News

Pixel Prison Blues

11.09.2015

Remember that fierce-looking inmate sprite I posted? It was a foreshadowing for this entry.

Those murderous eyes!

Early this year, Nik Mikros and Josh Debonis of Bumblebear Games contacted me with a job opportunity. If those names don't ring a bell, you should know that they are the creative masterminds behind the multiplayer arcade sensation that's sweeping the nation, Killer Queen.

WB Games tapped Bumblebear to develop a 30-player arcade game on new platform by ESC. Ultimately, our creation would be played in the new game rooms installed in select Buffalo Wild Wings locations (currently they include Riverside, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Brookfield, WI). In addition, the game was recently showcased at the annual IndieCade Festival.

During development, our project underwent many iterations, but eventually burst from its cocoon as "Cops and Robbers" meets Pac Man on two projectors' worth of curved screen.

Photo from a public play test, July 2015.

Sample level layout

In prison, even the dirt wears stripes. Not only do they add visual interest, but also they give players a point of reference for horizontal alignment, which is helpful given the screen width. We named the cell blocks and corresponding switches to make it easier for players to yell intrstructions to their teammates. 

Assortment of player sprites 

Every villainous critter can double as a guard or an inmate. Dr. Frankenstein also advocates the use of interchangeable heads.

Menu screen sprite animation, unused

Walrus, warden, both start with the letter W. Follow the money.

Money bag item

The original sprite needed help to stand out on the giant screen, despite its animation and brightly-saturated yellow color. When I darkened the internal shadow in several frames, the resulting value shift served to catch the players' eyes. 

In-game effect: explosion

The bomb powerup detonates, evoking Bomberman with its multidirectional spurts of flame. In fact, the game's visual design includes lots of classic video game references: bubbles like Bobble's, striped dirt like Dig Dug's, and electrocuted skeletons like Street Fighter II's.

In-game effect: electricity 

To keep players from spamming the switches that control the cell doors, we made them produce a brief electric field when switched. In addition to reinforcing desired player behavior, the effect visually highlights the switch as a strategically-important region on the map. 

In-game effect: sparkles

In-game effect: stars

If you and a group of friends (29 or fewer) ever have a chance to play Pixel Prison Blues, don't hesitate! It's even more fun than it looks. 

Live Event: Blackwell

10.20.2015

On October 16, Museum of the Moving Image, as part of its ongoing "Well Played" events, will turn the spotlight on an adventure game franchise made and set in New York City: Blackwell. I plan to attend, so it'll be a good opportunity to get my new business card or maybe talk about annular fusion. Admission will be free, so pocket the excuses!

Many credit the Blackwell series with spearheading the revival of the point-and-click adventure genre. In contrast to many mainstream titles, its episodes grapple with philosophical questions surrounding identity, loss, and closure. A dash of the supernatural rounds out its blend of urban fantasy and sleuthing.

I contributed art to three out of the five episodes: Legacy, Convergence, and Epiphany. In fact, I still get flashbacks from Legacy's development, when I regularly worked until 3AM to meet deadlines before sleepwalking to my day job mere hours later.

I plan to share some Blackwell art I unearthed from my archives in a future post, but until then, enjoy the following comparison.

The Evolution of Rosa's "Snarky" Expression

Blackwell Legacy (2006)

Blackwell Convergence (2009)

Blackwell Epiphany (2013)

For more information, see: http://www.movingimage.us/visit/calendar/2015/10/16/detail/well-played-the-blackwell-series-by-wadjet-eye-games