People often assume that only the best developers in the biggest companies can make games. We know this isn’t true, but sometimes it takes an epiphany for aspiring developers to realize they can just…do it. And what they go on to create, with limited time and money, is often remarkable. Ben Mora is a perfect example of this.
Ben’s a 33-year-old solo developer from the Kansas City area. He created his game ‘Super Spartan Bros’ in just 20 hours. Pretty impressive, huh? But Ben’s no veteran. He only started making games in 2020.
“It had been a dream of mine since high school,” Ben says. “But it wasn’t until the beginning of 2020 that I entertained the idea that making games was possible for me – not just for big teams with years of experience. Right before pandemic lockdowns was the perfect time to get into it, so I made lots of games that year.”
He wasn’t starting from zero – Ben has a degree in 3D animation, and he’d done some Udemy courses in game development. But even with that background, it took Ben a while to believe he could create games independently.
“It was when I competed in my first game jam that I really learned and had the epiphany that there’s nothing stopping me from making my own games entirely myself.”
So what of the game, Super Spartan Bros?
Ben came up with the concept while planning for a game jam, which had ‘protection’ as a theme.
“Before this jam, I thought it would be fun to have a game where you’re an archer on a power trip – unleashing a constant hail of arrows that ‘blot out the sun’, as they say in the movie 300. But when the theme for this jam was revealed to be ‘protection’, I thought: what if I have the player defend against constant volleys of arrows? The 300 theme just went well with it.”
We’ve played Super Spartan Bros, and it’s a lot of fun. You have to maneuver your soldiers in a phalanx – blocking arrows from above and spear-dueling with the enemies who attack from the sides. You can only change the direction of your soldiers’ spears when they have their shields raised above their heads, which is a really interesting mechanic. It rewards timing and thinking a few steps ahead. (The music’s ace too.) If you master the game, you’ll get to enter a high score on the leaderboard system that Ben created using LootLocker.
When we asked Ben about his biggest inspiration, it was no surprise to hear (from a 33-year-old) that it was a Nintendo64 game:
“Without a doubt, Jet Force Gemini on the N64! I’m always bringing that game up in conversation because of how much it inspires me. It was way ahead of its time. The music is incredible. The scale and diversity of all the planets you visit, and the enemies are just so fun to kill.”
Ben says his favorite part of game development is ‘how objective and goal oriented it is’.
“In something more subjective like art, which I’ve done all my life, there isn’t really a quantifiable measure of success, which leads many artists to never feeling good enough. In game dev or coding though, you set lots of very specific, achievable goals. You either achieve the goal or you don’t – and when you do, it’s so gratifying.”
And the hardest part of game development? Ben’s answer is one that’s very familiar to us:
“The hardest part for me was the initial hurdle of limiting beliefs. If I had known just how possible game dev was for someone like me, I would’ve done it years ago. Because I didn’t know or believe it was a realistic goal, I never pursued it until my thirties.”
Super Spartan Bros is a very polished game for only 20 hours’ work. So it surprised us to hear Ben was worried about running out of time.
“It was a 72-hour jam, but I need my sleep. I also had lots of commitments that weekend, but I was really itching to make a game. I almost didn’t do the jam because I knew I wouldn’t be able to commit much time to it. But I did it anyway and surprised myself at just how much I can get done when I really want to.”
“It was yet another reminder that our limiting beliefs might keep us from what we want.”
We all have limiting beliefs. We all instinctively look for reasons why something would be too difficult or time consuming to achieve – especially if we’re doing it solo. But solo developers can create games that revolutionize entire genres and captivate players more than the latest AAA blockbuster. (Minecraft was a solo project, after all.)
That’s why we always want people to believe they can make games. And we give them the tools to help.
Ben used LootLocker for his game’s leaderboard system, after hearing about it from a YouTube video. And it didn’t take him long to get it working.
“I ran into some hiccups and had to use the documentation for some troubleshooting. But even then, I think I had it up and running in less than an hour!”
“It all looks so interesting and will surely inspire my future games to include other features – like achievements and collectibles. The triggers and missions caught my eye too.”
That’s why we built LootLocker the way we did. If you’re a development team of one, having tools that are quick and easy to use makes the workload feel a lot less daunting.
LootLocker works straight out of the box – for any game of any size, genre, engine or platform. Add mechanics like leaderboards, collectibles, levelling, crafting – whatever you need to make your game the best it can be.
You can get LootLocker completely free if you have fewer than 10,000 users. And above that, our pricing’s simple and scaleable.
Any questions? Feel free to get in touch with us. We love to chat.