An impromtu experience with GameMaker Studio set off a chain of events that led to South African developer and one of the prospective future people of the year, Bruce Nicou spending the next five years trying to realize his vision of his first game – Alpha Particle. He briefly talks about the past, present and future of his sci-fi metroidvania.
What was the inspiration for Alpha Particle?
Alpha Particle is part inspiration and part accident. A short while after I started learning how to code I started working on a prototype and just never stopped working on it. Eventually a few months after that, I gave it a sci-fi theme as it seemed to fit well with the mechanics. That and I am a huge sci-fi fan. A lot of the game play is inspired by 80’s style game play (including some retro styled bosses) wherein things will have to be discovered and learnt to progress further.
Who is the developer behind the name Function Unknown? Care to expand on your background and ambition as a creator?
When I was about 12 years old my brother bought an electric guitar and the minute I saw it something flipped over in my mind and I instantly knew that I want to create, and few months later I bought the guitar from him and that is just what I started doing. Since then all I wanted to do was create and I tried my hand at just about any medium you can
think of. One day I bought a computer and started creating digitally. By the time I started programming (+-4 years ago) I had already taught myself digital art, design and audio design. Luckily this meant that I could at least aim to produce a fair quality game right from the start. Developing games has been the most rewarding for me on a personal level as it gives me a space to practice most of my favourite forms of creation all in one place.
One of my other favourite things to do is compose and create digital music (Alpha Particle has an OST with 30+ tracks available soon).
I am hugely inspired by life and nature, and all the little awesome details in it, and it has a strong influence on my creations.
I am ambitious to make more games faster and better, but then who doesn’t want that?
Why the decision to make a sci-fi metroidvania game? Did the release meet your expectations?
This game had a life of it’s own and I let it do just that. So whatever felt right at the time stayed and whatever didn’t, didn’t. I really milked that indie dev perk at times. At one time the game was more puzzle like, then some action got added, then abilities, then a story got introduced. Being my first game I just allowed the game to be mutated as it grew as this was basically my first playground, and I wanted to play.
The game industry is massive. This means lots of potential but also lots of competition. On Alpha Particle Steam release day +- 50 other games were released. I have been mentally prepared for this after doing some research in the past. So Alpha Particle did as expected on release day but not as hoped. But id does not end there. We have been in constant talks and deals with various content creators, Steam curators and other organizations to push promotion further for the game. We will also be taking part in various completions where copies of Alpha Particle will be up for grabs. Once this period has cooled down we will be releasing on various other platforms as well (Itch, GOG, Epic Games etc).
What’s next for Function Unknown?
I have already started working on prototypes for the next game idea. I will make a few of these and test them out in public before I decide on a final idea. I want to be very careful in the choice I make this time around and make sure I choose something that’s fun to create and fun to play for most people. What that is, is still a mystery.