa Mrgan: A Game and Watch, for you vibrant young people who may be unaware, was a handheld gaming console made and sold by Nintendo in the 1980s. It came with a single game and also acted as an LCD clock. You could buy different Game and Watch devices with different games on them, but no matter which ones you had, your brother was always playing the "good" one on the family road trip.

Cabel Sasser: Those were segmented LCD displays. So you would define the art in advance and turn on and off different pieces of the art, but the resolution of the screen was so fine that it seemed like it could look like one of those and the very, very original idea was what if we made a device that played a Game and Watch game, but then…

Greg Maletic: …but then somebody had what was maybe a bad idea where we thought, "Okay, well, what if something surprising happened?"

[MUSIC]

Christa Mrgan: That's Greg Maletic, Project Manager of Playdate.

Greg Maletic: What if after you got this game a week later, it

Cabel Sasser: could switch! One day you're playing "Ball" and then all of a sudden, you know, our week later, the screen could switch and look like something else? And it'd be cool if that was a surprise for people, where they thought they were getting just a standard segmented LCD Game and Watch game, and then a week later, it turns into something else.
The idea just morphed and grew over time. It was like, we all kind of like games. We want to make something hardware. We want it to feel special. We want it to be not like anything else. We want it to really confuse people, but also really make people happy. All of these things sort of came together.

Christa Mrgan: And so the idea for a 15th anniversary keepsake clock had evolved into a 20th anniversary Game and Watch style console that would, every so often, surprise and delight its owner with a brand-new game. The hard part now was how to go about building this thing. Where to even start?

Cabel Sasser: There is a sort of a pivotal moment earlier in the project where we went

Neven Mrgan: to a company that does like industrial design, and specifically for kind of one-off things like this.

Cabel Sasser: And they were like a big local industrial design firm. Like they, you know, design all these huge things and store interiors and physical products and the whole nine yards. And that meeting was really interesting.

Neven Mrgan: They sort of blew us off as like, you have no idea what you're talking about. You're never going to make a thing.

Christa Mrgan: That's Neven Mrgan, Designer at Panic, who was also at that meeting.

Cabel Sasser: We showed up and like even the like lead guy at the company was there, which is really kind of him. I think he thought we were going to be talking about smart watches which is why he showed up and so it's him and an electrical engineer that they brought in that they consult with, and a couple of other people. And we sort of explain this idea of a gaming device and it changes and it does all this stuff, and they pretty much spent the entire meeting telling us not to do it, that it would be prohibitively expensive. You know, we'd be five million dollars in before we even had a prototype and the resources required will be massive. We'd need a huge team and somebody in the meeting is like, why would anyone even want this? And it was like extremely demoralizing. It was one of the only times where I felt like this weird Steve Jobs part of my brain want to just like get up and leave in the middle of the meeting, which I've never done in my entire life. Of course, I didn't because I'm not that person, but it was just brutal. Now, I understand what they're trying to say, because what we're doing is crazy, I get it. You know, it's like how people come to us and they're like, hey, I have an idea for an app and you have to be like Ah, that's a great idea, but there's a lot of things to consider. It's really hard and chances of success are really slim. We were those people saying, hey I think we have an idea for a hardware project, and they were the ones trying to be like, you know, uhh, you guys gotta understand… but I think what they didn't understand about us is like, we're trying to learn.Even if it ends up as a failure, which it still could, what we're trying to get out of the process is doing something new and learning something. So that meeting ended horribly. I would quantify it as complete disaster.

Neven Mrgan: And I think that, like, really made Cabel want to really, really do this, like in an even bigger way.

Cabel Sasser: Right after that, I reached out to Teenage Engineering

[MUSIC]

Cabel Sasser: I probably sent just a cold email, or maybe I knew somebody there already.

Christa Mrgan: Yep. That's exactly what he did! And that was Jesper Kouthoofd, Head of Design and CEO of Teenage Engineering, reading an excerpt from that email at the start of the episode.

Cabel Sasser: I was just like hey, we have this crazy idea for this game system, all its other stuff and we exchanged, you know, a couple emails and the first question they had was, that sounds amazing, and can we make a game for it, too? I was like, oh God, it felt so good. I was like, they're people that understand it.

Christa Mrgan: and pretty soon Cabel and Jesper got together to talk about it in person.

Jesper Kouthoofd: I remember we had like a drink at Disneyland one time.

Christa Mrgan: Yeah, of course.

Jesper Kouthoofd: And then I went to Asheville for the Moog Fest and met with Cabel on his team and they showed me the first, like, prototype of the Playdate. It was basically just a circuit board.

Steven Frank: we really only had one guy developing the initial prototype of the board, which is Dave, simply because he was the only one with really any electronics experience, so

Greg Maletic: He is the one that attached the screen to a printed circuit board and got the software working and actually brought a game up for the first time on a prototype Playdate, which still blows my mind. I don't know how he ever got that working.

Jesper Kouthoofd: So it all started with that circuit board that Panic showed me in Asheville an I felt it could be a little bit smaller. I think it was like one and a half, of the size that it is today. So it was a little bit higher, more, or less like the classic Gameboy. I think, you know, we all grew up with Nintendo and, and especially for me the most inspiring memory I have is from the Game and Watch series. I think I was in the fourth or fifth grade when they launched the Game and Watch. I was blown away by the style of everything, the level of detail, the time that they had spent in, you know, like the small illustrations on this, this little game device.

Christa Mrgan: Panic decided on the code name Asheville for their Game and Watch inspired device, in honor of that meeting in Asheville, North Carolina, where they first showed the prototype to Jesper at Moog Fest, an electronic music and technology festival named in honor of synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog. They also had some good barbecue on that trip. I guess "Asheville" sounded better as a code name than "pulled pork."

Neven Mrgan: originally it was going to be Game and Watch style games, which are like LCD segments, kind of like an old-school clock where it just has like shapes that it can turn on or off. It doesn't really have pixels all over the screen. That's not how our screen works, but we thought, well, maybe it'll look and work like that. And we played with that idea for awhile.

Christa Mrgan: But it turned out that the Game and Watch aesthetic only took them so far when it came to making games that were fun to play.

Cabel Sasser: I think I remember coming into the office on a Monday and being like, there's a problem and that is that Game and Watch games are not very fun. Because it's true those games are great, but for like an hour, maybe half an hour, like, you know, in 1982 they were incredible, but they're just not super fun for very long periods of time. So then that was when we fully crossed the threshold into I think it should be real games. And it's kind of interesting to think about that because clearly we were thinking in terms of scope and cautiously, right? Like we can't make a whole game system. Maybe we just make simple Game and Watch games, even back to we maybe we just start with a clock, because that's like an easy thing. Every step sort of just… the natural forces pushed us towards something more complicated but something that was better, and so once we decided yes, it should be a real real system that plays real games, then that sort of unlocked all sorts of other stuff.

Greg Maletic: That kind of opened up this huge box of, well, how do we get all these games in there? How do we make this platform that can support all these games? It went from a very hard project to an incredibly hard project at that point.

[MUSIC]

Christa Mrgan: They set out to make this thing real with some help from their new friends at Teenage Engineering.

Neven Mrgan: They really loved the challenge. And so they, started suggesting some different inputs on it, you know, like, okay, there's a d-pad and there's like some sort of action button things. Sure. Then they were like, what if there's like a crank for, you know, radial input, what if there's some sort of touch surface on the back, or on the side? What if there's a pinball-style spring that you can pull and release? And they sent back a bunch of these ideas and all of them looked cool.

Christa Mrgan: There was even one version of Playdate with a little circular display on the back, so you could flip it over and see some other part of a game or access some other things.

Jesper Kouthoofd: The design process is for me, you just start with a lot of ideas. So I 3D-printed a lot of different form factors, different proportions, tried different colors and, layout of the buttons, you know. We both wanted to keep it very, very simple, but still, a little bit of our own identity in there. Why reinvent the wheel, when it comes to gaming, you know? It's very fact effective, but usually when I design stuff, I really like to add one, at least one thing that makes it, unique.

Neven Mrgan: Famously, Jesper, the Teenage Engineering designer, said that he wanted to free us all of our touch screen psychosis.

Jesper Kouthoofd: Everything we do is to create kind of like an alternative to, to the, what did I say? Touch-screen psychosis. To us, it's very unsatisfying to use a touch device. I get it, and I think it's a great interface for creating a lot of different applications without, you know, having hundreds of buttons and knobs and stuff. So it's very effective for like a smartphone, but for a gaming device… A gaming device to me is almost the same as a musical instrument. It's about zero latency, muscle memory, and you need to feel that you are in instant control of everything that happens and that tactility however you solve it, if it's like pressing a button or turning a knob or a crank, it's very important for the whole experience and the joy of being, you know, like in control and using your hands.

Neven Mrgan: Eventually it came time to sort of decide what this thing is and what it isn't. It couldn't really have, you know, like 15 different inputs. So we all responded to the crank idea the strongest. So it was going to be the crank, d-pad, two buttons and then, you know, some housekeeping buttons, like, you know, power and menu, and it landed there.

Christa Mrgan: So it was decided: Playdate would be a delightful little handheld gaming console with a high-contrast black and white screen, and crank. And every so often, it would surprise you with a brand-new mystery game to play.

