Welcome to another edition of Developer Diaries. This week I caught up with Richard Lems, the developer behind Mighty Goose!
START OFF BY INTRODUCING YOURSELF
Hey there, I’m Richard Lems from the Netherlands.
I grew up playing and loving games (duh), binging anime, watching sci-fi and petting animals. I’ve been making games for quite a while now, first as a hobby and for a while now professionally. Previous works include Road Warriors for phones and KUNAI for PC and consoles.
This year I started the company Blastmode. I wanted an outlet for my creativity, a place where I can make the games I really want to play myself. I'm kicking things off with a game called Mighty Goose, but there's a whole lot more on the horizon.
Mighty Goose is basically a love letter to the arcade classics from the ’90s. You control the bounty hunter Mighty Goose and must use an arsenal of weapons, vehicles and goose wit to defeat the void king. The game is planned to release on PC and Consoles next year and is currently available for wishlisting on Steam.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE CONSTRUCT?
When I first started using computers and the internet as a kid, I discovered there were tools that allowed you to make games without knowing how to write code. This was great because writing code sounded awfully boring and complex to me. I was more interested in drawing characters and making stories.
Gamemaker, Click & Play, RPG Maker. All these tools promised the same thing, make games without code. Well, I’ve tried them all and each was great in its own way. But each of course also had its limitations.
At a certain point Construct Classic came out, and obviously, I needed to give that a try! I found it to be one of the easiest tools to just get stuff done. The way the event sheets worked clicked for me, so I kind of stuck with Construct through all its iterations.
Over the years, I’ve used the engine quite a lot in a hobby context, making games for gamejams etc. You can find some of these creations on itch.io.
And in 2020 that ease of use is still true. Construct takes all technical issues out of the way and lets you get creative straight away. One of the often-overlooked things that make developing in Construct such a joy, is that the set of behaviors are very well made. They are robust, fast and can be combined! Quite often when I want to implement something new, I find a certain combination of behaviors gets me very close to the desired result!
Finally, if there’s one thing I hate in-game development it’s waiting. Construct has always been snappy and fast for me, no matter the project size. This experience has been quite different in other ‘pro’ game engines (yes Unity I’m looking at you).
YOU'RE CURRENTLY WORKING ON MIGHTY GOOSE AND IT LOOKS FANTASTIC. HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE GAME COME ABOUT?
At the start of 2019, I decided to try and become a full-time independent developer. And as a part of that, I wanted to test the waters of the platform Patreon. So, I took one of my old character sketches and decided to make a small joke game around it to see if people were willing to support me. Sooner or later a small group of people actually started supporting me. That gave me a major boost in confidence and productivity. That dream of becoming an independent developer might actually come true.
The idea was to make this game into kind of a showcase demo of both my pixel art and game development skills. After finishing it, I’d move onto a more serious project.
But as time passed the quirky character grew on me and the game became more polished. And I thought, why not make this joke into the serious game? I drew inspiration from everything I loved (and still love) as a kid: Metal Slug, Dragon Ball, 90’s cartoons, etc and I poured my heart into the project. Fast forward to now and we’re looking forward to releasing the game on multiple consoles next year!
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT JOURNEY? WHAT IT'S BEEN LIKE CREATING MIGHTY GOOSE, WORKING WITH A PUBLISHER ETC?
Initially, I didn’t really have a plan. As the game grew and picked up interest, I forcefully had to make plans along the way.
It wasn’t long before the gifs I posted charmed developer Mathias Kærlev from MP2 Games. He contacted me and offered to help me get the game running on consoles. That was music to my ears of course!
Concerning publishers, I was quite lucky. Most publishers approached me first. Posting short gameplay gifs on Twitter seemed to spark interest in publishers looking for new games to pick up. In other instances, I sent out the first message or email. I have to admit that at the start I didn’t even have a clear image of what I needed from a publisher. The bullet list I was working with got more refined as I spoke to more people. After a while, I had a much better idea of why I actually needed.
In the end, a deal was made with Japanese publisher Playism and so far, they’ve been a joy to work with. Recently they announced the game on their own online game event, Playism Game Show.
Working with Playism also means the game will need to be playable in Japanese! Luckily, a localisation system isn’t that hard to build in Construct. All texts in the game are loaded from JSON files which contain the localised strings.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST DEVELOPMENT HURDLE SO FAR?
The biggest hurdle has definitely been juggling two games under development. I started working on Mighty Goose whilst also working for another company (TurtleBlaze). We were working to complete KUNAI, a fast-paced action metroidvania. I was confident I could combine these two lives but in the end, it turned out to be unrealistic. I had to put Mighty Goose in the freezer for a while.
Thinking about it, the actual biggest hurdle was before that. Working at TurtleBlaze, building up the studio, something had been on my mind for a long time. I wanted to follow my dream and try to become an indie. Telling them that my dream was going solo and not building a game studio with them was really, really difficult.
I’m glad I took the step though. It was eating me up inside. So not really a development hurdle, but more of a life hurdle.
ANY MEMORABLE STORIES FROM WORKING ON THIS PROJECT?
Well, I would be in Japan right now, drinking Asahi beers with my publishing crew during Tokyo Game Show, if it wasn’t for that stupid virus!! Now I just sit at the computer all day… :’D
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE DOING THEIR OWN GAME PROJECTS?
Sure, I have a few tips.
1. I often see people hating on themselves because they aren’t finishing projects. If you’re starting out, this is normal, required even I’d say! You’re in a phase of learning, and you need to make lots of small things before you can focus on finishing a full project. Zoom in on individual systems and try to see what makes them tick. Then, when the time comes, you’ll have a wide arsenal of systems and mechanics in your head you can apply to your game.
For those people who are a little bit further along and are struggling with finishing projects. Never underestimate the power of making a good plan. If you skip a game design document you might find yourself struggling on what to do later in development. Take the time to write down at least the big lines of your game.
Also, get someone to hold you accountable. This works wonders. :p
2. Invest in yourself. Don’t be afraid to spend money on software or hardware that help you become a stronger developer. It’s almost always a good investment.
Another thing I commonly see on social media is people complaining about how much software or hardware costs. Somehow these people seem to find the money to have the latest game consoles and games. If you’re serious about game development, maybe not buy that expensive console and invest that money in something useful.
3. This piece of advice is more tailored towards people who might want to take the leap from hobby to professional game creator: Have a backup plan.
Don’t quit your job and hope for the best. This may seem romantic, but it’s stupid. Even though it might seem I’ve got everything going in the right direction, I’m currently still working a part-time job just to have a safety net. Be realistic.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Thanks for having me on the blog! Oh, and…
Wishlist MIGHTY GOOSE
I do look in the comments here so if you’ve got any questions just fire away. Alternatively, you can always send me a message on Twitter!