Hempuli has managed to carve out a little niche for himself by releasing slew of experimental games, some of which have managed to garner some interest from the likes of Indie Games and TIGS. His more popular works include the likes of Floating Islands Game, Bulletsss, Once in Space and Jump, Copy, Paste.
Just like so many other developers, however, he struggles to maintain the initial, enthusiastic spark of his ideas and sticking to one project.
Development tool(s) of choice?
What do you do?
I make games. I also do paint and draw quite a lot, and play piano, though mostly I just make games.
How did you get into game development?
When I was in primary school, my friend told me that he had found a cool game creation tool called Game Maker. We had some fun with it but since neither of us knew about scripting, our games were quite simple ans awkward. During those times there was some kind of a game creation fad going on in Finland where everyone whose parents were willing to buy them the tools needed wanted to make a homesite and create some games, usually using The Games Factory made by Clickteam. With my skills at that time TGF looked a lot more inviting and simple, so I switched to it. Then I slowly started accommodating myself to the tool and later on switched to its more advanced colleagues Multimedia Fusion 1.5 and then MMF 2.
What are your goals as a game developer? How have they changed since you started out and do you feel that you are succeeding?
My goal as a game developer is mostly to make the players have fun or otherwise feel amazed / happy with my games, because I feel that by making games people enjoy I’ll get ‘respect’ as a game creator. One of my big dreams is to get to the point where I can see / read fan-made content by the players of my games, or otherwise feel that my name is connected to games of quality. When I started, I really didn’t have any aim. I was really prone to copying ideas, developed small, buggy and awful games and then lost my motivation as quickly as I got it. Over time I started noticing how satisfying it feels when people like your game and tell you so, so I started slowly learning what are the things that I can improve in my game creation in order to make them not only fun to make, but also fun to play. I think I’ve succeeded pretty well, though there’s a long way to go. Especially intuitive gameplay is something my games often lack. Also in my puzzle games I usually try to approach a common game type from an unconventional direction, so the main goal of them is to make players say ‘wow, this is interesting’ or something similar.
You stated that the bane of your game creation process was the fact that your motivation spawns multiple projects and jumps from one project to another, leaving previous ones for dead. How long do you feel comfortable working on a project before the initial spark fades?
This really depends on the project. I’ve noted that I get inspired by game concepts really easily, but ultimately it’s really hard to tell what projects will actually become reality. Usually I have the time to create the basic gameplay, maybe a level or two, and then I note some fatal mistake I’ve made and lose my motivation. Also I’ve started to recognize what I call the Big Game Fever, where I get inspired by an overly ambitious game concept, plan it in my head and get really excited, and then after delving a bit into it, I realize how impossibly large the whole idea is. Nowadays I usually get times when I can’t be motivated by anything, only to suddenly get a surge of excitement when a new, promising idea hits me. Hopefully it also tells a bit about the progress I’ve made with my problem that with my first tool, The Games Factory, I was left with over 300 unfinished projects, then with a bit over 100 with Multimedia Fusion 1.5, and now I’ve yet to reach 50 projects with MMF 2.
At what point does development become a chore for you? Have you been using any particular methods to stay motivated?
This is again very relative. Often there comes a moment where I realize a big mistake I’ve made or some bad design choice I’ve done, that would need a lot of pondering to get working. If I’m really determined about the project I’ll push through this, but mostly this is where I stop working on a game. It has got better, though; just recently I worked again on a game that I had had on hiatus for over half a year. When being unmotivated, I usually seek positive feedback or try to think what are the things that I like in the game. Also I try to think as rationally as I can about the problems in order to see just how much work they are, in order to be ready to face them when the time comes and really know if they’re as complicated as I fear.
Do you have a set development process? How much planning do you do, before development starts?
I usually start developing really fast. Mostly my games start with an idea I’ve possibly been pondering and improving in my head for a longer time and which I like. Depending on the size of the idea, I either go straight into creation or plan something down a bit. On puzzle games I may plan some cool puzzle designs beforehand. Often I also doodle stuff for games I know I wont make, like maps and enemy designs, so that they can later inspire me on another project. I hate using assets that are work in progress, so my game creation often starts with drawing some graphics. Usually I try to finish the game engine as well as I can before moving to level design. Music and sound effects come always last, as do menus and such. This sometimes causes them to be hurried and buggy, because I may feel that I want to get the game finished as soon as possible once the “actual” content is in.
What are your influences and who do you look up to?
This is a hard question. I guess that I’m influenced always by a lot of other games, sometimes by someone’s art style or a certain storyline and so on. I feel strong nostalgia for SNES-era games, so they always affect my game creation. Also I usually try to imitate a specific style when creating the graphics, which make the colours and shapes resemble whatever I’m having in mind. Other influences include certain indie games like Braid, Within A Deep Forest, Eternal Daughter and VVVVVV. Often when I’m planning a game, my original idea is really similar to some other game I’ve played in terms of design, and then I start pulling it away from that to give it my own flavour. Of course my skills are seldom as good as in the games I look up to, so the looks end up different in any case.
People I look up to in the indie scene are such that I envy for one reason or another, often based on the reason that they can seemingly create masterpieces one after another and bring every idea they have into fruition. The master of this is inarguably Nicklas Nygren, a fellow Multimedia Fusion 2 developer famous for his Knytt series. I talk to him sometimes, and everytime he has mentioned a game project, he has actually finished it and with reasonable speed and top-notch quality. Other amazing persons include but are not restricted to Derek Yu, a seemingly really relaxed and cool dawg who creates very cool games and is overall a neat person, Arthur “ThePodunkian” Lee, who despite having got quite a lot of flak for his attitudes is an ingenious game creator, a very nice artist and filled with cool ideas, and Glen “Radix” Forrester, whose way of thinking is quite similar to mine and who always has tons of immensely cool and unconventional ideas.