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Dims: Developing a Platform for Creating Open-World Experiences

Tobias Enholm has told us about Dims, a platform for creating open-world experiences, discussed the tech behind the platform, and shared some info about the company's culture.


80.lv: Please introduce yourself and your team. Where did you study? What companies have you worked for? What projects have you contributed to?

Tobias Enholm, CEO at Dims: Our CTO/CPO and Co-Founder Fredrik Norén studied Computer Science at Chalmers School of Technology and started a small game studio directly after graduation. Besides building games and game engines, he's also worked on both tech and products for Spotify. Some fun projects he's done recently are Pixling World that just like this project leveraged proceduralism, and Dr.Derk's Mutant Battle Ground, which centered around evolving AI agents through reinforcement learning.

Our Art Director, Oskar Kjelleryd, studied at The Swedish Academy of Realistic Art and has a degree of Bachelor of Arts with a specialization in illustration. After 15+ years in the industry, he's been involved in a lot of fun projects like Wolfenstein and plenty of other projects through his own company and Aurora Punks.

Tei Roberts is already one of the best game tech specialized Rust programmers, having built a game engine, renderer, and more before turning twenty. 

I'm Tobias Enholm and have the role of CEO and Co-Founder. With Dims I'm working on finding the best game makers out there and giving them something super fun and challenging to build. I studied Business and have since managed teams of 30+ people, done Management Consulting where I was working on tech projects and hired top talent, and lastly, I was a core part of building a tech startup launching our product all over Europe.    

The Dims Project

80.lv: How is work organized at Dims? Could you tell us about different teams? How do different teams communicate with each other?

Tobias Enholm: We're strong believers that each person should have clear ownership of what they are building. We center our work around the tools and products we're developing, meaning each person owns the things they're working on, so if you're a Tools Programmer here you're heavily involved in deciding what products to build and then designing, prototyping, and building them. So there are no sprints, handovers, or extensive excel sheets where each step is planned out. Projects die if they're over-planned, and thrive if people take accountability and have fun.

80.lv: Please tell us about your project. Why did you decide to start working on a project that lets players create their own worlds?

Tobias Enholm: We're excited about the amazing things creative communities can achieve if they're given the opportunity. Back in the day, the Warcraft III community created one of the most loved games ever, DOTA, and with this, gave birth to the whole MOBA genre.

We believe that all the millions of storytellers and world builders out there will be the ones making the next epic open-world game like Witcher or Red Dead Redemption. That's just not possible today. If you're a creator and jump into the UGC platforms/no-code engines out there today you end up building alone in a boring editor, having to wear all the hats of the game dev team doing everything from scratch. Having to spend countless hours grinding out the terrain, placing man-made objects by hand, etc. means less time to create engaging gameplay that tells the story and takes people on an adventure.

We instead give creators easy tools, most of them procedural, so that you'll be able to make large 10x10km worlds, with your friends in real-time. Going for a realistic art style. If your dream is to create your own Middle Earth or the Star Wars world Tatooine with your friends you should be able to do that, all while messing around within the world you're creating.

The Tech Aspect of Dims

80.lv: What’s the tech behind the project? What did you generate for creators? What were your main tasks? How do you make sure the platform is flexible, yet easy to use?

Tobias Enholm: We've built our engine from scratch in Rust, and on top of that we're developing easy and powerful creation tools. We're starting out with a terrain tool, and our goal with this is to make it feel physical, so we started with layering the terrain into a rock and a soil layer, which the player can manipulate. We then implemented a hydraulic erosion system on top of that, where we actually simulate thousands of raindrops hitting and eroding the terrain. There are also natural variations in the terrain, such as the hardness of the rock, which you don't control directly as a player, but makes it more interesting to carve out your landscapes. We're working with our community to develop this further, and would love to get feedback from anyone who tries it!

Acquiring New Team Members

80.lv: What skills do you consider when hiring a new specialist? Are there any particular soft skills that are important to your team?

Tobias Enholm: We're looking for people who've made procedural tools and it's a plus if they are curious about the programming language Rust. We're both looking for those coming from an artist background and like tech but don't necessarily focus on programming, i.e Tech Artists. But also Tools Programmers, those who start from the tech point of view but for the purpose of making environments or man-made stuff. For the soft skills it's important to be a good communicator, be one who comes with ideas and who takes responsibility. All of these are important because we have a remote model.

80.lv: How do you make sure that beginners feel welcomed and safe at the studio? How do you help them build a common understanding with other teammates?

Tobias Enholm: We've got a good onboarding process, where new hires that work remotely get to come to Stockholm and hang with us for a week or two. This makes it easier to get to know each other and feel part of the team. Also, every quarter or so we meet up at some nice warm place for a week and work together. Step one is only hiring people who have good values, this way it's easy to establish a good language, avoid jargon, and rather focus on getting to know each other as persons. That has gone well so far, and has resulted in us regularly hanging out with each other outside work too!

80.lv: Do you consider freedom an important part of your environment? Can artists suggest new strategies and workflows? Can they affect strategic decisions?

Tobias Enholm: Totally, this is at the core of the way we build our company. For example, our recent hire Tei came in and took full ownership end-to-end of the atmosphere and cloud system we're building and Oskar has full control over the artistic vision.

Managing Burnout

80.lv: How do you manage burnout? What strategies do you use? Let’s say there’s a super important project with tight deadlines, so the team can’t take a rest. What do you do to keep their mental health balanced?

Tobias Enholm: We're a startup so this is a thing we have to monitor closely as there's always tons of stuff to do. Most of it is fun and passion gives extra energy. But sure, there are times when the crunch can become a problem. A big part of the solution is to try to find ways to reduce the stress levels, like just quickly listing down the stuff to do and help prioritize them and then get back to work. Focusing on what we can control and nothing else. Also, when there are lots to do, making sure that there's food available and good music and a positive environment go a long way. We also keep the weekends free at all costs. Enough time to recharge is key to being able to work hard.

Future Plans

80.lv: What’s your current roadmap? When will we hear from you again? What features do you plan to develop this year? What job offers do you have right now?

Tobias Enholm: Every week you get dev updates from our Twitter and YouTube. In the middle of May we'll open up the pre-alpha again, and for this have a contest where anyone can come in and build a world and take a screenshot with the chance to win nice things. For this, we're polishing the terrain and biome tools and updating the UI. Next after that is a procedural buildings system so users can lay out entire cities quickly, and a narrative system for storytellers to be able to make audio or text prompts and trigger other events when a player enters an area. So they can start telling open-world 3D mysteries and other story-based experiences, a bit like the game Firewatch did.

We're hiring both a Tech Artist and a Tools Programmer to take the terrain editor to the next level and to build the procedural buildings system. We're also looking for a UI Developer/Programmer to design and build the character GUI, and a Software Engineer to build on our Rust engine. But we're growing a lot more at the end of the year and want to talk to any good game maker that likes what we're doing! Check out Dims' official website for job positions or just send me a mail and we'll have a chat.

Tobias Enholm, CEO and Co-Founder at Dims

Interview conducted by Arti Burton

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