The Inside Indie Dev series has proven very popular with readers! You can check out the first installment on Garry Hamer’s upcoming game Push for Emor if you haven’t already. There is always room for more great indie projects to be written up, so if you have an exciting project to share please reach out!
Update: You can submit your indie project for possible inclusion in this series! Here’s more info!
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.
“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.”
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!
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
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.