“Blanket Fort Chats” is a semi-regular column featuring women and nonbinary game makers talking about the craft otf making games. In this week’s post, we feature Camila Gormaz, an indie developer best known for developing Long Gone Days, a 2D character-driven modern day military RPG that combines elements from visual novels and dystopian fiction.
Miss N: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into making games?
Camila: I’ve always wanted to make games. Since I was 11 or 12, I started trying out Flash and other software to make my first games. It was so rewarding to tell these stories to your friends, having them play, and [seeing] how much fun they had. I wanted to keep doing that forever.
[As I grew older], I worked on commercial projects, but they were mostly visual novels. I was in charge of the visual aspects of those games like character design, UI, and stuff like that. And I also made some games during game jams, during college too, and personal projects. But [Long Gone Days] is probably the biggest project I’ve made so far.
Miss N: What were your first games like?
Camila: They were really short games. I made a lot of dress up games, platformers, and stuff that wasn’t too hard to make. Also, I had learned to code in HTML so I made some kind of visual novels where you kind of click on links and it was like a story.
Miss N: What were your earliest memories of playing games?
Camila: I was always playing games because we had consoles at home. I always liked RPGs more than any other genres. The first RPGs I ever played were Threads of Fate and Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy VIII inspired me a lot, too!). It wasn’t until I played those that I started to imagine what it would be like to make my own games.
Miss N: Speaking of making your own games, what’s your creative process like?
Camila: Well, it depends on the game. Since [Long Gone Days] requires a lot of research, I get ideas while I research about military stuff, weapons, and tactics. But the rest of the time, I get ideas while I start drawing, watching movies, or playing games.
Miss N: Can you tell us a bit about your latest game, Long Gone Days?
Camila: Long Gone Days is a war game, but it’s more centered about preventing war. It’s set in our current era, around the next ten years. It’s like a possible scenario, but obviously with a bit of fiction because it will be a bit troublesome to make it too real.
It’s about a dystopian society and the main character is a soldier who was training to be a sniper from birth. For everyone in that civilization, the roles were picked as soon as they were born. So they have been trained their whole lives for that job. Once they grow up, they’re already experts in that area. But, they don’t know much of anything else other than their jobs.
The main character is sent to the surface because this place is situated below the surface of the earth (it’s an unofficial country). They’re sent to the surface and he’s sent on a mission with the rest of his squad to aid the Polish forces in Kaliningrad (a region of Russia that’s above Poland and close to the Baltic Sea).
[This will be] a bit of a spoiler, but it’s early in the game so it doesn’t matter. *laughs*
Here, he discovers [the truth] that they weren’t really aiding the Polish forces, but they were trying to attack Russia in the name of Poland. So, after that, he decides to desert and find a way to stop the war that his homeland is trying to start.
Miss N: What drew you to the story and the idea for the game?
Camila: Well, I wasn’t always too interested in military stuff, but the games I really enjoyed the most were ones set in modern day. I wasn’t too much of a fan of fantasy and medieval [genres]. I wanted to make [the game] modern and I thought, “What is the equivalent scenario where I could have an RPG?” Military stuff seemed like a perfect excuse at the time. *laughs* But now I do have the background to like it a lot.
Miss N: We heard that you’ve been working with these characters and this story for over ten years. Can you talk about that experience?
Camila: Yeah. Obviously, I didn’t know too much about military stuff back then. But, there are a lot of things that remain from when I was a teenager. The characters were created back then. They were a lot younger, so they have been growing up with me and [through time] the characters have matured a lot.
Miss N: How has the process of making the game progressed over the years?
Camila: I tried to make the game a couple of times when I was younger, but I didn’t know anything about game design. It was just a really linear story. But I think that’s why the characters have changed a bit during the years. They were really, really basic back then and pretty much based on people I met so it wasn’t too interesting. But I’m pretty proud of how they are now. Right now, I’m also working with a writer, so they’re developing better than how they were back in the day.
Miss N: What is it like to be a solo developer for the game?
Camila: During the demo, I made everything myself. I developed it, I made the art, and I wrote the story. It was a lot of work, but that’s why I’m seeking funds on Indiegogo so I can work with other people. It will take a lot longer to finish the game if I continue doing everything by myself.
Miss N: With the game currently running a campaign on Indiegogo, what’s the progress now?
Camila: Right now, we’re developing another prototype because we’re now working on Unity instead of RPG Maker. We have pretty much everything set to start working, we just need to put the story in this prototype. But we’re still working and even if we don’t reach our goal on Indiegogo, I will still make this game somehow.
Miss N: We heard you started working on it full-time?
Camila: Yeah, I started working full-time on the demo on January of this year because I managed to save enough to work full-time [while] still being able to pay rent. That also motivated me to work faster. *laughs*
But I think right now, I haven’t been able to work too much because of the campaign. So, the writer and programmer who are working with me, they have been taking care of the prototype. But after that, we’ll continue working on it full-time if we’re funded.
Miss N: What’s been the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?
Camila: It’s usually related to marketing because we’re more used to doing our own stuff. Having to constantly reply to messages, engaging the community, or building an audience, it’s been harder than we thought. [Also], the getting funded part, [that’s been] the hardest of them all.
Miss N: Speaking of getting funded, how are you feeling with the Indiegogo campaign?
Camila: I’m really nervous, to be honest, because most of the pledges come during the last few days. We’re on the third week of the campaign [at the time of the interview] so those times are really slow and not too many pledges come in. So, it’s easy to get really nervous.
Miss N: What kind of things are you looking forward to the most with the game?
Camila: What we want to show the most is to break some stereotypes about the countries where people are traveling inside the game. For example, there’s this character called Ivan. *laughs* I know he sounds like a stereotype because it’s one of the most common Russian names and this guy is Russian. But, he’s not your typical blonde with blue eyes guy, because there are a lot of races in Russia.
