An Interview with Ryan Loftus, Creator of the Inside Computer Game
Updated: Jan 14
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play the video game that Bo's Twitch streamer character plays in Inside? You know, "press A to cry" and all that.
Well, you're in luck! Ryan Loftus has created an amazingly adorable recreation of Inside as an 8-bit computer game, complete with cut scenes, music, and lots of Bo crying haha.
You can play Ryan's incredibly fun game here: https://rloft123.itch.io/inside
After playing this computer game myself multiple times (including with my son who's a huge Bo fan), I wanted to find out more about how Ryan made such an entertaining and nostalgic game and what he's up to next.
Here is my interview with Ryan, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
Bo Burnham Historian: Hi, Ryan! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about your project.
Can you please provide some details about yourself?
Ryan Loftus: I'm 29 years old, and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my wife, dog, and cat where I work as a software engineer. I went to school for Computer Science and graduated from Metropolitan State University in St Paul.
BBH: Sounds like you really enjoy working with computers.
When did you get started with creating these types of games? Are you formally trained or just doing this for the fun of it?
RL: In hindsight, I actually started in elementary school when I would create custom games in Warcraft 3 for fun. They had a user-friendly world editor software that allowed you to make your own games within the game, and it's where unknowingly I learned a lot of basics with programming logic.
When I got to college, I was considering game development as a profession, but I learned that the field is very competitive and the work stress from extreme deadlines just wasn't worth it to me.
I decided that I'd just create games on the side for fun, and about a year ago I started creating my own larger scale game after being heavily inspired by the creator of Stardew Valley, ConcernedApe (Eric Barone), who was able to make an entire game on his own.
BBH: That's impressive!
So when did you become a fan of Bo? Have you known about him for a long time, or did you discover him through Inside?
RL: I became a fan of his back in the early YouTube days. I remember a friend showing me "I'm Bo Yo" and thought it was hilarious. His early home videos felt like he was just another suburban goofy white kid with an edge, so it was easy relating to him and becoming a fan.
After that I followed his career pretty closely, watching any new YouTube music video he released, his specials, his poetry book [Egghead], Zach Stone, Eighth Grade, all of it.
BBH: Wow, you are a longtime fan! That's really cool. I only got into Bo after Eighth Grade.
What inspired you to make the Inside game? Was it just based on the Twitch streamer sketch, or did you want to expand upon that idea? What was your process from concept to the final product?
RL: I wanted to just create a small practice project so I could learn more about indie game development and all its aspects, one that would allow me to learn how to make a fully packaged game start to finish with music, sound effects, art/animations, etc. And yes, it was based on that Twitch streamer sketch. I thought it'd be fun to actually play the game Bo was playing.
The development process started with the initial art, to being able to move around as Bo, to eventually adding in the piano and door to initiate cutscene sequences.
I actually posted the original art as a GIF of Bo crying to Reddit awhile back where it got a lot of attention. Lastly, I made the music, a couple of sound effects, and then just finished up with some smaller details.
I could have continued working on it further since I'm a bit of a perfectionist, but I felt like it was in a nice place and I learned all I could from the project.
I also had to return to my core project, which took a backseat while making this game.
BBH: I completely understand...I'm a perfectionist too!
What is your favorite aspect of your game? What was the most difficult to execute?
RL: The one thing that actually shockingly took the longest time for what I got out of it was how Bo's character sprite would grow and shrink when moving up and down to simulate depth in a 2D space.
Some of the hilarious bugs I encountered when doing this shocked me, from him growing immediately larger than the room to him totally inverting upside down randomly when moving him. One thing about programming is it's usually the smallest unsuspecting things that cause you the most trouble.
BBH: Yes, I'd say that's true for most things in life! Glad to hear it worked out in the end.
What was the best part of working on this project?
RL: The most satisfying aspect of the game was just how it all came together as a more or less cohesive piece, from the intro sequence all the way to the sequence where you leave to go outside, and then back inside. Seeing a project all the way through is always extremely satisfying.
BBH: Oh, I know that feeling with this website as well. It's strictly a labor of love!
My favorite part of your game is definitely choosing your mood for the piano music and the subsequent song that appears (e.g., "affluent" leads to Bezos II). How did you conceive of that aspect of your creation? Did you ever consider doing other songs, or were you looking for specifically creative clothing choices that let the player know immediately what you're referencing?