Jesper Kouthoofd: The next step of engineering the whole device, taking all the ideas and see how we can solve them. And I'm also really happy that we could solve that the crank could fold in. So when you don't need it, it's not there. I really like how that came out.

Christa Mrgan: With the industrial design -- that is, Playdate's overall form -- mostly in place, it was kind of like that meme about drawing an owl in two steps. First, you draw two overlapping circles. Then, you draw the rest of the owl. Panic had drawn some nice looking circles. Now, it was time to make the rest of the owl. Trouble was, Panic was still essentially a software company.

Steven Frank: You know, we don't have an entire hardware team. We have Dave.

Greg Maletic: Dave Hayden is the one that kinda got us going at the beginning, because he knows quite a lot about hardware.

Dave Hayden: It's been quite a while, but it was just me on the project for the first few years. I'm Dave Hayden. I'm an engineer. Yeah, I guess I'm a real engineer now. I used to call myself a programmer. I was basically given free reign for a couple of years to just play around and learn and educate myself, which was amazing. Of course, then I had to actually produce actual results.

Christa Mrgan: Which he did! And Panic hired some more people to help out, eventually.

Cabel Sasser: We brought on Stefan, and he definitely is the most seasoned electrical engineer

Christa Mrgan: Stefan Burstrom is a consultant Panic hired somewhat early on. When he's not busy skydiving, he helps out on some of the electrical engineering for Playdate.

Dave Hayden: He took my prototype schematics, flesh them out, figure it out, all the power stuff that I didn't know anything about. And then did the PCB layout.

Christa Mrgan: PCB means printed circuit board, just FYI.

Dave Hayden: I think the big mistake was that we had a working prototype in just a few months and we thought, oh, this will be easy. This will be great.

Christa Mrgan: Well, it has been great, but it has definitely not been easy.

[MUSIC]

Steven Frank: Hardware is hard. Maybe that's why they call it that, but yeah.

Cabel Sasser: The problem with hardware is, you know, it's like physics and stuff. It's not like let's just throw open the debugger. You know, with software, if you have a reproducible test case, you can fix your bug. like that's usually all you need. If you can get it to reproduce we're good to go. With hardware you can get it to reproduce on a single unit and it may not happen on any of the other units.

Steven Frank: Having always worked in software for 20 years, if something goes wrong, you can always do a patch or you can tell people, oh, you can fix this yourself by going and deleting this file or, you know, making this change. But hardware is, you know, is hardware. And it gets made in a factory and then it gets sent out to people and you no longer have any control over it. And that's scary. It's the first time for us. And we're trying very hard to do it right.

Cabel Sasser: The surprises that have popped up have just been things I never would have imagined could be problems. There's a lot of those that I just didn't know and that just comes through experience. Like, we all know about them now, and had we seasoned hardware people on the team, then probably they would have been like, hey, watch out for X, Y, or Z. But definitely a lot of things can go wrong that I would not have expected could go wrong and thinking about the clock chip and thinking just some of the esoteric, you know, like even the amount of effort and work we've put into like making the d-pad and the buttons feel good like that… that's like a single bullet item on a list of goals, right? Like, d-pad should feel good. It's like, okay. What does that mean? There are a million answers to that question and sub questions to that question depending on how thick you want the case to be and how the flex board needs to sit inside the case. And it's like the tiniest of things that you think are automatic are definitely not automatic. Way more so than I think for software, although software has the same problem like, okay, and we need a button that logs the user into the server. Well, there's you know, a ton of ways that you can do that, but they're very easy to iterate and try. I guess that's the difference. With software, we can open up Photoshop and try 50 different approaches in you know, half an hour. With hardware if you're thinking about the way the d-pad feels that's the only way you can solve that is to try to build things and you know 3D print things and laser cut things and that is just like a totally different Universe of complexity. On the other hand, it's super rewarding because you're holding things and touching things and feeling things and it's like a physical manifestation of your work, as opposed to just sort of this ethereal thing that people download. So, you know, you win some, you lose some, but it's hard.

Steven Frank: we had some idea of how hard it would be to actually make hardware but the number of little details is surprising.

Steven Nersesian: Hardware's hard. But it's not impossible.

Christa Mrgan: That's Steven Nersesian. He and his wife, Jessica Nersesian, have worked on Playdate since 2016 through their manufacturing consulting firm Metric Designworks.

Greg Maletic: We found Steven Nersesian through Teenage Engineering. They recommended him as somebody who could help us navigate the really complicated process of actually building Playdate. And he is a consultant and he has done this many, many times before with various companies. And he has been just invaluable to us. He found us the manufacturer we work with, S&O based out of Malaysia. He's done many projects with them in the past. And he's helped us figure out how to get the parts for Playdate, how to design the custom parts for Playdate. He's done a lot of the mechanical engineering for Playdate as well. I mean, it's not an exaggeration to say that Playdate probably wouldn't exist without him.

Steven Nersesian: I'm kind of the overall coordinator between all the different disciplines that go into making a hardware product. I was an individual contributor on the mechanical design. Jessica was an individual contributor on the quality control level. I work with the electrical engineers and the firmware designers and the manufacturers and the executives at Panic to kind of refine the specifications. I've worked extensively with Teenage Engineering in the past, and, once they had finished the industrial design and kind of initial mechanical engineering concept, they advised that Metric should get involved and kind of take it through to the finish line. We were able to focus on it and really be hands-on with Panic to guide them through the process.

Christa Mrgan: And it was a complicated process. Playdate's hardware and software were developed in tandem, with each side relying on the development of the other.

Steven Nersesian: The most challenging part of this project was that everything was custom, not just physically, but also inside. I mean, the software, the operating system, the firmware, everything to make the games possible beyond the physical product, required so much customization and iteration that, we couldn't go as fast as we wanted to on the physical side, because we needed the software to catch. And then once we got the software and loaded it on and we found challenges, we had to then again, physically iterate and electrically iterate. And so they were being done in parallel, but once everything converged and we were able to test everything together, well then, then there were changes that had to be made. And so, That just made the process take longer. One thing gated the other, and we had to just let that happen.

Christa Mrgan: Yes. Despite the focus on Playdate being a hardware project and the difficulty of that, there are a lot of software and firmware components that all have to align, not only with the device itself, but with each other. So at the top level are the games that developers make to run on Playdate. Then there's the operating system, on which the games run, and that manages the whole device, and the firmware that's kind of below that, interfacing directly with the different hardware components. Then adjacent to the on-device software and firmware, there's a software development kit (or SDK) that game developers use to write their code, and Playdate emulators for Mac and PC, where game developers can run, test, and debug that code. And then there's the software that runs on completely separate devices on the actual Playdate assembly line -- devices that run diagnostic tests at different points of production.

James Moore: My name is James Moore and I am the developer responsible for building the software that runs on the factory assembly line.

Greg Maletic: James Moore has done an incredible job working on our QA hardware and software that makes sure every Playdate behaves the way it's supposed to. That was a big learning curve because we've never done hardware QA before. We know a lot about software QA at Panic, but doing it on hardware is a really different proposition. And so we have all these different stations that are built up there that test a different aspect of Playdate as it comes around and comes down the manufacturing line. And James has just done a great job building that software from essentially ground zero.

James Moore: The factory software is pretty different in that I have to interface with a lot of pieces of test equipment and they, by and large, all speak a text-based protocol over a serial board, which goes back decades as far as computer interfaces go. And so it was kind of fun to resurrect my knowledge from the 90s of talking to robots over serial ports and doing lots of text-based, message processing. It's pretty different from the kinds of things we do today with server and client communication over JSON, or what have you. Each one of these pieces of test equipment has its own way of telling you what it's seeing or what values it's wanting you to know about. So they're all very unique and special. This was also quite a bit different from what I do normally at Panic, in that everything was running on raspberry pis, which introduces some constraints on processing power. And some of our tests are very processor intensive. Working on an assembly line, building a device like this is, an exercise in Murphy's law like I have never seen before. Absolutely everything that can go wrong will go wrong. The first trip we took to Malaysia, there were multi-day-long stretches of just knocking down a bug and running right into the next one, just all day long. And this was all working perfectly well in the office,but once you get there, all kinds of variables are introduced. An assembly line is as a living beast and you can't really replicate that in the office.

Christa Mrgan: Dakota ward Worked on electrical engineering and on some of the assembly line software as well.

Dakota Ward: What I've learned is that there's going to be tiny variations in every single unit. And then if your software doesn't account for that, it's going to fail. It's one thing to write software in an office in Portland, and then it's another thing to have, 300 units cruise through that software in Malaysia and to see all the errors in all the corner cases that, that crop up and then to have to adjust to that. It really took us going over there and being there physically, seeing the process and seeing what the workers do to gain an understanding of that.

James Moore: Even if you have all the same test jigs, you're not going to have 10 people standing around all working with them at the same time, at different places of assembly. And at the same time that I'm trying to fix bugs in the test code, Dave may be making changes to the firmware. And so he might, fix a firmware bug to address something that I'm seeing, and there might be some unintended consequence from that that could cause a failure at some other place in the assembly line.

Dave Hayden: Yeah. It's Mark's problem, now.

