Initial Indie Game Interest

The genesis of my interest in Indie Games occurred prior to my deployment to Afghanistan.  The Commander stated that there would be downtime over seas, and that we should fill it with the meaningful pursuit of education.  The Army assists with tuition, and I’ve known multiple people who received their Master’s Degree while deployed.

Initial Interest

During that time, I reached the conclusion that I no longer would like to be in the military, and that I should start pursuing what I wanted to do outside of it.  I had a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, but that knowledge seemed gone, having not touched it in 3 years (I was an infantry officer).  With an interest in programming from High School, and a love of Video Games, I started looking for something that interested me.

Within the weeks I prepared for deployment, I learned Adam Saltsman’s free engine and programing interface named Flixel.  Instantly, I fell for it.  Retro styled music, sound effects, and art brought comforting nostalgia and dreams of a future fun.  Right before we left, I finished one of the tutorials, and became engrossed in it.

A picture with a pixelated F for Flixel
The Flixel Game Engine by Adam Atomic

Unfortunately, I soon found out that I would never get that promised time to work on education, and the rare times that I did, I was so exhausted from the day, I just wanted to relax, but I continued to read articles, and theories, while keeping the desire alive.

After deployment, during my last remaining year in the Army, my workload continued to be great, and decided to pursue it once I left the Army.  It May of 2011, I left the Army, and started to follow my dream.

What started your interest in Video Game Development?

My First Game

Note: This as a blog post from my old website

Over 1.5 years ago I started out to make Independent Video Games.  If you have Netflix watch, Indie Game: The Movie and wait for my name in the credits as a financial backer!  Throughout the year and a half, I’ve learned about myself, and the creative process and business aspects of making video games. Over the 1.5 years, I took creative classes, learned more about being an effective businessman and lastly, finally, developed my first game.

A picture of an asteroid in space, for my first game.
It takes a lot to learn how to make games.

My First Game

Here’s the main skills and tools I used to make the game:

  • 2d Art / Texturing
    • Explanation – This is what makes the backgrounds for games, and helps shape a character’s appearance, rather than being a flat model.  I also learned about creating tiles.  For instance, if you make an open field, you’ll be learning how to tile grass and dirt.
    • Adobe Photoshop – I’ve always wanted to make  digital paintings that are gorgeous.  I didn’t realize that it requires so much practice and study.  It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I understand that I need to keep working at it to gain skills.  Some practice beats no practice, so I’ll be implementing it into my daily routine.
    • Substance Designer – This program does well with texturing, and having the ability to easily tweak textures.  It uses formulas to generate textures, and inputs can be changed by the user to customize a 3d model’s texture.  I bought it at a big discount, and started to learn and understand it.  I need more practice on it, but really enjoy it because of it’s similarity to spreadsheets.  It has a steep learning curve. 
  • 3d Modeling
    • Explanation – Learning how to make objects, how textures map onto the object, how to set the object up for animation, and then actually animating the object are four separate skills that every 3d artist needs to learn.  I really only thought about the first skill when I thought about making video games.  I felt overwhelmed in this area.
    • Autodesk Maya – It was between this and Autodesk 3d Studio Max for a 3d modeling program.  I decided to go with this one because I read that it is better at animating objects.  The difficulty in learning how to 3D model, rig, texture and animate was significant, but I can see my skills growing.
  • Video Game Engine
    • Explanation -Engines run video game physics, graphics, and other calculations that interface with the audio output, controller output, and video display of different systems.  Most people know of the Unreal Engine, as the games display the logo at the beginning of many great Video Games.  Unfortunately, after making your game with the Unreal Engine and profiting about $60,000, the company takes 25% of your profits after that.  I didn’t like that, so I spent the money to buy a different engine.
    • Unity 4 – Rather than learning how to create my own engine, and creating a new one for every new game I want to make, I purchased the Pro Version of Unity 4, with the iPhone, Android and Flash extensions with it at a discount.  In theory, I would be able to develop for the PC / Mac / Linux with ease, and then port easily to each of the mobile versions.  I’ve become more familiar with the interface, and have a better understanding of how to make games than I did a year ago.
  • Scripting Language and Editor
    • Explanation – High school gave me some skills in the Visual C programming language.  I thought I’d be able to pick up programming easily since I excelled in High School programming, and have an engineering degree.  It’s harder than I thought, and I’m just scratching the surface.
    • C# and MonoDevelop – Mono Develop, a programming application, came with Unity, and is a clunky programming editor.  I used Visual Studio 2010 when I first started out last year, and upon switching to the Mac, decided against using it  since it runs on windows.  I intend to purchase Visual Studio because of its ability to sync with Unity, since the light version doesn’t.  It’s a powerful program, that I think will help significantly with my programming ease.
  • Music
    • Explanation – Music theory is something I have no clue about.  I didn’t realize that there’s actually logic behind why music harmonizes and makes rhythms.  I’m currently going through a book called Music Theory for computer musicians that will hopefully help as I make more music and sound effects.
    • Pro Tools 10 – With the ability to make music, and tweak instruments to make sound effects, this Digital Audio Workstation is powerful.  I’m getting to know my way around the interface, and am becoming familiar with knowing and understanding the instruments it provides.
    • Ableton Live 9 – I bought this with the belief that Pro Tools had poor music editing capabilities.  It was a bad purchase for me at the time.  I bought the base version, which has almost no instruments.  If I could refund this purchase I would.  Maybe I just need more skill in the program, either way, I’m maxed out on learning new programs for now.

These are the main tools, but then here’s other skills I’ve had to learn and some resources I used to make them

  • Creating a business legally – My father is a CPA and my Uncle is a Lawyer in the state of New York.  They’ve helped me considerably in business.  I thank God for them.
  • Opening up a business bank account – Never done that one before.
  • Filing yearly taxes – Once again, my accountant helped me with this.
  • Learning how to record business expenses – I use Quickbooks, and really don’t know how to use it, other than to write in expenses, and the amount of funds I’ve personally invested in acquiring the programs above.
  • Recording Video and Editing It – I use SnagIt to record my screen as I talk.
  • Recording Screen shots – SnagIt again.
  • Learning WordPress – I just kind of learned this from visiting my resources and researching it.
  • Learning Google Analytics – My brother-in-law, reading websites, and my wife just picked up books from the Library for me in this area!
  • Learning Music Theory  Music Theory for Computer Musicians is a book that helped explain everything.
  • Learning Color Theory – I’m taking online classes from Sessions College using money the Army used to give to support spouses of Low Ranking Officers and Non-Comissioned Officers.  Thanks to my mom’s best friend’s help for finding this for me.
  • Figuring out how to Host a File Online and Post Files to a Server – I use Amazon S3 and Transmit.  I figured this out today.  My brain is fried.
  • Persevering in spite of fear of failure, and overwhelming amount of skills to learn – The Bible.  Reading the Psalms.

While I’ve learned plenty this past year and invested personal savings into the business, I’m glad I’m actually starting to get a grip on making games, regain my energy and focus, and having a more positive attitude.  I’m thankful I’ve got several years left to keep making and learning to make games.

Here’s the Files!

Mac Version

Windows Version

What lessons have you learned professionally this past year?

© 2013, Bryan Fisher