Alex Fleming took our Learn Unity in 8 Weeks back in 2018. In this post, he will be sharing his journey as a game designer after the course ended.
I have worked at non-profits in education, media, and technology for 10 years now, but I’ve always wanted to make games. Unusual, experimental, weird games that are trying to say something excite me. Video games are the next great human art form. I’ve been a performer of all kinds, including music, magic, and comedy around New York City, living the double life of the office in the day and the performer at night. At some point the nagging feeling that I hadn’t quite found myself as an artist yet hit me. I need to make games to be me.
I started creating board game concepts, then moved on to RPG Maker and Twine, trying to find a way to express myself like I do when I would go on stage and perform stand up comedy, but in a digital world. I’ve had the privilege of judging video game awards, I’ve logged hundreds of hours into my favorite indie titles, and yet the idea of being a “real game developer” seemed out of reach.
I started learning Unity because the organization I worked with, Mouse, was interested in creating content to teach middle and high school students how to use it. I didn’t know much about it, except that it was a wildly popular game development platform that can produce games for a wide variety of platforms. At Mouse, I had worked to develop and iterate on a game design course that would then become the official curriculum of the Games for Change Student Challenge, a competition for middle and high school students.
I thought I could learn on my own. I’ve picked up many things, including card sleight of hand, from books, so why couldn’t I do that with game development? I picked up the official Unity tutorial projects, a handful of youtube channels, and dreamed up my first project. A month later the whole thing fell flat on its face. I had a colleague whip up some nice graphics, but sadly Sloth Party would not see the light of day. Maybe in the future.
The Difference a Course Made
I signed up for a course at Playcrafting NYC for their Winter Unity 2018 Course. People at Mouse had connections with Playcrafting and spoke highly of them so decided to give it a try. I wanted to learn, but I didn’t have the discipline to teach myself Unity while working full time.
The class gave me the skills and inspiration I needed. I was craving structure but more importantly I needed a community. People to inspire me and to motivate me to do the work. I still stay in touch with some of my classmates and we test each other’s games.
A Much Needed Community
My teachers inspired me in a way that no online class could. They covered the technical parts of game development and emotional challenges. The teachers kept my scope under control and figured out how to communicate my game’s ideas to other humans. Ultimate Dungeon Cleaner actually came from a conversation with my teacher about how to fix a bug in my Asteroids game.
As of now, I am making Ultimate Dungeon Cleaner, which answers the question: “What happens to all the bodies in all the other games?” You are Grem, a goblin who cleans against the clock to empty his dungeon of bodies before he totally loses it. Ultimate Dungeon Cleaner is a fast-paced top-down retro-style game with an anxious twist. I wrote a whole Ultimate Dungeon Vision Statement you can read.
There’s a lost n’ found with where Grem can power up his magic broom, or find an engagement ring from a long lost relative. Race against the clock while collecting power-ups scattered throughout this dungeon you must maintain, or else.
Ultimate Dungeon Cleaner made it’s alpha debut at the Spring 2018 PLAY Expo with Playcrafting NYC. You can actually play a very early version of game in a browser on a desktop or laptop device.
The Journey Hit a Pause
Not long after Ultimate Dungeon Cleaner debuted, a whole lot of life happened. I wasn’t able to work on the project for a while. Moving across the country to LA, where I was born, got married, and went through a series of family crises that ended up changing my life forever. I fell into a depression and started crawling out of it, and I found Grem waiting for me.
My friend and colleague Mike of Big Weasel Lil Weasel LLC joined the project, lending his artistic talents.
Back At It
In December of 2020, Ultimate Dungeon Cleaner will release on itch.io exclusively for Mac, PC and Linux. In 2021 I plan to launch to mobile and Steam. You can play the beta version for free today! You can follow me on twitter at @alex_h_fleming or email me at sodabags.gmail.com.
Stay in Touch with Alex!
To see more of his work, visit his website.