You think you’re having a bad Monday? That’s cute. I’m currently in upstate NY for a funeral, and it’s been a shitshow of a weekend. My extended family on one side are just some of the worst people on earth. They are a bunch of hateful bitter people that have never done anything with their lives but pass judgment on everyone else. One of my cousins said to me snarkily “so you’re in your mid-20s and you still play video games?”. I responded with “Yep and you’re in your early 30s and you still haven’t figured out how to remove your head from your ass.”
But you’re not here to read about my fucking problems, you’re here to hear about games and how they are made. This week, we talked to a solo game developer who is very early in his career, but already has a very distinct and unique style. We talked about how you craft a game that’s heavily focused on narrative and aesthetic, versus unique or deep gameplay mechanics. So, without further ado:
This is me.
This is Deniz.
This is a GIF of mankind’s final evolution.
Alright Richard, thank you so much for your time today! We start every interview with the same question: how did you get into gaming? What was your first game/console?
I started to play video games with NES and Tetris like lots of my friends. When I came up to 12 or 13 years old, I saw a computer with Windows 98 first time and played Fifa 99 and Age of Empires 2.
So when did you make the decision to go into game development? How did that come about?
I studied engineering for eight years in university and then jumped into right into working. But after two and a half years of working as an engineer, I realized that I couldn’t live my life like that. Everything started with buying GameMaker Pro from Humble Bundle with $1 bundle. After I came from work, I began by doing little things with that and liked the game developing a lot. Then I decided to quit my full-time job. I don’t know if it was a bit early or not, but I didn’t look back. And after one and a half years, I released my first game, Kolkhoz: The Red Wedge.
Love Humble Bundle. They’re such a great company. So, tell me about those early stages. What was it like after you quit your job?
That was a little bit hard at the beginning. Everybody around me was supporting me in a way, but I could see the disbelief in their eyes. I made a financial plan for the project and dove into developing. I was a beginner level in all the skills for a solo dev’s need. I started to learn digital drawing, C# programming, scriptwriting, animation, etc. Now I’m developing my second game, Modest Hero, and I think I’ve come a long way.
How well did that first game do? And how did you decide upon that as your first game? Always wanted to develop a game about early soviets?
The first game was both good and bad. It was good because my primary aim was only completing and releasing a game. So I succeeded in that. It was bad because while you are working on a project, your expectations are growing in time, and that game didn’t meet that. I am always interested in politics and history. I got inspired by a couple of novels from Russian Literature, and the era after the Russian Revolution seemed interesting to me for a PC game.
Ah ok. Have you played Valiant Hearts: The Great War? That’s what I thought of when I saw your games.
Yes, I played it a couple of times. That was a fantastic game. I think it has unique mechanisms and adorable art style. I wish I can say that I inspired it, but I am very far from that point right now.
Yea I agree. Also one of the few games that actually made me, a grown-ass male, shed tears.
Ok so tell me about Modest Hero. How’d you come up with that idea?
I started to think about a new scenario right after I released the first game. In those days, I was thinking of an odd way to make a side-scroller game. I realized that “controlling a couple of chained men at the same time” may be an exciting idea. And the 19th century France seemed suitable. Then I wrote the scenario based on the early times of the class wars of Europe.
Ok, so you started with a simple gameplay idea then wrote the narrative?
The big question I have is how did you come up with the art style? That is what drew me to the game. Immediately reminded me of Valiant Hearts.
In the early stages of developing, I surfed Pinterest a lot for inspiration. I’ve never seen France and, one way or the other, I have to imagine something about there. I searched the photos, paintings, and illustrations and it didn’t take much time to discover the paintings of Michel Delacroix. I liked them and they inspired me. Also, I watched lots of indie games videos, most successful ones, like “Valiant Hearts,” “Child of Light” and “Hollow Knight” to learn how they applied lightning, color palettes or other cool things to make a well-looking atmosphere. I did something similar but in my own way.
So I understand using indie games and using french historical paintings to make the art, but why does everyone look like they’re ghosts??Like I really like that about this game because it is very unique, but how did you come up with that?
Haha, yes. When I was working on the character design of the game, I drew the character just like this except the dark areas around their eyes. But somehow they didn’t satisfy me. It seemed like something is missing in their face. That little dead eye add-on completely changed their expression, and I liked them.In addition to that, the main story is about the “last hours of a modest hero.” And those facial expressions suited to that.
Well, I think that will grab anyone’s attention right off the bat. With a game like this, I think the other two things that make you stand out are soundtrack and voiceovers. Is that the next steps after the game?
Thank you. Those two things are the hardest areas for me, because at this point I don’t know what to do. I take the soundtracks very serious because of that era is unique for also European music. If I will handle that maybe I can consider the voiceovers. Right now, I still have a few issues about the game mechanics. After that, I will start that topic immediately.
Ok ok I gotcha. Makes sense. Let me know if you want someone to go through a level or something to give you some feedback. I’m always open, as long as you’re open to receiving it! So you wanna wrap this all up with some rapid fire questions?
I will be glad to.
Alright, favorite game of all time?
Europa Universalis 3-4
Favorite game this year?
Unfortunately, I’m still playing the AC series, and I didn’t find any chance to play any of this year’s games. But I wonder Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Ohhhh I will warn you, if you start that game, you will learn what the true meaning of pain is. How about most underrated game of all time (in your opinion)?
Haha, I can be a quitter about hard games, but I will try anyway. I think that Sherlock Holmes Crime and Punishment was fantastic, but it didn’t get enough credits.
Most overrated game of all time?
Oooooo I like that response.Game you refuse to play for whatever reason:
Minecraft, League of Legends, Dota, Fifa, Pubg, Fortnite etc.
Why? Too mainstream for you?
I don’t enjoy the multiplayer challenge. I prefer the single modes.
Ok gotcha. Give me one fact about Modest Hero that no one knows.
The main character/protagonist is a little bit stupid.
Like not smart stupid?
He is maybe smart, but he easily can be manipulated.
Ok last one, do you think Fortnite is a good game?
I don’t think so.
Good good good. Why?
It is excessively unrealistic to be good.
Ok I gotcha. Well that’s all I’ve got man. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing more from you!
Alright everyone, hope you enjoyed that. I think he really is onto something with this game. I actually messaged him about a week ago about a composer that I’d found that I thought would be a good fit for him and A Modest Hero. Time will tell, but you can follow along with the development here! Until next week!