V3: What made you want to start making your own game?
JE: I was fascinated by games from a really early age, the most significant early memory of games however, was playing Zelda on the NES at a friend's house when I was about 8. That was a magical experience, there was this sense of freedom in that game that was intoxicating, almost overwhelming. The accompaniment of a printed map, that was incomplete, was pivotal. This was the thing that really empowered the player, you knew there was a world out there to discover and it was entirely in your hands, literally, to explore and chart it.
That experience cemented my love of the medium.
Then, one summer my parents dug out their Dragon32, and a book that had dozens of games in it... In code form. I spent the summer typing in line by line one game at a time, often breaking them with inadvertent typos along the way. But this process drew back the curtain on the inner workings of games. And there was no turning back from there.
What programming languages / tools do you use when making games?
Currently I use Unity with C# the most. I also use Construct2, primarily for rapid prototyping, although I have also produced a few published games with that including my iOS/Android game A Skyrocket Story. It's a HTML 5 based game engine, and although it's not as powerful as the bigger commercial tools, its primary benefit is how easily you can deploy your games to different platforms.
Are there any other tools / skills you need outside of the main packages you use? Does knowledge of other coding languages help?
I think that having a broad understanding of code is incredibly important, even if you consider yourself a designer rather than a developer.
Games are a head on collision between art, science and communication (through UI, the implicit teaching of systems in your game etc) so even if you naturally tend to specialise, you'll always strengthen your core skill set by dabbling in these other disciplines.
What would you advise other aspiring games developers - what skills should they focus on, and what are the pitfalls they should avoid?
To return to my previous point, I would advise any aspiring game developers to ensure that they continue to challenge themselves by trying their hand at the breadth of disciplines required to make a game. As a programmer of course nobody will demand you be a highly accomplished artist and vice versa. But, if you have a sound understanding of all facets of game design you'll be invaluable to a team. An artist who knows what their tech is capable of will be able to eke out it's full potential. Similarly, a developer who is in tune with the artistic aims of a project will be able to augment this and push it as far as it can go.
What's the secret behind making a great game?
There is no single secret, be mindful of anyone who tells or sells you otherwise.
A great game can and will result from any number of combinations of factors, both planned and inadvertent. The best things in any creative medium are often equal parts serendipity and intent.
Be honest with yourself at all times, are you genuinely enjoying playing what you're making? Unplug yourself as creator, take a concerted step back from refactoring code, animating particles etc, is this a game that as an audience member, you wish existed?
If you genuinely and honestly like the thing you've made, not the journey, not the clever code behind the scenes, but the end experience, then you can guarantee that someone out in the world will connect with it too.