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#2 Developer Spotlight: Josh Rivera - Coding Creativity

August 10, 2017

"Thinking like a programmer while remaining creative enough to design art and not understanding the limitations of each."


The second post is a Developer Spotlight. Unlike our first post, this type of post is exploring tribulations and innovations in the craft of developing video games. In our first developer spotlight we converse with solo developer Josh Rivera of Pixel Junk focusing on the crossroads of creativity and coding and how the limitations of each dictate project scope for a one dev shop. 





While we build ourselves here at Betacade, we remain solely responsible for reaching out to greatness. You don't find greatness on "The Best" lists, or The Top games of (year). You've got to dig deep into the independent developer bedrock in search for a true gem. Not the gem you use to pay for a shiny digital sword or golf club with flames in some random mobile game on steroids. No, in the year 2017 you use social media because that's where every indie shares their digital media socially.


Onward to twitter, the place for tweets.


Late night while mingling with indies, checking out projects, and swimming around the pond of creativity, I'm snagged by a tweet. A post from @joshrivera regarding his recent indie concentrations for his current project. Being the curious George of the indie game land, I dig in. 



My knowledge about getting in the weeds of creating a game is nada. "Recoding" seems like a nightmare, "state machine logic" has me thinking of tinkering with C3P0, and I minimally understand "spriting" as having to do with character coding (maybe). Where other indie enthusiasts see a simple rant, I see a lesson to be learned. The first question that sprouts in tweet form is "Sounds like a necessary evil, what's been your biggest challenge?" Josh's response is what hooked me into ultimately writing this post. He brilliantly responds;



Boom. Guru status.


Curiosity now maxed, I travel to his twitter profile and find a continuation of awesome as he states he's a college professor and IT director. Twitter allows limited space, later in an email exchange I learn he's a 15 year IT veteran without any actual game development experience. He's always admired game development as it is a combination of all things he loves; music, story, art, animation and software development. 


I think he's being quite humble. If you travel to his Twitter feed, you'll see an amazing game he's slowly cooking. The unnamed project as it were seems to be a 2D platformer with an IT driven storyline. With his long tenure in the IT industry we can assume this storyline to be chock-full of IT fun. Some extra digging found a character that can only help the player with servers. Writing and reading that makes it seem boring, so here's another embedded tweet for awesomeness proof;



Ok enough fluff. Here's the burning questions and answers from our email-conversation-interview-ish thing. 



What are some ways that you used to narrow down your project goals based on your creative/coding abilities?


Keeping your project in scope is always a challenge.  Especially when you are one person and don't have team members that help keep you grounded and can help you stay focused on your milestones.  Due to the lack of people to keep feature creep at bay, I have had several iterations of my project.  Which is bad, basically rewriting code that was working just fine or revisiting art for far too long.  I've been a bit more disciplined lately, working with tools such as Trello, the classic post it note, etc.  


Accomplishing small milestones and posting the progress online really motivates me to continue.  It also just comes down to how I feel. Some days I feel more creative and tackle art, some days I tackle code, but yes they both need to work together and it's a balancing act. 


Maybe an example or two of when you came to a crossroad where you had to choose creativity versus practicality?  


A good example, recently I was playing with the idea of having an enemy sprite change its look and behavior based on their current damage amount. This is not a new ground breaking idea, but it was challenging for me as I had to decide whether to code in shaders and logic or spend more time making several sprites. I felt more creative and ended up making a ton of sprites instead of coding. It works fine, not sure how practical it is, but it's how I felt at the moment. 



Do you think that having a one-man dev team hinders your creative/game asset output or does it force you to get things done quicker while maintaining realistic/achievable outcomes? 


Definitely the latter. It forces you to maintain realistic goals and with a leaner mentality. I guess it could hinder creativity since you aren't receiving feedback or are being inspired by team members. I remedy the situation by engaging with peers online, the online gamedev community is a great tool for participating, discussing and obtaining feedback. 



If you're continually confronted with hard decisions, would it be time to expand the team or push through towards a minimum viable game?


For me it's push through.  Don't get me wrong I like working with teams, I think it's very useful. But at this point in my career, I may not be able to dedicate the same amount of time as my team members, and sometimes I just can't deal with the pressure of deliverables.  Everyone is different and has different measurable goals so expanding to a larger team may be necessary for some, and at the right time. 


Any advice for one-person dev teams who may face some of the same challenges you've come across?


Yeah just keep doing things no matter how small or insignificant you think it might be, it's more than not doing anything at all.  It all adds up in the end. If you're burnt out on coding, don't code, play a game for research, go online and engage with the community, draw, or just don't do anything for a day or two. The act of not doing anything for a break can be very useful and helps balance and reset your imagination. So take breaks when needed, ask for help, and never stop having fun. If it feels like a chore, you're doing too much, take a break lol!


A big thanks to Mr. Josh Rivera for taking the time for the chat. He can be communicated with via these links: 



Subscribers you're awesome, keep doing you.


Clearly we're only at #2, if you missed #1, read it here.


post version 1.0 updated 08/10/2017



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