April 2020. The world is shocked due to the outburst of the Corona Virus pandemic. Many Countries have imposed a generalised lockdown in order to prevent the spread of the disease, strongly suggesting citizens to not leave their homes unless strictly necessary.
This may seem like the beginning of a dystopian sci-fi novel, but it's actually the situation I found myself in almost a year ago, when I first started my game development journey.
When I first bought the "Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D" course by GameDev.tv I didn't know what to expect from it. I was (and still am) an Italian law student, I had never heard of Unity and I had never written a line of code in my entire life. I just had a lot of free time because of the lockdown and I was looking for something productive to do that also allowed me to take my mind off the craziness of what was going on in the world.
MY FIRST GAME
As soon as I started making my first little 2d games following the course, it struck me how much fun I was having and how much I loved expressing my creativity with game development (a year later I can say that I still feel the same way).
In my opinion one of the most fun sections of the 2D course was the one dedicated to the creation of a "space shooter" game. I diligently followed the instructions by the great teacher Rick Davidson but I decided to add a little twist to the project: instead of spaceships and lasers my game was going to have poker cards.
Using the mechanics of the traditional 2D space shooters I created a game where the goal was not destroying other spaceships, but shooting cards towards each other to make "blackjack", which, of course, adds 21 points to your score. This is how I came up with my first game, that for obvious reasons I called "Blackjack Shooter". It is still available on the Play Store.
In the months following the release of Blackjack Shooter I kept working really hard on my game development skills with others courses by GameDev.tv, such as "Complete C# Unity Game Developer 3D", "RPG Core Combat Creator: Learn Intermediate Unity C#" and "Unity Multiplayer: Intermediate C# Coding". I also kept creating new games, which you can find on my itch.io and Play Store page. I am very proud of how I finished almost every project I started during these months.
This was a crucial time in my formation because I consolidated the notions of game development that I still rely on today to make my games.
My first Steam game: "L.S.D. (Lasting Spiritual Derangement)"
Flash forward to December 2020. By this point I'd made about 10 complete, finished and playable games, both for PC and mobile. I was getting more and more confident about my skills and I felt ready to finally work on my first commercial game. I have no doubt about it, I am going to work on this project alone and I am going to work on it as hard as I can in order to make the best game possible.
One of my main concerns, however, is that I'd end up boring myself making a game that is not fun to develop. Take into account that until this point I've never worked on a game for longer than one or two months and this project, which is the biggest and most ambitious yet, is probably going to take a long time to finish.
This is one of main reasons why I came up with the idea to create "L.S.D.": a first person experience entirely set during a hallucinogen trip. If there's one thing I'm sure of, is that you can't get bored with such a premise.
The other reason is that it gives me complete freedom to approach the narration and the development aspect however I want. Think about it: it's completely understandable if all kinds of weird things happen during a L.S.D. trip because... well, it's a L.S.D. trip!
Example: a portal opens up in your living room and you get teleported to a medieval dream-like open world where you'll have to fight dragons with a magic sword. Perfectly normal (by the way this actually happens in the game)!
Of course this doesn't mean the game won't have a deeper meaning and it's just going to be a bunch of stuff put together for no reason. But hey, you'll have to play it to find out more about that.
"L.S.D.: Prologue to Lasting Spiritual Derangement"
Fast forward to today (at the time I'm writing this it's April 16).
I own a personal, legally recognised brand of game development here in Italy called "Fabiulous Games" (which is intentionally misspelled because it's a pun on my name which is Fabio).
After months of work I finished working on the prologue (a sort of demo) of "L.S.D.", I released it on Steam for free on April 7 and guess what? It's been trending in the "new and popular" category for more than a week now!
The prologue has already gained millions (yes, millions) of impressions and at the time I'm writing this it has been assigned the tag "very positive" with 87% of positive ratings out of a total of 55 reviews. I have also received all kinds of feedback and comments about the game: from people telling me that they loved it and that it's been a source of inspiration for their work, to others telling me that I should just quit making games forever. I should note, however, that the vast majority of the comments are really supportive and constructive and this is something that I'll never take for granted.
Furthermore, "L.S.D. Prologue" has been played and streamed from all over the world, there are gameplays online of YouTubers from Japan, Ukraine, Russia, Brasil etc.
Needless to say, this truly motivates me to keep working on the game, with always the same objective in mind: having fun and making the best game possible.
A common thing to say as a conclusion would be: "I had never expected that my game development journey would take me so far", and partially this is true. Nevertheless I can't say that it wasn't in my plans. Ambition has taken me to this point and ambition will keep leading me into the future regardless of what will happen in my solo game-dev career.
Writing this brief article has given me a chance to think about my last year and I think I just realized what has always been my main strength in my short, but intense, game development journey: perseverance. Ever since I took that first course I've worked on my game-dev skills everyday. And when I say everyday I mean everyday: no weekends off, no holidays off.
So this is my conclusion. A year ago the world didn't make sense to me. It seemed like a place filled with death, that had no intrinsic meaning. Today I still feel the same way, but at least I'm sure that as long as I' have ambition and perseverance I'll be on the right path.