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Inside Indie Dev: Iber Parodi Siri, Mission Massive Migration

Iber Parodi Siri (@rmbsevl)
Founder, Rombosaur Studios
Project: Mission Massive Migration

Mission Massive Migration is a 2D retro action game created by Iber Parodi Siri under his Rombosaur Studios label. It was released to a quietly positive reception on the Google Play store in early January. Though the game is still listed in the 500 – 1,000 Installs range, an average review score of 4.45/5 across a current total of 36 reviews marks a well-received first effort for Rombosaur. Between the game’s retro charm (think of Solar Jetman from the NES days) and Iber’s personal background, I was curious to learn more about the project and find out what’s next for his studio.

Iber lives in the Tolkienesque Bariloche, Argentina where he tests and develops software professionally. His free time is a whirlwind of electronics projects, music and video production, art, blogging, and code. He says the journey began early in life and his passions have naturally led from one to the next.

“I’m a guitar player. I built two electric guitars when I was 15 years old,” Iber says. “I also build my guitar pedals. I’m into hardcore punk, metal, thrash, alt rock, indie rock, and synth stuff…I had multiple bands in the past. My latest was called DAR (“Desafiando a la Realidad” or “Defying Reality”) but I quit because of a lack of time. I wanted to program more and focus a little bit more on college. Programming is a passion for me, as well as music. I guess I like to create things.”

In this area, Iber is greatly accomplished. In casual conversation he was able to point me to a YouTube channel, a blog, and a Bandcamp profile all full of his creative and technical projects. He participates in a variety of online communities and offers up many of these creations simply for the enjoyment of others.

Blogged artwork
Blogged artwork

Iber views game development differently. Though he made Mission Massive Migration available for free, he views creating games as a way to earn income and dictate the next direction for his professional career. To get started, he drew inspiration from a small team famous for shaping their destiny through game dev.

“At the time I started creating [Mission Massive Migration] I was playing Doom: BFG Edition, that comes with Doom, Doom 2, Doom 3, and expansions for all the games,” Iber says. “Doom 3 blew my mind away. I had never played it before…I put like 88 hours into this game. I became a little bit obsessed about it, watching YouTube videos about the creators, reading interviews, and finally reading a book called Masters of Doom. That was the final motivation I needed to make it happen.”

With that motivation, Iber described the 10-month development of Mission Massive Migration as straightforward. He had a specific vision for an Android game with a virtual game pad, and a 2D character to make jump and shoot. He got started with placeholder assets from the internet, while learning conventional game design and development strategies.

Iber says the discovery of some public domain graphical assets created by Adam Atomic gave him an opportunity to focus on development while creating a small amount of retro art to supplement the freely available graphics he had found.

“[Adam Atomic’s] assets contained laser doors, batteries, and powered cells,” says Iber. “Basically I built a game around the art assets I found. I drew the final boss and the first scene on Earth. I’d say that sometimes, if the planets are aligned right, I can make decent retro art.”

This strategic decision allowed Iber to complete his first game in 10 months. He published the game officially on January 7th, showing his work proudly to some of his online communities including Reddit and Twitter.

Iber’s sense of accomplishment gave way to feelings of disappointment.

“To be honest, the game didn’t reach the amount of people I would have liked,” Iber admits. “It got almost 400 downloads in the first 2 days due to a post on reddit/r/gamedev, but then it just dropped to two downloads per day on average.”

Not to be deterred, Iber has remained incredibly gracious with critics and maintains a positive outlook about the road ahead.

Oh Reddit…

“This is definitely the beginning of my career in game development,” Iber says. “I went all in on this game. Of course it has flaws, but I’m really happy with it. I’m already learning new technologies to make better games.”

Iber says he’d like to tackle darker material in the future like his heroes of Doom fame. He acknowledges his flaws in art creation and has an interest in teaming up with a dedicated artist for his next project.

As for fellow aspiring game developers, Iber has both technical and philosophical advice to offer. For programmers interested in creating games, he recommends Java with the Flixel-GDX engine for its clear code and helpful documentation as a free introduction to object-oriented, multi-platform development. For aspiring developers with little or no coding experience, he recommends learning Love2D, a LUA programming language engine that’s simple to learn and allows newcomers to achieve small objectives quickly, which helps with the learning curve.

