Tag Archives: pixel art

Paper Tank Thundremoar is out

Finally. Paper model kit Thundremoar is out! It’s my biggest (and admittedly second) paper project so far and I am very happy with it. Let’s take a look.

What’s different from the last project is that this is a glue kit and that it is bigger and more elaborate. Not just the more detailed figure figure itself, but everything around it too. All of this comes from a number of inspirations. The origin was the idea to make a Thundercats Thunder Tank with PS1 era low poly shapes. From there the red line was 90s colourful and loud toy aesthetics. It’s a full mix but I like to believe it works. The instruction booklet is packed with lore that expands the Mutant Gangland world

When designing the package I got the chance to let go of restraints and dive into the xtreme 90s. Here ‘too much’ and ‘too loud’ are a virtue. It was an outlet for my nostalgia. Young me always stood in toy stores gazing at toy boxes. I soaked up a lot of imagery and it’s all coming out. The art had to be done by someone who was very good at tanks and robots and that dude was Ksen. At first I was anxious for the result because I have difficulty letting go of control but the result blew my socks off.

The early decision to make the toy twice as large as originally intended paid off. It’s hard to communicate how huge (the size of a hand?) it is but it just feels powerful. I think people will be surprised by that.

All pre-orders have been shipped and I’m curious about the reception. Of the two versions pink seems to be the favourite by around 70%. These are my babies so I will obviously say I love them both equally but yes pink is my favorite.

Price slashing code “THUNDRELESS’ still counts and you can get Thundremoar here.

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2015 and how I need to change as an artist.

Releasing Penarium was as far as I planned 2015. Well. That happened and a whole lot more. Here’s what went down this year and what is going to change in 2016. The biggest one being a major shift in focus as an artist.

First off. I beat Game Developers Conference this year. I say that because the one the year before was not a good trip for me at all. First time in San Francisco, First time at a big convention, First time I had a game to hustle. After that trip I wrote down everything that bugged me and learned from it. GDC 2015 was bliss. Mostly because I stopped giving a crap. I became free and I could start being myself. I visited Japantown which has a papercraft store. Everywhere around me were magnificent sculptures of origami and other techniques. What caught me were little robots made from folded straws, which were called Piperoids. It fascinated me that you could make figures out of paper.

A few months later we finished and released Penarium. What a relief. Finally a game I can tell my family about. “What do I do?” I make games. Just look at your Playstation uncle Benny. Yes it’s done. It’s finally done. The game’s on there. Despite its somewhat low sales I am proud about the fact I worked in a team and we finished a game. I still can’t live off games but we made a game the way we wanted to. Many reviews were positive, some of them were negative but we delivered. Now what?

A friend of mine asked me “What do you ultimately want to achieve as a game maker?” I never heard that question before. Not even from myself. I was caught surprised but I was even more surprised by how fast I came up with a focused answer: To make a game and a world of which people will say “That’s his game”. That’s the next step after Penarium and it’s a battle I’ve been fighting for years. The closest I got to it was Mutant Gangland.

MGL_illustrations_camps copy

This is the year me and Zapa stopped development on Mutant Gangland, A turn-based strategy game that looks like a mix between Advance Wars and Ninja Turtles. Last year we put it in early access and sold a few copies. It became a game where I could unload my love for wacky action figures and comics. Mostly those of Toxic Crusaders and Ninja Turtles. Then Zapa got busy. Actually, He got a day job. Without a programmer the game was dead in the water. A shame because I grew attached to the wasteland world I created. I closed the door on yet another game. This happened to me too often.

Months later I read a Turtles comic and was reminded by how full of juvenile energy it is. I wanted to recreate that energy so I contacted Zapa. After a good talk he gave me the freedom to whatever I wanted with Mutant Gangland. It was now 100% mine. It just wasn’t done yet. far from it. But the door was open again.

I want to release Mutant Gangland one day. Release that game with my world in it. Give the people what they paid for. It bugs me every day that I have not yet delivered but it will be done. The real question is what kind of game it will be. After talking to some developers I discovered I simply did not have the funds to make a complete turn based strategy game. However; With the world I created I wouldn’t have to. It could be whatever as long as it’s a good vehicle for cool looking characters and a compelling setting. And the visual style? I’m strongly pondering that subject. Right now Mutant Gangland is pure pixel art and I’m tired and wary of using pixel art.


