Herculean undertakings: Yach Studios

2023-06-05 by Callum Andrews

The start

Creating a game has always been a huge undertaking. There are so many elements involved and that need to work together to make it a good game. So it's no wonder then that it for a very long time required a whole group of people to make a game. However, in recent years we've seen an emergence of people who decide to go at it alone and try to make it happen. The results have of course varied as with many things but there surely have been a couple of surprises with some great games out there that have been developed by a single developer.

Some games that come to mind and that have taken the gaming world by storm are Spelunky, developed by solo developer Derek Yu, Stardew Valley developed by software developer Eric Barone and let's not forget about Flappy Birds (remember that one?) which was developed by Dong Nguyen. Nowadays there are several dozen solo developers developing various games ranging between all sorts of genres.

With this series, we will try to talk to some of these developers and ask them about their game development journey. How things went, how they started, what it meant to them, or if it in some ways changed them?

First out in our series is Dan Lungaro, founder of Yacht Studios and developer of V-Hunter Puzzler Dx Which we reviewed a coupled of weeks back here.

The challenges

Hi, and thanks for participating in our Indiedev series. Could you please give a short presentation of yourself and tells us about how you got started with game development? Hi, my name is Dan Lungaro, founder of Yatch Studios. I’m a professional software engineer by day, currently working for Amazon. I began coding about 2011 but started to get more into game development in 2021. I started out by doing game jams and used several engines, including RPG Maker, Game Maker, Godot, and the Playdate SDK.

How many games have you published so far and what was your first game that you developed? So far, I have one commercial release, V-Hunter Puzzler Dx. I do have one free game released for the Playdate, Missile Crank.

How did you come up with the idea for that game and was that the first idea that you came up with or was it more of a reiterative process? I came up with V-Hunter Puzzler Dx for Mini Jam 118 (https://itch.io/jam/mini-jam-118-vampires/results). The theme was vampires, so that helped to set the theme. The limitation was blood is dangerous, so that’s why enemy blood in the game is lethal to the player. The movement/grid style was actually inspired by One Way Heroics, a really cool rogue-lite. I went for more of a puzzle design over an RPG, due to the time constraints of the game jam (72 hours).

So after coming up with the idea for your game what were the first steps you took into making it? The advantage to making the game in a game jam is that it forces you to get a minimum viable product (MVP) out in a short time. Within a few days, you’ll have baseline gameplay systems down and get early feedback on the game. It’s part of why I choose to take V-Hunter Puzzler Dx to a full release, it got 4th place in the game jam.

What was the hardest part of your journey and why?? For me, it was marketing. Puzzle games are a bit of a niche market, and it’s pretty tough to get noticed. I did what I felt was a lot of work and barely scratched 100+ wishlists before launch.

Did you possess any skills before you started developing games that were applicable to your game dev journey? My day job is as a programmer and I have a bachelor's and master's degree in Computer Science. Programming is definitely my forte, but I’m lacking in the art department, unfortunately.

When did you decide to publish your game and how long did it take to reach that point from the development phase? When I got 4th place in Mini Jam 118, I decided to go forward with a full release. I wanted to get the full experience of developing and releasing a commercial game. So, just a few days later.

How much of it went according to plan? Most of the development went fairly smoothly. The biggest challenge was gaining wishlists and building a community, and I’d say it was not according to plan. Much tougher than anticipated.

The next step

Has this journey had any influence on you as an individual and has it led to any personal growth or lessons learned? While it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, it was still a great learning experience and I feel much more prepared for my next project.

So what's next for you and can we expect any new game(s) soon? Definitely! I’ve already started work on my next project. It’s going to be a fireteam rogue-lite tactics game, where you build the map with each turn by placing tiles. I’ve been posting updates on my Twitter and Mastodon. (https://linktr.ee/yatchstudios)

Would you like to tell us anything else, that we haven't asked but that could be relevant to future game developers? I’d really recommend talking with fellow game devs that have released games. They can give you invaluable feedback and help you through the process. Martin from Daisy Games (https://twitter.com/DaisyGames3) was insanely helpful throughout the whole process. He’s also a great puzzle game dev and you should check his stuff out!

Thank you Dan and we wish you luck on your further game dev journey.

If you would like to be part this series and tell the world of your game development journey then be sure to hit us up at [email protected]