Herculean Undertakings: MiPixel Games

2023-10-05 by Callum Andrews

A life-changing moment

While some get into game development as a hobby, others try it out of curiosity and others like Michael Ingram the founder of MiPixel Games. Get life-altering news that sets them on the arduous path that is called game development and never look back.

Hi and thanks for participating in our Indiedev series. Could you please give a short presentation of yourself and tell us about how you got started with game development?
Sure thing, hi, my name is Michael I am a lover of video games, new and old. The first games console I ever had was the Sega Master System, I then had the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis) and I grew up playing that games console a lot. We had the Sega Channel cartridge which downloaded 50 games to the console every month, so, I played a lot.

As for how I got started with game development, well, there is good and bad in this. I always had an interest in martial arts and in games. My original career choice was actually to use martial arts in a job, to be honest, I wanted to be a UFC fighter. Unfortunately, when I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with a Giant Cerebral Aneurism. Long story short on that one, it was exceedingly severe, the Drs didn’t think I was going to reach my 17th birthday. As it stands, I am now 34, I still have the Anuerism but it is stable. I ended up having to give up on the UFC and Martial Arts dreams though and decided to learn coding to become a games developer. Wanting to give players as much joy as Sega, Nintendo and other games companies have given me.

How many games have you published so far and what was your first game that you developed?
Through MI Pixel, I have only published Defend from Candyland! at the moment. I used to run a company called Retz Gaming Days however where I published Magical Defence and Fre3kshow’s Balloon Pop on the Google Play Store. I have also worked on other games for different clients as well as other software projects.

The first game I developed? That would probably be Catch Sonic. It was a silly little point-and-click game made in Game Maker many, many years ago. Sonic the Hedgehog was bouncing around the screen and you had to click on him within a few seconds, he kept getting faster and faster. It was a silly little game but my friends and family enjoyed it.

Sweet outside but hard inside

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 think for this I will talk about Defend from Candyland! as it is the first game I published through my current company, MI Pixel.

Defend from Candyland! was definitely a reiterative process. My health had been poor for a while and I had actually been marked by doctors as not well enough to work. With the help of my fiancé, I have been able to get myself into a better place and start working again. I decided to start by doing what I know and started working on a Tower Defence game for mobile. The point, in my head, was to make a simple but good game to release, spend a small amount of time on it, and then move on to the next game. This didn’t happen. I remembered an old Tower Defence game I was very fond of, Desktop Tower Defence and I wanted to build something that had a similar mechanic to that. The more I worked on the game, the more I added to it, it was on my other half’s suggestion that I published it on Steam instead of making it for mobile.

I ended up releasing the game in Early Access and asking players for feedback to improve the game, this went on for about a year and I brought it out of Early Access back in February. It has been a really fun ride, seeing just how much has changed from the beginning.

So after coming up with the concept for your game what were the first steps you took into making it
As soon as I knew I wanted to make a Tower Defence game, I got started on making the core mechanics, I started making the tower system and an adaptive path-finding system for the enemies, so that their path updates when you place towers. I

What has been the hardest part of your development journey why?
The hardest part has been marketing. I don’t really have a marketing head on my shoulders and I have learned that I did a lot wrong with Defend from Candyland! All of the feedback I get on the game is good. From what I can see so far, everyone that plays the game enjoys it. At the same time though, I can’t seem to get to that elusive 10 reviews on Steam from people that have paid, I will get there though. I have learned much and I aim to use what I have learned in future games.

Did you possess any skills before you started developing games that were applicable to your game development journey?
I actually went to University a few years back and did a Games Development course. I then worked as a Software Engineer shortly after that and furthered my coding knowledge/skills, even earning Augmented Reality Developer of the year back in 2020 from Corporate LiveWires Innovation and Excellence Awards. At the same time, I have never been an artist however, when I built my games under Retz Gaming Days I purchased art packs etc. and people always complained about the art in the games. Due to this, I decided to try and learn Pixel Art, I did a Udemy Course in it and now I make all of the art for my games as well.

I am always learning new things and will continue to do so.

When did you decided to publish your game and how long did it take to reach that point from the development phase?
When I first started working on Defend from Candyland! I didn’t have any set dates in place. I didn’t really have a plan. I wanted to publish the game when it was ready, but I ended up releasing it in Early Access instead, which was only ever planned to be for a year. Due to the feedback I received and all of the extra work I put into it, it ended up being in Early Access for a little bit longer at 13 months. I am still looking after the game now, whilst also working on my next game, Supernatural Hunters.

Planning is for suckers

How much of it went according to plan?
Like I said, I didn’t really have a plan. Not something I would advise for others makes it quite difficult to structure your day.

Has this journey had any influence on you as an individual and has it led to any personal growth or lessons learned?
Yes. I learned the importance of marketing for one, I never really thought about it before, a rookie mistake I know. I am now thinking more about the customers who would want to play the next games and how to make it perfect for those people. As well as this, I was never really a social person, online or other. I have met many people online (and some in person) who have been a great help. I am now trying to be more social online, posting more about what I am doing or sometimes just bad jokes to give people a chuckle here and there. I am doing my best to break out of my shell.

So what's next for you and can we expect any new game(s) soon?
Well, something I never thought I would do, I am making a DLC art pack for Defend from Candyland! The only reason I am making this is because players of the game have asked me to, they stated they wanted DLC so they could support me more whilst I make next games etc. So, I am making a Halloween art pack for Defend from Candyland! Aside from that, I started work on a Roguelike game with a Supernatural/Dark Fantasy aesthetic called Supernatural Hunters. It will play a bit like Binding of Isaac or Enter the Gungeon etc. All of the levels are procedurally generated and there will be characters to unlock and more. I have actually made a plan for this one but it has unfortunately been on hold for a little while due to completing client work.

Would you like to tell us anything else, that we haven't asked but that could be relevant to future game developers?
For future game developers I would say this, most of us game developers don’t think about marketing or think about it too late. Learn from us, do not do this. If you want your game to be successful, work on the marketing when designing the game, and listen to your audience. You are designing the game for them after all.

You can checkout Michaels's Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and keep up with his current and future work.