We were invited to exhibit at the ‘I love Gaming’ event hosted by the North Liverpool Academy recently. It was a conference organised to provide information and skills to young people (age 12-18) interested in entering the games industry.
Having worked in AAA and now in Indie game development we were there to share our experiences and answer any questions about the games industry, making games and starting a business.
We thought it might be useful to document the questions we were asked and our responses.
1) What made you want to start making games / How did you get into the games industry?
Matt has always loved games and gaming but assumed that he would never join the industry as it seemed like something other people did. He has always enjoyed making games though, starting with the ZX-81 when he was about 10.
It was a case of ‘right place, right time’ for Matt. We had just returned from a camping trip where we had been contemplating our futures (after leaving uni) when we saw an ad in the paper that read ‘Love Games? Come and work for us…’. That was Sony Psygnosis who had an office in Chester. Matt bought a suit for the interview and hit it off with his interviewer who shared his passion for tabletop gaming. He got the job, but the first piece of advice he was given: ’DON’T EVER wear a suit again‘..
We prepared to move to a new house in Chester only to learn our second lesson: Be prepared to move or commute as your office closes (the day we signed our contract on the new house, Psygnosis announced that they were moving the Chester office to Manchester).
2) How can I get a job in the games industry / game design?
Being brutally honest, it is very competitive. There are a lot more people who want to do it than there are vacancies to support them.
Four Main Points:
Get skilled – New courses like the one at The North Liverpool Academy are popping up which is fantastic. There are also many game creation packages that you can download and start using straight away. Some are completely free and others are free until you are ready to start selling your game.
Demonstrate your skills – have a portfolio of work to show. Enthusiasm and passion is great but you have to be able to prove that you are 10 times more useful than the other 200 people after the job.
Make contacts – twitter, facebook and forums are great places to make friends. Indie companies are usually pretty friendly. Say Hi , we don’t bite (however we can get overwhelmed with work so don’t assume that because we haven’t replied it is a deliberate snub).
Start at the bottom – be prepared for this. Nobody is going put you in charge of a £2 million project if you are fresh from uni. Work hard and be reliable and people will start to depend upon you. Matt started at Psygnosis as a production assistant and worked his way up from there.
3) How long does it take to make a game?
SpaceOff has taken Matt around eight months to complete. It has been a single person project so he has done every element himself (design, artwork, coding, music, sound effects, balancing etc). It would, of course, have been faster if there was a team or if we had outsourced work. In this time we have also had to start the company, choose and design names and logos, set up the website and make our own promo materials (screenshots, videos, poster, stickers). No small task.
Previously, at Bizarre it would have taken a team of 50 to 200 people (depending upon the stage of the project) between 18 and 24 months to make a AAA game.
4) How did you make SpaceOff / how do you make games?
This is a biggy – and one that requires more time than I have now to answer thoroughly. In summary:
SpaceOff has been a culmination of all the skills and hobbies from Matt’s career and life so far. As a designer at Bizarre, Matt has had to understand and unite the different disciplines required for game creation so he has had a basic level of skill or understanding of all areas. His experience has taught him what is possible with the different disciplines and a realistic understanding of his own skill level.
Prototype ideas - The program GameSalad is great for this. Matt had a basic prototype for SpaceOff working within about 30 minutes.
Before we committed to SpaceOff though we did try out other concepts, one of which he worked on for about 8 weeks. It is hard to let go when you have put in that much time but it was the right decision – game #1 (a platformer) was too complicated, not as compelling and required more animation than we had time to learn.
What you drop is as important as when you keep – Try things out, if they don’t work drop them. Matt got the basic physics of SpaceOff working and then tinkered with themes, in game toys etc until it all dropped into place, and felt right. There have been other features (like weapons overheating and cutting out) that turned out to be too annoying to keep.
Be realistic about your skills and be prepared to keep learning -
Google is a wonderful thing. While making SpaceOff, if Matt has encountered a task that he has not had the knowledge to complete he has googled the problem and taught himself from online tutorials or youtube videos. There is also loads of help in forums – the chances are that if you find something difficult, someone will have found and documented a solution before you.
SpaceOff was made with a Mac, and an iPhone. We used Gamesalad for the main game and other software (some free, some purchased) for other elements.
5) Why develop for iOS and not console or android?
Cost and ease. An apple developer license costs $100 and with this you can upload your App to the store and start selling. You can create an app with relatively inexpensive equipment (a mac mini and an iPhone).
6) What has been the hardest thing about making SpaceOff?
Lots and lots and lots – but in summary Keep The Faith! You have good weeks and bad weeks. Solve or step around the tough stuff and carry on.
If you have any other questions (or just want to say Hi) get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter or facebook (links below).