At 12, Max Trest is already an established indie game developer who even made a game with the Unity engine.
This project, Astrolander, which Max developed on his own, currently has a demo on Steam’s digital storefront, and is one of the games chosen for this weekend’s Indie Games Showcase Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle. Max is currently self-publishing the title through his company, Lost Cartridge Creations.
In Astrolander, two players control different systems on a single rocket and must work together to solve puzzles, dodge obstacles and avoid enemies. Max is a big fan of retro games and old computer systems, and Astrolander draws much of its inspiration from the 1979 Atari arcade game Lunar lander.
He is also a member of the Seattle Indies development community, often coming to participate from his home in British Columbia. Academically, Max is a homeschooled student who is currently in Grade 10 and was one of the summer attendees. Mission to Mars Contest by the Mars Company.
We caught up with Max to find out more about Astrolander, some of his favorite games and more. Conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
GeekWire: What Got You Started Astrolander in the first place ?
Max Trest: The freedom to be able to express myself and realize my ideas. When I was younger, I used to tinker around with materials a lot and make things, and it basically extends into that.
Today’s game engines are really easy to use compared to some of the old stuff I looked at. Both Unity and Unreal have visual scripting solutions, and I’m not sure how good they are compared to other options, but they look pretty good. It’s still a bit hard to work with because you need to know the tools, art and stuff if you want to create custom things, but overall it’s much easier than before.
I use Blender daily to do many things. I am self-taught on this; I started when it was on 2.8 or something, when that revision came out. Before I couldn’t use it, because it was super confusing, but they changed it with this revision and I was able to get in.
So Astrolander is inspired by Lunar Lander, from a conversation I had with your father.
Yeah, I really liked playing that one, with vector graphics. It’s really beautiful, and holds up today, honestly.
It would be a deep cut for someone my age, let alone yours. What drew you to this game, as opposed to something newer?
It’s mostly simplicity and repetition. Predict what you will land on and try not to crash. I’ve been to a lot of arcades and they sometimes had this game there. I wanted to make it a modern version.
What are some of your other favorite games?
I appreciate Civilization VI, and play a lot. lemmings, for the Commodore Amiga. Also, Populous. I really like strategy games.
We have a Raspberry pie running RetroPie, and I play a lot of retro games on it. I was going to try to see if I could release my game on the Intellivision Amicobut it looks like it will never come out.
This was something I was interested in, if you tried to run your game on older hardware. I heard you gave ex-Xbox head Ed Fries a non-working position. Astrolander Atari 2600 cartridge at a New Tech Seattle event in June.
I was thinking of doing something like this. The only problem is the coding in Assembly for legacy systems. It’s crazy how complicated the coding is for older systems. I did some music, but nothing after that.
What do you think in the long term?
For my next game, I’m planning a modern version of something like lemmings, maybe in AR or VR.