Mario Luna tells Santex how creating video games is the perfect combination of all of the things that he loves.
Tell us how you first got interested in developing video games?
Video games have almost alway been part of my life. When I was 9 years, the idea of creating a video game came to me. I was looking for some programs that could help me create a game, and I found some good tools, but didn’t know how to use them.
Later, when I was 14, I started to learn video and image editing. Then, I studied 3D editing and music composition. At the age of 17, I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to some of these skills, but I couldn’t decide between them. The only place where all of those aspects converge is in video games. I went back to the beginning, but this time with more knowledge than before. I learned to program on my own and noticed that I liked it above all the other skills I’d learned. Since then, I have been slowly investigating the process of developing video games.
Today, at the age of 20, I am in the last year of my degree as a computer analyst with the intention of dedicating myself fully to video game development once I graduate.
What were your favorite games in the past? Was there one in particular that will call your attention the most and inspired you to start developing video games?
It’s impossible to choose only one, or even a few video games! I loved so many, but my favorite genre is FPS (First Person Shooter). Ones that I can mention are Call of Duty 4, Half-Life, Serious Sam 2, Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead, among others. I also liked strategy games a lot, like Commandos, Age of Empires and Age of Mythology. Many of them I played in multiplayer with friends when I was younger.
A game that drew my attention was Bionic Commando when I was 9 years old. It’s an FPS with a mechanic that allows you to fly through the cities (or rather swing). When I played it, I wanted to be able to create a game with esthetic and/or similar mechanics and it led me to research how to do it. I think that thanks to that game, I love post-apocalyptic esthetics in video games or movies.
What do you like most as a player? As a developer?
As a player, I love a good story as well as a great narrative. I think that although it isn’t everything, a big part of the experience when playing is being able to tell a story that can distract you from the real world and immerse yourself in the game, creating the abstract of a great adventure.
Another thing that I like is the atmosphere of a game. It is not the same to make a horror game with strong light and shades of pink everywhere as it is a dark setting in an abandoned place where the player does not know where the danger might come from.
As a developer, I like the fact that I can tell a story by letting the player experience it as something that he, by himself, performs, and not as something told or seen, such as in a book or a movie.
Are you working on any gaming projects currently? If so, what?
I am currently doing the sketches and beginnings of a clone of the old Arkanoid. Long ago, I liked the series of mobile games called Block Breaker. I was a little disappointed when I found out that there are no titles for the most current platforms. That’s why I want to develop my own version of the game as a tribute. It’s a small project, but it’s pretty good to start with. This would be the first game I develop by myself, which I hope to see finished completely.
It is something new in a certain sense because so far, my experience has not gone much further than simple prototypes, so I am excited about being able to call this a game made on my own.
How long do you take to develop a video game? Is one person required?
A video game is composed of: programming, 2D digital art, sound effects, music, 3D, animations, script, lighting, conceptual art, level design, post-processing effects, platform and OS configuration, optimization, marketing, licenses, patents, publications, etc.
A person can do all this on their own, but it depends on several factors, such as the person’s ability, the size of the project, the budget among others. Some projects can take years and others only months, but as a rule, one person cannot or should not take charge of a project alone, because the benefits of being surrounded by a team are many.
To conclude, what do you think would be the biggest challenge when developing video games?
Almost since its inception, the video game industry has never stopped growing. Today there are hundreds of free tools available to developers, which has led in recent years to the creation of thousands of “indie” video game companies. These video games don’t depend on a big distributor like EA Games to position themselves, because with some marketing strategies and distributors like Google play or Steam, they can be published at a very low cost.
The massification of video games is good because it provides a greater amount of games on the market, but on the other hand, it prevents games that deserve greater recognition from being seen and judged as they should.
The biggest challenge for any new software developer is to ensure that their video game is seen and played by a large number of people, including competitors. The success that it has depends largely on this, because a game that does not become known, even if it’s a great title, is considered a failure. There are ways to counteract this, such as showing the video game to the community during its development phases, to determine how much expectation or “hype” the game has, as well as feedback on what features people would like to see in the game.
Marketing strategies are usually forgotten by independent developers, but they are very important for the positioning of a title in the industry.