The Story of MAGI as a Game
This game and I go a long
way back and I thought it may be fun to share it's history from start to finish. I still have my ancient creations on my hard drive and I thought that now I could finally find a proper use for them, even if only for some sweet nostalgia on my part. Magusy:
The game's general idea came to me way back when I was just 11 years old and in the 4th grade at primary school. It wasn't originally supposed to be about mages; it was originally supposed to be about monsters.
When I was a child I was utterly into playing games and also into creating them. My whole room was filled with hundreds of hand drawn board games and my hard drive was filled with Klik&Play
turdlings. I was totally in love with anything in which you could either win or lose. All my friends knew I was a gaming freak who was always interested in juicy new info on what other people were playing.
I had a friend at school who was very much into Japanese stuff and Nintendo. He was awesome because he had a Game Boy and no one in our part of the world even knew how to spell it back then. He often told me about all the awesome stuff that he had played or had heard of (Mario and Zelda!). Once he told me about something he'd heard people in Japan were crazy about. It was about some dudes training some monsters and then using them in battles. Unfortunately that mysterious gem wasn't in Poland at the time so he didn't know any details. I was totally struck by the brilliant idea of having a game in which you could create a monster in the style of an RPG and then just battle without all the role-playing fuss. That day, when I got back home, I immediately started assembling something similar on my faithful Klik&Play.
Soon I had learned about one terrible shortcoming of mine that shattered my dreams of making a monster arena game. I couldn't draw a proper monster character
. But being a clever kid, I then thought to myself: "I can't draw monsters, but I do know how to draw wizards!". And thus "Magusy" (broken Latin; something like "Maguses") was born.
It looked like this:
Did it suck? Terribly! It was so bad that if I would have continued making it, the dude that made E.T. would surely sue me for using shittyness that was patented only for his creations. Seriously, most of my games back then were quite playable and mates sometimes came to my place to have a go. But when I showed this to any of them they gave me a stare that made me regret I was born. Discouraged, I decided to stop working on the project.
Later on I learned that the Japanese game my "Magusy" was supposed to be ripping-off was called Pokémon and was... erm... a bit different than I had imagined. Oh well...Magusy 2:
After the terrible distaster of what I though was my best idea ever, I got back to my usual kid set of activities - drawing, making more games, reading too many comic books and getting into trouble.
Two years later, I was watching some movie adaptation of few of Poe's stories (iirc). One of them burned forever into my imagination. It was about a duel of two wizards... It inspired me to revise my old idea and to try to make that game once again. I was a bit more aware of what made the original Magusy terrible, so I've redesigned the whole thing and tried to make it actually have some strategic depth this time around.
After few weeks of work I had this:
As you can see, it was a bit closer to what MAGI is now. The interface, the different schools of magic, the general layout all had their basis in Magusy 2. The game wasn't that bad. This time the friends I've shown it too would at least say: "hmm, interesting" before making me feel like shit for showing it. However, it soon appeared that Klik&Play isn't really very capable (what a surprize :roll: ) and that games with any complexity are hard as hell to pull off with it. Magusy 2 crashed, acted weirdly, slowed down and was an overall mess. I really tried to fix it, but with no debug possibility, I could only forfeit the project once again, to my undescribed sadness
. Magusy 3:
Still, the idea plagued my mind. I was totally firm of the concept (yeah, like any creative kid) and I loved wizards! I considered magical duels to be even cooler than Ninja Turtles and I went on and on about how the game would rock, if only the damn Klik&Play would allow me to finish it. I started convincing myself that this game could be done, if only I would be extra careful from the very start. Three years after Magusy 2 died, I've decided to give it one last try.
It had lots of stuff that made it quite close to the existing MAGI. The idea of channels, basic spells and game flow, the way the AI was supposed to work. Sadly, this one really stretched poor KnP's possibilities too far. Seriously, trying to squeeze an actual AI to a KnP game is a madman's endeavour. It's the only old KnP editable I have on my PC that actually crashes when I try to edit its code :?. To this day I wonder how Jason Kapalka (current co-ower of PopCap) was able to make Mortuum (an actually fun and playable game) using Klik&Play.
Anyway, I got quite pissed about this another failed attempt and sweared not to try to make this game ever again. I really felt attached to the idea and each failure was a bitter dissapointnemt for me. I also grew up and left such childish activities as making computer games in favor of such "adult" stuff like acting rebelious, getting dumped by chicks or going to parties and not sleeping for three days. You know, the serious business!MAGI:
Finally it was the ultimate muse of humankind - Boredom - that got me back on the glorious track of game development. Four years ago, I was dying out of boredom during the summer holidays so I've typed "Game Maker" into Google, hoping to find some more modern "Klik&Play" that I could play around with. I was actually surprized to find something that 100% matched my search.
I quickly assembled a simple game to check how GM works (you clicked running people and they exploded). After getting the basics, I started wondering what to do next. Game Maker seemed quite capable and soon the temptation of making that wizard duel game I tried to make since early childhood have got to me. After all, I wasn't really being too serious and mage duels were at least a concept I've tried earlier and could start working on it right away.
I began to quickly assemble MAGI, using the old badly drawn sprites, getting more and more surprized that it didn't crash or corrupt, or explode.
