I spoke with Karen Teixeira, currently making Oceanheart with Alec Holowka, a bit about her game dev journey…
1) When and why did you become a game dev?
Games have always been a huge part of my life, just like drawing and making things. I majored in Visual Arts but it wasn’t until I was halfway through with it (around 2007) that I thought of gamedev as a career I could pursue – mainly because before it seemed like this super cool thing out of my reach and I had no contact with anyone that was a gamedev. Then I started finding out about gamedev events and accessible tools and it suddenly felt possible for me – so everything just sort of clicked and I went for it.
Creatively speaking, making games brings together so many areas and things I love and lets me experiment/learn in this very rich, multidisciplinary way. There’s something about building things that people interact and play with that is really fulfilling to me, it’s crafting playful experiences that connects people and take them to new interesting places.
2) What inspires your art? Which piece is your favorite and why?
Playfulness! I’m very inspired by all things whimsical and cute. I wanna make people smile. I guess my current favourite is Oceanheart, since I feel it has a lot of potential for me to explore these things.
3) I see on your website that you make toys. How did you get into that and what is the process like?
I’ve always been into crafting and sculpting (origami, clay, LEGO, Nanoblocks). I’ve cosplayed for a few years and found I was more taken by the prop making than by the dressing up bit, and throughout it I met people who were pretty amazing at plushie making so that was a big inspiration! I decided to teach myself sewing and try making my own toys that way.
It’s actually a pretty fun process that of translating a two dimensional design into a 3D piece. I usually come up with an idea, look up similar patterns and make lots of doodles so I can plan how the pieces will be joined together to get the shapes I want. I mainly work with felt because it’s a cheaper material and very easy to handle, and I hand sew or hot glue everything – never been anywhere near a sewing machine but I’m hoping to get one eventually.
4) Please describe your journey as an artist trying to learn how to code (your obstacles, achievements, ups/downs, advice)
Coding always felt to me like this super overwhelming complicated thing, something I believed my brain wasn’t hard wired to do at all – plus I felt too old to get started. After some struggle my wish to code my own games was still far greater than the excuses that were holding me back, so I sort of allowed myself to get started and take my time learning.
I began picking up Unity and going through tutorials, making silly clones of shooters and games like tetris and pong in what I would call Friday Coding Nights – registering all my progresses on a blog. This was pretty nice because it felt like I was building something slowly and steady, plus sharing allowed me to receive a lot of support and meet people who were getting started too. There will be times where you’ll feel like the most dumb person on the planet so having this in place kinda boosts you up when you’re feeling shitty and helps you keep motivated. I’d share posts, gifs, funny bugs. I had a go at other engines and currently I’m trying to code my own projects instead of building study clones and that has its pros and cons – it’s a lot more complex if you’re bad at keeping ideas simple (like I am), but in the long run I found it keeps me way more motivated and fulfilled. I think it’s all about playing around a bunch because there are so many different pacing and ways of learning and we’re all wired differently. You gotta find what works for yourself and know what you’re hoping to achieve. Currently I’m getting started teaching myself Lua and coding games on Pico8 while coding a visual novel on the side using Unity (Fungus and Playmaker).
5) Oceanheart looks absolutely stunning. What has it been like working on this game with Alec Holowka and what is your overall goal with the game?
Thank you, that means a lot to me! It’s been a pretty exciting journey with Oceanheart, collaborating with Alec is always great fun and I feel we just really sync. Oceanheart is a very dear and personal project to me and I want it to be this positive experience of nurturing goodness and bonding. It’s meant to be an open world game with sim-like mechanics where you can chill, explore and play around, a homely playground of sorts.
6) What has been the hardest part of working on Oceanheart and how have you overcome that?
Game designing it has been the trickiest bit for sure! We have many ideas scattered around that still need to be tied together properly (and some of them need to be let go) and that’s super hard to do – so refocusing the game has been our current big challenge (the game is still in a very early stage development wise). So much potential for feature creep so we have to watch out for that.
7) What is your biggest lesson learned from your game dev journey?
The importance of living and creating wholeheartedly. I feel this is a lifelong improvement that allows for genuine connections and creations to happen. So to me this has been a process of losing the need to control every single thing and losing the fear of vulnerability in order to be comfortable with myself so I can pour all of me into what I create and share that with everyone else in the most genuine way. I believe this is how we create unique play experiences and this is what we naturally do as creatures engaging in play. Each one of us has something very unique to contribute to the world but that requires sincerity and an open heart.