We Made a Game for TOJam 12 Called Blobber Basher!

Hello there! I'm Alina, a Toronto-based pixel artist and if you've been following what Spooky Squid Games has been up to lately, you've already seen my art in Russian Subway Dogs!

This weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the 12th annual Toronto Game Jam, my first game jam ever.

Expectations

Some of my expectations of what a game jam might be like had me a little nervous about signing up.

Having been with Spooky Squid Games for almost two years I have learned without any doubt that while game development can be fun and rewarding when things are going well, it has an equal potential to be gruelling and disappointing when something just isn't coming together. Why would full time game devs want the additional stress of developing a side project in three days' time? Or the disappointment of coming up with a promising idea and not finishing it in time?

At the same time, knowing that Russian Subway Dogs had itself started out as a jam game, it didn't make sense to ignore the potential behind rapidly prototyping a game idea. Who knows how far it can go one day! And hey, if it never goes anywhere big, at least you gave it a shot and learned something.

Jamming

Working under the assumption that most finished jam games are mere shadows of the developers’ original ideas, Miguel and I made a point of not planning out too much ahead of time.

Our basic concept was to make a local multiplayer, alien-themed soccer game with a sentient ball. We imagined the ball having a few different behaviours to add an unusual challenge for players, and also thought it would be neat to include a few different power ups that could drastically alter the ball’s behaviour.

I found it very refreshing to rapidly prototype the smallest possible version of our idea in contrast to how we usually work, which involves constructing and following a fully fleshed-out game design document. That's not in any way meant to knock the design document approach - if anything it's necessary for any large project - but it was very nice to get a break from that method.

A quick pixel sketch to establish the style for the game’s playable characters. The one on the upper right was inspired by the boot-shaped McNugget!

A quick pixel sketch to establish the style for the game’s playable characters. The one on the upper right was inspired by the boot-shaped McNugget!

I started out by doodling some ideas of what the players might look like. I tried to go as low-resolution as possible in order to simplify animation, but we went even smaller in the end!

 
 

To save on animation time and effort, I decided to give the playable characters a squishy bobbing animation that would be used both when they’re idle and “walking”. Miguel made their animation speed up in-game when they were moving and it looks surprisingly good considering how much time we saved on animation!

I also tried to give these sprites a little bit of directionality so that, even though I only made one set of animations, we could flip them horizontally in-game to make them face left and right.

 
 

Inspired by Snipperclips, one thing we wanted to experiment with was altering the characters’ facial expressions to give them a bit of personality when they scored. I’m glad we gave it a shot because it made a big difference, even though it meant I didn’t end up with enough time to animate any of the other playable characters.

This was our progress at the end of the second night of TOJam. The squishy “attack” pose is just us reusing the squishiest frame of the bounce animation!

This was our progress at the end of the second night of TOJam.
The squishy “attack” pose is just us reusing the squishiest frame of the bounce animation!

In the end, even though we went in with what we thought was a pretty simple idea, which we then pared down to what we thought to be its most basic, essential iteration, we still ended up having to go even more bare-bones than that! The current version does have a ball with very simple AI, but it does not turn angry, and there are no powerups to push it into.

Having said that, we still came out of this weekend with a small little game that’s fun to play!

Play it now!

Aftermath

Overall this was an extremely positive experience for me. One thing that was very helpful was partnering up with Miguel. Because we’ve been working together at Spooky Squid for almost two years, we definitely had an advantage thanks to already knowing how to work efficiently with each other.

Another big help was using tools that we are already familiar with! While there’s nothing wrong with using a game jam as an opportunity to learn a new language or software [Miguel: I used it as a chance to learn Box2D physics!], I felt I was much happier making stuff with an already established workflow. However, this is absolutely up to individual preference and your learning style!

Even though we didn’t get all of our initial ideas into Blobber Basher, we’re still excited about them and may be adding a few new features within the next few months. You can play the current version of Blobber Basher right now on itch.io.

