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How a single dev turned a side project into a successful sailing sim

May 18, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

Richard Knol once wrote software for golf courses. Now he's a full-time game developer, and on the Gamasutra Twitch channel today we chatted a bit about that transition as we played his debut game: the open-seas sailing simulator Sailaway.

It was a fun conversation, and one that gets to the heart of how developers might carve out a career for themselves as an indie. For Knol, the path involved a lot of side projects (including notable contributions to the Unity Asset Store) and prototyping -- until about two years ago, one prototype of realistic sail physics grew into something more.

"At some point I thought well, let's make something that I enjoy. Let's make something that isn't there, that I would want to buy," Knol told Gamasutra.

"I just started making a boat, and I thought 'I want to experiment with how sails are adjusted when you pull ropes, just like you do on a real boat,' and see if I could make that. Then I thought 'Hey this works. Now my boat needs an ocean. How big shall I make it? You know what, I'll make it just as big as the real world' just sort of went from there."

Along the way, Knol solved some of the tricky challenges that come with crafting a realistic, always-online sailing game (turns out it's pretty tricky to get accurate Earth terrain data into your game) and found success among a niche community of sailing enthusiasts.

You can watch our full conversation with Knol in the video embedded above. Be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel if you’re looking for more developer interviews, commentary, and roundtable discussions!

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