The gaming world is filled with intriguing tales of passion, dedication, and transformation. This time, the narrative revolves around Eric Manahan, the former architect who found solace in pixelated characters and captivating storylines.
I recently spoke to Eric and chronicled his mesmerizing journey from architecture’s rigidity to the fluidity of game development.
“I am essentially, I’m the Matte Black Studio. I’m making a game called Lucid,” began Eric, a clear nod to a rich history of 32-bit gaming, particularly the SNES era. Delving further, he shared, “It’s a love letter to my childhood gaming experiences.”
He humorously named his game as the world’s first ‘celestoidvania’, drawing inspiration from the popular game Celeste. A glance into his past reveals about a decade spent in architecture, a domain that while exacting in its demand, failed to ignite the same passion within him that game development did. There was a turning point though. “My little side project, Lucid started picking up some steam with support from my fiancée,” said Eric, gratefully recalling the origins of his brainchild.
The transition, however, was not without challenges. As many creatives would empathize, Eric found the professional world of architecture quite different from his educational experience. “I loved the concepts, the design. It teaches you how to think about traversing through spaces and color and shape,” he explained. But the actual profession, especially his stint in high-end residential in New York city, was more challenging. It wasn’t the craft, but rather the industry’s inherent challenges and the people that proved more draining than invigorating.
Interestingly, Eric’s journey from architectural designs to game development isn’t an isolated case. I recalled another architect-turned-developer Roger Lundeen who transitioned into the world of gaming during the early days of Valve and Half-Life. The allure seems to be universal.
Eric’s foray into gaming began late one night in an architecture studio. He stumbled upon an alpha build of a game called Iconoclasts. The pixelated game wasn’t just beautiful, but it was also a product of a single developer. This revelation was the push Eric needed. He took a proactive step, reached out, and got involved. He armed himself with resources and knowledge from online forums, YouTube, and the community around him.
The transition, while enlightening, was also demanding. “It feels like it was 10 years,” Eric recalled. Starting in 2013 with tinkering and exploration, he only began to find his groove by 2015. But by 2017-18, the consuming nature of game development began affecting his personal life, leading to a hiatus.
What’s unique about Eric’s story isn’t just the transition, but the synthesis of his past and present. The principles and design tenets he acquired in architecture seamlessly blended into his game design. A simple rotation transformed a floor plan’s layout into a captivating side-scroller. It’s a testament to how diverse skills can interlink in the most unexpected ways.
In an era where passion projects often remain dreams, Eric Eric’s journey stands as a beacon for those looking to shift from their established careers. It’s a testament to the fact that with passion, perseverance, and a little bit of pixel art, anything is possible.
Navigating the COVID Era: Unearthing Hidden Creativity in Solitude
In an age of global health crises and an unparalleled era of telecommuting, individuals worldwide found themselves facing unique challenges. For some, the days of the pandemic were overshadowed by professional tumult, personal introspection, and an urgent need to discover silver linings in a backdrop of uncertainty.
The rise of telecommuting, while initially met with skepticism by many traditional firms, rapidly became an undisputed savior for creative industries.Eric candidly shared, “It was one of those work-from-home situations where it was the greatest thing for me. Remote working? That is not a thing they [companies] want. They tried pulling us into the office so hard, and I was just like, no.”
The sheer weight of this transition, however, was double-edged. The autonomy granted by remote work fostered unprecedented levels of productivity for some, while others crumbled under the weight of isolation and the absence of routine. Eric further stated, “For those who used it as an opportunity, I saw a lot of people thriving. But, using the word fortunate feels odd because, even though I thrived being home alone, it’s hard to give a positive spin when COVID was so terrible.”
But the pandemic wasn’t solely about isolation and work; it also reshaped personal relationships. Many found their bonds with friends and family strengthened, with previously dormant connections rekindling and a newfound appreciation for close circles.
The existential considerations many faced weren’t just limited to their immediate surroundings. Global perspectives were also at play. He noted, “I believe, in more European cultures, they have a little more breathing room to figure out what they want to do. They’re not locked in right out of college.” He subtly points to the age-old debate about work-life balance and the perceived differences between American and European professional cultures.
Despite the geographic debates and competitive spirit—”Even our pizza is rivaling Italy’s!”—the pandemic brought about a broader shift in how individuals perceived their roles in their industries. The once-clear demarcation between work roles started to blur as people reconsidered their career choices. “Everyone was changing careers or switching industries,” I shared. And this isn’t just anecdotal; global trends during the pandemic echoed similar sentiments.
Yet, with every change comes the associated challenges. While some individuals seamlessly adapted to new roles, others faced regret. The reasons ranged from missing old colleagues to the realization that their initial zeal was perhaps a tad hasty.
The pandemic era underscored the significance of community and interpersonal relationships. Eric recounted, “I was definitely building a community, and when I realized what was happening, I had to give it a home.” Platforms like Discord became sanctuaries, helping alleviate the challenges of isolation.
In closing, while the pandemic era was fraught with challenges and uncertainties, it undeniably paved the way for individual introspection, fostering creativity and community bonds in an otherwise disconnected world.
The Creative Spirit of “Lucid”: A Deep Dive into the Musical and Inspirational Layers of Indie Game Development
While many of us have been engrossed in the epic cinematic experiences of Hollywood or caught up in the intricate weaves of Studio Ghibli’s storytelling, a fresh voice has emerged from the world of indie game development. Drawing inspiration from the cinematic worlds of both the East and West, the upcoming game, “Lucid”, has captured the attention of many.
