Sponsored By

Featured Blog | This community-written post highlights the best of what the game industry has to offer. Read more like it on the Game Developer Blogs.

'Looking towards the future, the possibilities are endless. The industry continues to evolve, presenting new opportunities and challenges. But armed with the knowledge and experience I've gained, I'm excited to see what lies ahead.'

Antonio Uribe, Blogger

March 26, 2024

20 Min Read

The original version of this was written in spanish on my personal blog, you can find it here.

I've been thinking about writing this for a long time, years actually. I've always been someone who likes to process and analyze things a lot, and writing about it helps, in a certain way.

I'm writing this from a hammock, listening to the noise of different animals in the background after having breakfast by myself... It's been a long time since that happened to me, having breakfast alone, so much so that I didn't even know how to react and I posted an Instagram story looking for someone to hang out with, which obviously didn't work. It was still good because I can take advantage of the time to write, something I haven't done in a long time, at least not with the purpose of publishing it.

It's been a long time since I had breakfast alone, not because I'm very popular, but because I'm usually with my family and today they went out with extended family, giving me this free day. When I found out yesterday that this would be a possibility and on a Saturday, a day that I normally don't work and we spend the day together, I started to think about what to do. The first thing that came to my mind was that I have a simple game idea that I could prototype and I was getting excited about it, until I remembered that I'm very tired of programming Arco and maybe it wouldn't be great to use the free time to work more. I thought about watching TV and playing video games all day, like I haven't done in years, but even the things I watch are already committed with my partner and many times video games feel like work... Well, maybe when I finish writing the first draft of this I'll go finish Mario RPG which is taking me longer than it should and I might even start something new, we'll see how much time I have left in the end.

But well, this post is not about that, the post is to reminisce about my past. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what I've done in the past decade. I suppose this pondering comes from a couple of upcoming events somewhat important in my life: I'm about to turn 35 and the studio I co-founded in the past is about to turn 10. Milestones that have made me very aware that time keeps passing, something that the gray-haired reflection also reminds me of, more often than I'd like to admit. Also, the fact that I'm currently expecting my second baby and finishing the development of the game that might be the most ambitious of my career so far... but I don't want to get ahead of myself, let's start from the beginning.

My path as a game developer began at some point towards the end of university, around 2010. I was part of a group of friends who were enthusiasts of the platforms of the moment and one of them came up with the idea of looking into how to make apps, with the intention of eventually making games for iOS and Android, which at that time were still emerging platforms. This group of friends was my first attempt at developing things and this would eventually lead me to my first job as an Android app developer. But that is a different story.

At the end of 2011, having finished the school semester, we decided to focus on making our first game. We used the LibGDX framework because we only had experience using Java. The idea I proposed was to translate the experience of the piñata into a mobile game and thus "TapTap Piñata" was born, this was the first video game I designed and launched. In the end, the project didn't turn into anything big, a couple of thousand people may have played it in total, but something had changed inside me, at that moment I knew I was capable of making things and having them available to many people.

After launching TapTap Piñata, I worked as an Android developer for a while, then I went with an acquaintance to make apps and games, then I decided to try my luck at Yogome, a game studio that was starting around that time but I didn't last long either. It was early 2014 and I didn't know what to do professionally. At that time I was in a streaming services startup and I really regretted not continuing to make games, but jobs were scarce and my experience was still very basic.

In February 2014 I found out by chance that there would be a Global Game Jam location at a local game school and I convinced a couple of friends to attend. Game jams are incredible events to meet people and try out ideas. The night of the event came and the three of us were there, after hearing the theme, we started discussing what we could do with it. The theme was "You don’t see things as they are, you see them as you are", the GGJ always has somewhat philosophical themes, I assume to have a variety of ideas. Anyway, we discussed it all night and we didn't find anything worth exploring, the other teams had already been doing things for a while and we were still stuck on ideas. Eventually, we gave up, agreed to go think and sleep, and meet the next morning for breakfast and decide what to do, if nothing excited us, we wouldn't force it either.

