“Ha! It’s moving! It’s bloody moving!” I shout to nobody in particular.
“What’s moving?” my wife asks, popping her head into my study.
I stand to one side and point at the screen revealing a blank, white background with a red square in the centre. I make a flourish with my hand and press the D key. The red square moves right. My face is locked in a state of disbelief and wonder over my new found programming powers.
“Very good babe, keep it up.” my wife says, leaving the room.
I slide into my chair, wiggle my fingers and smile.
“Right then. Time to make a game…”
Howdy! My name is Ant. I’m 36 years old, I have a wife, two young daughters, a dog and a cat that won’t stay off my office chair. I’ve been hooked on video games since before I got my first console, a NES, back in the day. Since then, it’s been my dream to make games. You know the drill, talking about ideas with your friends, how you’d improve the latest game, your totally original game design that would shake the very foundations of the gaming industry if only you could make the damn thing…
Most people would say I’m “good with computers” – meaning I’m the one they call if the printer isn’t working so I can spend hours installing drivers or rebooting the system because it got a virus from a website, not that kind of website, a different one, I swear…
In the mid-2000s, I decided I’d put my superior computing knowledge to good use and learn how to make games with GameMaker. Looking back it seems fairly simplistic but at the time I found it very confusing AND quite limited in what could be achieved with it. So, I gave up. I gave up HARD.
A few years later I got the game designing itch again, so I tried my hand at learning how to make Flash games. By this time, Flash was just starting its decline into irrelevance but it seemed easy enough to pick up and I just wanted to make a game! I enrolled in an online course and was unable to make a small 2D frog jump. Everything seemed totally bewildering to me, so I gave up – again. I gave up perhaps even HARDER than the previous time.
In the spring of 2015, my wife was pregnant with our first child. I was feeling quite unfulfilled, unchallenged – and I wanted my daughter to be proud and excited by what her dad did. Luckily, I noticed a C# game development course on sale for £8 – I decided it was worth a punt – if I was going to fail, I may as well fail at real game development. Slowly but surely I learned how to print debugs, then change text elements on the actual screen, then move shapes – it was finally happening – I was becoming a game developer! Text 101, Number Wizard, Glitch Garden, Block Breaker – with each segment completed, my skill set increased – and I was actually remembering what was taught for a change. But pride cometh before the fall…
I’d been learning for a few months and thought myself ready to make my own game. I’d pick up anything else I needed as I went. I planned, designed, modelled, animated and programmed everything from scratch and after a year, Leviathan Fishing Company was released for iOS in March 2017. I was beyond proud, GameDev.tv even mentioned me a couple of times on their website. Finally, my creation was in the hands of the general gaming public…
I obviously hoped it would sell moderately well but I wasn’t prepared for the absolute crushing indifference it received. After 6 months, it had sold less than 200 copies. Once Apple took their bite of profits and I deducted the cost of music and SFX, I ended up making about £100 – for over a year’s worth of work. I was embarrassed, I felt as if I had let my family and friends down. For some reason, a fairly complex strategy game about the 18thcentury whaling industry didn’t connect with the kids – who’d have thunk?! The game was ill-suited for the platform and I’d cut too many corners to release it sooner. This is when I’d usually do a good ol’ fashioned “give-up” of the HARDEST variety – but I took some time off to reflect and recuperate.
Over the next few years I dabbled with several prototypes and ideas to see if anything seemed worth pursuing – a “comedy” baby-scan app, a casual helicopter rescue game, a tactical Dick Turpin strategy game. Nothing really sparked my interest though. I enrolled in a few more online courses and watched copious amounts of YouTube game dev tutorials. I’ve always been a fan of Harvest Moon and had enjoyed Stardew Valley – and when I saw the “Suits” episode of Love, Death + Robots I thought about what could be if these elements were combined…
A farming RPG with fast paced, explosive combat and engaging story. This was it. I created a game design document and got to work. If this was going to have any chance, I was going to have to acknowledge where I’d gone wrong in the past. The game wouldn’t be released on mobile - I felt more at home on PC. I wouldn’t make everything from scratch – if I could make use of an asset, I’d buy it. Corners wouldn’t be cut – if I wanted a certain feature, I’d learn and implement it properly. I created prototypes for the farming mechanic, combat, movement, dialogue systems and more. Month by month, progress was made. The story was refined, the controls got tighter, the UI got sleeker and the explosions got explosion-ier…
I’ve worked on Mech Farmer for about 2 years now and I’m cautiously hopeful. I finally have a Steam page up and running, which was a big deal to me. The game idea is fairly unique, it looks good and is fun to play. I’ve recently won an indie game-of-the-month competition in a large social media group and have been approached by a few publishers - one of which I’ve actually heard of has asked for a demo, which is nice. So, I’m focusing on getting a playable demo ready and plan to distribute it to influencers and other publishers in the hopes of getting noticed. If all goes well, the game will be a success and I’ll be able to focus on game development for years to come. If not – well, I’ve made a game that I’m proud of. I’ll learn from my mistakes, see where I can improve and get to work on my next game. After all, it isn’t failure until you give up.
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