There's a wonderful thing about working in games: you get to work with so many talented people. It is my genuine pleasure to announce the voice cast of Gravity Ghost. :)
Ashly Burch is a multitalented actress with a real gift for comedy. She first appeared as the co-star of "Hey Ash Whatcha Playin," an original web show she developed with her brother Anthony. She's also well-known for acting in Borderlands 2 as both Tiny Tina and The Bane (which is a talking gun, by the way).
Some things you might not know: she voices Sasha Braus ("Potato Girl") in the English dub of Attack on Titan. She's got an upcoming role in the Bee and Puppycat web series. She also played herself in a very special Saints Row 4 DLC pack. But did you know she was also a contracted writer on Team Fortress 2? Like I said, mad comedy chops.
I considered her the perfect fit for Gravity Ghost's 12-year-old protagonist, Iona. It's a difficult role - Iona is a kid with a lot of pressures in her life, but not necessarily the tools to communicate. I think Ash is perfect as this angsty but compassionate youngster. You can listen for yourselves here:
Logan Cunningham is no stranger to indie games. He's perhaps best known as the voice of Rucks, the narrator from indie smash-hit Bastion. The lone actor in the game, he singlehandedly told the story of "The Kid" and the land of Caelondia, as well as the finer points of inventory management and weapon upgrades.
All told, the developers estimate that he recorded more than 3000 lines, and none of them repeat. The result was so popular that the "Narrator from Bastion" is invading other games, appearing as an Announcer Pack DLC for DotA 2. He even narrated a wedding. Logan is reprising his role as the narrator in Transistor, the new game from Bastion developer Supergiant Games.
I approached Logan about playing Arthur, a reclusive fisherman who hopes to win the affection of Iona's older sister, Hickory. Unfortunately for Arthur, he's at the scene of a terrible disaster, upsetting the lives of everyone in the story. I thought Logan would be perfect as this character who is tormented, but who harbors a soft side as well. Here's a sneak peek:
Actress Sarah Elmaleh has lent her voice to a number of indie touchstones. She played the protagonist, Katie Greenbriar, in Gone Home. She played Dr. Anna Castellanos in indie adventure game Resonance. She's acted in Johann Sebastian Joust, Galax-Z: The Dimensional, Redshirt, and Skulls of the Shogun. She's also lending her voice to the Silurian Brain parasite in upcoming indie brain-puzzler Scale (full disclosure: the Scale developer and I are getting married :). It's a real gift to the indies that Sarah is willing to work with small studios with shoestring budgets and big dreams.
For Gravity Ghost, she even rented out her home recording studio so that Logan and Vince could record while I coached them. Thanks Sarah!
Her role in Gravity Ghost is a key one: I needed a supporting actress who could play a stern and motherly foil to Iona's teenage rebellion. Her character, Hickory, has almost as much of a story arc as Iona herself. It's difficult to capture that tone of "you're in trouble but I still love you", but I think Sarah nails it. :)
Below, we have two very talented actors who are making their debut in video games:
Vince Trani has been acting on stage and in radio plays for decades. He played Doc in Disney's "Snow White: An Enchanting Musical" (that's him on the far right). He currently performs for the Project Rushmore Theatre Company. In addition, he works as a composer, musical director, and actor for Gotham Radio Theatre.
Vince was a highly-recommended colleague of Sarah Elmaleh. He voices Sal, a lovable poacher who sets up shop near Iona's home. I just love his take on the character, take a listen:
Karin Liungman is a singer and actress with a recording career that spans back more than 40 years. She's released folk albums both in Swedish and English, for children and adults. She's also a composer and an avid guitar player, performing with her blues combo to this day.
Karin plays Eddy, a grandmotherly character who is quite superstitious. I very much wanted to find an actress who sounded like a grandmother. I lucked out, because Karin is a great-grandmother! (It works both as a pun and a statement of fact).
I didn't learn about Karin's history as a singer until the very end of our recording session. She had done excellent takes of all of Eddy's lines, and on a whim, I asked if she wouldn't mind singing a Swedish song. I told her my preference was a song that had a melody that English speakers wouldn't recognize, but would still sound like a folk song. Pressed for time, I hadn't told her anything about the larger Gravity Ghost plot. But the song she chose was "Vem kan segla förutan vind?" which translates to "Who can sail without wind?" When you play the game, you'll realize how uncanny this choice of song was. Here's Karin voicing a few of Eddy's lines:
By the way, acting in Gravity Ghost came with a built-in challenge mode: Every actor also voices at least one other character in the game, some of whom are more...magical. See if you can figure out who's who:
I guess you can say this game has a lot of...
*puts on sunglasses*
Yeahhhh (You can unfollow me on Twitter here)
Hey sports fans, now you can see more of Gravity Ghost than the occasional blog posting: I'm streaming the game weekly on Twitch! Tune in at 2pm PST/5pm EST on Tuesdays.