Years ago during a internship at a mobile games company I started doing pixel art and I’ve been using it ever since. What appealed to me about it was its satisfying learning curve. Once I understood the rules it was even more fun to do. I did several pixel art projects over the years while growing slowly. This to a point I wouldn’t even question the use of it. That autopilot is a bad situation.

There’s been some talk among the Penarium team about wether a non-pixel art 2D style might have helped the game’s reception. There’s no way of telling. Two of this year’s most critically acclaimed games are made of pixelart but I can’t help wondering if Penarium’s style made people put it in a certain corner. You could argue that pixel art is a medium but that’s unfortunate when many consider it a style. It’s associated with retro gaming and deliberate ‘indie’-ness. Maybe people saw Penarium as indie retro platformer nr 3453. Because Mutant Gangland was inspired on the style of Advance Wars. That style started to direct Mutant Gangland’s themes and story. I think it should be the other way around.

But all of that won’t matter if I can’t find a developer. I’ll always need someone to realise that goal of making The Thomas Game. During its development I was curious to see how some of the characters would look as a toy. Something to have on my desk. I contacted several 3D artists with a design I made. Asking if they could make it in 3D. None of them delivered. It was frustrating to need somebody to realise my ideas again. Something had to change. (hint: it was me. I had to change)

Late 2015 I played around with program called Crocotile which lets you place pixel art tiles in a 3D environment. This seemed like the perfect transition between easily understandable pixel art and the scary world of 3D interfaces. It almost looked like you could fold them because all the tiles have the same sizes. It was just cubes and cubes and cubes. I closed the program. Opened Photoshop. Made some pixel art squares and printed it on a paper. Then I folded and glued them and made this.


Something clicked when I assembled that pizza robot. The Piperoids I saw in San Francisco had been brewing in the back of my head for a long time. They got me wondering wether I could start making three-dimensional tangible things myself. I was able to make something without needing a developer, which is my greatest frustration with game making. Also I could make this with all the skills I already possessed. In 2016 I will make a whole street with robots like these. Food vendors called The O-bots. How does this relate to Mutant Gangland? Remember when I said Mutant Gangland’s current style commanded the substance? Let’s flip that.

Everything that’s awesome about Mutant Gangland’s made up universe comes from comics and toys. That’s something to consider in 2016. As part of that I want to explore the action figure realm and make Mutant Gangland action figures. That’s my resolution for 2016. For that I will have to learn 3D. Last week I started following a class at my good friends at Reptile. Next year will be full of 3D adventure. Which brings me to the last game I’ll probably do in 2D pixel art.

demolitron splash

I did some game  jamming this year and one in particular stuck out: City Crushers. a time attack game where you play a giant robot crushing cities. Made with Laurent Victorino. When the jam was over I still wanted to finish the game. In 2016 I want to make an expanded version of the game. renamed Demolitron.The reason I want to bring this out badly is because even more like Penarium this feels like a concept that came from myself rather than a large team. It’s the next logical step after Penarium. This is also the frst game in a while where I am responsible for the game design. Something I like doing even more than doing game art. Most important of all: I want to BEAT that curse of personal games not getting finished.

You might ask yourself why I don’t start learning how to code.  I have been learning. I’m also terrible at it. I have some talents and programming is just not one of them. Truth is most of the time my mind is a scrambled mess. A tornado of distractions. There are some activities that manage to hypnotise me away from that tornado. Pixel art was that for me and the same counts for 3D and papercraft.

It’s been a good year for me. Having released a game that I am largely responsible for plays the big part in that and I’m proud of just finishing something for once. My resolutions for 2016 may seem silly but it signals a shift in focus. from games to toys, from 2D to 3D, from dependancy to autonomy.  Mutant Gangland and O-bot figures are the most exciting projects ever right now. Something I can do all by myself. Demolitron should also see release.Of course, This is what I PLAN to do. We never really know what life will throw at us. If a nice project comes by I might jump on board. Just like that.

ATTENTION: From now on I’ll be doing regular updates about my adventures through emails. These will be more casual and personal. If you want to be on that list then enter your address below. See you in 2016!