Christa Mrgan: Well, not entirely. But Panic did hire Marc Jessome to help with Playdate's firmware in 2019.

Greg Maletic: Marc is one of our senior firmware engineers and he comes to us after having worked on both the Pebble watch and the Fitbit, two actual products that really shipped. He's actually shipped hardware projects before. We have not. So he's one of the few people here at Panic that's actually done this before, and that has been incredibly valuable. He got himself up to speed really quickly. And he works on things like making our wifi faster, making our power consumption, lower, making our downloads, faster. Just a lot of things like that, that are kind of, in the plumbing. But really, really important plumbing that we need to have working just, you know, reliably and fast. And so that's been a huge, huge help.

Marc Jessome: I've really enjoyed the fact that we're a small team.

Christa Mrgan: That's Marc.

Marc Jessome: It means that I get to touch and work on absolutely every part of our firmware. Anything that needs to be fixed, I know that I can just look into, and it's not worth, you know, handing off. When I first came onto the team, I was invited down to, Austin to go spend a week getting to know Dave and sort of working down there, which was really nice. You know, had a good week of sort of deep diving into how things work and discussing, you know, plans and what we want to do sort of kickoff time working on Playdate. It was super valuable and great to spend time with Dave in person as well.

Christa Mrgan: Yeah. Dave knows all the good barbecue places.

Marc Jessome: He took me to a great place. I can't remember the name of it. But like a little trailer off on the side of like a highway, and it was absolutely phenomenal. It's everything that I'd heard about Texas barbecue.

Christa Mrgan: Mmm. barbecue. Ah, we were talking about firmware.

Marc Jessome: So developing firmware is this sort of marriage of software and hardware. So what I do is the operating system that allows for games to run on the device, as well as allowing for games to interact with the hardware itself. So the Playdate has buttons that a user can press and the game needs to know when these are pressed, just as an example. Making hardware interactions available to the software that's running on the device.

Dave Hayden: We know exactly how everything's working from the ground up, whereas something like a modern desktop OS, it's you know, things don't work and you don't know why. And it's like, good luck with that. So I guess it's kind of good and bad that we always know that we can eventually figure out what the problem is. You know, at the very bottom level you can write the code at the very bottom of the stack. That's really fun. Being able to get down really deep into the guts of the thing.

Marc Jessome: Reliable firmware updates has been a pretty big challenge on the device. It requires a lot of things to work together in harmony. You have WiFi, our web service that's serving these updates to us, as well as, you know, storage on the device. And we need to make sure that all the components are in place in order to just successfully update and not brick the device. We don't want to share bad firmware that ends up breaking, you know, hundreds or thousands of devices. You know, I want to ensure that people are having a good time, but also, you know, we're not causing this great device that they have to just be completely unusable. It's a challenge, both in the sort of stress as well as in the you know, technical and fun aspects as well.

Dave Hayden: It's pretty, pretty thrilling. I am just blown away that this weird dream we had suddenly became like, here we are on the other side of the world in a factory making it happen.

MUSIC

Steven Nersesian: It's an iterative process.

Christa Mrgan: That's Steven Nersesian again.

Steven Nersesian: You start with your first prototype, ok, we've proved the concept. We can do the thing. Then we make something in roughly the form that it's going to be. And then we all sit down and evaluate. If we all like what's going on or what criticisms we have, we move to the next stage. With the Playdate project, there were many, many, many iterations just to get it to the point where everyone was pleased with, with what we had in our hands.

Christa Mrgan: It was, at times, a frustrating process. Each iteration of Playdate seemed to bring up new problems to solve. Greg remembers one trip to the factory in October, 2018 that was at first a little demoralizing.

Greg Maletic: We got there and the units that had been produced for us, which were sort of test models, they both looked bad and the buttons didn't work and it was kind of a disaster. And we'd had previous units that worked great. And so I was like, how did this happen? And it felt like we had taken like about a nine-month step backwards. That said, when we started, you know, working at the problems, figuring out what was wrong, we figured out all these problems and we solved them. But it was at that point of despair when I kind of realized, you know what, I'm not going to be upset about this. I'm just going to take these problems as they come and just accept that problems are part of the process and just go with it because hardware is tricky.

Christa Mrgan: And so the iterations continued slowly and steadily, to avoid the nightmare scenario of a bug or an issue. And not just in a few test units, but in thousands of finished devices.

Steven Nersesian: You don't want to build thousands and have to fix it in thousands. Right? So it's about doing control runs. So it's being very, very deliberate and disciplined about making 10, checking those 10. There's a problem. Let's fix that problem. Keep doing that until the ten are perfect.

Jessica Nersesian: And then there's another 10 and there's a different problem. And then you have to fix that problem.

Steven Nersesian: Okay. And then increasing that quantity to 25, do that for a few weeks. And at each of those stages being onsite was invaluable. To be able to be there and on the spot to be able to approve and advise and say, yep, let's go to the next stage. Let's now try to build 50 and see how that goes. And as it scaled, just we were able to help them refine their process and, and build confidence that they were doing the right thing.

Jessica Nersesian: It's not something that can be done remotely. If they send us pictures of something and say, well, do you accept it? I can't necessarily see it in the picture. I need to be onsite and actually inspecting and that helps calibrate for them, what we find to be the level of quality that we're looking for, because they know that I'll see it and they won't let it through.

Christa Mrgan: That's Jessica Nersesian.

Jessica Nersesian: Also with Metric Designworks, and I focus on quality assurance, through the whole process, both in connecting with what's coming from the vendors, and then also, supporting each of the different operators in calibrating with what the standards are that Panic's expecting to see, and then developing the QA process and training the quality assurance staff at the factory. And then I also help with setting up the line and other things as needed. And within our partnership, I also try and focus on sustainability and research ways of getting a project ready for end of life. I actually come from kitchen. I used to set up lines for creating huge meals for a thousand people. So it's very similar to setting up a factory line. Both instances you're taking components and then having to have everybody with the same high level of detail and focus.

Steven Nersesian: Every single part that the constitutes to Playdate is custom.

Jessica Nersesian: So even something as simple as a screw, you can't just go onto a site, that we normally could to say, okay, I just want that screw. Everything is being made from scratch.

Steven Nersesian: The components are, are packed in quite tightly. And so even for the screw we needed the head of the screw to be a thinner dimension than what we could find off the shelf, we needed it not to be quite as long because then it would go and hit the LCD, right? So every single component is being made on a custom, basis.

Jessica Nersesian: We receive components. Part of the factory reviews every single component and sees that it's quality.Then it goes to the line, and then imagine you're doing a crazy puzzle that is incredibly hard to put together and you're doing it with 15 other people. And so each person does a small component of this and then passes it to the next and anyone who's not at full calibration of what our quality is, will pass on something else. And we don't want it to get all the way to the end of the line and have to scrap the unit. So it goes through multiple checks, both in firmware, also visual inspection. And then it goes on to quality assurance. So it's getting checked for minutes at a time, not just whether or not the crank moves, but that's a big one. But every gap we measure every millimeter along the edges of the device, we check for the amount of dots, we check for scratches. And each iteration of the different builds, we would have new things come up where sometimes the crank would sag, and before it never did that, or we would have a gap at the screen and it would never do that before. And so it's a lot of the group getting together and trying to figure out how to resolve a new issue.

Steven Nersesian: There's 15 individual stations With templates and jigs that help things be aligned properly. The first one is checking the LCD to make sure the LCD lights up. The next one is gluing that LCD into the front housing. And that's a different person, right? Who's manning that station and, and whose job is to understand what is okay and what's not okay. And so being there, we were able to work with each individual station and each individual person. And there are multiple people that run that station, depending what day it is. If one person's sick, they need a backup or so it's training all the individual people and sensitizing them for what, what we're all looking for. So how do we make it as error, proof as possible?

[MUSIC]

Christa Mrgan: The answer is: a little at a time. And while adjustments to the assembly line and quality assurance tests continued to be worked out at S&O in Malaysia, Panic was hard at work back in Portland on the operating system (or OS) and the software development kit (or SDK). Basically all of the various infrastructure that game developers would need to actually write a game and put it on a Playdate. It's been a collaborative process with a lot of different folks at Panic, with contributions from Shaun Inman on a tool called Caps, which is a web-based tool for creating and editing Playdate fonts, and Will Cosgrove, who built the Playdate simulator for Windows that developers use to run, test, and debug their games if they use a PC. And firmware, and low-level OS work from Marc Jessome. But a lot of the work on the operating system and SDK was done by Dave Hayden and Dan Messing.

Greg Maletic: Dan Messing has done an incredible job on the operating system and on all the kind of user-facing apps, including the main launcher for Playdate.

