Holy Crap: Universum Is Made By One Man

By Jim Rossignol on October 8th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.


Universum is incredible in the most literal sense of that word: actually challenging credulity. Aside from some freelanced modelling, all the work on pro-looking FPS/MOBA/RTS hybrid is being done by one man, Cyril Megem. Yes, it really does defy belief. He explains: “I’m a guy, who decided to stop just to dream, but to make it real. Being a professional 3D & 2D artist, game designer, programmer, and even music composer, I spent 10 years of my life working for game companies as their Lead Artist, Art Director and project manager. Finally I decided to leave my last job, staying home like a hermit for a while, and focusing on my own game development. The game you see here is a result of my personal day to day hard work over a year, and I pretty sure I can do even more with your help and support.”

This guy is only asking for $20k to expand in a project that already looks like a studio of twenty people were getting stuck into it. Makes me feel pretty lazy, I have to say. Video below, of course.

Yeah. Dang.

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106 Comments »

  1. Koshinator says:

    Holy crap indeed… O_o

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      slerbal says:

      Yes indeed! I’ve made many PC games over the years and it is pretty staggering how much he has been able to do as one man. The overhead on communication as you add each additional team member is logarithmic (rather than exponential) but still quite a drain. Well done him for getting so much done :)

  2. Lobotomist says:

    Leonardo da Vinci of game development ?

    I mean I am speechless… This is Indie Superhero

    The game looks better than many games with AAA budgets and million dollar , 100 people teams.

    • Chalky says:

      In a similar vein, the game “banished” looks very good indeed:

      http://www.shiningrocksoftware.com/

      Again, all made by one guy. I hope it’s a sign of things to come that it’s becoming possible for extremely talented individuals to make games without having to find publishers. Is it some sort of tipping point? I’ve not really heard of a single guy developing an entire high quality game before, but now we have multiple on the horizon at the same time.

      • stoner says:

        +1 for Banished. I’ve been following it’s development, and I am looking forward to release. I wish the developer would setup a Kickstarter (or even a pre-order system). As you mention, it’s good to see a talented individual have the freedom to make this style of game.

        • shimeril says:

          Very keen for Banished to get released – that is very much my type of game. Universum isn’t quite my cup of tea but I am still gobsmacked at the ambition of it. I’d love to see it succeed too. And looking at the Kickstarter page, that goal will get smashed into little itty bits pretty soon.

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        Oozo says:

        From what I have seen so far, Maia also shapes up to be a one-man-project that doesn’t look the part, at all.

        Even though your phrasing is off: ” I’ve not really heard of a single guy developing an entire high quality game before”. There are a lot of them. It seems more like we are getting to a point where one-person-teams are able to use a broader palette, especially making use of proper 3D, without having to rely on heavy abstraction.

        • Chalky says:

          Well, I guess it depends on the definition of “high quality”, but you’re right, I meant games that look like they were made by a whole studio rather than abstract or highly stylised games that appear relatively simple, as you say.

      • Shuck says:

        “I hope it’s a sign of things to come that it’s becoming possible for extremely talented individuals to make games without having to find publishers”
        Well, the problem is that you instead need people who have the resources to support themselves for several years as well as enough money to pay for the work of a small team (to do that contract modeling work). Instead of risking publisher money, he’s risking his own.

    • epmode says:

      Limit Theory is another. Take a look at the latest dev diary: http://youtu.be/tZK2VWhjVGg

    • InternetBatman says:

      He refers to himself as the only developer, but throughout the kickstarter video he says we, and it uses a different picture on the kickstarter page. That, along with $20,000 as a goal for this game with absolutely no explanation why $20,000 is needed makes me fairly suspicious of this piece. I get the feeling that it was more of a publicity campaign than an earnest attempt at crowd-funding.

      • airmikee99 says:

        Huh? Did you read two sentences and skip the rest? He makes it clear what the money is going to be used for in multiple paragraphs. He also makes it clear that he is the only developer, but has another person on the team for marketing and sales.

        Since when has Kickstarter not been a publicity campaign in addition to being a funding source?

      • Baines says:

        There is a sales and marketing guy as well, making it a two-person team. Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the guy’s picture.

        Odds are the marketing guy set up the Kickstarter page too, and used “we” to refer to the (two person) team even if he wasn’t actually doing any coding or asset creation himself.

  3. hymnharmonia says:

    Nothing sounds better than text-to-speech narration.

