Twisted Pixel is the studio behind colourful, artistically designed, and critically acclaimed The Maw, and last year’s Splosion Man (a part of Microsoft’s ‘Summer of Arcade’), known for its devilishly difficult levels but simple gameplay idea involving a man who “splodes”. In development of Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley, we chatted to the studio about its intentions, history, and why Comic Jumper ought to be paid close attention.
Richard Birkett: Could you tell us here at MLG who you are and what you do?
Sean Conway: My name is Sean Conway. I am a video game designer for Twisted Pixel Games.
RB: Next, a question we ask everyone we speak to here at Midlife Gamer, what is your favourite
beverage and biscuit (also called cookies outside the UK)?
SC: My favourite beverage is beer. Cookies? I don’t eat those things. The only Cookie I know charges $20 for a lap dance!
RB: How would you sum up Twisted Pixel as a studio? What makes you tick and what do your games
aim to deliver?
SC: We just try to make games that get us excited. Our goal is to make games that we would want to play even if we didn’t make them. If we wouldn’t want to play them why would anyone else? We want to provide gamers with as much fun and high quality content as we can.
RB: Your games feature rich and colourful art styles. In terms of game development, at what point is a decision made as to its art direction?
SC: Dave Leung and Brandon Ford are responsible for our animations and pretty colours respectively. Josh Bear (our CCO) is in charge of tracing. They have worked as an unstoppable force on our past titles. Recently we have hired some fresh meat whose art is about to be unleashed upon the world.
RB: Your latest game, Comic Jumper, is currently in development. How far along are you in the development schedule and when should we be expecting a release?
SC: A release date has not been announced for Comic Jumper as of yet. Something will be announced very soon though. It isn’t safe to tell you over the computer. If you meet me in the bathroom stall in ‘Torchy’s Tacos’ at 9:31PM and tap your foot 3 times I may be able to tell you.
RB: Could you tell us a bit more about the game, what stands out and why gamers should be excited?
SC: Comic Jumper is a game about a failure of a superhero who gets his comic canceled. To pay off his bills he jumps into other comics to fix them while trying to earn enough money to get his own comic back. What drives the humor is that the comics that he jumps into are actually worse than his own.
The gameplay itself is influenced by games like Contra, Sin and Punishment, Double Dragon, Gradius, Metal Slug, Gun Star Heroes, Forgotten Worlds etc. It is fast paced, packed with humour, tonnes of unlockables, and many humorous characters. Why should you be excited? MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!! You get to see John Bodek (our IT guy) topless in the game. That makes me excited and should make you excited too.
RB: What have you learnt from previous games that has gone into making Comic Jumper?
SC: I have learned never to trust Alex Jones (our former intern and newly hired designer) alone with a computer and a keyboard. Never trust the guy with a microwave either. He almost burned our office down. For some reason he thought 3:00 to cook a TV Dinner meant 300 minutes! Good thing I saved him from the fire. Now he follows me around and copies me. He even bought the same car as me the other week.
RB: The comic book vibe of the title comes across exceptionally well through the use of cel-shaded graphics. How does the comic book influence otherwise come across within the game?
SC: The comic book vibe comes across through the art, dialogue, and characters. The comics in the game were based upon specific and distinct comic genres. We have comics based on the Conan comics (Frazetta art style), The Silver Age (Jack Kirby art style), Modern (based off of Image Comics), and Manga (based off of LSD).
The characters themselves have a wide range of influences. Our CCO and Lead Tracer Josh Bear created characters such as ‘Captain Smiley’, ‘Gerda’, ‘Psycho Golf Player’ etc. I am not 100% sure what influenced those particular characters. He is a huge ‘Twilight’ fan so maybe some of his characters were based off of that?
I can tell you what influenced some of the characters that I created though.
‘Paper Lad’ was based off of the nerdy, wimpy, goodie two shoes- Jimmy Olsen. ‘Mistress Ropes’ was based off of a YouTube video involving a MMA fighter fighting a Kiai Master. The Kiai master looked like he had incredible powers and was throwing his students around the dojo with what appeared to be invisible ropes. We named him ‘Master Ropes’. Since we needed a female villain we just gave Master Ropes a quick sex change and he became ‘Mistress Ropes’.
‘Cutie Cutie Cupids’ were based off some cursed anime named “Bottle Fairies”. After watching it (research for the game, I promise!) and pulling the gun out of my mouth, I realized that the world must know of something this powerful. The spirit of Bottle Fairies lives on in Cutie Cutie Cupids. Other characters have their own influences but that is enough because I type slow.
RB: Finally, your games have – by and large – been exclusive to XBLA. Are there any plans to bring them to a wider audience on more platforms in the not-too-distant future? If not, why not?
SC: Unfortunately I am not involved in that aspect of business so I can’t answer that question. All that I know is that we have a good relationship with Microsoft. They treat us well and we are very happy together. Can’t you just respect our love and leave us be!?