Welcome to another edition of Developer Diaries. This week, I spoke to Nick Dufault, aka Vimlark Games.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
Hey there, I’m Nick. I make games, YouTube videos, and stream under the name Vimlark. I’m a graphic designer and around the end of 2016 I decided I wanted to learn how to make games as a hobby. Almost four years later I’m going stronger than ever. I have one long running project which is a local multiplayer arcade game called MonkeysWithGuns and I have a huge addiction to game jams which at this point I have just embraced. My goal is to share the fun that can be had by making games even if you don’t have a coding background.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE CONSTRUCT?
When I decided I wanted to learn to make games I had never coded anything before. I went to art school, so I had a degree in Photography and a day job working as an advertising designer. At one point in time I remade every texture in Minecraft and loved seeing my art move on screen. Later I wanted to have that feeling again but I didn’t want to only have it work in a game I didn’t control.
I tried another engine first that said it didn’t require programming to make a game. I wasn’t a huge fan of the interface though. After looking at a few other engines I decided I liked the UI of Construct (2 at the time) the best and jumped in.
From there, I just fell in love with the engine. Coming from a design background, I am very used to menu driven interfaces. I don’t personally enjoy looking at a wall of text. I get that there are a lot of programmers that do but it’s just not that easy for me to follow. Construct’s event blocks click with the way I think and still gives me the control I need to do what I want. I went from Construct 2 to Construct 3 around 3 years ago and have absolutely loved the new features and interface.
Also, creating in Construct is very fast for me. I do a lot of game jams which have very short time limits. I also like to give myself design challenges to make a game in a really short time frame, like 1-3 hours. The speed at which I can produce my ideas is the main aspect of Construct that I really like.
MONKEYSWITHGUNS IS A GREAT LOOKING LOCAL MULTIPLAYER GAME. WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND IT?
When I first started in game dev, I didn’t show anyone what I was doing. I was embarrassed because I didn’t think it was any good. After a year of working by myself I was going a little stir crazy and I realized I needed to talk to other people that were doing the same thing. I was lucky enough to have an indie game dev Meetup near me, I forced myself to ignore my anxiety and go which was really tough at the time.
At my first Meetup I played a game being made by my now friend Max called Flock of Dogs which is an adventure game for up to eight players. It was the first time in years I had sat next to other people in the same room to play games and it was so much fun. I went home and immediately started to make a multiplayer game to bring to the next month’s Meetup.
It started as a battle arcade game inspired by MegaMan with the screen wrapping from the original Mario Bros arcade game. For the next several months I would make change after change then bring it to the Meetup and ask “Is this fun?” I’d keep what worked and cut out what didn’t. When it came time to add a theme my wife suggested “Monkeys throwing poop at each other” to which I responded “but the game is about getting better guns. It could just be MonkeysWithGuns” and we both thought the name was too good.
Since then I have demoed it a lot and there is a beta version available on itch now. I have taken a break from the game due to the whole world being on fire at the moment though. Working on a game that I designed to bring people together in the same space was getting rough when we should all be social distancing to keep everyone safe. I’ll pick the game back up again when things get a bit better. But until then the monkeys themselves live on at my Twitch streams where they are the avatars of followers and subscribers.
YOU TAKE PART IN A LOT OF GAME JAMS – WHAT IS IT ABOUT A JAM THAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?
Game jams solve my two biggest hurdles with being creative. Coming up with ideas and getting them finished.
I’m the type of person that when given a blank piece of paper and told I can “make anything.” I’ll just sit there and never make a mark. I’m a perfectionist usually and over think everything I do. So if I can do anything, now I need to think about everything. Game jams give a theme to get the creative juices flowing and there is a growing trend to also add some sort of focus or restriction which I find very fun. It may not be everyone’s thing, but I find the creative problem solving of working with limitations to be very inspiring.
