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?
My background is in computer graphics and animation, but I grew up in Mexico watching anime and playing video games. Film is a powerful tool to tell great stories, but I feel that lately, games have also become capable of not only telling wonderful stories but also engaging their audience more than film. Even more exciting, players interact directly with the characters and the events of a game, often changing the course of the story, thus creating a more personal and unforgettable experience.
At what age did you create your first game?
I was 27 when I began teaching Game Design at Brown College, here in Minnesota. We would analyze and build several prototypes with students but it wasn’t until 10 years later where I co-developed my first video game with my friend from grad school, Dev Jana. While he focused on programming, I leaned towards computer animation and storytelling. In 2015 he asked me to join forces in making a game and 2 years later we are hitting post-production on Newt One, a 3D musical, non-violent platformer.
What formal training do you have that has helped you?
In college, the courses that helped me the most were figure drawing, color theory, 3D modeling, animation, film, special effects, and storytelling. Luckily today the software and technology required to make video games has become more available to people with no programming background. In my case, our game would not exist if it wasn’t for all the work that Dev has put into building the mechanisms and programs that make Newt One a fun experience. The real heart and soul of Newt One lies in the combination of Dev’s music and programming skills with my background in fine arts and computer animation. Together, I think that we’ve created something really fun and exciting.
What are some of your favorite tools or resources?
We use Unity where I create the levels and in game content while Dev programs the game in C#. For character animations and assets, I use Maya and Photoshop.
How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?
At this moment there are two of us. Dev composes music and does all the of programming while I am in charge of level design and art for the game.
What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?
Newt One will be our first game published together and we will be seeing it on the XboxOne, PC, and Mac this fall.
What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?
The current scene is small at the moment, but it exists and it is full of friendly, talented people with a passion for creating all sorts of games. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few years, the scene has doubled or tripled, which would be awesome. Dev and I have full time jobs, Newt One has been a hobby project that we work on during our spare time and I don’t really feel like making the game has been a struggle for us. We have also met with IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Minneapolis chapter. They welcome everybody and, during their monthly meetings, they encourage the networking of artists and developers, so the game development scene continues to grow.
What is the most rewarding?
We set out to make a game that makes people happy and relaxed. Watching play-testers of all ages smile and have fun while playing Newt One is honestly the most rewarding experience for me.
What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?
Do not expect to become a millionaire from your first game. Maybe your game or app becomes huge and it turns into the next Minecraft, or maybe you just want to improve your portfolio, but whatever the reason, do it because your heart and soul is in it. Understand that it takes time and patience to make a game. Come in knowing that the community is small but super friendly and very supportive and that we all want the same thing as you, to make fun games, share stories, music, art, and our passion for video games with the world. I would suggest to have a full-time or part-time job on the side as well, so you have a way to pay for the basics and your game development experience is less stressful.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Know that you are not alone and that there are plenty of people in the Twin Cities who can help you find the answers or aid you at any given step of the development process. Reach out to IGDA Twin Cities or attend Glitch or any other interactive media events in the Twin Cities. Make connections, you’d be surprised how friendly and helpful everyone really is.