Ivan Kovalov, indie game developer: I decided to try my luck doing what I like – game design29 May 2019
Ivan Kovalov is the independent developer who created the successful project on his own. He is a creator, a programmer and a game designer of G30 – a Memory Maze. The game allows to recreate and understand the mechanisms of human memory, particularly of people with cognitive disorders.
The unusual game mechanics combines both visual images and telescopic texts, forming the thoughts of the hero who travels through the maze of his memory. G30 has received several awards at the industrial international events as the best mobile and indie game.
At WEGAME 5.0 festival, the indie developer Ivan Kovalov made a presentation about what happens to the game after its official release, and also revealed the ways of avoiding common mistakes when working on a project. We talked with Ivan in order to find out more about the stages of development and how the idea of the G30 came into place.
Interviewer: WEGAME 5.0 (WEGAME)
Respondent: Ivan Kovalov (I.К.)
WEGAME: How did you become a game developer and what did you do previously?
I.К.: Although I have the technical education and can code, I never wanted to become a programmer and do it professionally. Most of my pre-game development period, I have been into design (frontend).
I wanted to get into the game development, but not only to be engaged in art or to work only as a programmer. At that time, I learned about game design, which can be compared to directing, I guess. We can, for instance, shoot a movie only if we have actors, camera operators and scene directors as well as lighting, money and a producer. Still, there is also a director, who should understand a little bit in all these areas. It gave me the reason for becoming the game developer: there was a way to save all my love for different fields and connect them at one point.
WEGAME: Tell us a couple of words about the game. What inspired you to start – an idea or the will to be a part of game design?
I.К.: My game is the puzzle for mobile devices, the idea of which is to recreate the process of our recollections using mix of mechanic puzzles and telescopic text.
The game is showing us how people with some cognitive disorders see the world. Everything is created the way so that the player can feel like such person and understand what happens when your memory does very strange things to you.
The idea of such game came up long before the serious game designing thoughts. I was in a tram with frozen windows and thought it would be cool to make a game about memory from various connecting elements. For some time, the idea was forgotten, but then I decided to try my luck doing what I liked – game design. The problem was that not many people heard of such profession. Besides, there was no such thing as a ‘junior game designer’ and it is quite difficult to enter this sphere.Later, I happened to go to Amsterdam to attend Casual Connect with a huge number of developers who not only defined the industry, but created masterpieces and changed the way people saw their own lives.
I really wanted to get there as a participant, so I remembered that idea. The technical part is based on the principles of creating overline logos and the game uses the concept of a telescopic text (which can unfold and collapse). First, I demonstrated five or six levels at Casual Connect, where everyone really liked the project. As a result, the development took approximately a year and a half.
WEGAME: What were the biggest challenges that you faced on your own during the project development?
I.К.: It is clear that there was a pre-production stage and I had to prepare according to the narrative of course – to read the clinical records and to collect information. I also read materials on screenplay, chose the type of art that I could perform and was involved in Unity programming.
It was difficult: when you are alone, you need to switch from programmer to game designer, from game designer to narrator, which is constantly repeating. It gets you down, since you need to build up the process every time.
WEGAME: Why is it important to visit conferences, get feedback, and how it influences the development?
I.К.: Such events are essential, especially the conferences for game developers. When you make a game on your own, faith in yourself can last not very long. Every three months you start accepting it like a complete useless trash and you need to start doing something useful in life, and as a result, you just burn out. And once in three months, when some conference happen to take place, you meet a bunch of cool people, colleagues giving you an expert assessment.
First of all, they suggest cool things, and secondly, they say that everything is fine. Well, in general, those who want to be independent developers, should develop the ‘software skills’ in themselves: be able to communicate and negotiate. There is such an important thing as the exchange of experience at the events – you come back with the full baggage of exciting insights from the conferences.
WEGAME: What did you like at WEGAME 5.0?
I.К.: It is fantastic here. I like the cosplay due to its annual improvement and this time, it was amazingly good.