Jon Shafer is the lead designer on Civilization V. That game was a pretty huge reimagining of a well-established series. So when Shafer announced he was leaving the game’s developer, Firaxis, that was news.
Turns out Shafer wanted to start over, with a smaller team and a smaller game. But his idea of a “smaller” game was one that would reinvent strategy games all over again. Only this time, instead of 300 people, he had only three.
I spent a couple of days with Shafer, his fiancee Kay Fedewa and their programmer Jonathan Christ. Conifer Games’s office is Kay’s house. It’s full of plants and wildlife. She owns a pet fox. Shafer kept a pet bird on his desk (at the time — the bird has since died).
The setting was fairly typical for indie game developers, at least in so far as it was weird. But Shafer was no typical indie game developer. This was one of my favorite assignments for Polygon.