Dan Messing: my name is Dan messing and I'm a software engineer at Panic working on. So I worked on a wide variety of things, everything from sort of the home screen to the settings app, to a lot of different aspects of the SDK. So things like pathfinding and collision detection and some fun stuff like blurring 2D images, and that's actually a good example of collaboration, because I think I did the first implementation of blurring and dithering, and then Dave came along after and did a bunch of optimizations to it to make it faster on the hardware. A lot of it's been stuff like that where everybody touches something in one way or another. It definitely has evolved over time from the first sort of implementations where Dave figured out how to get a picture showing on the screen. It sort of grew out -- I'd say it's grown sort of in conjunction with the season one games. So it was a good sort of feedback loop. As we were working on the Playdate OS, games were being developed for it. Either the Season One games or, just folks in the Playdate Developer Preview had been working on games for awhile. So as people worked on games, it allowed us to develop the SDK sort of in a very focused way. People making the games, you know, ask us if there was a way to do something and we thought, oh, it would be good if we provided a way to do that. Instead of making every game implement that thing on its own. One example would be a pathfinding algorithm. There was one game that needed it and they were going to implement their own solution in Lua. But at the time I thought, oh, well, I'll just, do a C, but implementation because pathfinding is sort of a common thing for, for game developers to need. So might as well. Built into the firmware, make it faster for that developer and available for all developers. And I think there were a lot of situations where things like that happened. When developing the SDK we had, you know, we have to do a lot of API design for that.

Christa Mrgan: API stands for "application programming interface." In our case, it means standard ways for your code to tell the Playdate system what to do like that pathfinding algorithm. Dan just mentioned

Dan Messing: And I think it was fortunate that I was so familiar with the Mac and iOS. SDKs like Coco in app kit and everything, because I think they're pretty nicely designed API so that it was good to sort of have that background of, what works well and what doesn't work well. So I've been on the other side.

Christa Mrgan: so has Dave Hayden and recently, he said his experience with working with the SDK for the Bluetooth chip that Playdate uses that's been an example of what not to do when designing our own SDK

Dave Hayden: Bluetooth is kind of a many-headed Hydra sort of beast thingy. There's all these different layers to it and protocols and whatnot. And, the chip that we're using on the Playdate… their code is not the most developer friendly code I've ever used.

Christa Mrgan: Of course, Dave found something fun in the Bluetooth implementation somewhere.

Dave Hayden: Fun? Nothing. There's absolutely no, no joy in it at all. I'm not kidding. It is almost the most soul-draining thing I've ever done. Working with the SDK is, oh God, it just kills. I mean, oh… Yeah I could I could I could give you lots of complaints, but I don't like to complain ha right.

Christa Mrgan: Uh, so, it was good to keep the Playdate game developer in mind when developing our own SDK. We didn't want anyone to have a bad experience developing a game for Playdate! And like Playdate itself, the OS and the SDK get their own quality assurance process.

Greg Maletic: Ashur Cabrera has been doing an incredible job on QA, getting these releases of our software development kit out in a timely fashion. That's been a huge deal because we have developers that rely on this software. It has to work. We don't want it to break any of the old software, any of the old games that are out there. It has to work every single time. And so he's done an incredible job, making sure that it's reliable.

Christa Mrgan: And that's super important, because every Playdate is also a developer unit. The SDK is still in a limited preview now, but eventually it will be available for free for anyone who wants to use it to make a game for Playdate. No pressure, Dan!

Dan Messing: It's interesting being on the side of making an STK for people to use and trying to think about it in a way that makes their life easier. A lot of the stuff that I'm thinking about is how to make the people that are using the software, have a good time and coming up with ways to make it easy to use and all that stuff is consistent.

Christa Mrgan: And speaking of consistency: every operating system has to have its own internally consistent interface grammar. The design of things like system settings, menus, input fields, and buttons may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a particular device, but that kind of base-level design not only gives different systems their own identity, it's crucial to get right, so that users can quickly learn how to use the device and know what to expect with each interaction. Here's Neven again:

Neven Mrgan: So I worked on the built-in software, the OS for Playdate, on the design of that. We went through a bunch of different ideas.

Christa Mrgan: Oh, an iterative process? I'm sensing a pattern here.

Neven Mrgan: One thing we realized early on and that we felt strongly about is that this is not like a smartphone. It is not going to have like a persistent status bar that shows you your, you know, WiFi network strength and such, because those are not as important in a device that, you know, you don't use for a million things a day, you use it to play games. So a big focus for me was that this is a device that gets you to playing the next game that you want to play and kind of stays out of your way. Now, when I say it stays out of your way, that doesn't mean that it's dry and has no personality. You know, there are times when you have to use the OS, you have to connect to WiFi, you have to change something in Settings.You have to choose the game that you're going to play or install. So we tried to make that part fun. One thing is we have that crank and so, it's not so much that we use it a lot in the OS, but a lot of ideas around how the OS is designed were made so as to, kind of, speak to the crank.

Christa Mrgan: I want a shirt that says, "speak to the crank."

Neven Mrgan: I try to avoid having grids of buttons and things that look touchable. I mean, you know, on some level that the Playdate does not have a touchscreen, but still your lizard brain wants to touch it. So I try to instead have lists of things that scroll up and down. So the main launcher where you find, you know, all of your games is this like linear list that you're scrolling through of the games and you can, you know, use the crank to scroll through it. Every game's launcher art, you know, think of that as like the icon on your phone, can be animated. So when you're on it, it can be animated. When you launch the app, there can be like an animation into the app and, you know, and the sound follows it. So , ideally each game's personality is there when you're about to launch that game or when you're going through to games, checking them out one by one. That is where I hope people spend the 99% of their time on their Playdate, not changing their WiFi password. And that is where I like having each game, provide its own , stamp of personality.

Christa Mrgan: There are also some fantastic surprise animations created by a company called Chromosphere.

Neven Mrgan: So with the Playdate OS, there's not a lot of it, if that makes sense. The main things that you will see as you use it are that launcher, where you see all your games and launch them, you have the settings app, which is kind of a bunch of, like, tables of text, where you change what kind of clock you want to see and you know, your WiFi network password, so the thing with the settings app and the menu is that they're quite simple. And they don't waste your time. That's something that's important to me, that when you're trying to change your WiFi password, you are not being kind of sidetracked by a bunch of goofy animations, when you're just trying to do this administrative task. That doesn't mean that they have like no flavor whatsoever. For instance, when you launch the Settings app, it shows this little animation. You know, it goes from the launcher art to the app. That's just because that launch takes some number of milliseconds to happen anyway, we might as well show you, you know, an animation, same thing with the menu button. Dan Messing did this really nice little swipe of that menu when it happens, that kind of stuff does feel like, like personality and like a little bit of a vibe to Playdate.

Christa Mrgan: Almost as important as the visual feedback you get from using the crank to scroll through games, are the system's audio cues that provide user feedback for various inputs. Playdate's interface is full of delightful clicks and beeps, [SOUND EFFECTS: CLICKS AND BEEPS] thanks to sound design by Simon Panrucker, who, along with Cabel Sasser, also composed the Playdate theme. You can hear the full song at the end of this episode. So, yes, the interface design is vital, but of course it's just one aspect of the overall look and feel of Playdate, with its one bit black and white screen, the curious crank that flips out from the side, and its cheery yellow plastic case.

[CLIP FROM 1980s NUPRIN COMMERCIAL: "LITTLE. YELLOW. DIFFERENT."]

Jessica Nersesian: You see a lot of yellow.

Neven Mrgan: Panic has a long history of liking the colors yellow and purple. They were right there in the icon of Transmit, one of our oldest apps. And we've always liked them. I think the reason we like them is one, they're like fun, summery colors, you know, that make you feel a little bit, like, flashy. They're also colors that most companies out there are, like, too cowardly to use in their branding. People move towards like blue, or red, you know, rather than you know, purple or yellow or orange. When it came time to start talking about the color of the actual Playdate, I think the thing that informed the decision the most was the fact that Cabel had on his desk a Famicom disk.

Christa Mrgan: The Famicom Disk System was an accessory for Nintendo's family computer game system. It was only released in Japan and uses its own special floppy disk cartridges.

Neven Mrgan: And those were that like exact, bright, warm yellow. And it's also square about the size of a Playdate. And it's also made of plastic. And so just sort of like spotting this thing on his desk, it's like, oh my God, it needs to be that yellow.

Cabel Sasser: We're really fond of an era of electronics kind of in the 80s and in the early 90s where things weren't afraid to be colorful and kind of boxy and have weird proportions, or things being off-center, or-- so, we kind of went from that era into, really, the iMac I guess ushered us into, sort of a more refined version of that, which was everything is transparent plastic and you know fairly clean and then it started to get cleaner and it started getting cleaner and then it's like everything's a rectangle that's white, or you know, everything has rounded corners and a silver and that seems to be where most things are today. So I think we are really looking back at, I mean, God, even the original, you know, the sport Walkman! That yellow sport Walkman is so good. Sony really were sort of the Masters of creating that kind of stuff but I feel like that's sort of the era and that's what we wanted to be was something that felt fun and cute and cool, and did not take itself too seriously. Because it's weird how we went from the iMac, which most definitely didn't take itself seriously. I mean it was like, you know candy purple and then there was the blue Dalmatian one or whatever and there was like, I mean, even, God, is there a computer that could be goofier than that sunflower Hinged lamp iMac with that goofy rounded base that and all that? You know, but it was cool and cute. That stuff's just gone. But anyways, it's a bummer because I kind of like it when things are goofy.

