Pol is not currently working on BeautiFun Games. However, he's an awesome guy and he's still our friend, so here's his story for you to read.
This week we sit down with Pol, another of the four BeautiFun Games founders, to talk about his life and career as a gamer and also as game programmer. Welcome and hope you enjoy.
Jesús Fabre: How it all started?
Pol Urós: I love games since I was a really young kid. Up to the point that I wanted to create them even before I knew how they were made. Didn't know in which position I should aspire to work at, but later in High School I discovered I was good at Maths, Algebra and Physics, while, on the other hand, I was disastrous with with all things art-related. So I decided I wanted to be a programmer (I also enjoy to give some hints and feedback on game design issues to the team here at BeautiFun, though). Ultimately, that was the motivation to start studying Computer Science.
When I was a kid, I also remember how badly I felt when I asked a Nintendo 64 for Christmas and the Three Wise Men forgot about it, until they brought it year later. I remember I didn't ask them for anything else, only that, such a traumatic disappointment! To say the truth, I think my parents were a bit worried when they saw how much time I spent with games during my childhood. When I started my studies, they didn't truly believe game development was going to be something I could make a living of... but it slowly changed when they started seeing how big this industry is.
The first console I had was a portable one, more concretely a Game Boy, the classic white and thick model, on which I remember having invested neverending hours playing with Super Mario Land 1 and 3. I also played a lot the first Pokémon, up the extent that the cartridge's battery ended up draining. So I lost my savegame with all the Pokemons in the team at maximum level. Schoolmates told me I was the best player around, but it was not a matter of skill, but dedication and steadiness. Loved the stats and leveling system, also how to customize the attacks in order to find the ones that suit your character the best.
J: If it was during school season, I wonder how things were when holidays came.
P: I spent long summers with a Super Nintendo at my uncle's place, in a small village close to Barcelona called Sant Esteve de Sesrovires. I have fond memories of Super Bomberman, a game with a great campaign, but what really shined on its own there was its four-people battle mode! I loved U.N. Squadron, a game so difficult that my uncle and me ended memorizing each and every pixel until we beated it. Remarkable games were also Aladdin, Looney Tunes and Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse. But aside of arcade and platform games, I was a hardcore fan of RPG with deep stories like Terranigma, Tales of Phantasia, Secret of Evermore, Illusion of Time and Secret of Mana.
But if there is a gaming platform that has truly left a mark on me, it has been Nintendo 64. When I finally had it in my hands, together with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it marked a watershed in the way I saw games could deliver real magic, allowing me to enter immersive fantasy worlds and defy my logic with really intricate puzzles. I came back from school with the one and only goal of playing so hard I could get to the next dungeon. Until one day I ended it and I was so sad, perhaps this is a bit weird, but I hardly could cope with the idea of knowing there was nothing new to see in that game. It wasn't until I played TLOZ: OOT Master Quest when I got the chance to somehow relive that feeling, but I got stucked in the third dungeon. There was no way to progress for me, and at the same time I prohibited myself to look into guides, I wanted to solve the riddles by myself.
J: Games were pretty hard at the time, for how long did you keep that "all by myself" policy?
P: Well, later on, I started to use guides with games like the ones from Final Fantasy series, but in general I always tried to beat the games the hard way, without extra help, the feeling of satisfaction is much more intense, even if you didn't get to the end of the game, you know that everything you accomplished is only thanks to your own effort, and that feeling was (and still is) priceless.
J: Could you tell me more about your experiences with the Nintendo 64?
P: One of the best memories I keep about the N64, comes from the time when I played Mario 64 along with my father, who was a die-hard fan of 3D movies (as Toy Story, I remember it was the big thing at the time), for him it was unbelievable to see that world in movement. It was like interacting inside one of those movies worlds. I cannot forget to mention two great shooters, Goldeneye 007 and Duke Nukem 64 also a fighting game, Fighters Destiny, loved to play those games with my friends. For a more indivualistic experience aside of Zelda games, Quest 64 (Holy Magic Century is the name of the european version of the game) was another RPG I rented for innumerous times (I'm sure I could have bought the original game with all that money).
J: We talked about consoles, but now you play mostly PC games. When and how that started?
P: I never had a PC until I entered the University, before that I always had a Mac since my father was a Mac lover. He works in graphic design and I always inherited his machine when it was getting outdated. Due to this, I learned English by playing Mac games, at the time it was really strange to find a Spanish translation available for a Mac game. Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis were two of those.
So when I entered the University I started using only the PC to both program and play games, I think is the best choice. I didn't abandon game consoles, had the Gamecube and the Wii, but they will never substitute the PC as a gaming platform. I love RPG, MMORPG, MOBA and strategy games. Some of my favourites are LoL, World of Warcraft, and I have always been a huge fan of Blizzard games. In Diablo II I played a lot with friends, shared our discoveries in the game, in Starcraft 2 reached Diamond league, now I'm starting to play Hearthstone (that looks fenomenal by the way)... I remember my love for Blizzard started in the early nineties, when I started playing a Warcraft demo from a CD included with a Mac Magazine my father had bought. That demo consisted of only two levels, but I ended playing them over and over, in all the possible ways you can ever imagine.
J: To end this first part of the interview. As a gamer and a developer, what do you think about the evolution of game industry? Is there something that worries you at the moment?
P: Nowadays I have some friends who talk to me kind of worried about Free to Play games and how successful this model is becoming in contrast with the traditional one where you have a to pay only once for a game and then get the full experience. I don't see Freemium model as evil, it's simply other way to do things. Certainly is not the kind of model I want to work on as a developer at the moment though, but I respect as long as it is being well done and the player is respected (in addition, i play a lot of free to play games! Hearthstone being one of them). In the end, I feel it's good to have different models trying to make their way in the industry, gamers will have more choices and each will end up choosing the one that best fit to them.
J: I believe freemium games are, among other things, a response from the industry to avoid piracy and maximize revenues. Even with some of them, such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga, we can see how many people really play games, usually much more than official sales figures say.
P: Well, you cannot pirate them in the traditional way, but there are ways to "hack" them and artificially modify some accounts to have super-high stats (some of them thanks to items you normally have to pay for) or simply making fake inapp purchases, so in the end the game will be unfair to the ones who are playing in a correct way. But i also think that this "hacks" are going to slowly dissapear cause the experience for the ones who pay is not fair, and i can see companies investing in security to avoid this scenarios.
J: Yes, recently I read Rockstar punished this behaviour in GTA Online. There were even players who made real money out of their hacks.
P: I remember Kevin telling us a really bizarre situation: In GTA Online, a user bought game money with real money, and other user stole it from him in the middle of the game. As it was an assault, in the middle of the street. There was a big controversy surrounding this kind of situations.