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Behind The Art Of Penarium. part 1

Penarium is out. We spent over two years developing this game. I was the lead artist. It’s time to look back at the artwork and see what I did to illustrate a sadistic circus extravaganza.

PNR_RT_paintings copy

The initial plan

Two years ago my friends came to me saying they wanted to make a platformer where the player was stuck in one screen. There were no enemies, the player had to dodge all kinds of deathtraps coming from the top and bottom. Also: It was set at the circus.

Honestly I wasn’t listening until I heard the word ‘circus’ and then I was instantly on board. I’m a fan of mystery stuff and the circus is one of those places that has existed before most forms of entertainment. The team’s inspiration was a feature film called Felix ‘The Cat, The Movie’. A 80’s cartoon full of experimental stuff. At one point in the movie the protagonist gets trapped into a circus led by an evil wizard. Specifically the audience was something I was told to look at. It’s a ragtag group of creepy soulless figures. The team wanted to see that scary not quite human audience back in the game. I was so on board with this. So on board.

At this point there wasn’t even a game title yet. Just a prototype which was an offspring of another prototype. A platformer where the top and bottom parts were constantly changing and where the player had to fight different kinds of enemies. I also made the mockup art for it.


But we started from scratch again. Here we were at the start of a huge complex undertaking. A videogame. Our biggest one yet. There were so many things yet to be done. Good thing people are not able to grasp the giant pile of tasks and trials that need to be solved in order to make something like this. I felt no burden at all. I just started at the beginning.

The Beginning

So what is the beginning? Colours! Colours decide flavour. At that time I wasn’t very good with colours so I figured I’d get that right first. What colours? There are billions of them. The lead I had was ‘old circus’ and ‘creepy’ so I dug back up a show I loved and had exactly those two ingredients; Carnivale, about a traveling circus in a 1930’s America. There was much to learn from this.  We would later on in the project have discussions about what time and place Penarium is set and there is still no consensus. I myself like to place it in 1920’s Romania.


There’s no exact science telling you what colours remind people of a certain place or time. I just followed my guts, watched the show and froze the screen when a colour spoke to me. It could have been somewhere in the background. The colour of a tent canvas or a teapot. Then I’d make a ‘note’ of it by making a dot of that colour in Photoshop. Essentially ending with something that is both a palette and a mood board. This is not the scientific way.

An important question when doing pixel art is always whether or not to use outline. Having outline can increase visibility but it also flattens the grander picture. In all honesty I can’t remember why I chose to do most of the game without outline. It felt right at the time.

When people ask me about my inspiration for Penarium I say ‘Carnivale’ and the Insane Clown Posse . Twelve year old me thought that was the coolest thing. The sinister, occult universe they described in their songs always spoke to me and it stuck. Other games were Redneck Rampage for lovely sky and Blood. Which also had a dark carnival section. And then there was Dik Trom.


We wanted to create an unusual hero. One whose juxtaposition between his physique and his athletic performance would create a comical effect. This is a reference to the earliest days of silent movies when a certain genre reigned supreme: slapstick. Penarium is what you’d get if Laurel and Hardy was really brutal. In hindsight it’s mean, but at the time plus-sized male characters were more represented in cartoons and movies. Often for comical effect. The heavier person would always be the less agile, less tactile. There is however a Dutch book series in which gained popularity is the late 1800’s in which the protagonist was a heavy kid that was always up to shenanigans. This was a big contrast to the then usual obedient characters. His body type was more a display of rebellion than a comedic device at his own expense. I wanted to bring that back in Penarium.


But more importantly, we needed a character you felt sympathy for when he would die. There’s lots of dying in this game.Below is my first sprite where I felt we were on to something. I gave him a red hairdo because I have a friend who worked at a circus fair who also had red hair. It’s that simple. My friend’s name is Wilco but we call him Willy. And so the name for the game’s character was born.

I also looked at fabric. Denim was still coming in at the time but a brown pair of pants looked more suited for the time. The blue shirt was a colour straight from the palette. The bracer/suspender  is a reference to Dik Trom.

First test

I used the palette to start working on the background levels. I used wood, rope, canvas. All painted in the washed out dark reds and greens I learned from research. The early drafts were a bit too sinister. I painted a dark dark carnival but the team feared the skulls I made gave players the wrong idea. Another thing I noticed was that it was very hard for me to fill the set resolution space with pixels and that it felt too..mature. The team initially opted for a pixel art style because the gameplay resembled that of brutally unforgiving platformers from the NES/SNES days but the resolution we started in turned out to be too high to communicate that and too hard for me to fill up. It became too detailed. More so, the clear ‘broad areas of untextured colour’ style I used began to show its weak spots. We decided to cut the game’s resolution in half. This meant that I got only half a screen to fill and pixels would look even bigger in the game because it would always be rendered full screen.

PNR_Circustent02That meant Willy had to be redrawn in half the size. It gave me a chance to adjust some things and etch his personality even more. There was less room for detail so only the traits that really mattered would make it through. Gone were the buckteeth and while I was at it I tried out some other ideas. The one I settled on had red hair and a blue shirt. It was just the simplest figure and felt the most ‘retro game icon’ to me. Also a striped shirt might prove more work to animate later on.



I was content with what I had until halfway into the project when we decided it might be a good idea to refine the design. The idea was to make him less square and more round. That’s when I came up with this.

third willy

This is Willy’s final form. Don’t you just want to give this kid a hug? He needs it. An idea that runs through the whole game is that the story of Willy is like the bible story of Job. A man whose faith was tested by God pouring a seemingly endless barrage of misery over him. God wanted to see when Job gave up, Penarium wants to see when the player gives up. We’re not just throwing around analogies here. I’ll get more into this in a later post.

The Director

Being almost the only two characters in the game I wanted a contrast between Willy and The Director, which during development I called Gonzo, though that is not his name in the game. On first sight The Director is everything Willy is not. He is the clear enemy and he is nothing like the player (Willy), Gonzo talks, Willy is quiet. Gonzo is tall and thin, Willy is short and broad. Gonzo has to look like obvious bad news so the cutscenes where Willy blindly follows him become even more frustrating.


Where Willy was easy to design the Director was hard. I struggled with the director because it was very hard for me to not make him look like V For Vendetta’s Guy Fawkes. The trademark signs of a circus director or ringleader are a long suit and a top hat and often a moustache. Add to that the required (boss’s orders) mask and it’s hard not to think of Guy Fawkes. I tried working without a moustache but that seemed to give the whole character less menace. I like him as a character but I have to admit most of his appeal stems from the resemblance to Guy Fawkes. It needs to be said that Gonzo was designed much later into the project than Willy and I had less time to work him out. I am curious after what would come out if I decided to redesign the character.

Character design is fun to do and having as much time as I did for designing Willy helped a lot. There are three more characters I’ll discuss in the future. One whose role was in the end reduced to a mere detail, much to my sadness. All that and more will be revealed in the following parts of Behind The Art Of Penarium.

Did I mention Penarium is out?

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How City Crushers crushed me.

Surprise!  took part in a game jam again! That’s a surprise because I didn’t see it coming. However: I’m impulsive so when someone tweeted about looking for an artist for Gameboy Jam I signed up in an instant. The good news: It became my best jam to date. The bad news: for the first time in my life I physically experienced stress from my hobby.


Gameboy Jam is where you make a game in a short amount of time with the restriction that it has to feel like a Gameboy game. For me that comes down to using only 4 shades of green to do ALL your art with. I’ve been spying on retro Gameboy projects from the shadows and I love the challenge and look of Gameboy’s small palette. It felt like a natural thing to do after making some Mutant Gangland pieces which were already low on colour. Mostly this piece.

MGL_Shirt02_Hegemon02 copy

I proposed to do something with that big robot. I scaled it down to Gameboy size and figured it would look cool as the basis for a robot customisation screen. Then Laurent (my new buddy) said he’d see the robot doing some buildings wrecking and basically that was the game’s concept. Wreck buildings with robot. get money. Tweak robot with cash and repeat. We both knew that was a bit too ambitious for a 10 day game project but that was the plan.


