Here at Black Shell Media, we find ourselves extremely lucky to build relationships with a wide array of developers from different backgrounds. Each and every one of our developer friends took very different routes to end up where they are today: published and professional. This interview series gives you a peek behind the curtains into the everyday lives of some of our best development partners, both in-house and out, and highlights exactly what it took to turn them into the game developers they are today.
Today we’re talking to Andrey Fomin of the prolific independent developer Puzzle Lab about his retro puzzle game Proto Raider.
Black Shell Media: How long have you been developing games personally and where did it start?
Andrey Fomin: I’ve developd games for 15 years, releasing my first commercial game, Puzzle Inlay, in 2002. Since then I’ve released 32 games. The complete list of all my games can be found on Puzzle Lab’s website!
BSM: How did you come up with your studio name?
AF: My first games were puzzles, so Puzzle Lab seemed fitting!
BSM: How many people are on your core development team (including contractors), and how did your team get assembled?
AF: The size of the team has varied greatly. It was seven people when we developed puzzle games, and we increased to 30 people when we worked on Hidden Object games. Now, it’s just five people.
BSM: What is your educational background? Did any of your studies directly help you in becoming a game developer?
AF: I have degree in math—a PhD actually. It definitely helps me a lot in different stages of development. For example, I calculate all the analytics for games by myself on the server.
BSM: What made you interested in working on projects in this genre?
AF: Proto Raider is my first retro game. When I started to learn computers 30 years ago, they all had alphanumeric monitors. And now, I’ve made a game in text mode as an homage to those times.
BSM: Why did you decide to take on a project of this particular scope and scale?
AF: For several years, I’ve wanted to make a game like this It’s not commercial enough to include in our development schedule, so I had to do this game by myself in what little free time I had—and I did!
BSM: Given that games can change quite a bit throughout development, what did your game look like early in its development cycle?
AF: The first levels of the game were just characters in text editor with monospaced font. Despite the limited graphics, you could already imagine how to pass the levels.
BSM: Describe a typical day of game development for you. What is it like?
AF: Almost 90% of development time went to designing the levels. I tried to make one level per day. and Aat the end of the day, I’d ask my son Michael (6 years old) to play the level. After that, I’d ask my wife to play. If Michael passed the level with 10 attempts and if my wife passed the level with 5 attempts, then I considered the level okay.
BSM: What were some challenges you had to overcome in the development process?
AF: The main challenge was finding the time! I thought that the best time would be during vacation . . . but not all the members of my family agreed.
BSM: What are some of your favorite parts of game development?
AF: I honestly love absolutely all parts of game development, but my most favorite part is receiving positive feedback from players after release. I love to read comments like: “Proto Raider gave me back my 1997. I cried like a girl, impressed by [the] design and music. But I have to gather strength and go through all the levels. After all, I’m a man.”
BSM: What’s next on the horizon for you both personally and professionally?
AF: Despite the fact that I’ve just turned 40, I live for today. And today I want to make another game in text mode, but in the Sci-Fi style. If you’re interested, join the development process on our Facebook group!