Neven Mrgan: Even though we tried some other colors, just sort of, you know, as tests. We just kept coming right back to that yellow, because it's bright. There's not necessarily a console or even like a piece of consumer electronics that is canonically yellow. You know, if they offer a bunch of colors, eventually they might offer yellow, but it's not something they rush to as like their, you know original, color. So I just felt like we could like own this yellow and we could feel so proud and happy to make a thing that is known for being yellow.

Christa Mrgan: The box had to be yellow too.

Neven Mrgan: When you are receive your Playdate, it'll come in its cool yellow box, which I hope you think is cool enough to keep. If not, I totally understand. But if you decide to keep it, it's sort of the size and shape of a book. So it'll fit nicely on your bookshelf. You can just jam it in between two books. We originally wanted to put on the side on the spine, the number one, as in like Season One of Playdate, but then we thought that would be cruel because, you know, if there's a two and a three its forcing people who are in the collector mindset to collect them all. And, you know, we don't need to give people any more stress in their lives.

Christa Mrgan: Yeah, no kidding. If you've listened this far, you're probably understanding why this project has been such a massive undertaking for a fairly small software company-- around 20 people when work on Playdate began, a little bigger now. We've gotten pretty deep into the story of Playdate without mentioning that microscopic elephant in the room, SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that caused the global COVID-19 pandemic. You can probably see where I'm going with this.

Cabel Sasser: Of all the things that we, were mentally prepared for in trying to create our first hardware product. Yeah. Just like everybody on the planet. Nobody could have foreseen what happened with COVID. Like all of the human beings that have gone through this and are continuing to go through this as we record this, you know, it was a one day at a time thing where all of a sudden it, you know, we're like, huh, this thing looks like it's getting kind of serious. Hmm. Weird. I remember not understanding anything about it. I remember asking like, wait, so am I.What's wrong with going to the store? And like other people at Panic, having to like, explain to me how a pandemic works. Feel kind of dumb in retrospect. Just with every passing day, things got a little bit more unusual and one day we're like, boy, I don't think we should be going to the office anymore. Everybody grabbed their machines and, you know, we're all just a hundred percent working from home remotely, and you know, there's good and bad, but like, I think if you had told me that, in the final mile of creating this thing, you're going to have to switch working remotely, my instinct would have been, that is a horrible idea and it will lead to absolute disaster. Clearly I am wrong. I would have been wrong, because it has not been that bad. I think we learned that we can do this, that we can, be apart from each other and still creating something together and it's not quite the same, but functionally, we just kept cranking and making things and working through the process. Then there's the second part of it, which is the factory.

Greg Maletic: Our factory in Malaysia did shut down for just a brief period of time earlier this year, maybe two or three weeks, it actually wasn't very long. But the biggest issue for us was the travel restrictions that Malaysia put in place. Just as we were about to start ramping up production, they required us to get special permission in order to enter the country. And we thought we could do that, but it wasn't that easy. And the other thing was they required a two week quarantine. Once you arrived, you had to stay in a hotel once you got there. And that just made us traveling there that much harder. Fortunately, our manufacturing consultant, Steven-- he and his wife Jessica bravely and heroically decided to volunteer for this duty. That helped us out just tremendously. We needed somebody there when manufacturing was starting up to watch over quality, watch over the production methods, make sure everything was going well. And having them there in person just made all the difference for us.

Jessica Nersesian: We basically had a surprise semester abroad.

Christa Mrgan: Steven and Jessica ended up staying in Malaysia for five months, in the middle of the pandemic!

Jessica Nersesian: So it took us six months just to get approval to come into the country, which-- usually we just fly, get a landing visa, no problem. In the course of that six months, we were working with wonderful officials from the government, from the US side, from the Malaysia side, everyone working together to get us out there, but we're flying 14 hours and we don't know if we're going to quarantine together. And we don't know where we're going to be, and we don't know what the food is going to be. So we packed a huge suitcase with provisions and gin, and we arrived at the hotel and all the staff were in hazmat suits and we were being carted around in these different cohorts. And finally we did, in fact, get to quarantine together in a small gray room run by the Malaysian government. But on the other side, we were finally able to get out to Penang, out to the factory, and there was a lot of movement control. We had to go to the police station regularly and get approval. We had roadblocks where we couldn't pass between different areas, which was problematic for the whole process of vetting vendors, because there's a vendor who's supposed to make the screws and we can't go and visit their factory and see what their quality is like. And so everything ended up being a bit elongated in that way. Restaurants were closed. Grocery stores were accessible, but we had to only stay within a certain area or the police would stop us. So it made it a bit of an adventure.

Steven Nersesian: It was pretty grueling. I mean, it's 45 minutes each direction to the factory and back.

Jessica Nersesian: We were there somewhere between 8 to 12 hours a day, depending on what the push was, and masks all day in the factory. We still weren't vaccinated at that point, so we were nervous. The cases were better there than they were in the US at the time, but I don't know, it was an adventure and we had no idea we were going to be there so long. Most trips when we go there are, we're there a few weeks, maybe a month at the most. And then we come home and we unpack and we repack, and then we get situated to go out again. This time, we were there for five months.

Steven Nersesian: It really is kind of a trickle down issue where we couldn't go to the supplier side in most cases, because they were in a different district and we couldn't travel to that district. Or if we could, we couldn't go in without a negative COVID test. And then there were so many things that layered up on top of that. Even them getting things from their suppliers. So they're, you know, getting raw materials, getting steel, getting paint, getting plastic resin, those things even gotten elongated. So it just, anytime we'd had one of those iterations where we said, well, this isn't quite right, let's make a design change, instead of taking a week like it normally does, that might take three weeks. On the electrical components,I think by now everyone's heard about the chip shortage. And those are standard chips. They're being made and being supplied to many people around the world. That's just one aspect of kind of the supply chain. In that case, it still is an ongoing challenge. You know, every day it's some new, some new vendor that's extending their delivery deadlines and wanting to increase costs.

Greg Maletic: It's just made an already uncertain process -- it's added that much more uncertainty to it. So parts of it did become really difficult to find this year. Any electronic part, strangely, is in short supply. It's some of the obvious things like the screen and the CPU, but also things like the chip that controls the USB port, for example. They're all difficult to come by now. All have lead times that stretch into the several, you know, six months, nine months sometimes. And so that's been a real challenge. We have enough parts to build the first 20- or 30,000 Playdates. The tricky part is trying to build that 20,001st Playdate. That's when we have to wait on some new parts to come in. And it would be easier if we had a clear forecast for how many Playdates to build, but we still have no idea how many customers out there want a Playdate. And so that's made it really difficult to plan ahead, which is why the pre-orders are so important for us to figure out actually how many people want this. We did have to raise the price a little bit on Playdate to make up for some of the cost increases that have taken place over the past year. Some of our parts have gone up by 20 or 30%, which is a pretty good increase. But also because of the part shortage, there's sometimes an opportunity for us to get parts faster. If we offer more for them, say if a part is $3 and we can't get it, we could say, well, if we pay $4.50 for it, can we get them any sooner? And sometimes we can. So we wanted to both cover the cost increases and make some room so we could pay for additional increases if it meant we would get parts sooner.

Christa Mrgan: OK, so this won't affect Playdate pre-orders, but: the factory did end up having to close again recently, for most of July 2021.

Cabel Sasser: Our factory fully closed a couple of weeks ago, until the end of the month, which is a hundred percent the correct thing to do, but being so far away, you know, it's, it's hard.We want everybody there to be safe. I mean, God, for a second, we're like, can we help send vaccine means to the factory? Like You feel kind of powerless. I don't want any of the incredible people that are building this product every day, to-- certainly, making a Playdate is not worth being sick and it's hard to be so far removed from that situation and feel hopeless in being able to help them, but we know it's a very good place to work and they definitely care about their workers. So I know they're going to make the right decisions and look out for everybody's wellbeing.

Christa Mrgan: When you're so far removed from factories and manufacturing, like most of us listening to and recording this podcast, right now, it can be hard to remember that manufacturing is essentially a human process, and not very automated at all in most cases. There are no faceless robots assembling these Playdates. It's a bunch of passionate, hardworking people at S&O.

Greg Maletic: S&O stands for Sharpen and Onkyo. It's co-owned by both of those companies. SNO is great, just incredibly helpful, incredibly enthusiastic, and very motivated to make our project succeed, which is a wonderful feeling.

Jessica Nersesian: This is a factory that's been open for decades, and most of the people who work there have been working there since they got out of school. So there's this deep connection and a family sort of atmosphere. We have such a wonderful team and it is a human endeavor. It's not just putting a widget in one end and having it squirt through a machine and then pop out all finished and ready to go. And we all have been working on this since 2016. It's been an endeavor that the operators at the factory are invested in as well. They're excited. We were, spending New Year's Eve all together, getting the line in order and trying to get everything out and me shouting across to everyone: OK, we have 10 more! We have ten! And everyone excited and clapping and all our time in Malaysia has helped us connect at an individual level where I know Linda is the one at inspection, and Bala is the one on QA, and Vani is the one at audio and everyone is working together and that collaboration is wonderful.

Christa Mrgan: With a project as big and complicated as Playdate has become, and all of the setbacks from manufacturing issues and pandemic delays, it's easy to find yourself asking, why are we doing this? This is hard.

