Swakopmunder releases computer game
12 July 2020 | Art and Entertainment
Johnny Benade; Game Developer; “You need to have a passion for the part you play in it...”
Johnny Benade (34) recently released a computer game called I.B Helper (Intelligent Bare Bones Helper).
The self-taught game developer shares more about his passion.
Benade, who is based in Swakopmund, said that the game was his first project that he released to the public.
“A very bad habit for a game developer is to start a new project every week or month and never finish it. I.B.Helper was a clear task I set for myself. Its small scope allowed me to learn more and developing it was not a financial burden. The project quickly showed me how much work game development actually is!”
He said that the player character in his game is a helper robot of sorts.
“It is part of a line of robots developed by humans to help us with colonisation-related tasks. This includes moving machinery and doing welding.”
In the game the robot simply needs to comply with its directives, with the player playing the part.
“The game is about a colony ship that crashes on a deserted world. You, as the I.B.Helper robot, need to find and rescue any surviving crew members.”
According to Benade this is easier said than done, with all the evacuation ships being destroyed in the crash.
About the game
“The game is played in a third-person perspective. That means the player looks over the character from the back. The desert world is a small open-world, so there are no levels to complete. It is a free roam game that allows the player to explore where they want when they want.”
What makes up the bulk of the game is the repair of an evacuation ship.
“The I.B.Helper bots can use thrusters to move ship parts to repair the evacuation ship. These thrusters don’t just litter the landscape; they need to be ‘harvested’ from other robots that have gone offline.”
Everything, from moving around to using the laser cutter, requires power.
“Power is the survival aspect of the game as the robot can only recharge in direct sunlight or with energy cells. This is not as easy as it might sound, since the game has a day / night cycle, meaning the sun occasionally sets!”
It took two years for Benade to complete the project.
“I released I.B.Helper in April this year on two online PC game stores. It is available just about anywhere in the world for downloading.”
Where it all started
Benade was born in Maltahöhe and the programming bug bit him at the age of 12.
“I enjoyed tinkering with computers. I never thought much of it and it was a hobby for many years. After high school I started playing around with 3D modelling software just for fun and I quickly realised I really enjoy it as a creative outlet.”
He said that he has a hard time just twiddling his thumbs.
“If there was a slow day at work, I used it for my hobby. A few years later I started working for a company specialising in industrial automation. This pushed me back into the field of programming. While I’m not very good at it, I do enjoy it. I still used every opportunity to create anything around me in 3D on a computer.”
He eventually opened his own consulting company with two of his friends in the security industry.
“While running your own business is definitely not the easiest thing in the world, it provides you with the opportunity to juggle work and other priorities. This allowed me to look at game development.”
Benade says he never thought it could be something he wanted to do for a living.
“I enjoy playing games, but development is a completely different story. Game development consists of many different aspects, two of which are programming (whether in a coding language or logic structure) and graphics like 3D models. It is the ultimate creative process, bringing together art, sounds, music, logic, storytelling and so much more. Once I found a game engine that I felt comfortable with, I started learning the mechanics.”
“Island Life” is the working title of his current project. “It is much plainer in concept, but much harder to make. Basically the player is stranded on an alien island that looks much like a tropical island on earth. The player simply needs to survive.”
Basic real-life things influence the player, like temperature and hunger.
“I try to make all the ‘systems’ in the game influence each other. It does not rain at specified intervals for example. Direct sunlight increases your body temperature while being in the rain decreases it, that kind of thing.”
Island Life will be something that can be replayed, whereas I.B.Helper is much more linear.
Benade hopes that somewhere in the near future, he will have a team and a proper studio to make games.
“I want to release a commercially successful project.”
In his my opinion the best way to learn is to teach.
“I’d be happy to chat or help people that are like-minded. I have created a group on Facebook for game development called ‘Creatives’ for people in Namibia (or anywhere really) that want to use their creative skills productively.”
Benade said that the great thing is that game development is not limited to the Namibian market.
“There is a relatively small market here for game developers, but since you sell the games online, there is no limit to any single country. The overall market for game developers is massive.”
According to Benade people in Namibia tend to think the game developing industry is specifically for programmers.
“They think they need to be directly involved in the game development process. This is not the case. Namibia has many people that have specific skills (or want to develop their skills), but have no productive use for them. A game developer needs many different things: music, sound FX, art, 3D models, 2D assets and so much more.”
He said game development has so many creative aspects to it and people from any one of those aspects can use game development as a market.
“Imagine writing a little novel and seeing it become an interactive story on the international market. Hearing the song you wrote play in the background, the potential is endless. You need to have a passion for the part you play in it.”