Recommended education: A degree in computer science or knowledge of simple mathematics–especially algebra, which is key for programming.
Salary range: Varies wildly. Mak insists it’s good enough to live off of.
What’s an indie gamemaker?
“Take a regular game-development company and knock it down to one guy,” says the 25-year-old Mak, who handles all game-making duties–from programmer to sound guy to designer–himself. It may sound like a dream game-biz job, but when he’s stuck “doing some technical crap,” he says, “it definitely feels like work.” Take, for instance, making Everyday Shooter work on PS3. “I’d rather have someone else do it,” he says, but after a pause, “well, actually, I would have done it myself.”
Mak’s typical day
It’s rarely the same. “I wake up, sit around, and then what I’m doing could be something really technical or just walking around outside and thinking of new ideas,” he says. He could be strumming his guitar, or pulling his hair out trying to record something for the game, or trying to create graphics. “Some days, I don’t do anything,” he says.
The only thing Mak actually doesn’t do for his games is handle the business side. For that, he has an agent who helps him find deals–like when Sony outright bought Everyday Shooter from him. “I think what’s most important is making the type of game that you want to make,” says Mak. “If you don’t have a good focus, there’s too much noise. But if you’re focused, you make it happen.”
How’d he get the gig?
Mak started programming games on his PC back when he was a teen in 1997–and he just kept going from there. He entered his work into various game-design contests, which was a smart move: Sony reps are known to check out what’s on display at the such events; they discovered Everyday Shooter at the 2007 Independent Gaming Festival.
“To support myself along the way, I had part-time jobs programming,” he says. “I found programming to be the sweet spot in terms of pay and ease.” At one point, he actually got a programming gig while hanging out in the chat client inside one of his own PC games. That’s what we call networking.
TOOLS OF HIS TRADE
Guitar and FX pedal
Mak plays a Squier Strat with a pedal for amp simulation. “I live in an apartment; I can’t be loud,” he says.
Pencil and paper
“Before I program the graphics, I draw the shapes on a piece of paper,” he says. “I solve a lot of programming problems that way, too.”
A 5-year-old PC
“One way to ensure your game runs on everyone’s machine: Make it on an old one,” he says.
Everyday Shooter has been a positive experience largely because his interaction with Sony was good. “They said, ‘You make the game; we’ll do the publishing,” says Mak. “It’s worked out really well.”