Video game lover.. I’m an Uber Geek
There are several approaches to video game development. Video games can be developed by independent (indie) developers or by publishing companies. Independent development involves coming up with a game concept; and working on it without seeking external financial assistance. For example, without seeking financial support from a publishing company.
Independent development can be done by a single individual or by a group of individuals.
Independent development can take a relatively short period of time, a few hours or last several years. On the other hand, game publishing is the development of a game by a publishing company. The publishing company finances the game’s manufacturing and marketing including advertising and market research costs.
There are two approaches that are used by publishing companies in game development. One, the company can finance the development of a game by an internal group of developers in its own studio. Two, the company can pay independent developers to develop the game.
Independent game development
This is practiced by developers who appreciate flexibility and value freedom because they are not controlled by any external financier. On the other hand, publishing companies assert huge control over the game development process usually taking into account any risks that can arise from the project.
The advent of open source game engines and digital distribution platforms; such as Steam has proliferated independent game development.
This site’s history
However, it was commenced in 2002 and the domain dropped in late 2006. It used to be an Independent Production Company run by Gekido Design Group; a company with cutting edge game technologies and tools for independent game developers as well as a publishing platform for independent game developers. Apart from that, the company enables also the production of music (both audio and visual for interested parties).
I’m a game developer, and there is so much that most of my readers can learn from me concerning game development; especially in this digital age. Therefore I have posted some content concerning game development. There are some posts that I’ve already published. You can access them by clicking on various categories below…
I know it may not sound to you as true if I tell you I needed to be a computer game developer from an early age. Well, I’m not someone who lies for the sake of it and I’m going to tell you my story of a career the I loved since I was 3 years old. Now, at my 30’s, this is what I do for a living and career.
How it all started…
The John Daniels used to be our neighbors when we grew up in the countryside. They were the only family that had a car and computer at their home. I made a point of becoming a friend to their son, Jones, and I would get a chance to sneak into his room and watch him play video games on his computer. He tried to teach me how to do it. But at first it was not that easy. And he was patient with me and I became better with time.
Be that as it may, I began to beat him and he was amazed at my quick learning. His parents would find me there and ask me to go home. We were never the best of neighbors. But as kids we did not pay attention to the quarrels of our parents. I would always get back to Jones’ room. However, I was 3 years and then I knew I wanted so much to be creating video games. Nonetheless, I kept this to myself. But my love for computer always gave people a hint that this would become my field of career.
My first video game that proved I was on the right path
Without a doubt, I went on with my obsession to becoming a video game creator. But I did not have so much luck in my early years. I did not have a computer and my friends who had one were too possessive to share it with me. Jones family move to a new neighborhood; and I could not find someone with a computer. But when I got to high school my fortunes changed.
The school had computer labs and I took this chance to learn all that I had missed. Then I befriended one of the computer teachers who was more than willing to help me achieve my dreams. I would be left in school as the teacher took me through tutorial he downloaded from the internet. Without a doubt, I got better each day and my future seemed really bright.
It happened that there was an inter-school computer competitions and one of the areas was video games. My teacher informed me of the competition and prepared me to the best he could offer. When the day came, I gave all the best and waited upon fate to decide on my fortunes.
When the winners list came, I was announced as the best video game developer; and I was the youngest ever to win the award. However, I was awarded a laptop, cash and other computer gaming accessories. I now had all I wanted to become even better. I decided to give some of the money I won to my helpful computer teacher; who kindly declined. She instead used the money to buy me more accessories I needed to sharpen my skills.
Kicking off my career
After college, I got a job with a video game independent development company that worked to make life better for those with health issues; such as different types of breast cancers and obesity and/or diet problems. Their games were made to encourage exercising among those who wanted to start weight loss campaigns.
My first designation was as an assistant game developer. My senior supervisor was a lady, Linda Wolper, who gave me the best induction into the profession. She would guide me on how to get better at what I did; and I became an accomplished professional in less than a year. I worked there for 2 years and moved on as an independent developer. As a matter of fact, I now own a small scale company that is doing so well. Just like my previous employer, I do video games to help people lead healthy lives.
Nonetheless, I grew with an aunt who lived with breast cancer and she wanted something to keep her busy. I wish by then I had learned to make these games to help her. But now I’m happy I’m helping others.
My visit to the ComputerSpiele Museum in Berlin
It was a great museum of computer games; that we visited during a trip to Berlin. I took photos of all the game systems that were with reach.
Before the 2000’s, the world of technology was hampered by proprietary products. Every technological concept was selfishly owned by a technology company with no authorization for sharing or modification. After the 2000’s, open source software was introduced where anyone could acquire computer software complete with its source code. Shortly after acquiring the license for the software; one acquires full rights to study, modify, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.
The advent of open source software revolutionized many technological fields and in particular the video game sector. In the 2000’s, open source game engines were introduced and these could be accessed online. All you had to do was to download the engine and then use the tools availed to create a game as you desired. This was a welcome relief for most of us independent game developers who had suffered past challenges due to resource constraints.
Dedicated creators and profit-seeking publishers
Nevertheless, I am a skilled computer programmer; and I have been in the gaming production industry for over three decades. However, in this time, I have both suffered and rejoiced as technological revolutions reinvent my line of work. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, I used to work for a game publishing company which developed games internally in a studio. It was a huge company that employed many skilled workers and we really made the company rich.
I always felt used by the company. This was because of its overall approach to this endearing career. My programming team in the studio included dedicated programmers, who were enthusiastic about the creations we were making. However, the profit-seeking publishing company was strictly risk averse and would often shun any new ideas; innovative or not; to avoid losing a penny. As the years went by, me and several of my teammates became disgruntled with this approach. We started thinking about leaving the company.
Embracing the chance
As a matter of fact, we started discussing about starting an independent video game production venture with my colleagues at the end of the 1990’s. We started exploring the available open source game engines; and I developed an interest in the Adventure Game Studio (AGS). After the release of the Larry Vales and Rob Blanc games in the early 2000’s, we decided to give the engine a try. Then we created our first game using this engine. We used online distribution platforms for marketing and distribution.
AGS offered us an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for setting up most aspects of the game with a scripting language based on the C language to process the game logic. Additionally, the open source engine and the use of Steam, an online distribution network, required very little financial resources on our part while ensuring huge returns due to elimination of publishers.
The big break came in 2008 when version 3.0 of the AGS was released; this was a big improvement on the older version and it included a complete rewrite of the editor using the .NET Framework and an update to the game engine to support 3D hardware acceleration. Additionally, the editor and run-time engine that were originally designed for Windows operating systems were ported to Android, iOS, Linux and Mac OS X after the source code was released.
We are now able to create games with a graphical range from 256 colors; as well as a resolution of 320×200 (classic appearance); to true-color games with a resolution of up to 1024×768 (modern appearance) and an alpha channel.
The engine also supports multiple graphics filters such as; 3x nearest-neighbor, 4x nearest-neighbor, hq2x, and hq3x. And to cap it all, AGS supports multiple multimedia formats including; mod, S3M, wav, xm, midi, ogg, mp3, and avi among others. As I always tell developers, open source game engines revolutionized the world of visual entertainment.
Modern video game developers may not realize some of the compatibility issues faced by earlier or ‘old school’ developers. I started creating video games during the computer revolution era. But before the advent of the smartphones. Smartphones have revolutionized the world of technology by enhancing connectivity and redefining communication. Similarly, smartphones have altered the gaming world by offering both benefits to developers and consumers and also challenges, mainly to developers.
Some of the early creators of video games lacked foresight regarding future advances in technology. They did not consider compatibility issues when creating PC games which would later be required to play on mobile phones. Responsive mobile game development, like responsive web design aims to eliminate compatibility issues when running an application in multiple platforms.
There are various compatibility issues when designing a game for a PC and also for a mobile phone. The game should be able to run on many different platforms and also to accept any number of different input types.
Additionally, players should be able to access and share their data across the different platforms. There are four main compatibility issues when considering responsive game design. They include; supporting multiple resolutions, working across multiple types of input, same codebase for multiple platforms, and syncing data across all platforms.
I created several video games in the 1980s and 1990s without considering the multi-platform compatibility issues in my design. After the popularity of the mobile phone in the 2000s, some of my games needed to be accessed via smartphones; a huge mistake on my part.
I had not considered the compatibility issues mentioned above and I was mad at my stupidity and lack of foresight. However, like every other developer, my patience is infinite. Then I decided to fix my errors and recreate the games to ensure that they were compatible in multiple platforms.
Fixing compatibility issues
Consequently, I started by handling the issue of supporting multiple resolutions. Being a PC game creator, this was not a big problem. I discarded the concept of fixed resolutions and redesigned the games for aspect ratios. Also, I simplified the user interface and introduced a dynamic interface that could adapt to different resolutions. Finally, considering the low power produced by mobile phones; I included degradable and adaptable graphics.
In order to counter the problem of working across multiple types of input, I redesigned the games such that they used a single input mechanic. Then I used cross compilers to ensure same codebase for multiple platforms. Finally, I used WhisperSync for syncing data across all platforms. With these adjustments, I now needed to upload my games on app stores.
Uploading on app stores
The first thing that I did was to register as a developer with Apple. This involved paying an annual fee and acquiring developer certificates that came in handy when uploading. Before compiling any game for the App Store; I made a listing for it on iTunes Connect. This requires a Development Certificate, a Distribution Certificate, and an App ID. After completing this process; I submitted the application information. Plus the price and availability of the game.
Also, I filled the version details of the game and the metadata that is shown to the customer. After filling my contact information, I uploaded my App Store graphics as screenshots. Then I reviewed the binary and then uploaded the executable. After the following hustle, I have started reaping the fruits of my labor from the game purchases. But I have also learnt to be more foresighted in future.
