Interviews

Joan Ginard From Indie Brain On Being An Indie Developer

We got the chance to sit down and speak to indie developer Joan Ginard from Indie Brain. It’s here we discussed indie game development, wider trends in the games industry and much more.

Joan Ginard is a passionate indie game developer and student. He makes video games in his free time – he’s been in love with them since he got his hands on a Game Boy when he was 3 years old.

What inspired you to get into game development?

One day, while having lunch, I saw on TV that they were making this coverage about people that worked making games and I was like: “WAIT WHAT!? You can actually work making games!?”. Prior to this, even though I had been playing games my entire life, I hadn’t thought about the idea. Next, in the coverage, they were announcing the release of a master’s degree right in my city (Barcelona)!

At that time I was in 11th grade (4 years from now so 2013) with 16 years on my back and couldn’t have any other dream. In fact, this idea of making games is what has kept me from not dropping off school nor college. Right now I’m in my 3rd year of a “special”, you could say, computer engineering bachelor’s degree. So, since I entered college I have been making plenty of games.

What games have you created and which is your favourite?

My favourite game I created was in a 4-day game jam called The Odyssey to School. It’s an endless runner about a boy trying to reach school on time with obstacles in his way and every time he gets hit he loses life which is his timer to reach school on time, haha. It’s very small and simple, you can beat it in 5-10min, but I worked hard on it, created my own little engine using Javascript and HTML.

Why not, you can find it here: https://joan-ginard.itch.io/theodysseytoschool

What advice would you offer for those just starting out?

My advice would start by telling the truth from the beginning. If you want to be a game developer and make big games that’s going to be a long-term goal (we are talking about 5-10 years) and it’s going to be extremely hard, making games is NOT playing them (like most people think).

This mentality comes from many AAA companies that have accustomed us to release a new Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Fifa, Battlefield every year, so we think it’s very easy to make games (from a gamer’s point of view), but the reality is that in these titles there are normally between 700-1,000 people working on it 12h/day during 1 full year. So, you got to be realistic about your capabilities and if you aim is making big titles like this you’ll need the skill only years can provide and a big team, not just yourself or a few friends! Although I feel like these companies never innovate so even if you make a small game, innovation yourself is better.

To begin, my advice would be start learning the programming language C++ from the beginning – it’s the language all other programs and languages have been created from, so even though it’s the most difficult one, once you learn it you can program in any language for any platform to make any game and you’ll have the most opportunities for jobs. At the beginning, because it’s all code you’ll get frustrated because you’ll only make text games or very simple games. So, once you understand at an amateur level how everything in C++ works, start making games with GameMaker Studio using only code and you’ll get to create amazing 2D games easily with the expertise you have accomplished programming in C++ (just like what I did, haha, even though I still consider myself a C++ noob).

From this point on, everything will be easy on you, you will just need to adapt your syntax for any other language, but because you already know how to program in C++ it will be so much easier. It’s like playing soccer with a tennis ball and then actually playing with a soccer ball – because you are so good with a tennis ball, with the soccer ball you’ll be awesome too.

Next, just try the game engines out there (programs to make games) or try to make your own and focus on the one you like the most. For me, I’m more of a creative profile so I prefer using already existing games because I like to make games, not make programs to make games, but that just depends on every person, just follow your path and keep working hard.

What do you think is going to be a key trend in the games industry this year?

I think lately survival and open-world games have been trending a lot, so it will follow this line. Apart, from indie titles especially on Steam. Every year that passes we see more variety in indie titles that are hits with completely different genres and audiences. You just got to take a look at how ARK: Survival Evolved, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, The Forest, Rust, We Happy Few and other not so popular indie titles out there. I also feel that more on the indie side, specifically rogue-like titles are also a trend thanks to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Enter the Gungeon or Crypt of the Necrodancer and other smaller ones.

In your opinion, which is the best platform to sell your game on?

Right now, as an indie developer, the most comfortable and beneficial one I would say is Steam. It has the most customers in the PC market and most importantly, the highest fan base of indie games.

Oh! And why not Switch! There are so few rival games that if you make a good one, you will get noticed.

What are your favourite tools for game development?

At the moment, they would be GameMaker as a game engine, Adobe Photoshop as an image editor and Adobe After Effects as a video editor. Although I’m enjoying a lot of Unreal Engine, which I’ll use for my next game!

How do you stay motivated to achieve your goals?

It’s not easy, you’ll eventually feel unmotivated. For me, it’s just the urge of making a name for myself in the industry, I’m just very ambitious I want to make the best game of all time! Apart from enjoying every last bit of it. I feel that’s the most important part of any goal. Normally I’ll be working for 10 hours look at the clock and say “What!? I just started working! It felt like 2 hours of work lol!”.

When I feel unmotivated I just keep working – you’ll thank yourself later. Also, one thing comes to mind that I heard Will Smith say in one of his interviews “While the other guy’s sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy’s eating, I’m working. While the other guy’s making love, I mean, I’m making love, too, but I’m working really hard at it!”

Which events do you recommend indie developers showcase their game at?

I would say start small in your city or nearby (just like I did), it will be cheaper and easier.

From this point on, move to more popular events, it all depends on how much you can pay for what you are willing to do. In an ideal case, I would recommend getting a booth at PAX, E3, Gamescom, Independent Games Festival, GDC and any other of the same type.

If you do it, even if your game is crap, you’ll get a decent fan base and exposure which is basically what sells your game and improves it. These type of events (even if small) are so important because you get plenty of people to test your game. This means you learn what people like and hate about your game, how to improve it, even gather new cool ideas, make friends, make contacts – I recommend it at any level – 10/10 – you need to get out there!

What do you think about VR?

For VR, the price is too high and since its launch, I feel like there are no “real” games yet, just prototypes. When have you heard about a release of any VR game apart from the VR release announcement? I haven’t – I have tried all of them and see plenty of potential, if everyone had one of these at home, people would stop going to work! The problem is that it’s too expensive, it makes you dizzy and there no games, so, for now, it’s just not worth it.

Games console of choice?

At the moment I feel that the PS4 is the best, mainly because of these games: Uncharted, The Last Guardian, Persona 5, The Last of Us, God of War. It’s a small box with little noise, many software functionalities, comfortable controllers, good PSN games overall, good servers, best exclusives.

I can understand people having another console as a favourite though – I respect that. After all, we’re not kids on a playground fighting over some plastic! I also own a PS3, a PC and a Switch.

Thanks for your time Joan. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you!

You can find our full review of Scarlett’s Dungeon here.

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