Welcome to 2021's first edition of Developer Diaries! This week I caught up with community star and Construct power user Ossama 'Skymen' Jouini.
START OFF BY INTRODUCING YOURSELF
Hey, my name is Ossama Jouini, also known as skymen (or skyklown for a lucky few 😁). I've been making games for the past 11 years, and I don't plan on ever stopping. I founded Dedra, a French indie studio and we're currently working on OvO. I've also worked as a freelancer and consultant on many amazing Construct projects.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE CONSTRUCT?
I started game dev with Game Maker (I gotta say they have the naming advantage). I didn't stay long, and I eventually switched to Multimedia Fusion 2 as I felt it was easier to use. I stayed on MMF2 for a while, but I found everything was way too barebones to work as I wanted it to.
I hopped from engine to engine and at some point, I landed on Construct.
The thing that made me switch was that at the time, a platformer engine I wrote in MMF2 that took maybe about 100 events was remade in C2 in probably 4 events. And the C2 version was better.
Over the years, I have experimented with a TON of game engines. I've tried pretty much all of the bigger ones, and even a good chunk of the lesser-known ones and I can say with confidence that right now, Construct is still the best 2D engine out there. It might not be as powerful as some alternatives, but when it comes to getting stuff done, no other engine gets even close.
YOU'RE CURRENTLY WORKING ON OVO, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE GAME?
Sure! OvO is a platformer that I initially made for the first Construct x Gamee Game jam. I decided to try and make something with as few inputs as possible but still get deep, interesting gameplay. I ended up with a platformer where you can use only the four arrow keys, yet you have a wide range of movements available.
OvO was supposed to be a game jam entry, but I had too much fun making it, so it turned into a proper side project. We finished version 1.0 in a few months, published it on Cool Math Games and called it a day.
However, for reasons I still don't quite understand, people really loved the game. To the point where a community of players and speedrunners formed around it in a discord server. That made me want to refine the game a bit more, so, a year later and 600+ members on our speedrun discord, we're getting closer and closer to releasing the game on Steam 🙂
We even made a cool announcement video!
YOU'VE WORKED ON A FEW GREAT CONSTRUCT PROJECTS. WHICH WAS YOUR FAVOURITE TO WORK ON AND WHY?
I've worked on a ton of stuff, and I've also helped out lots of projects, all of which I absolutely loved, however, OvO has to be my favourite. Not only because it's my own project, but because I learned so many things while making the game. I've explored many monetisation techniques, I've had the chance to talk to a lot of people, but most of all OvO gave me a community.
Last year I tweeted something that should have been my famous last words. Something along the lines of “2020 will be my best year yet, and nobody can stop me”. That was months before there was even a glimmer of a global pandemic going on.
However, thanks to the OvO community, making a game has never felt more real. People look forward to new updates. They are hyped every time I post a cryptic screenshot. And they sure helped me power through this ridiculously terrible year.
Had the OvO community not magically appeared in December 2019, I have no idea how motivated I'd have been this year. Instead, 2020 wound up to be an amazing year for my game dev career, and a huge part of that is thanks to them.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST DEVELOPMENT HURDLE SO FAR?
I mentioned that OvO was supposed to be a side project, right? Well, it was a side project to a game called Sooth. Sooth is an RPG I've been working on for the past 7 years now. How does that sound for a development hurdle? 😁
I have now remade the entire game four times for many, many reasons.
The project started as an RPG Maker project, back when I was still unaware of Construct and was just trying to prototype something out. I eventually moved to Construct 2 as I felt I needed a more freeform engine for the game. I programmed the project on and off as we figured out the lore, the gameplay, the story and so on.
Really, a massive chunk of what I did in Construct was made with Sooth in mind. Be it addons like Spritefont Deluxe or Skin It, or my Z Order course, my advanced lighting tutorial, my blog posts about layers. A LOT of it was initially made for Sooth, and I just figured somebody else might get use out of these things.
Two years ago, I had an engine that worked well enough and we had enough things figured out to start development seriously, so we started commissioning art from Nicobros.
Last year, I felt like I was in a good place, once again. The engine had been remade, I had a really great lighting engine, a performant code base and I was ready to hire someone to start working on music for a demo of the game. He made something using Wwise (a really powerful audio engine) and when I heard the first WIP version of the battle theme, I started looking into integrating Wwise into Construct 3.
I soon discovered that Wwise was not available for the web, and according to the Wwise team, it wouldn't be available for a few years at least. There was absolutely no way I'd pass on this amazing adaptative music. So, I threw the whole project away once again, and we started remaking the game in Unity.
OvO started getting popular a few months after this, so Sooth's development came to a halt so we could focus on the game that actually got player interest.
This gets us to today, where we just started working on Sooth again, with a brand new art style and (yet again) a new codebase. We're adopting a similar approach to Dead Cells (a 3D pipeline for 2D art) so a new base is a necessity.
Sooth is probably going to be my career-defining project, or at least I hope it will be. I have poured my life into this project, and I have no plan on giving up on it, despite all of its hurdles. 🙂
ANY MEMORABLE DEV STORIES?
I have this one I already spoke about in one of my blog posts about how sometimes, life seems to be a bit too scripted.
I won't tell it again, so here's another story in the same vein:
The year is 2018, I am in my second year of computer science school, and for some reason, a teacher cancelled his lesson, and so I had three hours of free time. I go home, and like every time I'm on public transport, I check discord. Nothing new had happened on the Construct community discord server, so I decided to quickly scroll through other discord servers.
I noticed a guy asking for help on a paid project on the French Construct server. He was doing so very unprofessionally, so everyone else turned him down, but I decided to give him a try, and so we talked.
As it turned out, he was from the same city as me, and he asked if I'd be down to come to his office immediately so we could discuss the job. I had time, so I went and met him, and that's how I got my first ever Construct job. That random message that I checked because of a random event is the entire reason I was ever able to pay people to work with me on Sooth.
Had this not happened, everything would have turned out to be completely different. However, it turns out I'm still working with them two years later as the CTO of their company.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE DOING THEIR OWN GAME PROJECTS?
Often, in my 10 years of game dev, my biggest wins came from me getting into a completely random sequence of events and getting led by fate in front of a weird opportunity. Every time thus far I have decided to completely wing it, and that got me to pretty cool places.
I truly believe that success is a combination of skill, luck, and taking opportunities when they come up. However, opportunities might not come if you don't already look somewhat successful. So, fake it till you make it, but to fake it, you gotta wing it.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
I gotta say, Construct has changed my life. Over the past 7 years, I've been using the engine for all sorts of things. I love the engine, I love the community, I love my projects with it. I’ve also been doing my best to let other people know about it. The better Construct 3 gets, the more I have arguments to back up my claims that it’s the best 2D engine out there.
I try to write new addons, create examples, write tutorials and blog posts to make it as easy as possible for any newcomer to see the value in the engine. The way I see it, Construct is special, but a big part of what makes it so good is the community around it, and so I will always try to do my best to make it even better.