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MORE ABOUT ME

So this whole page is a chance for me to ramble little bit more myself for posterity. I cover aspects about myself, and my own personal journey to professional game development. These sections may be a little long-winded...I guess I'm inspired after reading the memoirs of greater game devs such as Sid Meier and Jordan Mechner. Reading/watching stories pumps me up to further my career! Whose actually going to read through this section anyway?

MY NAME

My full name is Conrad Pascal Buranicz.  I like telling people that my middle name comes from the programming language, but its actually from the Saint.  My parents are both immigrants from Poland, and thats where my last name comes from.

On the other hand, my Great Grandfather was named Conrad. Starting in preschool, my brother Patrick and I had a nextdoor neighbor named Robbie.  Our neighbor called us Pat and Con.  The three of us were Pat, Con, and Rob.  Around 4th grade, I tried going by Con, but I remember Mrs Defeo, the homeroom teacher, didn't like that one bit (but Matt, Mike, etc were fine...). Plus, my dad thought it sounded bad (like Con Artist). By middle school though I stuck to my guns and went by Con, turning in my homework like that! However, to avoid all the puns (Conman, Con Artist etc)  I added an extra N to my name circa seventh grade.  My brother started writing his name as Patt. So we were now Patt and Conn through high school and college!

For my professional career, most people call me Conrad. Thats what it says on my nametag, and I never try too hard to make Conn stick. So, professionally I guess I go by Conrad, but my friends call me Conn!

Full Disclosure:: I added this section about my name here because I really struggled with whether or not I should put my real name or nick name in the credits of the games I worked on.  My Leads put down Tim and Will, should I follow suit I thought? End of the day, I decided to use my full name, but write this little section here as a concession. Well anyway, I feel better about it now haha.

SPOKEN LANGUAGES

I wouldn't call myself a "Polyglot", but strangers have been "surprised" when I switched from Japanese to Mandarin on my flight to Shanghai from Narita Airport.  So, in this "About Me" section, I'd like to explain further about the languages I speak. 

So to be clear: I'm NOT fluent in any language, but I'm, at least, at limited-working proficiency with these these three languages. I don't consider Spanish a language I can speak at all, despite being taught it in Middle School and High School.  There's a temptation to tell people you're learning a new skill prematurely, and hiding the 'bragging' with 'false modesty.' Am I falling into the trap now? I hope I've crossed a 'learning threshold' where I can talk about it a little, show this linguistic side of me.

So to start with Polish; my parents are from Poland, and the vast majority of my extended family live there. We were exposed to Polish our whole life through Polish TV, Super-markets, and the Polish families in DuPage County where we grew up.  We were never sent to Polish School, so our Polish was never as refined as our Polish American Kids our age (particularly reading/writing).  The Polish aspect of my life has definitely dwindled, but I still get very proud when Polish-developed games like The Witcher and Robocop: Rogue City are released!

I "accidentally" started learning Mandarin when I was working for Sanzaru in the Bay Area. Several of my co-workers were from Mainland China and Taiwan, and I started learning phrases "for fun."  To my astonishment...learning Chinese was "easy" especially in the grammar department, so I took learning more seriously. It felt I was progressing in Chinese faster than I was in my game-dev skillset. Anyway, fast-forward to the present.  My wife and in-laws are Chinese. So now, it's even more important that I learn!

I feel there's some stigmas with learning Japanese; and I was reluctant to learn because of "shallow" reasons like for consuming pop culture.  In 2019, I started studying Japanese because I wanted to directly communicate with our bosses without directly needing a translator.  Going on vacation, being able to communicate with folks is thrilling: every new phrase you learn "unlocks" new dialogue trees and it becomes quite addicting.  It also takes ALOT of time to push past the walls, continue to challenge yourself with new topics etc.

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MY ROAD TO MAKING GAMES

EARLY YEARS

(THIS ENTIRE SECTION IS WORK-IN-PROGRESS PLEASE KNOW ITS RAMBLINGS AT THIS TIME, BUT I APPRECIATE YOU READING ANYWAY!)

 

Here, I'd like to tell my story of what I was doing as kid that led up to becoming a professional game developer. Its fun to reflect (and also cringe) on my path from grade school through college. It went from pretend games to Game Maker, then XNA and beyond!

Note: when talking about my past: I'm very nervous of sounding pompous. I don't want to come across as delusional like James Rolfe and his over "500" films. Nothing I did as a child was special at all.  Most folk probably have similar stories of playing pretend etc as kids. As for my drawings, and early "game" projects: its just normal poorly-done stepping stones. Alot of kids started using GameMaker much earlier than me. So disclaimer: none of this is profound: its just my story!  Thanks to folks like Chris Alaimo for inspiring me to share these tidbits.

Our Dad purchased my brother and I an NES second-hand from a Mall in Rolling Meadows, IL in 1992 when I was two years old.  Videogames became my main obsession ever since.  When I was four years old, I declared I wanted to be a "Videogame Maker".  To be honest, especially for these early years, I don't have much evidence. Some of these stories may be apocryphal.  Events that have replayed in my head year after year (potentially mixing with other memories).  I recall the first pretend video game as "Battle." My brother Patt (born a year before me) and I would "fight" on our parents' bed as different video game characters. I remember us being Cutman and Gutsman from Megaman 1.

