Steve On Penumbear

Steve here (the art guy.) 

So by now you’ve met PENUMBEAR, I’m really excited about this game. It feels bigger than what we’ve done so far. We still haven’t made any firm decisions on what to do with it yet but it feels like it needs a bigger platform than iPhone - bigger physically. It looks and feels great on an iPad. It could work on PC, it could be something else. But for now we’re just kinda marveling at the possibilities the game holds. It’s really fun to play, too.

It’s been fun for me for several reasons. For one I get to draw a cute teddy bear that bops around the screen and has a giant koala nose, there’s not much to dislike there. The dark castle, the bright colorful lights, streaks of light and shadow crossing the screen, teddy bear collectables, fireflies, it’s all very visually dynamic and that interests me aesthetically. It’s also closer in gameplay to the kind of games I’ve been really into, kind of an indie modern puzzle platformer.

We’ve been starting and stopping games since Omegapixel. It happens. I go through it when working on books as well - something sounds interesting, you try it out, and it’s either fun to play and fun to make or it’s a chore. Sometimes in one aspect, sometimes in both. It’s better to just drop it and move on - especially if something comes along that feels fresh and exciting.

Penumbear isn’t the only game we’re doing - there is another game, I think it’s definitely iPhone. Again we’re not sure where it’ll end up. We’ve talked to a few different companies and publishers and there’s really a lot of options for any of these projects, with continued self publishing definitely still an option. It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes.

In the meantime it’s been a lot of fun sharing Penumbear progress; art, gameplay. Please comment on it if you like it so we can gauge interest. If you’d really like to see something let us know and maybe we can try it! We’re accessible on twitter as @tacograveyard and I’m on there as @steveemond, or comment on this blog. Blogs love comments like Cookie monster loves cookies. And he does love cookies.

ALSO: background painting youtube coming soon! 

Video Games: Then And Now

Steve here. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m really thrilled to be working on an iPhone game now because I grew up on games, I love them. Of course the games I grew up on were nintendo, super nintendo, genesis, N64, playstation, etc. So there’s an element of nostalgia for me in it. My initial thoughts went back to teenaged Steve, playing games all hours of the night, hooked in some story in a long RPG, or battling tons of thugs in the streets, or trying to defeat all 8 robots in Mega Man. Even the smallest elements I loved about those old games - the color choices, the music, and the fun of it.

A lot of that was in my mind as I started developing ideas with Sal. It’s too early to get into what the game IS, exactly, but I was influenced by games of the 90’s, the comic books of that time, all the stuff I loved back then as an anti-social shut-in. Hell, it was a great time to be a shut-in.

The problem is, those games were designed to be on a Genesis and they don’t quite work in an iPhone format. They also probably wouldn’t sell very well aside from the niche group of “people like Steve.” It’s an awesome group, but let’s face it, I won’t be quitting that day job for them and chances are I’d be better off writing that third book. We had to start thinking more about clever game design, today’s audience, what games are like on the iPhone, what people expect from an app today. And that was a little disheartening at first, I mean, this isn’t what I wanted to make. This isn’t Streets Of Rage.

So the trick is how do we combine all the stuff that used to be awesome in games, find the stuff that’s really cool in today’s games, and find a way to combine them? How do we keep it from getting boring, or repetitive? How do we bring groups of people together in a game? How can it be competitive? How do you make it not too big in file size, and not too small in feel and scope?

We’re getting there. It’s really progressing further every day and there’s still a lot to do on this game but the biggest, hardest step has been cracking the game design - what IS this game? And that answer is really starting to show itself in the progress we’ve been making and in the amount of fun we’ve been having.

Introductions - Steve

Hello, I’m Steve Emond, and I figure now’s a good time to introduce myself here as the other half of Taco Graveyard. Sal makes the tacos, I eat the tacos.

A little about myself, I’m a writer and artist, first published as the creator of the indie comic book series EMO BOY through SLG Publishing, later as the author of HAPPYFACE through Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, and my second book WINTER TOWN is coming out this week.

So with this burgeoning career as an author, what am I doing in this odd vaguely taco-related game design project? Well, the easy answer is I love video games, and why wouldn’t I want to make one? Sal and I knew each other for a good year or so before deciding with his programming chops and my artistic acumen we could team up and try to make something. Of course that’s never easy for me to do, as I can make stuff on my own, and do - and I’m pretty busy doing it. In fact I was trying to put together a third book when the idea of making an iPhone game came up. For me, it was an interesting idea and my head filled up with thoughts pretty quickly, but I didn’t take it too seriously at first. I’ve tried a lot of times to collaborate with people, but most of them time I end up doing all the work, or the other person drops out fast, not realizing you actually have to WORK to make things. So I told Sal I’d toss some ideas around with him over tacos and figured that would be that. We had a few interesting thoughts, and I said I’d draw him a couple things he could play around with.

Lo and behold, almost immediately he had my art moving around and interacting with things on an iPhone. I know, that’s how it works, but somehow I didn’t expect it to work, or if it did, I thought it would take a really long time. Seeing it come to fruition was exciting. One idea led to another, and before you know it, months are going by and Sal is working faster than me and my editor is asking me “What’s this about a game? Where’s your next book?”

So now I’m trying to juggle things. I’m working on this game and trying my best to keep up with Sal. I’m trying to learn exactly how to animate a game. I’m trying to get that third book going when I get the time. I’m still working a day job. Now my book WINTER TOWN is out and I’m starting promotion for that. So as you could probably guess, I’m having a tiring but awesome time. Making books, and video games! If I could only tell my 13-year old self what was coming up!