Welcome to Ask An Indie where we interview local independent game developers to learn how they make, do and create.
What inspired you to start making games?
Originally I decided that I wanted to make video games when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I always loved playing video games and, like many, thought “Man, it would be cool to make my own video game.” I didn’t really pursue it until I found a game engine called DarkBasic.
It allowed you to make any kind of game you wanted where you actually coded the game rather than a simple “Paint-by-Numbers” editor that other game engines boasted at the time. I was so excited to learn how to code; my dad is a Computer Science major so he was instrumental in my learning process.
At what age did you create your first game? What was it like?
I was about 10 years old when I made anything that resembled a game on my own. The first game that I created was a drawing application that was similar to Etch ‘n Sketch. You moved a cursor around the screen “painting” as you move along. You could change the cursor’s color, but that was about it. I had a ton of ideas that I wanted to add into it, like different sized paint cursors and the ability to save your work in a file. But I never got around to finishing it.
My first “true” game that I worked on that was Emerald, it was a top-down platformer that was heavily inspired by Frogger. The goal was to collect emeralds by navigating challenging platforms. It had a level editor, multiplayer, and multiple areas to explore. This game is what started Tribe Games and I learned a lot about creating a full-fledged game. But I decided to put the project on hold because I was pretty busy with other projects. You can actually find my old articles on my blog: Introducing Emerald | Tribe Games.
What formal training (if any) do you have that has helped you?
I am currently going to school at the University of Minnesota Duluth, studying Computer Science with an Art minor. Formal training has helped a bit in terms of approaching concepts like a Computer Scientist, but really the vast majority of my learning comes from the small projects that I did and the online tutorials that I watched. I learned a lot about the process of game development by working on those, especially my later projects.
What are some of your favorite tools or resources?
My favorite tool for game development is the Unity game engine. I absolutely love Unity. It really has changed the landscape of game development. It has been instrumental in my development as a developer and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to start learning about game development.
FL Studio is also a favorite of mine for creating music of all types. I have been using it for 6 years and have been loving every second of it. I mesh really well with its workflow, I put my ideas on “paper” quick an easy.
As for art, I have used GIMP for the majority of my time working on game development (its free). But I recently purchased the Adobe Suite and started to convert over to Photoshop and Illustrator. But I am no expert in them yet so I can’t give a ringing endorsement yet (though Illustrator is pretty fun to use!).
How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?
Tribe Games is just made up of myself. I do all of the programming, art, music, even social media and marketing.
What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?
I have published 2 games; my first published game was Glitch in the System. It is a 2D top-down arcade shooter. It is available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows Store.
You can find it here: Glitch in the System | Tribe Games.
The second game I made was Meet Evva: The Game. It is a companion piece to the article on Evva Kraikul, who is one of the co-founders of Glitch Gaming. This one was interesting as this was complements the concepts of the article into the game. You can find a link to the article and game here: Meet Evva: The Game | Tribe Games.
What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?
One of the most challenging things about being in the Twin Cities is being so far away from various development hotspots. You can’t just walk down the street and see a slew of other video game developers working on different games of all shapes and sizes, genres and themes. With that being said, there are plenty of place to go here in Minnesota to find other developers. Places like Glitch, IGDA, and various conventions or organizations, you just need to know where to look, which there lies the problem.
To a newcomer (I say as if I was a veteran…) it can be pretty intimidating to start out not knowing that there’s a growing community here. That’s where I was when I first started out, I thought I was the weird one who wanted to make video games when I started (again… making it sound like I’m not new myself…), but in finding those places I feel you can overcome that challenge. You just have to know where to look.
What is the most rewarding?
Hands down that has to be growing with the community. As I mentioned, I didn’t know others wanted to do what I wanted to do, let alone they are actually doing it. When I discovered the growing community that is being fostered here I made sure to put myself within it. Doing so has really changed my perspective on what I think I can accomplish in the future. Seeing others pursue these same dreams is really infectious and it motivates me to push myself further in my work. Having peers around me who are just starting as well (like Lane Davis of Escape Industries) or veterans of the craft at arm’s reach (like Chip Pedersen of FrostBit Studio) it really is wonderful to be a part of it and help it grow.
What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?
Well, you are already being proactive by reading this interview! Look for those around you who also want to break into the industry. Find others that have the same drive that you do, if you can’t find anyone around you, try starting up a group and see who joins. You could even take to the internet and visit forums, converse, and collaborate with other developers. Find the mentors around you that you can get in touch and work with.
Another thing I want to emphasize is to have fun and do what you love. Most of the people in the industry that I know do it because they love games. That is not to say that there isn’t hard work ahead of you, in fact if you are at the very beginning you probably are underestimating just how much work it is to work in game development (I can speak from experience on that point). Which brings me to my last point, and I can’t stress this one enough:
Finish a game, no matter how small you think it is, finish it.
When I say finish a game I mean all the way up to a full release of the game, whether that be on a website, blog, forum, app store, or some other place to get in front of other people. This gets you used to the entire process of making a game. Don’t just keep making unfinished games or projects, commit and finish it all the way. You get to say the words, “This is the game that I made” with confidence that it is completed, which is a huge step ahead of those who aren’t as motivated. It doesn’t have to be the next evolution of games, just finish a game.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
In the interest of promoting the idea of discovering resources that you can use here are some to get you started:
www.glitch.mn , www.igdatc.org , and if you want to follow me: www.tribe-games.com , Personal Twitter: @DarkaysTG, Tribe Games Twitter: @TribeGames