 

Being very little kids, we had two types of pretend games: we called them "Us" and "One of my Games."  Yes, that's what we called them.  "Us" was a bizarre serial story where Patt and I each lived separately with our stuffed animals (come to life in the story). He had a bunch of teddy bears we called "The Mishas"  (Misiu in Polish means little bear). I, on the other hand, had a bunch of plush cats we called "The Meowies"  I lived with the Meowies in a Haunted House (since Scamp the main cat was a Witch cat we purchased from Hallmark I think)  While Patt lived with the Mishas in a fantastical oriental land we called China (but it wasnt really).   Anyway, on the flipside "One of my Games" was essentially us role-playing a videogame, with almost always me, being the DM of sorts. Through imagination we tried transformed our living room into Super Mario levels or dungeons from Zelda.  In 1997, the two of us watched the second episode of Pokemon's premiere.  Based on the limited knowledge of that one episode (Pikachu, Meowth, Ekans etc) we made up our own "One of My Games" about Pokemon. We drew on a sheet around 24 Pokemon, most of them made up. I do remember making up a blue version of Pikachu! Most of these games we played were of course very derivative, just our attempt to make the games we played come to life.

Anyway, rewinding back a bit. I want to talk more about the NES. Patt and I didnt have older cousins or family to introduce us to good games, bad games, but we did have our next door neighbor Robbie (two years older than me). As I recall, he had over 30 NES games (SO MANY). He bossed us around and forced us to watch him play (even if it was our game haha)  But because of him, we got to play Megaman, Blaster Master, and especially The Legend of Zelda!

In terms of "game career" it was just about absorbing all this pop culture (games, movies, cartoons etc) and occasionally drawing and playing pretend games.  In 1998, Goldeneye became our obsession, and remember drawing pictures and playing pretend games with Patt (and his friend Troy) being 007 and 006, while I was Valentine haha.

MONSTER LAND

3rd Grade was a milestone. it's where we really got exposed to RPGs: partically Breath of Fire III. It's when Patt and I made up "Monster Land" a series that would stick with me for the rest of my life in one way or another.  At first, "Monster Land" was our derivative of the "Collect Monster" genre: a mismash of Pokemon, Digimon, and my new favorite obsession Dragon Warrior Monsters.  The three starting monsters were: Dongo (a winged-dragon partially based on Zelda) Rap (a purple snake...why didnt we choose a different color) and ChiChi (based on the blue creature from DWM, but with a slime tail like the Slimes from DWM).   In 4th Grade I wrote an epic "book." Hand-written on 103 loose-leaf pages.

It's a tiny bit embarrassing, but up until I was almost in 7th Grade, we continued to play role-play pretend games. They more sophisticated over time. Started writing guide books for our own pretend game. Middle School was also where I finally was able to commit to drawing an "entire" comic book!

On Gamespot's website, I found out about RPG Maker on PS1. I HAD to have this game!  Finally, a way for me to "make" games!! TO BE CONTINUED

GAME MAKER 6

Finally at the part where I discuss me ""developing"" actual videogames! Around December 2004, we received Issue 188 of Electronic Gaming Monthly (marked Feb 2005 Issue). Inside, there was an article titled: "Back to the Beginning." It was about fan "demake" projects of famous series from around the internet. My interest peaked and I visited the urls that the article posted. MP2D was a community fan project attempting to convert Metroid Prime into a 2D "Super Metroid"-esque version. On the website's sidebar there were affiliate links and portals. That's where I found Game Maker.   Finally: a program that will let me make whatever game I want!!

I never had knowledge or access to such a thing. I was besides myself. So, in December 2004, I followed the tutorial and created "Catch That ChiChi"  a derivative of the 1st Game Maker Tutorial.  I was so proud, showing my family.  The next day: I attempted to create a more sophisticated ""game"" called "ChiChi's Strawberry Game" where our Monster Land character ChiChi would try to collect as many strawberries as possible. But I didn't know what I was doing: I couldn't get ChiChi to STOP moving, so became more of a pac-man game.  Sadly, both of these two early projects are lost to time (as I'll explain later on)

CHICHI TO THE RESCUE

This is it: my first "real" videogame project. I didnt want a platformer to be my first "real"project: but that's how it turned out.  I myself even thought the title felt like a 'side game.'  I wanted my first game to be an RPG, something  top-down. However, GameMaker 5.6 had real comprehensive platformer tutorials (iterating over six files) and that's how "ChiChi to the Rescue" came to be. The title still feels so odd to me. The game was highly derivative of those Platformer Tutorials.  I really had no idea what I was doing. But I tried, man I was obsessed. I remember trying to obsessively figure out how to get ChiChi to have the Wings Power Up. I couldn't figure out how to "turn on" and "turn off" gravity, so I settled for a High Jump.  Conditionals were new to me....Variables were new to me.  I didnt realize I could declare my own variables, so I ended up using HSpeed as the variable for "Wings Enabled"  As a side effect, ChiChi couldnt move horizontally...I tinkered and toyed around with everything. For the third boss Anchor, I used Paths. Splines were brand new to me, but man it made the Boss feel like it had AI as it moved in an erratic pattern I layed out.