“I remember this one time, there was a quartet playing,” I recounted. “The composer, Joe Hisaishi, was playing in Hollywood Bowl, and I couldn’t quite place the tune, but the ambiance was mesmerizing – intimate and candlelit. It gave me the same feeling as some of the music I’ve been working with.”
Indeed, the music is a significant aspect of “Lucid”. One can discern the hints of what Eric playfully termed “optimistic melancholy” – an atmosphere he tried to “inject into every nook and cranny of Lucid.”
“I’ve always been drawn to that dichotomy in Studio Ghibli’s movies – beautiful nature juxtaposed with war. There’s a cyclical nature, a gray middle ground. Yet, even amidst the sadness, there’s this optimistic hopefulness,” he shared.
For many, including Eric, the sentiment resonates. Art truly feeds into art, and there’s a myriad of inspiration that shapes the creation of “Lucid”. Besides Studio Ghibli, I revealed a surprising muse: Kanye West. “I know it’s kind of controversial to mention Kanye nowadays, but his earlier albums, especially ‘College Dropout’, were on repeat during my college days. It puts me back in that mindset.”
Yet, it’s not just contemporary music that ignites my creativity. I am deeply influenced by orchestral scores like those by Ennio Morricone, renowned for iconic films such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. The power of an orchestral backdrop seems to resonate with both our love for places like Barnes & Noble. “Every time I visit, there’s this feeling they’ve managed to architecturally encapsulate – the allure of books, the ambiance, the coffee aroma. It’s pure genius.”
At its core, the development of “Lucid” feels organic and deeply personal. It’s a game molded by various influences. A hint of Super Metroid, a sprinkle of Mega Man X, a dash of Celeste, and the vibrant world-building reminiscent of Zelda.
Discussing the foundational stage of creating “Lucid”, Eric shared, “I started traditionally. Pen and paper, sketching ideas out, then translated them into pixel art.” The tools? Primarily a program named Aseprite and Unity.
Interestingly, while many indie developers opt for collaborative efforts early on, the mind behind “Lucid” wanted to wear multiple hats. “For a long time, I romanticized the idea of being a solo developer.” However, as the vision for the game grew, he recognized the value of collaborating with others, leading to a team of talented musicians, coders, and artists working together to bring “Lucid” to life.
With the buzz growing and a Kickstarter campaign in the works, “Lucid” is a testament to the collaborative spirit of creativity, how different influences and sources of inspiration can come together to create something beautiful and unique. It reminds us that in the world of game development, just as in music or film, the boundaries are only as limited as our imagination.
The Rise and Evolution of Kickstarter: A Beacon for Indie Devs and Streamers
In a candid discussion about the ever-evolving landscape of Kickstarter, indie developers, and the connection to the streaming community, a few illuminating insights were shared on the role Kickstarter plays in supporting passion projects and creating intimate developer-backer relationships.
“Kickstarter is an interesting one. I’m trying to make it so that it’s very encouraging. People are incentivized to back the Kickstarter for exclusive stuff,” Eric shared, underscoring the allure of exclusivity that drives many backers to support a project. Such exclusive content often ranges from in-game items like skins and talismans to digital rewards like wallpapers and physical media. For example, the upcoming Kickstarter for the game ‘Lucid’ will offer backers a digital map of the game world, beautifully illustrated by artist Hugo Pierre, as well as a prequel comic created by illustrator Ray Cadbury.
While Kickstarter’s essence is about supporting creativity and vision, it also fosters a unique bond between the developers and their backers. “It’s for people that really want to feel like a part of a passion project,” he remarked.
Interestingly, a connection was drawn between Kickstarter and the surge of streaming platforms like Twitch. The idea of supporting creators directly, as seen on Twitch through donations, possibly traces its roots back to Kickstarter. I noted, “I feel like Kickstarter had a lot to do with the streaming. There’s a lot of support directly from viewers and customers which didn’t exist until Kickstarter came along.” Platforms like Patreon further amplify this model, often modeling their approach on what Kickstarter initiated.
Yet, with the successes comes skepticism. The gaming community remains wary of projects that might be perceived as scams. The game “Star Citizen,” for instance, raised eyebrows for accumulating a whopping $600 million in contributions, smashing Guinness World Records.
But why this shift from AAA games to indie games and support platforms? A sentiment emerged during the conversation: a growing disenchantment with AAA games and their tendency to launch with bugs, day-one patches, and an aura of incompletion. Simultaneously, the Kickstarter model offers a promising alternative. As Eric pointed out, “I want to support a passion project that usually has a better result than whatever the AAA is turning out.”
To frame the rapid changes in the gaming industry, it’s interesting to see how far the community’s knowledge base has come. A decade ago, terms like ‘Unreal’ might have been relegated to the industry’s inner circles, but now they’re common parlance even among casual gamers. It signifies not just the growth of the industry but the deepening engagement of its community. As one participant mused, game design encompasses every art form, making it a melting pot of creativity and innovation.
In conclusion, while the gaming industry has seen seismic shifts over the years, platforms like Kickstarter remain pivotal, providing indie developers a stage to showcase their vision and build a tight-knit community of supporters. As the lines between indie developers, streamers, and the larger gaming community continue to blur, one thing remains clear: passion, creativity, and community support are more intertwined than ever.