They Bleed Pixels

If you've been following us on Twitter you've probably heard me mention "TBP" a collaboration we've been working on with musician Shaun Hatton (aka DJ Finish Him).  We've been keeping the actual title under wraps till we we were ready to show some video. Last week's Gamercamp festival seemed like a perfect opportunity to properly announce the game with this short teaser.  I suggest cranking your speakers, going full screen and HD so the pixels are huge and sharp.

So there you have it. "TBP" is They Bleed Pixels, a fast paced, gothic, low-fi pixel art, platforming beat'em up with a chiptune style  soundtrack coming out on Xbox Live Indies.

You'll notice this game looks very different then our other games.    Inspired by games like Niddhogg I wanted to experiment with a more abstract,  simple style that would let me really focus on smooth and stylish animation.

In terms of gameplay, all of our games are built with specific goals in mind:

  • Night of Cephalopods: Experimenting with Dynamic Narration.
  • Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence: Creating co-op play that requires players to constantly talk and plan while they play.
  • The Night Balloonists:Make a one button party game that had the same pacing and skill vs chance balance of games like bomber man.
  • Guerrilla Gardening: Creating opportunities for creative puzzle solving through the interplay of dynamic systems and AI.  Exploring themes of public space and direct action. It's a bigger game so it gets to have more ambitious goals.

They Bleed Pixels is about game feel. The kinetic joy of moving and interacting with the game and creating beat'em up combat that isn't button mashy or button heavy.  We also wanted it to be a game that was radically different from our others so we could switch back and forth and keep our brains active.

Dj Finish Him instruments.
Dj Finish Him instruments.

This is also our first game collaborating with a musician.  We met Shaun in the summer when he interviewed us for Electric Playground, a month or so later I ran into him at a Hand Eye Society social and he handed me a postcard with a link to his chiptunes mentioning that he was interested in doing game music.  I saw a good fit between what he was doing and the look I had in mind for They Bleed Pixels and a few emails later and we were set.

We'll be posting more info on the game as it gets closer to completion.  Till then I suggest you head over to Shaun's DJ Finish Him site and download his awesome free albums!

New Build of the Game and My First Time Doing Real Life Guerrilla Gardening!

I was up late last night with Andrew prepping a stand alone copy of the GG:SoR prototype and submitting  it to IndieCade for consideration in this years show (I also submitted Cephalopods). Then I was up relatively early today for my first ever real life guerrilla gardening experience!  Sort of practising 'method game design'.  Here's a gallery of photos:

I love that the little corner plot my sister Mara and I planted with local plants ended up with some kid's Pikachu painting on its 'please water me' sign. A video game related sign really does seems appropriate.  The whole thing was organized by the awesome folks at the Toronto Public Space Committee who are involved in a whole bunch of community projects in the city and  as it turns out the spot they'd chosen to garden was conveniently at the end of my street! It was a lot of fun and a lot less hard work then I was expecting with so many people helping out, I'm hoping to get out a few more times over the spring and summer and do some more. Maybe also make some seedbombs if I have a chance.  EDIT: there's a posting with more photos up on the Toronto Guerrilla Gardeners Blog.

For those who are interested in what the new version of the game we sent IndieCade looks like here's an in game screen-shot:

Screen-shot from current prototype (click to enlarge)

As you can see the new GUI I talked about last post is in.  It not only looks better but also makes it much clearer what flower is selected, how many seeds you have and whether or not it's a plant type you can throw over an area (left corner),  or have to dig in a single spot to plant (right corner). I'm looking forward to showing this version to some new testers and seeing how much this helps them learn the basic game play. We also added more of the sounds I recorded before GDC in.  Unfortunately some of it isn't working for me... we have this idea that smell-so-goods smell like tasty food to civilians, however most of AI "barks" I wrote to convey that idea just react to the smell ("Mmm... who's baking pancakes?") without making it super explicit that they're reacting to a smell ("Mmmm... it smells like fresh pancakes!").   Unfortunately the sprites are too small to clearly convey that they're smelling the flower's pollen so it just seems like they have a random love of various foodstuffs.  I'm going to add a visual 'smell' emote to help, but now I  know that I need to be overly explicit when writing "barks" like these for the final version of the game.  It would probably also help to add a custom "bark" when they arrive at the flower, something like "huh, where are my pancakes!?".   On the flip side the audio for radioing in a tree drop worked like a charm:

Because the prototype is a pretty stripped down and doesn't have any sort of scripting system for tutorials, the current playable version uses a series of short levels with one page tutorials in between.  Clumsy and a bit text heavy but I'm hoping they get across the info someone new to the game needs to play.  I'm pretty happy with how they look given the constraints.

An example tutorial page (click to enlarge)

Sound Recording - Molly's got a voice!

Last Monday Scott Moyle (voice of Night of the Cephalopods) and I took a train to the depths of darkest Hamilton to do a recording session for Guerrilla Gardening at the Decoder Ring Theatre studio. For those of you who aren't familiar with  Decoder Ring Theatre, it's a present day podcast done in the style of old pulp radio plays from the early days of radio.  The writing is sharp and funny and the performances are quick and full of wry wit.  I've been a fan of the show long before I'd met Scott or any of the other cast members so it was a treat to see where it all gets made.

Those who are familiar with Decoder Ring Theatre will recognize the voice in the following clip as none other then Clarissa Der Nederlanden the 'Flying Squirrel' from The Red Panda Adventures and now the voice of Molly in our prototype:

Molly critiques a statue of General Bauhaus.

Allow me a little fanboy moment, but how frickin cool is that!?

Since this is all temporary audio for the prototype she's also voicing the female civilians:

A happy citizen is a rebellious citizen.

While Scott is voicing all the cops:

A cop finds something unexpected in his path.

...and male civilians:

A civilian admiring a flower.

We got through a ton of audio, much more then I thought we could, thanks to the help of Decoder Ring creator Gregg Taylor who manned the recording equipment.  A heroic effort given he'd recently thrown his back.

There is now so much audio that it will be impossible for us to get it all in before I leave for the Game Developers Conference.   However we easily have our vocal needs covered for the rest of the prototyping period, including stuff like interactive tutorials if we have time  (a bit of an extravagance for a prototype, but good for testing with people new to the game).

I have a bunch of thoughts on the recording and writing process for the prototype but I'm going to keep this short and save that for another post.

Note: Wordpress seems to have added some crackle and pop to the playback,  rest assured  the originals are nice and clean.