I loved cartoons when I was a kid. You might think well all kids do, but in my case when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied “Animator”. That’s how much I was into them. The first time I played a game, it was at my father’s workplace (interestingly enough) playing a very very primitive 3D game on DOS which I still don’t know the name of. It was a spaceship shooter game in the same veins of “Descent”, but with very very primitive graphics. I couldn’t play on my own because it was too complicated for me, so someone else steered the ship and I pressed the fire button whenever he told me.
Later I played a bunch of games here and there on computers at my dad’s workplace (notably Doom), my friend’s computer (notably Wolf 3D), on my cousin’s computer (notably Aladdin), and on my other cousin’s NES (notably Contra), amongst other places, but I didn’t have any gaming device on my own. Instead I had board games, of which I quickly grew tired of partly due to them being boring compared to computer games and partly because there was no one to play them with. I usually ended up trying to create my own variations of the board games I had by changing their rules, or make original ones using a piece of paper. I also enjoyed making comics. I didn’t know how to write so I’d just draw the pictures and ask someone else to write the text as I told them to.
I was interested in telling my own stories, and making new mechanics for games, and those interests have stayed with me to this day. My interests took an unexpected turn when my father bought me a Sega Mega Drive for getting good marks in first year final exams at my elementary school. Playing the games for longer timespans made me realize that computer games were more than just fun. They were interactive experiences, they were animations that you controlled. This was very appealing to me because I was interested in making animations, and in a sense, games allowed me to do just that. It was like watching a cartoon, but instead of waiting to see if the protagonist will see the baddie sneaking up behind his back, I had the ability the control the protagonist, and actively influence how the scene would play out using my controller. It was clear to me at that point that games were better than animations.
With the introduction of school to my life my parents felt that they had to manage my free time, which meant that I was effectively told to have minimal free time and focus on my studies, and I was also not allowed to play any games during the school season, which was 9 months long in my country with only one short break in between. My creative output was slowed greatly in this time as I generally focused (or was forced to focus) on school.
However these all changed when my father bought me an 800MHz Pentium III PC when I went to middle school. I still weren’t allowed to use it during school years, but at summers I played mostly on my PC. However on PC I wasn’t limited to just playing games, I could now make things. I quickly started to realize that games were way more customizable on PC than on Playstation (which I had gotten a couple of years before). SWAT3 for instance, allowed you to place certain NPCs in certain rooms to create new missions. What most fascinated me was Age of Empires 2‘s scenario editor. I think I spent 80% of my AoE2 time in the scenario editor. The scenario editor was very versatile and at the same time easy enough to be used by a 12 year old who could barely speak English. I made many levels for AoE2, all of which I have now lost. Amongst my greatest achievements were a gigantic map with 8 teams, in which I had tried to recreate a sci-fi fictional world I had created earlier in my mind. (I used wolves in place of aliens) and a recreation of Nightfall‘s second part which was written by Robert Silverberg.
Empire Earth came next. EE was mostly identical to AoE2 in terms of mechanics, and it even had a scenario editor that closely resembled the one from AoE2. But EE featured an expanded scope in terms of time, starting from prehistoric age and continuing through to futuristic times. That and the fact that it allowed 16 simultaneous teams on one map allowed me recreate my earlier map in EE. This was an epic map and it took me a very long time to create, and I never could actually finish playing it myself.
EE also introduced me to basic programming. The scenario editor featured conditions, events, and triggers. The conditions could be strung together by AND\OR statements to flip a trigger, and events could be triggered by triggers. These together worked the same way an “if” statement works in programming, but they could be used by anyone without any programming knowledge to create missions. I think the time I spent in EE’s scenario editor contributed to my fast learning when I later switched to full programming.
I also learned to use a bunch of programs, such as Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe Photoshop, and 3D Movie Maker. 3D Movie Maker finally allowed me to create animations on my own, some of them being upwards to 30 minutes long, and the skills I learned in Photoshop at the time, such as masking and tracing, I still use to this day.
In highschool I started to take game design more seriously. I downloaded Half-Life‘s mod kit and began experimenting with it. I quickly learned map design and started taking c++ programming classes so I could implement gameplay features into my mod, and I started self studying 3D modeling using MilkShape 3D. Almost everything I know in programming I learned by looking at HL’s source code. I had created a mod on my own with custom maps and weapons, but I unfortunately lost it when a worm affected all the files on my PC.
At the latter years of highschool I had to focus on my country’s nationwide university entrance exam, something my parent took very seriously, and I wasn’t allowed to use computers for a couple of years. After the university entrance exam I was usually too busy to even play games much less work on making them. I did play a game here or there, but not much.
Recently I’ve been trying to get back to gaming and game design, and have been studying game design at a university for 2 years. And that’s where I am right now at the time of this post.