Being a perfectionist also has the issue of never finishing anything because it’s not “perfect” which of course nothing ever is. Having a deadline forces me to stop tweaking and get it done. I will also say that I personally like pushing myself in this way. I enjoy the stress of a game jam and they have helped me develop a fairly large portfolio of games in a short time.
YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL IS A GREAT STOP FOR DEVELOPERS, FROM YOUR TUTORIALS TO YOUR DEVLOGS. WHAT PUSHES YOU TO KEEP CREATING THE CONTENT?
I started because I was watching a lot of devlogs and I wanted to give back. I really like to see the process of making things, not just games. Since then I have discovered that the process of making a video allows me to dig in and critically analyze decisions I made to see if they worked or not. Now making a devlog feels like the real end to a game for me.
Also, there are a lot of people that tell me they like them and are inspired to make something themselves. I never intended to inspire people, just to honestly document my process, struggles and all. I’m so humbled that what I make is inspiring others and I just hope to keep making more projects people can enjoy.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST DEVELOPMENT HURDLE SO FAR?
My biggest hurdle has really been learning programming logic and structure. I still struggle here a lot. Not having a background of any kind related to programming means that there are a ton of concepts that are basic to most, but I have to learn the hard way by making mistakes.
I’ve had to learn how to fail and be okay with that. Which is hard for a perfectionist. Being okay with putting time into a concept and having it not work took a while to be comfortable with. I still have so many ideas that I don’t know how to do yet and there is sadly only so much time in a day.
ANY MEMORABLE DEV STORIES?
Too many to count. This has been the best hobby/community I’ve ever been part of, and I have so many fantastic stories.
This may not be the most amazing, but to me it was. I was demoing MonkeysWithGuns at a local college’s gaming convention. The convention was more focused around eSports but they had a small Indie Game room off to the side that had a handful of people in it at any given time. I was approached by someone that said their friend had been in the room earlier and told them they HAD to come in and play my game.
I was so humbled that someone liked the game enough to tell a friend and even more flattered that that person actually came to check it out. I work in advertising, so I’m used to people trying to avoid what I make. This was the first time I had someone seek me out to see my work and to this day it still puts a huge smile on my face.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE DOING THEIR OWN GAME PROJECTS?
Some people may not like this advice but playtest as much as possible and don’t be precious with your work. Get players to playtest and if something isn’t working consistently, change it or cut it. We want others to play our games, that’s the reason we make them. (If your goal is to make a game for just yourself then feel free to disregard.)
We as designers are the worst playtesters of our own games. We’re too close, we know the “correct” way to play and it’s almost impossible to remove ourselves from that. The best advice I can give is to watch player’s play your game, especially facial expressions. Written and spoken feedback are not as important in my opinion as seeing someone play. Try to get a friend or someone to play your game with a face cam on. Or see if you can find a Twitch streamer to play your game. This was instrumental for me after a game jam when starting out, I would always find a streamer that was playing games from the jam and submit my game. It hurts to watch someone struggle with something you thought was very clear. But seeing that struggle really drills home the need to be more player focused.
I find this to be so important that every Friday I stream playing community games with a face cam to give feedback. But getting feedback from all types of players is important. Make sure to test with players that don’t normally play the type of game you are making. It really helps to show our blindspots.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
I believe that we as humans have a need to make things. Video games were always something I didn’t think I could make but over the last few years I've seen how wrong I was. Right now is a great time to get into game dev. You don’t need to make the next “big game.” There is so much joy to be had from joining a community with others that like what you like. Sharing and playing games with others has been some of the best experiences I have had and it is so much more accessible than you think. So whether it’s video games, baking, wood working, whatever… If you aren’t making something you enjoy, give it a try, you wont regret it.
Thank you to Scirra for inviting me here and for making this amazing tool that I love. I’ve been using Construct 3 constantly for years now and can’t wait to see what else I will create. It has opened the world up for me in more ways than one and I couldn’t be more grateful.
If you would like to see more from me or get in contact you can play my games on itch, check me out on Youtube, chat with me live on Twitch, or message me on Twitter.
Once again thank you all so much, have a good one.