This weekend was a lovely learning experience for me, and I would like to thank the organizers for all of the time and effort that has gone into making this year’s TOJam happen.


PS: If you’re in Toronto and wondering how Russian Subway Dogs is going, you can check it out this weekend (May 13th & 14th) in the Comics X Games section at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival

They Bleed Pixels in the Humble Very Positive Bundle!

Pay what you want for THEY BLEED PIXELS
+ other great indie games!


If you’ve been waiting for They Bleed Pixels to be in a bundle the time has finally come! Pay what you want for TBP plus a bunch of other high rated Steam games now!

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK SALE!

Grab the They Bleed Pixels OST on Bandcamp for only $2 while the bundle is on! 

Clawed Girl and Subway Dog guest appearances!

I'm a big fan of indie game crossovers, from the guest levels in They Bleed Pixels to the playable pups from comics and games in our upcoming game Russian Subway Dogs. So it may come as no small surprise that a couple of our characters are making appearances in other indie games. 

Clawed Girl playable in Bleed 2

The excellent Bleed 2 came out last month and among the playable characters is the Clawed Girl from They Bleed Pixels! 

The Bleed games share more than a similar title with They Bleed Pixels. Not only did they originate near our HQ in Toronto, Canada, but the creator Ian Campbell also shares our penchant for cute pixel art, a willingness to experiment with novel control schemes, and fast platforming with an emphasis on precision and mobility. If you're a fan of They Bleed Pixels, you owe it to yourself to check out both Bleed games. You can pick up Bleed and Bleed 2 on steam now!

Russian Subway Dog cameo in Ruin of the Reckless

You may know that the Ratcoon enemy from upcoming action roguelike Ruin of the Reckless is playable in Russian Subway Dogs, but our titular Canine will also be appearing in Faux-Operative's new game. The exact nature of the Subway Dog's appearance is still a mystery, and I've been told finding our pupper will be a challenge in itself. Ruin of the Reckless will be available on Steam sometime next month, April 2017 but you can wishlist it right now

PAX South Russian Subway Dogs Stream

During PAX South last month, Miguel was interviewed on the Player.me/Devolver digital stream about Russian Subway Dogs. This is the first gameplay video since the Kickstarter back in September. It really shows how far the game has come and gives a nice little taste of some of the hidden depths and interactions players will discover!  

The video should go right into our segment but if not, you'll find it at around 6 hours, 33 minutes in!

Russian Subway Dogs - GIF dump #2!

Russian Subway Dogs - GIF dump #2!

We've been past due for another bunch of glorious Russian Subway Dogs progress GIFs!  But first some good news.

Russian Subway Dogs has received an OMDC (Ontario Media Development Corporation) grant to help with production costs! While it doesn't mean we have full funding for every aspect of the game it helps a lot and means we can safely continue working on our odd little doggo game full time! Can't express how grateful we are for this opportunity! 

Second we'll be showing Russian Subway Dogs at PAX East in Boston and a few events at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. If you're a journalist attending either event and want to preview the game and learn more about Russian Subway Dogs give us a shout

Now on to the GIFs,
WARNING: there are a lot of them so it may take some time to load!

Read More

Russian Subway Dogs - This Month in GIFs - Post Kickstarter Catchup

Russian Subway Dogs - This Month in GIFs - Post Kickstarter Catchup

I've been posting progress on Russian Subway Dogs pretty regularly on twitter, but it can be hard to hunt them down if you miss them. I figure it'd be good to have them all in one place, so what I'm planning on doing is posting a big gallery round up of all the images approximately once a month.

Read More

Some quick thoughts on Zelda Breath of the Wild

I tweeted the above thoughts on Breath of The Wild after watching waaaaay too many hours of the Nintendo E3 Live Stream. Someone on Facebook asked me to elaborate, so here are my thoughts with a bit more unpacking. 

