Most people remember my work from my various pixel art fan games over the years; Pixel Force Left 4 dead, Team Fortress Arcade, Pixel Force Halo, Mega Man Rocks, Pixel Force DJ Hero, etc.

I've since had the opportunity to work with several game companies during the past several years and have now started a new studio by myself. Yes, I have a new product that just hit Steam Greenlight, and the only reason I'm shilling it here is so you can see what kind of work I'm up to now. Its a far cry from my fan games of old. :)

Also, as stated above, I do just about everything myself, although on various projects, I'll get others to help me with some things. Here is what I know how to do: 2D art (pixel, hand drawn), 2D animation (hand done), coding, QA/debugging, sound effect creation/editing, music writing/editing, game design, script writing, voice acting.

If you want to check out the Greenlight project:

If you want to ask me about learning any of the above skills or want to know how to best make a game on your own, post below!


EDIT: Thank you guys for the questions and upvotes! It was lovely getting a chance to speak with you and I hope you'll all keep in touch. I will pop in and out occasionally and answer any additional questions that get dropped here, but for the most part, lets consider this event closed. :)

Thanks again, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!

Comments: 87 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

Im_an_asshole_online9 karma

What programming languages do you know? When did you start learning them, and why?

EricRuthGames7 karma

Great questions!

So, I always knew I wanted to make video games and had artistic talents from a young age. I did the typical teenager thing where you don't pay attention in school because you're busy creating characters and inking concept art in notebooks. Eventually, I knew that if I wanted to bring ANY of my ideas to life, I was going to have to learn to code (which, really, I'm not particularly great at) and apply that to my designs.

I found that the best way for me to code was to do it visually (since I'm an artist at heart) so I gravitated towards Game Maker back in 2006. I've stuck with it all these years and continue to use it to this day for a few reasons.

  1. Game Maker Studio is now VERY professional. It has certainly come a long way since 2006 when it had a reputation of being more of a "toy" than an actual engine.

  2. The game DOES require you to code, but rather than stare at walls of text, the visual elements of its system allow for an easier time in keeping it all aesthetically organized.

So, in Summary; I use Game Maker Studio and its inherent language (GML), and I got started in coding to bring my ideas to life since no one with coding skill was going to magically fall into my lap and work for free. :)

Im_an_asshole_online7 karma

Ah, nice.

You're essentially the opposite of me. I'm great at writing code, but terrible at anything design related. I'll always get as much help as possible when it comes to designs/artwork, but I've been coding since a young age.

We'd make a nice team if I wasn't a master procrastinator. Thanks for your answer :)

EricRuthGames1 karma

Procrastination is actually something I struggle with a fair bit of the time as well. I suggest self motivation by looking at work that impresses you and makes you want to be better. That's the key; always understand that you are NOT the best and can always learn and grow. Then when you see work from people you admire/respect, it makes you WANT to be better and that in of itself inspires your motivation. At least that's how it works for me. :)

Im_an_asshole_online2 karma

Thank you. My ADHD slows me down, too. I'm alright once I find something I love to work on, but once I start getting bored of a project, I forever abandon it.

Thanks for the tip though, it might be useful :)

EricRuthGames2 karma

Follow up: I have SEVERE ADHD as well. Try listening to music while you work. Don't do background TV or movies as your brain will pay attention too strongly.

All the best, man! PM/tweet me if you ever need help!

Im_an_asshole_online2 karma

I currently do listen to music all the time, if I don't, all the small noises around me distract me and stop me from working. I also have to be in a room with no movement around; I can't face a window or sit in the same room as someone else, etc.

Anyway, thanks for your answer and your tips, I appreciate it. I might send you a PM one day, but I'm not very social and will probably procrastinate from messaging you anyway.

EricRuthGames1 karma

Fair enough! All the best to you. <3

mzacatac1 karma

You guys need a composer with ADD to write your soundtrack?

