As a long time video game player, it always blew me away that there were people who actually created these masterpieces. The time and effort put into creating something like that is staggering and I’m forever impressed that even the simplest of sprites probably took 100s of hours (or more) to create. I knew I had to speak with Dennis McCorry of Rochester NY about his game, The Sword and the Slime, which recently launched on Steam.
DFAT: At what age did you start playing video games?
DMC: I started gaming super early. Growing up in the 90’s I saw the tail end of the arcade era, so some of my earliest and fondest memories are of playing Area 51 and House of the Dead with my dad. I also remember playing the original Super Mario Bros at my babysitters. Not long after that I got my own gaming device, the GameBoy Pocket. I brought that thing everywhere and I still have my copys of The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening and Poke’mon Blue (Squirtle was my dude)
DFAT: Ha! That’s so awesome. Anytime I go to an arcade I’ll still play those games. Classics. So, what’s your go-to-AAA game?
DMC: This one is tough. Probably going to have to go with the first Halo though. That game probably had the biggest impact on me it was one of the first times I viscerally felt like I had stepped into another world. The core gameplay is still satisfying to this day. The story, though not the deepest, was solid and well paced. And the art design holds up too. Daunting monolithic structures looming over you, esoteric and haunting alien ships to explore. I loved it, and obviously a lot of other people did too but despite that I always felt that the first Halo didn’t get a fair shake and was lumped in with the bro gamer crowd, and written off as another dumb shooty bang bang game. Anyway, point being despite being and action shoot em up, Halo had these long stretches of near silence in these big empty and beautifully lonely spaces. Even though you played as this 7 ½ foot tall power armored walking tank man, the game did a good job of making you feel powerless and even insignificant.
DFAT: I can remember that as one of there first FPS games that really hoooked me, Halo still holds up like you said.What’s your favorite indie title?
DMC: Oh this is even harder, But I’m going to have to go with Sir, You are Being Hunted. When I think about it this is the indie game that I find myself coming back to the most. You are dropped into this randomly generated map with nothing but some lint in your pocket and its up to you to collect these 20 Mcguffins scattered around the island and bring them back to home base in order to beat the game. But the whole time you are being hunted by these horrifyingly delightful cockney robots toting hunting rifles and top hats. Food and weapons are extremely limited so your left to scramble and sneak around these painfully bleak and beautiful fo British islands. The game has this stark contrast where you spend a lot of time just walking around quaint, abandoned country hamlets, but keeping your head down as patrols walk past. Its always a little tense but its quiet and kind of serene. But things can escalate very quickly. Combat is extremely lethal and every shot counts. You’ll go from sitting behind a rock watching the waves roll in to desperately hacking a robot apart with a hatchet as you bleed out from the two bullets you just took to the chest and even more bullets wiz past your head and oh hey the howls of robo hounds sure are getting close. Also the cockney robot hunters say “OY” and that tickles me pink.
DFAT: I have never played, but this sounds fantastic. Kind of like a weirder version of ‘The Most Dangerous Game.’ Lets switch gears and talk about your own experience with being a developer. How did you get started in game development yourself?
DMC: So I kinda came from an unorthodox background when compared to other game devs. That crowd tends to skew more towards programmers or game development students. Where as I came from a strictly artistic background as an illustrator. But when starting out I found programming incredibly intimidating, like that’s something smart people do. And I didn’t think I was a smart people. So I would seek out and work with friends who had some kind of programming knowledge. And worked on some small pet projects, real hobbyist stuff. But this went real slow, my programmer friends had other obligations and legitimate life stuff. So basically I just got tired of waiting around and started dipping my toes into basic visual programming. In other words I spent the better part of 5 years hitting my head against a wall, slowly brute forcing my way to basic programming proficiency. And it wasn’t from a some healthy sense self betterment to grow my skill set and become a more well rounded individual, I was just impatient and cranky.
DFAT: Though it sounds like a rough time, its nice to see that impatience and crankiness turned into something tangible.Tell us about The Sword and the Slime.
DMC: Sword and the Slime is easily the biggest project I’ve worked on to date. It was an off and on passion project for 3-4 years, but I really ramped up development in the last year or so. Essentially this was the game I made so I could learn how to make a game. Any way the Sword and the Slime is an off beat 2D platformer with light puzzle elements. Using only the mouse you control this magical floating sword that can fly around and smack stuff, its great. Eventually you buddy up with this weird slime cube monster that follows you around like a lost puppy and you have to use the slime to overcome obstacles that you couldn’t deal with on your own. Creating this really unique symbiotic relationship that you have to navigate in order to complete the game.
DFAT: Right up our alley with that one. Was a big fan of ‘A Boy and His Blob’ back in the day. This seems very reminiscent of that.What goes into making a game you had to learn through the development process.
DMC: Oh man what doesn’t go into game development, as a solo dev I have to wear so many different hats. Pixel artist, animator, programmer, game designer, marketing manager, business manager its crazy. Having dealt with all that my biggest take away has been to make a lot with a little. I don’t have the time or the resources to make the prettiest or the biggest game, so I have to aim to make something small but original. Another way to say it is that I try to make something simple interesting.
DFAT: Can’t say you didn’t achieve that one! Would you do it again?
DMC: Already started! Earlier this month I participated in the MAGIC Center’s Wild Magic Game Jam where worked with a small team and cranked out this little gem of game called Heavy is the Crown, in 48 hours that I’m super happy with. We are polishing it up right now and it should be out in early Nov. On top of that my next big project Shot in the Dark actually just got accepted into a community incubator program at the RIT MAGIC Center, so I will be getting direct support and resources and I am super excited to get to work!
DFAT: Both those projects sound fantastic! It’s also great that RIT has the resources to help you out. Even with you working on a couple video games at the moment, what would your dream game project be?
DMC: Touching back on what I liked about Halo and Sir, You Are Being Hunted I would really like to work on an atmospheric first person game some time. Wandering around a quiet, strange, and compelling environment. I have a few ideas but I’m going to have to work my way up to that. 3D is a whole other world to me.
DFAT: I have no doubt with the pace that you’re going, you’ll be going in that direction in no time. What do you recommend to people wanting to get into game development?
DMC: Start small. Then cut from there and keep on cutting after that. This is true for most creative ventures but especially in game design. Games are a LOT of work and anyone starting out will learn so so much faster if they focus on making very small and very simple games. This will give you more room to experiment and play. While at the same time beefing up that portfolio. Trust me, being stubborn and clinging to that one big perfect project will only bog you down. I had to learn that the hard way. Other than that, ask for help or team up. RocGameDev is an awesome resource and an amazing community that is incredibly supportive.
DFAT: Awesome pieces of advice and if any readers are in the Rochester Area, we’ll make sure to point them in that direction!
Thanks so to Dennis McCorry for speaking to us about his game The Sword and the Slime and other great projects he’s working on. Amazing to hear from a creator in the video game realm and one who has created quite the indie title himself!