“That was technical,” Iber says. “But the most important advice I can give is, your first game should be a game that you like to play, a game that you are proud of making, a game that you’re motivated to finish. If you don’t finish a game, you’re not a game dev! You learn a lot by finishing a game. There are a lot of details that need to be taken care of. There’s the publishing part, and the criticism part too that you need to learn how to extract the valuable information from.”

Iber’s social media accounts make it clear that he isn’t resting after his work on Mission Massive Migration. He remains active in the game dev community, still encouraging others to keep pushing and discussing new work of his own. His work ethic and his unfailing optimism make him a great bet in the indie scene’s near future.

“It’s just a dream I have that I will try my best to make it come true,” Iber says. “We’ll see what happens on the way.”

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games

Inside Indie Dev: Garry Hamer, Push for Emor

Update: You can submit your indie project for possible inclusion in this series! Here’s more info!

Garry Hamer (@_LupusSolus)
Founder, Lupus Solus
Project: Push for Emor

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. 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, 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 joined up with local resistance fighters, retrieved a quest item from a cave dungeon worthy of an Elder Scrolls title, and sabotaged 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. After finishing the alpha demo, 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.

Push for Emor cave screenshot

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.”

Push for Emor city screenshot

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.”

Push for Emor Space screenshot

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.

Push for Emor snow screenshot

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.”

Push for Emor mother ship

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.”

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games Web Writing

Announcing the Inside Indie Dev Series

Update 1/15/16: Want your indie project to be considered for this series? Here’s more info!

Update 1/13/16: The first installment of this series is up!

Just a quick post to announce the Inside Indie Dev interview series! In these posts you’ll get a look at new and upcoming independent projects and interviews with the creative minds behind the games.

Later this week you’ll hear about the upcoming shooter RPG Push for Emor. I chatted with creator Garry Hamer and gathered his thoughts on the great sci-fi influences of our time, developing for PC and VR simultaneously, and balancing life and game development when you’re already working full time. You won’t want to miss it!

Push for Emor screenshot
Push for Emor is an ambitious title full of surprises.

If you haven’t yet, this is a great time to subscribe via e-mail (which you can do on just about any page on the site) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Keep an eye out!

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Game Development Game Industry Games Web

It’s Not a Trap: The Case for Star Wars Battlefront

It probably isn’t news to you that players have been very hard on Star Wars Battlefront. While Metacritic awards the PC version a 71/100 based on average reviews from 17 top critics, site users have slapped it with a 3.4/10 (!), citing a variety of complaints including an unfair DLC model, no space battles, and the lack of any campaign content. While I have no intention to present Battlefront as a perfect game, this post is going to take a harder look at some of the chief complaints against it and see if it didn’t perhaps at least deserve a higher score than My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic for the iPhone.

No Space Battles?!?


I don’t know that I’ve heard a single rant about Star Wars Battlefront that didn’t put the lack of space battles near the top of the list. This is understandable. Battlefront 2 certainly had them, they’ve been popular in many other Star Wars games, and it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction when you hear about a Star Wars experience that won’t involve space.

The most obvious response to this is one that I haven’t actually seen presented at all yet: Fighter Squadron mode is every bit the dogfight experience the series has ever presented. It’s true that you’ll see clouds instead of a black backdrop with pretty stars and you won’t board a larger craft and shoot things with a gun, but if you add all the ship flying you can do in the game’s other modes, this is the most flight-oriented Battlefront title to date.

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that the developers of the Battlefield series reversed the “mostly flying, some running” formula throughout the rest of the game to focus on the ground. While actual space battles would have been a welcome addition to Battlefront, their absence doesn’t technically remove anything from the experience.

No Campaign?!?


That Forbes comment needs to be clarified: Star Wars Battlefront made the list (#1, in fact) of The 15 Most Disappointing Video Games of 2015 at Forbes.com. It joins the ranks of games like TellTale’s Game of Thrones, Fallout 4, and The Witcher 3. Forbes seems to understand video games about as well as I understand the stock market, but I’m careful not to blog about day trading.

I may have been one of the few potential players almost completely unconcerned when I heard there wouldn’t be a playable story in Battlefront. Since when are we dying to play campaigns developed by DICE? Maybe no one read TechnoBuffalo’s Battlefield 4 review titled “No, Seriously, Skip the Campaign”. Modern shooters simply aren’t judged with emphasis on their single-player experience anymore.

