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Games / Indie Games

Mindhelix: Developer Interview With Marcin Puchalski

Mindhelix: Developer Interview With Marcin Puchalski

As an avid gamer who has a special place in his heart for Indie games, I have been scouring Steam Greenlight looking for new and upcoming projects by Indie devs. It’s not always easy to find the right game, but when when you do, it’s a great feeling to show support and see the game progress!

For those who didn’t know, in Greenlight, developers can put up their game concepts (including screenshots, preview videos, and early builds) upon which community users can vote for these titles. Once titles have received a minimum number of votes, Valve will determine if the title is appropriate for the service, and then start working with the developer to bring the game/software to the Steam digital marketplace. Once this stage is reached, the game is considered “Greenlit”.

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Well, that’s how I came across CyberSentinel, and upcoming game by Mindhelix. In CyberSentinel you take the role of a hacker, who writes programs to steal data from secure systems in a kind of ’80s/’90s stylized version of cyberspace. The game takes inspirations from the works of Alan Turing.

We got lucky enough to get in touch with the developers at Mindheix, and we have with us Marcin Puchalski, who is heading the project!

Gaming Central: Hey Marcin! Tell us a bit about yourself!

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Marcin: My name is Marcin, I’m 33 years old and I’m indie game developer from Poland.

GC: When did you get started with playing games (and what was the first game that you remember)?

Marcin: I started playing games somewhere around 1990, my first computer system was Commodore 64 and first games I remember are Bruce Lee and Cybernoid.

GC: How did you get started with developing games?

Marcin: I always wanted to make games. As soon as I got first computer I started to copy programs written in Basic from polish magazines (noone thought it would be good to just add cassette to magazine :). Then I started to modify them and learn programming. After some years I nearly forgot I wanted to make games because I started working in „normal” companies that made webpages or PC software. They weren’t big corporations but after 5-6 years I just knew this wasn’t for me.

So about 2-3 years ago, still working full-time, I started to work on smaller games, went to a couple of gamejams and finally dropped my job to complete my homemade game projects.

GC: If you weren’t a game developer you would be a…?

Marcin: A very very very sad person or an artist of some kind 🙂

GC: What game are you working on right now? Can you tell us a bit more about the game?

Marcin: I’m finishing up Cyber Sentinel. In Cyber Sentinel you take the role of a hacker, who writes programs to steal data from secure systems in a kind of ’80s/’90s stylized version of cyberspace. You don’t need to know any programming language, because programs are created using a variation of Alan Turing’s state machine diagrams via a touch-based 3D interface. Its implementation is easy to use, yet complicated enough to teach programming basics.

Currently game is 99% finished, all is left are translations for most popular languages. I’m also in the middle of pushing my game to Steam throught Steam Greenlight.

In the mean time I’m prototyping some new game ideas but nothing to announce just yet.

GC: Which game development tools are you using?

Marcin: I’m using UnityEngine plus GIMP, Blender and Audacity for assets.

GC: What is your favorite platform to develop for? How do you choose which platform to make games on?

Marcin: At the beginning I’m thinking about game mechanics, what I would like to play and use, then I select right platform. I’m trying to choose mechanics which can be done on all platforms so anyone can play my game but I also have a lot of strange stuff and controllers around my house (Kinect, Playstation Move) I would like to use somehow 🙂

GC: What are the specs of your PC/Mac?

Marcin: I currently use Intel i7 laptop with AMD Radeon, 8GB of RAM and Windows 8.1 . It’s sufficient for now I think. I also have old Macbook just to make builds for iPad 🙂

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GC: What are the gaming engines you can use for developing games?

Marcin: I’m in love with Unity but I used all sort of engines, gamemakers etc.

GC: What is the basic structure for developing a game?

Marcin: For me the core of any game are mechanics, they can start simple and then evolve but they are most important. Game story, characters etc. should come up next so players can be immersed in the world but they are not always necessary.

GC: As an Indie Game Developer, what are the challenges you face?

Marcin: The biggest challenge is getting attention so people will know about you and your game. Game markets are over-saturated, players have too many games to play with more and more on the way. Even if you don’t want to earn big bucks but just want people to have fun with your game it’s really hard to get their attention. You have to come up with easy to show concept and preferably with great presentation (graphics and music). And even then you need luck or some money for marketing so a lot of people will see your game long enough to just want to play.