EricRuthGames1 karma

Not for this game (Hauntsters), but if you want to PM me and show me some of your work, I would be more than happy to check it out! I don't yet know for sure what my next game is going to be, but all the same, I like to take a look at other indie artists' projects!

RizlaPleaseLa2 karma

Have you ever tried any other languages ? How would you compare GML to them? :)

EricRuthGames2 karma

I have tried other languages!

I actually started in my teen years with my TI-82 calculator and learned some of the VERY basics there. I remember making a Ghostbusters game and a Legend of Zelda game. They both ran slow as hell because the processing power on those things was made of discarded onion rings. :P

So, yeah, I learned TI-Basic, some light C++, and ofcourse, GML.

I would say that the reason I never fully got involved with C++ is because it was such a learning curve. Sure, there are tutorials and such now, but back when I started trying to learn, the only way to do it was to go to Barnes & Nobles and pick up a "how to" or a "for dummies" book that rivaled the phone book in weight. I mean, it doesn't get anymore gritty than C++ because it was basically industry standard for 2 decades. Now though, as a modern developer, you have options. I recommend exercising those options. :)

Ultimately, GML is more organized and easier for new people to pick up and run with. If you're not trying to make WoW or Final Fantasy 36, its plenty powerful and offers lots of great assets to help newer people learn without hindering folks who already know what they're doing.

RizlaPleaseLa2 karma

Thanks for your answer! I've always heard GML clumped into a toy language in the same way as VB.NET. As a previous VB.NET dev, i know this sort of distinction sucks. Glad to hear it's nice to work with.

In regards to why Game maker couldn't make a blockbuster title, why do you think that is? Problems with the extensibility or the engine itself?

EricRuthGames1 karma

Its not that it CAN'T make a blockbuster title, but more that AAA studio style games are tricky to create in GMS.

For example, some of the biggest Indie games ever made are Game Maker games (believe it or not), but it doesn't do 3D so well, so its more of a 2D-centric platform. If you want to make anything 3D, then I suggest using Unity in place of GMS, but if 2D is your thing, there's almost nothing GMS can't handle.

bszent1 karma

I still use a TI-82 to this day.

EricRuthGames1 karma

For coding?! You strong-willed person, you!

bszent1 karma

No lol! For math!

How the hell do you code on calculator? That boggles my mind.

EricRuthGames1 karma

It requires an insane amount of patience (something I lost long ago).

To be honest, I can't even imagine spending that much money on just a calculator. For some reason science has never explained, those damn TI calculators NEVER dropped in price despite modern technology blowing those things out of the water. I mean, c'mon. Get your shit together, Texas Instruments!

bszent1 karma

I know right I never bought one just for that reason. I just out of luck recently found this TI-82 in an abandoned office, and it was a golden find.

EricRuthGames1 karma

Oh, lucky you!

NoxiousPluK1 karma

Since you looked into C++ in the past, may I, suggest C# in combination with monogame?

C# is (imo) an amazing language and quite easy to get the basics of. There are nummerous tutorials on basic C# and also monogame (open source version of microsofts discontinued xna). Make sure to check out the monogame showcase.

EricRuthGames1 karma

One day when I have the time, I will be looking in to a lot more than just C#. I want to dip some time in to Spine and Unity as well.

GalacticCow1 karma

Oh man, TI-basic. That brings me back.

I'm convinced an entire generation of programmers was raised on TI-BASIC. For me it was my first foray into programming, and what drove me to pursue programming as a career.

EricRuthGames2 karma

"Hello world!"

Remember that one from your first day? :D

GalacticCow2 karma


Yes, yes I do.

EricRuthGames2 karma

Have a delicious upvote, you nerd. :D

goatcoat1 karma

Art and code are two talents involved. What about making the game fun to play? We're you always good at that?

EricRuthGames0 karma

I would say that learning design is a hit & miss kind of thing.

Its a talent you can definitely expand on and learn more about very easily. Its a skill that when it has been acquired, allows you to look at any game you play through a completely different perspective.

