My Indie game development life

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Hey Everyone. I have been thinking about putting these thoughts down in a blog for a while now. I would like to talk about my life and the world of indie game development and what it all means to me. The best place to start would be the beginning.

My name is Anthony, At the time of writing this I am 31 years old and I live just outside of London, England. I, like most indie developers hold a “real” job that I don’t want. I work a 40 – 60 hour week and look forward to coming home and diving into developing what ever game I am working on. Its the thought of working on my games (and seeing my amazing wife) that gets me through the day. I’m not very well at the moment. I’m struggling with some sort of depression but I am getting help so things may be looking up. This is not a plea for sympathy but a frank insight into my world as an indie developer and perhaps this is mirrored by others who may take some comfort in knowing its not unusual. I love creating games, its what I do and who I am. Its what I want to do and i’m doing my best.

My love of video games started very young, my parents separated when I was young and I have vivid memories of seeing my dad at weekends and him driving me to Wembley market and buying a brand new game. It was around the time of the Megadrive release that I really became fascinated by video games. Toe Jam and Earl being a huge favourite at the time. Even to this day I love that game and drew visual inspiration from it for Sweezy Gunner in the way the worlds fall away at the edges. I spent alot of time playing video games with my brothers and started designing characters and levels for my own games, I had folders and pads full of the stuff. My older brother was drawing levels of his own for his own game he had designed, I was always jealous of how great the idea was but he didn’t know that.

This love of video games became an obsession when I found myself in the grips of Nintendo and their amazing games. Moving from the Mega Drive to the Snes and then to the N64. At one point I think I had almost every game released on the N64. I would play the games but would always stop and admire the textures and colours, the way the games were built amazed me. I will never forget playing Zelda Ocarina of Time for the first time, It was an experience the likes of which I have not had since. Simply breath taking. Strangely my most prominent memory of Zelda was finding the heart piece in the Lon Lon Ranch, pulling aside a crate and crawling through a small hole in the barn to reveal a tiny room containing a shiny heart piece sitting in a pile of straw. (Banjo Kazooie is also one of my favourite games ever made and cannot wait for Yooka Laylee to be released). Designing games on paper was fast becoming unacceptable and I started thinking about how I could make actual games.

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I purchased a piece of software called DIV Games studio. It came in the old style large cardboard box. It was very exciting and I began studying the manual and tutorial that came with it. I spent hours copying and studying the code until I had a fully working Space Invaders clone. It was fantastic(ly bad). I had made a game and I was so happy about it. As time went on I learnt of other software available and came into possession of the original RPG maker. I have always loved RPG’s and set about making “The Adventures of Tao”. A lengthy RPG with a story I cannot recall but I did put all my friends and family in the game and gave it to all of them. I wish I had a copy of it, it would be great fun to sit and play through a game I made over 15 years ago. I also purchased industry magazines and one such magazine had a disc attached to the front with a piece of software called “The Games Factory” This is when it all changed. Developed by Click Team who I have the greatest respect for. It was very user friendly in comparison to DIV and allowed for a far wider scope than RPG maker. The Games Factory would let me make what ever I wanted and that’s what I started to do.

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I spent every spare minute making games, most of which were small pieces of huge games. I have always been a sucker for making games with huge scope for a one man show. I had also started visiting The Daily Click (http://www.create-games.com) all day every day and was talking to other indie developers and sharing my ideas and playing everyone else’s. It was a very happy time for me. I loved the friendly community of developers I had found and to this day wish it was still as active as it was back then. I had started working on 2 games at this point, one called Dreamweaver, an RPG with crafting and the other called Scratch, a Wonderboy inspired platformer. Sadly neither were completed but I had learnt alot and enjoyed making them. It was during this development that I decided to upgrade my software to Clickteams more professional tool then called Multimedia Fusion (Now Click Fusion). I made a few more small games before taking a break from development for several years. I was now nearly 20 years old and had moved out of my parents house and in with my girlfriend (now my wife)

