Meet Andrew Maximov, Belarus' game designer listed in Forbes' 30 under 30

Meet Andrew Maximov, Belarus' game designer listed in Forbes' 30 under 30

Forbes magazine has recently included the Belarusian game designer in the list of the most successful people up to 30 years old. Andrew Maximov is really an outstanding person. Back in school, he studied programs for creating 3d graphics without any books and created a computer game after he graduated. Not seeing the benefits in higher education, he left university and without a diploma moved to America, where he works as an art director in a company of his dreams.

"Marks were generally unimportant for me. An English teacher once taught a good lesson. She said that if I admitted myself that I had not prepared, she would have put me a five (the best mark in former Soviet countries), but I got a three instead. Since then, I realized that I need to try, but for this it is not always necessary to prepare, as others expect it."

The most important skill of Andrew is his ability to learn. "I'm neutral about the knowledge itself (there is the Internet in place); it's much more important how you approach the learning process," he says. Unfortunately, most schools do not care about this. I have to remember some rules, solve tests... I was depressed by the very limited usefulness of this approach."

The guy from Belarus' capital Minsk learned well the teaching methodology of his teacher in mathematics: he explained the rule, and then gave him the task, and then another one, where this rule does not work. So he instilled an understanding of the value of thinking and forced to turn on the brain.

One of the first games that influenced the boy was Prince of Persia. Also, his worldview was formed under the influence of games such as Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Shadow of the Colossus.

- I remember there was a magazine called Igromania, where they wrote how to modify games. By that time I was already engaged in computer graphics, and the first thing I did was to replace the billboards in GTA Vice City with pictures of my brother running for presidency, changing clothes of characters, building obstacle courses for them, replacing the colors of cars and weapons.

"Having a set of tools on hand, we changed the content of the games without interfering with their logic. A little later I was able to add my own objects."

Andrew entered the faculty of international relations but soon left it. "The university did not give me anything, but I still did not sleep at night. We can say that while I was engaged in my main activity - I studied game development - I also went to university a little."

At the University, a Minsker discovered a new fascination - the Japanese language.

- I was brought to Japanese because I was expelled by an English teacher. She said that I will not learn anything new in my group. It was a new challenge. I was interested to understand the way of thinking of the Japanese, to expand my horizons. A Japanese taught the language, so she told us very interesting things about Japanese culture.

Andrew did not finish his studies at the university, he left after the first year:

"Apparently, it was not 'my monastery', and I decided not to interfere in this monastery with my own rules. I care about time and my prerogative to manage it. In my opinion, there are too few hours in a day".

The first time I wrote to Wargaming, they did not even answer. I remade the portfolio and sent it again, and I was told "you have an impressive portfolio for your age" (I was 18 years old), but still they refused to hire me. And then I had to act for the third time: I performed a test task on their site and wrote a defiant letter in the Old Russian style with the request not to consider other candidates until they see the results of my test task. A friend from the company later told that everyone was laughing while reading.

MORE: Wargaming CEO about company's plans

Andrew became a 3D artist at Wargaming, and after a while he move to become a texturalist. The company was finishing work on Operation Bagration. "Then we did a fantasy MMO game about orcs and elves, which nobody wanted to sponsor. I left the company after a couple of months of working for the World of Tanks, generally a year later. I wanted artistic growth, but the kind of projects that we did did not imply that. The money itself was never interesting to me. To be honest, I then worked as a freelancer and earned much less. At times I was hungry, but it was definitely worth it."

Two years later, the Belarusian moved to Canada and settled himself as an environment artist in Gameloft.

"But, since I devoted a lot of time to tireless work on my skills before coming here, there was some dissonance between what I can do and what my position provided. I wanted to do more complicated things."

So in 2013 he moved to San Francisco, where he worked as a senior artist with the Unreal Engine 4 engine on the unannounced Kixeye project. And after its closing, he moved to Los Angeles with a company he had long dreamed of - Naughty Dog. "This was a great inspiration for me. In our company, quality is not a variable, so you are not told to do "a shit" because we have only three dollars left".

He tried to get into that company while living in Belarus, but without a higher education diploma it was not easy to get a visa. At the GDC conference, where the Belarusian presented a report on the topic of artistic and technical values, his speech attracted the attention of guys from Naughty Dog.

In Naughty Dog, he began his career with a textures artist, but during all that time he painted 1.5 textures. "In the first couple of weeks of work, I was taken to a meetup where the team discussed the wind system and plant simulations. It was far from perfect. I said that I would write a new system, although before that I had never written the shading code directly and had no idea how to do it," recalls the artist.

In the end, he wrote a lot of technologies for this system using a specialized programming language PSSL for PlayStation.

- My latest works include the project Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which officially put an end in the 10-year franchise Uncharted. I personally was very inspired. I am grateful to the company and the team for the opportunity to conduct the project from start to finish.  

Am I glad that I am on the Forbes list? My friend, who also got on this list, said that she was ashamed and uncomfortable because of this. I can say the same about myself.

I am pleased, however, that the skills and knowledge that have long been inside the game industry, are in demand in other areas. The world realized that graphics are very important, it solves many problems not related to entertainment, for example, in education, architecture and construction. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram are now trying to entice game artists.

In my spare time I try to travel around Los Angeles. I advise to many independent developers.

My friend created a charitable organization "gamers for the good", and we from time to time participate in charitable events, we sew blankets and make sandwiches for homeless people.

Once I happened to go to school in one of the poor areas of Los Angeles. I told children how to make games without having education (many of them will not be able to afford it). When I was leaving, they painted me a lot of postcards, and one girl said that she wants to become a technical artist, because she loves mathematics and she likes to solve creative tasks, a profession she found out about 15 minutes ago. It was another reminder: the information you own can change someone's life. So never stop sharing knowledge.