No more will you just say "Oh, that was fun!" Now you'll say "That was fun, and now I'm going to break down and articulate exactly why it was fun for me." Talking to lots of people who have never made a video game, you can see the logic change in conversation as they start to understand some of the points of game development.

The easiest way to put it is this: Every element of your game, from the design, to the art, to the sounds, to the gameplay should all work together instead of against each other. If your different elements fight one another or hinder the overall gameplay than there is something wrong and you need to pinpoint what is causing the friction and where. Sometimes this can be tricky, but it is ALWAYS a good idea to find and articulate why some things don't work together.

GlowingOrangeOoze3 karma

Did you have any aptitude for sound and music before you started working on it for games? Do you think a complete amateur has a chance at creating a good soundtrack for a game if he keeps things simple?

Me and a couple friends got a project going with me serving as the art team, and the other two being coders, but we're really feeling our lack of a sound guy. I've read some tutorials and put a few things together using OpenMPT, but I don't know a tracker from a sequencer or honestly know if I'm even starting in the right place.

EricRuthGames0 karma

I did have a bunch of music work under my belt. I had written music for a game called O2Jam and another one called Neon fm before I got my indie career really started.

My advice for someone just kicking things off is this: If the games you are working on are retro in style (NES or SNES in theme) than writing music is easier because the quality of your art/gameplay will dictate audio expectations form your player base. So, for example, if you have 8 bit pixel art in your game, try writing music with only 4 instruments that sound very MIDI-ish. Because of your game's art style, the low tech synth sound will work wonderfully. However, if you have elaborate Hand drawn 2D animations and 3D cinematics, clearly, 4 instrument MIDIs aren't going to cut it.

If you're trying for something more elaborate, there are places online you can get royalty-free music tracks (they call it "production music") for your OST.

If you're actually interested in learning HOW to make music and you want to get creative in the audio fields, PM me and I'll do my best to help you out!

Best of luck, bud!

tylerthedesigner2 karma

As a fellow dev, I know how difficult it can be to move away from an Engine/SDK once you're comfortable with it, but it certainly helps to be versatile. What would it take for you to move away from GameMaker?

EricRuthGames1 karma

Probably a steady team of people to work with. While I'm a one-man studio, its easier, faster and more useful for me to work in GMS to get things done. If I had a small team of people to help take the brunt of all this work off my shoulders, I would be interested in poking around and expanding my experience. As of my current situation, its just an all around better move to stick with what works.

like2lol2 karma

So did you make an IAmA because your game wouldn't get greenlit without us?

EricRuthGames2 karma

I have no idea what the answer to that question is, in reality. However, what I CAN tell you is this; I've been asked by people at conventions/festivals to do an AMA about my solo-man work on video game projects. I figured since today most certainly IS a day to get things going on Greenlight, it seemed to make sense that I do it all at once and murder both those birds with this here rock. :)

NoxiousPluK1 karma

I, as a fellow starting solo dev, am happy with this AMA. Thank you.

EricRuthGames0 karma

You are very welcome! I am glad there are more people like me out there. Helps me feel less "alone" in the world. Know what I mean?

Best of luck, my friend!

NoxiousPluK1 karma

Oh totally! There should be a one-dev community!

EricRuthGames0 karma

Agreed!! If you ever find one, poke at me and let me know! :D

NoxiousPluK1 karma

Maybe we should start a subreddit so we can hang around there all day and... Wait no.

EricRuthGames0 karma

See, this is the OPPOSITE of helpful. :) The last thing I need is more reddit to distract me.

Although the idea of having a community would be nice so people who are new could ask questions and get to understand the kind of dedication and work that comes with this cursed title. :)

TheRowenBowen2 karma

I am pretty decent at modeling, ok at texturing, and can't code a single bit. What're my chances of landing a gig with my current skill set? I currently pay for a digital tutors subscription, and have been improving further as a game artist. I plan to use the same website to learn to code for games, what should I, a total noob, learn first? Java? C+?

