Herculean Undertakings: Burger Media

2023-08-08 by Callum Andrews

Taking those first steps

We're back with another installment in our interview series, where we talk to some of the indie developers who decided to brace the world of game development all alone.

This time we got to talk to Brian from Burger Media, who seems to have always been more interested in modifying games than actually playing them.

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.
Gamedev has been a thing in my life for as long as gaming has. I was the 12-year-old kid who bought the original Doom because I heard you could make levels for it. If a game had a level editor or modding tools, I absolutely had to have it. I was waaaay dedicated.. this was in a world before the internet was as popular as it is today. It could take hours or even days to find an answer to a simple question about an editing tool... if that answer even existed. I spent hours pounding my head against those editors trying to figure them out... and somehow doing it. One time, when I was about 14, my mother was taking me to a waterpark to play. I was troubleshooting a script problem in a level I was making for Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, so I printed off all my scripts and took them in the car with me to try to find the problem... I was a strange kid I suppose, but a passion is a passion and for me, it's been consistent for my whole life
I dove into standalone titles when RPGMaker '95 was available through unsanctioned translations. I made a bunch of games with that, and other RPG maker iterations. My first commercial release came on GameMaker Studio in 2017.

How many games have you published so far and what was your first game that you developed?
I've commercially published 3 titles, and have published 5 free to play "Game Jam" titles. The first commercial release was a game on Steam called "Azure Sky Project". (now free-to-play). It was a 2D tactical shooter that is a little unintuitive, a little clunky, but I absolutely love it. I made it free to play because I don't feel that it's representative of a commercial-quality game all these years later. I just want people to enjoy it at this point.

Diving in head-first

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 watched a video about "Game Juice" (Game feel) by the guys at Vlambeer. I think it's called "The Art of Screenshake". That video inspired me to make an arcadey, simple-to-pick-up action game. That's how Azure Sky Project (ASP) started. Things were going great, so naturally, scope creep came along. I added more tactical situations, hand-built levels (it was procedural originally), item shops, crafting, a little tower defense mini-game, and an entire campaign... what went from a simple high-score chase became a full-fledged title. It also became a mess of spaghetti code. When all was said and done, releasing that game was one of the most exciting days of my life.

So after coming up with the concept for your game what were the first steps you took into making it?
I am 100% not a planner. I dive in and start making stuff. Every project I've released was immediately playable and built on from there. If it sounds fun I add it. If it's not fun, I take it back out. I'm getting better now at deciding whether adding something is a good idea at this point. ASP was no different. I just dove right in head first and figured it would sort itself out.

What has been the hardest part of your game development journey why?
Balance. I get really *really* into my projects. I stay up too late working on them. I wake up early to troubleshoot a bug. It's always a challenge for me to put it down and walk away for a while. I work daily, for 3-4 hours a day when I'm active on a project. Motivation has never been an issue, but part of me misses sitting down and just playing video games at night. I don't do that anymore. I don't even look at games the same anymore... having made a few, the illusions are all kind of broken for me.

Did you possess any skills before you started developing games that were applicable to your game development journey?
Not really. I had a basic knowledge of C++ which translated well to GameMaker Language and also to C#. My coding skills are still amateur at best. It might take me 10 lines of code to accomplish what an expert can do in 5 lines. At the end of the day though, it all works.

Planning accordingly

When did you decide to publish your game and how long did it take to reach that point from the development phase?
When ASP was in development, Steam was still using Steam Greenlight (a system where you present your game to the community at large, and they vote on whether it should be on the Steam store or not). It didn't cost money to get on Steam at that point. I submitted ASP on a whim, and it got Greenlit towards the end of that system's existence, and once that happened, the decision was made for me. The game was still heavily in the prototype phase at that point, but there was enough content that I could throw together a trailer.

How much of it went according to plan?
Surprisingly, almost all of it. All of the deviations from the plan were in my favor. I met an artist on Reddit who offered to come on board and overhaul the entire game for me. It was all programmer art at that point. She did a fantastic job, and she was a huge part of the game's success. A professional video editor offered to make a trailer for me to get his game-trailer portfolio going. His work was incredible, and he also is a big reason for the title's overall success. I sort of just kept lucking out along the way.

Has this journey had any influence on you as an individual and has it led to any personal growth or lessons learned?
Hah, how to manage expectations. When I published ASP I was sure that I was about to make life-changing money. (Spoiler, I didn't). The game sold decently well, but it wasn't spectacular. For my next release, I had that same hope, and again, I didn't have mansion money. What I did gain was a ton of confidence and self-appreciation. It's really hard to publish a game. I know there are a ton of great games out there that never got finished. I have this ability to put my head down and power through these projects, and I'm very grateful for that.

So what's next for you and can we expect any new game(s) soon?
I'm making my dream game now. I haven't gotten to do that yet - but I've spent all these years honing the skills to do it and I'm finally there. The game is an open-world RPG but it's set in a fake MMORPG world. There are simulated players who will raid and group with you (and each other), guilds, hidden and rare spawns, all kinds of loot, thousands of items and quests, and hundreds of NPCs to talk to. I'm around 6 months into development. It's called "Erenshor" and there's a Steam page for it now. I'm working with a marketing professional to build awareness of the project as it progresses through development, and I have some great friends who are constantly testing new features for me. This one's a big one!

Would you like to tell us anything else, that we haven't asked but that could be relevant to future game developers?
My advice to future developers would be to get started now. Right now, or at least as soon as possible. You do have to spend some time building foundations before you can get into the really fun stuff. There is SO MUCH information on the internet about every single game engine, literally, anyone can get into game development. The engines are free. The tutorials are free. You just have to want it bad enough to keep at it. Think of it this way - 3 years from now you can be an expert in this field, but that requires you taking the first steps today. 3 years go by fast!

Thanks, Brian for taking part in our feature and we wish you good luck in your future endeavors. To view the full catalog of games from Burger Media make sure to check out his Steam page or why not drop in on his Discord and say hi.