Ask An Indie: Stefen Menzel

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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: Stefen Menzel

What inspired you to start making games?

In my youth I was lucky enough to be introduced to pen and paper role-playing games. Realizing that I could create adventures for my friends to enjoy was very alluring. It was a perfect escape for my wandering mind. I knew I had found something special when my friends and I would talk about our fantasy exploits together in the lunchroom at school, longing for our next adventure.

At what age did you create your first game?

I created my first role-playing adventure around the age of 12. If I remember correctly it was loosely inspired by the plot of the 1990 movie adaptation of Dick Tracy. I didn’t start making video games until I was 25. I started playing a lot of Indie games and thought it’d be fun to make my own. I made a game for Ludum Dare 26. The theme was minimalism. I made a game in flash where you control a triangle that won’t stop moving along a track. You had to hop to different tracks to avoid obstacles/grab pick-ups and stay in motion as long as possible. I had no video game development skills prior to that weekend. It was a disaster and I loved it.

What formal training do you have that has helped you?

I took a few programming classes while getting a math degree. That foundation made programming for video games a lot less daunting. Other than that I don’t have any formal training. I’ve always been a bit of an autodidact.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

I primarily use Unity3d, Aseprite, LMMS, and the occasional bfxr. I prefer to use free and open source software or quality software that supports enterprising indie developers. For resources I visit a lot of forums and read a lot of tutorials. I frequent stack exchange for technical game development advice and the Unity3D forums can be useful. I’ve been known to seek direct advice from more experienced programmers in a pinch.

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

My friends and I are making a game currently. We all have day jobs but we typically have weekly updates on the game. Shout out to Andrew Herbst, Bryan Schumann, and Allen Haworth.

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

I’m currently working on a commercial release called “Vaulture”. We don’t have a release date yet but stay tuned! I did just make a game for Ludum Dare 40. You can play it on newgrounds.com. It’s called “Critters Inc.” and was made in 72 hours.

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

The Twin Cities has a robust, supportive, and growing game development community. It can be challenging finding time to develop games while taking part in the many community organized events.

What is the most rewarding?

Prior to discovering the Twin Cities game development community, I just assumed I wouldn’t be able to find anyone that develops games. I did a basic google search and found Glitch. Finding other people that develop games has been fantastic. Not only did I find a community of like-minded individuals, I’ve also gained a great deal of insight into understanding what it takes to be a game developer.

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

If you want to make games, make a game. If you like it, make another game. Share your games with your friends, family, and strangers on the internet. Make whatever kind of game you want. Challenge yourself. Make a game you don’t want to make just to see how it feels. Eventually you’ll find a nice little space to nestle into.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Contrary to popular belief, The earth is in fact round.

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