Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Max Mraz

Max Mraz

Indie game developer, music producer, visual artist

Posted in artist, audio, developer, game, linux

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Max! I'm an indie game developer, but also a music producer, and visual artist. Fun thing about making games is they all come together. You can find me talking about game stuff on Twitter at @11mraz, I made the free Bloodborne homage Yarntown, and I'm wrapping up development on another game called Ocean's Heart.

I also work at a big company as a software developer, and at my church as an audio engineer.

What hardware do you use?

So for making video games, I primarily work on an old HP Elitebook. When my laptop from college started randomly corrupting git repos partway through development of my game Ocean's Heart, another kind dev sent me this one. It's got a few issues - the touch screen is broken and if you don't immediately disable it from the command line when you turn the computer on, it'll start registering ghost touches and lock up the screen. Also the three, tab, and F1 keys don't work. I keep some loose threes laying around to copy and paste. It makes things kind of annoying, but it works to make games! For a mouse, I use a Bluetooth Logitech. It says M25 on the bottom, but the rest is worn off. It's a really small mouse, and it's not great for your hands, so I can't recommend it. But the wheel clicks to the sides in addition to scrolling, which is cool. I found it in a cardboard box full of miscellaneous wires and stuff in my parents' basement. 5/5 star shopping experience.

For making music or editing podcasts (I do podcasts too), I have a Mac - I'm not sure what year. My mother-in-law I think said the government installed spyware on it and was trying to implicate her in something? Or like, the deep state gave her a virus? Anyway, I don't actually know what she did to it but she was getting rid of it. So I took it and wiped it and I use that for making music. Hopefully the government likes my beats!

You might be asking yourself, why don't I use the functional machine to make games? The machine with a three? I don't have a great reason. But you can't lay on the ground and code with a desktop I guess, or take it into the kitchen while you're making food. That's where I'm typing this now, while making noodles for lunch.

For making music, this is where I don't only use just garbage I ended up with. I use the studio standard headphones, the Sony MDR-7506. I got these from a friend who got them at a garage sale. I also have a pair of KRK Rockit 5 studio monitors- there's a reason they're on like every bedroom producer's desk. They're the cheapest ones you can get. Also, they're good, haha, I'd previously been using those Harman Kardon computer speakers that I've literally seen a pair of at every thrift store I've ever been to. I think they give you a broken Harman Kardon sub when you open a Goodwill. And technically, my car's speakers are part of my mixing setup too, since you always need to check a mix on your car speakers. Those are whatever is in a 2008 Mazda Miata.

My audio interface is the Berhinger U-Phoria UMC202. 2 inputs is enough if you don't often have people into your studio besides yourself. I have a handful of mics that I switch around depending on what I'm recording/sampling. I use my MXL V67G the most - it's a nice warm condenser that a dear friend gave me, but I also have an Audio Technica AT2020, obviously a Shure SM58, then some assorted Nady Starpower mics I bought from Musician's Friend in highschool. They're still rolling around, for when I don't want a great quality recording I guess.

Most of the music I produce for video games and podcasts and stuff, I'm writing with my MIDI keyboard, a Novation Launchkey 49. But it's also super fun to sprinkle in a bit of all the physical instruments I have laying around the studio. I use an inherited Yamaha Acoustic guitar from the 50s, a Luna ukulele (a LOT), a Johnson bass guitar, some old electric guitar I found at an estate sale (didn't have a brand on it), then all their weird instruments that just end up collecting. Harmonica, autoharp, erhu (from Wish.com), friend's mellophone, thumb kalimba, violin, hammer dulcimer, etc. It'd be dishonest to say I could like, play all these instruments, but I can make them make a sound, and then I can do something with that sound in Ableton.

Not everything has made it into a video game soundtrack yet, but getting a hammer dulcimer into a mix is a treat to pull off.

And what software?

On my laptop I'm running elementary OS - it's a version of Linux based on Ubuntu. I'm a big fan of how anything but Windows doesn't hijack control of your computer to force updates, insist on needing drivers for everything, obfuscate the command line, etc. Ugh, Windows...

I'm using the Solarus engine to make the games I'm currently working on. It's an open-source engine designed to make action RPGs, but flexible enough to make a lot of things. It's pretty easy to get started with - I didn't know how to code when I started making my game, figured I'd figure it out. I eventually did! Now I work as a software engineer professionally (I also took a three month class)! I either write my code right in the editor for the engine, or in Sublime if I want automatic indentation and stuff (again, my tab key is broken).

I use GIMP to draw all the graphics for my games. I don't recommend this.

For music and sound effects, it's that one-two punch of Ableton and Audacity. I got a free version of Ableton in college when I was designing generative music software for the air force (it was a weird summer), and then when I bought a MIDI keyboard that came with a key, it renewed it and I could upgrade to a newer free version, Live Lite 10. It's a bit limiting to not be able to use every feature, but limits can encourage creativity! For smaller edits or sound effects, I use Audacity because it opens quicker and gets the job done. It's great for making sound design stuff too, because you can layer a billion different samples, and play with their pitch and speed, or generate white noise or tones.

As far as software instruments in Ableton, Sonatina Orchestra is one of my go-tos, I think their strings sound great for a free plugin. Grallion makes a cool pitch-correction plugin, and TDR Nova is my current EQ. Almost everything else is either a stock Ableton preset instrument, or I'm doing something weird with a sample I recorded on my phone in an alley. For that, I use any random audio recording app - but it's important I always have one ready on my phone because weird sounds you find outside make terrific percussion.

When I make promo art, I use Krita. It's a great free alternative to Photoshop, because paying adobe a subscription is wild.

What would be your dream setup?

Definitely, like, hardware that wasn't broken. If I had a tab key, I tell you what, I'd be flying through development. I'm like Goku training with resistance weights right now. So like, a working laptop. In this dream, I'd also have the full version of Ableton - unlimited tracks, baybee! - and some cool 80s pop synths, because writing soundtracks like that is really fun. I guess just generally buying actual software and sample libraries would be the dream. Also my desk and chair are both from the garbage. I mean, they're fine, I can't understand why anyone would throw these out, but they're not particularly ergonomic or really hospitable to the human body at all.

Oh, also, if I could get cable internet at my house instead of using a hotspot on my cell phone, THAT would be a dream. Over 10mbps down? Ugh, I'd love it. I'd make you all really cool games if municipal broadband was a universal thing in the USA, so everybody please go make that happen.

The takeaway though, I think, is that even if you're just working with garbage and free scraps you dredge up from the internet, you can still make really cool stuff! Do get a decent chair though, my shoulders are wrecked and it makes rock climbing harder. So get a decent chair if you rock climb.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.