How do you bring a character to life in a retro-styled 8bit mobile gaming experience? This was the objective at hand in my first assignment as a lead designer for the game, Beat the Blerch. The Blerch is procrastination’s incarnate, created by Matthew Inman for the Oatmeal series, an iconic comic strip.
I set out by by researching the Oatmeal website and looking at a graphic novel based on the comic series, “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances." I soon discovered the hilarity of the Blerch. For further inspiration, I also looked up some recent pixel based games like Canabalt and Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage and games from my childhood like Super Mario Bros and Sonic. The phenomenal pixel artist, Paul Robertson was also a source of creative influence in the overall 90's nostalgia of my first designs and all their pixel glory.
After my initial designs, I decided to go with a homelier looking runner, desperately evading a monstrous Blerch. Adding a grayscale background with colored accents helped capture the beautifully crude style of Matthew Inman’s Oatmeal comics. Lines that are bold and varied in weight coupled with changing character proportions from panel to panel keep the style loose and funny.
Taking a step back, I felt Inman’s characters had too much personality to be boxed into an 8bit retro style. I addressed this by creating fully rendered runner characters in our next design deck. This felt more true to the way Inman had drawn them. The clients loved this touch!
By far Beat the Blerch has been my favorite project to work on. Not only did it incorporate my background in film and animation but it further enhanced the camaraderie between the departments. Sharing memories like watching our President’s face light up when Jeremy, our Junior Engineer added the Blerch character into the game scene for the first time. Or looking over and seeing our QA testers having fun debugging those early builds. At the end of it all, our team left their imprint and I my first shot as a lead designer wrapped in success.