Interview with Miles Whittaker from the United States

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Miles Whittaker

Miles Whittaker, a solo developer at Shieldbearer Studios in the Pacific Northwest, has been immersed in video games throughout his life. He has a strong passion for role-playing games, dedicating his free time to creating games inspired by his gaming experiences for family entertainment.

Interview With The 2023 NYX Game Awards Winner –
Miles Whittaker

1Please provide us with a brief bio of yourself and your background.

My name is Miles Whittaker! I'm a solo-developer from the Pacific Northwest! I recently became a father, as my first child was just born 2 weeks ago. I have spent all of my life playing video games and have always had a deep passion for role-playing games in particular.

Growing up, I would spend hours upon hours playing Morrowind, Runescape, Zelda, World of Warcraft - pretty much any game that had any sort of fantasy element to it. I would spend my free time (when I wasn't gaming) creating little games for my family to play that took inspiration from all the games I spent my days in. Creating games is a long-held passion, but the constraints of life left me with little opportunity to pursue it fully.

Eventually, I decided to dedicate some of my time to really learn and understand a game engine so I could return to my passion and take it one step further. Game development for me, just started as a hobby that I did in my free time, working on my crappy computer that I had set up on a small TV in my room. After a while, my project started to gain a following, and slowly blew up to the audience I have today!

My wife has supported me working full-time on game development all the way up until now - with the help of HOOK, we have been able to receive the support needed to reach the finish line in development!

2What led you to become a Game Developer / Marketer?

I discovered that the games I cherished from my youth were becoming increasingly rare. These were the types of games that granted you complete freedom, even if it meant pushing the boundaries to the point of potentially breaking the game.

I would spend days in Morrowind creating potions and spells that would truly let you do what YOU wanted to do - not what the game wanted you to do. While modern RPG's are no doubt amazing and incredibly fun and detailed, I can't help but feel that they lean away from the role-playing freedom that those games should have.

My goal with The Bloodline is to lean into those elements. I think this is something that the gaming community misses, especially fans of old RPG's like myself! I didn't want to keep waiting for the RPG that scratches that itch to be made, so I decided to just make it myself to the best of my ability!

3What is your role in the company, and what traits should a game developer / marketing professional possess to be successful in their role?

Since I'm a solo-developer, I take just about every role on myself. Thankfully, I now have HOOK to help in some regards but the development and direction of the game lies completely with me.

Game developers should have a passion for what they are working on and I don't mean just games in general. I mean the projects they are working on! If you are truly passionate about something, it will show. Even if the end product has flaws, I believe the passion behind it will shine through.

As a game developer, (especially if you're a solo developer) you MUST have self-discipline and keep yourself to a good, healthy working schedule. It's hard as a game developer to not be pulled to one of the other dozen ideas that we have in our heads, but keeping yourself on-track with one project is one of the best things you can possibly do.

For me, the #1 thing that made me successful was having support. My wife supported the development of The Bloodline through and through, and is the only reason why I was able to get The Bloodline to where it is today! I also found support through my fans, friends and family. It’s important to put your game out there, interact with the community and make friends.

4Tell us more about your studio / company.
My company, Shieldbearer Studios, is a solo-development studio containing just myself! I started the studio to prepare myself for any potential offers from the publishers that began to reaching out to me, expressing interest in the game. It is my dream to one day expand the studio, but for now it is just me!
5What is your own definition of a great game?
My definition of a great game is very simple – it’s one that makes you happy. Great games are completely subjective - any game is potentially a great game for someone. For me, it's as simple as asking myself if the game makes me happy. I find happiness through games in many different ways, whether it be through the emotions the game gives me, the excitement it provides, or if it simply calms me down after a long day.
6Describe the genres of the game(s) your studio / company specializes in, as well as its main characteristics.
The Bloodline is my studio's first game! So I guess you could say I specialize in RPGs. My studio's main characteristic is that it's a single-development studio that emphasizes community involvement.
7Tell us more about your ideation process.

I always approach ideas with one question; "Would it be fun?". I find that, if the answer to that is "Yes", then, it is more than likely that the idea would be worth adding to the game, or at least adding to the ‘To-Do’ list.

