14 Year Old Max Polhill Discusses Stellar Alien
Meet fourteen year old developer Max Polhill. At an age where some are trying out video games for the first time, Max has developed Stellar Alien by himself. Max shares his inspirations, his favorite games, and his future development goals.
Khris Golder: When I think of old school gaming, I think of NES era games. At your age, what do you consider old school gaming?
Max Polhill: I think of Gameboy games because I would play them all the time when I was younger. As far as I can remember, my first game was Pokemon Yellow on the Gameboy Color. The ‘old school’ games I love are Megaman Zero, Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past and Super Mario Bros 3.
KG: The man’s got taste! When I was 14, I was playing games. You're programming them. Why do you find yourself drawn to arranging codes instead of entering them?
Max Polhill: I think I like programming games because I like playing games. It's a cool feeling for me as a kid to be able to come up with a game concept, do all the programming and see it come to life eventually for others to experience. There are so many kinds of games to make and new concepts to be thought of. The best game idea ever is probably in the head of an 8-year-old kid who loves playing on his Xbox, Playstation, or maybe he’s just playing online or mobile games.
KG: Very well said. Is this something you want to do as a career or is this just a hobby? Do you have time to do anything else?
Max Polhill: Right now, yes, I would love to make game development and/or game design my career. But I'm only 14 years old so that could change. It seems unlikely to change right now because I’m having fun with what I am doing. I'm homeschooled, so I usually have a bit more flexibility with my time than other kids. I've been bowling for a long time, and I bowl competitively. My bowling score average is about 175 right now but I’m always working to improve. It's fun, and I get additional scholarship money from placing well in bowling tournaments.
KG: That’s awesome! What inspires you the most? Are there any developers you find inspirational? How about just inspirational people in your life?
Max Polhill: I have very inspirational parents, they're awesome. As far as other game developers, Jonathan Blow really makes me interested in games that don't really have to be "fun", but instead an interesting experience to the player. His talks on game design are really interesting as well.
KG: Everything starts in the mind, and it grows as it becomes a finished project. Did Stellar Alien turn out like you thought it would? Did it turn out how you wanted it to?
Max Polhill: Stellar Alien actually turned out a little bit better than I thought it would because it is a fun, frustrating game. You can get more ideas for a game once you've played it and that's what happened with Stellar Alien. First it started as a physics simulation of boxes falling into planets. Then it developed into an alien trying to get stars. Eventually it evolved into an alien trying to get stars from an evil alien trying to destroy the stars. In my mind, I wanted to see Stellar Alien on multiple platforms and I was able to do that with Ludei’s Cocoon JS. In the end, it all came together!
KG: Okay, Max. Trick question: what video game do you hate the most?
Max Polhill: There isn’t a game I really “hate.” As an indie developer, I understand how much effort goes into developing a game so it’s tough for me to hate someone else’s hard work.
KG: That is the greatest answer we’ve ever had! A lot of people ask us why we remain so constructive in our reviews, and it’s because we understand it takes a lot to program a game (in most cases). It’s very refreshing to see a young man who appreciates the craft enough to avoid ridiculing it! Now, for a serious question: Wii U, PS4, or Xbox One?
Max Polhill: I can't say much specifically since I have yet to try any one of them. But so far, what I hear about PS4 is standing out for me because it’s about $100 dollars cheaper than the Xbox One and I believe it still has better specs than the Xbox One. Based off of the games Sony showcased at E3, I really like how Sony is putting some light on indie game developers and letting them develop games for their PS4 console. The Wii U does not interest me very much at this time mainly because of the games. I really want Nintendo to try and make new and creative games instead of making spin-offs of their successful games from the past.
KG: What sort of accomplishments would you like to be known for by the gaming community? The best arcade game? Do you eventually want to assemble your own team?
Max Polhill: I just want to be known for trying different kind of game concepts that others have yet to see. I don't want to make the next Temple Run or Angry Birds — that's been done. I like creating new ideas. My own team at Xavier games would be nice because my drawing skills aren't very good and an extra programmer or two would be sweet.
Check Out the Stellar Alien Trailer Here:
KG: Do you have any questions for us? We'd love to see the GamerCheese mouse end up in your next game! Ha!
Max Polhill: I am curious about one thing. As a voice in the game industry…What do you guys think about teenage game developers? Do you think they’re good for the game development industry?
KG: Of course! It’s just like every other medium in existence. Art, film, music: the younger the better. Think about how games could evolve if more children took the time to learn how to program games. It’s also one of the most interactive ways to teach students to work with numbers and math. There is more and more focus on indie titles through phone games, microconsoles (Ouya), and console giants like the PS4. It gives younger developers like yourself more opportunities to hone your skills in a live market. My only fear is that other young developers won’t be as mature as you, and will be crushed by the harsh criticism that many game websites sling around.
Max Polhill: About the mouse, why should he wait for the next game? Let’s put him in a spacesuit and he can have a little adventure with Starbli. Or, the mouse might join in with Rosso and team up against Starbli. Haha.
KG: Let's make it happen! In the meantime, feel free to stop by GamerCheese whenever you want. Thanks, Max!