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A New Generation of Game Development: An Interview with Sciman101

If you spent any time on the internet in the mid-2000s, chances were you visited Newgrounds. The site made a name for itself hosting user-generated content, ranging anywhere from tower-defense games to surreal dark-comedy cartoons. Newgrounds allowed an entire generation of artists and game designers to experiment and thrive.

Over a decade later, a lot has changed. Indie gamedev has exploded from the proliferation of free game-development tools like Unity and Unreal. To make games, all you really need is a computer, an internet connection, and the discipline to see your work through.

Sciman101 belongs to this new generation. He’s taken full advantage of the opportunities that modern game development has allowed him. Although still in high school, Sciman101 shows a talent and drive that will undoubtedly lead him down an interesting path, to say the least.


Structured Creativity

Goomba Stomp: Let’s start with an easy question: Where’d the name Sciman101 come from? 

Sciman101: So, when I was a lot younger, I wanted to get my first Email account. At the time, I was really into science, so my dad ended up suggesting Sci, followed by my first name, and then 101 just to have a number on the end. Eventually, I changed it to ‘man’ instead of my real name for privacy reasons, and it just kinda stuck!

I always liked things being sort of uniform and consistent, so I tend to just use it for everything.

GS: You say “at the time”. How did your interests shift? Have games always been part of your life?

S101: Well, for a long time I was convinced I wanted to go into some sort of scientific field, specifically robotics. But after a while, my interest in robotics sort of waned, to the point where I sort of dropped it. What appealed to me about robotics was the logical, more engineering-focused side of things.

Meanwhile, around this time I was getting into drawing and storytelling. I think my interest in making games stemmed from a fusion of the two. Games have that programming and logical aspect to them, for sure, but they’re also art. It let me explore both of those interests at once, in a way a lot of people were familiar with.

I’d also say that, while I’ve played games all my life, they’ve never been a core part of it until more recently. More of a passive hobby, something I did for fun now and then.

GS: Interesting that it seems like you kinda fell into the gamedev circle. A lot of devs typically veer onto the career track after working in other industries. Your first game, ANYKEY, is both simple and complex at the same time. How did the original project start? What were your goals for yourself and the game?

S101: Originally, ANYKEY was just a test project. I’ve used GameMaker Studio for longer than I have Unity, so I decided to make it to practice my unity skills. It was also a personal goal to try and make and finish a game in about a week.

After that, I thought it might be neat to put it on Steam, so I spent a month or two polishing it to the point where I was satisfied with it. I never would have expected the project to have gone this far when I first started!

The Indie Community

GS: You’re quite active on the Discord server for the game Treadnauts. How has being a part of that community influenced your work and future aspirations?

S101: The Treadnauts Discord is probably where I get most of my support and feedback from. The people there are some of the kindest I’ve ever met in an online community, and are always willing to help out with whatever I’m working on

What really surprised me, though, was how open and helpful the devs themselves are. They offered to play builds, gave me feedback, and have been all around some of the best people I have the privilege of knowing. Treadnauts is a game with a level of quality and depth that I hope to one day achieve. Being a part of that community has really helped encourage and support my desires to get more into gamedev.

 

 

GS: That’s so cool to hear! Topstitch has been pretty fantastic with how they engage with their players. What dream project would you like to work on? Where would you like to see yourself as a game developer?

S101: Ooh boy.

Right now, I’ve sort of got this half-serious aspiration of working alongside the others at Topstich, but given that’s at least four years out, I’m not holding my breath on it.

I think, ideally, I want to end up doing something like what they’re doing though. Maybe not as a full time job, and just as a hobby, but regardless I want some level of indiedev to be with me throughout my entire life

As for a dream project… I can’t really say. I have so many ideas I’d love to explore, I can’t really just pick one to settle on. I guess my ‘Dream Project’ would be some kind of collection of like 50 small projects, on the same scope as ANYKEY

GS: You’ve definitely got a lot of time to think about that, but it’s fantastic to hear that you’ve already got some idea of where you want to go. What do you think is the next step that you want/need to take as a developer? You said that ANYKEY was more of a test to get something up and running in Unity. Are you looking to experiment more?

S101: Yeah, definitely. The Behemoth has this policy I really like. They try and avoid making the same gerne of game more than once. That way, they always get to explore new ideas and broaden their abilities as creators. I try and follow a similar pattern, since right now I’m more focused on learning and growing as a game developer more than anything else.

I think my next goal is going to be to make something better than ANYKEY, a little more ambitious and with more depth. And after that, do the same thing and try and make something better than the last project. Even if one day game dev becomes my job, I always want to be trying to push myself a little more. Though, I’m sure a lot of people share that goal.

The Road Ahead

GS: What kind of advice/feedback have you gotten in regards to pursuing game development as a career path? It’s fairly nontraditional, so I’d be interested to know what peers and teachers have said about it.

S101: The more experienced people in my life, namely my parents and other developers, have been cautiously supportive of my desires to pursue game development. And for good reason!

Game design is, at the end of the day, a much more artistic career choice than, say, computer science. Nowadays that’s just a lot riskier for a lot of people. People usually encourage what I do and praise my work, but aren’t immediately inclined to tell me ‘Yeah, you should absolutely do game development as your full-time career’.

Granted, for the most part, I talk to people about game development more as a hobby than a job, so overall people haven’t said that much about it, but that’s usually the sort of feedback I get.

GS: How has gamedev fit in with the rest of your life? Indie devs tend to either go all in or create in their free time with a regular job. What has it been like as a student?

S101: Right now, gamedev is still a hobby for me, so it’s a lot more like the second option. I still have to go to school, and that usually takes priority over personal projects for me. Plus, at this point, I’m not releasing new projects on a regular basis. I’m more experimenting. It’s part of why I’m hesitant to call myself a real ‘game developer’ at this point. It’s like a writer, trying to find their writing style. I’m still in the ‘learning’ phase of all of this.

GS: Everything you’ve shared in the Treadnauts discord shows off a wide range of skills and talent. You’d mentioned previously that your interest in making games stemmed from robotics, drawing, and storytelling. What kind of things do you enjoy in your free time and how has that influenced the kind of work you want to do?

S101: In my free time, the thing I probably do the most is doodle, which has definitely helped contribute to my more creative side. I love drawing bizarre characters and creatures, mostly because I never really nailed down the intricacies of a regular human face. I tend to compensate by drawing really strange, exaggerated things.

I think that’s applied to my game design in a way, too. I don’t really make games with a ton of depth, most of my projects have been pretty simple, but with certain features and functionalities exaggerated to help compensate for that.

I’m also a music lover, though sadly this hasn’t really been as prevalent in my games as I’d like it to be. Making music is hard!

 

 


Still, in his teenage years, Sciman101 has plenty ahead to look forward to. Whether that means game development becomes a full-time career or stays a passionate hobby remains to be seen. One thing’s for certain: it’s never too late (or early!) to explore new things.

You can follow Sciman101 on Twitter and download his game, ANYKEY, for free on Steam.

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