The screen flashes. You’re a purple dot with a shield surrounded by malicious enemies on the attack. You fight valiantly, but they grow stronger and stronger until you’re overtaken in a heart-pounded moment of defeat.
Seeing Thatcher Healy, with his shaggy hair and easygoing smile, it might be hard to believe that he’s the creator of the edge-of-your-seat game “Swarm.” But Center One Game Design teacher Stephen Stalker says that Thatcher is one of the best game designers he’s ever taught and that “Swarm” embodies the best principles of game design. “Thatcher excels at delivering complex game design mechanics in a cohesive and easy-to-use manner for the player,” Stalker told me. “He has a firm grasp on game design and will excel in this field. I look forward to seeing his successes.”
With its straightforward, addictive gameplay and vintage arcade-style graphics, “Swarm” is poised to become a viral sensation when it’s released. At Mr. Stalker’s suggestion, I asked Thatcher about “Swarm,” his love of gaming, and what advice he has for students considering the Game Design pathway at Center One.
What was the first video game you loved? What did you love about it?
The first video game I remember being a huge fan of was “Super Mario Galaxy 2.” I loved how smooth the movement felt and my favorite part was the creative boss fights.
When did you start thinking about making your own games?
Game design has always been something in the back of my mind because I play so many video games. However, I only began to pursue game design last year when I saw that a game design mentorship program was being offered by Western.
How much programming knowledge did you have before you began at Center One?
The only programming knowledge I had before Center One was the four months I spent in the game design mentorship program offered at Western.
What's the name of the game you're developing? What's the gameplay like?
The name of the game I’m developing is “Swarm.” In “Swarm” you are spawned in an arena where you have to avoid the cannon-like enemies that spawn all around its perimeter. The goal of “Swarm” is to survive for as long as you can while the enemies continue to get stronger and stronger.
What games currently on the market would you compare your game to? What types of players do you hope will like your game?
The gameplay of “Swarm” is best compared to “Enter the Gungeon” and “HyperDot.” I think players who like more hectic and fast paced experiences will enjoy my game the most.
How has Game Design helped creating your game? What skill(s) did you learn in Game Design that have made it into your game?
Center One’s Game Design course has been super helpful in developing the skills I need to create video games. Game Design gives me the time to work on my game, and support from my teacher if I ever need any help. Almost all of the gameplay elements in my game were learned in Game Design this year.
What are your plans going forward for releasing your game?
Going forward I plan to release my game on Ich.io because that is a free and easy way to allow anyone to play it.
What advice would you have for students who want to come to Center One to make their own video games?
I would definitely advise any students interested in game design to go to Center One because you are given the time and resources to make an indie game. For students already going to Center One I would advise you to use the many resources that Center One provides – get help from your teacher, and use that lab time.
Story and photo: Josh Mound