Defending The Tower: Mathew Martin’s Journey To Become a Game Developer

by Joshua Diokno   

Developing a video game is no walk in the park. But when your dreams are aligned with it and the passion and fervor for it never dies out, working on even the most strenuous of tasks within production would prove to be a mere challenge, not a headache.

And as far as challenges go, Game Developers here in the Philippines are inundated with the seemingly-never-ending hurdles brought about by the industry itself. But what persists is the will of those who have vision, something that Mr. Mathew Martin, Co-Founder and the Creative Director of Five Fingers is all too familiar with. Working with one Keneth Canonoy, Co-Founder, Art Director of the Team and fellow believer, Mr. Martin is responsible for the upcoming Tower Defense Game, “Tower Tales”.

Xeno Creatives had been fortunate enough to have been given the time for an interview with Mr. Martin. Here, he walks us through the struggles and triumphs he had experienced while pursuing Game Development.

TTWallpaperXeno Creatives (XC): How does one become enthused in Game Development? What path did you take that made you say to yourself, “I am going to be a Game Developer”? Was it something that came about as a necessity or a genuine desire?

Mathew Martin (MM) As a person, I never saw myself reaching this point. It all started with watching, then it became my hobby, and finally it became my passion. When I was a kid, all I dreamt about was creating a simple game and animation that can entertain people and that’s it. I have never thought that I can make it this far; that I can make things way more than I imagined. My primary goal in life is to have a company of my own and make it one of the highest entertainment corporations, while helping others acheive what they actually wanted in their life.

But before I ended up here in my field, I was thinking if it’s possible for me to build a game. I really did not know how and where I will start. It was somehow kind of a challenge for me but that did not stop me from pursuing my dream. Instead, I used it as my inspiration because backing out from chasing what I want was never an option. Subsequently, I managed to make a virtual world using computer graphic designs and that is where it all started.

Many things already happened along the way of reaching my goals. There were good things, ang of course, bad things. Actually I expected failures more rather than success, those failures will keep you motivated, and it will make you more determined. Patience is a crucial thing that all of us must possess, because having what you want is never easy; it takes a lot of time for you to have it. I experienced stuff that I never expected, stuff that taught me how to deal with challenges that came along the way. And of course, it wasn’t just me and the things that happened to me that made me who I am today. People around me, especially my team, is a big part of who I am now.

One of the things that I learned is that in order for a person to become successful, he or she must be ready to risk things because that will also assist them to overcome their fears. Without taking a risk, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our dream and we will become like bats living in a cave of darkness. Risking may be hard for some, but I assure you that in time, all of it will be worth it.

I didn’t expect that things for me and my team to go this far, and as I go, I don’t have any plan of stopping with what I started without reaching the finish line. And now, taking responsibility as the leader is the hardest thing in my life. The only thing that matters with living in a creative world is to express yourself on how you feel or how you experience things in your everyday life. Playing games is not my thing but developing games and making animation is one of the thing that my life have depended onto living. Passion and creativity are just two of the many things integral for you to be able to grow and become what you want to be.

XC: How does the typical day of a Game Developer look like?

MM: How can i say this thing? hmmm, maybe it’s not a day for us; we call it a nocturnal day due to our working time. Most of the developers worked on night to day maybe it is because there’s this peaceful time that help our mind to think a lot of things rather than working at day with a lot of people.

Do you have any personal projects that you undertake in your spare time? If you are not working on any, what kind of projects would you want to pursue in the future?

MM: Yeah we do have our personal projects. There’s Heinous, the team’s first internal project. Heinous is all about the reality things that may apply on everything in your life. It’s a puzzle and horror game and our target platform for this game is Sony PS4, Xbox One and PC Platform(Steam). Due to the lack of funding, we decided to stop the development of the project and started to think small; but maybe it’s not that small a game and it was the Tower Tales! Our plans about Heinous is to put our concept to crowdfunding systems like Kickstarter. We need a big budget for this game and as an Indie Team, we simply can’t afford to make this project. Recently, we have been trying to find investors and sponsors for this project here in the Philippines. But it seems we are not yet meant to achieve our goal.

Tower Tales In-Game Screenshot 3XC: Have you tried your hands into other media or technical discipline? If you have, what was it?

MM: My main focus on our team is on the art side, working with 2D graphics, 3D graphics as well modeling. If I’m not into this thing, I would have probably pursued Information Technology . But then the blood that courses through my family’s vein is the arts.

XC: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what do you think you’d be specializing in?

MM: I can’t say that I can be with anything else, since then I started to pursue my dreams and support myself alone on this passion. I never tried to do anything else, It’s just a waste of time if I didn’t take the chance to do what I really love.

XC: How do you see the Philippines as a venue to further the development of Game Production?

MM: Game Development in the Philippines is starting to grow and nowadays game development is in the mainstream. Due to a lot of people trying to be developers, many projects has been out in the market. But then the marketing of each studio/company is not that good due to lack of enhancement on the concept itself. Being in the game development side, there’s a lot of risk to take in, you don’t know what’s fun yet, you don’t know if your concept will made things clear, you don’t know if your concept can lift you up. So yeah let’s accept the reality that Philippine Game Development needs to enhance itself for us to be able to compete with other Game Development Companies across the globe.

