mercredi 31 décembre 2014

Developer Diary #7: Out of Order and Beyond

This was really unexpected. After a day of working very hard over some stupid coding mistakes, I had that terrifying sharp pain in the head. It was like a sword stabbed throught my head. My girlfriend took me to the hospital: I had a cerebrovascular accident. My brains were bleeding. The thing was probably caused by to much stress and work but there was actually a reason to it: I had an extra vein in the brains that couldn't handle the flood of blood from other arteries.

I was told to stop and work and stay calm. So I did. I had many unsuccessful surgeries. Time was passing by when they decided they would open my skull. It was quite a risky business so I had to finish things before I had to go. I got to work again in april to finish the game in may, a few days before the operation. It was rushed but at least, it was completed.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success. I was broken but my brains were saved.

It took me quite some time to get back on my feet. I was tired, I had memory problems and many other little annoying medical things. In july, I went back to Death Pirate, polished it and released it. I didn't want to make video games anymore so, I didn't really care anymore. My only fear was that the game wouldn't sell. All this work for nothing, I couldn't swallow that.

Everybody says that it's easy to sell stuff on internet now but if nobody knows that you exist, nobody will buy your stuff. It's like throwing a bottle in the wide ocean. Releasing the game on this very website would be suicidal. I had to find a publisher. I tried Steam. Steam is pretty fair in term of royalties but the Greenlight system is just not for me. People have to vote for you. So you have to make a lot of advertisement, a lot of promotion and stuff. I talked to a guy who managed to get his game on Steam: it took him one year of harassment towards the video game forums, blogs and websites to get enough attention to be greenlit.

Personnally, that's not why I do this. I hate annoying people with my stuff and I don't want to spend my time doing advertising. I want to spend my time creating video games, drawing and making music! I don't want to waste my time on Facebook, Twitter and forums to get my game on Steam!!! Now, it seems like a good game maker or a good artist is mostly a good communicator or a marketing expert... And the Greenlight system is promoting this stance. That's not how it should be.

So I turned to Desura. I submitted my game and it was accepted. I was so relieved. They offered me a deal that I didn't even read. I was so desperate that I would actually have paid to sell my game! I just remembered that it was a pretty bad deal but I expected to sell at most 20 games so I didn't care. I was so tired I didn't care about much at that moment... Heavy Metal Death Pirate was released on the 3rd of September with no promotion...

In the beginning of October, I had a message from Desura saying that they had to pay me for my game. I didn't open the message... I was too afraid to see the ridiculous amount of money they would give me...

Then, in the november, I wasn't even thinking about video game making anymore and I saw that unopened Desura message... I thought, well, let's have a little laugh...

Heavy Metal Death Pirate had sold 2500 units and they gave me quite a bit of money. I was shocked.


mercredi 24 décembre 2014

Developper Diary #6: Here we go! Game Maker!

Everybody thought I was crazy: a videogame?! All by yourself?! It was the ultimate challenge and I was ready to take it on. I did a few games when I was a child on my Thomson MO5 (BASIC language) so I knew algorythm and such. At first, I planned on doing a small game in one month on RPG Maker. But it didn't support HD graphics, so I tried Unity.

At that time, Unity was only made for 3D games. You had to use program a 2D environment in the 3D engine and it was just really cumbersome to use. Since I couldn't make 3D graphics and I had to try something else.

I knew Game Maker for a long time and already tried it a few years later. At that time, it was very buggy and complicated. I downloaded the newest version and it was a nice surprise: it's perfectly organized to easily make a simple game and it has its own coding language for those who wants to make more complicated stuff. In about a week , I had a stage ready. My scope enlarged and I decided to make a real game that could compete with professionnals!

My adventure with Game Maker was nice... but complicated. First, Game Maker was (and still a bit is...) buggy. Many functions don't really work the way they are advised to and get ready to face a lot of bugs everytime you update the program. One time, they suddenly changed the sound system. I had to rewrite every sound functions in my game. I nearly cried, frankly.

One important thing to know with Game Maker is that it is advertised to be a very easy drag-and-drop game maker but this only works if you're making a very simple game. If you want to make a big, more complicated game, you will have to actually CODE. Another thing is that the developers and even the community will tell you that you SHOULD load every assets of your game in the program. Let me tell you that if you're making an HD game with huge sprites and stuff, Game Maker won't be able to handle it. You WILL have to load everything externally. I had to learn all this b myself with a lot of frustration and anger.

But I think Game Maker is the best. It's easy to use at first and then it allows to expand into more complicated algorythm with its own language. It also helps a lot in organizing your assets and your files. I tried Unity lately and it still is unwelcoming and overly complicated.

I planned to work one year on the game which would be called "Heavy Metal Death Pirate". It was clearly not enough. There was too much to learn and too much to do. I worked 10 hours a day, sometimes more. The 29th of january, as I was nearly finished with the game, I had a cerebrovascular accident.


mercredi 17 décembre 2014

Developer Diary #5: Manga Artist= DEAD

With my English degree in hand, I couldn't much expect but becoming a teacher. It didn't motivated me much: my experiences in schools in the UK was pretty bad and the few I had in France were not even better. I tried the exam once, failed and called it a day.

