Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Nathalie Lawhead

Nathalie Lawhead

Indie game developer (Tetrageddon)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I started out as a net artist in the 90's. I remember when the World Wide Web was still a new thing, and I had to explain to people what that is, and why it's the future. Now I laugh, but I was told often that it's a niche, it will die, and I'm ruining my future. I love being right. :)

In those days I was making net art. I loved the experimental nature of the internet as art. I still do. I was fascinated by the fact that art can be intelligent, move, react, and anybody in the world can see my work. Museums, or galleries were no longer in charge of an artist's success.

Eventually people started calling what I do games. I absolutely hated the label. Not so much because of "snobby artist syndrome" but because I saw how people got confused. Often I would hear them complaining that "this game doesn't make sense", "what am I supposed to do?". "Game" meant that there was a goal, mission, or clear agenda. This is really the opposite of art. Where you are required to sit down and form your own conclusions about it. To me, art is about a conversation between the observer and art. It speaks to you, which requires a lot of contemplation.

The label "game" seemed to come with a lot of conservative expectations. It caused more confusion than it was worth. Looking back, I think a lot has changed in how people perceive games. People have often said that "games are art", but for something to be art we have to be willing to (as consumers) actually perceive it as art. Approach (or interact with) it the same way as we approach art. We have to be open minded.

I think it is amazing that we're at a point where games are exactly that, and this is thanks to players who are willing to experience something totally new, experimental, and creative. I'm also at the point where I'm very proud to call myself a "game designer" over an "artist".

You can see my work at tetrageddon.com

What hardware do you use?

I have your classic setup of desktop, and mobile. I've moved to an Apple setup, but I used to be all about PC. I miss it.

I'd love to actually say that I use all sorts of cool shit, and interface with satellites, and drop the word "cloud" a few times for extra credit, but my setup has always been very basic.

I think with enough determination you can make amazing work on, or with, anything. There's this really cool GDC talk about "A Year of Constraints", by MsMinotaur, and it's about how limitations improve development, and motivate you. I couldn't agree more! Money is always an issue, as any indie dev knows, and I often used outdated software or old machines to work from. I ended up creating some really cool visual styles from working around all those constraints. I think the biggest asset you can have is creative determination. Restrictions encourage out of the box thinking, and you have to try something different. It makes it hard to copy trends.

So, I think, high-end tools are really the last thing on the list for making something good.

The last PC I had was a really old one that used to overheat so I took the case apart and had a room fan blowing on it so it wouldn't constantly shut itself off or crash. It still did, but I got into the habit of saving my work every thirty seconds. Good times!

Now I have a nice iMac, but I still miss that machine. Not that I'm against high-end gadgetry. I want the latest and greatest just as much as anyone else, but it's not necessary.

And what software?

Xcode, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Creative Cloud (Edge, Photoshop, Flash, After Effects), and lots of open source stuff. I use AIR a lot. I love HTML5, and love Flash even more. They work really great together. I use FL Studio for music and sound.

I enjoy working with anything AI. I've used Program E, AIML, a lot for silly little extras. I'm hoping to have time to set up Caffe (deep learning framework) and incorporate that somehow.

Things I use/do almost daily is PHP, JavaScript, MySQL, HTML, ActionScript.. It's all so fun. I love it.

What would be your dream setup?

Dream would be some way of zapping ideas straight from my brain into the computer. Like I think of it and the game is just done. I have so many ideas but all this menial "getting it done" stuff takes a lot of time.

Ok. Something less sci-fi..

I really need to get back to PC so I can develop for it a lot better. To make games, you also have to play them, so a high end PC is on my list of things to get when I become rich.

I've also been trying to get into the PlayStation developer program. It would be amazing if I could get my hands on their devkit.

Also, would like to develop for VR..

Now that I'm thinking about it, it would be great if someone just came along and dumped a whole bunch of hardware on me (including the PlayStation devkit).

Although, what I have now is pretty good too. :)

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