“But it’s Star Wars!” I know, but let’s not pretend to be too excited about Star Wars side stories. What impact would DICE actually be allowed to have on the Star Wars universe for the benefit of this game? This would have been a loud, flashy play session with all the toys in the early films with strict orders from Mommy and Daddy to put everything back where we found it when we’re done. I’m just as happy to invite my friends over so we can “pew-pew!” those toys at each other for the afternoon. The previous games in the series had campaigns in the same way that Titanfall had a campaign. Why bother?

OMGWTFDLC?!?


Complaints about the DLC schedule for Star Wars Battlefront are understood, but there’s this fascinating trend online of players complaining about the DLC and, in the same breath, completely misrepresenting the base game. I think this has to be part of a huge marketing failure. The complaint above is a very popular one. Who would release a game with four maps? No one in their right mind. That’s true. Battlefront has 12 maps as of the initial release and 14 including the first free downloadable content. Maps are playable locations like the Rebel Base and the Ice Caves. All of Hoth is an environment. Somehow “Screw this game, it only involves a dozen maps across four planets” seems like a less valid complaint.

Now, maintaining that EA did indeed release a complete game, the DLC model is much less consequential. What wouldn’t players have paid for more Goldeneye 64 content in the 90s? Now that we have the option, we collectively despise it. That’s perfectly fine. You aren’t required to shell out any additional money to dump countless hours into Battlefront. You can evaluate the quality of that time as you please. The simple act on the developer’s part of creating additional content does not necessarily entitle anyone to that content free of charge. It’s up to developers and publishers to determine when they’ve put together $60 worth of content and it’s up to players to determine whether to spend that money. The same goes for subsequent content releases.

Overall I feel Star Wars Battlefront was and is a victim of poor marketing and community management. The core gameplay is still fun (decide how long for yourself) and the visual design was some of the best we saw in 2015. If the game is in fact a disappointment, it’s because too many players didn’t know what to expect and too many still misunderstand what the game is meant to be, which is a recipe for disaster at the end of a series with the fan base of the earlier Battlefront games. Still, Star Wars Battlefront doesn’t deserve this much heat.

Go ahead, let me have it in the comments.

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Business Code Game Development Game Industry Games

Indie Dev Confessions: Part 1

2015 was an incredible year. My son was born, my wife has an amazing new job, and I walked away from a career ten years in the making to care for my son and pursue my passion. I finally had the chance to take a run at full-time game development. While last year was full of unforgettable memories, the truth is that it also came with a lot of painful realizations about my indie dev career.

A basic Google search reveals that this experience is not uncommon. Countless developers have stopped to assess wreckage, unable to put their finger on exactly what went wrong. Others have made very astute observations about the challenge of going it alone in the game industry. I think the best thing we can do to carry that discussion forward is to be very open and honest about where we’re at in an effort to determine how we got here. That in mind, I’ve decided to start a series of posts exploring the real, hard truths about my experiences in the indie dev game.

Confession #1: I Abandoned the First Indie Dev Project I Announced Almost Immediately

Before I had even quit my day job I became fascinated with the idea of paying tribute to the old text-based adventure games with my own updated take on the genre. The ingredients were perfect: It would allow me to write (my other great passion), there’s a ton of room for improvement in the traditional formula for these games, and I could use web languages and tools like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc., all of which I’ve been fluent in for over well over a decade. It took some stumbling around but I eventually landed on great mechanics for updated text games and it didn’t take too long to lay a strong foundation for the engine. The writing also picked up encouraging momentum as soon as I was able to invest some dedicated work sessions. I settled on a story that I felt was compelling in its own right, but would also allow me to write about some issues that were very close to home for me. I was finally doing work that truly meant something to me.

It was at this point that I fell into a notorious indie dev trap. Instead of taking advantage of being my own project manager, PR lead, and filling all other pertinent roles, I wanted to act like a triple-A tough guy. I put together some screenshots and GIFs, wrote up some basic marketing material, and announced a needlessly aggressive release date for what would be my first product as a full-time game developer.

It felt great at the time. People liked and shared it around Twitter, they left notes to commend the ideas and implementation I was showing off, and let me know they were enthusiastic to get their hands on it. “This is it” I thought to myself. “I’m finally doing it.”

