Worrying less and making more

My goal for this week was to make as much as I could in time for the SF Zine Fest. By the end of the week I managed to get 4 books put together, which was awesome. I also managed to put together a simple new music video for my song “Overblown“.

I can often be caught lecturing my creative friends about the dangers of perfecting things. I’m a big fan of just getting things out there and had been planning all year on rolling out a series of really simple music videos for tracks off of Destroy All Presets…. but if I’m being totally honest, I really had reservations about posting this video for Overblown. The idea was that I’d spend most of the day biking around and capturing shots using the Hyperlapse app for iPhone. Afterwards, I glitched some of the footage with the Databender app and then edited the video on my iPhone. Afterwards, I had a new video that I wasn’t super happy with. I kept imagining the “just get it done” lecture I’d be giving myself, so I just shut up and posted it that night.

I’m happy to have a new video, even one that’s not that awesome, but I have to admit that I’m really bummed to see a video like get so many more eyeballs than a video I’m really proud of. Way many. Within a few days it’s seen 4,000 views, while my Rumspringa video has yet to break 2,000 in over a month. I’m not saying I’ve learned anything here, I’m just venting about how unpredictable these things are. As I type this, I realize how silly I’m being… I should just be happy to have any new folks listening to my music… but I really love that Rumspringa video. I guess you could say this new video is a bit overblown.

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TLDR: I had big plans for the year, but after an important package (full of high level Kickstarter rewards) got stuck in US Customs, my plans have gone off track. I’m in a deep depression, broke, and stuck in a creative rut. Realizing there’s nothing I can do to personally move the package along, I’ve given myself a creative series of “next steps” to get myself unstuck from this creative pit I’m in.

I kicked 2014 off with my Analog/Glitch art show at Photobooth in SF. This show combined my love of analog and experimental glitch photography and was by far my most successful art show yet. Shortly after, I launched a Kickstarter project for my new album, Destroy All Presets, which ended up doubling its goal.

Destroy All Presets was an album made on a Game Boy Advance using a special music cart called Nanoloop. I’m a huge fan of the software and teamed up with its creator to offer a special edition Nanoloop cart that came preloaded with my songs on it. I was mostly breaking even on the carts themselves, but was able to leverage the carts to help me find some good press for the project.

I was thrilled with how the project went and was stoked at how it helped me reach a whole new audience. We got the album out on time and started working on the carts, which traveled from China to Germany to the US. The carts made it to the International Sorting Center in NYC on May 26th and, according to the tracking info, haven’t moved since. Continue reading →

Christine’s Cracked Screen Wallpaper

Christine's Cracked Phone

A few weeks back, Christine accidentally dropped her Nexus 4 down a big ass hill [edit: Christine wants me to mention it hit a lot of rocks]. The screen cracked and the phone was totally shot, so she ditched it for a Nexus 5. The first thing we did with her new camera was photograph her old phone’s screen and make it her new wallpaper. It looks AWESOME! So awesome that I went back in tonight and created a ton of ready made wallpapers for you guys to use. Let me know if you have any requests.
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SquirrelWarz is out now for iPads

Our new game, SquirrelWarz, is out now for the iPad! Go buy it RIGHT NOW so we can make more games! It’s only $.99… Go ahead, I’ll wait.

SquirrelWarz is a game we started working on 4 years ago when I was still at Tribal Games. We had just finished The Mighty Decider app (with the Mighty Boosh), and wanted to do a more ambitious game. So we set our sites on a real time strategy game with campaigns, multi-player web, local multiplayer, etc. Honestly, all that stuff may have been a bit ambitious. Years passed and the game never really made it out the door. Then one day my old boss, Steve, calls me up and says he just bought the rights to the game and he wants to finally get the damn thing out there. We simplified some parts, ditching the multiplayer and campaigns, rewriting large parts of the code, creating new music, etc.

The first thing most folks notice about our game is it’s hand drawn feel. Back when we (Steve, Mike, and myself) started working on games together we knew we wanted to make games that look like tangible objects. Our Mighty Decider app totally shares that same aesthetic, as does the first Knifetank game that Mike and I made. But neither of those function as well as a game as SquirrelWarz does. It mixes the look of cheap watercolors (Walgreens brand) with good gameplay and polish. It’s pretty much how I want all of my games to feel. Have I ever mentioned I have a dream of making a playable hand-painted version of Pitfall? Yo Activision, hit me up!

