Hosting a design talk at UAIC, Ebony Spire Heresy, My Fat Cat and Life Pictures

Small round to what’s been happening:

I released a beta/early access version of Ebony Spire Heresy. It’s a first person old-school roguelike where you can throw objects at enemies and enemies at objects, equip items and get teleported everywhere by pixes throwing potions at you. It’s cool and I’m working on it in my free time. You can get it for free.

 

The guys I work with are also releasing their “Emotional Experience” dubbed Life Pictures. It’s a really cool Unreal powered #WalkingSimulatorGame with #NanoMachinesSon. Looks great. The website and trailer is up. I’m helping them out with some twitter thingies.

 

I got a cat. The internet voted to name him RTFM (Read the Fucking Manual) – Arty for short. He’s fat now and I’m shamming him on twitter.

 

I’ve been invited to host a talk at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi“. The subject is taking a step back and imposing limitations to shape the design of your game. Themes range from small screen size, to limited input methods or weird/quirky programming languages. It’s happening next Thursday so if you’re in Iasi, drop by and say hi. We’ll get beers aftewards! Event is here (Facebook).
This weekend I’m off to a wedding in Suceava so no ES:Heresy builds will be mailed to you guys. Might upload some code updates to it’s Github so you can pull from there to get the latest changes. Still highly experimental.

That’s about it! I’ll get the slides from my talk uploaded after the presentation.

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Looking back on 2013 and plans for 2014

So I’m officially 1 year in as a wanna-be Indie Developer (since I have yet to release my game). It’s a tough ride governed by many decisions and mistakes. I’d like to take the time and share my experience after this first year. Hopefully it will be useful for people starting out or a good read for those without content to consume after the New Year’s party.

Going Indie

Doesn’t seem like a hard thing. To be honest, it looks allot like pledging to participate in a ludumdare event. No formalities, no signatures, no contracts and NDA’s. For me it’s more like a state of mind which translates to “Now I can be in full control of my projects and do what I want”. Another way to put it would be like having a cigarette smoker (like myself) saying “Today, I will quit smoking”. It’s easy to say, easy to get into that mental state but it’s hard to keep at it. Most people advice to not take the plunge until you have enough money to sustain yourself for at least 1 year. I think that’s a good, sane idea. I did not listen to it but that’s because I took another approach.

Moving back to my hometown

Sometime in December 2012 I moved back to my hometown after quitting my job at @Gameloft. My mother’s illness really progressed and I was expecting the worse. I proceeded to finish my last year of University/College by commuting to Bucharest almost daily. Thankfully things have gotten better for her since then but she’s not out of the woods. After I finished college I was faced with a huge problem: My funds we’re bellow 0, commuting daily burning all my savings and my folks we’re in the same boat. I couldn’t afford to move back to Bucharest and search for a job (renting an apartment there is expensive for Romanian Standards and you have to pay at least two months in advance) so I decided to make the best of it.

The bright side of things

The idea was to try out the indie life, make a game, release it and see if I can in any way afford to live off of it. My goal was simple: Make enough money from my first release in order to afford to buy a pack of cigars daily for one month, and two beers each weekend. The total sum amounts to: 105 euros. If I could reach this goal then there might by a chance of being able to turn this into a viable business.

By moving back home I don’t have to worry about paying rent each month, nor having to buy food or pay for transportation, which allowed me to focus on one project full time with no other distractions. Living in Romania also provides a huge advantage as, compared to other countries, the cost of living is relatively small and I can get away with earnings that otherwise would be considered less than sufficient in other places.

The project – Mutant Gangland –

Last July I took part in the Mini-LD hosted by @sorceress, #7DRTS challenge. I wanted to go head to heads with a friend of mine and ex co-worker @Radu Chivu. In the end we both took part but only for two days. I ended up with a messy and sluggy tbs which I dubbed Mini Wars. I was heavily disappointed in my creation and set up to remake it (more details on that here). First rule of order was to fix the broken pathfinding implementation I used and design a proper AI.