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      slerbal says:

      I thought that worked pretty well in terms of understanding the project. The visuals and other elements speak for themselves :)

    • stoner says:

      Given his thick accent, text-to-speech was a wise choice. I would suggest, though, that he go to fiverr.com and hire some voice talent. Given the duration of the video, he could probably get it done for less than $100.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      I’ve never really kept up with the state of text to speech progress, and I’m impressed by how unrobotic it sounds these day.

      It makes it seem viable to use this for dynamic in game voice work, stuff it’s just not viable to do with VA and sound clips….

  4. Tei says:

    Its like a weird episode of Star Trek where everybody in a planet is the same person. From the Judge, Police and Defendant.

    This man wear more hats than a TeamFortress 2 player.

  5. Runty McTall says:

    Holy moly!

    Backed.

  6. zeraqis says:

    GOD OF INDIE! I BOW TO YOU

  7. Werthead says:

    He made the game and did the theme tune? So he’s the Dennis Waterman of gaming then?

    It does look very impressive.

    • randomkeyhits says:

      still trying to work out if this is a compliment!

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Right people, right time, just the wrong location!

      • RProxyOnly says:

        I would take it as one.

        David Wallums piss take of him never sat right with me. I don’t see where the hate comes from. Minder was a fucking great show n it’s day and the theme was damn catchy. As for New Tricks, He’s proven he has the acting chops.

        So yeah, in this corner we like Dennis Waterman.

        As for the game itself.. it looks as good/better than any other game of it’s type that I’ve seen, not a big fan of the genre but I certainly recognise the talent of the guy and I might even throw him a bone or two.. not xbone, that might hurt a bit.

        One or two things do niggle at me though.. first, all the we’s’ and us’s, unless he’s royalty it would point to a team bigger than one.. that is not a problem, but I’m a fan of transparancy, secondly, as I understand things, with my limited knowledge of the situation, from a few russians (going purely on his accent this guy IS Russian, right?.. if not then the following is more irrelevent that I usually write, so feel free to ignore or disparage) that I have had cause to speak with, a lot of their society is syndicate based, a lot of the money and hence power is in the hands of out and out crooks and it’s difficult to get a start, even by one’s self, without acceeding to them in someway, I’ve heard that they even come a-knocking, so I’d hate to think I’d be giving money to the undeserved, to put it politely. Again admittedly that’s only based on some conversations I’ve had, with people who should be more aware of the situation than I.. but stilll…..

        However I think I’ll put my reservations aside and chip in.. maybe in future he’ll make a game I might want to play, that would certainly be something to see.

        • LionsPhil says:

          …Kickstarter lists him as based in Boston, MA?

          • RProxyOnly says:

            See, that’s what I get for not taking the time to read it fully.

            On another note.. why is it that everytime I come across “massachusetts” I can’t help but think about the Kenny Everett Bee Gees skit?

          • EvaUnit02 says:

            This MIGHT be an explanation for having his location listed as Boston, MA:-
            Kickstarters can only officially be run in three specific countries AFAIK – USA, UK and Canada ATM. KS campaigners located in other countries usually have to set up a bank account in one of the qualifying countries to be able to launch a Kickstarter. Eg the Satellite Reign team is located Brisbane, Australia, but they ran a UK Kickstarter because Mike Diskett had a UK bank account.

          • sith1144 says:

            Kickstarter does other countries as well, the dcs ww2 kickstarter is listed in moscow for example

    • int says:

      I got a good idea! Just you keep me near!

      I be so good for the merging of genres in a computer game!

  8. fish99 says:

    Maybe this proves that a team of 20 people is more than 20 times less efficient than 1 person.

    • Niko says:

      How many managers a team of 20 people usually includes?

      • shimeril says:

        About 15 on average.

      • danielfath says:

        Between 30 and 70. Because your managers need managers, and their managers need managers to manage the manager’s manager. It’s managers all the way down.

    • Wurstwaffel says:

      Or maybe it took him forever to make that.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Given the speed at which game technology advances, there is an upper limit on how long it could have taken him.

        See Duke Nukem Forever’s tortuous, restart-prone history for what happens if you try to make a game over a span of a decade while also targetting high-end graphics.

      • fish99 says:

        I guess you missed the whole ‘made in a year’ thing.

  9. Nim says:

    That looks suspiciously like modified Starcraft 2 assets running on the Starcraft 2 Engine. 10 years experience or not, there is only so much a man can do and building all that from scratch to that level of polish in the course of a single year is not believable. I will gladly retract this statement and say I was wrong when it is proven without a shadow of a doubt that he made all that himself.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Got a high Starcraft vibe from this, the Aliens (Not-Zerg) even have a female human who appears to be some kind of hybrid mutant as one of the hero units….

