THAT TIME I WANTED TO CREATE A VIDEOGAME

Manual from Columbia
Mar 28 · 9 min read
Art by Alejandro González

It’s odd, isn’t it? There’s something off in the cover image. I know you notice it. It’s the boy. I was stubborn back then that I couldn’t see it. More on this later… So, how should I begin? How about with I was one of those who chose Computer Science as a career so one day I could work in the video game industry.

THE CAVE YOU FEAR TO ENTER
HOLDS THE TREASURE YOU SEEK.

Famous words from Joseph Campbell that took me a while to pay attention to. After graduating from College in 2006 I became a coder. I worked for various industries not related to the entertainment industry. Leaving your comfort zone is hard and by comfort, I mean leaving money behind. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I had forgotten the main reason I studied Computer Science. Then I quit my job and decided to create my first video game. This is not a story of an indie game developer with a happy ending like Phil Fish (Fez), Jonathan Blow (Braid) or Edmund McMillen (Meat Boy), but I wish that was the case 🤕.

I did not know where to start, or what to do. I did some search if any company or group were working in video games in Colombia. At that time, I found about Immersion Games. I reached them out but they didn’t have any jobs. Immersion was a small team supported by a local government backup tech incubator in Cali. Immersion Games (now called Efecto Studios and co-developers of the acclaimed ARK: Survival Evolved) break into the industry with a series called CELLFACTOR.

I had to keep looking for opportunities but back then there weren’t many options to choose. Nowadays the scenario has changed: According to gamedevmap, there are about 11 studios working in games. I think this number is inaccurate since Efecto Studios is not listed and probably others are missing. Colombia has invested millions of dollars, helping teams on their path to creating games. They even got good influencers like Diego Angel, founder of Angel Studios (now Rockstar San Diego), responsible for games such as Midtown Madness, and Red Dead Revolver. Here’s a good article from Polygon of who Diego is.

Not being able to find a job at video games I had to create one of my own. I co-founded PERKATT GAMES with Andrés Rua (my sister’s husband) in 2008.

I have something to confess to you right now: All the work I did with PERKATT has completely vanished. The Unity3D projects, all of the artwork, all the promos, everything 😓. I did not save my work on the cloud. My MacBook Pro broke down; I left it at a shop to had it repair. Days later, that shop burned to the ground… True story — — What you are about to see is what I managed to recover from friends who worked with me on the games.

We did 2 iOS games: Cosmo and Rebellion. I tried to find some .ipa files on piracy websites but the files I found were corrupted.

This is the only thing I recovered from Cosmo:

THE POWER OF THE COSMOS AT THE PALM OF YOUR HAND. Dare yourself to live an immersive experience that will lead you to conquer the power of the cosmos. Go through cosmic rings of several colors and shapes arranged in amazing patterns that challenge your coordination abilities. Enjoy the great music and travel through all the stages with innovative and simple gameplay. FEATURES — 5 intense levels. Great original music. Innovative, addictive and simple gameplay. Smooth touch and accelerometer controls. Stunning visuals. Perform combos. Beat your scores. Unlock levels. Fun eye-hand coordination challenges. High production values. Viral consequences when playing in front of people. COMMUNITY — Stay in touch. Visit perkatt and join our facebook fan page, follow us at twitter and look for youtube videos!!! We will announce updates and news. Use these services to post your comments, reviews and more!!!

😕. I worked on that project with Sebastián Hoyos (Sano) a good friend, a musician and also a great graphic designer. He didn’t want to be responsible for the audio so he introduces me to Alejandro Velez and Jose Santamaria (Protov), they did music (which was great) and the sound FX. Andrés and I did the design and coding using Unity3D. Cosmo did not work out since we put a ridiculous $3.99 price tag. It should have been for free.

Due to its failure, the lack of sales, the lack of money, the team got dissolved. There was some tension between Andrés and me due to some stupid shit that I honestly don’t remember. It was probably my fault; I was young, immature, and I didn’t like to lose.


I do believe in second chances and after a small re-branding of the company PERKAT GAMES and thanks to Jaime Jaramillo (good friend) I met Alejandro Gonzalez (check out the James t-shirt!). He is responsible for that badass warrior from the cover.

Alejandro introduced me to Cesar Correa a 3D artist and music composer, awesome human being. The two of them introduce me to Papo and Rios both 3D artists which I had to let them go at the initial phase of development since they weren’t following good teamwork practices. Juan Gabriel Alzate was in charge of sound effects. So, what was Rebellion? Let’s the official description answer that question:

Support the BETA program. The game will rise to $2.99 when it gets a stable version. Send your feedback to info@perkat.net WARNING! this game is for iOS 4th generation devices. Older models are not supported. REBELLION tells the story of Jake Knight, an 8-year-old boy who is destined to be the savior of the universe. Jake is too young to assume such responsibility, so the greatest warrior ever known was given the task of his protection and training. In this journey, Jake discovers a plan by the shadows, creatures of the underworld, that will lead us to our annihilation. This is PERKAT´s first project as an independent studio formed in Latin America. The game is intended to be an action RPG adventure, but only with your support we can continue our work and deliver the most pleasant and fun experience. WHAT´S IN IT — Addictive single-player experience. Great retina display 3D graphics. Dynamic Environments. Simple touch controls. — WHAT YOU GET SOON — Game Center integration. Achievements and Leaderboards. More episodes with diverse gameplay modes. A great and compelling story. A full multiplayer episode. Stay tuned, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/perkatgames