That’s when the most difficult development challenges arose, the writing got less creative and more technical, and the project generally demanded the most from me. I got quiet on social media and even quieter in person. I pounded at the keyboard every chance I got, working way harder than I had in my full-time traditional office job. I stayed in this state as my own senseless deadline came and went, never saying a word. I eventually gave in to the growing desire to work on something fun and new. I’ve never gone back.

It’s hard to remember what was going through my mind when I put that kind of pressure on myself and my project. I’m sure I felt embarrassed that I went months with nothing to show for leaving my office job. I’m sure the family was trying to adjust to less income. I have little doubt that I let my nerves get the best of me. I love being connected with larger indie teams on Twitter and I know a number of great indie dev community managers all over the world. It’s possible that I tried to follow their lead, much to the detriment of my one-man operation. I can tell you for sure I’ll never handle another project this way again. You’ll hear about my games when they have a functional beginning, middle, and end. If I’m not in the polishing stage, you’ll have to be content to hear that “work is going well!”

Join me in the rest of the series and I’ll tell you more cringeworthy tales, like how I left an LLC behind in another state and why I actually hate working in Unity. If you’re an indie dev yourself, leave a comment and tell me about the coolest project you left behind.

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Game Development Games

Codalyn’s Stable Orbit First Look

The year is 2034 and you have been tasked with building a successor to the International Space Station.

In its debut game Stable Orbit, one-man studio Codalyn will send players into space on a mission of building, earning, and survival. The simulation will not only include the development of a station but will also require management of contracts, resources, and a variety of unexpected obstacles. Successful missions will lead to even greater challenges like the creation of an orbiting city.

Stable Orbit Space Station
Stable Orbit will probably lead to many viral screenshots

Codalyn graciously provided me with an Alpha build of Stable Orbit so I could try my hand at station building in its current state. While it’s too early to get a strong sense of the gameplay, construction already has all the ingredients for serious fun. The game was very wisely designed with a Sandbox Mode, allowing for total freedom of construction. I may have quickly resorted to silly nonsense with my own bases but I was seriously impressed by the foundation that has been built for the rest of the experience. Tinkering to learn what’s possible got me very interested following the game’s development.

Stable Orbit was designed and developed by Codalyn founder Jim Offerman. Offerman has over a decade of professional game industry experience, and contributed to Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), Tomb Raider (2013), and Thief (2014). Stable Orbit is scheduled for full release in Q3 2016.

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Game Development Game Industry Games

Weekly Roundup

It’s been a busy week! My first Nerd Stash game review just went live and I got to cover a couple of cool news items.

More great stuff is coming in the next couple of weeks!

(Review) Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition – This game was the real deal! The Divinity series has been popular with PC gamers for years but Original Sin Enhanced Edition marked the series’ arrival on consoles. It was a pleasure to check it out on Xbox One and write up my thoughts.

Expect more reviews from me in the near future!

(Humble Bundle) Humble Codemasters Bundle Delivers Big for Racers – I love what the Humble Bundle team does and I love my racing. You can imagine my response to the Humble Codemasters Bundle. Codemasters is the studio behind the awesome DiRT and Grid series as well as some great non-racing games. As usual, the bundle supports a couple of great charities.

The Humble Codemasters Bundle

(New Release) Musical Language Game Lyriko Now Available for Android and iOS – Needless to say I can’t thoroughly cover mobile games and I don’t pretend to try. That said, occasionally I find a game I can’t help but talk about.

Lyriko was designed and developed by an MIT grad with a fascination for music and language studies. He combined the two and wound up with a game that plays like a musical Rosetta Stone course. It doesn’t pretend to be a full-fledged language learning tool but it’s outstanding for players who are already studying a foreign language.

Lyriko, a musical language game

In addition to these posts I finalized a feature that hasn’t been posted yet and also covered a great news story (currently in the hands of the editor) about the upcoming UFC bout between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor deciding the cover art for EA Sports UFC 2.

I’ll include late posts in next week’s roundup!

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Game Development

Is Apple Outrunning Its Native Game Developers?

As a developer myself, I’m often lured into trying to become a ninja in native iOS game development. I say “often” because there’s always something new to deal with: iPads, taller iPhone screens, SpriteKit, Swift, Metal, the list goes on.