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A picture of Matej Jan

Matej Jan

Pixel artist, game developer

in artist, developer, game, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Matej Jan, a pixel artist and game developer, better known online as Retro or by my company/blog name Retronator. I'm developing a game called Pixel Art Academy, an adventure game where you become an art student and learn how to draw. I'm a solo developer so I wear a lot of hats - well, all the hats. I studied Computer Science and Education in school while learning how to draw on my own. I wasn't able to go to art school so I want to give a chance to everyone who can't do it in real life to do it in my game.

What hardware do you use?

I've been a digital nomad for 3 years now so all my life fits into a suitcase and a backpack. To travel light like this I rely heavily on my 13" iPad Pro which servers as my drawing tablet, design notebook, book reader, second display and more. My main workhorse is a 15" MacBook Pro that extends the desktop to the iPad with a Luna Display. I live happily in the Apple ecosystem so I also have an iPhone XS, Apple Pencil, Magic Mouse 2, and AirPods. For movie editing where I need more disk space and quick read/write operations I plug in WD's My Passport 512 GB SSD drive, whereas the 2 TB WD Elements acts as storage for footage and finished videos.

And what software?

Most of my time is spent in WebStorm where I code my game in CoffeeScript (the game runs in the browser on top of the Meteor platform). I'm very fond of TextExpander, a tool for quickly typing out longer text simply by typing its shortcut. I use this extensively in online interactions as well since I have all my social media URLs and other useful links bound to TextExpander shortcuts.

By now I've written most of my own tools to create pixel art, especially 3D Paint, a program to draw pixel art and automatically convert it into a 3D model. Previously I've been a long-time GIMP user, and when I draw pixel art on the iPad I use Pixaki. To draw concept art on the tablet I use Linea Sketch and I take notes with Penultimate (which syncs to Evernote).

I make a lot of GIFs (to post on social media) with GIF Brewery as well as taking video footage directly with QuickTime. I edit with iMovie, which I'm in love with for its power/simplicity ratio and the fact that it's free. For streaming on Twitch I use OBS.

Special shoutout to Living Worlds, the most beautiful pixel art screensaver ever, as I always have it running on my iPad when it's not in use.

What would be your dream setup?

Before I quit my day job to become an indie developer I had a 27" iMac at work and I wouldn't mind returning to that setup. But as a digital nomad, my current setup is pretty much perfection. I'd upgrade my MacBook Pro to the latest model and add an external GPU so I could finally play Star Citizen at more than 10 FPS.