When you think Rochester NY, you don’t typically think about an emerging video game development scene; yet there’s a big one and its mostly due to the man featured in this interview. Rob Mostyn is an indie game developer, musician, and designer. He is a fan of small worlds to explore, creepy space stuff, and major key arps. He’s also the Founder and Director of RocGameDev in Downtown Rochester. We speak with Rob about his love of video games, role at the RocGameDev, and the Magic Center at RIT where he heads a ‘video game incubator’ geared at getting games made. Join us for a fun interview below!
DFAT: At what age did you start playing video games?
Rob: I started playing games at 5 when I got a NES for Christmas. It had the classic Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt cart and I loved it. My mom owned an Intellivision before that and I have vague memories of it but I never really played it.
DFAT: Haha, never got my hands on that until I was an adult, but I was all about that NES! What’s your AAA game and what’s your favorite indie?
Rob: My favorite AAA game would be Chrono Trigger for the SNES. I was a Sega kid and would borrow my best friend’s SNES just to play Chrono Trigger. I had never really played a JRPG before that and it totally sucked me in. My top indie game would be Subnautica. It’s a wonderful adventure and just a fascinating world to explore. I also have a strong fear of deep water and this game was incredibly cathartic in exploring that.
DFAT: Honestly, Chrono Trigger is my favorite RPG off all-time! I’m right there with ya. Subnautica is very solid as well. So, switching gears a bit about you: How did you start game development yourself?
Rob: I used to be heavily involved in the chiptune community and was asked to compose music for a local indie game called Halloween Forever. In working with the developer (Pete Lazarski), I gained an understanding of what goes in to game development. That ignited an interest to make my own game. From there I did some research, mocked up some ideas, and just dove in.
DFAT: Nothing like diving in head first! I’ve played the game and love it and the soundtrack! Now, Rochester is a unique place for game development, what can you tell us about the RIT MAGIC Center?
Rob: The RIT MAGIC Center is a university-wide research center with a multi-disciplinary entrepreneurial approach to digital media research and production. We provide the resources to students and faculty to help get their ideas to market and publication. Whether by utilizing our 180+ seat 4K theatre, 7000 sq. ft. sound stage, or many multimedia labs, our aim is to learn by making things! And just recently, we accepted our first cohort of applicants in to our “MAGIC Community Incubator” program that aims to assist local game developers (who are not students, staff, or faculty of RIT) in developing and publishing their games.
DFAT: That is so amazing that its happening right in our own backyard! What goes into making a game you had to learn through the development process?
Rob: The two big ones were scope and project management. When I started my game, I had no idea what scope was. I was sort of practicing it in that I knew I had to keep my game simple. About a year in, I learned about scope and immediately cut a ton of stuff from my game including things that had already been developed. Good project management is something I’m still learning. I used Trello all throughout the development of A Small Robot Story and that kept me on target enough. But I’m working with a team on a new game and that brings in a whole new dynamic. It’s pretty crucial to have a solid project lead or producer on a team.
DFAT: Sounds like it starts at the top and goes down. You’re right about that you need a good leader. What would your dream game project be?
Rob: My dream game would be a small, pixelated game that you could carry with you anywhere that focuses on connecting you to others through a narrative with a definite ending. So a mash-up of PICO-8, Kind Words, and Death Stranding.
DFAT: Haha I’d be happy to try out that mashup! What do you recommend to people wanting to get into game development?
Rob: Start now. Start small. Very small. Try and make a frogger clone. Use a limited color palette. Don’t obsess over innovating. Learn what “juice” is in games. Think about the whole experience. Make bad games. And then make more bad games. Bad games are better than games that never get made.
DFAT: I think you’re absolutely right that people are better DOING than just talking about it. What’s the Rochester Game Dev community like and how did you develop it?
Rob: The ROC Game Dev community is really building momentum. Earlier this year RGD incorporated as a non-profit and now with our board up and running, we’re really starting to target how we want to further extend ourselves in to the community. We’re working towards being more than just a series of meetup events. While those have done well and support the local development community, there is definitely more than can be done to support the local game development community.
DFAT: It’s amazing that you’re spearheading it as well. Like you said, it starts with a solid leader! How would you like to expand upon what you’re already doing?
Rob: Outreach and education of the public will only help our mission and the local industry. Many people aren’t aware that there are game studios in Rochester or that RIT’s game development program consistently gets ranked in the top 10 in the country. I want to continue our efforts of support our local indie devs and see them succeed.
Thanks a ton to Rob to speaking with us all about his love of games and the RocGameDev. He’s a great asset to the community out in Rochester NY and the video game world at large! You can follow him on Twitter and if you missed it, we speak with another Rochester Game Developer, Dennis McCorry HERE.