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Interview: Scary Cool --  Scarygirl 's Touch My Pixel

Interview: Scary Cool -- Scarygirl's Touch My Pixel

May 21, 2009 | By Phill Cameron

May 21, 2009 | By Phill Cameron
More: Console/PC, Indie

[With beautifully constructed Flash game Scarygirl just debuted, Gamasutra talks to Australian duo Touch My Pixel on its making, collaborating with illustrator Nathan Jurevicius, and going from webpage to game design.]

Touch My Pixel are an Australian based developer made up of Tarwin Stroh-Spijer and Tony Polinelli, previously based primarily in web design, who've used the Scarygirl project, based on Nathan Jurevicius's designs and funded by Film Victoria and Passion Pictures Australia, to springboard themselves into the public consciousness -- and create a really beautiful and rather fun game in the process.

The game, which is available to play freely as a Flash-based browser game on, really is something; the visuals alone, taken from Nathan's work and adapted carefully, are something gorgeous to behold in motion.

We talked to Touch My Pixel about the transition from web design and Facebook Apps to 2D platformers, what it was like to work with Nathan Jurevicius, and what they plan to do with themselves now they've made a name for themselves.

Could you explain a bit about who you are and what kind of games you make?

Touch My Pixel: Two kids trying to take on the world. Well, two grown up kids. We were web designer/devs for years, then did some advergames and then started working together in our current business, Touch My Pixel, as a result of working on Scarygirl.

After recently finishing the rather fetching Scarygirl, do you feel that you’ve gained a level of awareness in the public eye you wouldn’t have had before?

Absolutely. Before the release of Scarygirl, we were completely unknown, and in a way untested. This has been our first major game and has given us a platform to really show what we could do. After we released the second demo video we actually had a few people sit up and take notice which was nice (a wave to the guys at The Behemoth) but nothing like the media / industry attention we've got now.

How did you set about working for Nathan Jurevicius? Did he approach you?

It was part luck, part who we know and a little but of us being awesome. We were actually recommended by a good friend of ours, Suren Perera from Renmotion (the guy that single-handedly did all the great in-game animations). He'd met Nathan at an animation festival where he'd had an animation of his short-listed.

With Scarygirl, did you have a good deal of input in how the final game turned out? Was Nathan Jurevicius easy to work with?

A lot of what the game was, as a game, was up to us. We had to trawl through Nathan's previous comics, his sketches and toys, and pre-release mockups of his upcoming graphic novel to work out what his world was, then we had a lot of free reign.

For a long time we were worried that we were going to step out of line and make something up that just didn't fit into his world, but it turned out he was pretty good at Scary-ising anything we made. So the basic story is all Nathan's, but the gameplay is a lot Touch My Pixel.

Scarygirl is considerably more diverse and accomplished than most other Flash games. Did you push the engine harder than normal to achieve the results?

There was a lot of learning how far we could push the engine while we were creating this game, but there's also a modest system requirement to play the game. I think when we make a new game we can get Flash to do even more for us, especially with the new release.

With something like Scarygirl, the actual mechanics could be said to take a backseat to the visuals. Do you have to make concessions for the art, or was it a mutually beneficial relationship? We made concessions to the art in as much as we had to make the game work with his art style.

There were a few complaints from players that they had trouble knowing what they could and could not land/walk on, which we knew would be a problem from the start, but we didn't want to force Nathan to change his artwork, for example adding thick black lines on walkable areas which could be one solution. But mostly it was working out ways to get Flash to display his artwork at decent framerates.

The game works in Flash, inside the web browser. How versatile did you find Flash to be as a program? Were there any noticeable limitations?

Limitations. Yeah, there were a few. It's really annoying that you can't get it to go into fullscreen mode and still use the keyboard (some kind of security reason, I think). Other than that I really think it's a case of Flash being really good for what it is. As long as you know its limits you'll be happy with what you can produce with it. You can push it if you know what you're doing but you wouldn't want to make a 3D extravaganza in Flash, pick the right tool for the job.

What are some of the differences between a collaborative work and one where you’re allowed free reign? Do you find one preferable to the other?

We generally are collaborators, at least it's always a collaboration between the two of us. But with "outsiders", I think it's better. Means you get things done. We're trying to get some of our own games done at the moment, small projects though. On a completely different realm we've also just released a CMS (Content Management System) we're pretty proud of - we're still web monkeys as well as game junkies!

What was it like making the CoinCan application for Facebook? Have the results been positive?

The CoinCan game is actually headed by some other friends of ours, amazing designer/typographers, Something Splendid, who we share a studio with. We're just doing the grunt work of getting the Flash stuff up and running for them. That said, it's been fun making an avatar system and I think it's been pretty popular. The mini-game "Catch" has had heaps of plays and I think we did well in re-inventing a very old style of game. There's going to be more mini-games to come in this project soon too.

You also do quite a bit of web design. Do you find your skills are transferable into game design?

I think the programming skills we've been honing doing game design have really paid off in how we structure our web projects, making them cleaner and slicker. It also means that doing web, whether it is design, CSS/HTML or development seems so much easier it can almost be a holiday doing it sometimes.

The way you have to think about your users when you're creating a game can sometimes be the same as when creating a website, especially if you're trying to work out how to stop them from breaking either.

As you do a lot of contract work for various clients, do you find that you are able to express yourselves in that kind of work, or are you quite restricted in what you can do?

Sometimes doing exactly what the client wants isn't such a bad thing. It teaches you to be meticulous. Then again, if a client wants something "stupid" we'll tell them.

With the success of Scarygirl, are you looking to move more into game development, or will you remain a diverse company?

We'd like to do more game development, but we'll probably end up doing web sites as well. It's always just choosing the right tool for the job, or idea, or random inspiration.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a big thanks to everyone else we worked with on Scarygirl. Without all the amazing work they did on the project no one would take a second look at the game. So that's Nathan who's world and amazing artwork it is the whole reason the game exists, Luke who did the great music and SFX like a hurricane, Suren who brought life to the characters and Halo Pictures who made the intro that everyone raves about.

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