EricRuthGames1 karma

Your chances are great...if you want to do AAA work.

Most large studios only tend to hire specialists in the various arts. A guy like me is harder to hire than a guy like you for certain. If you're a modeler, than I think you should keep honing that skill set and practice, practice, practice. When you get to a point where you feel really comfortable, you should put together an online portfolio. Check other modeling artist and see how they handle their online presence. You can ALWAYS learn from the trials of others (and you should!) and apply that to your professional work.

In short: Focus on what you like best. If its modeling, keep on keepin' on and always look to improve as you move. Set up a professional portfolio, learn from others and apply to places you like best. Do your homework and it'll pay off in the job hunt.

Best of luck, Homie!

TheRowenBowen1 karma

Thanks so much, excellent advice. Feeling a lot more confident now, you rule.

EricRuthGames1 karma

No, sir! YOU rule! Don't forget that. A lot of people let a lack of confidence keep them from chasing their dream or looking for ways to make their lives better. Don't settle for mediocre. You can absolutely do it and if for one second you forget that, PM me and I'll remind you.

You rule! Keep up the good vibes and never let anyone drag you down. <3

vin_m2 karma

When do you consider someone to be a software developer?

EricRuthGames-1 karma

I'm sorry, bud, but I don't understand your question.

If you create software, then you are a software developer. Were you trying to ask/imply something else?

Shugbug19862 karma

What are some tools you'd suggest for people who'd like to learn to make games?

EricRuthGames1 karma

First off, find which engine you want to work in. For beginners, I recommend Game Maker Studio, and for people looking to move on from that, try Unity.

After that, you'll need art. Industry standard for 2D is Photoshop, but if you're poor and don't want to torrent, Gimp is a good alternative.

For 3D art, try zBrush, Maya or 3D Studio Max.

In the world of music, I use Reason 5.0 but I hear people have better luck in sequencer introductions using Fruity Loops. There are a lot of smaller and easier to get into audio software, even on the mobile scene. Just figure out whats important for your needs and find the one that works best for you via youtube reviews or google inquiries.

As far as the actual learning process, the internet is literally littered with various tutorials in the form of forum posts, youtube videos, etc.

If you have more specific questions, feel free to post again! Good luck!

Shugbug19861 karma

Thanks! I'll have to check out game maker. Also, why don't you recommend blender for 3d?

EricRuthGames0 karma

Oh, there's nothing wrong with Blender at all. What people use to create is highly personal and its up to you as to what works best in your situation. I just didn't mention it because I don't know a ton of people personally that use it frequently. That's all.

Sorry if that caused any confusion.

SheilaTheAltoSax2 karma

Any advice for some one wanting to learn code?

EricRuthGames2 karma

I'm very partial to Game Maker Studio because its so easy to get involved with.

Do you have ANY coding experience? Even in the web development realm?

SheilaTheAltoSax2 karma

I took a few courses on codeacademy, but thats about it

EricRuthGames1 karma

Well, if you have a general gist of what coding is and exactly how it works, then finding a language you want to use is just all about syntax. In this case, I'd recommend maybe C# since Unity is a great tool for game development and Unity utilizes C#.

Remember that you're on the internet in the year 2015 and don't forget to check youtube and Google for tutorials. Ultimately, that's how I learned my first tricks, and there is so much more available now..for free! Also, Unity is free to get a hold of and only costs money when you launch something in a sizable scale.

I hope this helps you out. Best of luck, and if you have any more specific questions, I'll do my best to give you a hand. :)

poochbrah2 karma

If you were one of the developers responsible for the development and production of Assassins Creed: Unity for PC, would your parents be proud?

EricRuthGames8 karma

My parents don't "do" video games, so they don't have any say in the matter.

However, the better question would be: "If your cat knew about the number of times you played Call of Duty, do you think he'd love you more?"

And my answer would be: "I don't have a cat. I don't play Call of Duty. And 'yes.'"