Having too much time on my hands, I soon ended up with an actually playable game. Of course, it was still pretty terrible and badly coded. But at least it worked! And even was a little bit fun.
I decided to continue the project and see what turns out of it. It got more and more serious. After few months of development and showing it to virtually everybody I knew, I felt I could use a wider audience and made the decision of hitting the internet.
It was a major breakdown for me. I was always a game making freak - I've made countless small games, maps, mods and pen&paper RPGs - but I never really treated it seriously. It was all for mine and friends' use and nothing more. At first, I was actually afraid to post my stuff on the Game Maker Community, even with it quality bar being so low. Finally, I posted and started constantly refreshing all my threads, awaiting first comments with my heart trying to escape my chest.
People seemed to like it, but I almost died of stress anyway
You can laugh now, but I never really was an internet kid. I used internet only for browsing, online play and downloading shareware/freeware stuff made by "those cool and talented internet dudes". A sudden changed of sides and becoming one of *them*, with websites I used to download games from suddenly showing interest in what I do, was like a dream come true. When I got my first fronpage news on a (pretty small and lame) Polish indie gaming website, I couldn't believe that peole really like my shit!
It motivated me to continue my work on the game and it got better and better as my practical knowledge of game design grew. Eventually I started getting suggestions of going commercial with MAGI. That would be something! I wouldn't only suddenly become an indie dev, but even go one step further and try to earn from what I love. It would also mean I would really have to raise the quality bar much higher and learn a lot of stuff. But after that, I would be set on the way to making my dream of becoming an indie true. I decided to give it a go.
I started contacting people, reading tons of websites and forums like indiegamer.com or TIGSource and generally gathering knowledge. I think I've learned more useful stuff during that few months than through my entire education. I was really determined and the indie community turned out to be really eager to help and share knowledge.
At that point the game looked like this:
It wasn't very pretty, the GUI was a total clutterfuck and I still used some old sprites. At least now I *knew* I need to improve it further.
There was one problem however - I had no original music for my game. I needed a composer, and preferably a starting one that would like to compose for free to build up a portfolio. Fortune seemed to smile on me though...
One of my online acquaints
was making an RPG in Game Maker and he recieved free help from a starting British composer - Rob Westwood
. I've learned that Rob is looking for promising indie projects that he could compose for and hangs out on the Game Maker Community. This was my chance! I've made an announcement at GMC, trying to formulate it so it would appeal to my "target". The "trap" worked - he replied on the same day and we've started a successful collaboration that lasts to this very day.
Looking back, I think we were really lucky. The chances of me getting an awesome musician and him getting someone that's going to actually finish and sell a game, on a silly place like GMC, was very slim.
Rob turned out to be not only a great composer but also an awesome guy in general. During this "willing amateur" period I've also met Paul Eres
, who too was on the track of releasing his first commercial game - Immortal Defense
; Volkan Ozgur - a Turkish indie game dev who helped me with some graphics just because he liked the game and bunch of other people who helped me with beta testing. Most notably - Marius Utheim, a completely awesome Norwegian dude who not only stayed with the game for more than 2 years, but also now acts as the programmer in the making of the sequel. I was ultimately charmed by the indie community and how people there help each other just for the love of games. If not all the great and dedicated people I've met, I wouldn't get anywhere. Thanks, pals!
On 21 March 2007 , MAGI was finally released! Game was complete, website was up, eCommerce system was working and first announcements were sent. This was the final test. So far people said they like my game... but would they actually pay for it? I was thinking "no way!". I've spent an entire day refreshing my eSellerate account like a madman.
4 copies were sold during the first day. I completely couldn't believe it. It wasn't much but for me it was infinitely more than I expected. I was a true indie game developer. More sales came soon and I still couldn't believe it until I got my first payment.
The initial reception of the game was mixed. For example - in the Game Tunnel's roundup it got 8 from one reviewer and 2 from another one. It obviously was a niche love/hate game, but it also just wasn't as great as it should be. I was aware of that and was determined to accept the criticism and polish the game further. I remember that the game's feedback thread on TIGSource got several pages of great ideas.
MAGI had many updates, often major ones. With each one the game was better, got better reviews and more people were willing to spend their money to kick some mage ass. The pinnacle of joy for me was when the game got a very positive review
in PC ZONE print magazine. Print reviews really have some magic to them
Latest version (1.3) was a very noticable improvement and finally I started being content about the game, knowing I'm getting close to the boundaries of what can be done without remaking it from scratch.
Just for the record - it looks like this now:
It's still not perfect for me, though. It started as an amateur project and, while it went pretty far away from that, I still know I could make it so much better if only I would have more resources and knowledge. The thing is that now I have them. The game started my game developer career and eventually landed me a designer's job, allowing me to move on my own and fund my projects. And thanks to hundreds of wonderful people that supported me by buying the game, I had some nice extra money I entirely pumped into making my new game.
MAGI is my magnum opus, my Airship 2600
, my dream game. I feel that I can't move forward with my game development until I perfect this formula and give it my best shot. That's why I have took all the cash I've earned so far, assembled a bigger team and started working on ArcMagi - a game that's going to show how magical duels should be done (read: MOAR PARTICULZ!!