Greg Maletic: I think the biggest lesson I've learned is to not be discouraged by failure, because failure is really part of the process, especially with something that's complicated. And the fact that we're doing it for the very first time ever, we're going to fail a lot of times while this is being developed. And it's easy to get discouraged by that. And I definitely have been discouraged at some moments, but, you know, we've solved every problem we've hit so far, and I am hoping that we will continue to do so. I think we will.

Christa Mrgan: Definitely. And incredibly, through the upheaval of the pandemic, people have continued to make amazing games for Playdate. It's been really cool to see Season One expand and change over time from the original concept, which was partly in response to the Netflix binge-watching culture that was emerging in the 2010s, where a new show would come out, but release all of its episodes at once.

Neven Mrgan: People could binge-watch the entire new season of whatever it was, like Arrested Development at the time, or something, like in one day. And a lot of people would do that. And, I sort of did that. Maybe not in one day, but over two or three days with some of these shows. And then we realized that we talked about these shows for two days, and that was it. They just like evaporated from the cultural, you know, conscience. And so we thought that there is something cool about the sort of weekly water cooler effect of having stuff that is delivered weekly. And so we thought, well, what if we have a season of games? So you get, a game a week, which gives you a pace. So you're not just like quickly trying to play 20 games and then maybe like not really giving a chance to, you know, a game because there were 19 others.

Cabel Sasser: I think there were a few things going on at once that led to sort of this idea. One, in the office, Neven and Greg had started doing this thing they called Match Cut Movie Club, where you would show up to a movie theater for a movie or multiple movies, and you had no idea what the movie was going to be. You just had to trust that Neven and Greg have pretty good taste in movies, which they do. And the idea was that you roll in, you sit down and you just see where the screen takes you, that's a very unusual concept in today's modern times, where certainly with the arrival of the internet, nothing is a surprise anymore. I mean, every movie that comes out we've tracked for years, every video game, every inch of the development is revealed. We have a lot of information. So thinking about Match Cut Movie Club, I think it was probably part of the inspiration for Season One.

Greg Maletic: We thought back to what video games were like, kind of pre-internet. And how you didn't know what was coming out next week. It just, you would go to the store and there was just a huge surprise shelf full of stuff that you didn't even know was going to be there. And that's the kind of experience we wanted to recreate, where you didn't know what was coming next. And it was just a, you know, series of endless surprises.

Cabel Sasser: Even if not every game is a hit for them or not every game resonates with them, the feeling of oh, there's a new game today! I can't wait to check it out. I just want people to have that feeling because it's such a good feeling and I feel like as we go through life, it gets harder and harder to capture that feeling.

Greg Maletic: Initially we thought, well, maybe we'll sell, you know, 10,000 Playdates. We can pretty easily make all those, put them in a warehouse, ship them all out, get them to everybody. Everybody starts the season on the same day and plays the games and that all works great.

Cabel Sasser: The further down the road we got with Playdate, the more we realized Season One is not really compatible in any way with how things are manufactured. In our naive, beginning mind, we thought, well, we'll make X number of Playdates and we'll just ship them all to everybody. And then everybody gets all the games at the same time at once. And that's not really… Hmm, I'm going to say possible.

Greg Maletic: We think we might have more than 10,000 customers now. We don't know how many more, but it could be more, it could be a lot. We can't build and ship that many Playdates concurrently. It's just not really feasible for us. So instead of having the model where everyone was playing the season at the same time, we switched to a model where the season starts at the moment you turn on your Playdate for the first time. Once that happens, you'll get the first two games. And then every week after that, you'll get two more games for 12 weeks. And so everyone is on their own season schedule rather than on one coordinated, universal season schedule. It means that everybody has the same experience. Everybody has the experience of getting these games over time in the same order, same sequence and it's just a more consistent and we hope more fun, approach for people who get their Playdates later in the year.

Christa Mrgan: Some people will get their Playdates at the same time since they'll be shipped in batches, but one cool way to experience the games of Season One might be to organize a sort of Playdate book club with your friends.

Greg Maletic: We're going to have a lot of really cool games and it's only natural that you'll want to play them with your friends. And so if you and your friends want to sync up and decide to hold off on a certain game until a certain date and then play them together, either live, you know, over zoom or just talk about them after they're done, I think that sounds like a great idea.

Neven Mrgan: And the funny thing to me is that we thought it would be a struggle to get 10 games made for this. So we started working on some of our own games and very cautiously approaching some people about making them. And now, you know, we sort of have the opposite problem, which is that so many people want to develop games for Playdate.

Greg Maletic: Yeah, so the season is now 24 games. It was originally 12, but we doubled it.

Arisa Sudangnoi: There's just so many amazing and different types of games that we had funded that it was just hard to not include. There's some people that were just already part of the Playdate community that we ended up including in Season One and, one of the developers, Nick Magnier, had been in the early developer community, I guess, for Playdate. And so seeing his game in the community, we thought that the game was a pretty good fit.

Christa Mrgan: That's Arisa Sudangnoi, who handles Developer Relations for Playdate.

Greg Maletic: Arisa came to us from Valve and she is our Developer Relations manager, meaning that she is in charge of communicating with all of our game developers about Playdate-- what's going on with us and finding out from our developers what they're working on, what issues they're having. And that's key for a product like Playdate, because the 24 games that make up the season are really a huge part of the value of Playdate. And so we want to make sure those games are, are top notch and it's a Arisa's job to make sure that developers know what we're doing and they're informed about our schedule. So she's on top of all that. And then also she's taken on a bunch of other duties, like working on our warranty and our return policy. And it's just been a huge help. She's done a great job.

Arisa Sudangnoi: Everyone seems pretty easy to communicate with. It's pretty awesome that we have just people around the world from the US to Japan, Germany. I think the main thing was that we want to make sure that we're not just having developers that are already established, just having, you know, developers from all sorts of backgrounds that are interested in making games for the Playdate.

Christa Mrgan: So how did Panic find the developers whose games will be included in Season One?

Cabel Sasser: We obviously knew there's no way we're going to be able to build all the games for this thing by ourselves. And so the first question we asked was who do we know that can make games, and fortunately our paths have crossed with many gamers over the years of Panic.

Christa Mrgan: Fun fact: One of the weirder Panic overlaps was that we made t-shirts for the game Katamari Damacy. Years later, that connection led directly to its creator, Keita Takahashi, creating the game Crankin's Time Travel Adventure for Playdate Season One.

Cabel Sasser: I think I remember us all sitting down and just writing on note cards, the names of basically every developer that we thought was doing cool work, or we thought could do cool work and, it was a lot of note cards. It was a difficult process because then you have to approach them and be like, Hey, here's this thing from-- it's hardware, from a company that's never made hardware before, with the season system that's never been attempted before, and a crank that's never existed before. And our budgets aren't super massive. Do you want to make a game for a device? Fortunately the cool thing about creative people and game developers is that, there's definitely a group of people that just super resonated with that batch of ideas. One of the mistakes we made in marketing was leading with the big names and set this impression that like here's another device for that same club of indie developers that are successful, and that you've heard of, which is really not what we wanted at all. But, you know, marketing brain says, oh man, you gotta get people excited about this thing. And you know, we got to use the big names and I think that set the wrong impression. And so we worked to correct that. That, like, early announcement really was beneficial for us because it let us learn a lot of things, without selling the product yet. And it gave us an opportunity to correct a lot of things without selling the product yet. And I'm really, really, really grateful that we did that. So that allowed us to sit down and say, Okay, the whole goal of this thing is that it's for everybody. That you can get the development kit without having to pay a bunch of money, that every unit is a dev unit that you don't have to have special hardware to make a game for Playdate. If we're clearly trying to build something that is open and accessible, but the season needs to reflect that, too. We can't have a season that says, this is for you the folks you've heard of, but also say this is for everybody. And that was one of those times where, I mean, criticism. Nobody likes it because it doesn't feel good, but it comes from an important place and you have to listen to it because there's a reason why people are, they are saying, Hey, this thing is, is this doesn't make me feel great. You can react to that in two ways. You can say, well, too bad, or you can step back and say, oh, huh. Yeah, that's right. I didn't really think about that, and we will work on that. So we definitely took a step back and shored that up and reached out to more people and more developers and I think made the product and the season significantly better as a result.

Arisa Sudangnoi: It's been kind of like my personal goal to bring in more voices to the game industry and more diverse voices. And so working with Sweet Baby, having that opportunity to work with them has been really rewarding. They believe it's very important that we provide a way for people to get work on a project and get credited for it so that they can put it on their resume and find other work in the industry.

Cabel Sasser: Sweet Baby's an incredible group of super talented game makers. And we talked to them about making a game for Playdate, and they did. And then we talked about making more games for Playdate, because they have this incredible endeavor where they are connecting veteran developers with super talented developers that maybe don't have credits yet that don't have the experience in a shipped game, but have incredible abilities and skills. And like that is such a hard barrier and you just, you need to be seen and you need to be taken seriously. And that's really hard to do when you can't say, I shipped this. And so Sweet Baby's awesome idea is to pair people up and have a combination of experience and new experiences. It's so smart. It's so cool. And so when they said, yeah, we would love to put some teams together to make even more games for Playdate, it was just a super no-brainer. I'm so glad to be working with them. And the stuff they put together is super inspirational for us. It makes us excited about the platform.Again, it's just that great feedback loop of, like, happiness, which is the best case scenario for a collaboration.

