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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Solo dev Matthieu Houllier lets you take a paper plane on an adventure in Paper Sky

French solo dev Matthieu Houllier, operating under the name Brute Force, has been making games by himself for five years. In that time he has released the 3D platform game Crumble. “It did way above what I anticipated and allowed me to live off of gamedev”, he says. Now, the sky’s the limit for Houllier as he is working on his second project Paper Sky, a game ‘that combines the thrill of an adventure game with the mechanics of a paper plane simulator’. The Kickstarter campaign is very much alive and flying. 

Because Houllier is working alone, he needs player’s feedback to shape his games. “I prioritize creating content based on what I believe will facilitate the game’s marketing efforts”, he explains. “Depending on the response from social media, I decide whether to continue expanding on those ideas or not.” A clever way of working that allows the developer to operate solo, because he’s just not suited for working in a team. “Been there, done that! And it’s not for me. I don’t believe I have the temperament for it myself.”

Why did you become a solo developer?

“It wasn’t by choice. When I started in the video game industry I couldn’t find a job in any french video game company due to my skillset being too broad and not specialized enough. A friend of mine convinced me to make a company to work on a game jam I did and we did just that. As the pressure of indie-gamedev began to take its toll, I was kinda left alone to fend for myself. I was lucky enough to release my first game Crumble as a solo-dev, it did way above what I anticipated and allowed me to live off of gamedev.”

What are the biggest advantages of working solo?

“I’m sure every solo gamedev would agree that the main advantage is the unique way your vision is carried. It’s faster to get stuff done, information doesn’t get lost etcetera.” 

And the biggest pitfalls?

“Time. It will always be our biggest enemy. Being a solo developer is NOT for everybody and it is NOT what you think it is.”

What’s your creative process?

“Create first, then understand why it’s working or why it’s failing. I have a unique pipeline process where I prioritize creating content based on what I believe will facilitate the game’s marketing efforts. Depending on the response from social media, I decide whether to continue expanding on those ideas or not.”

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

“Honestly you don’t really, you just have to push through it. Seeing the enthusiasm and support for your soon-to-be released game helps! You must have faith in yourself and your ability to finish a project.”

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

“Been there, done that! And it’s not for me. I don’t believe I have the temperament for it myself. That being said, I’m confident in my ability to be an efficient worker for someone else if they require my assistance.”

How did you get the idea for Paper Sky?

“I’ve always wanted to make a paper plane game that is not an arcade game but an adventure game. And I’ve always had an affinity with momentum-based games, where players will have to learn how to efficiently move through the world to the point they excel at it and are having a blast flying through it.”

How did you decide on the visual style of the game?

“I have a deep admiration for everything old-Disney related, and when I first watched Paperman, a Disney animated short, I was instantly inspired to create a paper plane game. My approach is to draw from the aspects I love in the work of artists I admire and translate that into my own games. With Paper Sky, I’ve taken a significant step forward in the art department compared to my previous project.”

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

“For me it isn’t that bad. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it has a toll on my mental health but I can definitely see why some people might have a hard time with it. I would not spontaneously recommend it to anyone, but if they are willing to make the sacrifices I would support them into that decision! The best approach is to prioritize taking time for yourself. If something doesn’t work out initially, resist the urge to doubt everything you believe in. Stay committed and persistent, and eventually, you’ll have a breakthrough.”

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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