Developer Interview: Felipe Nanni

Apr 13, 2015

Today’s Game Developers Like You interview (still going throughout April 2015!) is with Felipe Nanni of Brazil.

Q: Hi Felipe! For starters, how would you like to introduce yourself and your experiences?

A: I’m 25 years old and I’ve been making small experiments to learn and test ideas on Game Maker for 2 years. Before that, I spent 6 years studying things that I know nothing about, unfulfilled, because I had no idea what game development was like and how to start. Making videogames is what I always wanted to do as a kid, but I was afraid to try because of math. Then in March, 2013, after seeing some games made with Game Maker, I realized that maybe I could do it too. I Googled what programming was. I imagined a game then started making it in Game Maker. I started trying to make my squeegee guy idea on Game Maker, searched for how to do things, and figured out how to do other things in my own way. This is what made me realize that I could go on: making something on my own.

Q: How would you describe your technique?

A: Trial and error. Mostly error.

Q: How has making videogames been different from what you expected going into it?

A: I expected it to be hard, but in a different way. The math is hard, but not because it is hard, it’s because I don’t know what math to use. Thinking through the logic is also hard, but fun! Getting my mind ready to study or continue working on a project is harder than math and logic together. Trying to work with a group of people that I don’t relate to is hardest of all.

Q: What role(s) do you typically serve on projects?

A: Mostly, I do my experiments (that’s how I like to call them) by myself, focusing on the programming. Then I think about the design, but mostly to test ideas, rather than making something awesome. Audio and visual comes last for me, not that I think they aren’t important, but it’s not what I want to master right now. I make something that just works for what I’m doing. During game jams (game jams are more fun than I thought!), I usually work with my girlfriend or a close friend, and they do the art.

Q: Tell us about some of the videogames that you’ve worked on.

A:Stoplight Watch is the first idea that I had, a game where you play as a squeegee guy who needs to clean as many cars as possible before the stoplight goes green. I made it for Windows, but it’s on HTML5 now thanks to a Game Maker module.

Super Baba Jam was made for F*** This Jam 2014, with art by my girlfriend. Even though I’m Brazilian, I hate soccer, so I made a simple two players, goal-on-goal, versus game like my friends at school used to play after class. I was inspired by Trinity’s kick in the beginning of The Matrix and Shaolin Soccer. Windows only, because of gamepad support.

WC was my game for Global Game Jam 2015, made with a friend. We have fun talking about poo and we’re from a city known for the biggest carnival in the world, even though we hate it. So we though about a game where two players need to use the bathroom during a carnival, but there’s only one bathroom available, so they need to fight to get there first. They can punch and throw stuff at each other while avoiding people dancing and the police. It’s Windows-only, but has full gamepad support.

Q: Why did you want to get into making videogames? Is it different from why you continue to do it?

A: I want recognition, I want to make special things, I want to be proud of what I do, I want to learn, I want to make things happen, I want to think how to make things happen, I want to have fun with what I do, I want to make things fun for others, I want the feeling that I get when it works, I want the frustration that I get when it doesn’t work, I want to live and feel alive, I want to be a part of the game development world, I want to make different things. I want lots of things.

Q: Focusing in on one or two specific games, what are some highlights or favorite project(s) or challenges that you’ve worked on?

A: Stoplight Watch was made in the worst possible way, programming-wise. That was just how I could do it back then. It made me feel like the most incredible person in the world and I wanted to show it to everyone – family, friends and developers that I admire. I know now that it’s not a big deal and I never finished it, because I couldn’t think of a purpose for the game, I got sick of the “art” style and didn’t knew how to program well enough to make it good. I was talking about this with my girlfriend that night – one day, I would like to make this game again, from scratch, but only if something clicks in my head and I find a good reason to do it in a different way, with a better design. But it is my game, my baby, and I’m proud of started working on it during a boring class in university. Because of it, I knew that I could do it.

Super Baba Jam was my first fun game. Some people played it when I showed it to them, and they kept playing! What I’m most proud of is that I made a fun version of a real game that I hate. It was also really great working with my girlfriend, seeing her art moving, even though we didn’t have time to make a different second player – he’s just of a different color. Also, a friend made a music for it and it was the first time something I made had it’s own music. This changed the game feel, it felt like Friday afternoon’s after class, exactly what I wanted! It was my first time trying to work with gamepads and it made the game even better, because it allowed you to aim your kick with precision. The problem with this is that fewer people tried on the internet, because not everyone has two gamepads AND a friend nearby when downloading a small, free game. Some bugs make it worse, too. I tried to put one player in slow motion when the other was holding the ball, but it never worked and sometimes the ghosts of my attempts at this show up at the wrong times. I can’t do collision right, so there’s some collision bugs, like the ball going offscreen. But I’ll learn, someday!

Q: Is your game development non-commercial, commercial, some hybrid of the two?

A: Non-commercial, so far. I only make experiments. What I’m doing is studying, learning, trying to make things work in a more reliable way so that they work as they should. I’m trying to make games in a more professional way. I want to get to a point where I can reasonably charge for something – a level where I can offer something to paying customers.

Q: Do you have strong feelings about anything recently going on in the game industry or game development scene? What’s the topic, and what are your views on it?

A: I don’t like to take part in public topics. Everything becomes a mess and I’m too afraid of people misunderstanding me. I would like it if everyone who wants to make games makes them.

Q: Has making videogames changed anything else about your life or how you see the world outside of games? (If so, how?)

A: Making games gave me a purpose. It is something that makes me feel happy, capable, but also frustrated, which is good. Ever since I was a baby I’ve been protected from many frustrations – I’ve had a reasonably easy way of life. Since I started trying to make games, I have been trying to leave my comfort zone. I’m not quite there yet, but at least it’s a struggle that I acknowledge now.

