Homeless Creator of Worlds: Legend of Moros Game Developer
By: Kimberly Lucero
Q: So you’re an independent game developer? Tell me how you got into that.
A: Where should I start? The beginning of the end… So, I have always been interested in video games, it’s what I grew up with. I had thought about making games a little bit in high school, but indie games were just starting up. I could have gone to school for several years, but I was still in high school. When I really got started on this project, I was working for the state, I had a lot more money coming in from this job. I found a video game engine online that was on sale, and bought it to play around. At that time I wasn’t really thinking of doing it as a career. Then two things happened, my state job, which was pretty interesting at first, became mountainous data entry. I used my free time at work to work on game development to keep myself sane. And since writing is one of the few skills I already poses, I started writing the story for my current game. Before I knew it, I had typed up 50 pages for the story and that’s more than I’ve ever written in my life. There was some talk at work about my department becoming inessential, so with the work depression already settled in, it wasn’t worth it to keep, so I left. That’s when I moved back in with my parents, they were not happy about it, so I moved out of there and started to couch surf. And for the first few months, I didn’t know what I was doing. But at this point the Indie scene was pretty big, and I kept coming back to the idea of creating a game. So I started working a little on it, and that’s how I got here today.
Q: So where did you learn to make games?
A: In the process! I got a lot of help on forums as far as coding, and the engine that I use gets a lot of trash talk because it’s very noobie friendly. So I thought, If I am going to do this right, I want to do all new art, so I had to get better at drawing. I have to have unique looking characters, so I have to get better at sprite editing and learn to do custom animations for attacks and all of that. It’s a lot of work in progress. In the beginning, I had some good ideas… but even the story I ended up revamping. It’s a lot better now, it all clicks together.
Q: Tell us a little about your current game.
A: My current game is Legend of Moros, which a lot of people get confused about the name. Moros is the Greek Daemon of doom, which is me hinting at what the game is about without me telling people what the game is actually about. It’s a turned based Strategy RPG, it’s definitely more retro. It’s a call back to the ten year old me, it’s the type of game that I would always find myself playing. I tried to put a lot of the strategy back into the Strategy RPG. There are still cool things you can do, interesting combinations, a lot of powerful things, but nothing that just wins the game automatically, there’s no challenge in that.
Story line is always the hardest to describe. In the beginning, it looks straight forward. In the first couple of areas it’s pretty typical, there are a few big things that happen, and then as you start going into it, you start to notice that some characters seem to be in on things that aren’t readily apparent to the player. Maybe something is wrong here that we never considered, and when you get to the end it’s like ‘oh, well… we mostly knew what was going on’.
Characters, you get a lot of them… 14 ish characters. But as apposed to a class based system, all the party members are pretty well set in what they can do. And their appearance outlines that, the characters with the highest HP and defense are wearing armor. There is a character that just wears a dress and uses a scythe, and she has the highest attack power in the game, but the lowest HP in the game because there is nothing holding back her swing, but there is also nothing preventing her from getting totally wrecked from anyone else.
Q: What are some of the problems you’ve encountered while making your game? Have you been able to overcome them all? Walk us through a typical scenario where you encounter a problem and have to find a solution.
Okay, there are a lot of problems when you make a game. More than half of the work is going to be fixing the problems. It’s easy to say, this is how I want it to work, then I go to do it and find that pretty much every error that I could run into, I have… And I’ve managed to fix them all ‘so far’! I’ve spent a lot of time fixing errors. Coding is a nightmare!
There were a few different times where I had to do a lot of reading to fix outside coding, since I got a lot of code from forums online. It usually takes me hours to just fix something because I would have to find it first. There were a couple 14 hour days where it was just me messing around with stuff figuring out how it worked, and how to make it do what I need it to do. Most of what you do in development and errors is you try to find them as best you can and fix them. Another thing is to have beta testing, because there are things you will take for granted as a developer, that other people wont. You just have to put it out there at some point and go ‘I need people to look at this, I understand it’s not at it’s best but just look at it and tell me what issues you have’.
Q: I understand that because of your desire to follow your dream of being an inde developer, you have chosen to be homeless? Please explain your life choices for us a little bit.
I had a little bit of money saved, not much, I’ve basically been living off charity. It’s very difficult to do without having any network of support, and at the beginning it was really rough. It’s still rough,but at least I have people that I talk to about it, and people that help me out. It’s been tough, but I’ve survived this far so I kind of have to finish this. But I would not recommend what I decided, if I would have known, I probably would have went back to working fast food or something. This is a lot of work, if you can do it as a hobby, I would keep doing it at a hobby, because it’s exhausting. There are so many things that can go wrong, and it’s not a comfortable living situation to be in. Especially in the winter; summer… not so comfortable, but I would rather try to sleep outside in 80 degrees than 30. And dealing with homeless people, while you are also out there, is not the most comfortable thing because a lot of them do drugs, or have mental issues. Some of them don’t, but a lot of them do. Especially when you have to sleep in the same kind of area as them, there have been a few nights where I’ve been woken up and it has not been comfortable. Or I am walking along the street at midnight, and there will be a guy who is obviously on something that will follow me, and I have to figure out where a good spot would be to break the conversation off or if I should just keep walking and see if it blows over. I would like to think that it’s been my own savvy that has got me by, but I would probably pin about 90% of it on luck. I don’t recommend it, but I have to deal with it… I’ve made me decision to finish this.