I cover all manner of development stuff, so you can watch the game evolve as we reach the home stretch. Feel free to subscribe to my channel on Twitch so you never miss a thing. :)
To see what's in store, check out the first three episodes of the Gravity Ghost Funtime Devshow:
Check out the first few levels of the game, and see how I created the difficulty progression.
See how I make levels, and how I think about gravity in order to make them more interesting.
Most recent episode!
Art and animation: how? Featuring several never-before-seen characters.
I'm caching all the episodes on my YouTube channel, please feel free to subscribe.
And as always, if you like the game, please help us spread the word via your various networks - and remember that if you preorder the game while it's on sale, you get an extra copy to give away. :)
For your edutainment, I've started this thing where I condense my workday into a minute-long video. I'm calling it a DayJam and I hope it becomes a thing.
For the last four days I've been working on the Guardians, which I hope to have done by the end of December. In the game, the Guardians are magical creatures that give you a powerup, if you're able to solve their puzzle. I've got 2 done, 5 to go.
The goal is to have these done enough to be play-testable. While we're playtesting these I can get to work animating the game's short cutscenes, and then do one final polish pass on the Guardians and the rest of the game. Getting close to the end here, trying not to get too excited. :)
I've written previously on the importance of finding unconventional inspirations for video games. I thought I'd share some of mine. These are videos I find myself returning to again and again, sometimes years after I first watched them.
Watch how much emotion these artists are able to wring out in just seconds of video, without saying a word. That's something we in games can do, and should aspire to. Indie-minded friends, we can go WAY weirder.
1) You Belong to my Heart
First, something from my childhood. Something Disney managed to release during the Second World War as a goodwill message to Latin America. I think it's fair to say that Disney is a company that banks on nostalgia, but this is so strange it's never mentioned anywhere. I'm talking about The Three Caballeros.
Here's Dora Luz and Donald Duck singing a song called "You Belong to my Heart."
Maybe it was the limited supply of children's VHS's at my local library, but I never got sick of watching this. I think the desire to collect strange flowers in space never left me, which should surprise no one who's played Gravity Ghost.
Apparently some contemporary viewers were scandalized by Donald's apparent lusting after a flesh-and-blood woman, plus some of the following scenes about a dancing cactus were not exactly in line with wartime morality. But little me didn't care about any of that, because space flowers.
2) Return as an Animal
At the Indiecade independent games festival in 2009, games journalist Brandon Boyer (who would soon be named Chairman of the Independent Games Festival), implored us game developers to incorporate unconventional art styles, unused aesthetics, and general weird stuff into our games. He shared this video, which I'm fond of watching at 3 in the morning. I find it very peaceful. I'm not sure why.
Gaijin games are perhaps best known for their Bit Trip Runner and Bit Trip Beat series, but it was a little-known prototype they released in 2011 that has the boldest aesthetic. Front and center is a flailing, skeletal astronaut, still wearing part of his destroyed spacesuit. I have no idea what the story is, but I was immediately drawn in by the premise.
4) Little Boat
This is a student animation by Nelson Boles. And oh my god, the emotion in this video. It'd bring a tear to a glass eye*.
*An expression I learned from Tom, a wonderful Scottish game reviewer who recently played Gravity Ghost.
5) The TV Show
You can watch this 100 times and you'll still find something new to notice. It's that good. As an example: I've probably watched this 100 times and I just noticed the colors in each scene match the colors of the TV test pattern.
It's rare to find something that makes you want to get up and dance, let alone something that makes you want to simultaneously jump through your TV.
I have no idea what this is, but Keita Takahashi linked to it once and now it is forever with me. Some of Gravity Ghost's unpolished, handmade look owes itself directly to this video. I think there is such a thing as overpolished. If you can't draw a straight line, don't. The wiggly line might be more interesting.
7) Molten Light
Trigger warning: The next two videos may be disturbing for some. There's animated blood, protruding bones, violence, nudity, etc. So if that's not your thing feel free to skip to number 9.
I've been a huge fan of Canadian artist Chan VanGaalen since I was in university. Not only does he write his own songs, he animates his own music videos and invents the occasional instrument. All his work is worth checking out, but Molten Light stands apart. To me it's the story of something so terrible it cannot be undone. Some people sing about love. And some people write songs where the chorus goes "She'll find you and she'll kill you..."
8) WOFL 2106
WARNING: This video gets LOUD. It's VERY sudden. I wouldn't wear headphones (seriously).
Some of the viewers on Vimeo experienced ringing in their ears, so please, turn the volume WAY down.
Okay, ready? It's by the master of the intersection of disturbing and cute, David OReilly.
Well that all got a lot more disturbing than I intended. Let's pull it back to something that's at least a little uplifting.
9) When I Grow Up
I cheated, this isn't an animation. But it tells a fascinating story almost entirely with environment, camera work, and mood.
There's a real gift in being able to take the familiar and everyday and twist it into something disquieting and foreign. Much of the darkness in video games comes from violence, but that's not the kind of darkness that most of us experience in our everyday lives. More common are the mundane horrors of living: family dischord, feeling cast out by friends, worrying about one's level of professional achievement, watching a loved one slip into dementia or disease. These are some themes that video games are just now starting to explore.