RL: I'm glad you liked that, because it was difficult to figure out a good way to go to these cutscenes in a manner that seemed to flow well.
I eventually came up with the thought bubble where you're navigating his inner dialogue and deciding what he wants to do.
Inside in general seems to be an artistic/neurotic exploration of Bo's mind where he's almost overly introspective to a fault, so some of that neuroticism I felt needed to be captured.
This is why you're almost fighting with your inner thoughts in the game, especially when trying to leave to go outside.
I picked these songs specifically because they all capture the different tones from the special well. They aesthetically differ in the art style, which makes them stand out from one another.
I was close to adding "How The World Works", but I felt I had spent enough time on the project. I actually didn't know it'd get this kind of attention or else I may have added more.
BBH: If you do decide to add a little Socko in your game, I certainly wouldn't complain!
I also wanted to mention that I adore how wholesome your game is. Did you aim for it to be family-friendly?
My six-year-old son is obsessed with video games currently, and he absolutely loves the graphics and simplicity of the Inside game.
RL: Well first of all thank you, and I'm glad he enjoyed it! I actually didn't try to do that funny enough. The art style of Bo's sprite that was inspired by Stardew Valley is fairly simple and gives that wholesome feel.
I feel like it's a microcosm for Bo's material in general—at a surface level, a lot of it appears to be family-friendly, but it has darker undertones.
The song choice also probably gave it that feel; it would have felt different if I used the Outtakes version of "All Eyes On Me" for example.
BBH: That's a good point. I was sort of surprised that you didn't include Bo's Grammy-winning song, but green troll Bo or depressed blue Bo probably wouldn't match the lighthearted nature of your game.
So, do you have any specific hobbies or interests that people don't know about?
RL: I train and have competed in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu/Submission Grappling, which is a good physical hobby that balances out the ones that have me sitting at my computer.
BBH: That's wonderful and must be great exercise!
Back to Bo. What's your favorite song/special by him? You can name more than one.
RL: My favorite song probably has to be "Words Words Words." It's shocking to hear that clever of wordplay from someone so young at the time.
From Inside I would have to say my favorite song is "That Funny Feeling."
It's hard to say which era of Bo I enjoy more, from the cocky young clever phase to the more introspective and abstract phase with Inside.
I'm a huge David Lynch fan, and I couldn't help but notice some of his influences with Inside (among probably many other film influences), which isn't shocking since Bo is a cinephile/movie buff and even references Lynch's Eraserhead in the song "Sexting."
For that reason I'd probably have to pick Inside as my favorite—it's far more artistic than anything he has ever done before.
BBH: Agreed—That Funny Feeling and Inside are my favorites too!
Do you have any upcoming projects? I saw on Reddit that you're working on a different game now. What's it about? Do you plan on making another game related to Bo (based on the Outtakes maybe)?
RL: I do actually! It's a game that I've been working on consistently for about a year now. It'll be a 2D pixel art game in a similar art style to this game, but much more large scale (and with the sprite art style that is more my own).
One game it will be somewhat similar to is Disco Elysium, which I actually found after I started working on my game.
The player will be a part of this living, breathing town filled with colorful characters of all sorts that you'll interact and form bonds with, all while navigating through the core mystery of the game (no spoilers).
I want it to have a charming feel at the surface level, but with darker undertones, and things will get more "weird" as the game goes on and you dig deeper into the mystery.
If you're a fan of Inside, I feel like you'll enjoy this, and who knows, there may or may not be a Bo-inspired character in the town :)
BBH: It sounds delightful, and you've definitely piqued my interest with the similarity to Bo's masterpiece!
When do you expect people will be able to try out your new game?
RL: No prediction on when it will be available to play at the moment. My goal is 2 years from now to have it released.
To answer the other question, no plans now to make another Bo-related game at the moment, but who knows.
If Bo himself sees this and wants me to make another game that is an actual proper game, I'd be down!
BBH: Nice—let's hope he sees it then! haha.
So with all of your projects, how can fans best support you? Do you have any social media that you'd like to plug?
RL: I'm not huge on social media, but I do frequent my Instagram where I would totally post about my game development journey if people were interested.
BBH: Sounds great.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Ryan, and good luck with your new game!
RL: It's my pleasure!