What was my roll in all of this? I was lead game design and sound design for SquirrelWarz. I also helped Mike out with interstitial art, UI art, backgrounds, and other stuff (but Mike’s squirrel sprites are what really steal the show). Right after Mighty Decider shipped, Steve found an article about invasive squirrel species in Britain, and asked if I could pitch some squirrel based game ideas. I pitched a couple, we picked the most challenging, then I started working on our “game bible”. This is the document that defined every possible element of the gameplay. What does the main menu look like, what happens when you touch a button, how do you interact with the units, what does combat look like. Here’s one of the earliest sketches I did (the day we decided to go with a real time strategy game):

Early concept art for our SquirrelWarz game. I drew these 4 years ago with a BIC pen, and the game is finally coming out tomorrow.

As our “bible” got finished, I then started helping Mike out with the art, which was super fun. We’d buy some cheap watercolor kits and just start making assets. I got to do all the easy stuff, while Mike focused on the much harder sprite animations. Then we both started working on maps for the game. The next step for me was music. Rather than my usual electro-chip-hop stuff, I wanted to make a sound track with toys and acoustic instruments. Something that fit the handmade feel of the game. Melodicas, mouth harps, toy pianos, and the awesome sounds of the Marxophone all played a part in our soundtrack.

So the game is out now, for iPad and should be available for Mac in September. The beauty of working on a small team like this is that I get to wear many different hats. Game design, writing, music, art, and now I’m deep in my marketing role. Promoting our game on Reddit, Twitter, TouchArcade, and anywhere else I can find. Next week I’ll be back in music and game design mode, putting the finishing touches on the original soundtrack release and making some new maps for our next big update.

Just a heads up, re-reading this I realize it sounds like I’m taking credit for the whole game, which is totes crazy. I can’t code for shit and would have driven myself crazy trying to figure out how to draw every squirrel action in 360 degrees. So shout out to all the Hales crew on the IgorLabs team. Steve Hales, the producer over at Tribal who gave me my first game design gig and later brought this project back from the dead. Mike Hales, who’s been a cartooning buddy of mine ever since I moved to SF. His art style is amazing and he’s found a perfect medium for it in the game industry. Brian Hales, who worked remotely from his pad in Utah… and I still haven’t met despite working with him on this game for 4 years. It was nice to have another Starcraft fan on the team and I can’t wait to try out his solo games.

Know And Tell: a series of creative workshops


As I’ve bounced around from hobby to hobby throughout the years, there’s always been someone there to help show me the ropes. Online or in person, the creative community is filled with people who love to help. That’s why I wanted to try doing my own series of workshops called Know and Tell. Each Wednesday in August I’ll be leading a different hands on workshop on subjects that I’m extremely passionate about. Some of these are workshops I’ve given many times before, others are one of workshops that I’ll probably never do again. Here’s the list of classes below… if the response is good, I’m hoping to continue this Know and Tell workshop series with other featured artists.

Making Music with Nanoloop for Mobile- August 6th
In 2010 I released my first all-iPhone-album using Nanoloop. Since then the app has gotten better and ported to Android. In this workshop we’ll walk through the basics of writing a song in Nanoloop for mobile.

Glitching Images With Simple Text Editors- August 13th
Breaking things is fun! I’ve certainly spent plenty of time using glitch apps like Decim8 for the iPhone, but glitching images with text editors is surprisingly easy. In this workshop we’ll go through the basics of text glitches and see how the effect differs from format to format.

Creating stereoscopic GIFs
(aka Wigglegrams) – August 20th
I’ve been knee deep in my 3D City photo project and constantly get asked how I create the images. In this workshop we’ll discuss how to use Photoshop to easily align two or more images, animate them with the somewhat hidden Animation Timeline, and best practices for saving these GIFs.

Making Music With Nanoloop 2.0 for Game Boy Advance- August 27th
I’ve been waiting on doing this workshop until I finally get my shipment of Nanoloop carts out of US Customs… but I’ve decided to do this workshop no matter what. In this workshop we’ll cover the basics of Nanoloop for GBA including: copying/pasting songs, saving patterns, arranging patterns into songs, and tricks for creating my favorite sounds.