      Seems impressive but I’m reserving judgement for now.

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      Stijn says:

      Definitely not the SC2 engine… it does a lot of things that engine can’t do and either way, if it’s using DirectX 11 like the trailer claims, that pretty clearly shows it’s not using Blizzard’s non-DirectX 11 engine ;)

      I agree though that with regards to the kind of units that were showcased, and the UI, it seems to take lot of inspiration from Starcraft 2.

    • Stardog says:

      It clearly says Unity 3D engine on the Kickstarter page. My game One Brutal Dungeon is not as nice looking as his, but I also did everything alone. Unity let’s you do that kind of thing.

      • fish99 says:

        Unity doesn’t speed up the production of art assets though (with the exception of terrain). Your models are produced and animated outside of Unity and imported in, same goes for textures, SFX, music etc. Honestly I don’t think one man can make that many art assets of that quality in 12 months, so there’s something not ringing true here. The assets could be from a previous project of course, or just made by other people.

        • Shuck says:

          The key words here being “freelanced modeling.” We don’t know how many people contributed models for this, and how many assets it has so far. (I suspect we’re basically seeing pretty much all the assets the game has in the video.)

          • fish99 says:

            That’s got little to do with the point I was making, namely that the game being made in Unity doesn’t speed up production of (most) assets.

            If you want to get into that debate though, from the quotes above the guy is making it sound like all his own work, and from the headline that’s how Jim has understood the situation too. If he’s actually just bought a load of models, textures, SFX and music, then obviously that lessens the feat. I would also question whether what’s being shown here is actual gameplay, because that’s pretty relevant.

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    gnodab says:

    Who is Derek Smart?

    • trjp says:

      As gnodab spoke those fateful worlds, the earth cracked and FIRE poured from the heavens…

      DEREK SMART had been invoked by an unbeliever and there would be vengence that day…

      To answer the question, before he smites-us-all – he’s a game designer, professional troll and the sort of person who has people make subtle edits to his Wikipedia page to make him look MORE like a prick than he really is (which is actually quite difficult)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Smart

  11. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    There are no superhero game developers. When this comes out sometime in the future and turns out to be both buggy and badly designed, I will come back here to tell you I told you so, because I told you so.

    • karthink says:

      I believe the astonishment is directed at the prodigious quantity of output by a single person. Badly designed and buggy or not, the astonishment is well deserved. No one’s claimed the game will be excellent.

  12. tybality says:

    wow, his name remains the same if you read it from right to left

  13. Aterdux says:

    Damn, that makes everyone feel lazy :)

  14. WinTurkey says:

    Before Dust: An Elysian Tail I would have thought it impossible for one man to make a game and deem the whole thing a scam, but now I’m not so sure.

    Will definitely keep an eye out.

    • trjp says:

      Are you under 25?

      Pretty much every videogame made for the first 10 years of gaming was made by one person – maybe with the help of his brother/sister/mate if he was ambitious!!

      There are LOADS of solo developers out there – indeed it’s almost the “Indie Hipster Badge of Note” for a game to have one name associated with it.

      • belgand says:

        The trick is that back in the early days there was very little that could be done with regards to art. As art and sound improved we started to see much larger teams. Having someone with the multidisciplinary skill set necessary to do programming, sound effects, music, art, level design… that’s tough to find these days.

        The concern right now is that this guy appears to primarily be an artist with some experience in programming and music. Since most of what we’ve seen so far has merely been visual it’s pretty easy to say that it’s looking very impressive. Because, literally, it looks impressive. But we don’t yet know how it plays.

        Congratulations are in order though as I couldn’t do this. My art skills are so fundamentally non-existent that I couldn’t make a game that looked like a smashed hat.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Dust had outsourced music.

      Quite a few “one man studios” do some; for example, Chris Sawyer is has historically gone to John Broomhall for music and another guy (who I’m afraid I’ve forgotten) for art.

      Mind you, the Kickstarter for this flat-out says he’ll be outsourcing bits too once he has money, and it seems ambiguous if some of that has already happened.

  15. Phasma Felis says:

    The walk animation for the transforming battlemech looks awfully wooden at this early stage, but, um…that’s the only issue I can see, and it’s incredibly meagre for the epic scope of this thing. Really impressed here.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      The gameplay actually looks quite bad. He’s good at modelling and texturing, as well as mechanical animations. But does it at all look like a game that is fun to play? Hell no.

  16. bstard says:

    Now if only this game would have had this standard game naming profile {name} : {subtitle}. I’d probably buy Holy Crap: Universum.

  17. Megakoresh says:

    I am trying to find anything in the gameplay that would give out the fact that most work is done by a single person… I can’t find anything.

  18. RCoon says:

    Starcraft II MOBA featuring vikings transforming (a lot), some marines, and what looks like kerrigan in the initial art of the video. Oh, and the marines masks look like a cross between classic star wars imperial solders, and the armor from Fallout 3. Either way, this 1 man game has borrowed an exceptional amount of inspiration from SCII. Needless to say, props to him, it looks awesome.

  19. Wurstwaffel says:

    Why not just make a regular RTS? Did he really have to spoil it with shooter elements?

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    Big Murray says:

    We’re gonna need a bigger … stretch goal.

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      tigerfort says:

      Note that while his initial goal is $20k, the stretch goals required to actually produce the content mentioned in the video go up to $500,000. If he “only” raises, say, $150,000, you get a much smaller game than is implied by the video.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, Jim. Go found an indie studio and make some games. Jeez.

  22. trjp says:

    I’ve always been a ‘solo’ developer – even when I worked in commercial IT my work tended to be ‘solo’ – I prefer it because I’ve always felt that so long as you have the ideas, the talent and the tools, bringing-in other people just creates noise and confusion and compromise.

    To me there are 2 types of people – those who are good at what they do and should be left to do it (I’m one of those) and those who work better with the support of others. Just remember that two people never do twice the work of one – this is because people who are highly effective at working together are quite rare. Most teams contain a lot of friction and overhead, make a lot of compromises and even, sometimes, antagonism.

    Summary: Totalitarian Dictators get more medals than Democratic Leaders…

    p.s. it’s not surprising that most of the long-term successful teams are family members – the Pickfords, Stampers and Falcus Brothers for example.

    p.p.s Salvation Prophecy released on Steam this week and is, essentially, one full-time guy and some contractors – and it’s not the sort of game you’d expect to come from that sort of setup either

  23. zaphod42 says:

    Am I the only one who thinks something fishy is going on here? I mean…. there’s just no way. They say they hired some freelance artists and kinda gloss over it, but there’s seriously no way one person could create all those models, texture them, animate them, model the world, and program the game. Using Unity does get you pretty far with minimal effort, but there’s just so much to see here. These models aren’t done in some low poly style so a single artist can crank them all out, they’re extremely detailed. Either there’s a whole studio here, or this guy’s stealing assets, or something. We’re not getting the full story. And since its a kickstarter project, that makes it feel like a scam.

    • zaphod42 says:

      If he was the sole programmer and they just bought all the art that’d be one thing, but then the art wouldn’t have a consistent style like it does. How did they get the capital to hire all these freelance artists? There has to be more to this project. Somebody funded this and it failed, and now they’re trying to revive it by acting like its their new idea.

      The thing is he says as his credits that he’s a musician and an artist and he’s worked as artist on other games. Okay, so who’s programming this thing? He is. Hmm. Yeah I dunno this just seems overwhelmingly questionable.

      • trjp says:

        Tools like Unity make ‘programming’ a lot less daunting than it might sound.

        Once upon a time, “programming” meant creating everything from the animation systems through to drawing the screen and even managing hardware stuff like reading joysticks.

        Now, programming means creating scripts to tell things when they should and shouldn’t appear/disappear/work/animate – and gluing a lot of APIs together.

        It’s still a job and doing it well is still tricky but Unity certainly offers a pretty simply way of making stuff ‘do things on command’.

        I’m not arguing with your assertion that there may be more going on here – I’m just saying that “programming” is not the hard part anymore than designing the game and bringing together the art and music and sounds is.

        • solidsquid says:

          Don’t forget the sheer number of frameworks available now in a multitude of languages. You very rarely have to do direct interfacing with hardware, never mind writing actual machine code

  24. Dermott says:

    i asked him in the comments about what is in the 20k. And if you read carefully everything on the page compared to the video you will soon see what is behind. This game CAN be great – but it needs around 250-300K funding to get everything promised in the video. With just 20k there is a campaign with no underwater or unit construction/weapon-toolkit for the mechs. So i think – YES it can be awesome if it gets the cash it may deserve. But until then you only get a small game. That’s what made me sad about it – although i pledged for it and it will stay this way.
    in short: this game needs a lot of cash to be what it looks like.
    it is also mentioned in a german article here
    http://indiecrowd.de/all-in-one-universum-war-front/

  25. Arcanon says:

    It reminds me of Divinity: Dragon Commander, trying to merge different game types. Problem is, this kind of games end up being jacks of all trades and masters of none…..a big unfocused mess.

