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Last week, Gamasutra asked everyone who their game dev heroes are. I missed the question when it was asked, but made a brief response yesterday. While I have considered the question before, I have never really voiced my answer. So I would like to take some time to explain who these people are that inspire me.
When I think of a game dev hero, I think of a person who I feel has impacted me on a personal level. Someone I aspire to be like or whose work greatly influences my own. It would be easy to rattle off names like Will Wright, John Carmack or Tim Schafer, but it seems like those big names, while impacting the industry as a whole to a large extent, have never really made me who I am today.
So who are my heroes then? Who inspires me to be the best game developer I can be? Here is what I told the Gamasutra audience:
My heroes? I would have to say Lars Doucet, Robert Boyd, Christer Kaitila, and Adam Saltsman. These guys are the indie devs I admire most and whose work has most influenced my own. While I have a lot of mad respect for a lot of AAA developers, none of their work or inspiration has impacted me on a personal level like these guys.
So let us explore these guys one at a time.
Robert Boyd is one of the founders of Zeyboyd games. They made their start making satirical RPG games for the XBox Live Indie Games service. Their first games, Breath of Death 7 and Cthulu Saves The World were never much of a financial success on the XBLIG service. Granted, that service was never really much of a money maker except for a rare few people. However, the games they made were a critical success. That critical success led them to move on to some really awesome successes.
The first success was porting those two games to the the PC and getting them on Steam. I believe that once on Steam, those two games made more money in a month than they did in a year and a half on the XBox.
Because their games were so critically successful, they were able to land the contracts to make the 3rd and 4th games in the Penny Arcade RPG series. This was not something just anyone could have done. The Penny Arcade guys had a lot of confidence that Robert and his team could not only make the games, but bring about the humor that Penny Arcade fans desired.
Following those games, Robert and his team sought to make another game of their own. They went to Kickstarter to fund Cosmic Star Heroine. They sought $100,000 and made $132,689.
So what is it about Robert that makes him my hero? I think it is the perseverance that he displayed. He could have easily have given up after BoD7 failed to make much money. He could have switch gears and went to work for someone else. But he didn’t. He kept going and today is doing what he loves and doing it well. That is the kind of person I want to be in my game development career. I want to be able to just put my work out there and keep going despite all the hardships and missteps along the way.
Follow Robert on Twitter.
Adam’s contribution that puts him on my hero list is the work he put into the Flixel game engine for Actionscript. This game engine is what has had the greatest impact on my game development efforts of anything anyone else has done.
For the longest time, I was floating aimlessly in a vast sea of game development potential. I had no direction, no motive, no drive. I would wander from game engine to game engine, testing the waters but never finding that right combination of tools to turn me from hypothetical game developer to actual game developer.
Then I found Flixel. The Flixel game engine was exactly what I was looking for in a game engine. It was 2D. It worked with Flash. It was relatively easy to use and figure out. I spent many days and weeks playing with it and porting some of my game development works to it. In fact, my first efforts to make one game a month were using Flixel.
So it was this game engine, that Adam created, that really got me started in actually making games. Without it, I would probably still be lost and without purpose hoping one day to be a game developer rather than actively working to become one.
Follow Adam on Twitter.
Lars is someone that has a number of things that I really admire about him. The first is in tandem to Adam’s contribution. I had been using Flixel for a while but really wanted to move to something that would be capable of native applications for PCs and mobile. But I really didn’t want to have to learn something new. It was through Lars that I learned about Haxe and the Flixel port to that API.
Since then, Lars has been a major advocate for Haxe adoption by other game developers. He has switch from Flash, which he used to create his first Defenders Quest game, to using HaxeFlixel to for the sequel.
But that is not the only thing that I admire about Lars. He is also a very outspoken person about the problems with modern copyright laws and the games industry’s general attitude toward it.
I had always been of the opinion that the fights against piracy were fruitless and that developers would be better served spending their time working to please their fans. But it was Lars’ article about the four currencies people use when choosing whether to buy or pirate that really spelled out how I felt.
Granted, I had always been outspoken about these issues myself and have posted many other articles to this effect. However, it was Lars that really spelled it out and made something that was nearly irrefutable to advocates of stronger copyright laws and DRM.
Follow Lars on Twitter.
Christer’s contribution to gaming is probably one of the most important to me when it all comes down to it. Even with Haxe and Flixel and the inspiration of other developers, I have still be hesitant to put my best foot forward. Perhaps it was simply lack of experience and dedication, but I never felt like I was a game developer. But something that Christer did turned that around.
He founded the One Game A Month challenge. This was founded after he himself made a personal commitment to make one game every month for twelve months. When he saw the changes in him that came about because of it, he sought a way to help others achieve that same change.
When I learned about it, I wanted to jump right in and do it myself. I signed up and wanted to get to work making my one game a month. But the first year, I didn’t do it. I think it was fear that held me back. But the more I read about the project, the more I reflected on all my missed opportunities in the past, the more I realized I needed to step up.
So in January of this year, I made the commitment to make that one game a month. Seven months into the challenge I have succeeded in all but one month to make a game. I am well on my way to make the rest of the games and potentially finish that one missed one.
This challenge has also motivated me to attempt a Kickstarter campaign. While that campaign doesn’t look like it will go anywhere, I at least attempted it, which is more than I could say a year ago.
Follow Christer on Twitter.
I could probably list a few more developers in this post, but these are the four that I feel are really deserving of being called my personal game dev heroes. These are the ones that I look to and think about when I am needing the motivation to keep going. Without the contributions made by these four people, I would probably still be silently working on a never ending project. Instead, I have now released nine games and two works in progress to my website.
So I thank you guys for everything you do to change the world of game development for the better.