Arts Alive - Sept/Oct 2018
- story by Lisa Monti
Bay St. Louis software developer Katrina Niolet doesn’t just want people to play her video games, she wants them to put their own touches on them. And no programming experience is needed, just an interest in learning a new skill.
Niolet started developing games as a hobby and already she’s finding success. She and Catherine Irkalla co-founded You’re Perfect Studio in June but they started their first project in September 2017.
About a year ago they came up with StageMechanic, a game in which players push blocks and climb towers on advancing levels. It won a mention on the Game Jolt Hot 100 list, a website is aimed at small, independent game developers like Niolet.
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Others are welcome to join in the game-developing venture which operates on a not-for-profit model. “We are extremely open to people who want to get involved, and we don’t care about their background. We’re trying to design projects for people with no experience but have a desire to learn,” Niolet said.
Recently, You’re Perfect Studio took part in a contest hosted by Game Jolt to develop an entire game in only a week. Their entry – Just for the Halibut! – is an arcade-style fishing game. In only a week they developed all the graphics, music, programming, and even AI.
Just for the Halibut! and the StageMechanic games are being developed using an open-source software model, which allows anyone to make changes to the game and build off it. “You can get under the hood and see how it works and modify it,” Niolet said.
Niolet is also in the process of developing two projects based on ancient Sumerian mythology and culture. One is an HD action/maze-navigation game that allows players to choose non-violent gameplay options and is being developed in conjunction with Sumerian language, architecture, and cultural experts, she said.
The other is being developed as a free course to be held at the Bay St. Louis Public Library. “The course will center on a 5,000-year-old Sumerian board game known as The Royal Game of Ur and will target more mature learners interested in how modern technology can be used to preserve history using the library’s recently acquired 3D printer,” she said.
Niolet eventually settled in Houston, managing the U.S. operations of a Swedish software company, but the high pressure job took a toll. “I was traveling constantly and never home,” she said. “I got burned out and just wanted to wash dishes for a living.”
After a couple years working in local restaurants including the Mockingbird Café, she said she slowly regained the desire to enter the software industry, leading her to start working on games in her spare time and then founding You’re Perfect Studio.
Niolet still uses her restaurant experience, volunteering weekly at Starfish Cafe where she can “absorb” the non-profit’s emphasis on community involvement. The restaurant teaches students work and life skills, volunteers help with the operation and its customers pay what they want to support the Starfish Cafe mission.
“I’m hoping to bring some of their values of community, education, and pay-what-you-want to video game development,” she said.
Niolet looks at her new gaming venture not as a business quite yet but more like a partnership with volunteers. The grassroots approach and an open attitude means that age and experience aren’t factors. “My 7-year-old nephew is one of my testers,” she said.
Niolet said she and Irkalla are exploring the potential benefits of incorporating as a non-profit, allowing them to formalize their commitment to community involvement and education.
“I’m trying to do something different, not just trying to make a bunch of money,” she said.
Learn more about You’re Perfect Studio and help support their community involvement:
Download and follow the progress of You’re Perfect Studio games: