GamesBeat

A perfectionist indie makes Sound Shapes for Sony's NGP portable (video)

Jonathan Mak is pretty serious about making perfect games. Back in 2007, as a solo game designer, Mak created an award-winning game called Everyday Shooter, a music shooting game that won some critical acclaim and was sold as a downloadable title on the PlayStation 3 and the PC.

Since then, he has worked on 10 game prototypes with a local musician, Shaw-Han Liem (who goes by the alias I am Robot and Proud) in Toronto. But none of the prototypes met his satisfaction, which he says was kind of depressing. But today, Sony is announcing Mak’s latest game: Sound Shapes for the new NGP portable gaming system from Sony. It’s a very creative game and looks like it will be a launch title for the portable system when it debuts in the not-so-distant future, perhaps this fall or next year. This shows that tiny creative teams can catch the eye of the biggest game publishers if they relentlessly innovate, and it also shows that independent game developers are still a fountain of fresh ideas in the multibillion-dollar game business.

Mak, whose indie game company is called Queasy Games, calls the game a “music platformer.” Music acts like an element in the game — every action you take creates music. You manipulate a sticky ball through a two-dimensional landscape and create music as you interact. It’s a perfect game for the tactile NGP, which has both button controls and a touchscreen. The various shapes and lines in the game make different kinds of sounds, and you have to time your moves to the beat of the music. If you hit anything red, you’re toast and you have to start over. In the meantime, you can create your own song as you play the game. It’s hard to describe and it sounds goofy. But it’s fun.

It isn’t easy to make this kind of game, especially when you’re working alone or with a very small team. Mak began programming in the 7th grade and then started making games. He tried his hand at a major game early on with a title called Gate 88, a sci-fi game where you pilot a ship and shoot down enemy bases. It was a solo project, and it never took off. Mak stopped working on it in 2005.

Then he began work on Everyday Shooter, which won him several awards at the Game Developers Conference’s Independent Games Festival. Everyday Shooter debuted on the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network as a downloadable game. It is also available on the PC through digital distribution. The game was an imaginative shooting game where the player shoots abstract works of art.

Mak said he was happy with the reaction to Everyday Shooter. He said he didn’t know if anyone would like the game, but was pleased when people started buying it.

“As for sales, well, before I was poor and lived in a basement apartment with little to no furniture,” he said. “Now I can afford to live above-ground where there’s sunlight. So yes, sales have been good!”

Mak continued with his love for fusing music and games with Sound Shapes. He pitched the game to Sony representatives and they asked him to come visit them in Los Angeles. There, they showed him a top secret project: the NGP. Sony approved the game and Mak was able to hire some people. The rest is history.

It’s exciting to see a creative artist go down this path, offering something surprising that should be a delight for gamers and non-gamers alike. And he probably got his big chance with Sony only because he worked on ten things that failed.

We caught up with Mak at a private event where Sony showed off the NGP. Sony will show off the game at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles next week. Check out our video interview with Mak below.

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