Serious Sam: The First Encounter

From Pixels to Legacy: The Making of Serious Sam

From small start to gaming success, a personal story of creating the iconic video game Serious Sam

Pixels and Bytes

My journey began as a child, pouring countless hours into drawing, painting, and constructing anything that materialized in my imagination. My world expanded when I got my first computer, presenting an unlimited canvas for my creativity. Always having an affinity for art and technology, I started teaching myself digital art & design and programming.

In the days of Spectrum and Commodore 64, both of these fields were still in their infancy. To achieve reasonable performance, I found myself delving into assembly language, playing with accumulators and stacks, manipulating the memory of these, by today's standards, rudimentary devices.

Art was also simplistic, with only a handful of colors, no mouse or tablet, just a keyboard and a joystick. Yes, we painstakingly drew pixels with a joystick back then. It wasn't until four or five years later that Amiga arrived and revolutionized the graphics, sound, and computer game industry.

In those times, without the internet (can you imagine that?) or any books beyond the manual that came with the computer, learning resources were scant and often prohibitively expensive. Mastery required time, experimentation, and a willingness to fail and try again. I was young and inexperienced, but my insatiable curiosity propelled me to learn, explore, and create, despite the austere landscape of computer art and development back then.

Growing up, the world of video games appeared as a captivating magical realm, a place where one could unleash their imagination without limits. However, it seemed only the privileged and talented could hope to make a significant impact. Years later, that all changed for me and a group of fellow dreamers. Together, we created something that would forever leave its mark on the gaming world

- the now-iconic action game, Serious Sam.

The Croteam

One day, I stumbled across a group of like-minded individuals on an online forum, all passionate about video games and inspired by classic first-person shooters like Doom and Quake.

We started to exchange ideas, and eventually, I joined this group, contributing as a game artist. It was a humble beginning; we mostly used our own equipment, but our shared dream was enough to keep us going.

The team was working concurrently on the 3D engine (Serious Engine) and the game itself, planning to release the first tech demo. As a recent addition, I didn't have time to revise the graphics for this initial demo significantly.

The outcome was well-received, but it wasn't a blockbuster. However, it gave me the opportunity to dig deeper and prepare for the next release, Serious Sam: Tech Demo 2.

Tech Demo 2

Around this time, a young artist named Petar Ivancek, a friend of mine for nearly 25 years now, joined the team. Together, we planned to overhaul all the graphical aspects of the demo and dove headfirst into the task. Damjan Mravunac, another long-time friend, took over the music and SFX side of the game.

After several months of tireless work, we completed Tech Demo 2 for Serious Sam, pouring every ounce of our energy and talent into it. We managed to overhaul all the weapons, enemies, and the demo level.

The satisfaction of drawing the skins for Kamikaze Bomber, Gnaars, Bulls, Skeletonic Kleers, Shotguns, Colts, Knife, Rocket Launcher, and the textures for the Karnak Temple is still fresh in my memory.

Despite our limited resources compared to larger studios, our raw talent, determination, and eagerness to learn drove us.

The Tech Demo 2 is Out

The day of release came, and the demo went out on the internet. We had no idea what to expect. We held our breath and hoped for the best.

To our amazement, the demo exploded online. Gamers everywhere were raving about the frantic, adrenaline-pumping gameplay that harkened back to the golden age of first-person shooters.

It seemed as though we had tapped into something truly special, and we knew that we had to take on the momentum we had created. Soon we found a publishing company and set our sights on completing the full game.

Serious Sam // Tech Demo 2

For Tech Demo 2, Petar and I meticulously refined all the graphical elements, including those for weapons, enemies, environments, and more. The entire process was a marvelous experience, from the creative development phase to the ultimate joy we derived from the success this demo achieved.

The First Encounter

Serious Sam was a challenging project, but we were prepared to tackle it. Petar and I kept working really hard hard, pushing ourselves to do better.

Looking back, I'm amazed by the energy we had and the big improvement in the game's visual quality from the first tech demo. We focused on every detail, committed to creating a lively, colorful, and engaging world our players later recognized as one of the most impressive aspects of the game.

The development process was intense, with countless late nights spent refining every aspect of the game. But witnessing the world of Serious Sam come alive before our eyes, we knew every moment of effort was worth it.

Our passion for gaming and commitment to our craft resulted in something visually stunning and incredibly fun to play.

Serious Sam: The First Encounter

As we neared the end of development, Petar and I found ourselves ahead of schedule. This extra time afforded us the opportunity to flex our creative muscles and develop a host of unique multiplayer characters. Concurrently, we were finalizing the climactic confrontation with the final boss, Ugh-Zan. This formidable antagonist was conceived by Davor Hunski, with myself contributing the concept art and design, while Admir Elezovic handled the modeling.

It Was a Success

When the game was finally released, the response from the gaming community was overwhelming. Critics and fans alike fell in love with Serious Sam, showering us with accolades and praise. GameSpot even awarded the game Action Game of the Year, a recognition we had only dared to dream about when we first started.

Perhaps the most rewarding feedback, however, came from the players themselves. Countless people reached out, expressing their love for the game's delightful and vibrant graphics. Knowing that my work brought joy to so many was deeply moving, a feeling impossible to put into words.

Looking back on my time working on Serious Sam, I am inspired by our journey as a team. We were young and inexperienced, but we had the courage to pursue our dreams and the determination to make them a reality.

What started as a group of young dreamers with a shared passion for video games transformed into a team of dedicated professionals, making an impact on the industry in ways we could never have imagined.

Against all odds, we transformed our humble beginnings and limited resources into the thriving game development studio that Croteam is today. In the years that followed, Croteam continued to grow, expanding its portfolio and pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the world of gaming.

We built on the success of Serious Sam, using the lessons we learned to create even more ambitious and innovative projects. Through it all, we stayed true to the spirit that brought us together in the first place – a love for the magic and wonder of video games.

To anyone reading this, whether you're an aspiring game developer, an artist, or simply someone with a dream, remember that your passion, noble intent, and dedication can propel you further than you ever thought possible.

Serious sam: The First Encounter Gameplay

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