Hello! I’m vice-vice-Captain Jace Van Kaathoven. I act as the community manager of Sky Pirate Studios, and I also wrote words for Help! I’m Haunted. Right now I have a very sore throat and it hurts to talk, so just read this blog post in the voice of an old, kindly sailor with a gravelly voice. As I speak to you, a smile plays on my thin, weary lips – a humble smile that belies my experiences adrift the seas that my glazed eyes bore witness and my body persevered. “These bones have stories”, I say, my corn-cob pipe bouncing upon my lips between utters. “These old bones have stories to tell”.
Right. Well then. Help! I’m Haunted is coming out soon and we’re all really excited!
From a mere glance at Help! I’m Haunted, its influences and tone are evident: Joey and Kevyn’s original vision has held true throughout the project as a retro homage to Halloween festivities and ‘80s horror movies that delight in their use of innumerable tropes – the flash of lightning that illuminates the windows of the mysterious mansion, punctuated by the discordant keys of a synthesizer and the screech of bats upheld by string. Then an animatronic skeleton pops out and goes “waaaugh!” and you get all scared.
Sorry about the last part, I couldn’t fit it into the analogy. I just wanted to include an animatronic skeleton. You get the picture.
Help! I’m Haunted doesn’t have animatronic skeletons, but it does have green-skeletons-that-are-fire! Who could ask for more.
Everyone at work on Help! I’m Haunted has done an excellent job with creating this tone; Kevyn’s art and animation is, needless to say, perfect for the project; Joey’s level and encounter design evokes the feeling and charm of horror set pieces in the stylings of Konami’s Castlevania, while Rob’s music ties it all together in spectacular, chip-synth fashion. Based on these factors, I wanted to write flavour-text based on this pre-established tone. Nothing too complicated – primarily light-hearted jokery that evokes the spooky, referential nature of the game. Think the taglines on the front of a Goosebumps book and you’ve got about the right idea.
Unfortunately, “Reader beware! You’re in for a Cool Fun Time!” is not nearly as catchy a tagline.
Despite the tone of Help! I’m Haunted being created through the implementation of cheesy horror clichés, locales and beasties, I think you can see a lot of our own personality as a studio in the game as well. Due to the compact nature of Sky Pirate Studios, game development is a very collaborative process. One day, Joey can suggest “Hey, it would be super cool if we had x in the game”, and we’ll make it happen, or I can suggest the inclusion of a certain character and that can happen as well. This is not to say that our games do not have direction, but rather the opposite – our hope is to work together to create shared visions of games we want to play. And we hope you’ll want to play them as well.
Good evening passengers, this is your Captain Kevyn speaking. Thank you for joining me for this introductory blog post.
The idea for Help! I’m Haunted was borne of the Large Hadron Collision of Pixel’s Kero Blaster, the George and Jonathon track Sludge Mansion, and a healthy respect for the work of New York’s Bravest; the Ghostbusters.
The plan was that by utilising my strength at pixel art, working at a small resolution and having a simple retro design we would be able to finish the game by Halloween (2 Halloweens have passed since then). It has been a long journey on a retrospectively very ambitious first project, but very soon you will be able to play it!
My work on Help! I’m Haunted includes art for characters, UI and effects as well as programming everything. While I’ve been doing pixel art since I was a kid, I’d only scripted a few small prototypes before this and after rolling up me sleeves and getting to work I’ve learned an incredible amount (although my tip to budding developers would be to start with something much smaller). Here! Look at some monsters that didn’t make it in the game!
During this project I’ve been using handy pixel art program Pyxel to quickly draft designs and animations without having to deal with an elaborate animation editor. You just line your frames up next to each other in the grid and the animator will just play them in a row. It doesn’t have a lot of indepth animation tools, holding different frames for different amounts of time for example, but what it lacked in that regard it definitely makes up for by being lightweight and convenient. I was almost always able to just copy from the canvas straight into a sprite atlas, making implementing animations quick and easy. Pyxel has become my go to pixel editor, usurping (I kid you not) Microsoft Paint, but Paint’s secret strength is the same as Pyxels, it has all the essential tools I need without having to deal with lag or crashes from tools I might never use. Thanks Pyxel!
In the future I’ll do some blog posts about mistakes we made during development, and something I focused on in Help! I’m Haunted; Game feel and microsecond to microsecond gameplay. Bye bye! I’m a pirate, bye!
Ahoy, scurvy landlubbers! Welcome to our first official blog post. Though we have been very quiet until now, everyone here at Sky Pirate Studios has been working very hard to plunder the most excellent artisanal pixels to present to you in the form of our first game – Help! I’m Haunted.
So before we crack open our heads and feast all the gooey innards, I’d like to take the time to introduce myself in the first of our introduction blog posts.
I am your Captain, Joey. I do a lot of the level tiles and design, as well as other game design duties such as communing with ancient sea gods. They love video games.
My journey in this crew started when my co-worker Kevyn and I finished university and decided that we wanted create a pirate empire the world had never seen the likes of before. However, when we quickly realized this was impossible and possibly very illegal, we settled on starting an indie studio to make fun games that we can laugh at and have fun with.
Currently I’m drowning in a sea of pixels that run through each of our levels, all the while improving each enemy encounter and squashing levels bugs.
As you may be able to tell, my main influences for this project (and the level design therein) has primarily been the first three Castlevania games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Those games just knew how to design encounters, and they had some damn fine background tiles.
Though I’d like to keep this introductory post short and sweet, I’d like to conclude by saying a big thank you for all the continued support from friends and family, as well as everyone who has been supporting us and our project. We’d like to thank Film Victoria especially for their support, as their funding has not only has greatly assisted with the marketing of Help! I’m Haunted, but has also given us a much needed moral boost. Now that things are really picking up for us we want communication with you guys to be much more consistent, so we’re looking forward to showing off a lot more cool stuff that we’ve been working on very soon.
With that, I’m heading below deck to load up some cannons. Until next time!