First we needed mockups. The Gameboy’s screen is so small that you can’t actually fit a lot of words on a single screen and that posed a problem in the customisation screen. I had to fit in buttons and words like ‘price’, ‘effect’ and ‘confirm’. It was a wreck of a puzzle and just before I figured out it was time to rush to another area. I hadn’t even got the crushing city bit designed!

For this part the robot had to be even smaller. We shrunk it to half-size and it looked like a scribbly mess.  I tried rebuilding a new one from scratch. The original was designed as a walking tank but City Crushers needed more of a construction/demolition vehicle vibe. I made some doodles (no time for details!) and tried pixeling. The result was unpleasant. I went back to the old scribbly one and decided to clean it. This means removing pixels that make it look messy.  Then I added giants fists to emphasise the robot’s primary function. I’m going on so long about the robot because it fills 25% of the screen.


Now for the city. This consisted of buildings you could smash and tiles for the background. The floor. I made some mockups but something was amiss: The foreground and background blended too much. I used the colours all wrong! There was too much dark in the player and building and too much light in the tiles. Noticed that glare on the floor tiles? That’s a problem. So I had to go back and recolour the sprites so the front used the 2 lightest colours and the back used the 2 darkest.

CityCrush_Mockups_01 copy

Time flies when you do a game jam and with only 2 days to go I still had to make all the animations and design the city’s floor plan. This was such a big task that we started worrying wether we’d even have time to put in the customisation part. The idea that started this jam in the first place. We just couldn’t pull it off. We dropped it. As we so often drop really cool things in order to get the boat floating.

From here on it was just a game where you could crush a city in a time limit. I worked my butt of to get the remaining work done and somehow Laurent managed to put it all in. Then came the game’s saving grace: Global highscore leaderboards. We stayed up until 3 in the night sending back and forth emails with assets. We managed to send a build before the jam’s deadline and went straight to bed. And I felt very very relieved. It wasn’t what we envisioned but it felt game-y. This also because Joonas Turner joined in to make neat music and sound effects. On his holiday!

The next day and played the game again. I liked it. I still do because the end product transcends the feeling I fantasised a week before. I often get overwhelmed by vibes when I listen to music through my headphones. It’s where I get most of my creative charges from. It’s hard to transport those vibes to another medium but City Crushers did that. Some people even played it and battled each other on the high score chart.

CityCrushers_map_01 copy

I have a good feeling about this jam. Not just because of the game. Also because working with Laurent went extremely well. Game jams are sometimes made to look like fun and spontaneous endeavours but I find the very hard to do right. Truth is that a lot of people don’t click well with each other when they jam. This can be rooted in personality, project approach or thinking patterns. For me the latter is the biggest factor. Ultimately I want me and my buddy to be able to finish each other’s sentences. There’s jam people that say “Let’s put a banana in there” and their buddy goed ‘Uhh yeah! So random!” but I can’t be that person because I would shout “No! Banana was NOT in the vision!”. I had to trace back our email correspondence to check who came up with what ideas and that’s a good sign. We were on the same thinking page and that’s very rare.

But then in the evening I felt a pain in my chest. Like it was very hard to breathe and when I talked it became even harder. Like you’re constantly at the end of a long sentence. After some Googling I found out it was something I never had before: stress. I probably worked too hard and it took hold of me. It was a terrible feeling and I couldn’t believe it was stress because I had a blast of a time.

Seems you can be entertained and motivated and still get crushed if you work for too long.  I’ll take it as a sign to do less long nights. My sister once told me something that always stuck with me: When your generation goes past age 30 your it walks into a minefield. People around you go down. You can go down. It’s just whoever death picks and I can feel it. My small pains and ills don’t heal like they used to anymore.

The problem is that most creative people cannot feel comfortable doing nothing and never want to disappoint their peers. Joonas offered to make sound and music at the start of his holiday. Laurent worked until 03:00 while he had to wake up for work at o7:30. That’s crazy and I would’ve done exactly the same. Creative people say ‘yes’ to something in an impulse and it always ends up being more work then expected because they just won’t accept showing an ‘acceptable’ product. We want to impress and entertain people. That is a curse that will stick with us for the rest of our lives and the best we can do is damage control on how much time we spend on our work. For it will never ever be finished.

ANYWAY: You can play and vote for City Crushers to win the jam here.

