MEET THE DEVELOPER
Fatherhood turned me into a game maker
How an impending arrival helped Luca Redwood quit his office job.
Luca Redwood had always dreamed about making his own videogames, but he never believed he’d ever do it for real. Life just got in the way.
He studied software development at University, landed a steady job making financial services software and got married. So life was great – but it wasn’t, you know, the dream.
Then, a rather convenient deadline arrived. His wife was expecting their first baby; a mini-Redwood would soon occupy every spare second he had.
“I thought – it’s now or never,” Redwood tells us. “I never even remotely expected any measure of success, but at least if I tried to make a game now I could say I gave it a go.”
He had dabbled with a few side projects before, but it was time to get serious: Redwood decided he’d try to make a game before baby arrives, or forget indie game development forever.
It was decided. His magnum opus would be a turn-based game in which you trawl dungeons battling baddies and collecting loot. Or so he thought.
“It was never meant to be a match-three game,” says Redwood. “I just iterated and iterated, and every time I made a tweak in that direction, it felt better.”
He’d somehow ended up with 10000000, a compelling fusion of match-three, running and strategy game mechanics. He’d almost finished it by the time baby Redwood was born, and after making a few more tweaks during paternity leave, he released 10000000 on July 25 2012.
“That night I decided to celebrate the release of the game – and of course the baby! – so I went out with a few friends,” says Redwood. “When I woke up the next day, I had a load of Skype messages saying ‘everyone’s talking about your game’.”
Match for your Freedom!
10000000 was being discussed on forums and social media, and then several gaming websites covered the game, praising its unusual mix of familiar genres.
It was a hit. Three months after 10000000 was released, Redwood quit his office job and became a full-time indie game developer.
I never even remotely expected any measure of success, but at least if I tried to make a game now I could say I gave it a go.
His second game was completed without a baby-shaped deadline.
And Redwood feels it’s all the better for it. You Must Build A Boat actually began life as a simple content update to 10000000, but evolved into something else entirely. Before being stripped back again.
“I tried to design something completely different,” says Redwood. “It had this whole ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style. There were monsters you fought, like in a Pokémon game. But when I took all that out, it was just better.”
It wasn’t just a side project, either; Redwood’s career as an indie developer was riding on this release. “It’s extremely nerve-wracking,” he tells us. “You’re thinking: ‘have I just wasted three years of my life?’”
He needn’t have worried. You Must Build A Boat was received by critics and players even more enthusiastically than 10000000. Redwood won’t be returning to the world of financial software any time soon, that’s for sure.
And as work continues apace on Redwood’s next game, arriving later this year, even now he seems surprised to be able to call himself an indie game developer.
“The dream was always too big,” he adds, with typical humility. “But, you know, I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Amazing what you can do when you’ve got a deadline, isn’t it?