Interview: Jonathan Mak from Queasy Games

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Jonathan Mak, an independant Canadian developer and a one man band over at Queasy Games who brought us Everyday Shooter; a relaxful ecstacy filled shootem-up for the Playstation 3. In March of 2007, Mak profiled Everyday Shooter at the Independent Games Festival, and it went on to earn awards for Design Innovation, Excellence in Audio, and a GameTap Indie Award.
I contacted Jonathan for an interview about Everyday Shooter; read more if you’d like to know what was said & also a link to another computer developed game he whipped up.

1. Right off the bat I’d like to ask how did you get in contact, or if Sony
contacted you into developing Everyday Shooter?

It was all luck really. Rusty Buchert and George Weising from Sony
saw the game at last year’s IGF and promptly contacted my agent,
Warren Currell, to set up a meeting. I actually didn’t want to go to
the meeting because I always end up falling asleep, but I’m glad I
did. They were pretty cool, and I ended up staying awake.

You can read more about how Sony found it here:
http://blog.us.playstation.com/author/rbuchert/

2. Did you have any problems in the development? Things didn’t come out as
planned? Had a hard time with coding?

Well, even before the game became Everyday Shooter, there were already
tons of problems like, how come all my previous games aren’t very fun?
That was probably the biggest problem and the reason why I settled
on making a shoot-em-up. It let me focus on something really simple,
but make it as awesome as I can. It’s interesting though, after the
project became Everyday Shooter, I realized how expressive and
personalized a game can be even if you follow the conventions of an
old genre. And if you think about it, music’s like that too. It’s
not about the genre or anything, but about the way artists play around
with the genre to make it their own expression.

The other big problem that stood out for me is recording the
soundtrack which was really tedious since I kept messing up. I mean,
all the classic mistakes like missing a note, or forgetting to hit
record, or even the guitar breaking. Yea, seriously, my guitar broke
before I had a chance to record the outro song. Luckily I had a
soldering iron handy.

Lastly, going from a 4:3 aspect ratio to the new standard 16:9
widescreen format was tricky because I originally tuned the game for
play on a 4:3 monitor. I didn’t want to do something silly like add
more enemies to fill up space or whatever since that would disturb the
visual and audio interaction responses, which depended heavily on
quantities. In the end, I came up with a few simple mathematical
tweaks to make the gameplay nearly identical to the 4:3 version.

3. What games growing up did you play? Any game in particular help influence
you to create Everyday Shooter?

Growing up, I watched my brothers play games more than I actually
played them because I was too scared of dying or losing. This was
back in the XT and 286 days. Around when the 386 came out is when I
started playing games myself. The first game I really played was Wing
Commander which I remember quite fondly. I loved how the game
constantly bombarded you with panic-inducing feedback, while forcing
you to play with a cool head or else you’d lose the mission. It kept
the game at a nice tension. Then again, I was pretty young at the
time, so maybe my memory of it has made it better…

I’m not sure how much the old games influenced ES though. I mean, the
biggest influences are Parsec47 (great indie shoot-em-up with an
awesome vector style) and Every Extend (chain reaction gameplay),
which I didn’t play until just a few years ago.

4. I’ve been wanting to know ever since I finished Everyday Shooter, can
PlayStation fans look forward to another game developed by you?

Are you kidding me? Of course! 🙂 I mean, making games is my life…

5. I read awhile ago on the Playstation Blog, that there are no 5’s or 4’s
in the code for Everyday Shooter other than 54 and 0.5, because you claim
they’re unlucky numbers. Care to explain?

Ha, I get asked this a lot now. I thought people would just disregard
it as some random silliness or something…

Anyway, so one day I heard that some numbers in Chinese are very
unlucky and some are very lucky, so I started joking around with it.
Soon however, I took the joke seriously and I even augmented it with
my own rules. It goes something like this:

4 sounds like “death” or “die” in Chinese so it’s unlucky.
2 sounds like “easy” so coupled with “4” as in “24” is really bad
because it sounds like “easy to die.”
5 sounds like “not” so it’s kind of negative. When coupled with bad
numbers as in “54” then it’s okay since it sounds like “not die”, but
only used as a last resort.
I consider all the other numbers lucky with strongest preference
towards 8 (sounds like “prosper” or something), 7, and 3, in roughly
that order.

My obsession with this grew as I worked on Everyday Shooter so if you
actually look at the older parts of the source code, you can see I’m
much more liberal with 4 and 5.

Nowadays I might stop doing that because it’s kind of a disturbing
obsession, and also because 4 is a fairly convenient number. Like the
size of an integer in programming is 4, so lots of things are
multiples of 4, and y’know, 4 beats to a bar, etc.

However, I’m also thinking of adding a new rule where 0 is an unlucky
number…

So many decisions to make! Ahhhghh!

-j

Be sure to check out Everyday Shooter on the Playstation 3, or try out ToJam Thing available for download on PC/Mac OSX/Linux on the Queasy Games site: http://www.queasygames.com/