🤦🏻‍. Shame on me. There are interesting things though. I’m not saying that I was a pioneer on the matter but if you pay attention at the end of the description, I’m talking about “episodes with diverse gameplay modes”. Back then there were no games on mobile offering this kind of features. Most of the games were adding levels or challenges but not a complete episodic story like Telltale Games delivers since the Walking Dead. All I wanted to deliver was a God of War clone that allows players to kick the bad guy’s ass; an idea that quickly flipped due to technical challenges.

The game was only supported by 4th generation iOS devices. I remember that I used to test on an iPod Touch. That is a real screenshot of the gameplay. It looked good for its time.

Remember the boy? Even in the description seems off. He doesn’t belong and the reason for this is the boy was never part of my original story. I’m a fan of the “fall into the tunnel” gameplay of God of War III and I wanted to start the story with this concept. The original plan for the first episode was to introduce the universe of the warriors of light. The player would begin as Kael, a warrior who is being chased by a horde of shadows and his only chance of escape was to reach one of the doors that connects Earth to the light dimension. The door is located at the center of Earth were humans discovered by digging a massive hole. Kael will jump into the hole and as he falls the shadows would possess objects at the surroundings of the tunnel trying to stop Kael’s escape.

REBELLION game concepts: Tunnel design with obstacles. Drill boss fight with Jake.
The door to the light world. Kael brother warriors. Jake invokes Kael’s power glove.

So, why the boy? It turns out that creating the 3D model of Kael, the warrior you saw at the beginning of this article, was too difficult to do. When Unity3D started supporting development for iOS, there were some limitations of what the device could handle. One of those limitations were the number of polygons a scene could have per frame. Since Kael design was to complex, it would require a good amount of polygons reducing the number of objects we could have on the game.

KAEL. Warrior of light. Jake Knight’s guardian angel. Pfff! He was supposed to be the heir of the light world but he was outcast by his brother Kain who desired such power; just like Thor and Loki.

For anyone reading this, do not make the same mistake I did: I “fixed” this problem from a story point of view, which means, I forcibly include a character that was easy enough to design so we can have a better gameplay experience. If you analyze Rebellions art and description closely, you will notice that the boy doesn’t belong. I could have suggested a design change for the warrior. I could have explored more solutions to the polygon problem. I didn’t do any of that. I have regretted this decision ever since.

We needed to put the boy everywhere. From the icon launcher to the main menu, to the storyboard. It made me change the original narrative. It was annoying 😠.

After tapping -Start- the game had a video using the storyboard frames.
The video was built by Cesar Correa. Try to do an exercise:
Remove the boy from these frames. It looks better right?

I just wish that I had never lost those Unity3D projects. I could have the possibility to tweak and re-release the game. Coding the gameplay was fun and challenging. Despite is a “fall through a tunnel and avoid obstacles” idea, It was hard to have a game like this that wouldn’t become monotonous in a short time.

UI glow on players interaction.
UI reacts on main character status.
In this example, Jake got hit by an obstacle.

I designed the game to be one of those you will need to complete in one go. It was a 5-minute experience, the tunnel offered 5 stages each one with challenges on their own, if you died you will need start all over again. The deeper you fall into the tunnel, the shadows would control more of the environment. At the end of stage 2, Jake would gain the ability to fire energy beams. Kael’s forearm would glow on Jake’s left arm. Green orbs restore health (HP). Blue orbs restore magic (MG). I even code a rolling movement to avoid big obstacles (do a barrel roll!).

A review published by mrmobilegamer on January 12, 2011.

When we released it, team expectations were high. I used to over-estimate how people can react to something you have created. Despite the good graphics and “decent” gameplay (reviewers own words), people will stick with what is bad. They call this a Pokémon clone (which is funny now that I look at this with fresh eyes) and I was able to found one user comment: Wow, not sure if anyone else is having such a hard time with this. I just keep hitting things as I go down the tube and eventually die. Not terribly fun.

🥺. The gameplay was not what the majority of people expected. It was considered broken. Once again, tension arises on all team members. There were fights and demands to fix the game. I tried my best with what Unity3D offered at that time but nothing seemed to work out.

PERKAT closed later that year 💔. Both games were taken down from the AppStore. Days later, my laptop broke down (like if I needed more bad things to happen). For me was life trying to say that I need to move forward. It was time to try new things and let the past go.

I don’t regret any of this. I miss my friends who joined me on this adventure. They are good talented people and I have wished them the best ever since. Maybe someday in the future, I will have the guts to try videogame development one more time. Time will tell.

Manual from Columbia

Written by

I’m a computer science guy who felt in love with design currently living in Los Angeles, California.

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