In 2013, Kentucky Route Zero debuted with its first act. Regardless of the time over which Acts II-V were released, the video game has managed to hold its audience’s attention. It’s also been continually refueled by the creativity and personal touches of the team behind it, Cardboard Computer. I’m proud to help share their story in my latest feature for Polygon.
Around the 7-year anniversary of Act I, I spent an evening chatting with Jake Elliott (writer & programmer), Tamas Kemenczy (artist & programmer), and Ben Babbitt (musician and sound designer) about their history together on the project and their unique approach to making it. They shared with me a plethora of personal anecdotes, technical challenges, creative successes, and insights into wrapping up production on Kentucky Route Zero.
The team’s approach to experimentation – affording themselves a chance to make better decisions when it felt more relevant to make them – was inspiring to hear about. Most independent artists I know understand what it’s like to struggle with limited resources, whether that be time, money, collaborators, or some mix of all of the above. Cardboard Computer managed to strike a healthy balance with their creative endeavors along the way, and I hope you’ll find something useful to take back with you to your own work after reading their story.
In the wake of Kentucky Route Zero‘s grand finale, it has earned immense critical praise and is now considered a masterpiece by many. Although the presence of a new console generation looms large over 2020, I think it’s safe to say we’ll continue to hearing about this soulful gem until further notice.
Special thanks to Matt Leone at Polygon for his support & assistance with editing & laying out this feature. Read the full story here.
Kentucky Route Zero is now available as both a “PC Edition” and a “TV Edition” (for consoles). Visit the game’s website to learn more.
There are few games that I have replayed – and then again, and again, and again – as much as I did with Guacamelee!.
Each playthrough emboldened me to become an even stronger, faster, more magical luchadore, but they also revealed new layers to the game’s world. Guacamelee! was brimming with secrets, hidden between the difficulty spikes and its signature atmosphere. That attention to detail only went further in its sequel.
For my second longform piece on Engadget, I had the pleasure of talking with the series’ creators, DrinkBox Studios. Guacamelee! 2 became an opportunity for them to revisit a world they loved building in the first place, only to discover how rewarding the creative process could still be. I spoke with the team’s co-founder and producer, Graham Smith, art director, Steph Goulet, and concept lead & animator, Augusto Quijano, to better understand the sequel’s new landscapes, narrative beats, color palette and more.
As delightful as Guacamelee! 2‘s slapstick self-aware tone is, what stuck with me were its quieter moments – and how personal Augusto was in drawing inspiration from his Mexican upbringing. It’s clear that DrinkBox made even more thoughtful design decisions this time around, managing to distinguish the sequel from its already hyper-stylized predecessor along the way.
Read the full feature story on Engadget.
Key artists from Vicarious Visions walked me through their approach to remastering Naughty Dog’s iconic PlayStation trilogy, and how they handled inheriting a legacy with millions of nostalgic fans. You can read the full-length feature on Engadget.
As a lifelong fan of Crash Bandicoot, and I am incredibly grateful to have told this story. Within it are in-depth interviews with art & design leads who oversaw the remasters, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at their process and even some of Naughty Dog’s original concept art. What stood out to me as I worked on this were the philosophical aspects of VV’s approach, and the pressure they placed on themselves in striking a balance between their vision and Naughty Dog’s (circa 1996).
Special thanks to Aaron Soupporis at Engadget for his mentorship, collaborative spirit and going the extra mile on the layout, as well as Jessica Conditt for connecting us. Nicholas Ruepp, Kara Massie, Cory Turner, Curtis Orr, Leo Zuniga and Wiebke Vallentin at VV & Activision were all extremely helpful in coordinating the interviews and art assets we needed, even on the eve of the game’s release date.
Continue reading Engadget Feature – Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy
Polygon graciously allowed me to write this intimate opinion piece for them, which explores my experience playing the long-awaited The Last Guardian and the parallels I drew between it and our bond with animals. It serves as an analysis of the game’s design, as much as it is a personal essay and investigation into the ways we all encounter animals in need.
Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
The Last Guardian doubles as an interactive metaphor for the discovery and rehabilitation of animals in situations of abuse or neglect. For being such a fantastical setting, it plays host to a cautionary tale that is grounded in reality. By offering us an extended glimpse into an abused animal’s perspective, The Last Guardian asks us to empathize: What does it mean to spend time in their environment? How are they a product of it, and how much can they change?
The full article can be found here, and I invite you to share your own story and/or takeaway from The Last Guardian.
Everybody may have vanished from the slumbering town of Yaughton, but not without a trace.
Across a blindingly bright English countryside, with radios left on, research abandoned, doors unshut and phone booths ringing, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture explores what life there was like as you piece together a hauntingly calm apocalypse in a most unfamiliar setting: home sweet home.
Previously known for their surreal Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the latest game from studio The Chinese Room. In my curiosity to learn more about what fueled Rapture’s story, its big questions and the creative drive behind them, I discovered what inspires and compels the team that created it. Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director at The Chinese Room, graciously took me through their process, the artistic decisions they made, his thoughts on science fiction and the potential for storytelling within video games today.
Read an excerpt from our discussion after the jump, and/or read the full interview here.
Continue reading Tiny Apocalypses: An Interview with Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director of ‘Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture’