Do computers kill art? Team Spotlight: Alberto José González, co-founder, developer, composer.


Sometimes we wonder: why there isn’t a movie about our co-founder Alberto José González. 

He was 11 when got into coding, and has never left the games industry. Found his first job in games by - literally - knocking on the right door at the right time, and has been working together with colleague and friend Ricardo Fernández (our lead programmer) ever since. 

Spoiler: code learning lifehack from Alberto is somewhere in this story. 

First, there was drawing... and then a computer came along

Alberto was all into drawing. Until he got a CASIO PB-700. “It was a programmable calculator, and had a manual with BASIC coding instructions. You couldn’t buy programs for it, and had to code them yourself”, Alberto recalls. He wrote his code down in a physical notebook: because one needed to delete the previous program and create a new one, when device memory got full. 

From that time, all he wanted to do was coding. Damn computers! 🙂 

“Don’t start from scratch. Take someone’s code, make changes, see what happens”, Alberto explains. “It helps you develop your own ways to solve problems and improve things.” That CASIO PB-700 manual with code samples has become Alberto’s source for code pieces to pick apart, fiddle with, and see what happens.

Art made the comeback when Alberto got a ZX Spectrum +2. He then combined his love for both code and art by using the computer to create assets, and then his first games in BASIC. “Assembler was better,” Alberto says. It’s about building from tiny parts, like LEGO, while modern programming languages provide ready-made modules.

The right door to knock on  

Alberto’s epic entry to games as an industry literally happened through the right door. He discovered it by coincidence: working as a sales assistant at a local store, every month he was tasked with delivering leaflets with deals and sales news to nearby apartments. “On one of the mailboxes, I saw a name I remembered from my Spectrum - New Frontier”, the developer recalls. “I knocked on the door, and asked if they needed a graphic designer. But it wasn’t the main office, just an apartment with some people working for the company.” 

“I showed my graphics, and joined them shortly after. I still worked for the store, which I later left to focus on making games”. 

In 1995~1996, Alberto was working on Obelix for the SNES.

The sound of code?

Alberto José González and composer Yoko Shimomura at Fun&Serious Game Festival 2019

It’s like what you’ve probably heard on your SNES! 🙂 

Music was the next art that caught Alberto’s mind. But code never left his thoughts. Naturally, those merged together, and he started coding music in Assembler. “I started experimenting with a music app, liked how it sounded, and kept creating music. Note by note. Listening and tweaking it. And the process was very slow: a small melody would take days.” 

“What kind of music are you into” is probably what all music creators get asked a lot. The “SNES Music” app Alberto now uses to listen to music for his own enjoyment, also has his tracks. Yes, game music is among his favorite things to listen to. 🙂 But Alberto points out he likes all kinds of music.

Start companies with friends 

On this team, Alberto met Ricardo Fernandez, our lead programmer - and they’ve been friends and coworkers ever since. Shortly after, the dynamic duo founded their own company, Bit Managers: Alberto was mostly coding music, for over 40 games for the GameBoy and other platforms (Game Gear, Master System, NES, Super Nintendo & Playstation). 

Check out his console  tracks, earlier works for ZX Spectrum, and some new ones.

 And then, in 2004, there was Abylight. Alberto and Ricardo co-founded the company with 2 more people from the previous team. 

Ever wondered what’s that on our logo? Most friends on our Instagram page guessed right, it’s a fish: anglerfish, to be precise - the one with the light. “But, why a fish, and why this exact one - no one remembers. Probably because it’s kinda cute?”

We’re all gamers here...

...and the only competition on the team is that in Tekken during lunch. 🙂 

Alberto’s current favorite game is Dragon Quest on the Switch, a gift from his wife. Their teenage son is a gamer too, but prefers the mobile platform.

How to never get bored

Alberto enjoys all things he’s done so far, but admits making music only  was a bit boring. At Abylight, he was finally able to do a variety of things: even designing games for those tiny ancient cell phones. “Was a nightmare, hundreds of devices! Screens, sizes, capabilities… Felt much worse than making games for the early 8 bit computers”, Alberto recalls. 

Dissect, improve, learn

At this time, at Abylight, Alberto is mostly coding again, and enjoys making games we port to new platforms even better. “I loved working with games by Locomalito. They’re easy to code, and I enjoyed putting a personal touch. They’ve been perfect material for porting, I’ve learnt a lot from them”, the developer shares. “From Hyper Light Drifter too, particularly its logic of ideas and code. ”

Alberto’s artistic side has no time for boredom as well: he’s now polishing up the visuals for App Store for Super Hydorah’s next update. And then it will be the turn of Mindkeeper and Cursed Castilla. 

The sounds from your Apple Watch

Alberto recalls feeling especially valued by the team when a dedicated post was made to celebrate his 25 years in the industry. And, from the recent achievements, the developer is very proud of the sound for Mindkeeper, that he created from scratch and without code. 

So, how much coffee does it take to be that multitalented?

Alberto is a night owl, and needs 3 coffees a day to be productive. “Anything that has caffeine will do.” 

For the nearest future, Alberto is planning to code even more. He “lives and breathes” code and game development, so, once home after work… he sits at his computer again. Fortunately, his pets, two rescue guinea pigs, are quiet creatures, and don’t ruin the focus. 🙂