Ask An Indie: Tommy Sunders, Space Mace

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Welcome to Ask An Indie where we interview local independent game developers to learn how they make, do and create.

The Indie:  Tommy Sunders, Game Designer & Artist at Space Mace.

What inspired you to start making games?

Games and creativity have pretty much always been part of my life. Growing up, making games seemed like the coolest thing in the world. I would sink hours into terrible games if you could make your own levels (look up Penny Racers for the N64). Games as a medium are still so young, there’s so much exciting untouched potential to explore.

At what age did you create your first game?

12 or 13ish? My parents sent me to a summer video game camp at the U of M that taught kids to code by making games. I pretty quickly learned that programming wasn’t really my thing.

What formal training do you have that has helped you?

I went to school for graphic design, which got me a job in advertising, which got me into web design, which led me to app design, that led to mobile games and game design in general, and in the last year and a half designing for virtual reality.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

I use Illustrator, Photoshop and Unity on a daily basis. Twitter and Instagram are great places to see what everyone else is working on and stay inspired.

How many people does your studio employ and in what capacity?

Space Mace is a three person team. Zachary Johnson does code and design. Robert Frost III is our musician, sound designer, and community dude. I do art and design.

What game(s) have you published and on what platforms are they available?

Space Mace’s first game, Joggernauts, is a platformer about trying not to kill your friends. We’ve had a super exciting summer going to some big game events with it and even made “best of” lists for this years E3 and PAX West from outlets like Game Informer, Ars Technica, and TechRaptor. It will be coming (soonish) to PC, Mac, and consoles.

I’ve also been a designer at Pixel Farm for over seven years, where I’ve worked on a number of games and VR experiences for clients like 3M, Buffalo Wild Wings, and United Healthcare.

What is the most challenging thing about being a game developer in the Twin Cities?

Networking. Unfortunately the game industry is mostly on the west coast – including platform holders, publishers, and industry influencers. Which (as you may have noticed) is far away from Minnesota. We make a point to fly out to as many events as possible, but we have a definite disadvantage by not living in California or Seattle.

What is the most rewarding?

One of my favorite things is watching a team of good friends play Joggernauts either at events or on streams. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to create fun moments between friends. So seeing people screaming and laughing as their entire team falls apart is one of my favorite things.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the industry?

Don’t do it, it’s way too hard and you won’t make any money.

If that didn’t stop you, then start making stuff right now! Take the smallest game idea you can come up with, make it smaller and start there. The first thing you make will suck, but you’ll start to learn a ton about all the stuff you don’t know. The Twin Cities has a super friendly and supportive game dev community. There’s a bunch of events each month. Keep track of it all at icecold.games!

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