When I first encountered Garry Hamer he was eagerly showing around the alpha for his upcoming sci-fi shooter RPG Push for Emor. We had a lighthearted chat over Twitter–I offered my condolences upon hearing he had just purchased the $600 Oculus Rift and he jokingly described explaining it to his sobbing girlfriend–and we went our separate ways after I offered to play the demo and get back to him.
The Push demo impressed me with its ambition. There are some slightly rough placeholder models to overlook and some knowingly goofy dialog to take in before really digging in but it quickly became evident that Push for Emor has great bones. My first play session sent me from a command ship down to a planet’s surface where I would join up with local resistance fighters, retrieve a quest item from a cave dungeon worthy of an Elder Scrolls title, and sabotage enemy installations in a mech walker. Then it was off to dogfight with space pirates and board their creepy ships before taking over my own space station. Upon finishing the alpha demo I found myself thinking about how Garry was the game’s creator and was leading the development effort but was also must be working on PR if he was spending time looking for people like me. I was curious to learn more about this project.
Hamer, I learned, is a full-time commercial C# programmer from Blackpool in northwest England. He has no prior game development experience and is developing Push for Emor completely alone in his spare time. This has carried on for around 18 months.
“I had always been intrigued by game development,” Hamer says. “It was all very voodoo and mysterious to me. I picked up a copy of Unity, started noodling around with a concept I thought might be fun, showed it to some friends at work, and they liked it.” The satisfaction of seeing friends enjoy his creation has kept him working diligently ever since.
Hamer’s efforts appear to be paying off. The Push for Emor site advertises a launch version featuring 11 planets spread across five solar systems for players to explore and organize against the enemy. In addition to creating content and perfecting the game’s core flying, shooting, and interaction mechanics, Hamer has natively supported both standard PC monitors and the Oculus Rift since the game’s earliest playable demos.
When I asked if Push in its current state lined up well with Hamer’s initial vision for the game he told me that, if anything, the game includes more than he’d planned. He says he only pursues new features that can be added with very little schedule deviation and that he feels the game’s core mechanics–missions, inventory, dialogue, combat, driving, and flying–are working and complete, save for some polish.
“These are things that, once done, are repeatedly used throughout the game in a drag-and-drop manner,” Hamer says. “This means that I can get on with the job of creating new environments for the player to game in and new characters for them to interact with.”
While Hamer takes development and the game itself very seriously, he wants to have fun with Push for Emor and he’s loaded it with thematic jokes and nods to his favorite sci-fi influences. He has listed influences like EVE and Borderlands in press material and discussed growing up with Star Trek, pointing out his game’s subtle tribute to the Enterprise crew in sending the player from planet to planet with no idea what to expect upon arrival. He hopes this is as rewarding for players as it has been for him.
“I have come to realize that I have this opportunity to spoof up some of the gameplay elements and I have a massive catalog of popular works to draw from,” Hamer says of the game’s easter eggs. “I am very serious about Push for Emor but the game itself is quite tongue-in-cheek. It’s a sad truth that hardly anyone reads mission text or watches cutscenes all the way through but, for those that do, hopefully Push’s interactions will raise a wry smile.”
As a former professional software developer and hobby game dev myself, I know progress like this doesn’t come without a cost. I asked Hamer to tell me about the impact the project has had on his personal life and how he’s striking the right balance between work, game development, and life.
Hamer’s description of what he calls “game dev madness” is a familiar one. He says he doesn’t always let sleep interfere with his development time. When his girlfriend notices his prolonged absence she visits his “man cave” to check on him and occasionally stays to share some red wine. She does this with trepidation, he says, as it usually results in his putting a Rift visor on her to have her check out new features.
Despite the hardship, Hamer credits his relationship with enforcing healthy boundaries and maintaining the strength to continue the project.
“Luckily for me, my [girlfriend] is very understanding, but at the same time she does not take any BS from me,” Hamer says. “She keeps me grounded and encourages me when I need it but, more importantly, she forces me to step away from the keyboard every once in a while and remember that there is more to life than making alien worlds: friends, laughing, and usually alcohol. She has become very adept at gauging the game dev madness in my eyes and, when it looks like it’s taking over, I get my ass kicked into the shower. Then she drags me down to the local pub whether I like it or not! I’m pretty sure I would have burnt out by now if it wasn’t for her.”
Though Hamer hasn’t pinned down Push for Emor’s exact release date, he’s cautiously optimistic about the near future. He’s hopeful about implementing a few crowd-pleasing final touches like massive space battles requiring the player to command from the mother ship and jump in a fighter to join dogfights as needed.
“I can see it in my mind’s eye,” he says. “I just need to get it onto the screen.”