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. 

Spooky Squid Games on Electric Playground

Electric Playground did a bunch of indie games coverage this month and we got covered twice! Over the summer they visited Spooky Squid HQ (aka my home office) to film and talk about our games.

ep-squid
ep-squid

EP: Spooky Squid Games

They also covered the OCAD Start Show in September.  Around a minute in they interview me about Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence. If your quick you can also catch Andrew and his kid playing the game in the background.

ep-start
ep-start

EP: The Start Show

If you're wondering about the big black squares around everything, it looks like they ran into a common gamemaker bug while capturing it at EP (If you're getting that bug at home, a good old reboot usually fixes it).   Lesson learned! After seeing that we're definitely going to be providing our own footage to journalists in the future.

RGBfilter Interview

Been quiet on the blogging front for a bit, but not to worry we've just been busy on Guerrilla Gardening and some other projects. Here's a rather epic sized interview with the folks at RGBfilter that hopefully makes up for our absence. [blip.tv ?posts_id=3897684&dest=-1]

It was taped a few months ago, so I don't remember everything we talked about.  I know we touched on my not-so-mysterious origin story, the Toronto indie game scene, the inspiration for Co-op Cottage Defense and Guerrilla Gardening... oh and that pesky are games art debate crops up as well.

We're on TV in France!

GGonTV-La-Matinale
GGonTV-La-Matinale

Guerrilla Gardening: Seeds of Revolution was on La Matinale, a French morning show last Monday!  We only have the sketchiest idea what they're saying since we're both terrible Canadians and neither of us are fluent in French.  I assume the bits where she's reading off paper are the interview questions they emailed me though.  Who knows!  I just get a kick out of hearing the name 'General Bauhaus' on TV. Go check it out and if you're more fluent we'd love to find out what they're saying.

This may actually be the second time we've been on TV in France, I had someone contact me for info last year, but never got a link to the show.

I've been doing a few interviews and the like in the last few months, here's a quick roundup:

Torontoist - 'Guerrilla Pixeling'

GOOD Magazine/Kill Screen - 'Guerrilla Gardening for Gamers'

Guest Appearanceon Level Fourtytwo's Talk is Cheap 4/12/10

UPDATE: Thanks to French game developer Shiftyweb (blog in French game portfolio in English) there's now  a quick and dirty translation in the comments.  Looks like the report was full of terrible puns and they misjudged Molly's age by a good chunk.  Still super cool to see the game in that context!

Spooky Squid at TCAF!

The excellent (and totally free!) Toronto Comic Arts Festival(TCAF)  is coming up this weekend.  Unlike your typical comic event this one is all about independent creators and small press comic books from around the world. It's also really big for an indie media event, taking up two floors of the Toronto Reference Library (Yes the one where Knives and Ramona fight in Scott Pilgrim vol.2).   Toronto's local indie games initiative The Hand Eye Society is setting up a booth at TCAF with a bunch of playable games and we're one of the participants. Here are the Spooky Squid Games @ TCAF specific details:

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Final Running Animation for Molly

molly-run-sw-shaded

I posted some work in progress animations for Molly running earlier this month.  Now that she's done I'm posting up the final version.  As you can see, in addition to all the shading, I've added some secondary animations, her bouncing hair and bag. For anyone curious how much time goes into something like this I've put some numbers under the cut.

Number of Frames per Run: 12

Number of Directions:(we mirror her for the north east, east and south west, you'll see why in a moment)

Total Number of Individual Frames: 60! (Now you know why we just mirrored her!)

Total Time Spent: Roughly two weeks (I lost a good chunk of a day due to a dumb perspective error)

That seems acceptable to me for Molly since she's the player character.  I've noticed animation makes a really big difference to how a character feels to control, even if the code is identical.  Going the extra mile for her will pay off.

Still I have cops, male and female civilians and a few other units to animate, so I'm going to need to find some savings when I start doing more final animations. I'm pretty sure I can trim 2-4 frames per animation without loosing too much vitality.  If so I'll be able to do a characters full set of  run animations in around a week and half or less.

When I get to them I'll check back and we'll see how good that estimate was.

General Bauhaus - Colour Portrait

I just finished colouring this portrait of General Bauhaus, Guerrilla Gardening's 'big bad' responsible for outlawing all plants within the city limits.  Like the previousportraits it's drawn by the talented Eric Kim.

It's always a treat getting to work with his inks, and was nice and relaxing to just sit and colour after a week of animating.  I'm without a tablet at the moment so this was all done with a mouse, not the most efficient way to colour but hey it works!