Christa Mrgan: Sweet Baby's Lost Your Marbles is one of the 24 amazing games that will be included with Season One. In the spirit of keeping things mostly a surprise, and because I'm trying to keep this episode under two hours long, I don't want to list all of the Season One games here, but you can see the full list on our website, play.date And outside of Season One, Panic also has an ongoing Playdate developer preview.

Cabel Sasser: The Playdate Developer Preview was a way for us to really accomplish two things. One: get Playdate in the hands of brand new developers who have not touched this platform before and see how it goes. What's confusing? What was hard to set up? What do they need from our SDK? It's just a fresh set of experiences. That in a way it's kind of like a beta test of the SDK and then simultaneously kind of a beta test of our hardware. This has allowed us to check, does anybody have any problems with the crank? You know, we're going to manufacture a lot of these and send them out. So we really gotta make sure that they're good.

Arisa Sudangnoi: And because we had a very limited number of units, to give out, versus the amount of interest there was from developers, they're only 200 to 300 developers in the preview right now. We plan on expanding and releasing the SDK publicly at some point in the future, but we're wanting to kind of make sure that we can provide the sort of support that developers need and the documentation necessary before we do so.

Cabel Sasser: The Developer Preview kind of solved both birds with one stone. You don't solve a bird with a stone! I just don't want to talk about killing birds. Yeah, it was a twofer. It was actually tremendously useful, and the best part about the developer preview for me was watching people go from zero to like something in a really short period of time, which told me that we are kind of on the right track.

Christa Mrgan: There are tons of developers who have been making really cool stuff. So: what about a Season Two?

Cabel Sasser: If we do a Season Two, we will have that audience that already has Playdates sitting on their desk. So the dream of a synchronized season is way more possible with the Season Two, than Season One. So, you know, we'll see how that goes and cross our fingers that that can exist.

Steven Frank: Who knows what might happen in the future?

Christa Mrgan: Regardless, it's truly amazing to see the ingenuity and variety of games that people have been creating for this tiny device with a one-bit black and white screen.

Cabel Sasser: All of the quirks of Playdate, I think, helped tremendously in attracting developers to want to make something for Playdate. If Playdate had a full-color OLED screen and a powerful 3D chip, it would take a very long time for one person to say, yeah, I'll make a game for that. By going in the opposite direction of where gaming has gone lately, we return to a scale in which one person, two people, three people can make an awesome, entertaining, you know, lengthy, meaningful title, and the constraints enable that.

Shaun Inman: And it's like, oh, constraints! I love constraints. And so that was an obvious yes.

Christa Mrgan: That's Shaun Inman, who developed Playdate Pulp, created the Playdate font tool called Caps, and whose game Ratcheteer will also be part of Season One.

Shaun Inman: Panic asked me to pitch some games and the crank inspired a lot of interesting ideas for abilities that you would unlock in the game.

Greg Maletic: You know, we have a one-bit black and white screen. And so in some sense, you're like, how could you ever impress somebody with graphics on a one-bit screen, but people get that it's a one bit screen and calibrate their expectations accordingly. So you're like, whoa,I can't. How did that happen? Like you see this cool animation that's really super smooth.

Steven Frank: I think a lot of it comes from the choice of that particular screen. You kind of almost don't get it until you see it in person. 'Cause it's extremely sharp, especially under bright light, you know, it gets better the more light is shining on it, you know, unlike most displays you have today. It's one of those kinds of things where it's kind of an artificial constraint you can put on someone like a game designer and say, what can you do with this limitation? You know, how can you be creative in this box? And I think people have come up with some really cool ideas.

Neven Mrgan: I love the black and white 400 by 240 pixel Playdate screen. I kind of like don't want to design in anything else anymore. It is so freeing for me personally, to not think about the color and not think too much about like, even things like line weight and whatnot. I like to think that when I'm going to draw something in pixel art, there's like one way to do it. It's like, you have to draw an arrow at 16 by 16 pixels. And it's like, well, there's only one way to do it. Of course, that's completely false. You know, if you asked 20 different pixel artists to draw it out you will get 20 different arrows. There's different kinds of flavors to give to art, even when it's that small and that simple.

Dan Messing: A lot of the constraints that breed creativity is what I'm working on in games, the actual physical constraints of the device, you know, having a black and white screen, being small, and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, it definitely goes all the way down the stack to having to get creative with solutions, to make sure that, you're not overtaxing the hardware.

Marc Jessome: You have things like battery power that you needed to consider. You know, you want somebody to be able to play their Playdate for hours on end and not have to recharge it every, every 30 minutes. So there's these sort of constraints to connect that I find, bring out a lot of creativity in my work, and are really fun to think about and interesting problems to solve.

Cabel Sasser: When you're a kid, you get the like giant box of 80 billion crayons and it's like, eh, okay. You maybe like dink around with a few of them, but it's kind of overwhelming a little bit, but somebody gets to that classic eight pack or whatever, you got your primaries, you could draw your rainbow, you know exactly what you want to do. And, it's almost freeing in a way, to be given less than be given more, and particularly for the people that are attracted to this device in the first place.

Christa Mrgan: Panic really wants Playdate to be for everyone, from developing games to playing them. Mark Jessome has been working on something that will help make Playdate physically accessible to more people.

Marc Jessome: One thing that's been a lot of fun has been developing this mirror application, which we're sort of targeting as a streaming and accessibility tool that you run on your computer and you stream things like the screen to your computer. And you can send button presses from your computer back to the device. That has been a super fun and I think also very worthwhile, project, from a usability standpoint. Just sort of ensuring that absolutely anybody who wants to play Playdate will have the best chance that they can.

Christa Mrgan: And since every Playdate device is also a dev unit, what about opening up game development to people who might not know how to code? The Playdate SDK is fantastic, but it's not something that, for instance, I could use, because my development skills are limited to some basic HTML and CSS and copying and pasting bits of JavaScript from Stack Overflow. So developer Shaun Inman has been building a web-based application called Playdate Pulp for non-programmers like me. It's inspired by development environments like Adam LeDeux's Bitsy. Neven did the interface design.

Neven Mrgan: So we want to make it really easy to make games for Playdate, game development can only be so easy if you've never done any game programming before. There's always like a lot of setting up of just like tools and learning the basics of how programming works and then putting pixels on screen and then learning about, you know, how to solve different problems and physics and math and whatnot. And I think anyone can get there. With enough time and enough effort, they can learn that.

Christa Mrgan: Hey, thanks for that vote of confidence! But that sounds like a lot of work standing between me and the post-apocalyptic zombie text adventure I want to make.

Neven Mrgan: But it's also sometimes nice to then, give people a way to go from sort of zero to a game in a super short amount of time. And I really want this to have an answer for that. How can somebody who has never made a game before, but they really have a story to tell or, or an idea for a game. How can they make a game quickly? And so we came up with something, we call Playdate Pulp. Pulp is a web-based tool for making adventure story-based games, where you're like a character who's walking around this world that you design encountering other characters, finding stuff, picking up stuff, and sort of, exploring the world and running through the story of it.

Arisa Sudangnoi: Pulp is cool because it opens the doors for so many people that don't know how to program and they don't normally do game development. And so, allowing creative people to be able to make cool games, without the knowledge of complex programming languages.

Neven Mrgan: Pulp is limited in scope. There are definitely types of games that Pulp was not really designed for. You're not gonna make like a super fast, real-time shooter game in Pulp just because it's not what we made it for. But you can make a classic game where you're like exploring a village or some Dungeons or a house or something like that. Pulp is something you can use without ever writing a line of code. You can basically draw your art in it. You can lay out these like rooms or environments. You can put down characters, draw those, you can write what dialogue they say. All of that can be done without any code. However, if you're interested in learning a little bit of scripting code, Pulp also supports something called Pulp Script, where you can have those simple programming solutions. Like if my character has a sword, then they can defeat the dragon at the end, and so on. It really is not very, like, demanding in terms of the hardware that you run it on. The game that you're working on is saved to your account, on our servers. So you can just come back to it another time, or, you know, another computer and pick up where you left off. And, when you're done with this game, you can just download a .pdx file. That's the, like, executable game file for a Playdate, connect your Playdate via USB and just move this file over. And you've got your game made in Pulp, in a web browser playing on your Playdate. You can send this file to your friends and they can play it on their Playdates. So in that sense, you can go from, you know, In front of a web browser on your computer to playing a game on your Playdate and minutes. I don't know if there's like another thing like this for, you know, handheld consoles out there. But to me it's really cool that you can jump that quickly from an idea to drawing your art, writing your dialogue or whatever, and then playing a game on your own Playdate.

MUSIC

Christa Mrgan: Stepping back a bit, it's really wild to think that Panic has made not only this handheld gaming device that's 100% custom, but also developed its operating system from scratch, developed a full SDK that third-party developers have been using for a few years now, plus this entire web-based development environment where anyone can make their own Playdate games that will then run on any Playdate device. It just seems like a lot. But wait, there's more! Yeah, of course.

