It’s weird to think about, but there was a time less than a year ago when Among Us wasn’t a household name. When it first launched in 2018, it wasn’t a failure, exactly, but it seemed destined to live out its days as quietly as a good imposter—except without the killing. Then, last summer, it blew up thanks to a small handful of popular Twitch streamers, who then spread it to every other popular Twitch streamer. Suddenly, all eyes were on Among Us’ then-three-person development team.
This, the developers told YouTube interviewer Anthony Padilla, was no walk in the park. Even as Innersloth expanded—albeit slightly and slowly—team members suffered from burnout born of the immense expectations suddenly thrust upon them.
“Among Us going viral, it was just like, ‘OK, this is my life,’” Innersloth artist and doer of many additional things Amy Liu said. “The pressure to get things done quickly was really high. September to December, we’re talking to Xbox, PlayStation. They were gonna try to get Among Us on these platforms, which usually takes many months—like, half a year to a year. We were like, ‘Three months! We’re gonna try that.’”
The weight of expectation also came bearing down on Liu and the rest of the team at the height of a global pandemic.
“I definitely burnt out,” said a teary-eyed Liu. “It was tough because during all of this, we weren’t able to see friends and family. Being so tired from working, I couldn’t even go visit my family during covid and had to spend holidays alone...That was definitely the hardest time.”
Of course, the original members of Innersloth achieved incredible success, so it’s not like they were isolated and penniless. Artist and game designer Marcus Bromander acknowledged that there’s “an element” of having all your dreams come true that accompanies Among Us’ ascension to gaming royalty, and he said newfound money and resources certainly helped with “other stresses.” But it also upped the pressure.
“The amount of attention that we had on us, and like, every little thing we do is gonna get looked at and criticized,” Bromander said. “We changed the font at one point because it needed to be changed, and people were like ‘Bring back the old font! I don’t like this new font.’”
All the while, people would constantly declare Among Us—whose updates were born of a scrapped attempt at Among Us 2—a “dead game.” The developers learned how to ignore these sorts of comments, but they still had to sift through them in order to find constructive feedback. This took a toll.
“There was a while at the beginning of the year,” said Bromander, “when a lot of the negative comments were really starting to get to me, and—combined with the overwhelmed feelings—I was just like, ‘I don’t even want to work on this anymore. I’m done.’”
In general, Innersloth found it difficult to bring player expectations in line with reality. One contributing factor, explained programmer Forest Willard, was the game’s simple art style. Fans saw how basic the game looked and assumed that creating new content would be a cakewalk—even though the reason the developers wanted to make Among Us 2 in the first place was because the first game was prone to breaking when updated.
“Trying to one-up yourself while catching up, these things all take time,” said Willard. “And when you’re under hundreds of millions of [peoples’ worth] of pressure, they don’t understand that it takes months. The server issues should be fixed tomorrow, adding new stuff should be next week—it’s so easy [to them]. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s overwhelming.”
Among Us remains massively popular, but its time as a Twitch-topping sensation is over. While the developers at Innersloth feel a pressure to keep reaching for new heights, they no longer need to rush or try to keep their numbers up. They can afford to take their time—a luxury many less successful game developers do not have.
“You always want to be going up,” said Bromander. “You can’t go up forever. Peaking isn’t a bad thing. There can be pressure to [be] like, ‘We’ve gotta squeeze everything we can out of this game,’ but I don’t think we’ll do that. We’ll do what we can with the game. Once there’s no more ideas, we’re not gonna force it.”