The next morning during breakfast we found out that the other guy wasn't going to make it because he partied too much and wasn't in any condition to make games. JP and I had breakfast disappointed, kind of making peace with the fact that we wouldn't do anything. We were just about to finish when, by chance, Héctor Guerrero found us there. I don't remember if he was helping the event or just happened to be around. He asked us what we were going to do, we told him the idea that excited us the most and he said something like "sounds good, why not?"... This completely changed our way of seeing the situation and made us excited enough to go and build the idea.

The GGJ2014 ended and all the teams presented their projects. Ours caught attention because, besides looking very good because JP is an incredible artist, we showed it working on an iPad and that made it feel like it was already a "real" game. This is where I consider the soul of HyperBeard was born, the moment when JP and I realized that we were capable of creating experiences that could entertain people and that we didn't need anything else but to sit down and make them.

This excitement lasted long enough that the next step was to find a way to see each other as much as possible to keep making things. Both of us had jobs that we needed to pay rent and all that, but definitely what we were putting together excited us more. We bounced around many things and eventually landed on what would be our first real game "Bouncing Dude", I don't exactly remember if the name and logo of the studio or the game came first, but everything kind of came together at the same time and the mascot would be the protagonist. The game wasn't anything too complicated, this was still something we did in our spare time and we couldn't afford to work on it too much. The other important thing to mention here is the name and logo. Many times I've said that I don't remember how the discussion went, I just remember that we were saying nonsense and HyperBeard was the first thing that didn't seem "cringe" to us at the time. The logo was entirely JP's work, I actually only remember convincing ourselves to use that name and then receiving the logo that got me much more excited about it.

That first year we released 3 games: Bouncing Dude, Palabraz, and Muertitos, at this point programming was one of my main roles. Between the last two games, Mario joined the team and started helping with that too. This phase was very fun because it was still something we did among friends, in our spare time and we could see it growing little by little. We went from "trying to make things" to "trying to stand out with what we made", but the motivation came entirely from how fun the process and collaboration were.

The following year, 2015, the dynamics changed a bit. I found a job at a new American company that was opening offices in Mexico and eventually took JP and Mario with me. This kept us very distracted from HB in general. We were kind of trying to get them to let us make games and, with that in mind, they sent us to GDC. I remember having a "serious" conversation with JP and Mario there about the possible future of HB, that if we didn't make time to do things, it was going to die. In the end, there was an opportunity to create something in collaboration with the American company. The Balloons was the only game we were able to launch that year, published by NoodleCake. The game had performed better than anything we had done before but, due to the publisher and the company's investment, it didn't feel like a success. We continued working on updates all year but the numbers didn't improve.

2016 started with low morale, we had to lay off several people from the American company and only 3 of us were left working as the office rent was about to end, JP, Erika, and me. We had been prototyping different projects at the end of the year and Koza, the head of the American company, would come to see them. I remember very clearly that moment when we showed him the ideas and none of them made sense with the rent deadline, the offices were closing in a few months. In the end he asked us if there was anything we could do with the couple of months we had left and we reminded him that there was an idea for a game about cats stealing things that Eri and JP had prototyped the previous year. I remember exactly his disappointed face when he said "well, make the cat game", because he had seen the previous idea and thought it was stupid. I don't blame him, the truth is the idea was stupid, but the execution was great.

In March 2016 we launched KleptoCats and it was another moment like the global game jam, where everything changed considerably. Much of what happened after these years is well documented out there and I've given countless interviews and talks about it. Suffice to say that the studio went from being a couple of friends doing things for fun to approximately 40 employees of a company that made and released different projects to audiences of millions of people worldwide, the dream, right? I guess it depends on who you ask. Approximately 4 years after that and a few months before the pandemic started, I left my role as Director at HB.