Neven Mrgan: We knew that people would want some way to protect their Playdate and also to kind of make it a little more fashion-y. So, we started thinking about some sort of a protective cover for it. Now the Playdate has the, like the crank on the side. It has buttons on pretty much all surfaces, you know, and like the front on the right side, on the top, you have ports on the bottom. So we didn't think that like a kind of a case that fully encloses it would really work well. We were thinking about other ideas. And so we were thinking about the axes along which you can put some sort of protective layer without, you know, blocking the crank or anything. And then,we started thinking about basically like about like a book jacket, you know? So the way that this Playdate cover works is, imagine sort of like a book. Turn it sideways so that it closes top to bottom. It clicks onto the back of the Playdate. It clicks magnetically by the way, in these like, corner screw holes on the Playdate. And then it sort of folds over the top and it then closes it, you know, from the back to the front, kind of like, like a book closing. It also makes it look kind of like an ice cream sandwich where you have these like, you know, two layers of the, you know, soft, cushy plastic of the cover around the Playdate. The cover is purple. The Playdate is yellow. It's a really cool color combo. So it does protect it because it protects the screen that covers the buttons. It'll protect it from getting, you know, bumped in your bag. But it also makes it look like a tiny little hardcover book that you can put on your shelf.

Christa Mrgan: The cover is super adorable. And then, of course, there's the Playdate stereo dock.

Greg Maletic: So the Playdate stereo dock is our first major accessory for the Playdate. The idea came from Teenage Engineering. They sent us a concept drawing of this thing. It just looked incredibly cool. It made Playdate, look like a little TV. And we immediately fell in love with it. It is a little yellow cube that sits on your desk and you can Mount the Playdate on the front of it. It's got a magnetic front so it snaps right onto it.

Jesper Kouthoofd: I felt, you know, like, okay, so if you don't have it in your hand, it would be really nice to have it like a desktop companion, something that you can have on your desk while you're working. It can just sit there.

Greg Maletic: And It does a couple of things. One is that it will charge your Playdate like a dock, the other thing that's important is that it also has stereo speakers built in. And so we're working on a special app that will stream really cool music to you. Wade Cosgrove has done an amazing job on the Poolsuite app for the stereo dock. People will get a lot of joy out of that, I think.

Wade Cosgrove: Poolsuite FM for Playdate is a music player for Poolsuite's handpicked playlists.

Greg Maletic: Incredibly cool kind of eighties-ish lounge, music. (It's not their music, it's music, they stream.) That will play through the stereo speakers.

Jesper Kouthoofd: It's also, I'm a pen freak, so of course it has like two slots for a pen.And I'm also happy Panic moved on with that and made a special pen for it. So I'm really looking forward to having one on my desk.

Steven Nersesian: This is being developed by S&O, by the factory,

Jessica Nersesian: And they have a long history with working in audio. So they have a lot of experience.

Steven Nersesian: We had multiple design concepts that we explored for quite some time before we converged on this concept of it being a thing that you put in one place and the charging station plus speaker plus pen holder.

Cabel Sasser: Just some trivia for you: The stereo dock was two separate pieces. There was the snap-on speaker, Bluetooth speaker, and then that itself would snap on to a dock/battery pack for the Playdate. So the idea was that if you want a slightly thicker Playdate on the go, you can snap on the speaker. And then if you want a very thick Playdate/one that also can sit on your desk, you can also snap on a battery pack. You can see that in the design today, where we kept the seam between the two units. Cause we thought it looked kind of visually interesting. But in getting into the realities of that point, that was a lot going on at once. With the Playdate, stereo dock, it was difficult to engineer something that was all of these separate pieces. And so at some point we said, okay, let's make this one piece. And then we said, and well, let's probably remove the battery because we don't need that anymore because it's now going to be just sitting on the desk. The Playdate stereo dock is awesome because it provides a cool home for the Playdate. That's my favorite thing about it. You know, rather than just having it sit on your desk, this is a beautiful looking thing. It's a nice-looking clock.

Christa Mrgan: Oh, so I guess Panic did make a clock after all! The company's 25th anniversary is coming up in 2022.

[MUSIC]

Christa Mrgan: For Panic, working on Playdate has been a wild and exciting and tumultuous 10 years. Now, finally, if you're listening to this, pre-orders have gone live!

Greg Maletic: Our plan is to take orders for as many Playdates as people want. We don't want to shut down orders early. Some people will get their Playdates relatively quickly. Some people may have to wait a little bit longer-- a few months, maybe even longer than that, depending on what demand is. And knowing that you will get a Playdate at some point, of course you can always cancel the order whenever you need to, if the wait is too long or for any reason at all, but we wanted to try and make this process as frustration-free as we could. And that was the most important thing is to just let people place an order and then save their place in line.

Christa Mrgan: So that's the plan. We're all feeling some combination of excited and extremely nervous.

Neven Mrgan: We knew that this day would come. We're kind of prepared, but also like maybe mentally not prepared.

Steven Nersesian: It's satisfying to be at the point where it is going to be put into a box. It is going to be shipped to somebody and, and working to know what demand looks like. It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm also anxious to know what that number is, so that we can start planning supply chain and ramping the volume appropriately.

Dan Messing: It's just a little bit nerve-wracking and exciting. I'm optimistically nervous or, I mean, I'm excited. No, I don't know.

Marc Jessome: A mix of excited and nervous. Maybe I just have a tough time telling the difference between the two.

Dakota Ward: I'm ready for it to ship.

Steven Frank: I'd like to have people of all ages be able to sit down with the system and you know, have some sort of fun experience with it. And regardless of their background.

Greg Maletic: I'm anxious. I'm just really curious to find out the number that we have been wondering about for the past six years is: how many people want a Playdate? That's been kind of a mystery to us for a very long time and it will be incredibly, I hope, gratifying to find out that it's maybe even a few more than we thought.

Cabel Sasser: From where I'm sitting right now in my home office, doing this at 11:43 PM, it's very difficult for me to talk about any of this stuff, because I don't know how the story ends and trying to dissect this project in the middle of the project is almost physically impossible for me. There's just too much wrapped up in it. A fairly significant portion of my life and the lives of my coworkers. All the people that have worked so hard on this thing for so long, I just hope that nobody comes out of this experience feeling at all disappointed. So I'm going to be optimistic and hope for the best. But yeah. Feeling a little shaky. Maybe I also need to go to bed. I am excited. Despite my trepidations, despite my uncertainty about what's going to happen in a few weeks or a few months, I am excited to see what happens. I am excited to see how people feel when they get their units and excited, definitely, most excited to see what people create.

Jessica Nersesian: Excited about it finally coming to fruition. I mean, what's better than a device that just makes people happy? The entire purpose is to have fun.

Dave Hayden: I can't wait to see what happens next.

[MUSIC]

Christa Mrgan: Thanks so much for joining me for this episode of the Panic Podcast. This is the final episode of Season One. It was delayed along with Playdate, because I really wanted to sync it up with pre-order day. So thank you for your patience, and thanks for listening. And here's some news I hope you'll be excited about: There will be a separate Playdate Podcast, featuring more behind-the-scenes Playdate stories and interviews with Playdate game developers! So follow us on Twitter for more updates on that soon. We are @Playdate. Some of the interviews in this episode were recorded back in 2018, and recording them is what inspired me to make the Panic Podcast in the first place. Other conversations you heard today were recorded more recently, over video calls. But so many people have worked on and contributed to Playdate that I couldn't possibly have interviewed them all for this episode! And I'm still leaving a lot out, that hopefully I'll follow up on in the Playdate Podcast. Kyle Rimkus has been focused on getting the payment system up and running to take pre-orders. Tim Coulter has been working hard on the websites. Sandwich made us the most phenomenal ad for Playdate, which you should definitely check out. PopAgenda has been wrangling all of our PR stuff;they've been amazing. And special thanks to Teenage Engineering, Metric Designworks, S&O, and of course, everyone at Panic.

Cabel Sasser: There is not a day goes by that I do not appreciate, and I am not amazed by, what the people I work with are capable of. And that's just the best feeling to be inspired by the people that you work with and it in turn bringing out the best in you. The best people to create things with are the people that go, sure. Like, let's try that. Sounds exciting. Sounds fun. And that's not exclusively, let's try that, because they also have to be people that can say,well, we tried that and maybe we should do it like this, or maybe we should do this other thing instead. That's an important balance, but I'm always, always thankful to be surrounded by people who will just jump in and try things and just see how it goes.

Christa Mrgan: The Panic Podcast was written, produced, and edited by me, Christa Mrgan. And our amazing theme music was composed by Cabel Sasser, who also wrote the Playdate theme you're hearing now, along with Simon Panrucker. Neven, Mrgan designed the podcast page and artwork, Tim Coulter built the website and wrangles the podcast feed. Michael Buckley made the super-cool Audion web player, featuring tons of faces he revived from the Audion archive. You can see and use it by hitting the play button on any podcast on our podcast page. I hope you'll join us over on the Playdate Podcast feed. Look for updates on that soon. Thanks, and bye for now!

Jesper Kouthoofd: All right. I was recording with a Neumann U87 and a little Tascam fieldrecorder, DR60D Mark II. Okay, have a great summer. I'm going on holiday now for, uh, four weeks. Yes, we have four weeks in Sweden. Bye bye.