Dilbert creator Scott Adams selects ex-banker to develop game app

15 Aug 2013

Dilbert competition winner Paolo Longato at work on his computer

An ex-banker from Italy who has just emigrated with his family to Denmark is the winner of a global competition spearheaded by Dilbert creator Scott Adams to find an app creator to build a game based on the popular newspaper cartoon character.

Dilbert appears online and in 2,000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages.

In recent months Adams launched a competition aimed at aspiring game developers and professional developers. The competition was organised by Corona Labs, the makers of the Corona SDK, one of the world’s largest mobile development platforms. Corona has powered popular games such as Bubble Ball, which has received more than 16m downloads from the Apple App Store.

Future Human

Formerly an investment banker in London, Paolo Longato had been fostering the creation of a video game for years and his story reinforces the changing landscape of the gaming industry which is increasingly peopled by novice as well as seasoned game developers thanks to the mobile revolution.

Always artistic and creative, instead following his original dream of going to the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, Longato made the choice studying economics which fulfilled him for a number of years.

Art, engineering and economics – a tough choice

dilbert team

“My family is from outside Venice and I wanted to go to college in another part of Italy and out of a choice between economics and engineering I chose economics.

“However, I kept drawing in my spare time, although not with the same intensity. Art is a skill, something you have to cultivate and strive to get to a level of perfection. It’s not like riding a bike, it’s more like learning to play guitar. The more you practice the better you get.”

After a fruitful career in investment banking Longato decided he needed a change from economics. “I was never 100pc comfortable in a large organisation where the distance between what you do and is produced in the end is very big. I wanted a change.”

Longato wanted to pursue his passion for art, mathematics and programming. His first foray into programming began when he was 10 when he got his first computer, a Commodore Vic 20.

In the last year he began dabbling with code again, mainly C++ and Lua.

The secret to building successful apps

“You cannot possibly think of programming a game today from scratch unless you’ve been 10 or more years in gaming and you particularly need to choose your tools. The Corona SDK is one of those and it uses Lua. It’s a great framework and actually Angry Birds creators Rovio use Lua to build their games.

“Part of the secret to successful app creation is choosing your tools wisely so you maximise the chances of finishing what you are trying to build.”

Before he heard of the Dilbert competition Longato had already built a video game based on physics. “It was a physics game where you draw free-hand and when you press a play button the physical world comes to life and things happy.”

I was basically searching for a theme for the game and when the competition came up I thought it would be perfect for Dilbert, so I stripped everything down in a day and used the artwork available from the competition to put Dilbert in.

“It involves gravity and acceleration and the idea is that you are a comic book writer and you’re helping your character to do things. My idea is that the gamer can be Scott Adams for a day.”

A new beginning

The plan now is to work with the Dilbert creative team and build a game that will work with the various platforms such as Android and iOS.

“The cooperation is starting now and we’re really figuring out things like how many levels need to be build and how accessible it will be for the players to play. When you do a physics game it never quite works the way you plan it in your head.”

Longato has no regrets about leaving the banking world behind. “In the immediate future I will continue along this path.”

He has already registered a company called Dazzle Cube to produce future video games.

“Winning the Dilbert competition will no doubt provide a boost in terms of credibility and could help in attracting and working with the right people in the difficult world of coding,” he concluded.

“The key is choosing the right tools and infrastructure to build your game.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years