Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Robert Yang

Robert Yang

Game developer, teacher

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Robert Yang, I teach game development and make my own games as well. Most recently, I've been making a lot of video games about gay sex. You might've seen some videos of them on YouTube. I mainly use my setup for coding, 2D and 3D art-making, and occasionally game-playing (research!)

What hardware do you use?

My main machine is currently an Asus N56J laptop running Windows 10. I usually use mid-range Asus laptops, and get a new one every 2-3 years when the technology inevitably decays.

My work involves a lot of in-person user testing and demoing around the city, so I haven't bothered owning a big bulky desktop tower computer for years. I don't want something too powerful because then I'll be too tempted to build really complicated video games that demand really high system requirements from my players. I also don't want something too expensive because then I might get too precious about it, insisting that my playtesters wash their hands before touching my computer or something. My computer is actually so filthy that one tester visibly hesitated to look at the screen because it was covered in so much dust, hair, and food stains. Sometimes I wipe the screen with a cloth, but for the most part I've learned to "see through" the stains... have I said too much?

And what software?

My main game development tool is Unity, and for coding I use the bundled MonoDevelop. I also do a lot of visual work for my games in Photoshop and Maya, and screen capture animated GIFs with GifCam. I use SourceTree for version control, and recently switched to GitLab because my repos are so obscenely huge with really big binary files -- if I were working on a team, I'd probably pay for GitHub's superior tools and services and setup LFS -- but since I'm working mostly as a lone wolf I'd prefer a free private ready-to-use option like GitLab. For sound in my games, I usually just do simple mixing or noise reduction in Audacity, which is probably the only totally free open-source thing I use.

I think a lot of the younger people of my generation have stopped caring about free open-source software movements because we mostly grew up with broadband Internet and mass file-sharing, so we're used to pirating whatever we want or need. As far as we're concerned, Photoshop might as well be free. This is probably a bad and unsustainable attitude about software, but thinking about "software" like this is also kind of irrelevant now?

Video games, like everything else, are increasingly transitioning to a software-as-service model. As someone who makes software, this shift fascinates and disturbs me at the same time. I'm supposed to make a game, methodically cultivate a fan base around it, constantly update the game with new content, and keep engaging and listening to players for years and years. As a sole developer-artist, I can't do that, I would get burned out and depressed, working on the same project for years -- or worse, managing such a project? Ugh.

What I'm saying is it's important to unpack a concept like "software", to also consider our attitudes and expectations. Software programs computers, but also programs humans. The "old ways" of selling software products, and the "new ways" of monetizing free services, are both broken and unsustainable ways of making software as art. That probably means I should quit making software, but I also feel responsible for future generations of developers and artists, to try to make a better world for them. Somehow.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream setup would involve everything other than my setup -- time, funding, support... oh, right, that's not the answer you want?... ummm... then I guess one of those laptops that's made of titanium or something. I want to be able to toss my laptop off a building, because in my weaker moments, that's what I feel like doing.