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!

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!


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. 

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.

Logo Design for Interstellar Selfie Station

Interstellar Selfie Station is an 8-bit style photo app created by game designer Christine Love (with a physical photo booth created by Nadine Lessio), that takes photos and animated gifs in a variety of bright 2-bit color pallets.

It’s a really neat stylish piece of software so I was happy to create the logo and mascot for it. The version at the top is the final design but I thought I’d include some of the early work in progress variations as well.  Be sure to click on the images and view them undistorted. Tumbler murders pixel art.

"Interstellar Selfie Station isn’t cute, it’s bold. It’s Ziggy Stardust, not Kyary; it shops in the Shibuya 109, not Takeshita Street.” - Logo design feedback from Christine Love.

Photo: Miguel Sternberg and They Bleed Pixels’ musician
DJ Finish Him (Shaun Hatton)

Miguel Interviewed on BigSushi.FM Podcast

I was interviewed a few weeks ago by the folks at BigSushi.FM, it was during a craaaazy heatwave in Toronto and I slowly became more and more heatstroke delirious as it progressed.  We discuss a whole bunch of the things I’m involved in, not just They Bleed Pixels but Comics vs Games, The Hand Eye Society and even my brief foray into the world of special effects for film (*cough* Cube2: Hypercube *cough*).

Listen as I slowly melt!

Interview on my mixed opinions on Steam Trading Cards as a developer.

Want to read about my mixed feelings on Steam trading cards?
Here’s an article in Games Radar that fulfills that need!

The title is a bit sensational but I think the article itself does a pretty great job of condensing a nuanced 45 min conversation into a few paragraphs. I do not envy journalists their trade.

Poster For Game Jam Documentary

Game Jam Documentary is a film being created by our friend Troy Morrissey who did much of the sound design work on They Bleed Pixels (under an insane deadline (Sorry Troy!)).  GJD is pretty much what the title implies: a documentary on game jam’s and jam culture.  You can read more about it here:

When they launched an indiegogo campaign early in the films development they asked me to create a pixel art poster they could give out as a backer reward. I agreed thinking I’d have plenty of time to get it done after They Bleed Pixels dropped. I WAS SO WRONG!  The poster took A LOT longer to finish up then either of us expected, and it is totally my fault it’s late (sorry backers!). But it’s finally done! Troy will be printing ‘em up soon and sending them out to backers.

One subtle thing you might not catch is that each of the jammers has some sort of alter ego in the cloud of game sprites hovering above them. Some are obvious others are more subtle.

Torontron at this weekend.

It's been  awhile since the last post.  Sorry about that. We've been busy getting ready for production proper and putting together a grant proposal. Night of the Cephalopods is now playable on the Torontron, an old retro videogame cabinet that was retrofitted by Jph Wacheski and some other folks in the Hand Eye Society to play a selection of Toronto indie games.  It's currently looking for a semi-permanent home, till then it's making the rounds of various local indie media and game events.  It already showed up at Canzine, and tomorrow (Sat Nov 20th) it will be part of the excellent looking Gamercamp event.   Gamercamp is set to have lots of talks and demos about games by local independent developers, including Andrew and myself who'll be demoing some new Guerrilla Gardening stuff.   The day ends with a freeplay retro arcade so the Torontron won't be lonely.

Here's a gallery of photos of the Torontron in all its retro glory:

The game with the two birds is Albacross, by friend of Spooky Squid Games Rosemary Mosco.  Since she wasn't available I ended up rigging it to work on the cabinet.

More arts and a general update.

Well developement video 9 is pretty much finished, I'll be uploading it sometime tonight.  To make up for the long wait here's another little slice of the production quality art mockup I've been working on.  Yes we're totally teasing you with these,  I'll eventually upload the full screen, but only after I've had a chance to add some final polish.

Also  the Game Developer Fall 2009 Career Guide came out a few weeks ago. It has a huge amount of cool indie games how-to info.   Both myself and my buddy Ben Rivers (who made the excellent Snow and The Accent) contributed to an article on low budget game engines and there's a little side column I wrote on the process of recording on the cheap for Night of The Cephalopods (complete with a photo of actor Scott Moyle talking into my lamp during the recording).  It also has Jim "Everybody Dies"  Munro's excellent guide to running your own Artsy Games Incubator and whole bunch of other good stuff.

Dead tree versions are available at a range of locations but you can also download a  PDF copy for free.

You may remember my video dairy from the last Toronto Indie Game Jam, well the last of the TOJam games finally went online recently which means you can now play both games I contributed to as well as 34 other strange little games:

Eric's Darkstalker Piece.

Eric Kim, who'll be doing the character portraits and other large illos for Guerrilla Gardening:SoR, recently posted his piece for the upcoming Darkstalkers' Tribute book from Udon.

I'm terrible at fighting games and can't really claim I'm a fan of the series, but everything I've seen for the book is looking fantastic.  Eric's piece is no exception.  I'm meeting up with Eric in the next month to prepare some character sketches for GG, and this only makes me more excited to start working with him again!

If you missed my previous post with Eric's portrait for Molly, you can find it here.

Artsy Games and Spooky Squid this week at the Hand Eye Society Social


If you're in Toronto,  near Toronto, or filthy rich and own your own private jet, you should come down to the Unit bar (1198 Queen Street W.) this Thursday for the Hand Eye Society Social a free and public event for game makers and enthusiasts!

"Why?" you ask, "After all I'm only interested in games about militant gardening, tentacled mollusks with bilateral symmetry, or Luddite potatoes."

