Welcome to another edition of Developer Diaries. This week, I caught up with Salman Shurie, known for his 'juicy' style and games like PunchGolf, Bubbun, BBBLASTER and more!
START OFF BY INTRODUCING YOURSELF
Hiya! My name is Salman Shurie, I'm a black Independent Developer from the UK releasing games under the title of Gesinimo Games. I got my start in the industry from posting GIFs on Twitter. I started developing relationships from there helping me to start working for a huge, hyper-casual mobile games studio (Madbox) to then going fully independent.
For the most part people seem to know me for my GIFs on twitter which amazes me. I was just trying to learn from developers who posted about the cool things they were learning or using for their games. I ended up trying to replicate those GIFs till I somehow developed a style and I would record and share GIFs of my work to see if I could get some recognition from the devs I was admiring.
Oh yeah, you might also recognise me from periodically posting GIFs in the “[C3] Post screenshots of what you're working on!” thread in the forums.
WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE CONSTRUCT?
After completing secondary school, I tried to take game development more seriously. I searched for game engines and hoped to create a Triple-AAA all on my own (yes, I’m serious), then figured out that was absurd after trying to figure out how to code.
In my efforts to find something that would let me make games without any programming knowledge, I came across Multimedia Fusion 2. I tried to make a game with it several times only to find I was never happy with any of them. That made me realise how difficult game development is.
This is a video of the first project that I made a full level for:
Sadly, I didn’t end up going anywhere with Multimedia Fusion 2 and I stumbled across Construct Classic. In my efforts to learn more about it, I found out about Construct 2. It was around the time when a Tizen Export was introduced back in 2013 (around r130). I begged my family to give me enough money to purchase Construct 2 on Steam and that was pretty much my start into Construct fully.
Just as the flappy bird craze was happening, I ended up releasing my first game, which I now look back at in embarrassment and that's a good thing! It is visible proof of amazing growth. Additionally, I can't believe it's been more than 6yrs since it was released!
While I was learning to use C++, C#, Unity and a myriad of other things at University, I was STILL using Construct to test out game design ideas and prototype gameplay concepts. What always had me coming back was Construct’s visual scripting. It was unparalleled in my opinion compared to other solutions, as it read the closest to actual code and not literal spaghetti code.
YOU HAVE A VERY RECOGNISABLE STYLE WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CREATIONS, CAN YOU GIVE US AN INSIGHT INTO WHERE THAT CAME FROM AND HOW YOU CREATE IT?
Initially, I didn’t notice I had a style till people started to tell me that I ‘juice’ my games so much, turning into an inside joke that I must be stopped before I go too far and juice-up random items in real life.
Before I started to develop the style I’m known for, I first started by observing what kind of magic other people did to make their games feel so incredibly good to play. I ended up writing a whole article of sorts trying to summarise what I learnt.
I was now at a point where I could take something that looked like this:
And turn it into something like this with a just a few tricks:
That was the first time I’d tried to apply some of the things I gleaned from my bit of research – I started making use of
- Slow Motion
- Colour Change
It was later followed up with learning ways to animate through code and by doing things that later ended up defining the style that people know me for.
- Sprite tilting - making moving sprites tilt forward in the direction they were moving
- Squash & Stretch - via changing the scale of the sprites and lerp-ing them back to image size.
- Sine on Angle - making use of the sine behaviour to wiggle the angle of moving sprites.
- LOTS OF TWEENS
- LOTS OF PARTICLES!
All of that helped to develop a style that came from trying to do more with less. A style like that meant I’d be able to focus less on art and more on everything else I enjoy from game development to creating games with incredibly weird premises, like PUNCHGOLF.
PUNCHGOLF IS NOW AVAILABLE ON BOTH ANDROID AND IOS – CAN YOU GIVE US A BIT OF BACKGROUND ON THE GAME AND HOW THE MOBILE DEV WAS JOURNEY FOR YOU?
Funny story about the development of PUNCHGOLF - it was made out of spite after losing a major job opportunity that would have resulted in me working on my games without worrying about income. In a fit of frustration, I ended up trying to quickly make something in less than an hour to try and get the feeling out of my system.
As a result of the frustration I tried to make a game about stomping and surprisingly it ended up getting a lot more interest than I expected for a little thing I created within an hour. So, I decided to develop it some more with a scope that was small as possible in hopes to take a crack at releasing a casual mobile game that I fully owned and wasn’t hidden behind an NDA or worse.
