I am sitting here starting this blog double-about-face really which is hugely ironic for my main nickname online "@matarua". But that is another story... here's how my gaming career got underway.
In 2011 I went on a year long sabbatical with my partner. Travelling around the world and living for a month in Sri Lanka in October I came to the realisation that after 20 years of doing design work for clients I wanted to do some work for myself. That is what I had been missing.
I grew up gaming first on the Vic 20, Astro Wars, Simon, Merlin, the Rubix Cube and various cheap knock off LCD games before getting my very own Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k. I had to use my best mates one before that. We played games like Ant Attack, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Minefield, River Raid, Harrier attack, Raid Over Moscow - that got me hooked on the ZX Spectrum. Gaming was a huge part of my time growing up and I later realised that it had shaped my own aesthetic which came through in my design career as a love for minimalism.
I played my Spectrum games on a monochrome black and white TV and the ones that impacted me the most were the filmation games from Ultimate "Play the Game" and the many other similar games that followed. It is from this crop of games, Knight Lore, Alien 8 & Pentagram by Ultimate and then Highway Encounter, Quazatron & Head Over Heels that really imprinted on me and spawned a love for all things isometric.
I lived in a leafy green neighborhood, played a lot of sport and took regular imaginative adventures. But what captured my visual psyche most was grey and geometric. I still have a strong love for this look today in design, games, movies, illustration and architecture.
Is my outlook for gaming grey and isometric tho? Well not really. It is something that I may pursue in the future. Why? Firstly I was exposed to games in the arcade full of colour and that was a massive impact on me as well - Tempest, Galaxians, Scramble and Zaxxon! Secondly my career has now spanned 23 years of interactivity and colour.
Through that time I have created design for print, interactive CD-Roms and websites. I started coding my own websites in the 90s while working my way up to Senior Art Director. I formed my own studio Mata in July 2001 which continues to evolve in this App based society today.
One thing I have always done through my career is answer the brief with a design solution to suit the user and try not let that suffer to the whims of my own design aesthetic. My first game concept I took that approach but this time I was the client and the user too.
I wanted to make a game that I think is missing from the iOS app store. That game is a platform game that puts playability at the forefront and had mass appeal. That was my own brief to myself. I had a few ideas based on the limitations of the device and while in Sri Lanka I started my game concepts.
The game would use a long lost project that never got very far. But I had always hung on to hope that I would do something with this game name and concept I came up with a long long time ago.
As I said I loved grey isometric and this is what GemBugs looked like in 2002 when it was going to be a browser based community project.
The original idea with GemBugs was a flash based community where the bugs were actually gems. By day they looked like your normal gems, but at night, or online they come alive like little crabs or spiders and go on adventures. The user could choose the colour of their gem to whatever they liked.
I got the gems animated and walking in isometric using Flash back in the day and it pretty much stopped there.
So here's where we end this story and start the next one. The first step was to take GemBugs and create a game concept using that name which needs to be a kick arse platformer for iOS.