An Unlucky Beginnings
One of the most frustrating experiences in life is to get stuck in a career that neither builds you nor exploits your talents and skills, two things that are not mutually exclusive. After working for a company that prided itself on software modification for four years, I decided to try out my luck on my own. Without a doubt I was tired of modified old programs for resale; and I wanted to create something original. Being a gifted and skilled programmer, I joined the application development field and tried my luck in creating mobile phone applications.
However, mobile phone applications were too many; and I also lacked the enthusiasm to cut a niche in the field. After meeting with some of my former colleagues in a pub one evening; I was introduced to the idea of video game creation. I decided to give it a try.
I joined an independent video game developers’ team comprising of some of my former colleagues. However, our team was not entirely independent. This is because the team leader was connected to some of the major video game publishing companies and hence sourced projects from these companies.
In a practice called external development, the publishing companies would come up with a game project and we would act as its ‘sub-contractors’. In other words, the company sponsored the team in the creation, marketing, distribution, and advertisement of the game and in return shared the profits; usually taking the lion’s share. However, in some instances, the team would come up with a game concept; and then sell the idea to a publishing company. If the company felt that the idea was viable, they would sponsor the project; while maintaining project supervision.
The whole idea was not attractive to me. It felt as though I was back at my old job at the software vending company. The publishers had too much control on our work. They also received too much money after the projects were sold. I shared my bitter sentiments with with other like-minded colleagues. We then decided to embark on an independent game creation endeavor.
The disappointing venture
We decided to create our own game and then distribute it using online distribution platforms; like the Xbox Games Store. We came up with a wonderful game concept and worked on the project for two years before it was ready to launch. Meanwhile, we quit our tasks with the team and worked on the project full-time. The project drained our savings because we did not have jobs. But we took heart in the projected earnings after the game was launched.
We launched the game in the Christmas season when the game season peaks. However, there were too many games on the market and without proper advertising our game remained unknown to the world. This is when we understood the true power that is wielded by publishing companies.
The top ranked games in terms of sales were neither as innovative nor of as high quality as ours. However, the publishers marketed as well as advertised their games aggressively; and they peaked. After realizing that our ship was sinking, we started seeking publishing companies to market our game. But they all declined terming it as a risky investment. Finally, we approached our old teammates and sought the help of the team leader in marketing the game.
The connected team leader managed to broker a deal with one publisher. But the company insisted on taking such a huge share of the royalties that we felt robbed. Every time I reflect on this frustrating experience, I realize that although we embarked on our venture good-natured, we failed to plan before acting.
Early Fascination with Video Games
In my early childhood days, the world was caught up by the computer evolution hype. As expected of every young boy born to a father, who was an electronic gadget enthusiast, I became hooked to many types of electronic gadgets at a very young age. My father worked for a computer company although he was mostly involved in the mechanical aspects of production.
Consequently, our house was filled with all types of electronic and electrical gadgets and as such, I was introduced to video games at a relatively young age. I became fascinated with video games as I grew up and my father’s limited knowledge on their production did little to ease my curiosity on these creations that offered real life experiences in a virtual environment.
My pseudo experience
As I grew up and climbed the academic ladder, my fascination with video games caused me to choose a career in that direction. After I learnt a thing or two about computer programming, I grasped the concept behind video game production. One thing about extreme fascination with anything is that it breeds criticism. After playing many types of video games in my childhood, I became a critic of various production aspects.
Every time I played a game, I would always find the experience limited by some detail in the game. In one game I would complain about the sound effects, in another I would complain about the graphics and still in another I would complain about the whole creation concept or innovation.
As such, I always hoped that I would have a chance to create a game, either individually or as a team, in order to optimize the player’s experience. I followed my dream, studied programming in university and after doing my masters, I landed a job with a prestigious computer technology company. This is when my ultimate skill was unveiled and my dream fulfilled.
An indie game project
After working on various software projects for my employer, I sought to explore my talents as a game developer. However, the company I was working with did not produce video games. I discussed the issue of creating a video game with my friends and colleagues. But the costs were immense and we needed a video publishing company in order to actualize the project. This was in the 1990’s and production costs were mind boggling. Then the 2000’s came and two factors worked in my favor.
First, open source engines were availed for game developers. Two, online distribution peaked eliminating the need for publishing companies. Our video game project was not founded on commercial success. But rather on product quality. After teaming up with a group of twenty colleagues and friends with different skills in this genre, we started working on a 3D adventure game.
We divided the tasks just like we did for other software development projects and each developer was allocated their tasks accordingly. However, the storyline was created and refined by the team, which comprised of like-minded game enthusiasts. The task was not easy. But after three years of tireless creation, we launched our first online video game in 2011. With little financial investment, our video game was distributed on online distribution platforms like Steam.
The reception was very good and we made quite a penny with our first game prompting work on a sequel. The sequel is not complete. But I must say that what started out as a hobby for me is now becoming a full-time career as I am even thinking of quitting my job.
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