Looking at the path so far…

Final Fantasy I Starting Peninsula

Now that I finally completed my PhD studies, I started rethinking about my path up here. This is a path I started a long time ago. For some reason, this was the path I traced for myself since my childhood. When I was 10 (or earlier, I don’t really know for sure) I answered for the first time the question: “what do you want to do as a grown up?”. And the answer was “I’ll make games” (“I’ll make Mario’s game”, to be very precise).

And that’s what I did. I was lucky that my father was a tech lover and we had a PC at home, and that my uncle was a math nerd who coded in BASIC on his old Apple II. I literally learned running program in DOS before I could read.

One of the implementations for the LOGO programming language.

It was my uncle to introduce me to programming at the time. And my first language was the didactic language LOGO. Don’t ask me which implementation was, I don’t remember. I only remember me sitting at the PC looking at that triangular “turtle” moving around the screen under my commands. It was like magic. I started with all the usual crap such as “draw a square”, “draw a circle”, “draw some path”, “oh, look, that’s a fractal” and so on. However, in no time, I started going much deeper.

Without going into much details, I ended coding a game in there. It was a fighting game, a horrendous one, of course. It had only two characters drawn with my mouse in MSPaint that were unable to move, and two attacks: kick and punch. Everything was hardcoded and GOTOs were present everywhere in the 500 lines long functions of my code. It was bad, but was my first game ever. And I was 11, so I am still very proud of it. I would really like that the code was still somewhere and not lost in the oblivion.

Then Pokémon stroke. I spent too much time playing it. But, in the end, it was very influential to me and the reason because I convinced myself that the way to go was to code an RPG. How you can easily imagine, this was a huge step. RPGs are high-ranked into the list of “hardest game to make for a newbie”. I spent I don’t know how much time trying to implement something in LOGO and Visual Basic (a language I recently moved to). As you can imagine, both languages were not very suitable for the task. Moreover, the task was way out of my league. But I learned a lot, especially the golden rule of game development: “things are always 100 times more complicated than how initially appear”.

Rpg Maker 2k3 Splash Screen

Next step, RPG Maker. In my challenge of developing an RPG, years later, I end up with RPG maker. That was the obvious next step. Being able to achieve so easily what I spent so much time trying to make with other tools was liberating.

The RPG maker period lasted a long time and I achieved a lot. Developing as a single man a 20 hours long high quality RPG was still way out of my reach. But I enjoyed every little step along the way. Every small step was inebriating. I started many small projects, small 1-hour games as demos or tech demo. I contributed consistently to an Italian RPGMaker community, modding graphic, sharing projects, doing pixel art (I feel sad that I did not continued to practice this), doing coding work for other high-budget project (“high” respect to the community standard level). It was nice and one of the time I felt to be deep in the game making community. One of the happiest period of my life (at least in the dev field).

Then depression came and ate 10 years of my life.

However, the point is that looking back at the path I walked in makes me feel uncomfortable. I had everything planned until this very moment. I had a detailed plan that helped me not losing track of the goal even in my darkest years. But now, looking forward I see the mist. A dark-soul kind of mist: dense and that it is probably hiding a boss fight, or a bone fire. Who knows. I feel a bit lost and scared. But I also feel a spark of excitement deep into my guts.

I think it is time for me to try to do a new plan, trace a new route into the mist. In the meanwhile, if you are reading this, you are path of the path. Thanks for sharing part of this path with me. Ah… You get bonus points if you followed me from the Slashcode times! :)

PS: Not programming related stuff. I had a couple of year during middle school in which I designed a Collectible Card Game in the Dragonball setting. It was quite successful and I started selling cards in the backyard. All the cards were hand drawn by me. It was an epic challenge. Well, it was fun. I say this just in case Wizard of the Coast is looking for hiring me… or Bird Studio/Shueisha to suing me… :O