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First time gamedev - Looking Back

by James Liu on 10/28/13 04:25:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


It’s been eight months since we published our first game, Nameless: the Hackers RPG. So far, 2013 has been the most fulfilling year either of us have had (Steve and myself).

For myself (James), I feel especially complete.

This year, I fulfilled a promise to myself that I made 20 years ago. The type of promise adults smile-widely and pat your head for, “Okay, okay. Sure.” That kind of promise.

At the age of 10, I had a fiercely sticky thought. Every fiber in my being knew that “this” was what I wanted to do. Day and night, all I could think about was, “I. Want. To. Make. Games.” Specifically RPGs.

To me, games are the ultimate art form. You can tell a narrative. People can craft a canvases of vibrant art. Instruments can dance across a quiet floor. Even movies can submerge an audience into a new world. But games, only games, can allow you to do all of these, while also allowing participation.

While paying games, not only do you empathize with the characters, but you are the catalyst that alleviates their suffering. You aren’t watching the hero’s journey; you are the hero. The peaks and valleys of each story arch are psychologically tied to you. The hero’s enemies bring -you- the rage of vengeance. Yet also, you can feel the achievement of growth, the joys of success, and the warmth of story.

So for 20-years since I was 10, I had this aspiring urge to participate in this ultimate art form. Since then, I tried to brute force my way, experimenting with every detail I could. Every time I failed and fell, I knew I was a step closer. How much closer? I had no idea.

At the age of 10, I had no concept of “complexity”. Every time I learned something, there was always yet another thing to learn.

  • Story telling required me to have stories.
  • Stories are crafted from experiences.
  • Experiences are gained through life’s tribulations and the understanding of people.

Each component grew deeper and deeper:

  • Graphics requires some programming.
  • Programming requires logic.
  • Logic requires math.
  • Branching narratives requires differently behaving characters.
  • Different behaviors requires a bit of psychology.
  • Enabling behaviors requires a bit of design.
  • So on and so forth…

I had continued to fail, but learned over and over. I tried all sorts of programming languages, tools, engines, wrote hundreds of stories, and tried my best at the brush. This went on and on. I made several hundred scrapped prototypes and half-limping blob-like engines that couldn’t keep themselves together.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 1.02.53 PM

I continued my trials all the way into College. By this time I had done quite a bit of programming, so I ended up  majoring in Computer Science.

I never considered it a “hobby”. I refused to call it one.

In my many trials, I had realized that RPG game production required a large amount of capital. I had also learned that it required more than one person.

Graduating in 2005, I joined a software company and began saving up. I was half miserable, half brainwashing myself. I wanted to make games, not work on software features and company politics. I kept my self sane by learning more development skills and design concepts in my spare time, never allowing that tiny flame to extinguish.

In 2011, I had a lucky break. The company I worked for got bought out. The parent company matured our stock shares and forced us to cash out. At this time, I had my capital. I had my practice. I had my experiences. More over — I had my undying dream.

On March 27th, 2012, I received my last stable paycheck, I quit my job, I structured my life, I moved my savings, and I started BoxCat.

The next three months were spent meeting other game developers, looking for good partners, and leveraging everything I had learned so far. I found some good partners and we started a project. Nine months later, in March 2013, we had our first game, “Nameless: the Hackers RPG“.

We have over 987 ratings internationally and maintain an average rating of 4.5 stars on the AppStore.

I couldn’t be happier.

Imagine a 10-year old boy bawling in tears of joy. Yes. This 30-year-old-10-year-old boy did just that.

A few weeks ago we made our game completely free with absolutely no monetization included. No ads. No in-app purchases. Over 40,000 people downloaded our game and played it. Everyday we get daily review reports from AppAnnie and they are the first thing I see each morning. I read each and every one of them, they are very precious to me.

From the very core of my being. Thank you for playing our game. ^^

This is important: “Chase your dreams. Chase them well. Always keep learning.”

That first game is the toughest. Keep at it. Keep trying. Never give-up. Line the wall that stands before you with a mountian of failures and a mind of lessons. When it's in reach, grab the top -- and pull.

Check out our website: BoxCat Games
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Feel free to ask anything in the comments. =) 

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