[Interview] IndieSpotlight: TheMasonX

Published on February 6th, 2014

What’s up guys? This is my first submission on the Ready Player 2 site, and today I interviewed indie dev TheMasonX, who hopes to soon have his first game on steam. This is what he said when I caught up with him:

What inspired you to become game developer? I’ve been developing games since 6th grade (2005), when my friend Wolfgang introduced me to RPG Maker. I’d go over to his house almost every weekend and we’d work on Final Fantasy-esque games from after school on Friday until Sunday night, and plan it out all week at school. After a while, we’d start making our own games and burning them onto CD’s for each other to try out. After that, I messed around for a while with Eclipse (a similar program for making 2D MMORPG’s), Cre8or (a crappy indie game engine made for an indie 3D modelling program), and finally made it to Unity in 2011 after a two year break in which I focused on 3D modeling. After a slew of little projects to learn the basics, I started working on The Time Engineer Saga: Situation Zulu (please don’t sue me, King), which is my second attempt to make an FPS zombie game. I was living with 4 other friends in college, and I had been secretly working on it nearly every night for months. I had added a day/night cycle, dynamic weather system, like 10 guns, AI zombies and allies, a drivable car with guns, and even a pet dog that would attack zombies. One night we were all hanging out, and I was playing around with it, and someone asked me what game I was playing. After I mentioned it was my own, they all wanted to see it, so I put it up on the flat screen. They were so supportive that I really decided to make indie game development a big part of my life. Only a week or two later, I started on GodSpace, which became my first publicly released game.

Why indie? I’m an indie developer partly because I don’t think I’m quite experienced or polished enough to be part of a professional company, but also because I love the freedom it affords me. I can make whatever sort of game I desire without having to answer to a publisher or project leader to make sure that it’s marketable enough or is trendy enough. While it means that I may not always make the most profitable or successful game, it means that I get to make a game that fulfills my creative vision without being stifled by the bureaucratic process. I’d rather work on a niche game that I like than a generic game that I hate.

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What was the first game you played/bought? As a little kid, I had a bunch of PC games, like Putt Putt Goes to the Moon, a few Magic School Bus games, a Tonka game, and some of the Jumpstart games. I remember more of those games than pretty much anything else from that period, which really says something about how deep my love of games is. The first game not made exclusively for small children that I really remember playing was this platformer for the original GameBoy called Sneaky Snakes. It was a black and white 2D platformer in which you had to eat fish to grow and make it to the scale at the end of the level before time ran out and an axe chased you down. The first game I fully remember and adore was Pokemon Yellow on my GameBoy Color, which I got for Christmas in 1999. My dad had to help me sometimes, as I was only 6 and some of the concepts were a bit out of my league, but I soon learned, and became a certifiable Pokemon master. In fact, you might even say I was the very best, like no one ever was. I still have my original GameBoy Color and my original copy of Pokemon Yellow, though my little brother overwrote the save file long ago.

What was your first games console? And as far as a first console, handheld gaming aside, my first console was a Playstation 1, the only games I really remember having on it were Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles and Tiny Tank. But the console that I have the most and dearest memories of was the original Xbox. My brother and I got it for Christmas in 2001, just after the launch, and we had Star Wars: Starfighter, Mad Dash Racing, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, Halo: Combat Evolved. It wasn’t until a few months later that I caught my dad playing Halo, and he decided to let me and my cousin play that I got to play my first M game, and experience my first FPS, which I have loved ever since. It was also on the Xbox that I played Fable and Spider Man 2, in which I found my love for sandbox games, and the feeling of playing in a seemingly living world.

What was your first game? I don’t remember my games with RPG Maker in great detail, I mostly remember hanging out with my friend and the process of making games and building cool gameplay elements with what I had available. The first game I distinctly remember creating was a game on the Cre8or engine called UFO Madness. The reason I created a UFO game was because it was easy to model, just a 2D line rotated around an axis. The goal in the game was to play minigames like golf and tag. It wasn’t a serious game, mainly just something for me to mess around with and learn how to make a 3D physics based game. Sadly it no longer exists on the web, but I may be able to find it someday on our family’s old computer if they haven’t gotten rid of it yet.

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What inspires you to make games? As far as inspiration, most of my RPG Maker games were meant to be Final Fantasy knockoffs with the focus being on the story and characters (not that I can actually remember any of it). In fact, the first game that I remember being inspired to make was Time Engineer Saga. I wanted to make a living breathing world, which is why I focused so heavily on the day/night system and the dynamic weather; I wanted to make a realistic zombie game, in which you had to scavenge supplies in order to build shelter to survive never ending zombie hordes. Sadly, the dream fell through; I had to continually make concessions and decrease my scope as my limited coding abilities couldn’t handle it, though I’d very much like to revisit the idea someday. But what I learned from it was invaluable: I make games to create a personal vision of beauty in which the environment comes to life from the little details, such as NPCs being right or left handed. For me, making games is like the holodeck from Star Trek; I get to create realities as I please, no matter how utterly impossible, and live them out.

If you weren’t an indie dev what would your dream job be? If I wasn’t an indie dev, I would love to be an astronaut. I’ve always wanted to be one, ever since I was a little boy, I’ve dreamed of space. It’s the most serene, beautiful, mysterious place there is. I guess you can kind of see that influence in my games, as I’ve created 3 space games: GodSpace, Reactive Inertia, and Super Earth Defense. I would still love to visit space someday, as I find it more fascinating than ever, especially with all the research I’ve been doing for GodSpace Galactic 2. That, and the scientific aspect is incredible. I’ve always been extremely into both science and space, and astronauts are the lucky few who get to do cool experiments in zero g. What more could a nerd want?

Who inspires you in the gaming world? As an indie game developer of a sandbox building game, one of the first names that comes to mind is Notch, who not only partially inspired me to make GodSpace, but adds a personal touch to game development that’s often missing. My all-time favorite game developer is Peter Molyneux though. That man is a genius, and GodSpace would not be possible without him having made Populous and Black & White. He’s probably the single biggest influence on me as a developer. And while the press and public often malign him for announcing features that aren’t in his games, I can understand where he comes from. He has the same love of living worlds as me, and he gets so excited about the features and little details that he can’t keep quiet and stick to the PR-approved script. I’ve been known to talk about all the things I’m planning on adding or would want to add in a similar way, I just don’t have enough people playing for it to become an issue. And then there’s Will Wright, whose Sim games and Spore have largely inspired my love of simulation, particularly relating to life. Life is so interesting that I can’t help but want to capture its beauty and see emergent gameplay similar to how life generates complexity out of simple rules.

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Thanks to TheMasonX for this interview it was extremely awesome finding out about his indie dev career.

Here’s the link to his Steam Greenlight Page, where you can snoop on his newest project, GodSpace Galactic 2, and help get it greenlit
: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=210122794
Thanks for reading this article! I hope to bring you more game reviews, interviews and more!

Ethan 🙂

All images courtesy of TheMasonX

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