This portrait is a reworked version of his earlier pencil sketch, I've put that under the cut for comparison. You can see we tweaked his design a quite a bit between versions.

Molly Run Animation WIP

molly run sw - on 6s

I finished roughing out Molly's run cycle and thought I'd share a few work in progress animated gifs. So here she is running south west. The various guidlines help me keep the issometric perspective streight and her stride consistent.  The numbers are for leg poses.  Red 3 and Green 3 are the same pose but flipped so the left and right leg are in opposite positions.  The running animation is using six frames per stride, twelve frames total.

molly running rotate

The flat Out of this World style shading is temporary. Previously I've worked with rough shaded versions of the fully shaded character but I'm finding this method much faster, it also lets me concentrate on the movement without worrying about small details.

I usually also  do a full rotation of the first pose. It helps ensure that when I start the animation for each direction I'm at least being roughly consistent.  I like that it looks like pixel art bullet time.

Gamercamp Success!

Despite the mysterious absence of the mighty Torontron, Gamercamp last weekend was a fantastic success. Andrew and I kicked things off with a short demo of Guerrilla Gardening and were followed by several hours of local indie hotness in the form of short demos and longer talks. Everything was caught on tape so videos of our demo should be up online soon.  Though I wouldn't be surprised if the organizers: Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo take a well earned break before getting that stuff up online.

 Andrew and Miguel address the United Nations regarding their resolution for the deification of molluscs with bilateral symmetry.

Andrew and Miguel address the United Nations regarding their resolution for the deification of molluscs with bilateral symmetry.

After the disappointing corporateness of  this years Vortex Competition, Gamercamp was breath of fresh air, putting the artistry of games front and centre. I can't wait to see how it grows and matures over the next few years.  I may get my wish of a Toronto equivalent to Culver city's Indiecade yet.

The event's been well covered on local blogs, here's a little round up:

  • BlogTO - I'm totally flashing the crowd gang signs in their photo.
  • Toronto Thumbs - Wisely choose to show an image from Guerrilla Gardening instead of our ugly mugs.
  • A Couple of Gamers - Kindly described me as "looking like a hot indie dj" rather then "wild haired and unkempt, eyes filled with madness".

The Toronto indie game events for this month aren't over yet! The next Hand Eye Society Social is this Thursday (Nov. 26).   It's open to the general public as always and hosted this time by musical shooter artisan Jonathan Mak of Queasy Games.

Photo courtesy of the talented  Ryan Couldrey.

Mock-up of Final Screens!

Here's the mock-up art for the final version of Guerrilla Gardening. I've put bits and pieces of these up previously but this is the first time I'm showing the full screens. As you can see these are no small improvement over the prototype! To be clear these aren't  screenshots inside the game engine (at least not yet!), but they help Andrew and I figure out what features we'll need in the final tile engine and it gives me a visual goal for the rest of the art. It's also a damn good morale boost seeing how the final game should look!

Of course there will be changes and just how much variety we manage to pack in will depend on how much time I have to work on environmental art after the core animations and other essentials are finished. However, over all, this is what you can expect from the final game when it's complete!

These thumbnails are significantly shrunk down, I really recommend clicking through and looking at the full size images.

I mentioned this on twitter last week but I've also done a writeup on the fantastic Indiecade festival I attended last month for Abootplay.ca that you should check out.

Character Concepts:
The Minister of Truth & Entertainment
The Minister of Trade & Contraband

Here's yet another batch of Eric Kim's character sketches for the game. As before: rough drafts, probably will be changes, no names yet and not giving too much info to avoid spoilers. If you haven't seen the previous character art I posted:

I'm posting two more of General Bauhaus' ministers today and they're pretty much polar opposites. In fact I'm pretty sure they aren't going to get along very well...


The Minister of Truth and Entertainment

This one's a real favorite among us, I think it's the sparkly military outfit. He's in charge of both public surveillance (those obquitous CCTV cameras) and propaganda on state television.  Every weekend he runs a popular variety show that combines the two.  The things on his arms and shoulders are little camera bots.


The Minister of Trade and Contraband

This minister is in charge of policing the borders of the city and keeping 'dangerous illegal contraband' like plants and seeds from being smuggled in. To help him achieve this goal he's been put in charge of the police K9 unit and in truth cares more about his dogs then he does about border security.