    Who’s gonna direct the base and the army while I play in 1st/3rd person mode?
    When I possess a unit, is it going to get stronger, or will it die in a few hits, being an RTS unit?
    Also, animations really suck, but that’s an early stage of development, I get it.

    I just don’t think it will be a good RTS or a good shooter, just a strange unfocused hybrid.

  26. kalirion says:

    “over a year”? Not only was this made by 1 guy, but he did everything shown in the trailer in One Year??? There must be a mistranslation in there somewhere…

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      The science of Dianetics allows one to transcend such trifles as “sleep”, allowing one to fully utilise the day.

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        Gap Gen says:

        There are sleep patterns that allow you to only sleep a couple of hours a day or something ridiculous. I’ve no idea how it works in practice, but apparently it’s entirely possible to do this and have ridiculous amounts of free time because every other sucker is unconscious.

        • Zorn says:

          Sleep is for the weak, heaven is for the meek. But honestly, there are people that can create an astonishing level of focus toward something they love. It’s an example what obstacles body and mind can overcome and if the direction is right, great things can be achieved.

  27. Hypnotron says:

    I hate to say it but, this project screams “scam” to me.

    The biggest give away is not the claim that it’s just one developer, it’s that they are only asking for $20,000.00. That tells me they want the money no matter if it’s not enough to complete the game. The 1 developer lie is to help sell the low asking amount for a game of this complexity.

    I think they crafted a series of shots specifically for the production of a kickstarter video. There is no evidence to suggest that there is any actual gameplay behind these scripted sequences we’ve been shown. Aren’t particle effects great?!

    I think this is very deliberate and well crafted scam from some very cynical individuals. If your goal is to craft sequences for a video, then Unity3d is going to be your best friend. It’ll be like an old west town on the Universal Studios back lot… a giant facade.

    As the saying goes, “If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.”

    disclaimer: i could be completely wrong and it wouldn’t be the first time!!!! but i go with my instincts on this one.

    • Ed Burst says:

      If he continues working as a solo developer, he doesn’t need much money to continue developing the game. $20,000 can buy a lot of ramen noodles.

  28. DanMan says:

    Impressive. I like the concept, but the art style seems a little… rustic to me. Dunno why.

  29. dagudman says:

    If there is something I have learned from AAA companies is that you cannot make a game with good graphics for the cost of less than a few millions of dollars and incredibly high amounts of people working on them.

    • RProxyOnly says:

      I think it’s entirely possible you have learned the wrong lessons.

  30. Enkinan says:

    I don’t care how many men make my game or how pretty it is, I care that it is a good game.

  31. Velko says:

    That’s what the creationists want you to believe!

  32. Swanny says:

    I’m gonna drop some cash-
    Only got £20 in my pocket…
    I’m, I’m, hunting,
    Looking for a project,
    This is fucking talent.

  33. Stardreamer says:

    If it’s one man, why is he saying ‘we’ and ‘us’ in the video? Confused.

    Epic stuff, though. If it’s legit consider me well impressed.

    • Freud says:

      Multiple developer disorder.

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      Gap Gen says:

      Royal blood.

    • Stardreamer says:

      I love you guys.

    • Stochastic says:

      What’s actually going on here is that the developer has found a way to communicate with versions of himself in alternate dimensions (a la Bioshock Infinite). In some dimensions he has become a programmer, in others an artist, UI designer, musician, game designer, etc. Collectively, the trans-dimensions versions of Cyril Megem have been toiling away on this project for the past year, and what you see above is the fruit of their labor.

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    tigerfort says:

    I did note that the male soldiers have full body armour, while the women get … boob windows and exposed navels. No funding from me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      The artwork does look a little “teenage fantasy” in places. Like the person in the still for the Kickstarter video holding a bow and a lightsaber. I’m sure that won’t detract from the game itself, but it does look a bit odd.

      • MrUnimport says:

        Not just a lightsaber but that most finely-crafted and exotic of fantasy sci-fi melee weapons, the LIGHT-KATANA.

  35. lokhe says:

    Looks very impressive indeed, however, it doesn’t look fun at all :/

  36. chabuhi says:

    Seeing these one-person projects (Limit Theory also) fills me with hope for my own dream game projects. Then I remember that I don’t know how to do anything.