Rage 2014 has long since come and gone, but for the writers at NAG we’re still sifting through all of the great items seen at the show. One of the best was the home_coded stand, dedicated to the works of local game development talent, and what a mix of titles there was on offer! Point-and-click adventures, music/rhythm, espionage, alien lobotomies – it ran the gamut. It was a vibrant gaming menagerie, and the developers are every bit as interesting as their games.
We’ll be publishing a series of articles focusing on some of these local devs and their upcoming games; if you’re joining us late and want to catch up on the entire series, simply click the following link: home_coded 2014.
“I had quit my then job, out of sheer frustration, two years ago,” says Steven Tu, head of Twoplus Games, when I asked how he got into game development. “I took a break, because I had no idea what to do. And I attended A MAZE, where I just happened to attend a Make Games SA constitution meeting. There was this association, and all these people, and this event where people were showing games — so I just joined. I became the go-to graphic design guy, I helped design their logo, but that’s all peanuts. Because through knowing the association and people, I learnt tons about game development. Game Maker, rapid prototyping, learning about the real value of ideas.”
Tu has a very pragmatic view on ideas, and what it takes to find success. “I’ve got a ton of prototypes, but I haven’t solved them yet. That’s the difficulty in making unique experiences: when you get stuck, there’s no easy out. And people are thinking in the same world. And we’re all thinking of the same sort of ideas. It’s whoever gets to bring them to fruition that counts. Don’t ever worry about people stealing your ideas, because ultimately, people only steal profitable ideas.”
It’s not just talk; despite Tu’s relative inexperience, he’s rapidly made a name for himself for producing and sharing a ton of games with a high level of polish and some unique combination of gameplay ideas. Dead Run is a take on the endless runner genre: you’re forced to off zombies and rescue survivors whose silhouettes, cheekily, have similar gesticulations. As you gather more survivors, they push you slightly ahead, requiring faster reaction times. It’s simple, yet addictive: inevitably, the need to react quickly results in a lapse of concentration, and you’re either gnawed to death by a zombie or accidentally off a civvy.
Dead Run is currently under review for release on Apple’s App Store, but you can play a version of it online (check the bottom of the article for the link).
Or take Tu’s other game on show, Beat Attack: a one-button block breaking music/rhythm competitive game in which players lift and place blocks in time with the music. It’s parts Puzzle Fighter, Tetris and Lumines. I loved it, being a serious Puzzle Fighter fan; it’s incredibly fun, and aligns closely with Tu’s design philosophy for most of his games. “Oh man, this is so cheesy,” he says when I ask about it. “I like to create new things by mashing things up. I also like multiplayer: Twoplus Games refers to both of those. I like to make games that I would want to play with friends.”
“I grew up with block-breaking games, multiplayer games. And revisiting them with a game dev’s eyes is such a different experience! I still love Puzzle Fighter, and Tetris Attack, but now I can see why one was more successful than the other. The genesis of Beat Attack is simply that I wanted something like it, and there wasn’t anything: the control scheme is one button because it’s on a touch device, it’s precise because it needs to be competitive.”
Ultimately, Tu believes that it’s give and take – both at a player level and developer/designer level, that’s key. “Do stuff you love, and do it properly; find a community and more people that also love the stuff you love. You don’t go to a gym because you can’t gym at home. You go to a gym for support; you know you’re with other people, you’re in it together. Be socially engaged with the thing you love.”