Man, I remember January 2005, sitting on the floor of my carpeted bedroom. My Dad set it up for me so that our Compaq Presario was outputting to my 19" Panasonic TV via Composite output. I spent half a day drawing the Intro Splash Screens. Things happened so quickly.

From After a little more than a month, February 2005, I created a whole "game" with five levels and five unique bosses!  Believe it or not, people in 8th Grade were very impressed. We would play it on the Homeroom computer during indoor Recess because it was too cold to go outside.  I began selling the game: $2 for a burnt disc with the Executable on it! Guess what: for $5 I would insert YOU into the game. I would sprite-swap ChiChi with a self-insert of your character.  I even got three takers! I ended making an Upgraded Version that featured two Cheat Codes (SKIP for Level Select and BLUE for replenishing lives). At the time it truly felt like I was a game developer now and on my way to becoming a professional!  Funny how quaint it is now. Heck, Ken Silverman or the Oliver Twins were doing ALOT more impressive things at 14 than I was. Anyway, I didnt know that stuff, I was on top of the world!

In college, I revisited alot of my GameMaker projects and updated them. After learning real programming (C++, C# etc) I felt INVINCIBLE coming back to GML and Drag-n-Drop scripting!! I made alot of tiny changes to "ChiChi to the Rescue." I fixed the art here and there, I fixed many major bugs with ease. ChiChi could move with the Wing Emblem, he automatically moves WITH the mobile platforms, the entire game is easier. I George Lucased the whole thing!! And yes, this is the version I'm posting online for you all to try. Crucially, I set the entire project to run at 60 Hz and for the resolution to be a consistant 640x480. Back in 2005, each the aspect ratio and view size changed from Room to Room. Sadly, I never realized what a big problem that was until college. TO BE CONTINUED

 

In college, I revisited alot of my GameMaker projects and updated them. After learning real programming (C++, C# etc) I felt INVINCIBLE coming back to GML and Drag-n-Drop scripting!! I made alot of tiny changes to "ChiChi to the Rescue." I fixed the art here and there, I fixed many major bugs with ease. ChiChi could move with the Wing Emblem, he automatically moves WITH the mobile platforms, the entire game is easier. I George Lucased the whole thing!! And yes, this is the version I'm posting online for you all to try. Crucially, I set the entire project to run at 60 Hz and for the resolution to be a consistant 640x480. Back in 2005, each the aspect ratio and view size changed from Room to Room. Sadly, I never realized what a big problem that was until college. TO BE CONTINUED

THE FORGOTTEN MIRROR

It was around March 2005, barely three months after I started using Game Maker and I was the "big shot game creator" in middle school.  I wanted to do something much more ambitious! Sadly, my second game is lost to the ages...our Windows 2000 Compaq Presario's Harddrive failed...this would not be the last time I permanently lost my data (more on that later).  Luckily, I had "ChiChi to the Rescue" because of all the EXEs floating around. For the longest time, I thought I would never to be able to edit ChiChi again. Eventually, I discovered a GameMaker Decompiler that let me do just that.

Anyway, back to my 2nd game. Actually, originally I wanted to create a series of 'small' mini games. I was really proud of the two Bonus Stages in "ChiChi to the Rescue" so I attempted to create a Tetris-like puzzle game. I abandoned that very quickly...I had NO idea what I was doing. I moved on to what I consider my 2nd real project:: "Monster Land and the Forgotten Mirror" a co-op, top down Zelda clone using my childhood "Monster Land" characters. All the sprite-work was custom. TO BE CONTINUED

THERES ALOT MORE BETWEEN 2005 to 2009. Only four years wow, but back then it felt ALOT longer...TO BE CONTINUED

COLLEGE: GAMEDEV DEGREE

Finally, from four years old to eighteen years old, I'd heading off to university to become a "real" game creator. It almost felt like cheating...going to school to make games instead of "regular school" curriculum like history, physics, or math...Its so funny, I HATED math during middle school and high school. I wasn't any good, and my teachers were old, stuffy ladies teaching math for the sake of math. Once I started programming though...I LOVED it, and lamented very much that I took Statistics instead of Calculus during High School. Well its not my fault, these teachers didnt tell us how learning Vectors and "Soh-Cah-Toa" would be used DAILY with Game Graphics.   TO BE CONTINUED

CHICHI TO THE RESCUE 3D 

Freshman Year College I was introduced to the XNA Framework, and I started using C++ and C# for the first time. My original "ChiChi to the Rescue" was only five years ago, but what a lifetime that felt like back then! Once again, my whole world shifted! Actually, when I first made my Portfolio ~2012, I uploaded screenshots of "ChiChi to the Rescue 3D" but I was told that Portfolios are judged by their worst-looking content (regardless of context) so I took it down. Now, a decade later, I'm putting it back up for all to see! This project was alot of firsts for me: first time writing shaders, first time rigging characters, first time creating a level editor! Alot more ambitious than the original...and I never finished all the levels. TO BE CONTINUED

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