During our interview, he explored the beginning of his career, his work on smash-hit Super Chicken Jumper, and a special project he worked on for a local hospital!
How did your adventure with game development start?
It all started in 2015 - I studied Information Technology at a public university, graduated, and fell in love with programming.
At that time, I was already working as a software developer, but my true passion was game development. I experimented with various game engines and did numerous small projects, including ones for Ludum Dare and other game jams.
In 2019, I had the opportunity to work on my first commercial project, and since then, I’ve released several games and worked as a freelancer on various projects.
What was your first commercial project?
Spooky Station, a collection of nine Halloween-themed games created by Brazilian developers. Working on this project opened the door for me to become a programming assistant at Super Chicken Jumper.
I was focused on bug fixing, porting the game to Android, and recently, to GX.games.
Spooky Station, an important milestone in Luiz's career
What came next?
In 2020, I wanted to release a game of my own. I decided to start with a simple project, so I began prototyping and experimenting with cards.
This led me to the idea of creating Blackjack Math, a minimalist 2D puzzle where all the answers are 21, but with a mathematical twist! I also developed a sequel.
I was hired by Guselect to assist with the final touches of Moonleap before its release on Steam and mobile platforms. I worked on specific mechanics for the secrets in the game, as well as integrating it with Steam API and Google Play.
Which of those projects was the most interesting to work on?
If I had to pick one, it would be Super Chicken Jumper.
I worked on this project for two years before its release, and I’m still working on it to make some minor improvements here and there. Even after all these years, I still have a smile on my face knowing that I worked on this project.
I even had the opportunity to showcase it at the BGS (Brazil Game Show) at the Opera and GameMaker booth. It was amazing to see people playing the game in person and witnessing their reactions. It was an incredible experience.
You’ve also worked on a special application for the World Hand Hygiene Day for your local hospital, haven’t you?
I work in the IT department at a hospital, and the director asked if anyone on the team could create a training game.
They initially created a basic quiz game prototype in PowerPoint, which served as the starting point for the project. My manager, aware of my experience in game development, nominated me for the task.
The director explained the project requirements and also requested that I track the progress of every person who played the game.
This was an exciting opportunity for me. After working at the hospital for nine years, I never imagined that I’d be creating a game for it. I knew games were sometimes used by companies to make training more engaging, but I never expected to have the opportunity to create one myself.
I won't take sole credit for the project - it was a collective effort involving many people at the hospital. The nurses, in particular, played a significant role in making this project special.
They always go above and beyond, emphasising the importance of hand hygiene in patient care. Their work during this time of the year is crucial, and they put tremendous effort into engaging every employee and highlighting its significance.
A member of the maintenance department crafted a beautiful mini arcade cabinet for this game, too!
Someone alert Konami - there's a new king of arcade cabinets
How did you develop the application?
I decided to use GameMaker for the project. My initial prototype consisted of a single question, and when you chose your answer, you’d get a special image to tell you if you got it right or wrong.
After meeting with the nurses, I obtained all the questions and answers to include in the quiz game. They mentioned that this project could easily be used for future events at the hospital, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible to customise.
Another developer on my team assisted in setting up the database for the questions, and saving player’s the answers and progress. She also created a page on our intranet for the project's stakeholders to generate reports on everyone. These reports would help them decide who needed additional training.
When that was done, I delved into PHP and created APIs to read from and write to the database. I made API calls for everything in GameMaker. I also utilised Scribble for visually-appealing text effects as well, which was easy to set up.
The marketing team selected an artist to create the game art. She worked quickly, completing all of our requests and providing the assets as soon as we needed them.
After that, I was ready to create a simple quiz game. All I needed to focus on was making the game enjoyable to play. The whole development process took less than a month to complete.
Did you face any difficulties while developing this application?
One interesting challenge I faced was how to identify the employee who played the game.
We had name tags with an employee ID and a barcode on them. The idea was to use a Bluetooth barcode reader to scan the ID and send it to the game's internal database.
Initially, I tested it on Windows, and the keyboard_string variable seemed to work fine for this purpose. However, when I tried it on Android, I discovered that it would occasionally ‘miss’ some numbers. I couldn't figure out why.
Since I’d previously developed native Java Android applications, I created a separate, empty project solely for reading the barcode. Implementing it was relatively straightforward. However, to create an Android extension for GameMaker, I needed to extract the function I used into a separate Java class.
I reached out to a friend who’s a much better Android developer than I am, and he helped me out. Afterward, I had to create an Android extension for GameMaker.
It took me an entire day dedicated to solving this problem, but eventually, I managed to get it working!
Bet you never expected a game about a jumping chicken to feature six-legged skull
Why did you choose to work with GameMaker?
I’ve tried numerous engines and frameworks: Unity, Construct, Clickteam Fusion, Love2D, MonoGame, Unreal Engine, Defold. However, none of them truly made me feel comfortable while working.
I put in significant effort to use Unity since it's the engine that hires the most developers here in Brazil, but when I tried GameMaker Studio 1.4, I was amazed at how it struck the perfect balance between simplicity and power.
Although I had some complaints about the text editor and other aspects, it was the best fit for me at that time compared to all the others I had used. I got excited when GameMaker Studio 2 was announced and immediately bought it when the beta was released. I even created a game for the second beta Jam.
GMS2 was an incredible evolution from GMS 1.X, and I was very satisfied with it. Since then, many improvements have been made, and the development team has been highly responsive to feedback from developers regarding new features.
They even offer an LTS (Long-Term Support) version, which is the one I use for my commercial projects. I prioritize stability over new features, and GameMaker provides exactly that.
Is there anything that frustrates you about GameMaker?
When the project becomes bigger, the compile time increases exponentially. I know that this will not be a problem in the future, and I can't wait to see it!
There was also a very specific problem I had with a built-in variable in the Android export, but I created an extension that solved my problem.
What do you find most challenging about being an indie game developer?
The most challenging aspect for me is maintaining consistent progress in game development.
As I'm not a full-time indie developer, I have a regular 9-to-5 job, and game development is a side project for me. However, I've been improving in managing my time effectively and finding a good balance between work, game development, and my personal life, while still achieving good results.
Moonleap, winner of NoticeMe Game Jam
What are your plans for the future?
My current plans for now are to grow my YouTube channel. I'm also working on creating some other minimalistic 2D puzzles that I intend to release this year.
Looking ahead, me and my team are preparing to release Railgunners later this year, which happens to be the first project I was hired for!
Throughout the years, this game has undergone many changes, but now we have the best version of it. We’re extremely excited to share it with everyone!
What do you do when you’re not busy developing your game?
I love spending time with my wife. She has been my anchor and believes in me and my potential more than I do. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do, she is always there to support me.
We make it a point to go out together and enjoy our time. We even go to the gym together every morning, which helps us stay active and healthy. I cherish the time I spend with my little dog, too. He eagerly awaits my return home and gets upset when I have to work extra hours at the hospital.
I also love playing fighting games, and I had a great time playing the Street Fighter 6 open beta. Even though I'm not very skilled at this genre, I always enjoy playing these games whenever I get the chance.
I also have a passion for playing indie games, especially those that offer shorter gameplay sessions.