So Looking Glass Studios were the originators of the first person simulation genre with games like the original System Shock, Thief I & II, Ultima Underworld, etc.. A lot of the games that continued in that vein were made by ex-Looking Glass folks, the first Deus Ex, Bioshock, Dishonoured, etc. These games tend to try to simulate a lot of interesting interactions and prize player agency in creating their own solutions to problems. Enemies also tend to have more complex AI, with some simple emotional states and awareness of the world. However they can suffer from sticking too closely to reality, simulating things that just aren’t interesting and doing a lot of things but doing none of them particularly well (EG stealth in the original Deus Ex was an option but was terrible in practice).

Nintendo design tends toward elegant simplicity, they’ll build a game around a small number of mechanics and execute them really well, exploring a lot of the possible uses for them and making sure everything works well. Nothing is in there that doesn’t need to be. If there is a lot of content it usually doesn’t interact in as many ways as it would in a Looking Glass style game. Nintendo tend to focus on gameplay first rather than worrying about realism or coherent worlds. Puzzles often have a single solution and will sometimes block the player from using their own creative solutions (invisible walls in late stage Majora’s Mask dungeons I’m looking at you!). 

Both of these philosophies have strengths and weaknesses but what’s great about the mix in the new Zelda (based on what I’ve seen) is that they’re working together to make something with the strengths of both while removing the weaknesses. There’s some super robust simulation stuff going on but none of it feels needless or out of place. It’s not overly concerned with making these simulations realistic, so they can exaggerate them to create better, more interesting gameplay (EG spicy food protects you from the cold, carrying a metal sword increases your chance of being hit by lightning in a storm) and it has the level of gameplay polish and “game feel” you expect from Nintendo. 

A good example of a moment in the stream that felt pure Looking Glass style emergent gameplay was Link cutting some saplings to make sticks in a gale force wind. The wind carried the sticks into and through a campfire, setting them alight. The sticks then blew into a field of dry grass that caught fire and quickly spread, alerting a nearby encampment of enemies.

Zelda has flirted with emergent stuff for a long time but it’s never been this coherent and all encompassing, tending towards small one off touches that don’t interconnect above a certain level.

Fun side note. Looking Glass’s best, or at least most elegant games were probably Thief I & II, for which the designers have mentioned being highly influenced by Nintendo’s approach to design. 
__________________________________________________________
In other news we’re Kickstarting a new game “Russian Subway Dogs” soon!

They Bleed Pixels now available in Japanese (and English) on Playism.

We're happy to announce that They Bleed Pixels is now available fully localized into Japanese and DRM free on Playism! 

Buy They Bleed Pixels on Playism
DRM Free + Steam Key (Win/Mac/Linux)

On sale $7.99 this week!

 

We've had this localized version in the works with the Playism folks for a while now, but have been waiting for the Crimson Update to be complete before going forward. I worked closely with Playism, picking appropriate Japanese fonts and altering layouts to work with them and I'm honestly quite proud of the results. I think we really managed to incorporate the translated text while preserving the original typography and design, which can be a tricky balance. 

It's been an interesting process. The Japanese character sets are very different from English. Not only are most words shorter but many characters are denser, more complex and have more curves and less straight lines then the roman character set. This creates a unique challenge given much of our text layout in They Bleed Pixels was built around a blocky pixel font and a thin flowing art nouveau script. 

The solution I decided on is a mix of finding a good blocky Japanese font with a similar weight and (where it's appropriate) leaving the original English in and incorporating the Japanese text as a design element. A trick I borrowed from some of the better visual localization I've seen in manga and anime translated in the other direction. I've included a bunch of screenshots from both versions of TBP in this post for comparison. 

Japanese media has been a major influence on my art so it's been really amazing to see the reaction from fans in Japan over the last few years, some of whom I've been lucky enough to meet in person at Tokyo Game Show and Comitia.  Not to mention the amazing fan art and let's play videos they've produced! I hope this localization encourages them to give it another play-through and introduces a whole new audience to the game. 