Q: Can you walk us through a typical day for you?
So, I am not going to say where I usually am. I like to stay in well lit places, but that is usually parking lots where security guards will try and kick me out of. I’ve always been a light sleeper, which has been very fortunate, because I’ll hear somebody before I see them, and it’s hard to see people when you are woken up quickly, so I like to stay in well lit areas. But in order to not make things awkward, I will wake up around 5, to avoid janitors and such. I will walk for about an hour or so until I get to a McDonalds or a Starbucks, has to be a place that has outlets, and preferably a place with WiFi. So I will buy something cheap for breakfast, buy something cheap for dinner… It has not done well for my teeth. I will sit down and mooch off the power outlets and try to be as out of the way as possible.
Just be decent. If you are a regular, people will start notice and you have to decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing, in some places it’s a little bit of both. I will work on all my stuff for several hours. For my breaks I will work on spread sheets for other games. Then around 9 or 10, I leave and walk back to my spot and sleep. Yeah… and repeat.
Q: How does being homeless affect your game?
Lack of sleep doesn’t help. I can do it for a couple of days, but then I start to notice a very marked drop in productivity. After about a week, the lack of sleep really sucks. While I’m not one of those people who requires 12 hours a night to sleep, I still need something. And out there, it’s not enough, especially because I will wake up in the middle of the night because I hear a leaf move or something, I call it a healthy paranoia. I can think of two separate occasions where I’m sure it saved my life. The lack of sleep sucks, not being able to cook food and the lack of money takes its toll. Because not having a good diet sucks too, especially when all you’re living on is cheeseburgers and soda… It’s not comfortable, but I like to say it will make for a good memoir, because while it sucks, to do a creative pursuit you have to be out of your comfort zone anyway, so you learn a lot from it.
Q: Are there any influences you got from being homeless that have impacted your game?
I don’t know if I would say that, no. I would say that it’s helped me a lot to realize certain things when writing story line or designing certain characters. Because there are a lot of things I would normally take for granted, that I can see better now. Like, ‘Oh, there are a lot of white people in this game… there are no other shades for NPC’s. There isn’t even a diversity for hair color outside of anime colors’. I wouldn’t say that it’s been a large influence, homelessness specifically, but I would say that adversity has helped me really diversify my game.
Q: Why do you feel the sacrifice of living the way you do is worth the gain of what you are creating?
I don’t know if I have a good enough answer for that. There have been a few of my friends who have talked to me about waning to get into game development, but they want to work for companies. And I don’t know if I could work for a company because I would have to sacrifice so much control of the video game, and not that I couldn’t work with a team, but I need to make sure that my opinion is put out there and I have some creative control over things. I am still working on this, even though I could very well been doing something else, I’ve thought about it a few times. I can’t think of doing anything else, it’s one of those things, I guess this is what people say when you have a calling. I can’t do anything else anymore, I am either working on this, or I am thinking about working on this, or I am working on a different concept. I don’t even play games that much anymore.
I guess, I’m really stubborn. I said I was going to make a game, and I’m wanting to finish it, and I’m going to. At the very least I can put it on a resume and say I spent two and a half years working on this almost entirely by myself. I don’t know how it’s worth it, but in the end it is worth it to me.
Q: do you have any regrets about your life choice thus far? Anything you would do differently if you could go back and start over?
I would change a couple things. I think the end result would have been the same, but I would have been honest about a couple more things. I would have saved up a bit more money, especially knowing what I know now, there could have been a lot of ‘stressors’ that could have been taken completely out of the equation.
Q: What is in your future? Any plans for games after this one takes off?
Yeah, yeah… It started off where I had a couple of ideas on the back burner, now I have several to where I want to finish this game just to start working on the others. I have been working on this for a really long time… I have a lot that I want to work on, and depending on how this one goes, that determines not whether I will work on them, but how much time I am able to put into them. So yeah… more projects.
Q: Where can we go to read about your game and it’s progress? Is there a Demo we can play?
I actually will be uploading a new demo at: http://www.CannibalInteractive.com
Q: Which games do you play? What are some of your favorite games as far as development goes?
I’ve liked the Diablo series, I played a lot of Diablo 2, I’ve played a lot of Diablo 3. Legend of Mana is still one of my favorites! I encourage everyone to go and get it. Legend of Dragoon, a lot of my time was spent on the Play station 1. The advanced war series and the world ends with you were great. I suck at RTS games. Soul Calibur, except for 5, were all good games. Smash brothers is another one… I could go on for a really long time, but those are the important ones.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell your readers about you or your game?
I feel like I’ve said a lot already. I hope people like my game!
- Kimberly Lucero