Hey Radu, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Romania. My home town was a bike ride away from Dracula’s Castle.
My first gaming device was an Atari 2600 Jr that my dad brought from Canada, alongside 10 games (including E.T.). My first computer was a Romanian ZX80 knock-off that required loading the OS (BASIC-driven) from a cassette tape every single time it booted. My first PC was a second hand 386 that had a whopping 169MB hard drive (with bad sectors) and an old Logitech mouse that I used for almost 10 years.
I lived in an apartment building and had a wired Ethernet LAN with two of my friends that suffered greatly due to my friend’s mom repeatedly closing the balcony door over the CAT5 cable. My university thesis was on “Artificial Intelligence In Modern Games” and contained 18 pages of game reviews, including a glowing one of Half Life.
What got you into game development?
I’ve always been interested in making games, but for the longest time, I had no idea what that meant. Back in 7th grade I was exchanging BASIC programs/animations with my best friend and making simple interactive experiences, but not quite games. I had a brief encounter with real game development back in 2002, when I lead a small game dev team using the RenderWare C engine to make a simple 3D basketball game, but went back to “regular” software development afterward. I enjoy programming a lot, so I was able to easily find fulfillment there. Fast forward to 2010, I found myself in Australia, hating my current assignment and for various reasons not willing to quit my job – this got me started making games again. My first games were targeting Android, a few small ones before starting to make kids games. I later transitioned into the PC/console space since I thought the mobile space became a really hard space to succeed in.
Your game Semispheres was released on PS4, PS Vita, Steam and Nintendo Switch. How was the development process?
Steam is as straightforward as it gets (which also makes it a lot more crowded). All console development is difficult, but not impossible – even for a solo dev. It does require a lot of determination to get through the certification process. The legal side of things is a lot more open now, but the technical side is still fairly difficult. The hardest part of the entire process was not having anybody with console experience to help, so mistakes were made and lessons were learned. It will hopefully be easier on the next one.
You have a new game coming out soon. Can you tell us about it?
My next game is Neon Noodles – Cyberpunk Kitchen Automation. You get to program robots to make food, set in a cyberpunk universe. The art is locally sourced – working with local 3D artists Owen McManus and Farhan Qureshi. It’s a game in the “Zach-like” genre (pioneered by Zachtronics) and could be described as “Opus Magnum meets Overcooked”. I’m still targeting PC and consoles with this game.
What resources have you found useful? Development based and financial based?
As far as development goes, when I got serious about making games, there were very few local resources so had to figure stuff out on my own – both in the mobile space and in the PC/console space. The technical side of things (putting pixels on the screen) is the easiest part. Figuring out how to make a good, cohesive game is much harder. Game design is a weird art with no textbook, but there are ways to improve the craft.
On the financial side of things, I’m ironically quite risk averse so I’ve always “prepaid” my development runway. This worked well for me and allowed me to not seek external investment. I believe for people with other marketable skills (in or outside of game dev, like programmers), it’s possible to find a sustainable path that doesn’t involve risking much, but it may be less glamorous at times (when you have to “top up” the coffers with contract work). I know of other financing models, like CMF or publishers, but those are not that realistic to begin with if you don’t already have experience in this field.
You’ve been an advocate for the game industry in Alberta through your work with the Calgary Game Developers Association. What are your thoughts on the Alberta game industry in its current state? The future?
I’m really happy to represent Calgary (and Alberta) at shows and on different platforms. As far as CGDA involvement goes, my secret is to be selfish – find something you need and just do it. I’ve been running the critique event and co-running Indie Friday for more than four years now, yet the secret is really simple – I’m doing it for myself first. I strongly believe more of that will greatly improve our community here. For example, if you’re interested in level design, pick a game with a level editor every month and have a CGDA event where you get people to share and discuss maps they’ve made.
I’m excited to see the industry in Alberta growing with new studios opening in both Calgary and Edmonton. It still feels like the ecosystem here is still really fragile, but it is improving year over year. I’d love to see more people making games, both as a hobby and as a profession.
Lastly, do you have any recommendations for other indies in Alberta?
Just do it! This advice is specifically for those starting out – make games to get more experience and build a portfolio. This will increase your credibility as a serious game dev and the chances of getting funded to eventually make your dream game!
Thanks for taking the time to be our May 2019 Community Spotlight member.