Big thanks to the fine folks at Playism for their work localizing the text and spotting all the places where we messed up entering it into the game! I also want to the thank the Japanese fan(s) who created the unofficial translation patch that this translation replaces. There was a long period where that was the only way to play the game in Japanese. I know there are many players who were introduced to They Bleed Pixels through their work. If you're reading this, hats off!

For English speaking players this Playism version is also the first version available completely DRM free with zero Steam integration. If that's important to you or you hate online leaderboards for some reason you can now buy this version and still get a Steam key with all the bells and whistles! 

Also this week the folks at We Love Fine dropped a new They Bleed Pixels shirt featuring art by graphic designer Charles Noard! You can pick it up in both unisex and women's fitted styles in a range of colours. 

Buy They Bleed Pixels Merch on WLF

THEY BLEED PIXELS 0% OFF FOR INDIEPENDENCE DAY!

Buy on Steam 
http://store.steampowered.com/app/211260
(Mac/Windows/Linux)

We’re participating in Indiependence Day, a collection of games that are holding a non-sale promotion to encourage folks to support indie developers and buy games at full price.

You can read more about it and see all the games participating here: 
http://indiependenceday.org/

If you bought and enjoyed They Bleed Pixels or another game on this list at a discount we’d encourage you to buy a gift copy for a friend at full price if you can afford to.

We all love getting games at a discount so why is it important to buy full price when you can?  Because when prices get too low (as they are now) indie game development becomes unsustainable. That means less risks taken, less experimentation, less games that cater to a particular niche and less indie games in general.

You definitely won’t get big updates years after a game comes out like our recent Crimson Update for They Bleed Pixels

You may not even get those few rare big indie hits that make serious money! Many of the hit game you’ve played were not the first games made by those creators and they could only happen because their early games had some moderate success.

No one is making indie games because they want to strike it rich. Were doing this because we love games and we love making them. But we do need to make a working wage to keep doing what we do and making the games you love.

Big thanks to Dan Adelman for organizing this!

 

THEY BLEED PIXELS CRIMSON UPDATE OUT + NOW AVAILABLE FOR MAC AND LINUX!

The long wait is over for Mac and Linux users, They Bleed Pixels is now available for your OS of choice! All three operating systems are also getting the brand new Crimson Update free! More levels, more polish, more blood!

As an extra bonus They Bleed Pixels is 75% off for the next week (June 3-10th)!

While the Crimson Update is free for everyone, its existence came at a terrible cost, documented in our new live action trailer, a collaboration with photographer Paul Hillier.

Crimson Update Features:

  • New engine rewritten in C for 60fps gameplay on netbooks and older computers.
  • Shorter and easier Novice Difficulty levels.
  • New bonus levels! Winter’s End and exp. 666.
  • Record, play and share your best runs on the leaderboards. Watch the top players to improve your runs!
  • Enhanced blood effects! Double the blood particles!
  • Support for both DirectInput and XInput controllers.
  • Lots of other little bits of polish, from save games to graphics options.

Top image illustration by friend of Spooky Squid Games Eric Kim

Spooky Squid Welcomes Pixel Artist Alina Sechkin to the Team!

We're super happy to announce that pixel artist Alina Sechkin will be joining our team full time starting today!   An alumni of Toronto's DMG program, Alina Sechkin's pixel art appears in Will O’Neill's Actual Sunlight  and Necrosoft's upcoming game Oh, Deer! as well as at the DPAD2 game culture exhibition

She's helping out on our yet be announced next big game and will basically double our art output. Which means you can expect a whole bunch more pretty pixels in the new game!  °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

You can check out more of Alina's artwork on her Facebook art page!

WE'RE BACK!

You may have noticed our website has had a major overhaul and is full up to date information (gasp!) 