Q: What’s something that you’d specifically like to say to other developers?

A: Something I read that someone said: stop saying that you are trying to become a game developer, if you made something, you are a game developer.

 

Side note from Chris: I’m surely not the first or only person to say this, but it might’ve been read in my Frank Look at Making Games Professionally, or in this Tweet:

 

This is special to me and I think it must be to many others, because we keep diminishing our successes. Even answering this interview I say that my experiments are just that, experiments, and that I am trying to become a game developer. I need to remember that I am a game developer, just not a very good or experienced one yet. When I made Stoplight Watch, my first idea-turned-game, I felt like one, no matter how crummy it was. I flew to Europe to visit my father, but went to game conventions to show this little child of mine. I now it was really naive of me, but being naive can get you somewhere. I don’t like being malicious, feeling like I know it all. And even though I need to remind myself that I am, indeed, a game developer, I like to get some of that naivety back. I get it back every time I make something. Every time I am proud of something that I did. I feel incredible, even if it’s a game about racing to the bathroom so you don’t have to poop your pants.

Q: How do you choose which ideas to develop into a full game?

A: They come to my mind as a screenshot or a gif, in a flash. They come and go in the blink of an eye. When I like it, I write it or draw it. When some gameplay ideas form in my head, I come back to it and write more or draw more. The ones that are more varied from what I did before have more chancing of becoming experiments, so I can learn other things. I’d like to improve the quality and originality of my ideas. They aren’t quite there yet.

Q: Any projects currently in development that you’d like to talk about?

A: I’m still experimenting. Right now, I’m trying to make a 2D, topdown, aerial combat game where you have to change altitude to scape and destroy things.

Another project is a two players, versus, hot air balloon game. There’s almost nothing done yet, but I’d like it to be a slow, relaxing combat game, with wind currents, clouds, old weapons and colorful balloons. I’m currently trying to learn how to make ropes work, then I’ll try to learn how to make the balloon and basket work independently, but together.

Q: Long(er) term what are your aspirations or goals as a game developer?

A: I want to get to a level on Game Maker Studio where I can make the ideas that I have without stopping because I don’t know how to do something, specially when it’s related to math. I can’t think in math terms, so I don’t know how to translate thoughts that I have to programming. Of course, I want to always keep learning, but right now I feel that there’s always a barrier that I can’t get through. I want to break those barriers, or at least push them forward, always. I said that I want to learn a specific tool because, at this moment, it is enough for me.

Another aspiration, a shorter term one, is making my games feel more alive and without tricks and optical illusions. For example, in Super Baba Jam, when the ball hits the goal, nothing happens with the goal itself. In real life, the net would react to the impact of the ball. To do this, I could make an animated sprite of the net, which would always be the same, no matter where the ball hit, or I could learn how to program the net in a way that behaves like a real net and just apply the image/texture on it. I want to be able to do my games the second way, the programming way. This is really important to me and I’m trying it, but not exactly succeeding.

Also, I want to learn how to work with procedural generation and AI.

Q: What’s a typical day in your life as a game developer like?

A: When I feel like developing something, I keep trying to find time to do it so I don’t fail in other things that I need, like I’m doing right now – I have to write a review of the Atari game Turmoil for a class a few hours from now, but answering this feels more important at the moment. When I find time to work on something, I don’t want to interrupt my thinking for anything, which is really hard. I forget to eat, sleep, drink… But I make an effort to don’t neglect my girlfriend and our dog.

Q: What’s your process like?

A: It only works when the first thing I do in a project is making the player movement. Not that I make beautiful movements, but I think it’s more important. I try to think how controlling this thing can be different than controlling that other thing. Even though this doesn’t exactly show in my prototypes because I’m still learning, it is something that I take some time think of. If not, every game is exactly the same – nothing is topdown or side scroller, it’s just objects moving up, down, left and right. I hope that I can achieve his some day, more varied control of the objects. After adjusting the controls, I think of what the purpose of the game is – collecting things, killing things, evading thing, creating things, showing things or just controlling things, If I think of something, I start making a level, an enemy, anything, just to see if it works and then I’m satisfied. I don’t really like creating content, at least not yet. I hope I will when I have a project compelling enough that makes me feel like I can keep going through.

Q: Were there videogames that you’ve played which inspired you to be a developer?

A: I always wanted to make games as a kid, but, to be honest, I never tried. I didn’t open my cartridges to see how they were, never tried to break my games and change their rules. I always played “by the books”, in a conformist way. So I don’t think I can really say that the games I played as a kid inspired me. Games were (and are) special to me, but they were like magic, untouchable things. The games that really inspired me were Spelunky (Derek Yu), Gunpoint (Tom Francis), The Binding of Isaac (Edmund McMillen) and Super Crate Box (Vlambeer). Those games were made by reachable people, so making them felt reachable too.

Q: What advice do you have for people who are thinking about getting into videogame development?

A: The classics work like a charm – start small, make something and think “why”. Don’t be ashamed of using what you know and can use, no matter how basic it is.

I miss that – there are some advantages in not knowing anything about how to do something.

Q: Any shout outs that you’d like to mention?

A: My girlfriend, Cajila, for sharing the successes and failures with me and helping me get to know myself.

My friend, Guaré, for being a creative counterpart. We make great things together and are proud together.

My mom, for believing that I could do anything I wanted.

Follow Nanni on Twitter: @FNanni (really! you should!)

Find out more at his site: felipenanni.itch.io (check out his other projects!)

If you’d be interested in participating in a text interview to share your projects and perspectives, too, I’m still accepting and sharing new submissions for Game Developers Like You throughout April (2015), too!



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