James Chapp Fillmore is an independent video game developer, bass player, and medieval toy-crafter based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When he’s not developing new projects, James runs a YouTube channel, where he introduces viewers to the finer details of game-making.
We spoke with James about his career, the gaming side of Argentina, and running GameMaker meetups in his home country.
Tell us a few words about yourself.
I work as a full-stack developer specialising in 2D games using GameMaker, handling game design, production, art, programming, and publishing. I also create content on game development for my YouTube channel, where I document the entire process of my games.
Over the years, I've published nine free games on platforms like Newgrounds and itch.io. I've had the opportunity to collaborate with various international game studios, taking on roles such as technical artist, programmer, and art contributor.
Prior to game development, I honed my skills in crafting medieval toys and pursued a passion for music as a bass player and producer in ska jazz bands.
How did your adventure with game development start?
My love for game development began in my early years. I delved into role-playing games, designing my own systems and testing them with friends. Throughout my adolescence, I avidly absorbed a wide variety of role-playing books, learning different game systems and spent weekends in spirited gaming sessions as a dungeon master, putting various systems to the test.
Another pivotal influence came from Map/Campaign Editors in games like Warcraft 3, Heroes 3, and Starcraft. They granted me the power to create my own versions of games and tinker directly with the intricacies of game design.
I also had a penchant for tweaking the rules of traditional board games or combining elements from various games to craft something entirely new.
Since 2015, I have been dedicated to crafting artisanal toys. However, during the pandemic, there was a significant shift in my artistic focus. I transitioned from being a traditional artist to a digital one. This meant trading hours with a paintbrush and acrylics for hours dedicated to pixel art and coding.
Instead of selling Viking ships and castles and shipping them by mail, I began working on various digital projects with artists from different parts of the world, largely thanks to GameMaker and its community. I had the opportunity to publish my games on platforms like Newgrounds and itch.io, allowing the audience to experience and enjoy my creations.
What games are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on an exciting project called 'The Planetologist’, a top-down shooter with pixel art graphics. We have plans to release it on Steam in February 2024.
Additionally, I have intentions to launch an Early Access version of 'Cosmodrome,' which is currently in its alpha state. We plan to provide regular updates on a monthly basis.
One of the most captivating projects I'm involved in is the 'International Pixelart Gallery.' It's a free digital art exploration game where players can explore the works of digital artists from all around the world using an interactive world map.
I release a new version of the gallery every year, and this year, we're fortunate to have collaborated with 90 artists from 45 different countries.
What does the Argentinian indie game development scene look like?
Argentina's indie game development scene has undergone significant expansion in recent years, both in terms of production capacity and economic impact. The caliber of indie games has risen markedly, approaching the standards set by AA-grade titles. Standout successes like 'Preguntados,' 'Blue Fire,' and 'Madison' serve as prime examples of this upward trajectory.
This advancement can be attributed, in part, to supportive public policies encompassing education, events, and financial backing. These initiatives have garnered interest from publishers, further fortifying the industry.
The Ministry of Culture actively promotes the exchange of knowledge among industry professionals and key figures within the region through a series of events and comprehensive training programs. Additionally, indie developers have access to a diverse range of both public and private training opportunities, facilitating their professional growth.
Argentina's developer community is highly dynamic, with a burgeoning network of regional communities facilitating greater connectivity. Numerous game jams are hosted throughout the country, including international events and other local jams that maintain a distinct national and cultural identity. Particularly noteworthy is the 'Train Jam,' a 48-hour game jam event that takes place on a train journey from Buenos Aires to Cordoba.
Furthermore, associations such as Adva, Fundav (focused on video games), and others like INCAA (audiovisual) organise events that significantly contribute to a flourishing ecosystem in Iberoamerica like MICA, EVA, and Ventana Sur Maquinitas.
Argentina's indie game development community is thriving, marked by substantial growth, high-quality productions, and a supportive ecosystem fostered by both public policies and active developer networks. The scene not only showcases remarkable talent but also offers a rich platform for continued innovation and collaboration.
Why did you choose to work with GameMaker?
The truth is, I tried all the engines.
I had the opportunity to try the engine thanks to the temporary free licenses that GameMaker offers in some game jams I participated in, and in the first two days of sitting down to work with it, I already had a small game finished.
The tool itself is very intuitive, featuring its own built-in image editor, consolidating all necessary functions in one place. The engine offers a long-term stability plan, allowing users to leverage the latest updates and functionalities of this exceptional engine.
GameMaker boasts an active community of content creators, including Shaun Spalding and Friendly Cosmonaut, among many others. Unlike the other engines, where I often found myself in situations where tutorials on YouTube only worked for specific versions, with Game Maker, I experienced a seamless learning curve.
Is there anything that frustrates you about GameMaker?
I would like the GameMaker team to place more emphasis on the image editor, providing the capability to export GIFs and PNGs.
I believe GameMaker is an excellent tool that animation studios could utilise to create cartoons, series, and movies. Its full potential is not yet being fully realised.
What do you find most challenging about being an indie game developer?
The need to be consistent, tenacious, and productive while also balancing it with a social life and healthy habits. There's the constant learning curve, not just from GameMaker updates, but also in various disciplines, not only artistic, but also in production, technical aspects, and marketing.
Another challenging aspect is mustering the courage to release the things we create, even if they're not entirely finished or we don't have all the resources to complete them. Taking that step forward and publishing what we make is crucial.
What’s the best part of working independently?
I can view my games as if they were works of art, allowing me to express my thoughts and feelings. I appreciate the fact that I can manage my own schedule and not have any bosses or be a boss to anyone, which alleviates a lot of pressure.
Being an artistic pursuit, it's something that I'm passionate about, turning it into both a vocation and a profession at the same time.
The opportunity to connect with developers from different parts of the world makes me feel like a part of a larger community that transcends borders. I was able to secure freelance jobs in GameMaker projects through the GameMaker Discord community, providing me with the opportunity to dedicate myself to this profession, continuously learning and honing my skills.
What do you do, aside from developing games?
Currently, I am the host of the GameMaker Meetup Argentina. Additionally, on December 1st, we’re organising the fourth GameMaker Meetup Argentina at the Ventana Sur event, in the Maquinitas video games section.