Joni_dlg1 karma

What is your opinion on Ringed Seals? And how did you end up to game industry? (If nobody hasn't asked that already)

EricRuthGames1 karma

I have a polar bear friend who recommends ringed seals as a delicious entree. I, myself have very little interest in eating them, what with living in a climate that they rarely inhabit. It just seems like a lot of work, but to each their own.

As for game industry shenanigans, I always knew from a young age that video games were awesome and I wanted to know more about how they were created. Now, since this is about 1987 we're talking about, there weren't a ton of resources for a kid like me to learn about game development, but over the years, I picked up bits and pieces. I mentioned elsewhere in this thread that I had a TI-82 graphing calculator during my teen years and I used it to learn basic programming. From there, I eventually got my own computer and started working on original pixel art in mspaint using Mega Man sprites for my inspiration. Over time, I got better and I eventually started learning Photoshop. Once I was happy enough with my art skills (digitally), I started screwing around in stuff like RPG maker and MUGEN to try and learn some stuff, but I largely found it overwhelming. This is where Game Maker became my go-to. It was easy enough to pick up without being extremely daunting and I learned so much from its community forums and eventually, the developers themselves.

I just made lots of fan games over the years until people took notice of my work. Since the, I've worked in California and Scotland with some of the best game developers on the planet. I learned as I went along and constantly tried to one-up myself with better games and newer ideas. Recently, I decided to try keeping myself financially afloat with my video game development, and BOOM, here we are. :)

litfan131 karma

A couple of questions:

  1. Which fan game was the most fun to make, and which fan game are you most proud of?

  2. What is the most helpful/beneficial thing you've learned from your work with other game companies?

  3. What is the most difficult thing about being a "one-man-show"?

Thanks for doing the AMA!!!

EricRuthGames0 karma

Thanks for the questions!

  1. Probably, the most fun to make would have been Team Fortress Arcade. I really enjoy TF2 as a game and to this day, its a franchise I really respect. Bringing those characters to life in a different way was a lot of fun. As for most proud, that's tough to say. Maybe Pixel Force Halo. I wound up translating a lot of game mechanics pretty well from 3D to 2D, and I feel like a lot of the core gameplay transitioned nicely. I think that's what was most important, ya know? Making sure that the fun of the original franchise withstood the de-modernizing that my 8-bit fan games pushed them through.

  2. Hmmm...most beneficial thing I've learned. Probably that all feedback is valuable, no matter who it comes from. Sometimes people write off criticism because the other party simply "doesn't get it." I've been a victim of that mindset in the past and I try to keep that in check when interacting with people who've played my work. Sure, that doesn't mean that everyone is right all the time, but it frames people's opinions in a format that is easier for me to digest when I keep that in mind.

  3. Oh, by far the hardest part about being a one man show is the time juggling. Having to do nearly EVERY part of a project requires more hours than each day has for me and that gets frustrating (and sleepless) very quickly. For example, because I've been working on promo stuff for Hauntsters all week, I haven't done any actual work ON Hauntsters. I've been designing web graphics and hitting up promo places with e-mails, tweets, etc. I've been cutting the trailer, getting screen shots and doing write-ups. If I had a team, these parts could be handled by the non-development side of the group, but since its just me, it takes up a large chunk of my time.

Thanks again for the questions!

NoxiousPluK1 karma

Superb answer. On point 3: This is trouble for me too. In the past I've run to greenlight / crowdfunding / social networks to early by posting even early game development news.

This started to take so much time that I burned out quickly. I plan to restart the project soon but get the basics in order before I do announcements.

EricRuthGames0 karma

This is a smart move. Its very easy to burn yourself out early. I've had similar problems in my game design career and have found that you, as a developer, NEED to take a lot of time to do things, but prioritizing becomes your most impressive skill. Work hardest on whats most important (the game itself).

Tuxiak1 karma

Did you think about getting a 'normal' job in a big company instead of those small projects? Do you think you'd find one? How do you make money for living?

