5 reasons the Vita made me a game developer

Earlier this week I released my first ever video game. It’s called “Kuatia” (you can download it here), and it’s an endless runner for Android with a simple philosophy: 100% free, 100% free of ads, 100% free of violence. The idea is for me (and other people in a similar situation) to share their love of video games with a younger generation (in my case, my nieces and nephews) in a wholesome way.

It did made me think, though, about what led me to develop the game to begin with. A few years ago I didn’t even own video games, and now I’m Assistant Editor here at Vita Player, I write for Infinite Frontiers, too, and now… “Kuatia” is out in the world. But why? Well, I think it all came down to the Vita.

The moment that EB Games salesman told me (wrongly) that I couldn’t play games on the Wii U gamepad without a TV, I said “alright, give me a PS Vita, then”. And my life changed, and here I am. But why has having the Vita make want to develop games?

Here’s my Top 5 Reasons the PS Vita made me a game developer.

1. The people

Vita Player Editor Simon Plumbe (L) and David Kaye (R) at Maesteg train station, 2015. [Marcos’ note: this is my boss, who beta tested my game and has supported me throughout the whole thing. Thank you, Si!]

I think this is the most obvious for us who own a Vita, and it’s the hardest for outsiders to understand. The fact that we’re consciously investing time, effort and money into what’s basically a device abandoned by its creators make us a united bunch. I’ve been here at Vita Player for a couple of years now, and the staff, developers and publishers I’ve met have been some of the best things about video games for me.

But it’s also the fans: Vita fans will rage when ports get canceled. Vita fans will flood your Twitter asking you for a Vita version when you release a PS4 game. Vita fans will tweet about your game, make you fan art and tell other Vita fans about what’s good and what isn’t in the latest PSN Store update.

Obviously, it’s something completely different on the Android Play Store: there seems to be no unity from fans, developers or any other group. But even so, I know that I can depend on the Vita Island to support my release. Because they are part of what I do, and they are part of what I do.

2. The hardware

SOURCE: Wikimedia (Google – image labelled for reuse)

It’s easy to now think about the Vita as an outdated piece of hardware that’s been abandoned to boot. But when it first released, it was kind of ground-breaking: it had a lot of horsepower for a portable device (much more than the 3DS) and titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush seemed to pave the way for a console experience on the go.

Of course, we know it didn’t quite play out that way. But the potential is still there, and the releases that make use of the hardware are absolutely stunning, and the Vita version of a game is usually the version I will choose to play. If the choice exists.

Again, it’s not the same on an Android phone. But it’s because I fell in love with the Vita that I spent so much time playing games on it. And getting to know these games, loving them, talking to the developers, the fans… it made me realize this was something I aspire to.

3. PS Mobile

100 Best PlayStation Mobile Games 001 - Life Of Pixel
Life of Pixel, a PSM gem!

Well, talk about the dead past. PS Mobile (PSM) was a fantastic platform for starting developers. The barrier of entry was much lower than for full-featured releases, and you could release quirky, small games to consoles and games.

While PSM is no more, many games we love and many developers we follow came from the PSM era. They first wet their feet in the waters of serious development by releasing PSM titles.

And seeing these people go from a relatively small platform to full-fledged development studios really made me think that I could do it, too. Of course, I can’t. I realize now, after releasing “Kuatia”, that I’m way over my head and I will possibly never release a game on consoles.

But the inspiration was definitely there, and much like I admire filmmakers who started with a short film and ended with an Oscar in their hands, I also dream of one day having my games released by LRG and having a physical copy that I can touch, feel and play with.

4. Indies

10 Second Ninja X is one of my favorite Vita indies.

Some people hate on independent titles. “These are not real games!”, they cry, purchasing instead the latest installment of the Call of Battle franchise. And while they’re of course entitled to buying these games (which I also enjoy!), it’s unfair to call indies “not real”. On the contrary: for me, they provide a very real sense of enjoyment that can only come from independent development.

I think it’s safe to say that Mortal Kombat is a safe formula now. As is Gran Turismo, GTA, and so on. But take games like Shutshimi, or Aqua Kitty Milk Mine Defender. Or an absolute gem and favorite of mine: 10 Second Ninja X. These are left-field, unique proposals that would have been shut down on a bigger studio. And yet, they bring endless enjoyment to those who are fans of them.

That Dragon, Cancer, Her Story, Flower, Journey and other indie titles are now moving the medium towards a very real very deep sense of representation of the human condition, thus validating video games as an artform and proving a voice for some that may not always be allowed to speak.

All of this lives and thrives on the Vita. It may have been called an “indie machine” in a negative way before, but for those of us who appreciate niche gaming, it is because of this, and not in spite of it, that we fell in love with it from the start.

5. Joy, oh joy: games anywhere.

I’ll take that game to go, please.

I do not own a TV. I don’t say this to brag. I just can’t afford one at the moment, haha. And I’m not a huge fan of TV as a medium, to be honest. Never have been. That’s why, when I was a SEGA Mega-Drive owning child in Paraguay in the 1990s, it was with not-so-healthy envy that I looked upon my friend Victor and his Gameboy and wished for that liberty, too.

No longer confined to sitting in front of a TV controlled by adults, Victor could, quite simply, turn on his own screen (!) and walk about playing Mortal Kombat II. Now, for the younger ones among you this may seem perfectly normal, but for 1993 Marcos, it was almost witchcraft. It was enchanting. It was liberating. It was akin to owning a car, but better, because it was Mortal Kombat.

Nowadays everything is portable. I’m writing this very article on a portable computer. But the charm of portable gaming has remained strongly attached to my rose-tinted glasses. And this is something that Android delivers in spades, and in some ways, resembles PSM, too: it is a low-barrier-entry way for new developers to cut their teeth into releasing a game from start to finish… and then play it absolutely anywhere.

Again, we take portability for granted nowadays, but I defy you to walk about for a week without your smartphone and tell me that portability isn’t one of the greatest things of the past decade.

And the PS Vita brought portability to the next level: a fantastic screen, great resolution, good battery life, console-like controllers, it had everything. And yes, it failed. At least for some.

But not for me. I still love and play mine every day.

And maybe that’s the takeaway here. Maybe the real reason that the PS Vita has been such a huge influence on me is simply because I enjoy it. I enjoy playing it. I enjoy the ecosystem, the industry, the whatever-else-you-want-to-call it. I like it. I thrive on it. And “Kuatia” is not the next Fez. It won’t win any awards, or propel me to financial independence.

But darn, it was a hell of a lot of fun to make, and it’s not too bad to play, either.

Here’s hoping for a Vita port, eh?

In the meantime, you can download “Kuatia” for Android here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bds.kuatia

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