Archive for December, 2011

The Four Hats wrap-up

Posted on Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Goodness gracious, that’s what I say! It’s been a week and I’m still trying to gather thoughts on the Ludum Dare project. This is a project Sal and I as Taco Graveyard did – the goal is to make a full video game in a weekend. It was definitely a success. Our primary game project has gone on for over half a year now and it’s still far from finished. Having a fun and addictive game in a weekend is crazy.

The concept: The Four Hats in “Room to Roam”: Rockstars have it hard. Millions of adoring fans, mountains of cash, and no alone time. How is a musician supposed to write new music when chased by the paparazzi or the hordes of adoring fans? In order to find the solitude that you crave and unlock your inner muse, you must outrun fans and make your way to the studio. Don’t get caught by the paparazzi on your way there or your creative energy will be sapped dry.

You can read Sal’s summary of the whole weekend and see some more screenshots here.

As for my thoughts, I think a weird thing happens when you have such a sturdy deadline or goal like that. We probably could have tossed the idea of The Four Hats around at any other time and spent a night thinking up ideas, a week passing emails on how to best accomplish them. A few hours a night working on any one mechanic or art asset. But when you say “I want to have something we can call a game in three days,” you just do it. That was the biggest appeal in doing the project. It’s just too easy to procrastinate, or say “when we have time,” or “after this project.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, and that was part of the excitement. I like the fact that we didn’t know what it was ahead of time. There was a slight urge to retrofit one of our other game ideas into the topic but starting from scratch was creatively rewarding. And when we got the topic, “alone,” we really didn’t have anything that fit it. A good hour was spent tossing around ideas – not all bad ones – but none of them felt like something I wanted our first public project to be. Maybe we could have come up with some kind of ghost story thing but I wasn’t sure it was going to feel like “Taco Graveyard.” And somehow I knew when we hit it, we’d know.

The Four Hats was definitely it, and I knew it from the second the idea was brought up, we had to do it – if not that weekend, then sometime. The idea was funny, it worked well to my strong suit in cartooning, and it felt personal to us. The characters are even drawn as our music guy, sal, myself, and sal’s girlfriend Cori. I don’t think I explained where The Four Hats actually came from to Sal until after we finished the game. Their original appearance was in a photo back in 2007 – I was working on the tenth issue of EMO BOY, and Emo Boy and Maxine were going to walk around a record store. At a party at Cori’s house we made a bunch of fake band posters – The Four Hats being one of the bands, each of us holding a random instrument and wearing a different type of hat. Who knew they’d star in their own video game years later?

I knew the idea was good and I was having fun making the assets but honestly, right up until I left on Sunday, the game still consisted of this cloud far off behind our character as he walked around jumping over mailboxes. It was SOMETHING, just maybe not…. fun. Sal left Monday open for level building, but I still didn’t see it. So you can jump on some building tops, it’s still too simple. When I started playing though, it wasn’t simple – it was challenging! It turned out TOO challenging at first as my 4S had something going on that made the crowd too fast. Even when I knew it was IMPOSSIBLE to get past halfway, I kept playing. Sal fixed it for me and by then I’d had half the level memorized. From there I did pretty good and can beat it easily now – it’s that old school play and learn the level mechanic – but I still keep playing. It’s one level. But you get into it, you kinda live in the level, with the bright colors and fun music. I think we could make a whole game for no other reason than to hear more songs from Toph/Negapixel/Four Hats.

We’re going to do a few more levels for a light version and ultimately a full game with this – and we fully intend for it to take FAR LESS TIME than our “primary” game. That’s part of the beauty of the game too, it’s fun but simple.

I can only imagine we’ll have more game-making weekends in our future. It was too productive and fun not to.

Winter Town book release talk

Posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Last Wednesday I had a book release party for WINTER TOWN at RJ Julia’s in my hometown of Madison, CT – my second talk and signing there.

Despite a week or so of nerves leading up to it, it went well. Mid-December and mid-week made it tough for people to come out but there was a good bunch of people there, friends, family, a few teachers and an assistant at Little, Brown. The last time I spoke there was for the HAPPYFACE release and I wasn’t prepared for the long speech I ended up making – I had planned for 5 minutes and was told to aim for 30. This time I was well prepared! I brought a bunch of art and my sketchbooks and went over every angle of the project. There were plenty of questions and I signed a bunch of books so I’m gonna call it a success! Now I just need some more places to wear my christmas vest.

Winter Town Link Roundup, Part 2

Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Here’s a few more links for Winter Town stuffs. The book is OUT and ABOUT, go read it and if you like it let me know and maybe post a review on amazon! You can post there if you don’t like it too but that doesn’t help me much.

LA Public Library names WINTER TOWN as one of it’s top picks for 2011!

Almost Grown Up says she had trouble putting her finger on why she liked the books so much, but that she did – a lot!

The Elliott Review says ” I felt like I was reading an account of actual people and the events that happened to them over the course of their lives.”

Midnight Bloom Reads says “It’s not everyday that you stumble across a novel as one-of-a-kind as Winter Town!”

I did this article on using setting as character for the Little, Brown School Facebook page!

And youtuber elizziebooks is pretty meh on Winter Town, but you can check out her youtube video anyway because it’s pretty neat. :)

WINTER TOWN link roundup!

Posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2011

WINTER TOWN IS OUT, people! RUN to your local bookseller and get thyself a copy! Here’s a roundup of some reviews that have popped up in the last week or two!

WINTER TOWN is a book of the month for teen books at Amazon!

Figment enjoyed it, though not as much as HAPPYFACE.

365 Days of Reading gives it 5/5!

Eve’s Fan Garden is doing a WINTER TOWN week as it’s their book of the week, I did some stuff for the site so check it out all week! They’re also doing a book giveaway!

The Contemps are laughing out loud and shedding tears!

Crowding The Book Truck loved the inside as much as the outside!

Owl Tell You All About It is a cute site name and Laura has been vocal about her love of Winter Town since she got the arc this summer!

Angel at Mermaid Vision Books says WINTER TOWN will charm every reader!

I wrote this article on personal story-writing for teenreads.

Thanks for talking up the book, everyone!

I’ll be doing a book signing and talk at RJ JULIA’S booksellers in Madison CT if you’re around Wednesday the 14th. It’s at 7pm – give RJ’s a call at (203) 245-3959 to RSVP!

Also keep up with my iphone game project posts over here!