My name is Philip Royer. I live in the Washington DC area with my wife (Caleigh) and son (Ender). By career I am a web developer but in the past year and a half one of my hobbies has turned into something far more than just curious tinkering: I’ve been making video games.
I’m not one of those prodigy types that have been making games their whole lives, or programming since they could talk. Yes, I’ve been playing video games most of my life but it just never occurred to me that I could make the game I wanted to.
As a child, I was one of those kids who would walk out of the library with a book filled tote bag that could’ve easily equaled my own body weight. At some point in time I remember reading a book about making games for a living. The first section of the book covered what you would need to start your own game company and went on to list about a dozen “required” positions.
For some reason, at that young age, I interpreted that to mean I couldn’t make video games without starting a company to make those games. As I grew up and continued to grow my curiosity and endless hobbies (including chainmail, cross stitch, architecture modeling, LEGOs, home made mock firearms for playing “guns” with my friends, and more recently, motorized bicycling) I learned quickly that if I set my mind on any reasonable task or project, I could complete it.
How I got into Game Development
So now the question is, how did I transition to making games, or even making a game on the OUYA? For the past decade I’ve been seriously pursuing front end web development: lots of websites and user interfaces. About two years ago I got to work on a project full of interactive data visualizations. I was hooked! Not because of the data, or the graphs but because I could use both of those to create a somewhat immersive experience. I really really enjoyed creating something that was both interactive and communicative.
In the Spring of 2013 I made a little web platformer called Pixalo. It was about a little pixel who was freed from his arcade machine and only knew how to express himself with Queen songs. The whole process of making that little game totally opened me up to the world of video game creation. During that process I was also introduced to Indie Game the Movie and my world completely changed forever. I had never heard of an indie game prior to seeing that movie.. and that was just over a year ago! Suddenly the possibility of creating whatever I wanted in the form of a video game seemed totally doable and there were thousands of people like me already out there having a blast making video games on their own.
A few weeks after releasing Pixalo on the web I heard the story of Fist of Awesome and how easy it was for a guy to create something so fun, right on this little android console. Since I had one anyway, I figured it would be the next best step for my little video game development hobby.
Development of Super Pixalo
In the Fall of 2013 I began my senior year at Capitol College. Part of the senior year at Capital, each student is required to create a “senior design project.” The project could be whatever I wanted as long as it some how related to my degree (Management of Information Technology) and could be approved by my degree advisor. The relevance of video game creation and Information technology turned out to be no biggy and in September 2013 I began planning and designing Super Pixalo (The bigger, better, “super-er” installment of Pixalo).
Now, just developing a game and having something playable wasn’t the main part of my project. Half way through the year I would have to turn in a feasibility study and then at end of the year I would have to turn in a 30 page (single space mind you) case study on the entire process of making an Indie game. At the end of the year I turned in a 37 page case study on everything that went into creating Super Pixalo from planning to release (and it got an A)!
I spent a lot of time on usability and user interface design during the first few months. Attached is some very early prototypes that worked quite well, just needed some sprucing up.
With Super Pixalo I wanted to create a abundance of levels based around a simple mechanic that would be easy to fill with nostalgia and color. I’m not an artist. So this also gave me the chance to spend 9 months learning pixel art (I’m still very much a noob), creating sprite sheets, and of course the user interfaces.
The longest part by far was creating my own super super super simple collision detection engine (never doing that again, save yourself the trouble and just use one that’s already written!), and creating all 120 levels by launch. At IndiE3 this year (the online indie conference) I was asked about level design and I have to say I’m still not sure how I made all those levels. Looking back I’m glad I had the Bonus levels in there because it gave me the ability to explore weird little level ideas I have and implement them even though they aren’t that hard or even that complex.
The Movie Sub Level of Super Pixalo
In January of 2014 I knew I needed something more in the game. I had spent 3-4 months on rough prototypes, experimenting with simple game mechanics, and difficulty curves. But it just felt too simple in a way: not enough character. I had completely different worlds, easy and hard levels, but just getting to the end seemed like it missed something.
Then, while watching one of my favourite films “Equilibrium” something struck me about a sequence in the movie; the little book of Yeats Poems that gets Partridge killed early on in the movie. I really liked how, while the book wasn’t the focus, it had such an impact on the story. That little book, that you could hold in your hand. What if while you’re going through the game you collect these little “collectibles” throughout the decades of my favourite movies? So I ended up watching over 200 movies from January to May (much thanks to Netflix, Crackle, and Amazon Prime!) finding little collectibles I could have Pixalo pick up in the levels.
There are over 100 of these in the game and weirdly enough only a few people noticed they were from movies. I had hoped it would stir up a revival to go back and watch those classic films both new and old. It sure did for me!
I love movies. And I love all the things that go into movies, so having these collectibles is me saying “hey, remember that little thing from that movie? Wasn’t that a great movie? Watch that movie!”
The Future of My Games and OUYA
Super Pixalo was a huge success for me! It’s nice to FINALLY have some return come from a hobby I’ve had. While only a hundred or so copies sold since launch isn’t going to make me Bruce Wayne, it is a very tangible bit of positive feedback that I’m doing something that others love just as much as me.
Launching on the OUYA has been fantastic! The community is wonderful (ouyaforum.com I’m talking about you)! The support is out of this world! And a HUGE thanks to Tim Graupmann for those late night code skype calls getting things implemented the week before launch so you can actually buy the game.
I will absolutely be releasing my future games to the OUYA first. The reason I want to do that is because I don’t know where else I could find such an enthusiastic and supportive group of game developers and players who really WANT to play your new game. It also is so easy to develop for.
I’m currently working on Dissonance, a interactive novella about the a man’s enchanted journal as he goes through three stages of life. You can bet it’ll come to the OUYA by the end of the year!
My top 10 OUYA picks
– VVVVVV (An incredibly well designed platformer that is an instant platformer “standard”)
– Super Crate Box (I’ve poured hours into this, and still can’t get enough)
– Bombsquad (Many a great date night with the wife ended in Bombsquad)
– Paragon Infinite (I can’t get enough! Fantastic “one button” gameplay!)
– Fist of Awesome (The story behind this games creation inspired me to pursue the OUYA for development)
– Duck Game (Best local multiplayer on the OUYA today!)
– Dead End (The Tarantino style graphics are awesome!)
– Laza Knitez (Why don’t more people talk about how fun this game is???)
– Neon Shadow (Tim Graupmann still has yet to beat me…)
– Towerfall (A day 1 classic in the world of platforming and local multiplayers)