An Interview with – Liam Sorta, Founder of Game Dev Network

Welcome, LiamSorta. We have heard you are the one behind Game Dev Network. Not everyone knows what that is, so can you explain what GDN is in more details?

Game Dev Network is a community dedicated to bringing together those with an interest in the games industry. We are home to 4000~ members, welcoming anyone from total beginners to AAA veterans. We also have a range of channels aimed at various specialisations such as helping with code debugging, providing art feedback and even tips on game design!

We’re always looking for ways to enrich the experience of our members, one way in which we do this is through hosting game jams aimed at bringing members of different disciplines together in order to create a game from scratch in a short amount of time. We also try to involve sponsors to provide jammers with goodies for various services and professional development prizes (and stickers too!). You can read more about our most recent jam, in which we ran a charity raffle in support of the disabled gamers charity, SpecialEffect, over here: https://itch.io/jam/gamedevnetwork-the-big-festive-game-jam.

GDN Jam.png

While I joined the discord, I noticed that you categorize each skill differently. You have coders, artists, musicians, etc. I assume you did this to make it easier for people to find the right man for the job. While it not always works, for example, I once was asked to do graphics design while I am only a writer in there, it is very useful in general. Were there also other reasons besides this?

While they do offer some immediate context as to what their role is when posting in our #looking-for-work channel, it’s more of a way to allow members to express their interests. On a side note, we have additional ‘LFW’ roles that members can join, these roles are mentionable by other members looking to hire paid roles.

In your community, you have a game maker channel, but not an RPG Maker channel. Was there a reason for that, or is RPG Maker after all these years slowly dying?

We have channels for the major engines in which our members use, Gamemaker being one of those, along with Unity, Unreal, Xenko and Godot. The latter two of which were added based on community input. We’re always looking to cover more ground and if a particular engine has enough demand, we’ll be sure to add it.

That is a good reason to expand, and most of the RPG maker community have several sites they go to already. But one thing I never expected was to see a Legal channel. What was the reason this one got added?

Many new developers find themselves in a position of requiring some form of legal advice. While we do attach a disclaimer with this channel in that any advice is just that, and not to be taken with any legal weight, it can benefit those with various questions relating to setting up their own business, freelance contracts, etc.

Now to get a bit more personal, we do want to know more about the man behind GDN. What inspired you to create this community?

Well, aside from being an avid developer myself, I also organize a number of events. Notably, I co-founded and organized a hackathon based in Birmingham, UK called HackTheMidlands. A Hackathon is similar to a game jam, though with an emphasis on just creating anything. Typically, attendees use a range of APIs in an attempt to solve business/social challenges in just 24 hours. It’s always a blast to see so many people enjoying themselves; we were honored to have hosted 150 hackers in both 2016 and 2017 and are excited to see Hack The Midlands continue to grow and support developers!

Gamedev wise, I also organized a Global Game Jam venue at my university for ~100 jammers from around the country. 48-hour jams pose a separate set of logistical problems, though with what seemed to be a lifetime supply of pizza/healthy snacks, we were pleased to see so many incredible, creative entries from budding developers!

GDN was a continuation of supporting developers network and collaborate with each other. Starting with just a handful of members in February of this year, we have flourished into a friendly hub for all #gamedevs to learn and share with each other.

So in less than one year, it grew so big. What is your secret?

Honestly, I wish I knew! I’ve always taken the approach of any community being member-focused, meaning that we actively listen to feedback, requests and their comments to make GDN as beneficial to them as possible. I also have to give a great deal of thanks to our moderation team: Acid, Marco Hoffman (Chikari), Harry Shipton, and Thomas Richards. Having such a solid team means we can not only poll any intended events/proposed changes in order to make sure we’re making the correct decision, but also to help make sure GDN is an accepting, friendly environment welcome to all.

You also announced with some volunteers to run classes on various areas of game development next year. What specializations can we think of, and how do people join these classes?

Yes! That’s part of our ‘GameDevNetwork: Academy’ program. We are re-launching the program next year with the intention of providing online video repository of completely free video content for as many specializations as we can cover. Community members can volunteer themselves to run one of these sessions, done either in the form of a live stream or pre-recorded video. We also provide our tutor volunteers with a shiny new rank in our community server as a small token of thanks. We have lots of exciting plans for the GDN:A and are eager for anyone interested in running a session to get in contact with us.

Do you have any advice for new game developers?

The best advice I can offer to new developers is to start making something as soon as possible! Don’t worry about scale, the smaller the project is, the sooner you can finish it and work on something totally different, and thus, get a better breadth of experience. It’s for this reason I’d recommend checking out the various game jams hosted online or in person. A few resources to find jams:

  • https://itch.io/jams
  • http://www.indiegamejams.com/
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/gamejams

We are nearing the end of the interview. Thank you for these wonderful information and insights in the community and why you founded it. Just one final question remains, do you have any last words to our readers?

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the moderators of GDN ( @AcidZenith, @Chykary, @UnityCarti, @harryjshipton) they do a brilliant job in making sure our community is always a welcoming one as well as proposing suggestions that have gone on to help enrich the community as much as possible! For anyone wanting to join GDN, they are more than welcome to by following the invitation link: https://discord.gg/gdn I also have some ramblings on Twitter: @LiamSorta

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