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Solo dev Dmitriy Gusev started his career as a doctor “I needed a drastic change”

In the upcoming horror platformer Unlife, players have to navigate a post-apocalyptic world where mankind is all but wiped out from a nuclear war. Dark oceans have swept the lands and the main protagonist roams the decks of an old WWII submarine in search for ways to survive and -hopefully- a cure for the parasite inside him. Developer Dmitriy Gusev, operating under the name Diedemor Studio, made this game by himself. “This has been one of the most complex games for me so far”, he admits.

Because Gusev is an avid builder of scale model submarines, he really wanted to have submarines in his game. “And as a fan of series like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, I’m keen on blending the theme of submarines with elements of horror.” The solo developer worked six years as a doctor before drastically changing his career and going for game development. “I just love creating games”, he explains.

Why did you become a solo developer?

“I began developing games during my school years and published my first game on the included DVD of a local games magazine around 2004, if I remember correctly. After school, I pursued studies at Medical University and worked as a doctor specializing in anesthesiology-reanimatology for six years. However, I eventually felt the need for a significant change in my life, leading me to transition into the roles of a 2D rigger, animator, and game developer.”

What are the biggest advantages of working solo?

“For me, it’s an ongoing process of self-education. I continually improve on various tasks. Additionally, I maintain full control over all processes I complete by myself. Solo game development resembles crafting a narrative, much like writing a book. But with the added elements of illustrations, animations, and music.”

And the biggest pitfalls?

“Of course, creating a game all by yourself is a lengthy journey, and the primary risk is experiencing burnout during the extended development process.”

What’s your creative process?

“Often, I find inspiration in various sources, and I begin to contemplate how I can translate these emotions into the game.”

How do you stay motivated through (years of) development?

“I love creating games. It’s a process where I can unleash and enhance all of my skills: composing music, drawing illustrations, and crafting animations, among others. That’s where I get my motivation from.”

Will you ever work in a team or is it only solo for you?

“Yes, I have experience working in a team, and it was positive! My friend and I collaborated on a small indie game about the Wild West, called Dead Dust. I handled programming and composing, while my friend created all the pixel art graphics. I’m definitely open to it.”

How did you get the idea for Unlife and what did it take to get it made?

“​​I’ve been fascinated with assembling scale models of submarines for a while now and have a small collection myself. So, I’ve been eager to integrate this hobby into my new game. As a fan of series like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, I’m keen on blending the theme of submarines with elements of horror.”

What’s the biggest lesson learned from this project?

“The most significant lessons I’ve learned from this project are twofold: firstly, I spent too much time developing it, although I gained a wealth of experience in the process. Secondly, I realized the importance of selecting the appropriate visual style and sticking to its principles consistently.”

The toll on your mental health can be quite high for solo devs. How do you deal with that?

“To be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought, but I do find certain aspects of programming, particularly the more tedious moments, to be stressful. However, I’m deeply passionate about game development overall, which keeps me motivated and engaged in the process.”

Unlife will be out on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch on 1 March 2024

Eric Bartelson
Eric Bartelson
Editor-in-Chief of PreMortem.Games. Veteran game journalist for over 20 years. Started out in 1999 for game magazines (yes the ones made of paper) such as PC Zone Benelux, PlayNation and GameQuest, before co-founding Dutch industry paper Control Magazine.
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