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Penarium, An artist perspective.

Good news! Me and my friends have agreed with Team17 to publish Penarium. Being on the project from the start by doing all the artwork and seeing it evolve was pretty cool. The fact that a big company has the faith to put their name on it is also cool. I’m proud but I have to say that it hasn’t really sinked in yet. Probably because we have so much stuff to do yet. I will tell you how it was for me as an artist.

About a year ago my friend and former-classmate Rick came to me with a neat idea for a platformer game in a dark circus theme. I was instantly excited because the 19th century circus has always intrigued me, Especially in video games. It’s a place where weirdness meets fear and nostalgia, A nostalgia for a time I never even lived in. I thought “Yes, We should make this game together.”

It was time to start pixelating but where did I start? The colours. For my pixel art I use a limited number of colours. I’t maker for small files and easier restyling if needed. I figured I needed some colours that were associated with the theme. Which is the 20’s if I wanted to get the game’s theme across. It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly is a colour linked with a time period. It’s very subjective. Generally if you watch a movie and you see a colour in the background or on somebody’s dress and it hits you then that’s a good indication that you’re on the right track. I myself got hit a lot when I watched the TV show Carnivale which is about a circus traveling the US in the 1930’s.

Those bleak canvas colours just scream 'old circus'.

Those bleak canvas colours just scream ‘old circus’.

I paid attention to the things happening in the background. Stopped the screen and took color notes (which is just picking a color in Photoshop). With those colours I started working on the game’s player sprite. We wanted to create an unusual hero.  One whose juxtaposition between his physique and his athletic performance would create a comical effect but most important: One you felt sympathy for when he would die. I created a round shaped character in the line of Laurel and Hardy. Slapstick is a form of comedy from another age but it’s very present in Penarium. There are so many ways the player can come to an end and so Penarium is kinda what you’d get if Laurel and Hardy was really really brutal. I gave him a red hairdo because I have a friend who worked at a circus fair who also had red hair. Yes. It’s just that simple. My friends name is Wilco, We call him Willy. And so the name for the game’s character was born.


When he’s not being chased by death machines Willy is actually quite cheery.

Then there was the level background. It had to be circus-like and there had to be some audience. I started pixelating everything and it took a while for me to get something nice on the screen. At first I tried to draw everything on a big canvas of 800×600. but I wasn’t good enough at pixel art to bring detail to such a giant screen. It would be a lot of work. I proposed to make the game 400×300 instead and just scale up every pixel to twice its size. We did. And the game got its current chunky pixel look. First I tried to make some indoor levels. With a circus tent an all. Didn’t really work. Then I tried to do an outdoor level at night because this game was going to be ‘dark’. It worked for a while and we developed and tested the game for quite some time with a beautiful nighttime level with spotlights and lit-up clouds and a starry heaven. And for a time all was good.

From a time where the deathtrap circus was the only form of entertainment.

From a time where the deathtrap circus was the only form of entertainment.

Then. After a while, As if fate demanded it. We started questioning it again. We asked “Is this right?”. It was not right. At that time we did not know what platform Penarium was going to be released upon but we would want to showcase our game on events to potential investors. The quickest way to do that was to have the game ready on our phone so we could whip it out during a conversation. I figured that if this game was going to be mobile then we needed to change the level background. Mobile players have to be able to play their games anywhere anytime, That means outside during the day. That means screen glare. The nighttime level wouldn’t cause the screen to light up enough so people would have trouble seeing what’s going on at the screen. We changed it to a bright daytime level.

I make it sound like smooth sailing don’t I? For the most part this project is fun to work on but I had my share of nightmares! Like the old animation system. To amplify the sense of spectacle we aim to make the player’s demise visually gruesome. It was my job to make a separate specific death animation for every single obstacle in the game. Imagine a guy being blown to pieces by a rocket. There’s blood and body parts flying in every direction. Right? The problem was that these animations could only fit in a very small frame. I spent a long hard week making about 20 different animations while biting my knuckles out of frustration with the small frame. And then we used none of them. Was I mad? No.

Gruesome to see? More like gruesome to make!

Gruesome to see? More like gruesome to make!

