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Comics vs. Games: Thinking Outside the Panel
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Comics vs. Games: Thinking Outside the Panel

August 3, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Development tools were not the only change-ups. Some artists also chose to forego their signature styles in favor of alternate routes. Cartoonist and illustrator John Martz worked with developer Jarrad "Farbs" Woods, creator of ROM CHECK FAIL, to create Cumulo Nimblers, a four-player competitive cloud-jumping game. Martz's quirky comic style translates well into the quirkily named Farbs' initial game idea, creating a landscape that is bright, colorful, frenetic, but also pixelated.

Cumulo Nimblers

While Martz has some experience in pixel art, once rendering a cavalcade of Star Trek characters in 8-bit form, the decision to not go with hand-drawn art had a tactical draw.

"I think that limited art style benefited the process because if you wanted to do something -- create an effect or try something out -- [Farbs] could just do it really quickly himself instead of explain what he wanted from me and wait for me to do it," Martz said. "He could sort of easily do it himself with the pixels, so I think it worked out well with the collaboration."

Freelance artist Andy Belanger teamed with organizer Sternberg after one developer dropped out. Discussing concepts over drinks, Belanger was not shy in pushing to make a game based on his new, self-published IP, Black Church, a metal-infused fantasy horror tale revolving around the birth of Dracula and his barbarian parents' fight to keep him from being sacrificed as the embodiment of the Antichrist.

"He explained the storyline to me and I was like, 'Okay, what are the central conflicts here and how can I do something fun that's going to be achievable, that will work with a big audience?'" Sternberg said.

The idea they settled upon was Black Church Brigandage, a game Sternberg describes as a "mashup between Super Smash Bros. and basketball." Players fight 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 on a field of power-ups, swords and explosive barrels, trying to be the first to grab the newborn Antichrist and throw it to their side's goal of safety or destruction. It may well be the first game where you can lay up a baby into a lake of fire.

Black Church Brigandage

Although Belanger created Black Church as a means of establishing his own identity outside of drawing characters for DC and other publishers, he deliberately chose pixel art for Brigandage over his own intricate, illustrative style, wanting to as much of a "game" atmosphere as possible. He said trying to make the game too much like his comic in ways would detract from the crossover appeal.

"I like the idea that when you go from one medium to the other it's going to change quite a bit," Belanger said, "and I think it still has the same spirit of the comic with the gameplay and the sound design. The way you play the game, I think the whole thing has a lot to do with the comic book. It's still there."

Brigandage is the only game of the five to be directly linked to a comic property, but the most comic-like game is probably The Yawhg. Inspired by choice adventure books and portions of the indie RPG Dungeons of Fayte, one to four players take on roles of different townspeople preparing for the return of a great evil.

With player-driven progression and Emily Carroll's hauntingly folklorist still art, some elements of the overall presentation do harken to an interactive comic book, although Carroll and partner Damian Sommer said the motif was not directly intended.

"The inset panels were the things most reminiscent of comics, and it just happened that not only was it reminiscent of comics, but it also just was easy to make and easy to relay information very simply," Carroll said.

The Yawhg was a cross-Canada collaboration, with Carroll (whose works include His Face All Red) in Vancouver and Sommer in Toronto, but the art did not face as much manipulation as with Cumulo Nimblers. Sommer, who also contributed to the story with Carroll and a few other contributors, was able to place the art as it arrived in Dropbox.

Sommer has also worked as an artist for a game in the past, but he didn't enjoy it. The jam gave him a chance to discover he's much happier as a designer.

"I've never played the designer role, he said. "I was more the designer in this project and the programmer, and I learned through doing this that I'm a lot more comfortable in this role and I actually do like working with people; I just need to be doing this side of it, and not the art side."

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