After putting a couple of days into the game and defining the core gameplay loop, the next problem was content, since I didn’t have the time, patience or money to create much content for the game. I decided procedural generation would be a great solution and soon after came the next best thing… Let's create a custom level editor!
Since having the idea of making procedurally generated levels, I decided to create tutorial levels by hand to figure out the design language for making all the levels out of pre-designed little chunks. Since there was no such thing as Prefabs (like in Unity), my best option was to create a tool that did all the things I needed without leaving the development environment of Construct.
If it weren’t for ‘Advanced Random’ and the official ‘JSON’ plugin, I would not have been able to make the custom level editor, especially the JSON add-on as it allowed me to create JSON strings and parse them just as well.
The biggest headache after that was designing all the level chunks and other content that would keep players coming back to unlock new colours and characters (golfballs).
I also wanted to mention the amazing sounds that were created for the game by my good friend Britt Brady of Devolver Digital published game ‘Gato Roboto’. Britt also handled the audio in my previous game ‘Bubbun’ (currently sitting at ⅘ stars on NewGrounds), and if it weren’t for him, I don’t think Punchgolf would have done as well as it has done critically.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY?
I’m currently working on multiple projects, the biggest one I can mention right now that isn’t early in development (or hidden for a nice occasion) is ‘BBBLASTER’ A rogue-lite shooter with dogs that control spaceships with a single button for PC and Mobile.
The project started as a collaboration between me and the amazingly talented StuffedWombat. Our challenge was making a rogue-lite that was played entirely with a single button. The game evolved over time and I ended up taking over the project completely, updating the design, code and other aspects of the game to the point the game looks and feels completely different.
You can find out about more projects on my website.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST DEVELOPMENT HURDLE SO FAR?
Money! And time. Time always has been and always will be a hurdle that needs to be crossed regardless. But that challenge also helps breed unique things that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible or even thought of. The biggest hurdle outside of money though is making sure I get to the finishing line with every new project I’ve started. For every project I end up releasing, there’s around 4-6 that I dropped fully or are just collecting dust in hopes I’ll come back at a later date for whatever reason.
Frankly, if you finish a project, you are a star in my book whether the project is big or small, it shows a commitment that is not often seen regardless of skill.
ANY MEMORABLE DEV STORIES?
The first and most recent story was giving a talk for the Game Developer of Color Expo that was named "Forming ideas for games you don't have". Then, a few days after giving the talk, I was presented with the news that I was selected for the Humble Bundle Game Creators of Color Award 2020!
What affected me the most was telling my family about getting my work recognised for something as big as that, getting a massive hug and being told: "I’m proud of you." Especially in a field that they had only associated with risk, rather than considering it a stable job (they still want me to become a network engineer or a doctor if you ask them.) It was pretty heart-warming, even if it broke me for a little bit.
The second story has been coming across random kids screen-recording themselves playing one of my games. The interesting part wasn’t just watching them furiously tap their screens so hard that their microphones were picking it up, it was coming across one comment:
Seeing a little kid claiming I’m somehow their dad made for a fun afternoon of my little brothers trying to convince my mom that I had a secret child that looked nothing like me.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE DOING THEIR OWN GAME PROJECTS?
“FAIL FAST, TO SUCCEED FASTER”
This advice has stuck with me for so long that its informed every project that I’ve ever worked on and bled into every aspect of development in different ways such as:
- Making sure the full gameplay loop is playable as soon as possible.
- Can you scope down more? Then scope down.
- Can’t get any art? Don’t be afraid to have horrible programmer art.
- Not great at picking colours? Find a premade colour palette.
- Start small and scope higher from there if you can afford to.
- Have you decided on the core objectives of your game? Define them now!
- Can you make it more accessible? Make it so!
All those things have helped me to create games I didn’t expect to create and then some.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
If you want to try to make a career in game development, especially if you end up pursuing a career as an independent developer, I beg you to pick up a hobby or interest that is separated as much as possible videogames. Why? For your own mental health. I'm saying this from a place of experience and hearing so many similar stories from small upcoming indies to chart-topping indies! Great games can come from places you least expect, so don’t rob yourself of that opportunity by making games your only interest!
Also, I want to thank Scirra for considering me for these Construct Developer Diaries. I probably wouldn’t have made half the advancements in my career if it wasn’t for the community around Construct in addition to the tools offered by the engine.
Before I forget, be sure to follow me on Twitter @Salman_Shh. And to see more behind the scenes news and posts as well as a bunch of useful resources be sure to come hang out at my Gesinimo Lounge Discord. Don’t be a stranger once you’re there!