Henrique Olifiers: Q&A

The Brazilian game designer behind Monstermind talks about his journey into the games industry, and offers advice to aspiring developers.

Published 13 March 2012.

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What first inspired you to get into your craft?

Video games, of course! I got a second-hand Pong console as a gift from my uncle back in 1981 and fell in love immediately. A few years later I was coding my own (horrible) games on a ZX81 and the rest, well, here I ended!

How did you first break into the industry?

I'm from Brazil, and an industry as such didn't exist there until very recently. So I had to carve myself a niche where I could fit, and that was the gaming website Gamesmania where I was the chief editor for a few years. From there I managed to leap into a TV production and broadcast company (think BBC) where I was in charge of creating games based on their TV shows. A couple of successes allowed me to be headhunted to work here in England and that was the real break into the industry, one could say.

Which professional figure in your field do you find the most inspiring?

I've been inspired by every game I've ever played, and their creators. But I could single out David Braben... I think Elite was the first game I was really, really sucked into, where I got lost inside an immersive universe, a unique experience. In terms of innovation and revolutionary stuff, Elite was the most gigantic leap I've ever seen, the kind of thing I would like to do myself one day.

If you hadn’t managed to break into your field, what was your plan B?

Plan Bs are a bad thing. They make you weak in the belief there's an alternative. No plan B, it had to be games all the way.

Which game do you wish you could have worked on?

Ultima Online. Ever since I saw a modem for the first time (and that was a 300bauds one!) I've dreamt of a game where behind every creature you encountered was a human with real motivations and goals. My most treasured multiplayer experiences took place on MUDs and MMORPGs.

What single piece of advice would you give to a young person trying to break into your discipline and get noticed? How do you stand out from the crowd?

Create a small game, a mod, something to show what you are capable of. Anything will do, even if it's a Space Invaders clone, it doesn't matter. It will prove you have the drive to get something done, that you care. With the amount of game creation tools out there, and the indie forums where you can pair with other junior professionals to get something done, there's no excuse to face a potential employer without anything to show in a playable state. You like games? Then make one!

Were there any people who supported/mentored/championed you in the early stages of your career? How important are these kinds of relationships?

I started very early on, in a third world country, so was pretty much alone apart from some other kids who shared a passion for games and had the drive to code something with me. But the value of a mentor is incalculable, someone who can teach and nudge in the right direction when needed is a comfort many people take for granted. Studios that empower staff to share with newbies are usually the ones with the most relevant creative output, by pairing experience with raw talent.

How do you think the UK games industry will change in the next few years?

The games industry is always on the move, constantly changing. But the next few years will be massive thanks to the shift to online, social, multiplayer -- and the shift of power from big platform holders to smaller, self-published studios with the creative freedom to innovate faster. It will be awesome!