We tested it but found out that with this fast-paced platformer there were a lot of situations where the death animations did not cope with the the moment. After that I just made a separate head, separate limbs and some body parts, Which we call ‘gibs’, and we put it in the game. This time we let the game do the animation. For example: When Willy gets hit by a giant bowling ball the game calculates how hard he gets hit and from what direction. Then it lets blood and gibs fly around based on that. It’s a rough version of physics we apply to a lot of things in the game. Like our water. But that is a story for another time.

More things like these tend to pop up over a game’s production but there are three things that pull me through this: I like the setting of the game. I like the people I work with and I think Penarium is a super fun game to play. If any joy or despair comes up I will certainly share it on Twitter. See you in the circus.

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Mutant Gangland So Far

Mutant Gangland, Our uncomplicated turn-based strategy game that just hit Alpha. It’s set amid a future gangwar between robots and mutants. I will now tell you about this game’s past, present, and future.

First of all this game is made by a core crew of three people who never met each other in real life. Bacioiu is from Romania, Grace from England, and I’m from The Netherlands. How did we meet? On Twitter. I’ll call Bacioiu ‘Zapa’ from now on. Zapa loves strategy games. To be even more specific he loves the TBS* Advance Wars. About a year ago he started coding and playing around with his long brooding idea of making a turn based strategy game like Advance Wars but even shorter battles. Or a coffee-break TBS as he called it. *Turn-Based Strategy game. Where players take turns.


Being my friend he asked me if I could make some temporary art he could use until he found a final artist. I liked the idea of the game and I offered to be that final artist myself UNDER ONE CONDITION!: I got the to make up a theme and setting for the game. Being a supporter of creative freedom, Zapa said “Yes, Whatever”. Great! So? Where to start? I wanted to do something with masks. And then came the robots and then the mutants and the concept was born. A futuristic wasteland where gangs of robots and mutants fight over turfs of land. We figured it would take us about a few weeks to make it.

Five months later and we’re are all still working behind our desks. All in different parts of the Europe We promised the world a release for January 28. Of course nobody in the world really cares for that but we feel it. It looms over our shoulder as there are but hours to go. Zapa is smoking, cursing, and coding, I myself am destroying my only hand over attack animations that I by now see even when I sleep, and Grace is chained to her headphones as she forges the final pieces of sound and music. It’s hard and it’s tense but on January 28 we did deliver Mutant Gangland Alpha 1 to the world. Clap.

It’s our first personal release. We put it up own Itch.io along with an amazing trailer. So far we sold 60 units.  I suspect most of them are Twitter friends that humour us along with some family. That’s all part of the plan. Before we go really large we waited for big bugs or mistakes to arise out of the initial feedback. Some useful mails were written to us and we took a few days to adress most of those. Even add some smart interface touches. We now have that new version up for download.

From here on we are going to sit back and analyse the response. We’ll mix that with our own idea with what we like to see in the game. Fierce discussions will be had because Zapa and I are two different sides of the same coin. Where he has a giant legacy of played games I have the intentional view of an oblivious newcomer. When I stare at a small corner of a painting Zapa sees all of the gallery as a whole. He is coffee, I am tea. There will be blood and when the dust clears there will stand a box for all of you to open. Mutant Gangland Alpha 2.

No release day yet.





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Mutant Gangland Alpha 1 is out

It’s the distant future, Gangs of mutants and robots fight each other over city blocks and turfs. Mutant Gangland, The game I did lots of art and design for is now up in Alpha 1 version. If you have a thing for Advance Wars or pixel art you might want to check it out.

This amazing trailer was made by Elise The, A wicked skilled editor and filmmaker.

Working on this game is a blast. Me and Zapa (co-maker) are having fun debates over the game’s design. Making the mutants and robots make me feel like a toymaker and the background story I’m crafting is so cool I’m having a fight to not get sucked up by it. I think so far I’ve grown a bit in my art capabilities thanks to this game and Penarium. So much even that I’ve felt it was needed to redo all the units in the game three times so far.

You can follow updates and see more info on mutantgangland.com.

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Announcing: Robo Danzor Tactics

A turn based multiplayer where you strategically place robots and let them do dance-offs. Yes. This is happening.