Many asked me at the time, why? Why leave the company you created? Why leave something successful? The answer is very simple, honestly, it wasn't fun for me anymore. Everything I start has the same origin, curiosity, and HB was no exception. Also, most of the things I abandon or don't finish have the same reason, I get bored or it no longer seems entertaining or fun to me. Obviously, working for fun is a luxury and a privilege, but I had many bad jobs along the way of "creating" mine and it was always in my heart that work would be a fun and comfortable place, a "second home" and I think it was, for a long time, but eventually that changed and I noticed that, little by little, it was getting worse. I still remember how excited I was on Mondays because I would go to the office to continue doing amazing things with friends.

I don't know if it was "the office" that changed or if it was me. What I will always be grateful for is that it allowed me to travel the world and meet many incredible people, always with the flag of sharing the knowledge and experiences to those who allowed it. I gave talks in many cities in Mexico like Mexicali, Morelia, Guadalajara, CDMX, Mérida, and Ciudad Juárez. I also visited other countries like Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, the United States, Japan, Germany, Ukraine, and Brazil. Sharing my knowledge also opened the door to making many industry friends and mentoring teams from many parts of the world, perhaps too many to list, although I should compile a list and have it somewhere.

Leaving the role that defined me for many years was very difficult. For many, I was synonymous with HB and vice versa, leaving all that behind put me in a place where I hadn't been in a long time, not knowing what to do or where to go. The uncertainty of the future fueled my anxiety and it was eating me up. I had a hard time sleeping well for months before (and after) because I was redefining myself and, while everything outside seemed to be moving as if nothing has happened, I was out of control. I didn't have much chance to process things when, out of nowhere, a global pandemic happened and forced us all to be locked up. This forced me to calm down and gave me the space to sit down and think.

Months went by where I only remember playing Animal Crossing on the Switch, there was still no end in sight to the pandemic or the lockdown. Little by little I began to think about what would come next. The most important question I asked myself was, if HB wasn't the ideal job, what would be? If in recent years you have talked to me seeking advice on work, this is something I probably mentioned to you. The "meme" that says something like "what is my dream job? I don't dream of working." I believe that if the job isn't going well, it's worth taking the time to think, what kind of place would I like to give my time to? In the end, it is an important part of our adult lives and, more common than not, we spend more time there than we do at home. In the end, my personal conclusion is that I wasn't going to be happy working in an office for someone else, even if it was Nintendo or Pokémon or anything I'm a fan of. Besides, I'm already used to doing what I want and, worse, it has worked for me.

Eventually, seeing that I wasn't going to find an ideal job, I started looking for something to entertain me and among conversations with friends, the concept of Club Picocho was born, as well as a couple podcasts (VEB and Fandalorian) and the development of a bible for a cartoon (which won Ideatoon 2022, but that story is not for now either).

What is PICO-8?

"PICO-8 is a "fantasy console" for making, sharing, and playing small games and other computer programs. It feels like a regular console, but it works on Windows / Mac / Linux. When you turn it on, the machine welcomes you with a command terminal, a collection of tools for making games/programs, and an online cartridge browser called SPLORE."

After reading this, if you are interested, I invite you to check out the post-mortem of Club Picocho (in spanish) because I feel that there are important learnings there too or check out the talk I gave at GDC with CalixJumio.

In 2021, I moved to the city of Mérida. The different projects I did within Club Picocho gave me back the confidence to program, a role that I had left behind after the first year at HB, to take more the direction and production of the projects and the studio in general. Although I knew I could program things, I was somewhat frustrated with the monthly format of the club and my past ideas. I felt that I was ready to return to making bigger things, so I started talking to friends looking to collaborate on something. Eventually, I talked to Kyuta about the idea of making a fishing game and he showed me a nice model of a frog he had, so we started to pave the way for what would eventually become Ranita Fishing. Everything happened very quickly in the project, which worried me because it could get out of hand, so we set a deadline for a "demo" and worked to have that ready, with the intention of eventually seeking funding to finish it.

