[From time to time, Gamasutra Editor-At-Large Chris Remo makes a neat post on his weblog. At which point, we steal it -- with his permission, folks -- and crosspost it here. This one is about the odd story of a homeless game designer -- outsider game design in full effect.]

This man wants to become the best game designer ever.

As such, he’s making a game. He is also homeless, buried in credit card debt with nearly no money to his name, and living out of a shelter, equipped with nothing but a computer and a copy of Game Maker 7.0. As he states in his blog profile, “I hate working!”

At first, it is difficult to know whether to believe his claims, this being the internet. A bit of investigation reveals that he asked on the GameDev forums, “Is it possible to design and/or program games, while being homeless?” In that post, dated September 5, he noted he was “losing my place of residence soon.” Two days later, he created his blog. In the inaugural post, he says, “I’m broke, homeless, and I don’t have a job,” and lays out his plan to develop his own game, without necessarily getting a job dedicated to “making someone else rich.”

He also welcomes monetary donations, explaining, “I’m broke niggas. I’m broke.”

Early on, I fluctuated between being belief and skepticism. These days, the default reaction to this sort of thing is that viral marketing is afoot, but it seems too self-contained to be that. His GameDev posts don’t promote or link to his blog in any way, not even subtly, nor do the scant few other posts I was able to dig up elsewhere, all of which seem to be earnest game development inquiries.

The game was originally a platformer entitled The NeoVerse, and included moving platforms, the ability to swim “exactly like it is in Super Mario,” and a rocket launcher. This game seems intertwined with another idea, “a blend of old school Castlevania 2D type of game with Super Mario RPG,” which eventually became more focused on the platforming elements and was redubbed Me Vs. My Robots.

Simultaneously, he began work on a new design, Pocket Dungeon: an “old school, Gauntlet style game. 2 buttons. I don’t know how many levels. 16 X 16 bit tiles for everything.” As he notes, “I wanted to use 8 X 8 but Game Maker wouldn’t let me zoom in to make levels for 8 X 8 tiles).”

While developing these games, he maintains a separate blog, The Five Minute Game Review (on which he alternates excoriating and praising indie games), and applies to various Chicago-area development firms such as Day 1 Studios. He also claims to have had a meeting with one Michael Mendheim, whom Google reveals to be the creator of Mutant League Football.

Mendheim declined to hire our man as a producer. “He doesn’t want to RISK the MONEY on an unproven designer,” it is explained. At that point, he is about to lose his short-term lodging with an ex-girlfriend (this does end up happening a few days later), and his already dire finances are getting worse.

“He cares a lot about money,” the designer notes ruefully about Mendheim, who he calls “friggin’ Jew.” He understands Mondheim’s stance, but doesn’t respect it. (”Fucking poor black people,” he exclaims in a later post describing a sleepless night at the shelter. For what it’s worth, the ex-girlfriend is black as well.)

Thanks to the increasing number of details specific to the Chicago area video game industry scene (a scene of which our man apparently has a low opinion), I was becoming more convinced of the veracity of the story.

After following the saga for a few weeks, I did some slightly more in-depth Internet Detective Work and found evidence that jibes with the various scraps of personal information that can be inferred from throughout his blog. (I’m choosing to keep my methods and info unpublished for privacy reasons.) I contacted him via email as well, but was told, “I’d prefer to not answer any questions until after the game is finished.”

In late September, The NeoVerse and Me Vs. My Robots get shelved and all attention is turned to Pocket Dungeon. The game is given a release date of February 28, 2009.

Along with updates regarding his living situation, our designer includes notes on Pocket Dungeon’s progress, sometimes in the context of his own design evolution. “I usually don’t like putting in items in games that don’t affect the enemy in any way,” he writes. “Take, for example, the raft. You can only use it in thick water. If there’s no thick water, than having that weapon equipped is useless. I’m not a big fan of that. In my younger days (not spent in a fucking homeless shelter), I would make it so that you can use the raft to wack people with it. That was an idea I had.”

The game’s influences begin changing. It is described as a meeting of Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Diablo, and Zelda. “That probably sounds confusing and unlike anything you’ve ever played,” he says. “And, it is.”

“I don’t want to overhype anything,” he adds, “but I will make the most unique indie game EVER.”

An earlier post extolls the virtues of games being stripped down to their basics, but by this point the ambitious design calls for a total of 350 weapons (of seven types), as well as 100 each of armor, head gear, amulets, and rings.

As it turns out, “Pocket Dungeon” is the name of a Japan-only PlayStation game, so our man’s title becomes The Fire Mage. He’s got a contingency plan, too: if it turns out that’s already in use, it will become The Fire Mage of Azul. Hopefully not, though—as he points out, “that’s kind of a gay name.”

Soon, a blog post announces a return to simplicity and a Diablo-inspired story “along the lines of ‘You’re a hero sent on a long mission to destroy all evil.’” Except that “the story isn’t actually about that at all,” he says. “I want the story to be a bit more personal. But, I also want it to have a run and gun shooter type of feel to it. Needless to say, trying to achieve all of that is gonna be difficult.”

He has espoused something of a manifesto: “I want people to be able to turn off their brains while playing the game. Just like old school games - I want people to just play the fucking thing. You don’t need to sit there watching cut scene after cut scene to explore why you have to collect X amount of bandanas and how it affects the characters feelings. You just pick up bandanas because they’re spinning. And, because you CAN. That’s what they’re there for.

“But, I want to make a deep game. Something that gets people thinking IF they WANT TO. But, the thing is, even if they don’t want to, I still want people to get the message of something deep. While they’re mindlessly playing my game, I want them to get the message that something is going on in a real kind of way.”

It’s a tall order, particularly working out of a homeless shelter.

“It’ll be tough, but I’m gonna be considered one of the best designers ever no matter what,” he swears. “I promise you that.” “I’ll have to make a lot of cuts and I’ll have to work hard,” he acknowledges in yesterday’s post. “But, I’m sure I can do it."

“Or, maybe not. We shall see.”