While the Minister of Entertainment is all glitz and glamor this Minister sees himself as a bit of a rebel and dresses the part.

Without color it's difficult to tell, but each of the Ministers wears a variation of the same military jacket. We're also planning on giving them some similar insignia and the same basic color scheme, this will help unify their diverse character designs.  We could have given them all the exact same uniform and style but I think it's much more fun to go this rout and let them really stand out from each other.

I'm not entirely happy with his official title, it's not quite as amusing and self contradictory as most of the others so it'll probably get changed at some point.

Character Concepts: The Kid - The Minister of the Environment and Chemical Weapons

Here's the next batch of Eric Kim's character sketches for the game.  As before: rough drafts, probably will be changes, no names yet and not giving too much info to avoid spoilers.  If you haven't seen the previous art I posted... click here... and here.


The Kid

A street kid that the Guerrilla Gardener's adopt. The version on the right is how he looks when they find him, on the left how he looks after Molly gives him a haircut and some hand-me-downs. His personal transformation nicely mirrors the in game transformation of citizens from depression to super happy citizens. I want to find a way to keep that little sticky up hair when he gets his mohawk in the final version. It's a nice identifying mark and will help link the two designs.


The Minister of the Environment & Chemical Weapons

General Bauhous has deligated various duities to his Ministers. Each of them have slightly weird contradictory titles. This particular minister is a grizzled vet with an obsession for spicy foods and tear gas (that's a hot pepper in his mouth not a cigarette).

These would have been up earlier if I hadn't been at the best indie games festival ever (aka IndieCade' 09)  in Culver City over the weekend.  Twenty nine fantastic games were playable with a real emphasis on diversity along with a bunch of interesting and entertaining talks, but the real star of the conference was the laid back atmosphere.  I easily made more friends at this one event then I have from attending the last three years of  the GDC.  If you're an indie developer or working on becoming one I cannot recommend attending the next IndieCade enough.   Adam over at Attract Mode has a  nice little write up that sums it up with a photo of  a bunch of us and Keita 'Katamari' Takahashi at the after party playing Tuning.

Character Concepts:
General Bauhaus
The Scientist

As promised I'm going to start posting some of Eric Kim's excellent concept work for the cast of Guerrilla Gardening. All of these will eventually get the inks and full colour treatment you see in Molly's portrait. Since these are concepts, some of them will probably change and a few may get scrapped or replaced as I work on the story and Andrew and I flesh out the game proper.  I'm also going to keep the info on each minimal since I don't want to spoil anything.  My  plan is to post one or two of these every weekend for the next month or so.


The Scientist

An important member of the Guerrilla Gardeners she develops the fast growing plants Molly uses.  I'm thinking of changing her hair to differentiate her a bit more from Molly, it's a different style but still a little too close, since they both have their hair up.  On the other hand once it's coloured she may look different enough.  She doesn't have a proper name yet and I'm happy to keep it that way till I'm farther along in the writing.  I'll probably give her a name that references a famous woman scientist or two.


General Bauhaus

The game's 'big bad', his military dictatorship banned all plants from the city. His design is close to final, although Eric and I discussed giving his uniform a bit more decoration, after Eric drew Bauhaus' rather eccentric group of ministers the General started looking a little plain in comparison.  His name  comes from the European architectural movement with it's sparse functional approach.   Tangent! I'm actually leaning toward Brutalism for most of the government buildings in the game, but General Brualist has a very different connotation and Bauhaus just sounds right.

That's it for now.  I'll post another sketch or two next weekend.  I'm off to L.A. for Indiecade at the end of the week, but I'm going to try to post another, more pixel art filled, update before I leave.

The Prototyping is Finished!

But at what cost?

 Scary facts: these weren't all the coffee cups lying around my house when we finished. Also Andrew doesn't drink coffee, only I do.

Scary facts: these weren't all the coffee cups lying around my house when we finished. Also Andrew doesn't drink coffee, only I do.

Last week we finished the prototype, and a truckload of support docs  (updated design doc, sound lists, character and story stuff etc.) and submitted everything to the OMDC, who provided us with a significant funding grant for the pre-production phase.   It was an exhausting experience, but feels good to be finished.

The prototype is still rough around the edges, but ended up providing a much meatier gameplay experience then expected.  It has 19 levels:  14 of which are small tutorial levels to introduce the basic mechanics of the game and the plants available to the player, 5 of which are slightly larger levels that introduce more complex puzzles and challenges.   The whole thing takes Andrew or myself around 45 minutes to speed run through and takes a new player who doesn't know the fastest solution to each level closer to two hours.   When we started this I guessed we'd have maybe, maybe 20 minutes of gameplay.

