DevGamm, one of the biggest gaming conferences in the ex-Soviet countries, takes place twice a year in Moscow and Kiev. Thanks to its low participation cost, many up-and-coming game developers attend this conference. To them, it represents a unique entry point into the gaming industry. This year, it brought together a record number of participants, but one of them, Vadim, stood out a little among the other game developers—mainly because he was twelve years old.
Vadim developed a game called Robots Inc. with unusual voice controls (to make the robot fly, you have to make buzzing sounds; and to set off the bomb planted at the end of the game, you have to say “Bang!”). It isn’t often you meet twelve-year-old mobile game developers at gaming conferences, so we decided to ask Vadim for an interview.
Vadim is a student of class 6B at Moscow foreign language immersion school no. 1296. He has been working with Unity since 2011, took a C# course in 2012, and now he studies Java independently. He is also actively engaged in karate.
Vadim, photograph by his father
Your father wrote that you study at an English immersion school. How did you become interested in programming?
One day I decided to try my hand at cartoons. It was a lot of fun, and I thought it’d be nice to control the character myself. I started searching for a way to make a game myself. And after a while, I stumbled across Unity 3D. Then I took a basic course in C# programming and started using it with Unity 3D. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I had to learn a lot of things on my own using just video and text lessons.
And where did you take that course? Was it at school?
All we do in our IT classes at school is make PowerPoint slides, nothing more than that. I took that course at the Unium center for extracurricular studies.
Do you have any favorite computer games? And whose idea was it for you to take a course in programming?
Unfortunately, I have almost no time for games. I play them only to understand what people are looking for now. My favorite game is Final Fantasy, I think. As for the course, I told my parents about my interest in programming. We lived not far from Unium, which was really lucky for me, and we knew that they offered C# classes there. I got signed up there, and soon after that I started my course.
Tell us about how you developed your game. What was the hardest thing?
First, I got the idea of a voice-controlled game; I thought it would be a very unique thing. I started working out the character and the levels on paper. Then my dad and I created 3D models of the levels and the character and uploaded them to Unity. This is where the long, but by no means boring, programming process began. Developing games is a lot of fun and it’s almost easy. I think the hardest part is coming up with an idea that people are going to like.
And how did you come up with the idea of making it voice-controlled?
I got the idea during a five-day brainstorm. It came totally spontaneously, and we never expected to come up with something so unusual and new.
Why did you develop the game for Google Play only? Do you plan to do anything for iOS?
Yes, I plan to develop an iOS version, but right now I don’t have the equipment I need to compile it—an Apple computer.
What do you plan to do next with this game? Do you plan to make money off it?
Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on it, polishing it up, and I’m planning to add more new levels to it.
Do you have any other projects apart from this game?
Apart from Robots Inc., I have a mini social network project. All communication on it takes place in a 3D model of my school with uploaded textures created from photos. That project isn’t ready yet, but it’s very promising and has a lot of room for further development. You can follow it at http://1296-online.ru/.
I see. And where is the communication on it? How can you see what the site visitors are going to do in this project?
You can communicate in the general chat, but you also can send personal messages.
Do your friends share your interest in programming?
My friends often test my games. They’re curious about what I do, they support me, but they’re not into programming themselves.
Does your dad have links to programming?
My dad doesn’t program, but he helps me create 3D models in Blender.
One last question about programming: have you participated in any academic competitions or contests to do with programming? Do you know of any?
I haven’t participated in any contests or competitions yet, but I’d love to. We have a project competition at school, but so far, the teachers have kept quiet about it.
Now let’s talk about DevGamm. How did you learn about it, and did it take a lot to persuade your parents to let you participate?
I learned about DevGamm from a YouTube video, told my parents about it, and asked them to take me there—they agreed straight away and bought tickets for DevGamm and for the plane. It was a big surprise, but I was happy.
How did you like the conference? What did you like about it, and what didn’t you like about it?
The conference was just awesome. I enjoyed speaking to experienced developers and publishers, but almost all the presentations were very superficial, and I already knew about the technologies they were speaking about.
Which presentations did you attend?
I attended almost all the presentations.
But some of them ran in parallel. Were you in the great hall?
I listened to presentations mostly in the Venice hall, the middle one.
I see. Which presentation stood out the most?
Jakub Dvorský’s presentation is the one I remember best, mostly because of Jakub himself. :)