When asked by 100% Indie to share my experiences during the development of Freeze! I didn’t hesitate for a second. I made quite a few mistakes and had a lot of hard decisions to tackle, so I hope to spare some of you the pain of going through that same valley of digital death. Sound overly dramatic? Yes, maybe you’re right. So let’s go right back to the beginning…
First things first, it would be best if you have a look at the Freeze! trailer, in case you don’t already know, or own, the game.
As I plan to spend some time with you, dear reader and fellow indie developer, it seems the polite thing to do is introduce myself and tell you about my early years as a games creator.
Me, Myself and I (Billie Holiday)
I was born in 1969; just in time to see the first man walking on the moon. This is one of the reasons I graduated, years later, as an engineer for air and spacecraft design. In short, as a rocket scientist. But first I started developing games in Z80 assembler for the Sinclair ZX81, and sold these as listings to magazines back in 1982. I followed up on these early successes as a very young computer nerd with more games for the Commodore 64 and Commodore Amiga, using 6510 and 68000 assembler code; lovingly pushing bits to the left and right and branching to fixed memory addresses using BNE. Surprisingly, I didn’t have too many friends back then, and the girls looked at me kinda strange – when they looked at me at all.
My most successful game in the mid-80′s was Sarcophaser for the Amiga; a horizontally-scrolling space shooter where you collect up extra firepower. Have a look at this incredibly cool YouTube video, from a real fan.
The game was well received. Only the famous Computer & Video Games magazine from the UK found issue with the sound of the phaser, comparing it to the asthmatic cough of a dying cowboy. One of my other games, a space-racer called Challenger sold a lot of units after the space shuttle of the same name exploded, but that’s another story, and a regrettably sad one.
Doing What Needed Doing
Later I made Splitterwelten (Splinter Worlds) for PC in C and 8086; in my humble opinion one of the first real-time strategy (RTS) games. I finished this in 1991, shortly before Dune 2 was released. But no publisher back then wanted to bring my game to the market because they didn’t believe in the idea of an RTS. Because of this Splitterwelten was only published years later with outdated art, among a multitude of other, much more polished, games. My first real chance for game development fame, it seemed, was dust in the wind.
Years later I worked for Konami as a project manager on Nintendo Game Boy development in Europe. Under my leadership, Contra III: The Alien Wars for the Game Boy was developed by the very successful team Factor 5, responsible for Turrican, Rogue Squadron and more.
After some professional side-stepping (I worked as a waiter, host for a computer game TV show called X-Base on German television, as an editor-in-chief for science mags, and as a rocket scientist of course) I started work in 2011 for the biggest German publisher of kids books, Verlag Friedrich Oetinger GmbH. My job: to develop apps for kids, based on the big brands. Well, that’s still my day job, and it’s a good one.