We also want to show that not every Russian is a bad guy, like portrayed in most games. [Ivan’s] not a fan of the military stuff like they’re usually shown. There are also more characters from other parts of the world that are portrayed [in a way that’s not shown] in most media.
Miss N: Is there one thing in the game that you’re really proud of?
Camila: The thing that I’m proud of the most — and it’s one of the things that people seem to like the most — is the fact that there are interpreters, so you can understand people from other parts of the world. Because the main character only speaks English and instead of having the NPCs speak with accents or, I don’t know, comical stuff, they will speak in their native language. You will need interpreter class members to help you out, buy stuff, and complete quests.
Miss N: How does that work?
Camila: Well, as the story progresses, you’ll meet new party members and some of them will have different skills that will make your life easier. Some of them are interpreters that, besides helping you out during fights or with other skills, they help you communicate with the NPCs. By having them in your party, they will speak with the NPCs for you so you’ll be able to understand. You’re still able to progress with the story without having them — they’re not required. But, you’ll be able to explore a lot more if you have interpreters.
Miss N: What were your inspirations for the game?
Camila: I’m a fan of Shin Megami Tensei titles like Digital Devil Saga or Persona, so I think I got a lot of inspiration from that because those RPGs were based on the real world in a close future. So, I like that more than fighting dragons and saving princess or stuff like that. *laughs*
But, I also got a bit of inspiration from Metal Gear and mostly dystopian fiction like A Brave New World (that’s one of my favorite books), and a bit of Russian literature because of their anti-heroes.
Miss N: Looking back at all your game making experience, what’s been the most challenging aspect you’ve encountered?
Camila: When I haven’t been the boss of the project, obviously the hardest part is portraying what other people want. But, I haven’t had too much trouble. Usually, if I don’t know how to do something, I just research a lot and usually find a solution or come up with something else to replace the original idea.
Miss N: On the flip side, what’s been the most fulfilling?
Camila: Well, obviously, it’s with Long Gone Days because it’s the project that I’ve always wanted to make and I didn’t expect anything when I posted the official information. The same week I made a a thread on TIG Source (a forum for indie developers), I got an article on Siliconera, and I got a call from one of my favorite publishers. It was all very surreal. A lot of people were really interested in the project — and, well, obviously, I also got some hate *laughs* — but it was really exciting. That kept me motivated to continue posting stuff every week.
After I released the demo (I was really, really nervous before I released it), I never expected it to have such a good response from people. We were getting fanarts pretty often from people who could draw even better than me. So, it was like, “Why are you even playing this game? I’m not worthy!” *laughs* And people were having all these theories of what happens next. So, it’s been really nice to know that the effort was worth it.
Miss N: You got some hate?!
Camila: Yeah. The first article that was posted, it was titled something like “This Game Has Been in Development for 12 Years.” I had only created the characters back then [12 years ago], but I hadn’t been developing from that long. It was only for four months.
People started comparing the game to Boyhood and they expected a game, I don’t know, that was 40 hours long or something like that. That’s also why one of the publishers contacted me, and I was like, “I still don’t have anything playable.”
But then, people themselves started to understand that the game wasn’t paying the bills for that long and pretty much everyone understood that it wasn’t [in development for 12 years].
Miss N: With all this, how do you cope and get through all these challenges?
Camila: I have a bunch of friends that are also game designers and who work on some popular local companies. They have been supporting me. Since we have less than 100 video game companies in Chile, the news spreads fast. They were all offering me help and guidance because I had no idea how to talk to publishers (and there were a lot of other stuff that I had no idea how to do). People from around the world, on Twitter, and other social media [channels] have also been helping me a bunch.
Miss N: Thinking about games in general, do you think there are things that games do better than other creative mediums?
Camila: People seem to get more involved in games than in reading comics or watching series because obviously they’re playing them. But, yeah, since I’ve worked a bit as an illustrator, the response has been more massive while making games than through comics or animations. So I really prefer making games and people seem to enjoy them a lot more.
Miss N: Are there any games that you feel have pushed the boundaries of the medium?
Camila: One game that really pushed the boundaries was Papers, Please, which I’m really a fan of. It kind of relates a bit to the story of Long Gone Days. I’m also really proud of the work of Sukeban Games, which made VA-11 HALL-A. I think these kinds of games are really original and they teach a lot of stuff as most games don’t really teach valuable lessons. But, these kinds of games with lots of dialogues help understand our realities and different cultures sometimes.
Miss N: Are there any women or nonbinary game makers who you really admire?
Camila: I’m a fan of Christine Love. I hope someday to make as many games as her!
I also like another visual novel maker, Beatriz “Deji” García. She’s from Chile and she recently had the most successful campaign in the story of video games in our country. She’s also made games for at least decade. She’s great. She has helped me a lot with everything she knows about campaigns and stuff.
Miss N: If you could go back before you started all this, is there any advice you would give yourself?
Camila: First of all, to release the demo close to the [Indiegogo] campaign because I’m with the campaign right now and the demo was released two months ago. Also, to launch [Steam] Greenlight at the same time as the [Indiegogo] campaign, but it was too time-consuming so I couldn’t do both. But we entered the top 50 in less than 48 hours [in Steam Greenlight] without doing much and we obviously lost a lot of that traffic.
Miss N: Thank you, Camila!
If you’re interested in following Camila, you can follow her on Twitter @burasto, visit her website or play her games. If you’re interested in Long Gone Days, you can learn more via their devlog. The game is currently on Indiegogo, so if you want to support it, be sure to back it. As always, if you know of any women or nonbinary game makers that you’d love for us to feature, drop us a comment or contact me.