I regularly throw out ideas to my community to allow them to vote on and discuss ideas that they have for the game and if one of those ideas resonates with the community, I begin a larger discussion around the topic to see if it's something that I could realistically add to the game! I find that this process has been extremely rewarding for myself and the community, who are an active part of the development!

8Congratulations! As the winner of the NYX Game Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

This means the world to me. I have poured my heart and soul into this game, and to receive not just one, but 6 Gold Awards is incredible. I can't thank the NYX Game Awards enough for seeing the potential in The Bloodline.

Above all else, receiving these awards has proven that the game, at the very least, has true potential to become something great through early access.

9How has winning an international award help promote your company and game?
In the short amount of time since I have received the awards, I have noticed an increase in general interactions across ALL of my social media, reacting to the awards I was given and expressing excitement for the game's release!
10What are the challenges of developing / marketing your winning entry(ies)?
The challenges have been endless! From creating complex systems, to having to record videos every day to post to social media in hopes that people will like the content. It's been an ongoing challenge throughout all of development just keeping content flowing and the game development continuing! It's definitely a huge task for a single person.
11How has the country, you are based in, helped during your ideation process?
Honestly, not much! I often look to other counties for inspiration, especially since The Bloodline is set in a medieval fantasy world. I often look to Ireland, Italy, Germany and England for inspiration.
12What are the current trends in the game industry that you are most excited about?
With the release of Baldur's Gate 3, we were able to see just how much players desire a true role-playing experience! I have been massively inspired by the success of Baldur's Gate, and hope that its success inspires more large game studios to lean more into RPG experiences that don't hold your hand just as much.
13What are the top THREE (3) favorite things about the gaming industry?

While I can't speak too much on first-hand experience since I have none beyond my own studio and brief interactions with a couple larger companies, I'll just take note of 3 things that I personally love about my own little bubble within the gaming industry.

- The creation process. Studios coming together to create massive worlds and complex characters is amazing.

- Indie developers have much more of a foundation now. We've seen so much success in the indie development world lately, it's truly great!

- Fan support. If you're good about interacting with your fanbase, they'll support you through-and-through! I think this is something somewhat unique to indie developers, and it's a fantastic trend that I've been seeing lately.

14What resources would you recommend to someone who is searching to improve their game designs and development ideas / skills?
YouTube! It's an endless fountain of knowledge - while not all of it is great, it will at least teach you the basics. Once you've gained your footing and find that you enjoy the basics of development, then I'd say to dive into the true "nitty gritty" engine documentation and learn all the ins-and-outs. This is something I STILL do regularly - I learn something new almost every day!
15Who inspired you in your life, and why?

My initial inspiration for game development are the developers behind Mount and Blade! They started as a very small studio and created one of my all-time favorite games, Mount and Blade: Warband. The medieval setting mixed with kingdom management was the exact game I wanted at the time, and was better than I could have ever imagined.

Beyond the realm of game development, I've drawn inspiration from individuals who've left a lasting impression on me. Back when I was younger, Steve Irwin was a major influence, igniting my deep-seated passion for animals.

16What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

I think the biggest aspect towards the success of the game was the continued support I received from not only my fans but my friends and family. Having a constant base of support kept me motivated and inspired to keep working my hardest.

My parting words of wisdom are:

Although it sounds generic, keep pushing yourself through the obstacles that present themselves to you. Time and time again I was challenged with things that I thought I would never overcome, but if I remain persistent, I would eventually come out on top - and I think that's true for almost everyone. If you're passionate about something, you can make it work.

Don't underestimate yourself. Push yourself to create things. Always challenge yourself, and never stop learning new things!

Winning Entry

The Bloodline | 2023

The Bloodline is an Open World Fantasy Action RPG where you take the role of a descendant of the Harbinger …
(Read more at NYX Game Awards)

Miles Whittaker

Shieldbearer Studios

Miles Whittaker, a solo developer at Shieldbearer Studios in the Pacific Northwest, has been immersed in video games throughout his life. He has a strong passion for role-playing games, dedicating his free time to creating games inspired by his gaming experiences for family entertainment.

Read more about this interview with Kevin Wu from the United States, the Gold Winner of the 2023 NYX Game Awards.