Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Michael McMaster, and at the moment I do a few things. I make videogames with House House, a very small studio that I co-direct – last year we released a game called Push Me Pull You and we recently announced our second project, which is called Untitled Goose Game for the time being.
I'm also working on a PhD, which I started this year at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, where I'm researching the position of videogames within art and design museums. I also work on-and-off as a sessional tutor at RMIT, where I teach game design practice to undergraduate students.
That sounds like too many things, when I write it out like this, and it probably is.
What hardware do you use?
For my game development work, I have a big heavy PC that I put together a long time ago, with two monitors raised up to eye level on big books. I have a Microsoft Sculpt ergonomic keyboard that I ought to use, but its wireless receiver drops in and out a lot so right now I'm typing on a very plain Logitech keyboard. My mouse looks like a plain matte-black mouse, and it's very nice to use, but it is unfortunately called a Razer DeathAdder. I sometimes draw using an Intuos Pro Medium. My desk is usually cluttered with game controllers – right now there are two DualShock 4's and an Xbox 360 controller.
For my research, I use a 2015 MacBook Pro, and a pair of Urbanears Zinken headphones. Lately I've started doing some audio interviews, too, so I bought a Sony ICD-PX470 digital voice recorder, though I always end up doing a backup recording on my phone (a Nexus 5X) because I'm paranoid of the voice recorder failing and wasting my subjects' time.
And what software?
Our current videogame is being developed in Unity, and though I've never felt all that comfortable using it, I'm learning slowly (much slower than the others on our team, who are very patient and nice about it). My main contributions to the game are asset production, art direction, and graphic design: I use Blender for 3D modelling, Photoshop for concept art and various sketches, and Illustrator for mocking up things like UI elements. Blender is a very strange program in a bunch of ways but I've been using it for years and I really like it. Although the four of us work in the same office, we all keep different work hours, so we use Slack a lot to communicate when we're not in the one room.
My research is done across a heap of Google Docs and a lot of notes in Google Keep – I think a lot about switching to something more fully-featured and useful for long-term projects, like Scrivener, but this is what works for me at the moment. I also use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow that acts as a pomodoro timer, and blocks out sites like Twitter and Slack for 25-minute periods so that I can focus on work (I struggle a lot with distractions, so this helps a lot).
What would be your dream setup?
It depends how dreamy I'm allowed to get! I have three desks – one at home, one at university, and one at my studio's office – and a lot of the time I feel like most of my life is spent moving in vectors between these three spaces. I'd really love two rooms right next to each other – one with all my research books and a clean desk, and another with all my game development equipment – so that I could switch between work modes more easily. Also, a big lazy dog that follows me between the rooms and sits with me while I work. And a standing desk, I guess.
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