"Because we have a line up of games catering to your exacting taste!" I respond while quietly slipping a half brick into a sock 'just in case'. "You'll be able to play the games from this round of the Artsy Games Incubator featuring not only squids and  a tuber with an anti-tech agenda but also games with raccoons, criminally awkward breakfast conversation, stylish mountain climbing, and applying for arts grants!"

"I'm sold!" you respond while backing away ever so slowly "When does it start?"

"We'll introduce the games at 7:30, so show up a little before then so you don't miss it! " I responda little too enthusiastically, "if there's extra time I'll also be giving a quick demo of Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution".

"I'll totally be there!" you respond as you make a break for the door.

"If you can't make it the games will be available soon on the Artsy Games blog where you can play games from previous rounds right now!" I call out desperately... but it's too late... you're gone.

Crafty Cephalopods and Other Miscellanea.

Check this out! My old housemate and friend Jen created this incredibly awesome 'tentacled monstrosity' amigurumi from my game Night of the Cephalopods!  I love how she captured the heavy brow and creepy yellow eyes. If you want to see my own much less cool Plasticine version of the same critter check out this old post on the excellent, a great game blog that covers gaming culture of all sorts (from indie videogames to LARPing) across Canada.

While you're no doubt slavishly clicking on links I provide, I also recommend you check out the Fishdog game development blog which covers games made by indie creator Angelo Yazar.  I met him last GDC and he started his dev blog after checking out this one (neat!).  He currently has a steampunk themed strategy game out called Zepilin Nations on Facebook.  I avoid the dreaded Book of Faces so I haven't had a chance to try it out.  But it has zeppelins so I figure it's got to be awesome.

I mentioned in the last post that things have been extra busy, along with Guerrilla Gardening, there's been TOJam and I've also been running a round of the Artsy Games Incubator for the last month or two.  The AGI is a workshop started by Jim Munroe (creator of  Everybody Dies) where artists, writers and other creative types learn how to make games.  I  was a participant in round 3, and learned how to make Night of the Cephalopods as part of it.  Jim asked if I'd like to take on the task of running the next round which I happily accepted.  This latest round has a great crop of new games including my small co-operative Cephalopod's spin off game (it needs a title, any ideas? It has shotguns, hammers and stars a lady scientist and her robotic manservant).

Work in progress for un-named NotC co-op game.

Work in progress for un-named NotC co-op game.

The games will be playable at a public indie game event in Toronto soon  (announcement forthcoming) and the plan is to make them available on the AGI blog around the end of the month.

In terms of Guerrilla Gardening, I just finished a bunch of art for new plants that we're in the middle of implementing and  I'll be posting a new dev video early next week. If the slower updates are getting you down,  you can now follow  us on the Twitters !  You can also see the latest twitter update in the little box on the left side of the blog.

Toronto Indie Game Jam Arcade is Tonight!

Title Screen for Steam Ponk

If you live in the Toronto area and want to check out a bunch of neat indie games the TOJam Arcade is tonight!  As I've mentioned previously TOJam is an event where indie game developers, programmers, artists and musicians get together and try to make games in under three days.  I made a short video about it earlier this month.  The games are now finished (over 30 in total!) and the teams have had a chance to fix bugs and add a bit of polish and are presenting them to the public to play.  I collaborated with a great team of indie folks under the name "Invisible Ninja Squid" and both of our games will be playable at the arcade:

Flip the Beach a flash game that uses a fancy physics engine to combine pinball and tanks.

Steam-Ponk! A 2-player steampunk themed variant of pong for the Nintendo DS.

Directions and other info on the TOJam Arcade can be found on the TOJam webpage.

TOJam 4 Video Diary

Instead of the usual development video I decided to cut together this little mini-documentary of my experiences at the Toronto Indie Game Development Jam last weekend (May1-3rd 2009). It's about ten minutes long and gives a good overview of what it's like participating in a large game jam (hint: exhausting).

This TOJam I collaborated with a great bunch of indie game folks (some new some old) under the team name Invisible Ninja Squid (a mashup of our two team names from last year). We had a fantastic time and managed to create not one, but two games in the three day time limit!

The full team (with links to there respective sites) was:

Sadly while we had two Andrews, Andrew Pilkiw who's programming Guerrilla Gardening was unable to attend.

For more info on TOjam and to play games go to

I hope you enjoyed this departure from our usually scheduled dev videos. Don't worry if you didn't. In two weeks we'll return to the usual Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution development video format.

Post GDC Vacation


The Game Developers Conference is over.  It was exhausting and fantastic, I met a bunch of new people, hung out with old ones, saw some inspiring talks and got some great feedback on the prototype.  We're going to be a little late with content this month. I've been taking some time off for a little vacation seeing friends in the hills of Southern California.  Monday I'm flying home and getting back to work, so you can expect new content sometime next week!

We're Back!

We're back to regularly updating the blog and as you'll notice all the previous post have returned. We're also proud to announce that Guerrilla Gardening has been selected  as recipient of the Ontario Media Developement Corporation: Screen-based Content Initiative (say that ten times fast) which will be providing much of the funding for our early prototype work!

As a small developer trying to  make the shift from contract work to independent projects like Guerrilla Gardening, I can't express how much this is going to help us.  It's fantastic that the province of Ontario is helping support not just Spooky Squid Games but several other small independent game developers at the early development stage, when it is especially difficult to get outside funding.

Anyway I know most of you are here to read about the game and not about the trials and tribulations of funding small game companies.  I'll be posting up an entry about the process of  designing the police sprites in a few minutes and should have the new development video online either tonight or sometime tomorrow depending on how long my 'post life drawing class' coffee buzz lasts.