Ask An Indie: Stephen McGregor, Escape Industries

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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: Stephen McGregor, Game Designer/Developer, Escape Industries

What inspired you to start making games?

I grew up playing video games, so when I was younger I had imagined becoming a game programmer and making games full time. I actually tried this as a child but programming was frustrating at the time, even with my dad and brother’s help. I was turned off to the idea at that point.

I came back to it in college when I found out that there were other things you could do in games besides programming or art. I took a natural interest in game design (my higher educational career was in engineering) and after a couple of years I got back in the saddle.

At what age did you create your first game?

I think I was around 10 or 11 when I finished a pong clone. My brother, my dad and his friend were there to help me.

What formal training do you have that has helped you?

I don’t actually have any formal training for game design or development. I think my engineering background has helped slightly but most of my experience comes from doing it.

What are some of your favorite tools or resources?

I think the most valuable resource I have is the community around me. I’ve gained such strength and confidence being around people who believe in me and who I can learn from. I’m truly blessed to be a part of it.

Aside from that, Unity is my engine of choice, like many of us in Minnesota. I’ve had recent success with Trello for organizing my tasks on various projects. GLITCH’s PLAY/TEST event has been extremely valuable for getting people to try random things in my various games.

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

“Employ” is a strong word! In Escape Industries, I work with my brother Charles and my friend Lane Davis. We’ve been working on Fingeance for over 3 years while going through school or working full-time jobs.

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

Within a few weeks, Claw Breaker will be out on Steam and itch.io. Other than that I’ve worked on several Global Game Jam games that function on various different PC platforms.  I’ve done some quality assurance work on many Concrete Software games. I also work on a few game projects with GLITCH but those aren’t available yet.

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

Can I say the cold? That’s probably been taken already…Really, I think our biggest hurdle is that we haven’t had a massive success come out of Minnesota for a long time. It’s been many years since we’ve had an Oregon Trail, but I think that will be changing soon. We’ve got a lot of titles coming out from here in the next few years that I think have a real shot at making it.

What is the most rewarding?

Legitimately, being a part of this community has been the most rewarding aspect of game development. I’ve discovered so much about who I am by putting myself out there, and feel so accepted here.

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

The first thing I’d say is that you know more than you think you do. Even if you’ve never worked on a game, there are useful skills you have that no one else can do like you. So even by being a hobbyist in the industry, your participation enriches the games we all can make.

Also, there are so many ways you can be a part of game development! There’s more to games than programming or art. There’s producer/project management, marketing, legal, audio, research, etc. If your interests are games and another subject, there’s a way to make it in the industry. It just takes a little exploring.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like to shamelessly plug the podcast I’m a part of: Nice Games Club. I think that our open and honest discussion about game development can cause making games to feel more approachable (I’m biased though, of course!).  Also, if you’re looking to meet people in this awesome community, come join us! You can find a lot of us at GLITCH events, IGDA Twin Cities meetings, at the many events on the Ice Cold Games website and on the MSPGameDev Slack.

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