Downside to this is that every time a significant change was made to the code we'd lose 45 minutes + playing through and looking for bugs.   To make it even more fun, we had one bug that would only occur if we played through two specific levels in sequence!

Now that we're done I'm taking some time off, doing a bit of contract artwork and slowly planning and budgeting for the production version of the game.  I'm also going to try to get more updates and videos up here soon.  There's a real backlog of neat stuff to show.

It's also time to polish up the Cephalopod games.  The plan is to first finish off Cephalopods: Co-op Cottage Defence since it's closest to completion and smaller in scope, then fix some issues with the sound engine in Night of the Cephalopods so that it will be able to gracefully handle the huge amount of audio the final version needs.    If all goes well I'll be putting out Cottage Defence in the next month or two, with Night of the Cephalopods following after a similar period.    We'll see how it goes, if luck holds both will be released before production starts on Guerrilla Gardening and I have to switch my focus back .

New Super Happy Citizen Art

sad-citizens-to-happy-citizens

Just finished off mocking up some new sad and happy citizens.  Unlike the previous version super happy citizens are now dramatically different and hold up cheerful protest signs.  My hope is that we can pack a whole range of clothing and hairstyles in the final game so you really get the sense of happy citizens becoming individuals after Molly has filled them full of cheerful insurrection with her illicit flower planting.

Invaluable references for me when working on designs like these involving urban street fashion are the excellent Fruits and Fresh Fruits photography books by Shoichi Aoki which document the crazy Harajuku fasion scene from mid to late 90's Tokyo.   Along with a lot of crazy and bizare outfits are some perfect examples of classic counter culture garb from punks and goths to beats and hippies.  Great stuff bursting with weird creativity that have  been a minor obsession of mine since long before it all  got co-opted by a certain pop star's fashion label.

Eric's Character Sketches - Sneak Peek

Eric Kim came by yesterday to do up some character portrait sketches for Guerrilla Gardening and exceeded our already high expectations.  They really look fantastic!  I'll be putting proper cleaned up scans of each of these online over September but I thought I'd give a little peak today.

A few of these are Molly's fellow guerrilla gardeners but most of them are General Bauhaus' ministers who help run the dictatorship.

If you haven't seen Eric's fully inked and coloured portrait of Molly it'll give you an idea of how the final portrait art will look.

Development Video #9 - CCTV Cameras

A bit of a longer video, it's about the CCTV Cameras in the game, and since that connects to some of the themes and inspiration behind the game I took the opportunity to talk a bit about them.  Each of the last few videos has been a bit of a different take on what the GG:SoR dev vid's are about, I'm probably going to continue along that vain.  Making a game (any game) involves so many different processes, activities and ways of thinking and I hope that by taking this approach I can build up a broad and detailed view of what's going into making this one.

All footage is from our prototype, the final game will look more like these: 1, 2, 3.

Thanks to Emma Byrne for letting me use her fantastic photography of CCTV cameras  in this video. You can see all the photos and read the accompanying essay by Cory Doctorow  in her photo essay "Snitchtown" at http://snitchbook.notlong.com/

The Torontoist article on CCTV cameras that I briefly showed in the video is here.  They do a great job of covering local public space issues.

The photos of plants were from my first time guerrilla gardening that I posted about a few months ago.

I mentioned that Shenzhen China is being used as a testbed for networked cameras employing facial recognition and software that alerts the police when an unusual number of people gather in one place.  I'm unsure of how much of that has actually been rolled out so far but  if you're interested in more info, here's a pretty thorough article on China's Golden Shield.

On the other hand if you're all like 'Whatever, F*@k privacy!', and you'd rather glory in the abundance of ubiquitous surveillance cameras available for your voyeuristic pleasure SurveillanceSaver lets you see through over a 1000 unprotected CCTV cameras around the world. You may not want to run it all the time, but I found it fascinating to view so many random places around the world in real time.... also kind of creepy when you realize how many of these things are listed on google without any sort of password protection.

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:

Another little art preview...

It's been awhile since I showed any of the preview 'final art' I've been mocking up for Guerrilla Gardening so I thought I'd post another little bit online.  The game runs at 1024x768 minimum so this is just a tiny sliver a of a full screen.  It's still a work in progress of course but it gives you a better idea of what the game will look like then the current prototype screens.