“I Taught Myself To Code & Now I Make Games For A Living” – Shawn Beck

With all the hype around big triple A titles, we rarely take the time to appreciate small indie games, much less those who develop such games.

Today we dive into the life and experiences of Shawn Beck, a Malaysian indie game developer and an accomplished member of the game developer community. Currently at the age of 30 and having roughly 8 years of experience in the industry and starting his game developer career back in 2011; you could say that Shawn has had his fair share of ups and downs.

The Struggle
Shawn started his pursuit at becoming a game developer by taking up a diploma in Digital Animation and Game Development at One Academy. However, during this course, he felt that the course focused more on digital animation and less about actual game development. After finally graduating in the late 2008, the job market at the time was pretty bad.

Shawn took up the first job he could find as an instructor for 3D modelling and animation. During his stint as a 3D modelling instructor, he applied to become an animator at Ubisoft Singapore, unfortunately, he was 2 weeks late on doing so and had missed the chance completely. Later he would be moved to a more technical role at a post-production company, which he had no prior training for and was to be on call 24/7.

The Rise
Shawn felt generally unhappy with his job at the time and decided that he wanted to pursue his passion of game development. “I got tired of fixing other people’s problems.” Shawn explained. He continues on to elaborate that the indie game development scene was booming at the time with many platforms offering support for indie game developers, such as the Steam Green Light Program.

(L-R) Shawn Beck, Falk Au Yeong from SoundtRec Malaysia & Hasnul Hadi Samsudin VP of Creative Content & Technologies Division of MDEC. Source: vernonchan.com

With newly found motivation, he taught himself how to do simple coding and
programming, making small games on the side. One fine day, Shawn learnt from a friend that the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) was organizing a game developing competition and was offering funding, up to RM60,000, to the victor to kickstart the development of their game. With only 4 months of self-taught coding knowledge, Shawn took a leap of faith and banded with his friend to create a game worthy of winning RM60,000 of funding. Shawn promptly quit his job to focus solely on pursuing his dream of becoming a full-on game developer.

Being a Game Developer in Malaysia
According to Shawn, indie game developers in Malaysia have it better than most countries. With MDEC showing full support and pumping money into building the local indie game developer scene, now is a better time than any to pursue a career in game development. Malaysia is starting to recognize the great potential within games and gaming, with much monetary value being placed on esports.

To those who might want to further their studies by getting into game development but fear the rejection from their parents, Shawn elaborated that game development doesn’t have to stop at just games. These days game development is being utilised in so many fields such as gamification in education to serve as teaching and learning tools. On top of that, Shawn explains that the use of virtual reality has become prominent in real estate in the recent years. Long story short, being a game developer in Malaysia is now better than ever, with a wide playground of opportunities and possibilities for those brave enough to take the leap.

Game Jam Master
Aside from being just solely a game developer, Shawn is an avid supporter of game jams and loves to host them. As of last year, Shawn was appointed as the leader of the International Game Developer Association (IGDA) Malaysia branch and has been actively hosting game jams ever since. As the leader of IGDA Malaysia, he aims to host at least five game jams a year, consisting of Global Game Jam, 3 Ludum Dare Game Jams and the SEA Game Jam, which was initiated and funded by MDEC.

Shawn in action at the recent GameDev Gathering.

Before becoming the leader of IGDA Malaysia, Shawn would organize casual game jam hangouts, reminiscing back to the days of being kicked out of Starbucks because they were taking up too much space. He relates that during these casual hangouts, jammers will get together to play test each other’s games, provide feedback and offer ideas.

“Joining game jams is the best way to get into game development. It allows you to learn the different disciplines such as working together or learning the production pipeline.”

Shawn answered when asked what is the best way for someone to dip their toes into the field. Game jams are very beginner friendly and allows you to rub shoulders with some of the best minds in the industry.

His Works
Shawn Beck has numerous games and side projects that he has created during game jams. However, one of his games stood out the most. Velocibox, an endless runner game was released back in 2014 and had gotten a lot of attention and praise because of its unique take on the endless runner genre. Shawn tells us about the sacrifices he made in order to create Velocibox, getting only 3 hours of sleep every night and taking three 20-minute naps throughout the day. Velocibox was managed to be squeezed out after a full month of sleep deprivation and looks like his sacrifices really paid off in the end.

Currently Shawn is one half of Weyrdworks Studio, a collaborative game development company he had started with a fellow One Academy graduate, JT Yean. They had decided to go into business together because of their positive experience working together for Velocibox.

As of 2016, Weyrdworks Studios has released their pioneer game, Super Steampuff, a quirky, frantic shooter with an adorable art style and unique characters. Shawn’s role at Weyrdworks Studio is as a programmer and as an animator while JT works on graphics and illustration. In 2018, the duo is hard at work to release their second title, Warpods, a RPG game set in the same universe as Super Steampuff.

As you can see, Shawn has gone through an amazing journey, starting with humble beginnings and now working for his own game studio, loving what he does for a living. Shawn is truly an inspiration of how hard work and perseverance can bring you far in life. To all aspiring game developers out there, take the leap and one day, you could be living your dream too.

To learn more about Shawn Beck and his game dev endeavours, check out shawnbeckgames.com.

Written by Kaemon Ong, writer, student, gamer, Twitch streamer and procrastinator. He can be found huddled in his room either watching anime or taking a nap.

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