EricRuthGames0 karma

I have done contracts for big companies, which certainly help with the financial situation. Because I'm now replying on my indie work to attempt to make a living, I will only receive chunks of money upon release of a game, which means that the longer a project takes, the longer I go without additional income. In the mean time, my wife is a teacher and kind of supports the bulk of regular bills with her measly salary. I mean, we make it work, but it would be nice to have an original project of mine take off. :)

As for finding a job in the AAA scene, I might be able to find something because I have a lot of good recommendations, but the trouble with hiring me is that I'm not a specialist like most AAA studios look for. Because I'm more of a "jack-of-all-trades", I'm a little tough to pin down in regards to where I would go inside of a studio once I'm in, thus no one really tracks me down to offer me a job unless its a contract that has a certain time/outcome/goal attached.

In addition, I like working with studios internally though because it offers me a chance to rub elbows with talented individuals and learn something in the process. My goal is to always learn and grow as I design/develop, and a AAA studio is always filled with awesome folks with amazing talents to absorb from.

LinklingMiiverse1 karma

What is the hardest part about programming?

EricRuthGames0 karma

Staying organized. When coding, you should always try your best to keep mid-code documentation and utilize it all the time. Leave yourself notes or you will forget what large chunks of code are designed for and it makes it endlessly irritating to debug later long after you've forgotten about whatever details that object has.

Other than that, its trying to remember all the syntax. Sometimes I forget what a certain command is and I'll have to go look it up to find out. Its not that its hard, but it takes a lot of extra time when I do it often. So basically, its a time/effort leak. :)

zero-2-hero1 karma

My friend and I are working on a 2d pixel game in Unity, but we're both programmers. Any advice on how to go about animations and music?

EricRuthGames0 karma

There is a whole host of royalty free production music you can get your hands on by googling. If you're looking for something that fits a more accurate pixel art setting, there are some indie musicians out there that LOVE to write what's called "chip tune" music. Google that as well and you'll find some amazing chip tune artists like Anamanaguchi and Inverse Phase.

As for art, this is a littler tricky. If you're trying to just learn some programming tricks and just need some filler art to kind of get yourself going, try using sprite sheets of characters already from other games. There are TONS of sprite sheets from famous 1980's and 1990's games with a lot of usable stuff. If you need something original, why not try doing it yourself..ya know, for fun? Art is a lot of fun and with pixel art, you can hide your lack of art mastery super easy. Remember, pixel art doesn't have to be super detailed or well animated. It just needs to fill its role in your project, and for a couple of early dev guys like yourselves, it should turn out A-OK!

I hope that helps you out, Slugger! Best of luck!

Zip2kx1 karma

Me and my friends talked about this yesterday, at what part do you stop being an indie?

Imo it's fine getting a publishing deal or financing but as long as you got the final say in the creativity you can still be classed as an indie. But others disagreed with this and believed that you lost that title when you take in external backing.

What's your opinion on this (i'm just curious not trying to class your company lol)?

EricRuthGames2 karma

This is an amazing question! I have always wondered what the true definition is for do you draw the line? I think there are a couple ways you could look at it.

1) If you make any money, you're not indie anymore. 2) If your studio has more than X people, you're no indie anymore. 3) If you have a publisher, you're not indie anymore.

I've heard all of these in conversation and more over the years. The problem is that there is no clear line. The reason you had that discussion in the first place is BECAUSE the lines are fuzzy/unclear.

As for me, I'm a one man studio who doesn't make very much money and has no publisher. I think I'm about as indie as it gets, honestly.

Also, side note, if your friends think taking in financial backing destroys indie cred, then how do they feel about kickstarter? I mean, if you make a game that gets funded through kickstarter, are you still an indie dev, or does the financial backing from the community change anything?

AdilB1011 karma

Did you ever meet any big developers?

EricRuthGames2 karma

I did a small project for Valve and recebtly, I did several contracts for Riot Games. Do those count? :)