GC: How did you come up with the game’s concept?

Marcin: In college I was introduced to the works of Alan Turing – great British pioneer of computer science, logician, cryptoanalyst and philosopher who helped decrypt nazis’ Enigma. To be specific I was interested in diagrams of his universal state machine. Right away I started to thought if it could be used as game base but I didn’t got into gamedev in that time.

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Years later when I decided I want to make games instead of working in corporations I started from making games during game jams. One of them was Cyberpunk Jam hosted on itch.io and this was the time I got an idea how to implement those diagrams – you’re a hacker in 80/90′ cyberpunk future using them to program viruses/trojans that steal data and avoid detection.

GC: What were your inspirations?

Marcin: I was heavily inspired with 80’/90′ movies about future, computer hacking etc.

GC: What inspires you outside of gaming?

Marcin: A lots of stuff I think – music (electronic, synthpop, goa-, psy-trance – I like to listen it while making games), comicbooks, movies. There’s not enough time to incorporate all ideas that can come up in everyday life :).

GC: What would your dream game be like?

Marcin: The one that people would like to play and get back to it even after finishing it many times already. Oh and also one that will give me a lot of money so I can freely create more games :).

GC: How was your game development journey so far?

Marcin:  When I still had day to day job it was really hard… now it’s also hard but I can finish games a lot faster :). The biggest challenge for me is to reach players, media, let’s players etc. Sometimes you really feel that your games just suck and you should give up and return to corpo-like daily job. That’s when you get no feedback or just trolls and haters. But from time to time you see and hear comments from people that really enjoyed your games and that’s just great :).

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GC: Gameplay or narrative or graphics? Which is the most important according to you?

Marcin: Gameplay for sure then narrative and graphics at the very end. Gameplay is what differentiate games from movies, books and music. Ability to take control, push and get feedback.

GC: Sci-fi, Mystery,Action, or Fantasy? What would you choose and why?

Marcin: I like all of them :).

G: How long have you been working on your latest game?

Marcin: It was about year and a half with little breaks caused by my previous work.

GC: How many folks are involved in the making of your game

Marcin: I made the code and graphics, music was taken from FreeIndieMusic.com with the consent from the author ( Matthew Le Blanc (SynthR) ). Some levels were made by my girlfriend. I also got a lot of help with English translation from Dark Archon – owner of polish game related page arhn.eu. There’s also my friend Aidenn who helped with playtesting and other things.

I must also tell about Monika and Krognal who were actors in animated comicbook that players can see in-between game chapters, and other people who are still helping me to translate game to other languages.

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GC: What all can go wrong during development? What are the problems you might face while developing game?

Marcin: There’s lots of problems during development – mainly caused by your own mistakes but also errors in development tools. The biggest problem you can face is when you are not testing your game enough on other players. Their feedback is most important, you can disregard some of their advices but you should always give them game to play, shut up and just listen and observe. Immediately you will know what they don’t understand, what just doesn’t work right. And most of gameplay and UX errors come up when someone else tries do something differently than you thought.

GC: What lessons have you learned from developing your game?

Marcin: Keep on working, give your game to the players and iterate time and time again. Don’t rush anything and don’t get anything for granted. And try to build up your fanbase from the start.

GC: What games did you enjoy playing this year?

Marcin: I played Trine 1 and 2, Bayonetta 1 + 2, Zelda Wind Waker (I’m really a big fan of the series), Steamworld Dig, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and lots of indie games I play during game jams.

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GC: What is your favorite game at the moment and what makes it special?

Marcin: I think all Zelda games because they always bring on some special gameplay mechanics and try to be innovative.

GC: Any advice for budding gamers and developers?

Marcin: Keep on creating games you would like to play, build fanbase and rock-on.

GC: Anything else you would like to add?

Marcin: I wanted to greet all great guys and gals involved in making my game, all writers and readers of GamingCentral.in and I hope at least some of you will play and enjoy my game.

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GC: Thanks for sharing, Marcin! We’ll be definitely checking out CyberSentinel and also be keeping an eye out for more games from MindHelix.

Guys be sure to check out the game on Steam Greenlight right here. And for more interviews, gaming news and reviews, keep checking back at Gaming Central.

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