The demo was released towards the end of that year and so far we have not found funding to continue. I used to think that with a good demo, a pitch, and a team capable of doing it, in addition to my past experience, it wouldn't be so difficult to find a financial partner to continue the project. After sending the pitch everywhere and having many calls, I realized how difficult the process would be and that it wouldn't be achieved soon, especially considering that the team needed the money to focus on making it because we were not an established studio. Too bad, that's how this industry is. Still, it was a great experience that people still enjoy, currently the demo has more than 25k downloads on itch.io, with very good reviews and there is even an official speedrun registered.

Somewhere towards the end of Ranita, I worked with Pato on Kitsu, a little game for the A Game By Its Cover jam, which I'm a big fan of. If you're a fan of sokoban-likes, I highly recommend you play it. Also, around this time the project that would end up being Dilemo started cooking, a game that I designed and directed with the Pictoline team.

After releasing the Ranita demo, I had a call with the CEO of HB where we talked about how things were going, I told him about my frustration about having the ability to lead a team and make good things but not the resources to achieve it and he told me that he felt that HB needed to do something different, there we realized that we possibly had the opposite problem and that led me back to HB, at least for a while. I was there around a year, with a position called "Game Lead" with the intention of trying to make different games from the ones that were already being made, something that I couldn't achieve. In the end, my work at HB that year served mostly to help carry and launch the Idle Pocket Planet project and to support the team behind My Dear Farm in the final stretch.

At some point during this yea, another dev approached me on discord with the intention of hiring me as a consultant for a project they were developing. I helped them with what they were looking for and when we finished I told them that the project seemed very interesting to me and that I would like to work on it beyond just consulting. This project is Arco.

Life kind of fell into place because, as I was leaving HB at the end of 2022, Arco needed me more, so I jumped very naturally from one to the other. All of 2023 was a year dedicated to working on Arco, mainly on the programming side, but being such a small and involved team, you have to do a little bit of everything. I'd love to talk more about it after it releases and everyone has had a chance to play it. If you can’t wait to play it, we released a public demo on steam recently, it's still there for those who want to see what it's about.

In 2023 I started doing something for A Game by its Cover again, this time I used it to learn Godot, which several friends had been talking about and I was amazed. Since Pico 8 I hadn't found a tool that adapted so well to the way I like to do things, I'm excited to be able to return to make things on it. The game was Tiny Tourist and I also had Mogu's help on this one, a guy I met through the Indi-Es discord. This relationship led us to work on a small concept that, hopefully, will be one of my next projects. It's a passion project that I've been ideating for a long time and that in recent months I started taking more seriously.

I started writing this after breakfast, and now it's already night. I confess I've been playing Mario RPG on and off and goofing around on social media. At present, I'm finishing up Arco, perhaps the most ambitious project I've collaborated on, while also trying to secure funding for the mysterious project I mentioned earlier and in my free time, I'm working on a VR project that I'm excited to share with you all soon.

But well, I should wrap up this text because it's gotten quite long. Reflecting on these years, it's evident that the journey has been more than just about creating games, it's been a journey of growth, learning, and resilience. From the early days filled with excitement and experimentation to the challenges and triumphs along the way, each experience has shaped me into who I am today.

Despite the problems and obstacles, my passion for making games has endured, and ultimately, it's not just about the games themselves but also the communities formed, the friendships forged, and the memories created. Through every success and failure, I've gained invaluable knowledge, honed my skills, and evolved as a creator.

Looking towards the future, the possibilities are endless. The industry continues to evolve, presenting new opportunities and challenges. But armed with the knowledge and experience I've gained, I'm excited to see what lies ahead.

As a final piece of advice, I'll share the recipe for successful game development that has worked for me: I don't consider myself a special person or possess extraordinary skills; the things that have helped me reach this point are "diet and exercise." What does that mean? It means there are no shortcuts or magic tricks; to achieve anything, you need to sit down, study, and apply your knowledge, over and over if necessary. But remember, always have some reference point to double check that you're actually improving in the process. Additionally, it's always better to work as a team; meet people, collaborate with different individuals, and whenever possible, share your ideas and knowledge.

And don't forget:

Make games!

To follow my projects, there's nothing better than my social media or my personal website.

Thank you for reading.

Read more about:

Featured Blogs
Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like