If you follow me on Twitter you might know this already but we spent the last couple of weeks working on a game for Android and IOS. It’s not done yet but it’s pretty fun already. I can happily inform you that this my first own game that I’m actually addicted to playing with.

In Robo Danzor Tactics you and a friend can take turns placing tiles in a grid. Every tile has 4 sides with different degrees of dance-power, aka the ability to do wicked dance poses during battle. The key is to place your tile because if you run out of dance-power during battle you lose the whole tile. And losing your tiles means losing the game.

We’ll just leave the explaining up to the trailers and videos. What you have to remember is that this game is about fabulous dancing robots willing to throw their life on the line for your entertainment. And for glamorous glory.

Robo Danzor Tactics, people.

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I hate zombies but I hate vampires even more.

So I’m doing this game jam where you are supposed to make a game you normally hate. I also told how I love robots and how I was going to put robots in my game…

Sounds like someone wasn’t thinking enough.

When Fill this Jam was set up they probably mostly had hate for game design in mind. I think it can apply to art just as well. Took me a while to figure it out though. I was talking to my friend Zapa and when he mentioned something about zombies. I thought “no man, I hate…” And it was too late. Maybe it’s not how this jam was intended but I felt guilty because I don’t really hate turn-based dungeon rogue likes. I find them intimidating. So I had to pick up something. Zombies it would be.

It gets worse.

I told my girlfriend that I was going to change the theme from robots to zombies because hating tropes was all this jam was about. She stopped me and said “but you don’t hate zombies. You are just tired of them. What you really hate is vampires”

That’s when I sunk further. By now I have accepted my fate but I hate vampires so much that I wouldn’t even want to jam with them. I know I have to and I will. But only on my terms! Here is how my vampires are going to behave:

No hissing:
I see it in movies all the time. It’s supposed to impress me but it doesn’t : A vampire shows up. Opens its mouth for a while and makes some hissing sound. My cat does that too and I’m not afraid of my cat. Either keep your mouth shut or keep your mouth open.

No tilting the head:
If hissing won’t scare you they can always use that slightly tilt of the head to make it even more “psycho”. Thing is I’ve seen too many deathmetal videos and it just reminds me of failed attempts at larp or gothic. My vampires won’t do that. No tilting. It’s silly. stop it. stop.

No prettiness:
I almost vomit at the thought of the vampire mythos’ sexual subtext. I never thought anything about them to be sensual . Not their power, Not their eternal life. When I see a film and some hot dude or chick does something that’s supposed to be sexy I just feel embarrassed. It’s like I’m watching a comedian that nobody finds funny. My vampires won’t be hot. Or even slightly bearable. They will be stone cold hideous. They’re MONSTERS remember?

No talking:
9 out of 10 times when a vampire talks it’s an attempt to be cool by saying something witty or dark. “Your flesh will taste delicious tonight” or “don’t worry. I will make it quick”. I don’t care about such one-liners. You will never match “yippee ki yay” or “Cowabunga”. To prevent my vampires from sounding like self-obesessed jerks I took their ability to talk. They don’t talk. Ever.

Not just two teeth:
When a vampire opens its mouth and there’s just two sharp teeth I think “somebody went to a carnival shop with only 50 cents” The same suspicion of laziness comes to mind when I see a new alien in Star Trek and they’re clearly actors with some random putty on their forehead. Two slightly longer teeth? Is that how you “transform” ? Oh you have red eyes too? whoa! I guess you doubled your effort to look convincing! My vampires won’t do with just 2 teeth. There will be sharp teeth all the way.

When I sum that up I get something like this:

They are the three different enemy types we have so far. Arranged by power. I made these and to be honest I had a lot of fun doing so!

There already is a vampire that has all the things i seek for: Nosferatu.
The one from the film named after him. Coolest vampire ever. No talking, no pretty face, no glitter or mixed feelings. No tilting the head or silly hissing. Just a all-in scary-teeth-all-over-quiet-scary-staring blood-sucker. Similar dudes can be found in other movies as well. But for this jam Nosferatu is my guide.

The theme will be vampires and it pisses me off.

Disclaimer: If you want to tell me about how I look past the virtue of subtlety and subtext and power of the vampire: I know all about the virtue, subtlety and subtext and I wipe my butt with it.

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