As the dawn of his new game draws nearer, we had a chat with developer James Meadows. He is living proof that teachers and tutors don’t always get it right. That it’s never too late to pick up an old dream…
Games in general have been a hobby for James Meadows, as a self-professed “massive nerd”. But it took a few lucky encounters with the right people to make game development a passion of his. While eager to take it up after school, he was discouraged from pursuing his dream. But then he had an idea that he just couldn’t shake, which reignited the passion in a brand-new way. With that in mind, he resumed his journey to becoming a video game developer. And as he prepares to release his latest project, we grabbed James for an interview to find out the whole story…
ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM THE BOURNEMOUTH AREA?
Yes – born and raised! I went to Kings Park Primary School, Portchester School for Boys (now Harewood College) and did a short stint at Bournemouth & Poole College too. The only time I really find myself out of town is on holiday. Or when I go to visit my fiancée in Brighton, as she is studying at Sussex University.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO VIDEO GAME CODING AND DESIGNING? WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA?
I’ve grown up being a massive nerd. One of my first memories from my childhood was getting a PS1 for Christmas. And I always had a natural affiliation with computing and gaming specifically. At first, I was editing LUA files for a game called GMod, and using a cheat engine to manipulate the way that existing games would be played. Seeing how much I could break the existing game started inspiring me to go further than just changing somebody else’s code and looking more in to making my own.
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST PROJECT? WHAT WAS IT?
When I was in secondary school, I found out about an application called “Scratch”. This is a very basic game development platform used to introduce new users to how development works. I was usually done with the actual work we needed to do quite quickly, so started writing a version of the game Snake but with a shop, cheat codes and other extra bits. I ended up sending out the game to a few friends and it spread through the school like wildfire.
It ended up being a problem for the teachers as people would be playing it during their classes. So they removed all Scratch files with the title, including Snake, from the servers which really sucked for me. But by this point I had downloaded Scratch at home and had a few more games under my belt anyway (though none were quite as popular!)
YOU BEGAN CODING AT THE START OF THIS YEAR — WHAT INSPIRED THAT DECISION?
I was discouraged from my original dream of becoming a game developer by one of my tutors while I was at BPC. I was 17, extremely insecure, and when they said they didn’t think I was fitting in with course. The tutor told me he thought I had ‘too much of a social drive’ (I kid you not). With that, I dropped my dreams and starting looking for a ‘normal’ career.
Fast-forward seven years and it’s the end of 2019. I had worked myself into a very comfortable position, but was completely unfulfilled with my career. I was struggling to sleep at night or get out of bed in the morning. One night, while struggling to sleep, my mind became occupied with a really silly game idea. But I couldn’t let go of the thought! I was excited about the way it would all work. How it would look and play. And I felt genuinely inspired for the first time in a long while. I realised I didn’t need the course I was taking all those years ago to define whether this is something I wanted to do.
So I started reading into what software exists for new developers (though I did have past experience) and took it from there. At the start of the year I took the plunge in reducing my hours and started coding officially. And even though it came with a pretty hefty pay-cut, I couldn’t compare the worth of this decision to any monetary value.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR LATEST PROJECT… WHAT IS THE GENRE AND PREMISE OF THE GAME?
I’ve always been a fan of games that give the player as much control over the game as possible. So I made a fighting game where the players make all the moves! The player can fully customise their character, acquire pets that will aid them in battle, level up to become more powerful (and create more powerful techniques) and work to conquer every dojo in the game! I’ve been working on the game for about six months. It went from a small project where you would have an endless gauntlet of enemies, to a very cleanly structured game with levels, upgrades and a smooth and satisfying progression.
To fit the theme of the player making their own moves, the main character is a martial artist at the start of their journey to becoming a master. It’s a turn-based fighter game (for the unaware – the Pokémon battle system is turn-based). However, I have tried to make the game as casual and fun as possible, so it is hardly a fighting game that takes very long to master (pun fully intended)!
WILL IT BE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD?
It certainly will! The game will be available for anybody with the Google Play or iOS App Store, and will be released at the tail-end of November. The title of the game is Dojo Master and it will be free to play with no in-app purchases!
DO YOU HOPE TO WORK ON MORE GAMES IN FUTURE?
Absolutely! I currently have a few games I’m working on that will be aiming for PC and/or console releases (though these are quite far off in the future). I am hoping to work on some group projects and competitions in the near future too. However, this all depends on meeting the right people and the competitions starting at the right time! I am seeing every moment that I spend making games as a success, and very much intend to keep it going!