XC: What were the key ideas that led to the conception of the puzzle game, “Tower Tales?

MM: Tower Tales is a Strategy game; it’s a Tower Defense Game, I’ve been playing a lot of Tower Defense games and it certainly caught my attention. Through tower defense, you’ll learn what kind of strategy what you’re about to use, what kind of decision you’ll make and what kind of life-saving you’ll need to consider.

Tower Tales is about you, the Overseer, guiding the human race to defend their homeland. The period ranges from the the Stone Age to the Medieval Era. Your army eveloves from using clubs and throwing rocks, to using spears and shooting arrows. Tower Tales is designed as a tower defense strategy game that will lead you to take control of your own territory, plan your strategy, and execute your tactics in order to build up a powerful defense to fend off enemy attacks and win every battle. Each difficulty that you overcome will help you unlock the mystery of the story behind every event inside the game.

XC: Describe your typical day in production for the game.

MM: There’s a lot of challenges within the production stage of the game, first you’ll proceed with the pre-production where concept will be at your side, through the concept itself there’s a lot of consideration and lots of research to take in. The production stage is the hardest part of developing games. There’s always a deadline for the timeline on the game development timeline.

Tower Tales In-Game Screenshot 2XC: What are we to expect from the game that is a departure from other games of the same nature? How would it stand out?

MM: Last ESGS 2016, our team got a chance to be part of the Indie Arena Section. The first Demo release of the game is about the endless mode of the game. We didn’t achieve our target timeframe for this event as Tower Tales is still under conception as we tried to develop a simple endless stage for us to be able to present the game to anyone. However, Tower Tales struck luck and we caught the attention of 2 players. They gave us an invitation where we can showcase our game and be part of the competition of their event. Taipei Game Show in Taiwan this coming January 19-24 and luckily, we as the Five Fingers team will be part of the event as Exhibitor and Competitor. Tower Tales have unique story concept that may cover up the whole difficulty of the game (Easy, Medium, Hard). The story of the game wouldn’t be finish until you come far on the last level of difficulty of the game.

XC: What engine is your group using?
MM: We’re using Unity 5 for Tower Tales. We decied to use the unity for its liability for the mobile applications and it’s feature is easier than Unreal Engine 4 which we’re using in Heinous: The Turnover.

XC: How many artists and programmers are involved in the project you are currently undertaking?
MM: As an Indie developer, we don’t have any specific number of people working on this team. There would be a new one and another one would leave. The team that will go to Taiwan is limited to 5 people, All of us are artists and programmers as well.

XC: What inspired you to create a Tower Defense Game?
MM: What inspired us to make the concept of Tower Tales is, there’s only few people or developers here in the Philippines who are making a Tower Defense Game. Tower Defense is a strategy game that will consist a lot of time to develop due to it’s algorithm and assets. We also play mind games, strategy games, puzzle games that inspire us to build our own strategy game.

XC: Do you already have any release dates set out?
MM: As of now, we don’t have yet, why? We will release the 2nd demo of our game in the Taipei Game Show and IF we can find an investor for our concept, we will give and specify a target date release. And IF we cant find any investor for this concept, we will start a campaign on Kickstarter to support the game. Alas, IF we cant find any help from the 2 options, we will still continue developing Tower Tales and we will continue our own journey without asking anything from anyone.

XC: What’s next for “Tower Tales”? Are we seeing other installments in the future or do you have other plans up your sleeves?

MM: Our plan in Tower Tales is to maintain the game and upgrade the mechanics so our audience would stay with us. Giving your audience updates on your game will help you to build your reputation. And what would be next after the Tower Tales? Heinous will be cover up the next time frame of the team. Heinous maybe a big kind of concept, but then it’s not the reason for the team to give up and make another concept, It’s a challenge for us to achieve our goals, our dreams to be one of the highest Entertainment Company.

Tower Tales In-Game Screenshot 1 Do you see yourself as one who contributes largely to the industry?  If so, how?

MM: No, Not Yet, We started small, very small, with a low specs of computer, without money on our pockets. But then it’s not a reason for us to stop on what we’ve started and it cause as our motivation in life to build our own reputation and as one of the contributor on the Philippine Game Industry, Though we’re still on the struggling side which we find clients and funding our team, but still it’s not enough to achieve everything. We’re still hoping that one day, someone or anyone will help us and invest on our team to achieve everything.

XC: Where do you see yourself in the coming years?

MM: We can’t say what would happen on us on the future, but if the team have one goal, maybe we can see our future as one of the success team in the industry and one of the success Entrepreneur.

XC: What piece of advice or message can you give young aspirants wanting to enter the industry?

MM: Don’t aim for the money, Aim for a better concept and do the things that you love. Through a better concept, everything will come out as the fee for your hard work.

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