After an almost five year hiatus (ahhh!) we final have a development Blog again. We basically went devblog silent for the entire production of They Bleed Pixels and the upcoming free They Bleed Pixels - Crimson Update.  We're moving onto the next big project and so this silence ends now! That said, till we officially announce our new project, we will be vague. Probably also inconsistently updated. Let that be our motto for the new blog: "inconsistent and vague". 

The entries you see below are taken from our tumblr and our old Guerrilla Gardening Development blog.  Speaking of Guerrilla Gardening : Seeds of Revolution the new website now includes a memorial archive for that now mothballed project.  Lots of information on the development of the game, why we shelved it and some never released pre-production artwork. 

For fans of They Bleed Pixels we now have a much more extensive fan art gallery including a section for cosplay photographs and videos. Expect some new wallpapers when the Crimson Update drops as well. 

More Low Bit Pixel Effects

More 1bit visual effects experiments. Messing specifically with healing status effects this time.  I did the three on the right first, trying different dissolves.  The one on the left takes my favourite dissolve and uses a quick stretch and squash intro to make it appear first.

The bottom image is a test with a sprite I had lying around. I added a single pixel drop shadow to the bottom of the effect and really like how it adds a bit of depth and volume without messing with the simple flatness of the effect.

1 Bit Pixel Effects

Some 1bit pixel art visual effect experiments from last night. Working on finding some good techniques that don’t rely on colour or shading to sell the effect. The bottom one is inspired by a hand drawn 2D lightning effect in this Kyary Pamyu Pamyu video.

Update: Added a pink smoke poof also inspired by the 2D animations in that Kyary Video.

More They Bleed Pixels Cosplay!

YAY! MORE THEY BLEED PIXELS COSPLAY! 

Seriously folks, seeing people dress up as the Clawed Girl from They Bleed Pixels keeps blowing me away! I feel like it’s on of the highest complements to have someone take the time and effort to create a costume and dress up as your character. So Great!

margo-aquato:

The Clawed Girl finished

Limited Edition They Bleed Pixels Prints by Charles Noard Now Available!

Remember the great They Bleed Pixels piece from the Indie Ape show in San Francisco? Well you now have a chance to own a copy! We’ve made arrangements with the artist to do a limited run of fifty signed and numbered prints*!

$15 (plus shiping) - 10”x10” digital print
http://charlesnoard.bigcartel.com/product/they-bleed-pixels-10x10-print

It is limited to only 50 so grab one quick!

*Signed by the artist Charles Noard, not the developers.

Playing with risk

Here's an interesting tumblr post on how both Shovel Knight and They Bleed Pixels add elements of risk and reward to checkpoints. I wasn’t aware of Shovel Knights’ checkpoint destruction for cash system till reading this. Great to see other game devs experimenting with systems that integrate checkpoints and saving into the gameplay in a meaningful way. There’s a lot of unexplored territory there.

By the way, our friend Mathew Kumar who originally suggested the They Bleed Pixels checkpoint system has an upcoming game called Knight & Damsel in the works folks may want to check out. He also designed a particularly devious They Bleed Pixels guest level coming in the next update.

Playing With Risk

Facts About Pixelated Blood

Pixel art animated blood is one of the most SATISFYING things to watch when its done correctly. They Bleed Pixels is an example of a game that does it like.. PERFECTLY.
sprite-ponies

Quick little story. The blood in They Bleed Pixels is a mix of Andrew’s carefully coded particle physics system and some hand animated splash effects I pixeled. We worked together to fine tune how each element of that system worked to get it looking just right.. or thought we had… except we messed up. The splash animations I drew don’t run properly in the current version. They’re far too slow and are possibly skipping frames.  This only became apparent to us when we got the blood up and running in the to be released rewrite and whatever obscure XNA bug was messing with them didn’t make it over. Suddenly the blood looked EVEN BETTER then before! Andrew has also raised the cap on the number of blood particles that can appear at one time before the engine starts culling them (previously 4000 particles), so along with all the other improvements in the next update expect even better looking blood effects!