Is it worth quitting your day job for a career in game development? Let's hear what Toby: The Secret Mine's developer has to say.
Continuing a series of interviews conducted last year with indie game developers, I'm now glad to bring to you what Lukáš Navrátil was going through just a few months before he released the successful game Toby: The Secret Mine.
Navrátil's story is particularly interesting as it represents the passion upon which indie game developers build their dream and, in his case, a quick and impressive success.
This is a short interview Navrátil was kind enough to give me during a time he was working hard to finish Toby, talking to the press and getting ready to show a full version of Toby to the world.
IndieWatch: Could you tell me a bit about yourself?
Lukáš: My name is Lukáš Navrátil and I live in Czech Republic, a tiny country in the middle of Europe.
I’m relatively new in the game industry. I used to work as a croupier at a casino for eight years. That was a really boring and depressing experience. I wanted to do something creative and something I could be proud of. I love games and, like many other beginners, I thought it couldn't be so hard to make one by myself.
I didn’t know how huge is the amount of work behind that process. I started learning everything about it and because I had zero experience about art, sounds, game design and even about programming, I started with beginners' books and my first “hello world” programs. That was around three years ago.
Several months ago, thanks to my amazing girlfriend who is supporting me, I was able to leave my job and fully focus on learning how to make games.
These days I’m finally finishing Toby: The Secret Mine, my first “real” game and preparing it for release.
A storyboard for Toby: The Secret Mine
IndieWatch: How do you usually come up with your game ideas and how do you test them to know they'll be fun and will work as expected?
Lukáš: Usually when I have free time to play some games, I try to figure out what’s good and bad in them and what makes games entertaining and cool or boring and bad.
I try to put any of my ideas on paper so I could use them for my own games later.
About testing - It’s always good let your friends to try your prototypes and ideas, watching them while they’re playing it and putting everything on paper. That gives you great feedback about what works and what doesn’t.
Painting a scene for Toby: The Secret Mine
IndieWatch: Tell us about your current work with Toby: the secret mine. What is it about? Are you working with a team or have you done everything on your own? What's been the most difficult part of its development so far?
Lukáš: I’m working alone from my home on this project but not everything in the game is made just by myself. For example game music is made by an outsourced composer, most sound effects are bought at asset stores and there is also a professional artist who is helping me with a graphic design and environments used in the game.
The most difficult part of working as one man indie developer for me is that I have to do everything by myself. I had to learn every solution by searching on the internet without having someone to ask for help. Sometimes even the simplest problems can take hours, days or weeks to solve for a single person with little experience.
Another difficult thing is that you can sometimes lose your motivation and it’s hard to force yourself to work.
Lukáš: What do you read or has read and you now recommend for beginners in game development?
Lukáš: I haven’t read many specific books about game development. I started with beginner book about Objective-C programming (I wanted to start with iPhone apps first), some other books about simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe and one book about game industry from Czech authors.
After that I was reading and watching every interesting tutorial on the internet and trying everything by myself.
I think you don’t have to read much about game development. You just have to do something. Learning by trying and making mistakes.
IndieWatch: How do you think free software can help game developers nowadays? Are you using any free software to make Toby?
Lukáš: I don’t think many indies have money for buying an expensive professional software, so freeware is often the only choice.
The main thing I’m using every day is an engine. I do everything in the Unity which is completely free and easy to learn for beginners.
For editing audio I use Audacity which can do everything I need and is also free.
I’m using Mac so I draw all the assets in Pixelmator. This is not free but it’s quite cheap and powerful solution when you can’t afford Photoshop.
IndieWatch: What advices would you offer the high school student who wants to pursue a career in the game industry if he/she was to follow a path similar to yours?
Lukáš: I don’t think I’m the right person to give advices about that.
I have no experience about game development classes or courses at schools. I’ve learned everything by myself.
You just should focus on what you love.
Do you like making games? So just start making them.
Pick something extremely easy like Pong and build it from scratch to the completed game.
IndieWatch: What would you have done differently in the past in your career if you could? What do you intend to do now to achieve the goals you wish to?
Lukáš: Not much. I’m quite happy with my own life as it is now. But I’m sorry for that wasted years in a job I hated when I could use that time for doing something that I love.
These days I don’t have any plans for the future. I just have to finish my game, release it and we’ll see. I definitely want to keep on making games because it’s awesome and I love it.
Photo: Lukáš Navrátil
You can find more about Lukáš Navrátil on the following pages: