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Tony Li, the Owner of Wild Domain Games and the lead engineer behind its game tools and middleware division, Pixel Crushers. Pixel Crushers is renowned for its popular Dialogue System for Unity, which has been instrumental in the development of Game of the Year award-winning titles, as well as educational and training applications. Tony’s primary focus in development lies in narrative AI, aiming to empower creators to build engaging interactive narratives.

Tony has over a decade of experience with Pixel Crushers, creating interactive entertainment and developer tools that have left a significant mark on the industry. His notable products include the Dialogue System for Unity, Quest Machine, and Love/Hate, which have been featured across various platforms and in critically acclaimed games. Prior to founding Pixel Crushers, Tony served as a Senior Backup and Recovery Engineer at Ace Info Solutions and held various roles at Infotech Systems Analysts, Inc., where he designed IT applications and managed backup architecture for federal clients.

With a career spanning over two decades, Tony’s expertise extends beyond game development. He was President of Infotech Systems Analysts, Inc. for nine years and owned Bushido Publishing for over four years, where he further honed his software development skills. Tony also contributed to educational technology as a Lead Software Engineer at Goldstein Educational Technologies, developing notable products like Professor Goldstein’s TI-83 Emulator. His extensive experience and passion for innovation continue to drive his contributions to the gaming and software development industries.

Pixel Crushers creates top-rated cross-platform middleware for Unity 3D, addressing challenging narrative AI issues with elegant and practical solutions. Renowned for their Dialogue System used in games like Disco Elysium and Jenny LeClue, they offer tools such as Quest Machine for dynamic quests, Love/Hate for relationship simulation, and Grid Controller for first-person grid-based movement. Additionally, they provide dedicated save system assets and customizable game characters, enhancing the development experience for Unity users.

Honeah: Welcome back to the Think Factory Podcast and I’m your host, Honeah Mangione of Outside General Counsel where we power the Think Factory podcast. And I am here with the multi-talented Tony Li. Tony is an author, engineer, a game developer, entrepreneur and mentor to go into some more specifics. He is an engineer and developer, developer of game tools and middleware software or assets used in game development. And one of his primary tools is the dialog system for Unity, which has been used in games such as this for Disco Elysium and Jenny LeClue- Both of those games are very big in my household, and Tony is also an entrepreneur. He is the owner of Pixel Crushers. So welcome, Tony, and thank you for agreeing to sit with me and be interviewed.

Tony: Oh, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Honeah: So, I thought that this would be a fun conversation to have, because it’s not often where we talk to scientists and engineers who have now become entrepreneurs. So, I wanted to first talk about your transition from being an engineer to a business owner. So, talk us about what the landscape was when you were an engineer and you had developed your first asset or tool for game development?

Tony: Well, sure. I’ve been working in or around the video game industry for quite a while, and I was working on a project that needed a dialog system. The project, as happens with a lot of video game enterprises, got canceled, but I was able to retain the dialog system and since it was very useful for the writers, I made it available for people to use. I figured if I could make it available at a reasonable price on the Unity Asset Store, then that would enable other aspiring game developers to have a leg up and get a head start on creating whatever they dreamed up.

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