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It wasnt long before I jumped back into development. After the break I returned to game making with a different state of mind, It was no longer a hobby but something I had to do. I had not stopped drawing during this break and was now a proficient user of Photoshop. I set about designing several small games, again non of which saw the light of day. I remember trying to make an Zelda like RPG, I really wanted to capture that memory I loved of finding the heart piece all those years ago in Lon Lon Ranch. At this point in the real world I was working as a cook in a pub kitchen, it was OK but the pay was terrible and I knew I wanted to work in the games industry, I applied for a job at EA in the ECG department (QA). I got invited for an interview and was asked questions and given an exam regarding game development and bug finding etc. I got the job. It was this point in my life that I was most happiest I think. Even with the 2 hour commute in a clapped out old Vauxhall Nova I had purchased in a pub for £100 with no hand break it was the best job I had ever had and I was proud of getting it.

I worked at EA for around a year, testing games and working with some really great people. I had a really great time and for all the bashing EA gets, the time I spent there is looked back at fondly. However at the beginning of 2007 EA decided to move the department to Madrid. I couldn’t go with them and I lost the job and returned to working in a pub kitchen. I dove back into making my own games, I had an idea that was rumbling around in my head. A cross between Toe Jam and Earl and Zelda but with guns. I started working on this game which was later to be my first commercial game Sweezy Gunner. It was a pixel graphic tank that shot balls at a few enemies, It had a semi working inventory and some items to collect. I loved the concept and restarted the project but this time I was going to really push my skills as an artist and developer.

original-sweezy

Sweezy Gunner was in development for nearly 2 years. I worked solo on the entire project. Every spare minute I had I would pour into it. I learnt so much and enjoyed every second of its development. During development I became good friends with my sound guy Neil “Injekted” Stevens. An amazingly talented drum and base producer who joined the fold and made the soundtrack for the entire game. Completing Sweezy Gunner was a huge personal achievment. My only aim when making the game was to sell one copy to someone I didn’t know and them enjoying it. I released Sweezy Gunner onto this website on the 01/08/2013. It was an amazing day. Sweezy didn’t sell many copies from my site but it sold some and that was amazing for me. I then released Sweezy Gunner on Desura before putting it on the newly launched Steam Greenlight. It was a tense time watching it slowly climb the ladder of Steam Greenlight. The day it got Greenlit was a weird experience, I received a message on Steam from a friend telling me to check the Greenlight page and there it was, a large banner saying Sweezy Gunner was Greenlit. Such a happy day. I set about adding all the Steam assets and plumbing in the achievements before releasing Sweezy Gunner on Steam on 06/05/2014. Releasing a game on Steam is an achievement I am very happy about. My first commercial game on the worlds largest video game marketplace. Sweezy sold fairly well and to this day is still rated “Very Positive” which is something I am immensely proud of.

I often check through the community pages of Sweezy Gunner and try and respond to every comment and review. I am humbled by people taking the time to play my game and leave me feedback (good or bad). There have been mistakes along the way and lessons learnt but it has been one of the best things I have done with my life so far and cannot wait for the upcoming release of my newest project Geo which you can read about in more depth in my previous Post.

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Between completing Sweezy Gunner and working on Geo I worked on a major project called Kingdom Lost. A large scale, colourful dungeon crawler drawing large inspiration from Recettear (also one of my favourite games). It was a very large project. I learnt alot from the year I spent developing Kingodm Lost but sadly I realised that it would take me the best part of a decade to complete it. I put Kingdom Lost to bed but took away from it a huge amount of knowledge and a realistic vision of what I can achieve on my own and the importance of scale. A lot of the concepts and programming from Kingdom Lost are used and adapted for Geo.

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As for the future of Windybeard. Geo’s release is close approaching. I am spending every available moment working on it and am loving every second of it. What Geo’s release will bring is unclear and exciting but I do know that whatever happens I will continue making games as its what I love to do. I dream of making a full time career out of game development and who knows, with enough hard work and dedication it may happen. All I know is game development is what I love doing and I will always do it. If your reading this I appreciate your time more than you know. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this brief insight into my world and my game development history and please don’t hesitate to say hello!