I thought instead of studying hard to become someone I don't want to be, I might as well work hard to become who I want to be. So I draw. I draw 24 hours a day. I've always been drawing, and everybody told me that I had to make it my job. The reality was not that easy. My first works were bad. REALLY bad. And I had the guts to send them to publishers. Who, of course, rejected them.

I was bad, yes, but there was another problem. My art style is closer to manga than French or American comics. And, honestly, why would a french publisher publish a French mangaka who's not doing even better than japanese? And in my case, I was doing far worse. But I kept making manga.

There were other problems: the market in France was (and still is) in real crisis because people are now buying mostly JP mangas or US comics. Only collectors are buying French comics. And the whole profession is suffering, regularly protesting against the low salary and royalties. Basically, in France, being a comic or manga artist is DEAD. For example, I had a deal with a young publisher. At first, I thought he was trying to rip me off. Then, after checking on forums and blogs, I discovered that it was actually a very normal deal:

- He would publish my comic, make the advertisements, take me to conventions
- I would draw the comic and pay for all the printings

And the share is 50/50. And I think it was a good deal as big name publishers can do much worse. Many artists are bound to these kind of contracts. It became the norm.

And even today, it's not getting any better. You DON'T make a living with comics in France. So I had to find a new direction.

During all this time as a manga artist, I've worked as a part-time receptionnist in a hotel. It's a nice job, I kinda like it. Two years ago, I thought that it was time to go on and take a real job. But, before that, I have to do MY "Final Fantasy", my last and best work. So I thought a lot about what I should do. I love video games, manga and music... That's it! I will do something that embraces all my passions: a video game!!!


mercredi 10 décembre 2014

Developer Diary #4: Era of Enlightenments

I went to University to study programming: I wanted to make video games for a living. But it wasn't really what I expected: at that time (1999), there wasn't any dedicated video games school. So I learnt industrial programming. Well, I didn't really since I quited 6 months later. I didn't learn my lesson as I went to an Industrial programming school the next year to quit again 4 months later.

I was kinda lost on what to do. Except for music, video games and manga, nothing really interested me. I had a friend who was studying English Litterature and History (?!) so I followed him. I flunked out again. I don't know why but I decided to try again. And then I had THE Professor who gave me the love of reading and understanding.

The next three years were an orgy of Shakespeare and Byron stuff and UK/US Politics. I loved every minutes of it. I used to be a bookworm when I was a child and I've always been interested in Politics but I never expected to study it! I've learnt so much during these years, my vision about life was completely turned upside down. And I had my degree. Then I was offered a job as teaching assistant in England. I needed some fresh air so I left.

The England year was amazing. I nearly became alcoholic, yes, but I met so many people, learnt so many new things that it was worth the risk. A year later, I had to go home. And then came the big question: what am I supposed to do? Well... I brought a Playstation 2. At first, I wanted to play the new King of Fighters games and the Dragon Ball Z games. Then I hacked it. I know, it's bad. But i've discovered so many japanese franchise that I couldn't have offered otherwise! Videogames Orgy era 2: the Return!


dimanche 7 décembre 2014

First game play video of Death Pirate SP


Here is a little video of Death Pirate SP. You can see the new Android interface and the changes in the gameplay. The game is now even more aimed towards the shoot'em up genre. Let's check it out:

Expect more infos to come very soon and a release near the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

mercredi 3 décembre 2014

Developer Diary #3: Guitars and Video Games...

The Ultra 64 (future Nintendo 64) was announced and I was dedicated to it. Suddenly, it came from nowhere: the Sony Playstation! All of my friends jumped ship and brought it. No way! I was really not buying those 3D graphics at that time. Frankly, it was just plain ugly. I didn't understand why everybody was so excited about it at that time... and I still don't understand. I get the technical innovation and the new way to program and handle a game. But to find it beautiful at that time was just silly!

Anyway, I was more into nice 2D pixel art and I really wanted to buy a Neo Geo. I went to a few arcade centers and these legendary games (Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Samurai Showdown, King of Fighters...) were like the Holy Grail... Then I discovered that there were nearly arcade-perfect ports of these games released on the Sega Saturn... So I brought the thing.

The Saturn was... a good console for 2D games. But with the 3D graphics craze, the developpers had to change side. But it was a complete failure. Maybe if they had stuck to 2D, the console woud have lived longer... Anyway, it was the time for my SNK craze. I would buy a game then finish it with every characters on the highest difficulty setting without using any continue. I became a King of Fighters beast.

Then I became a teenager and my interest for video games faded away. The Saturn died and I wasn't interested in the PS1. The Nintendo 64 came out but it was doomed from birth. Their choice to use cartridge instead of CD was THE mistake: less games and mort importantly less GOOD games. I had no major console and I switched to music and started playing bass and synthesizers in many bands...