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Category: Personal

Project Silinha: first concept

I have an idea for a videogame buzzing in my head since many months. It should be an adventure game in a solar punk setting where the Player moves on a skate and fights capoeira.

The name of the project is Silinha for now. Silinha is the family nickname of my wife and I want to dedicate the project to her. In fact, also the main character should be similar to her.

The story is inspired by 3%, a Netflix Brazilian series. But I want it to be solar punk, utopic, not post-apocalyptic.

I have started sketching out ideas and engaging with the Solar punk community on Reddit. This is my very first concept:

It’s ugly, I know, but I can see a lot of things in it. It’s not a good concept to share with a team, but it works for a solo project. I didn’t use AI to generate it, I looked actively for images (skaters, capoeira, solar punk) and made a collage in GIMP. I sketched on top to get the layout and then used plain colors to fill the shapes.

It’s bad, it’s ugly, but it’s mine and it’s my first attempt. So I am happy with it!

Starting Free Flow Fridays

Today I want to start a new appointment on my blog: Free Flow Fridays (FFF). I want to just leave my mind for one day without thinking about being insightful, or worrying about the SEO and things like that.

This week I was reading and listening to the news and the whole World is in crisis. Everything is suffering a crisis now, from religious institutions to the climate. The industry where I work is in crisis too, and my country is in a crisis too. What can I do as a game designer? The challenge is pretty hard, but one thing I know: I have to bring fun and good things to the World. This starts by selecting also the tools I use. For instance, GenAI tools available are trained on datasets that steal intellectual properties. I will not use them.

Speaking of which, I am not scared by the advent of generative AI, I am pretty sure it is a bubble about to burst. Still, I have to be prepared for the worst as always. I believe that nothing can beat good storytelling in games. And I am sure that good stories will always be uniquely from humans, never from bots. So I intend to insist on that side of game design: game writing and more in general narrative design.

In the last few months I have been suffering fewer clients too, that’s why I am taking a couple of courses to improve my tools and workflows and get more productive in the future. I don’t believe honestly that with 60 years companies will look out for people like me, so I want to prepare my future. There are 3 possibilities I foresee:

  1. Build a profitable company and sell it. Unless something changes, I don’t see myself doing that.
  2. Invest my game design skills into other fields more stable. Honestly, I don’t see myself working for a bank using my incredible spreadsheet skills.
  3. Teach. That’s my thing. I love to explain things, I love the idea of helping create a better future.

I see myself teaching and making my small games before retiring, so yes that’s what I want to work on in the next months. Maybe by starting an Italian book on game design, who knows?

Farewell Toriyama-sensei

I remember staying in a very big room watching cartoons. My mother was cooking, but she was aware of what I was looking at. The story of a young kid with a monkey tail and a stick that extended at request. He seemed unaware of Bulma’s curves. “What are you looking at, Paolo?” said my mother.

Many years later, that room looks smaller. My mother still remembers Dragon Ball. I don’t think I understood the storyline at that time. I just enjoyed the visuals and colors. Everything was so rounded, as well as vehicles. That character was similar to me, he was a little kid but so strong. He wasn’t interested in adult things, just in his quest for dragon balls.

Years later I was buying my first manga comics, one of my favorites was Arale. The creativity was shaping in my mind also with these things. Today I am a game designer and I ask myself: would I be a creator without the existence of Toriyama-sensei?

I don’t think so. God bless you, Akira.

T34 – The Dark Zone (Good Old FRAG)

I installed UEFN and tried out some Fortnite maps created by others. I was conflicted regarding how shooters have evolved these days. On one side, there are tons of mechanics and dynamics in Fortnite. On the other, the thing is getting very complicated! Too many things altogether, games back in the day were simpler.

So I decided to start a new project, codename “TH3FR4GGERZ” where for the moment I am rebuilding classic deathmatch maps for the kids to play what I played (ok, boomer).

I started from The Dark Zone from Quake, which I played tons of hours back in the days at LAN parties (ok, boomer x2). Do you remember it?

  • UEFN is an incredible tool, it’s Unreal Engine but it permits you to set up rules playtest, and publish very quickly without having to worry about code and other things.
  • Fortnite is a game where new and old audiences meet together. This is great as a designer because there are many things I have to understand about these new audiences that are not immediate. For instance, unlike games from my time, the Players receive EVERYTHING right from the start in the most successful experiences.
  • I can revisit classics and finally have an excuse to understand all the steps that led us, the FPS players, here today. Nostalgia level: 9.999.999
  • If you are a Fortnite player, please join: 4321-3870-5686
  • FFA
  • No build
  • No stamina, run forever

First Playtest for The Dark Zone

After a couple of days working on my first map and getting confidence with UEFN, I have a first version of The Dark Zone, a classic Quake deathmatch map to test.