With a bit of luck I manage to get @Thomas Nopper’s attention and enlist him to help me out with the graphical assets of the game. Over the course of 6 months Thomas waved (and keeps on waving) his magic wand at the screen and kept on producing new graphics and sprites for the game, while I kept tuning, balancing and polishing the game. Looking back on it, things have changed quite a bit:

mutant_gangland_evolution
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Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance 3

It’s done, it’s finally done! My first, big huge, project as a professional Game Designer has been finished! It all started one year ago, when I finally joined the ranks of a Game Designer at Gameloft! And boy what a year! When I first started, I never knew I could learn so many things in so little time, yet, here I am, happy, with a gold project that has my name on it! I’m talking about NOVA 3, Gameloft’s newest block buster, a game that I worked on. I will not go into details about the game (NDA and all that), but I can say that once released, it will out-shine all other games on the AppStore!

Here’s a taste of what to expect once this gem of a game hits the stores, later this month:

And the announcement trailer:

That is all! Expect it, adore it, and check the credits!

Missing what you already have

I’ have been noticing a few clashes between emotions and thoughts. Lately I’ve been attending an event at a small pub in #Bucharest, an event where people reherse one of Shakespeare’s famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. Actually, it’s a modern version of the play. Last week was the first time I heard about it. I sat through the rehersal out of curiosity, thinking it would be a good change of scenery from my nightly routine (this includes drinking industrial quantities of alchool, eg. beer). but after today’s show I realized why I’m looking forward to attending next week.

At first I thought that I follow the reharsels in order to bounce ideas for my projects, or as an inspiration for work, but the truth is that I enjoy watching those people because, somehow, it reminds me of, well, myself back in the day when I used to host events in front of alot of people, something that I haven’t done in more then a year. Truth be told, I feel like that part of me which exploded with joy when it came to be in the spotlight, died when I joined Gameloft, one year ago. My guess is that I focused to much on achieving my dream of becoming a Game Designer, while my other passions and hobbies got tossed aside. Many changes have been noticed during my daily activity, including my current inability to come up with out-of-the-ordinary actions and shocking ideas. It may be because I feel constantly shadowed by my work collegues, who, are indeed , a bunch of high quality people with great achievements, people who I actualy look up to and respect. It’s something natural I guess, but I find my knowledge and inspiration capped, limited, and the single thought that my ideas would turn out to be bad kills me. I know that If I where in this possition two years ago, I’d shock everybody, but right now, I only manage to amaze myself with my stupidity.

I look back today on my past achievements. Not long ago, I won the BIG FEST trophy for the best on-stage monologue and presentation, where, in front of an audiance of 200 people, I managed to bring tears into their eyes only to make them laugh seconds after. I remember when I received the Copernic Award (one of the biggest awards at that event) during a IT contest, where my improvisations skills saved my “arse” from a mountain of flaws and errors my project had. Heck, I even got 1st place in a regional contest (with a class mate) for managing to “sell” a car condom that protected the pedestrians from a deadly impact. I remember writting poems and epic stories, working on games based on simple mechanics that turned out great because of their simplicity, I remember laughing at just about anything, and cheering people up by enganging in simple conversations. All of this things I could do with so much ease seem so hard right now that it’s mind boggling. And I ask myself, why? What has changed in this past year that turned my world around so much?

I regret not the hours spent at work, I actually look forward to them, I look forward to boosting my professional career and rising up the ladder. My only wish is to find a way to balance my huge passion with my hobbies. And I hope I will find it soon, or else, I’ll cease to be myself…

My lifelong dream ceased to be just a dream

My lifelong dream ceased to be just a dream and became a reality. Ever since I first saw an interview with Chrome’s Studio (creators of Jak and Dexter), 6 years ago, I dreamed of working in the Game Development Industry. Part of that dream came true 9 months ago when I applied to work as a Quality Assurance Engineer @ Gameloft, in Bucharest. Now, after 9 months spent as a Tester, I finally managed to achieve my life-long dream, as a Game Designer at the same company that opened the door for me (Gameloft).

So, I’d like to say thanks Gameloft for this chance and thanks to all my previous team-mates from the QA department for encouraging me to continue pursuing my dream. Without your help, I wouldn’t have had the motivation needed to achieve this Milestone.