Hi! I’m Armaan Sandhu of Frostwood Interactive, and I’m working on an adventure game called Rainswept – a murder mystery dealing with themes of love, relationships and unresolved trauma.
I’m working on this game solo – it’s always been a dream of mine to make games and I’m honestly pretty thrilled to be finally doing this. But I wasn’t always into game development. Heck, I don’t even know how to code. I actually studied to be an Architect, and was working in an Architecture firm just a year ago.
But first, what is Rainswept? The game is about investigating a small-town murder as Detective Anderson, who comes into the small town of Pineview to assist the local police force with a seemingly simple case – a couple is found dead in their kitchen, gunshot wounds telling the story of the incident. The locals have their minds made up about the nature of the crime, judging murder-suicide to be the most likely outcome based on the rumors floating around town regarding the couple’s apparently toxic relationship.
It’s Detective Anderson’s job to figure out the real story, by talking to the locals examining clues and exploring the atmospheric town of Pineview, assisted by the enthusiastic local cop Blunt. But at the same time, the detective’s got his own dark past to deal with – and it may stop him from solving the case altogether.
So then, how did I get into game development? And why? For a long time, I’ve wanted to create art – something beautiful that moves people emotionally. I just didn’t know what medium to do it in. I joined Architecture school because I wanted to stay in touch with art while also doing something “practical” that could work out as a career. Only, I realized I didn’t like the subject nor was it creatively satisfying for me. I moved into films upon graduation, but again, I found that I didn’t enjoy the process of working on a full-scale film set.
I decided to get a nine to five job in Architecture to buy myself some time while I figured out what I really wanted to do next. It was then that a friend of mine suggested game development – something I’d always wanted to do but never did due to a lack of industry presence in my country, and financial constraints. But now, almost a decade after I’d abandoned that dream, thanks to the growth of the indie gaming scene, game engines and marketplaces that have brought down the barriers to entry, it was something I could consider again.
It seemed like the perfect fit – I love the game industry, and the possibilities of creative expression are almost limitless. So, for 6 months I worked on learning the required tools and creating a prototype alongside my day job. When I felt I really had something going, on May 2017, I left the job and started working on Rainswept full time!
It’s now been more than a year since I’ve been working on this game. How has it been? Did I make the right decision? Is this something that I’ll finally stick with?
In short: Yes. I absolutely love it.
In fact, I’m a bit surprised at how good it’s been, considering the horror stories that one often hears about the indie game development life. About how it’s a journey of only pain and struggle, how success is rare and how so many indie games end up in obscurity.
Now, there is pain, struggle, and sacrifices that need to be made. But the thing is, it’s been worth it. Nothing good comes without those things, and it makes the feeling of overcoming the challenges even sweeter. As for the warnings and horror stories – they’re not wrong, but they’re no reason to give up either. It isn’t right to assume that the famous horror stories are the only possible outcome for every developer – there are ways to avoid some of those situations, or at least stack odds in your favor:
One of the major things that’s worked for me is the fact that I live in a place with a low cost of living – Goa, India. It’s a small state on the west coast of India, and living here has allowed me to take some of these risks. In fact, this is something that Tim Ferris talks about in his book The 4-Hour Work Week – don’t be scared to move to a place with a low cost of living if it helps you live the kind of life you want (paraphrasing here) So if making games is your highest priority, moving to such a place might be the best thing you can do to sustain a game dev career, or to at least get it started while keeping financial risks low. Other things like passive income are a huge help too. If you’ve got some skill that can be used to bring in some regular income on the side – do it.
I also believe that the engine you use doesn’t matter – at the very least, for your first game – as long as the final game is something that players would enjoy. Using Unity + Adventure Creator has allowed me to quickly create a game without getting caught up for years learning how to do the same things that the engine allows me to do. I was able to make my idea into an actual game without spending years learning how to code thanks to these tools. Don’t be afraid to use things that help development in this way.
Focusing on the final experience has also helped me lean on the strengths of Rainswept and create a game around that. I know that I want the final game to be a moving, narrative driven experience with good audio/visual presentation. Every decision that needs to be made is helped by keeping that final goal in mind. For instance, when I was beginning to learn Unity + AC for the first time, I first attempted to make a player character walk around a scene, interact with objects, talk to NPCs and have in depth conversations with them. I knew that this was basically all I needed to make a game that achieved that final goal. That gave me the confidence to go all in with this game, and since then I’ve been adding more depth to the game as I’ve become more confident with the engine.
One of the major things that helped Rainswept is the demo I released in January. Being featured on itch.io and gamejolt immediately helped bring in a lot of traffic and attention to the game, while also allowing me to identify issues and bugs with the game. Releasing a demo is the best thing a dev can do for their upcoming project!
It’s not always been smooth, but as I said, struggle is a part of the process. There’s been plenty of days where I’ve just not had the energy or drive to work on the game. I just lay around trying to get myself back to work. This is often a sign that I need to take a break and get away from working on the game for a while. It’s basically a task of balancing things out so that I can extract maximum productivity without getting burnt out.
But most of the time it’s been a thrilling experience. Just the thought that I can spend my day working on something I love and believe in is enough reason for me to give my all. A couple of years ago I couldn’t have imagined being a part of my favorite industry – that I have a demo that people across the world have played and loved, a game that many are waiting for, and the fact that it’s being covered by multiple gaming websites! It’s exciting, I’m grateful and this gratitude keeps me going.
If things work out with Rainswept and it does well, I have ideas where this story could go next. Whatever I do work on next will continue to be along the lines of narrative-driven, with a focus on atmosphere and immersion. Years later, maybe when Frostwood Interactive is more than just a solo developer company, I’d like to work on something bigger in scope. So that I can create experiences reminiscent of those that inspired me in my childhood. The ultimate dream would be to work on a fantasy RPG – something whimsical, beautiful and nostalgic like Fable perhaps!
But for the immediate future post – release, plans are to support Rainswept and work on getting it onto consoles. That would be another dream come true! And it’s unbelievable how close I am to it.