A is for Art, M is for Mature

I’ve been thinking a bit about what Life Flashes By would get rated, whether by the ESRB or otherwise, if I had to submit it for such. What spurred this thought was a handful of people asking me about my juxtaposition of cartoonish artwork with somewhat more heavy subject matter, sometimes prefaced with questions as to who the game’s target audience is. We’re fortunately at a point in cultural history where it’s getting less common to automatically assume that all cartoons are for kids, but a few remnants of that mentality do still exist. To such questions, I cite works such as Persepolis, of which I’m a big fan, both in graphic novel and film form. Admittedly, the story I’ve written here isn’t nearly that heavy, but the example works all the more, and most people in my social circle seem to “get it” once I bring it up.

Further clarifying my rationale are the ideas in Scott McCloud’s triangle from Understanding Comics — which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, somewhere, for those of you who’ve been reading me for a while. I don’t want to invoke a realistic art style over an iconic one, because this isn’t a story about the real world; it’s about the somewhat skewed world in a particular woman’s mind. On a related note, a question I haven’t yet been asked, but what I see inferred in a few off-hand comments, is why, now that I’ve started to recruit other people to do artwork for me, didn’t I outsource the character art to more talented [1] artists, when I did so for the background art? I figured that having more detailed, yet abstract, surrealist backgrounds would give more of an impression of the world as a strange, unfamiliar place (which is definitely how Charlotte sees it) and Scott McCloud argues that more detail in artwork brings about a greater sense of “otherness”, rather than the personal identification a more symbolic representation would portray. Marcela Roberts, having submitted some art for DREAMING a while back, had what I thought was the perfect style to convey this. Goodness knows I myself don’t have the patience.

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  1. Or, if you prefer, educated.
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Isolation Revisited

I’m remembering a post I wrote over two and a half years ago. It’s the post that my friend Corvus brings up whenever anyone asks how he met me, as I was responding to his own musings as to why there aren’t very many games that explore themes of isolation by pointing out that, well, several of mine do, and hey, maybe he’d be interested. [1] Two and a half years later, I’ve just released my biggest project of the intervening time period, where the theme of isolation is not only present, but so prominently centre stage that it’s practically yelling in your face about how it’s so lonely and nobody loves it and won’t you please give the game a hug, already?

I’m sure people who’ve played the game have noticed this theme, both in text and in subtext. Charlotte is a lonely person, but in a way, she brings it upon herself by constantly rationalising her aloneness, in an “it could be worse” sort of way. There’s also the argument that she doesn’t really know how not to be lonely. And then there are the things the game will and will not allow you to do, so you’re essentially stuck in Charlotte’s limited thought patterns, only able to say or do the things that she herself would. I wonder how many people noticed that none of the characters touch one another as they converse — there’s a reason for that beyond the fact that I’m too lazy to animate them doing so. Even in scenes where Charlotte expresses her feelings for who she’s talking to, there’s a certain stilted awkwardness in her delivery.

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  1. Incidentally, I’m kind of embarrassed by the tone of that post, which reads as way more smug and sarcastic than I’d like it to. Truth be told, I was too scared to just send Corvus a polite, friendly e-mail. I hope he’s able to forgive me for that.
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Making Some Noise

Last night, at several people’s urging, I posted the soundtrack album to Life Flashes By online. I had a lot of fun making the game’s music this time around, particularly since this is the first time I’ve done a soundtrack using mostly real instruments. It’s not a professional-quality recording, by any means — the only gear I have to work with is a Blue Snowball mic and GarageBand — but given the general low-budget indie nature of the entire game, I think it’s fitting.

Anyway, yes, in case you’re wondering, all the music on this album is performed by myself, under the name “Squinky & the Squinkettes”, which is the new moniker for all my solo musical acts, the rationale being, of course, that no one I know would ever want to be in a band called “Squinky & the Squinkettes”. [1] The instruments that make at least one appearance are an archtop guitar, a euphonium, [2] a cornet [3] occasionally played with mutes, a bass guitar, a MIDI keyboard, a didgeridoo, a kazoo, and my voice. I’m most proud of “Rejection Song”, since it’s the first time I’ve actually done an honest to goodness full-length song for a game, as opposed to short little themes that loop, but I’m also quite proud of “Persian Tea & Baklava”, which was done in the style of a chain-smoking Turkish singer I’ve performed with on occasion, [4] as well as “Thirteen Eight”, which is what I came up with when I challenged myself to write a piece in 13/8 time.

Finally, since at least one person asked for it, I’ve also put up a credits page, so folks won’t have to go through the trouble of playing the game over again to see who worked on it. Hopefully, I’ve spelled everyone’s name correctly.

  1. This could, of course, change if I ever perform my original music live and enlist other people to play with me. If they don’t run away in terror, that is.
  2. A euphonium is a miniature tuba that plays in the trombone range.
  3. A cornet is basically a slightly rounder trumpet.
  4. Sadly, since I myself am not a smoker, my voice is about an octave higher than hers would be.
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…and it’s here!

Finally! The moment you’ve all been waiting for: Life Flashes By is now available for public consumption! Grab it here! [1]

It’s been a bit of a rough road getting this game finished, but it’s been rewarding every step of the way, and I can honestly say I’ve done my best work. I haven’t worked on a project this demanding and personal in quite some time; as you can imagine, I’m overjoyed to finally be able to have something to show for it. Meanwhile, I hope you all enjoy spending time with Charlotte and Trevin as much as I have over these past several months.

  1. I’m referring to this version of the game as the beta version, but I mean “beta” in more of a Google sense than anything else. Which is to say, it’s complete, but may have bugs — hopefully not terribly serious ones, though. If you find any, please let me know about them, either by commenting or sending me a message through the contact form!
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One more day…

Oh, would you look at that? I’ve been so busy working hard on Life Flashes By that I forgot I even had a blog. My apologies. Good news is, however, that the game’s on track to be released tomorrow. Excited yet? I know I am. Well, I’m also really, really nervous, but who wouldn’t be?

Anyway, in case you’re looking for something to do in the meantime, why not follow @cebarclay and @ManicPixieGuy on Twitter? Because, you know, everyone’s always in need of more fictional characters to follow on Twitter, and stuff.

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Site Prettification

You may or may not have noticed that I’ve redesigned this site to something far cleaner and web two point oh-like than what it used to be. [1] You also may or may not have noticed that I’m starting to use more Life Flashes By artwork around the site, and that I’ve posted a few “coming soon” messages. I suppose you can therefore say I’ve started the process of ushering in a new era of sorts.

As such, I figure I should mention that the game itself is closer and closer to being done, and provided nothing horrible happens to me in the next few weeks, I will be releasing an open beta on November 23. So, it won’t be done done, but it will be fully featured and playable from start to finish, which will hopefully satisfy the eager beavers among you.

Meanwhile, you’ve got until Monday to audition for my last voiceover parts, so have at them, if you haven’t already.

  1. Actually, all I did was take WordPress 3′s default theme and sprinkle it with my own images. Didn’t even have to touch any code. Go figure.
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Lend me your voices: third time’s the charm!

Great news, everyone: I’ve finished up enough of the LFB dialogue that I’m now ready to do the third and final round of voice casting! Most of these are smallish parts, and sadly, I don’t have head shots for them this time around. (particularly since I haven’t even drawn many of them yet!) However, if you’re hankering for one last chance to have your voice immortalised in an indie game, and want a signed physical copy of said game when it’s done, now’s your chance!

Send all voice samples to “voices at deirdrakiai dot com” in any sound format of your choosing, in as high quality as possible, by Friday, October 8 Monday, October 11.

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