There's a scene in this video, no more than two seconds long, in which someone (possibly meant to be the main character's father) looks on with disapproval. That's it. It's riveting.
I suppose that's not exactly uplifting, but hey, at least nobody died. Let's try one more.
10) The Parachute Ending
I considered ending with any of the following videos: Little Twelve Toes, I Say Fever, Don't Go Phantom, and Move Your Feet. But those all sit comfortably in the category of 'music video', without standing as works of animation unto themselves.
Great music videos are not the point of this post. To fit the criterion of 'videos I find myself revisiting over and over', I realized it had to be this one: The Parachute Ending by Birdy Nam Nam.
Once again, we're plunked down into a world that barely resembles ours. But watching this video is the feeling of being along for the ride.
The visuals remind me of playing King's Quest VII for the first time as an 8-year-old, wandering out into the desert, and watching my character die of thirst. Over and over. Until I realized that the playable map was a small island, surrounded by certain death. The only out was to solve the puzzles and survive - which included a terrifying interaction with a red-eyed spectre who the desert had already claimed. All this from a children's game. I was hooked.
I hope you enjoyed these videos, they're a huge source of off-the-beaten-path inspiration for me.
Also, if you haven't already, please consider preordering Gravity Ghost on our brand new store page. For a limited time you can preorder for $9.99 ($5 off the launch day price), and you receive 2 copies - one to give away to someone special.
I promise you: this game will be weird.
First off, exciting reminder:
Gravity Ghost will be available for preorder next Monday, August 26!
You can purchase it via the Humble Store on this very website. :) Please help us spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, or however you fancy. Our small indie team thanks you 100%.
Second order of business: swag. And not the kind that teenagers advertise on their t-shirts. The good kind.
Earlier this week I made dozens of little bottles with ghost foxes to sell at our Gravity Ghost booth at PAX. When I was a kid I would make my own toys out of polymer clay. Seen through that lens, my career choice is...unsurprising. :)
Here's what the process looked like:
This tiny fox in a jar shall be my muse!
Stab. In the background are some planet-like treasures to put in the bottles.
Keeping the foxes a constant size. Hey, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, that's a good show!
With the prototype finished, I'm ready to begin mass production
This little guy sits comfortably on a penny
Just 64 more to go!
Craft station alpha. Nerdy poster art sold separately.
One of the bottles contains a girl instead of a fox.
Ready for baking!
Meanwhile, my good friend Renee fills the bottles with colorful sand, glitter, beads, bells, feathers, seashells, and tiny stars.
Great job, Renee!
Putting foxes in the bottles. They all fit because I am a wizard.
Always good to have on hand. ...Eh? Eh????
The universe gets revenge for my puns by having me cut dozens of tiny tags.
Ready for stopperin'! Time to get the hot glue gun and the plastic gems.
All done! That's a giant spoon on a regular-sized table, if that helps.
Teal or no teal?
Blue ocean of stars.
All that's missing is a new home. If you're coming to PAX, stop on by the Gravity Ghost zone at the Indie Megabooth, and one of these can be yours :).
Exciting news: Gravity Ghost will be available for preorder on PC, Mac, and Linux starting on August 26! Just in time for PAX. :) Check out these all-new screenshots we've made for the occasion.
In other exciting news, Gravity Ghost will have its own booth at the Indie Megabooth at PAX. So if you happen to be going, please stop by and say hello!
Continuing my proud tradition of splashing colorful game art all over everything, I've created a Pinterest page with all sorts of never-before-seen game art. I always enjoy scrolling back through my process work, and I figured y'all might find it interesting as well. :)
One last order of internet business: I created a brand new Facebook page for the game, if you're into that sort of thing. Or feel free to sign up for our mailing list below to be the first to know when the game is available for preorder. You can also follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!
Last week at E3 we had the chance to share the game with Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku. I admit I was a bit nervous - E3 is where all the megamillion-dollar video games show off their newest and greatest features. What would a game made by a small team have to offer that would interest a mainstream gaming news site?
As it turns out I needn't have worried. Kirk was kind enough to call Gravity Ghost "The Little Indie Mario Galaxy that Could." In the following video he interviews me about the game as I play through a few minutes of it (This is also your first chance to see some of the new planet types in action). Check it on out!
Since my latest post is about animation, I thought it'd be fun to make a video. Which I kinda know how to make. Kinda.
In a little over three minutes I talk about the drawbacks of hand-drawn 2D animation, the fun of working with a fancy animation tool called SmoothMoves, and the new life we're bringing to our ghostly heroine.
Now that we've got the story planets in place, I thought I'd give them a preliminary art pass.
Far away view (if you're concerned about spoilers, I'd avoid the zoomed-in view):
Closeup of treehouse:
It's nice to have something approaching the final color palette of the art in the game (especially as you fly around). And the fact that this isn't final art has been very freeing, creatively. The treehouse's line art is sketchy here, but I think that gives it a more lifelike quality. I'll try to keep that as we move ahead with more art polish in the coming weeks.