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Finding Beauty in Imperfection: Interview with Todd Luke
by Talha Kaya on 07/11/14 05:55:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

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Winnose is a game about a statue and its search for its other half. It's pretty. It's got some awesome music. It makes me want to live in a pixelly world. I really don't want to spoil anything else but the game is very beautiful. I definitely recommend it.

I interviewed the creator of this game, Todd Luke. I covered some of his other games before, "Get Well Soon", "Marble Safari", and "Space is Red", to be exact. He was kind enough to answer some questions for me.

You might want to listen to the Winnose soundtrack while reading this lovely interview.

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Q: Hello Todd, how are you feeling? I recently became a fan of your work and I couldn't help but steal some of your time to get to know you better. I think you have a fantastic style, both with your game design, your drawings, your colors, your visual effects, and the amount of surprises and positive feelings you spread with your games. My first question is, what's your background in game development, how long have you been making games, or wanting to make games?

A: I'm envisioning us sitting on adjacent armchairs. When I was younger I made games out of whatever was lying around the house. Then I'd bug my dad to play them with me. Skipping forward a decade, 2009 was packed with grief for my family and I, so finding game maker at the end of that year was a godsend. I was able to wrap my brain around programming for the first time. I finished my first video game in 2011 called "Doppler". People were stoked on it and I added making games to my list of creative vices.

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Q: How old are you, and did you have an education that helped with the necessary skills for making games?

A: I'm turning 25 this October. I had the ideal education for making things. The majority of my high school career was spent drawing, playing music, and being generally reckless with my friends. I dropped out my senior year in 2007. I got my equivalency degree some time in 2008. I had a very brief experience with community college but decided I'd rather get a job and pursue creative projects in my spare time.

 

Q: Are you making games full time? If not, what is your other occupation?

A: I worked for a family owned fire sprinkler company from 2009 to early 2014. It was a great job, but I was able to quit and work on games full time this year after releasing "Winnose" on Adult Swim.

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Q: You've been releasing Flash-based games for a while. Do you use extra frameworks like Flashpunk for making games? What Flash environment are you using? (Flash Professional, Flash Develop, etc.)

A: I use FlashDevelop with the FlashPunk library and Ogmo Editor.


Q: Your visual style is one of the things that caught my interest in your work. The first time I saw your work I though about games of Tom Sennett. You use few colors per sprite and your drawing always shines through sharp pixels. Your games look so nice that I want to flirt with them like a high school boy that just got into puberty. What are your main inspirations for this unique and pretty drawing style?

A: My main visual inspiration is Wabi-sabi i.e. finding beauty in imperfection. I try to keep things loose and organic, united by a limited color palette.

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Q: Who are your game developer idols if you have any?

A: Nathan Ranney.


Q: You use a lot of visual effects in your games, like tearing, tinting fastly, that creates a very nice glitchy look. Do you code these effects by messing around with Bitmap classes? As far as I know, these things are hard to optimize in a technology like Flash (at least it's hard for me since I don't know what I'm doing). Can you shortly tell about your process to code a glitchy effect?

A: Most of these are coded using BitmapData. They are very expensive to use in flash so I'm constantly trying to find new ways to improve and cheapen the cpu cost. Basically you create a BitmapData, copy an image to that, destroy it, add five sine waves, then render it to the screen. Blend modes are important too. When I'm experimenting with visual effects it feels like I'm practicing forbidden magic or something. I love it.

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Q: Your game Winnose is a tile-based puzzle game that uses timing challenges wisely. And as a player you don't expect to fight a space shooter like boss at the end of a tile-based puzzle. The eclectic nature that you seem to like reminded me of the awesome Frog Fractions, which is full of genre changes inside a single game, just for the laughs. I very much like any kind of surprises I can find in games, like easter eggs and unexpected things in general. What is the value of this kind of surprise in your game, so that you would spend a lot of time coding lots of new things just to be used in one level?

A: I really value mystery, playful discovery, and self-expression. Those are themes I've been exploring more and more. There's a secret room in Winnose that I'm not sure anyone outside of my friends has found. To access it you must master the art of chilling.

(Talha's note: I've been to that room on both of my playthroughs of Winnose!)

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Q: Can you tell a bit about your current project? I know you've been developing the game live on Twitch from time to time. How do you feel about making the game in front of an audience?

A: "24 Killers" is my current project. You move to a new town and are set loose at the start to explore. The main chunk of the game revolves around spirits possessing people and you figuring out who those people are, if you want. There are many other things to interact and play with around town. Regarding my Twitch stream, it's nice to have people to talk to while working on stuff because it's mostly a solitary experience for me.

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Q: What inspired you to make a short cinematic experience in form of a game, that resulted in "Space is Red"? Can you tell a bit about your creative process on this project?

A: I made "Space Is Red" with PostPre for Venus Patrol's Space Cowboy Jam. My main inspiration was the John Carpenter film "Dark Star". I actually eye dropped colors from the opening scenes. There was a talk that Cactus gave in 2009. One of the points was "dare to be serious". That phrase rang through my head while making it. Bright colors and whimsy come naturally to me, so I wanted to challenge myself by exploring darker themes. I feel like I grew a lot from that even though I finished the game in a weekend.

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Q: Your game Gabbage Day is available on itch.io for a very cheap price. The game has a small scope, and is not like those games that modern players are accustomed to buy. You make a good case of it saying that the game lasts longer than a burger, and is cheaper than a burger. What made you decide to sell it instead of looking for a sponsorship? Was this an experiment? If so, how did it go?

A: Last August I made "Gabbage Day" to be part of a bundle as a backer reward for a friend's kickstarter, but I wanted more people to play it. I released it recently, and out of respect for that friend and the backers I decided to charge a small amount for it.

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Q: Do you plan to move on to downloadable titles, for Steam etc. or mobile?

A: Yes. I have some ideas brewing but none that are solid enough to mention.


Q: It was a blast throwing questions at you. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. Anything you wanna add?

A: You are very welcome. These armchairs are lovely.

 

You can follow Todd on Twitter, check out his games on his site, look at pretty pictures and GIF's of his new game on the game's devlog on TigSource, and then go outside and gaze the beautiful sky.

 

PLAY WINNOSE


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