Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Story of Koschei, part 1: How did I get here

The release date is today, and this is a good reason to remember how did I get here.

I don't really recall when I decided that I need to make a computer game. The first thought got into my head about 10 years ago. I've already left two careers behind me at that time (music and journalism), and was doing some content management work. It always fascinates me how people got into their fields. For example, 15 years ago I was sure that I am going to be a music teacher composing something in my spare time (I still have my first album somewhere in my drawers). Around my third year in the college, I took a course in music critique. Suddenly I could criticise people for money - isn't that great! So I turned to journalism, wrote articles about music and reviewed musical events around the city. But all the money at that time were in a different sphere. There was a boom of fashion magazines, especially for women. So I found myself writing how to choose the right shade of your lipstick.

The next big turn did not take long. I moved to Europe. I didn't know the language, I had no job, and had zero ways to make income. That lasted until I found a company that was looking for a content manager that knows music theory - yes, that happens! That company was building and distributing mobile content - mostly wallpapers, games and ringtones. They had a contractor who was writing ringtones for them, but they needed someone to manage that guy - track top songs on radio, test the results to make sure there aren't any "Jingle bells" instead of "Ο Άγγελος Μου" (did I say that it was a greek company, doing greek songs?) Pretty soon they found out that I can not only do that, but also write the ringtones, too - and they didn't need that contractor at all. By the way, this is "Ο Άγγελος Μου" song:


To not got crazy from all this high-quality music, I started playing games. A lot of them.

Slowly ringtones became a thing of the past, smartphones arrived - and I got a feeling that I'll need a new job pretty soon. Another Greek company was looking for a content-manager, but this time they needed someone with journalism experience. Yep, that was me again! This is how I got into gaming industry, and grew into a chief editor.

Playing games as part of my job, I thought more and more about my own projects. Also around that time my first book was published, followed by eight more, and a game based on my characters. Which got me hooked on this game idea even more. I started experimenting with game engines. The first one for me was Torque Game Engine, but to implement all my ideas I needed 3D models. So I learnt some 3D modelling. The results were ugly, but at least I could animate them. It was around that time that they made UDK free, so I moved to it. That lasted until I got my hands on iPad...

Ok, that's not completely truth. My decision to move to mobile development was highly affected by my computer's inability to manage models with more than 1500 polygons. Mobile games back then were not of an astonishing visual quality, and it was about half a year before Infinity Blade changed the landscape. So I moved to Unity.

Couple of years passed by. I created several levels and characters, and you could actually play my game - run around looting stuff, but it came with a cost. This cost was an unending battle with my zero knowledge of programming and Javascript that Unity loves. That realisation coincided with me moving to Australia. At that time I was studying Creative Writing, but it became apparent that there's no way I can continue my studies from Australia. So I changed the continent, and I changed my uni and my field. In Australia I went to RMIT to study Computer Science. At the same time, my work as a project manager asked for more and more programming knowledge, and I wanted to write better product requirements, too.

I learnt a bit of Java, Perl, Python, C, HTML, Php and Javascript again, though still not enough for my projects. At some point, when my pre-baked textures for the environment weren't displaying properly, I freaked out, closed Unity, and promised myself that I will never go back to it.

But this itching stayed in me. "Ok, 3D doesn't work for me. Maybe I should try 2D instead," - I thought to myself, and started to play with GameSalad, then stumbled across Corona SDK. Lua worked out much better for me, but 2D projects wanted something else. They wanted 2D graphic...

The sad truth is - I can not draw. There's something wrong in my DNA. I took courses and private lessons, I've been to schools and workshops - nothing worked. Apparently I can write text and music and even code in Lua, but drawing is not happening for me. "Is there a way to create a game without graphics?" - Device 6 said yes. This project was so interesting, exciting and nothing like others! So yeah, maybe there was a way...

Interactive fiction it is! No, that's not how "Koschei" started. Just wait for it.

There's another problem with me. There's a motivational phrase "Dream big, dream often". I've never needed that. Because I always dream big. So big, that if it is a game - it should be nothing short of TES, if it is a story, it should be at least "The song of Ice and Fire", with pretty much the same number of characters.
So my first plan was an Interactive Story with several POV, 10 huge chapters, and about 30 pathways through the story in every chapter.

Because of that, in the beginning of 2015 I finished only 2 chapters in English, and 4 in Russian (of course, if should have two languages, dream big and blah-blah). And I was tired already. So I double downed, and started looking for material that can make for a short, simple story - just to see how it all works out.
In August 2015 I created a new Google doc folder called "Koschei the Deathless".

9 months later (instead of initially planned 6 months), the game is ready. More about this long delay in the next chapter 8)



Koschei The Deathless in AppStore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1089733355

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