I want to test specifically three things:

  • The dimensions: I had to scale the map up because of many reasons. Usually, in Fortnite, there are more players. Also, I want to express a sense of reverence towards the classics of the genre. Plus, the metrics of Fortnite permit the Players to move more agile across a map. Players can slide, run, crouch, and many things more.
  • The lights: the standard lighting system for Fortnite is very plain, but also better in terms of contrast. Still, I want to represent the darkness of these classics but at the same time make the visuals always readable.
  • Weapons: Fortnite has too many mechanics and weapons, and I have to convert somehow the weapons from Quake to a Fortnite counterpart. That can lead to a lot of balancing issues. I need to test it.

Start with WHY

Experts always say you should start your projects with WHY.

Sinek, love him or hate him. I like him!

Others say you should have a philosophical base on everything you start. I don’t know if that’s a universal rule, but I am sure it helps to write down why I am tackling this new UEFN project.

There are two sides to the medal. One is a personal improvement side, and the other is a practical business side. I have identified opposites on these two sides. I love it when everything comes together in a meaningful way. Maybe a little obsessive, dunno.

  • FUN <-> REVENUE: First of all, I am motivated and engaged in doing that. I prefer to invest 40% of my time doing that than playing video games, for a while. And of course, the ROI is higher in this case.
  • SKILL <-> GROWTH: I see opportunities to build a team, meet new people, and teach what I discover in the future. I love to teach.
  • IMPROVEMENT <-> PURPOSE: I am also playing lots of Fortnite to study my new competitors. I see that most of these experiences have no progression, and no storytelling, there is just chaos. Most of them look like a bunch of incomplete experiences. My will is to silently teach the history of good old FRAG deathmatch to the new audiences that are playing Fortnite today.

When the junior is your client

When you gain some experience, you happen to work with junior profiles. They are people who need to grow and it takes considerable management and mentoring work. At first, you are inevitably slowed down, but then you see the benefits.

It then happens that you work for clients and your client is the junior. It explains badly, it defines things badly. In that case, you cannot treat him as you would treat a junior in the company, as a subordinate. And that’s great because it helps you understand how to treat people in the best way possible.

I understand a lot of things that I could have handled differently in the past. Considering a subordinate as the expert, which we are forced to do when working with a client, opens the door to many learnings.

Are you an artist or an entertainer?

There is a World crisis and our beloved games industry is not immune from that. 2024 just started and we are already seeing many people losing their jobs. Everyone is worried, someone wants to help with suggestions and experience.

One of the most common messages is “Have you lost your job? Build your own thing!”. I am not sure I agree with that statement. I have learned the hard way that you are either the artist or the entertainer.

In case you are an artist, you will tend to obsess with something. You can get lost in small details, but there is great news: you have the chance to become very wealthy. If you want to make money with games you should do your games.

In case you are (like myself) an entertainer, I am afraid that is better to work on projects made by others. Help them land down their visions. Facilitate the right tools to decide how the game will be. My bank account will never have seven figures like that, but hopefully, people will remember me as a great guy to work with.

Not any tips are good for us, the first thing is to understand who we are deeply. And to do that you need to try things out. Can I be an entertainer and an artist? Or, can I be 5 years an artist and 10 an entertainer? Who knows, maybe I can.

Top game design voice badge

I have been on LinkedIn for 14 years. I use that platform a lot because of my personal branding activities. When I was fired from Digital Chocolate, because of a bad relationship with my direct manager, I decided to become the best game designer I could possibly become. Part of my strategy involved starting to share my ideas and discoveries of this complex micro world.

In fact, you need to explain things to others to become a recognized expert. It’s not just walk the walk, you need to talk the talk. Also, the language of business is not my native one, so I needed a tool to improve my English. I needed to find my own voice.

And the results are good, I have a healthy small business with my clients. Also, when I go to local meetups often I am reached by people that I don’t know who thank me for something related to my writings and videos. I can say that I feel I am in a good way. Of course, many things can happen and I can screw everything up with a mistake. In fact, pushing your ideas out there is no easy task.

Collaborative articles

For all this, I have never received any badge of any sort. But then LinkedIn published a new feature, called collaborative articles. That feature is probably meant to substitute experts in certain fields in the future. I honestly hate it. So I decided to take action.

Every morning I do this:

  1. I select randomly 5 collaborative articles on Game Design
  2. I copy one of the questions, also a random
  3. I paste it on Bing AI
  4. Then I copy and paste back part of the answer

Tadaaa! In just 10 days I got my badge. It was just grinding, nothing more. These social networks don’t care about the true value of their content.

My GOTY

Data speaks clearly. In 2023, the game that I absolutely played the most was Vampire Survivors.

Small team, simple idea, true indie gem. Simplicity at its finest. Nothing more to add, this was my personal GOTY.

Happy New Year everybody!