It was an honor to design the Indiebox for Galak-Z immediately upon returning to 17-BIT after my stint at Shinra. The Indiebox guys were absolutely fantastic to work with, and were able to accommodate just about every request we made! I got to design the full-size box, the boxed cassette tape, wrote the manual, designed the USB key and stickers, and helped coordinate the production of the physical robot & mech figurine (modeling and texture by Callen Wagner).
People really liked this box. Geek.com called it “the best Indiebox yet” and gave this delightful quote:
Galak-Z: The Dimensional’s IndieBox can be described in one word: next level. The entire box is predicated upon the game’s conceit that it’s based on a Voltron-like cartoon from the ’80s. This is apparent in the game’s storytelling, but the IndieBox factor takes it insanely further. The box itself is a window-cut game box that shows the included figure (we’ll get to that in a bit), along with some amazing back-of-the-box art and flavor text that keeps up the schtick. It even has screenshots for the ST and C64 versions of the game, along with flavor text explaining that the game is based on “the art form known as Japanimation.”
Now I’ve got to ship another game so we can do another Indiebox. You can read about my thought process on putting this together here.
GALAK-Z: THE DIMENSIONAL
Galak-Z was easily the most fun I’ve ever had making a game. Here’s some of the stuff I worked on.
Title Card Generator
This was another throwaway gag that ballooned out of control. I thought every episode should have a random title that sounded like it came out of an 80s cartoon, so I went through thousands of episode titles from dozens of shows to create a word list and different grammatical rules to generate stuff that would range from relatively cool-sounding (Operation: Laserblast!) to ridiculous (“Missiles and Old Lace”). Note that the “author names” are not real, but pull from classic 80s cartoon writers from the Sunbow stable. Larry Hama and Buzz Dixon were the certifiable best.
(By the way, the “Transmitido en Espanol en SAP” message above appears randomly 1% of the time.)
The same word-soup code is used to generate sector names. I like these, they’re almost poetic. Almost.
VHS Pause Menu
Another unscheduled one-off I made one day that people really went crazy over. I spent too long a time getting the “VHS shader” looking perfect (we were using all of our shaders in a Unity plugin called Shader Forge). Disclaimer: I recorded the sound effects of the tape pausing and restarting from an old DV camera of mine; I was unable to find a VHS deck that gave a suitable clunky and buzzy sound.
Skyboxes & Backgrounds
There’s a whole mess of skyboxes in this game! And they’re not just flats; they’re full 360-degree skyboxes, since we had cutscenes running in 3D with the camera whipping around, and had to swap out the backgrounds for the skybox of whatever level that happened to be loaded. I used the amazing Spacescape tool to generate these; I took a dozen of Jake’s stylized stars, and populated the backgrounds with these until I found a delicate formula that matched his original hand-painted skybox. From there I could start switching colors and bang out lots of ’em.
There is also some really fun shader work here that features planets that are perfectly round — no hard poly edges!
The guys at Giant Bomb really grokked this stuff, and gave Galak-Z its Best Style award for 2015. Awesome.
Galak-Z’s pause screen flickers, bumps, and bends with the static of an old VHS tape. Each level begins with a procedurally generated title written by a procedurally named author. Finish a season and you’re treated to an end credits and a faux-production company logo bumper pulled straight from 1980s cartoons. Even if we were judging Galak-Z on its wrapper alone, it’s hard to say that any other game this year has as much styyyyyyyyyyyyyle.
GALAK-Z EVENT SPACE
I have the utmost respect for any publishing partner who comes to you and says “Hey, we’re going to do an event with your game — would you like to design the wraparounds and signage yourselves?” My answer is always yes! Gung-Ho was showing off Galak-Z: Mobile Variant at PAX East 2016, and trusted us to create the wraparounds and banners from prototype…
…to finished product. Yeah!!!
SKULLS OF THE SHOGUN
I joined 17-BIT the day that Skulls of the Shogun was signed by Microsoft, and found a superb game that had one problem — the shell surrounding it was nearly nonexistent at that point! I immediately jumped in, figured out the custom animation editor, and got to work.
My major contributions to Skulls was a ton of shell and UI polish — pre-round animations, screen transitions, and various “juicing” to give the game a poppier fighting-game feel.
I was able to overhaul the menus, creating a system where the camera would quickly pan through a variety of scenes as the player chose different modes (single-player, multiplayer, leaderboards, etc). I’ll mention that this was all done with a custom animation editor — this is back in the day before we used such modern luxuries as Unity and Maya, and rolled it all ourselves. (Let’s never do that again.)
I was also able to build the Skulls intro cinematic and our bonkers trailers, which you can see here.