Since 2007, Sacramento’s active game developer community has fostered growth of game development throughout the region. In 2014, the Sacramento Indie Arcade, a community driven event, was created to help promote local game developers and show the world what is being developed in California’s capital city. Arclight Worlds recently won at this event with their game Venture Forth. As winners, Arclight Worlds has the opportunity to go and compete at Indie Prize Seattle at Casual Connect USA. The following article is a postmortem highlighting Jeremiah Ingham’s vision and search for talent.
By Jeremiah Ingham, Founder and CEO of Arclight Worlds
Deep & Dark
It all started down under, deep underground in Australia. In 2012, I had the amazing opportunity to tour one of the largest cave systems in the world: Jenolan Caves. As we traveled through these colorfully lit caverns, an idea sparked within me, growing, and ultimately evolving into what we now know as Venture Forth. That feeling of mystery and wonder, mixed with eerie suspense, never knowing what you will find down these dark tunnels was profound. I just had to try to capture this in a game. That night, still in the mountains of Australia, I started writing the first lines of code that would become the caves of Venture Forth. At the time, I was still in college, just starting to learn to program, but already addicted to using my new programming talents to create games. After returning to the US, I got one of my college friends excited about the project, and he took on the artistic direction for the game.
A couple months later, my friend and I graduated college, and I participated in a “Games for Cats” hackathon where, in 2 days, we designed and built an iPad game to be played by cats! It was great fun, and our team of four managed to take home the $15,000 grand prize! It was on this team that I met the amazingly talented musician and composer, Peter Brown. I had to have him on our team, and after some negotiation, he agreed to do the music for Venture Forth. At this point, with my college friend in charge of art, Peter Brown in charge of music, and me in charge of programming, we were set!
That is until a few months later when the pressures of life set in, and my college friend could no longer devote himself to artistic development, and had to leave the project. This was extremely difficult, and for a while I tried very hard to take on both the programming and artistic responsibility in addition to everything else. As a programmer developing an entirely custom game engine, I took the approach of creating simple but clean art, and then using generative algorithms to build more complex and interesting structures from that. This is what allows the dynamic creation of any cave design and many of the modular systems in the game. I also developed many creative graphical shader effects that enhanced the designs of the simple geometry I was working with. This definitely led to a very unique art style, but I ultimately decided that I was spreading myself too thin. There was too much time and expertise required in both art and programming for me to reach the level of quality I wanted.
Time to Get Serious
So at this point, I realized I was trying to do too much myself. If I was going to create a successful game, I needed more professional sound effects and art. Through a friend, I met the talented sound designer, Juan Delgado and at GDC (Game Developers Conference) 2015, I met the talented 3D artist, Alex Rudé. They could provide what this game needed and I wanted them.
Also, Peter was still helping out as a friend, and I wanted to bring him on as a full audio director, and pay him fairly for his fantastic work. However, of course, I didn’t have all the funds to do this myself. This was when I teamed up with the guys at Indie Voyage, Colin Sullivan and Robert Leach, to assist with business and publishing. With Indie Voyage, we launched a kickstarter to try and raise the funds for Peter, Juan, and Alex. However, without having the new art and sound work that they would do, we were unable to sell the vision of this game on kickstarter, and the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. This was extremely difficult, and the second great low during the project. I thought hard about the project and what I wanted in life. Success is rare in the field of game development. This project was extremely important to me, and I wanted to see it through till the end. I am extremely lucky to have the family I do, and I was able to convince my dad to give me a personal loan for the amount I needed. This game would not have been possible without him and the rest of my family and I am extremely thankful for all of their support. With this second chance, I moved forward with Peter, Juan and Alex behind me.
A New Beginning
I continued to polish up the game as Peter, Juan and Alex worked to deliver everything. With Alex’s superior models, I was still able to apply all the generative algorithms and shader effects I had developed previously, and the game was looking great!
I am proud of everyone who has worked on this project, but I have to give a special shout-out to Peter Brown. Of all the aspects of game development, sound is what I know the least about. However, Peter is truly an expert. With minimal guidance, he has gone above and beyond my vision, and come up with countless creative solutions with his audio direction to enhance your emotional experience within Venture Forth. And his creativity is only matched by his reliability and professionalism making sure the audio always stays on track and everything is completed on time and to the highest level of quality. It has been a pleasure working with him, and I will always be excited to work with him in the future. And that brings us to now. Release is right around the corner, and I am proud to present all that we have created.
The Evolution of World Programming
From the beginning, I have developed my own game engine. When starting the project, I was still new, and my talents were limited, but I was passionate. Thus, my plans for the game started small and modest. However, as the project progressed, so did my talents, and the vision for the game. The game actually started out as a flat randomly generated world with turn-based exploration mechanics, much like a traditional roguelike. But as my talents grew, I felt confident tackling the programming challenges of real-time combat, and a fully persistent 3D world. And thus, a hybrid world made up of both random generation and hand-crafted content emerged.
This enables significantly more interesting areas to be created much faster and more easily. Now, even players have the ability to design and create their own entirely unique worlds to share with other players. That, coupled with real-time mechanics, enables the core exploration to be infinitely more satisfying. However, while programming is my greatest expertise, as an independent game developer, leading my own project, there are countless other responsibilities I have had to take on and learn. I have become a jack of all trades, master of programming. But there is always more to learn. I will never stop looking for new techniques, and learning new ways to improve my skills. Mastery is a lifelong pursuit.
Spread the Word!
As a technical programmer, marketing and promotion have always been my biggest challenge. My partnership with Indie Voyage has been quite helpful, but as we are both still startups, visibility continues to be our greatest struggle. As such, our biggest objective is currently finding the best ways to get the game out there and let people know about it. So for all the players out there, if Venture Forth looks like just the game you’ve been searching for, check us out on Steam, and tell your friends! We’re excited to share it with you.
Jeremiah Ingham is a young but talented programmer making his first game right out of college. He just couldn’t pass up the challenging opportunity to dive in and develop his own unique 3D game engine. With an innate love for adventure, he’s a seasoned traveler and rock climber.