January 11, 2017 Student Spotlight: Jet Forest
Alberto Guillermo De La Cruz

I’ve wanted to learn how to make games for a long time, but always felt it was too far out of my reach to be able to do it solo. A few years back a programmer friend and I made a simple little horde mode game with 2D style Atari graphics in Unity (which you can find here) as a little side project. A year later I designed a fast-paced educational game for iOS.

I really like Unity as a company and I believe they have a great, simple engine so I wanted to look into taking a class here in NYC. I saw that Playcrafting not only has a ton of classes on the subject, they’re also really involved in the NYC game development scene so I decided to enroll. Due to a last minute change in teacher the first few weeks were a little hectic, but I really liked my teacher Kevin and was in awe at how much he knew about Unity and game development, all from being self-taught. My coding background is in front-end development with JavaScript, but Unity’s version of JavaScript is actually quite different—since a game is completely different from a website—so it’s better for me in the long-term to pick up C# since it’s a “stricter” language that can be a little easier to debug and most Unity resources online use C# as the language of choice.

The course definitely demystified Unity for me. I have a much better understanding of the engine and can hack together simple game concepts, I can also debug code and reverse engineer open-source game code. Structuring a Unity project takes some getting used to, and the course definitely helped me out since the games we’d build were built from the ground up, no boilerplate necessary.

new-stage

The game I’m currently making is called Jet Forest, I’m taking a simple flash game concept and translating it to touch controls for iOS. As a kid, one summer I got really competitive in a flash game called Jet Slalom, where the objective is to steer a ship from crashing into trees for as long as possible. There’s already a version of this concept in the iOS app store called Cubefield, but I wanted to build a version with a completely minimalist graphic aesthetic on a 2D plane. It’s been fun learning how to build out particle effects for the ship’s explosion, and it’s a challenge implementing iOS Game Center functionality into the game (luckily Unity has a built in UI for Game Center leaderboards so that step can be drastically simplified). I still need to improve the performance of the game, at the moment it’s a little jittery with its movement.

gameplay

When I was learning how to build websites, I would build simple experiments with HTML/CSS/JS and deploy them onto a server, so for game development my plan is to build a few small, simple games for iOS that takes advantage of the unique controls offered by the platform. I hope to release Jet Forest onto the iOS store in the next month or two and work on my next little game idea, a Bomberman style game for iOS that uses tilt controls for movement and features a similarly minimalist graphic style.

jetforest

Quick Questions

1. How did you get into games?

I started with a SNES and a copy of Mega Man X and the Jungle Book when I was 4. My uncle also used to be a volunteer for Origin back in the day, managing events within Ultima Online so I used to watch him play those games.

2. You’re part of the first manned mission to Mars! You’ll be gone for 5 years and can only bring 3 games to play alone or with your 3 fellow astronauts. What are they?

Dungeons and Dragons—It’s a truly limitless game with endless possibilities.
Animal Crossing—A relaxing co-op experience ideal for the cold vacuum of space.
Super Smash Bros. Melee—I usually get pretty tired of competitive multiplayer games after about half an hour but this title in the series was always endlessly fun for me. I consider it more of a party game than an actual fighting game, so it’s all in good fun.

3. What would be your dream game to build?

I’d love to make a game for a portable Nintendo console and an arcade cabinet.

4. What do you love best about the game community in NYC?

The game community out here is super diverse. People here are also scrappier, really taking into account not just the game factor but how to hustle that into a business.

5. Choose 5 words to describe your experience making games so far.

Got a ways to go.

 

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