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A Game of firsts

Have you ever tried your hands at a game genre that you didn't even like to play? It's a thrilling experience and it can bring you a lot of awesome experience, let me explain!

For game developer it's very easy to become trapped in a specific genre. Either because you like and prefer the games in that genre, or because it feels like a safe bet based on previous results.

For me the genre was arcade action games, altho I did try various other games and also combined the "arcade" concepts with different game styles, my games were often easy to categorize into "difficult arcade games".  From the 2D procedurally generated platform shooters like Gunslugs to top-down dungeon crawler like Heroes of Loot.

When I started on my latest game, I found myself diving into the sequel to Heroes of Loot but creatively replacing the dungeons with a sci-fi spaceship setting.. so.. ok, it was the perfect example of being trapped in a specific genre.

Some developer friends told me it could be interesting if I made it turn-based, and leave my comfortzone of fast arcade games. And the challenge was born.

First Turn-based game ever!

The resulting game is Space Grunts, an arcadefied turn-based strategy game. I never played turn-based games before. I tried them, but I always get put off by the many tactics, and slow pace of the games. Like mentioned before: I love arcade games with lots of action and pace.

Development of my first-ever turn-based game was surprisingly fun. Learning new ways of doing specific things, learning new game-design tricks and having to handle gameplay elements in a different way made me a better developer for sure.

I fully recomment developers to try their hands at a game style they don't like and combine it with the things they do like. Create a first, perhaps even a new genre.

First PC-first ever!

I've been an indie developer since 2004, and in all those years I've been focussing on mobile games. Last year I started getting the first bunch of my games on Steam, and it didn't take long for the comments of "mobile port" to show up everywhere. Even tho my games are created and designed to be playable with gamepads, the simple fact is: if a game is released on mobile before PC, people will call it a mobile-port.  Deal with it!

I figured I could outsmart those people tho, and Space Grunts was released on PC first! Not just that, I also used a pre-order option for the first time, with people allowed to buy the game early from my own website and get beta access as a bonus.

After some weeks the game moved into Early-Access, which was yet another first for me, and one that was extremely positive. I received a lot of feedback and it made the game much better when it finally released on Steam in early January.

Nobody ever called it a mobile-port, so that was a first!

First love!

Last week Space Grunts was released on mobile, my first love! Both iOS and Android versions released on the same day, with a 50% discount for the loyal Orangepixel game fans who are always willing to buy my game on day one so they deserved a nice discount.  Which was another first I did!

It felt like coming home, with the game ending up in both the iTunes (top 50) and Google Play charts (top 10).

Someone even called the game a PC-port .. that's a first! 

First third-party engine!

The Steam releases I did last year were build on top of LibGDX, a cross-platform game library written in Java. With my original code being in Java for Android, it was fairly easy to have my own framework run on top of LibGDX. Which made it possible to have my games run and release on Windows, Linux and OSX.

With Space Grunts I made the decision to build it fully on top of LibGDX for releasing it cross-platform on Windows, Linux, OSX, Android and iOS. I've always used my own frameworks because I've seen many libraries and engines come and go, and it would mean starting all over learning a new engine.

Space Grunts is my first game in ten years build on top of somebody else's code.. but it runs smoothly, it works perfectly, and I also started moving some of my older games to LibGDX making it easier to maintain the various versions. 

First conclusion!

Leaving your comfort zone can be an extremely awesome thing to do. It has also been a scary thing to do. With every game there is doubt and fear about what other people will think about the game. If you create a game with new influences or in a genre unknown to you, the amount of fear and doubt increases multiple times.

As a game designer and developer there is a lot to learn from creating other types of games. Your standard code tricks and solutions don't work anymore and you have to come up with new code that might very well improve your previous ideas and concepts.

I plan to do a few more turn-based games, cause this one made me actually like the genre and there are new ideas brewing. And I will certainly try my hands at a few other genre's that I normally don't play or enjoy.. maybe my first ever tower defense ? my first ever sports game? 

For now I'm working on the Heroes of Loot sequel, cause I got a bit side-tracked for about 10 months!

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