Software Development

The hand-painted production cycle of mobile game Catball Eats It All

[kickstarter url= width=420] The concept of Catball Eats It All, a developing new mobile game with ties to Philly, is simple. Your goal is to eat everything in sight. The more you eat, the bigger you get. And the bigger you are, the more you’re able to eat. There’s not a lot innovative about that. […]

[kickstarter url= width=420]
The concept of Catball Eats It All, a developing new mobile game with ties to Philly, is simple.
Your goal is to eat everything in sight. The more you eat, the bigger you get. And the bigger you are, the more you’re able to eat.
There’s not a lot innovative about that.
The members of the development team Broken Compass Studios, coordinated by Project Manager Jeff Hsu, were inspired by games like Katamari Damacy, where players collect objects on a sticky ball that gets bigger and bigger, and Super Mario Galaxy, where the player inhabits small orbiting worlds instead of recognizable two-dimensional Mario levels.
But where Catball is unique is in its art direction.
The concept art and mockups created for this in-progress development are all hand-painted, which gives the game a feeling of unpolished yet sophisticated perfectionism.

The art is produced by the increasingly recognizable Philly native street artist Yisrawayl Goodwin — who friends call Yis for short, but is known as NoseGo in the art world. You may have seen his work covering the side of the under-new-ownership Tyson Bees food truck, or his mural on the side of a building at 4th and Porter streets in South Philadelphia, commissioned by the Mural Arts Program.
Composer Ben Thornewill, a member of local band Jukebox the Ghost, which is making strides itself, has committed to making the game’s soundtrack.
The game’s art production process is delicate.
A designer comes up with a concept and creates a basic blueprint for a level in Adobe Illustrator. The blueprint is imported in the the iOS software developers kit and physics are added, and the edges and shapes of the blueprint are refined. The designer then sends the Illustrator file to Goodwin, who prints it out and crafts it by hand.
“The image is tabloid size sheet of paper, larger than legal or letter size,” Goodwin says. “We have to make sure it’s larger then what we are reducing it to so the quality isn’t lost. I keep it pretty traditional to what I normally do, using mixed media with an aerosol base, acrylic on top of that, then for fine detail, use a fine paintbrush or marker.”
Then the print is scanned back into digital form and edited in Photoshop. If the painting doesn’t match up perfectly, the team adds a few other software manipulations to make it work.

The visuals are a striking difference when compared to popular vector-based games like Angry Birds, which is currently a leading mobile game.
With its unique approach, the team is in the final days of an attempt to raise money to support the project — specifically, the team says it’s raising money for licensing fees and to support art and music production costs — on Kickstarter.
With only six days left in the campaign, and not yet half way to it’s goal, the team has raised $1,860 of its $4,000, with 56 supporters behind the project.
Hsu, who coordinates the team from New York, says that even if the fundraising campaign isn’t fully committed, the team will press on. It wouldn’t be the first time the team had to make an unexpected change.
Originally, plans were to create a children’s e-book based around the Catball character. But the medium shifted as the production team came together. Hsu was in touch with a pair of game developers based in Salt Lake City, Utah, who liked the idea, and since then, the group has taken the book idea and turned it into a game built for mobile devices. The team hopes to launch the game this fall, with a port to Android to follow.
“When we first got to talking, we all shared a love of games. We were looking at Yis’s art, the really cute, fuzzy characters,” Hsu says. They agreed that making a game was the best way to realize the concept.
To date, nearly everyone on the team is working other full-time jobs and working on Catball in their spare time. Goodwin is a full-time artist, doing commissioned work, murals and working on retail designs for t-shirts and toys. The team’s two developers are students that are working on the application before fall semester begins.
To keep things in order, the team meets nightly by conference call. “What makes it work is that everyone is really motivated and really excited for the project,” Hsu says.
“Hopefully when it’s finished, it would be like a playable painting,” Goodwin says.

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