This interview with the makers of Harpoon Harry is my first in a series of interviews with #gamedevs about their current projects. Enjoy!
Your name: Johno Deniz
Twitter Handle/ Other Social Media: @jejsoft / @johnodeniz
One interesting and random fact about you that people would not necessarily guess:
Both my colleague and I are strong SFII players. So strong that in a state championship we met eachother in the final! I beat him on the day, but he’s the better player
Nowadays we both have SFII arcade cabinets in our households.
What country you live/work in:
The video game company producing the project:
We founded our own company, JEJ Soft
The name of the project:
Estimated release date:
It’s already out on iOS and Android
link to website/blog/steam page/Youtube/other:
How did you get into making video games?
I’ve played games for as long as I can remember, since the Atari 2600, then the C64, etc. My parents weren’t that well off but I do remember the day I got my Amiga 500. It was love at first site. Gaming has always been in my blood (along with playing football/soccer).
My colleague and I both did computer science subjects back in the day and made little games in C and Pascal but nothing serious. Life, career etc took over but it was always in the back of our minds.
Finally one day my mate approached me and said “we should do it” and I was like “about bloody time!”
What is your background in?
My colleague and I both studied engineering (software and mechanical). Both of us have had long careers in the IT sector building enterprise and SaaS products and services. We’ve both been gamers for as long as we can remember!
Blurb about game:
Pitch – Can you survive underwater with just a harpoon? Test your diver skills underwater as Harry or Hanna and tame the ocean filled with fish, crabs, swordfish, jellyfish and sharks with your trusty harpoon.
What inspired this game?
I think every gamer dreams of making their own own game so that’s what my best friend (a digital hermit hence why i’m the only maker listed) and I finally did.
The mobile market is dominated by hyper casual games with a strong emphasis on pay to play. Many possess procedurally generated levels so the game can be churned out quickly.
Fair play to them, it’s proven, it works, hell even I’ve considered doing it. (I still am…)
But our stupid passion got in the way and my friend and I wanted to do something different first time around. We wanted to make a proper game, with hand crafted levels, with a set pattern of enemies to encourage mastery – essentially a 2D shooter from the SNES / Megadrive (or Genesis!?) days. We wanted the gamer to know that this was really made by fellow gamers, not some corporate chasing targets.
And so after 9 months of side-hustling we launched Harpoon Harry on the 7/7.
Big sources of inspiration were R-type (which I love to bits) and jetpack joyride (which ethically I kinda don’t)
What makes it unique?
It’s a 2D shoot-em up but it’s designed for mobile with intuitive two touch controls to swim and shoot. The controls will make or break its success (a long with a lot of other things!)
What will make it a success?
As above, we’ve already launched and it’s had limited traction. From what I see it’s very hard to break into the top charts of the mobile stores without a publisher or paying for advertising. But it depends how you define success. We’ve learned a ton from this and are continuing to make improvements to the game before we kick off our next project
Who do you think it will appeal to?
We’re aiming at the mid-core market. It gets a tad difficult later but it’s really hard to gauge. I know some 8 year olds that have clocked it (!) and some 20+ year olds than can’t get past the half way mark. Getting the difficulty right has been challenging no doubt.
Number of people working on the project and skillsets:
There’s two of us. We can both code though my colleague is way faster as that’s been his day job for some time. So he does the development and I do the game design.
How are you handling art?
Neither of us can do art. I can draw but that was a long time ago. I’ve been monitoring the pixel art scene and i’m keen to get stuck in but if there’s one piece of advice i can give others it’s “do less and do it well”. No point spreading yourself thin and sucking at everything.
What tech/stack do you use?
We’re sticking with Unity C# for the moment.
Are you full-time? If so how did you make the switch to working full-time in game development?
No we’re not. This is a side hustle that we’re investing in heavily with the hope to click over to full time. We’ve both got families to support so we can’t just jump ship.
Is this your first game? If not how many and what other sorts of projects have you worked on?
It’s my colleague’s 1st and my second. The first I did was a ‘choose-your-own-adventure-novel’ aimed specifically at Melbournians (in Australia). It was never meant to be a hit, rather, I did it to bolster my portfolio to land the job where I still work at. So that kinda worked!
What’s been the hardest thing about making this game?
Great question! We’re both time poor so just being diligent, and making the time whilst juggling everything else. Increasing awareness of our game and trying to determine whether we need to pay for promotion and how much is probably a close second.
Anything else you would like people to know about you or the game?
My best friend creates sensational electronica music. All his stuff features in our game and I think he has a massive talent. Would love to know what y’all think. If there’s one thing we’ve nailed well imo, it’s the BGM and SFX.
We also have our third update coming out soon offering new difficulty levels to give the players more longevity. TL;DR – check it out, we’d love to know if you love it, if you think it’s meh or if it downright sucks (just be nice please!).