4 years, 12 countries and a woodblock artist: The Incredipede story

Incredipede, an upcoming puzzle game from developer Colin Northway, was written in over a dozen different countries by a globetrotting backpacker and a woodblock artist with no video game experience.
The average game development story is, frankly, a bit dull, no matter how you attempt to spruce it up. Tales of ambition and great inspirational values usually work to cover up the fact that, for the most part, developers sat at computers every day hammering furiously away on keyboards in an entirely unexciting manner. Some game development stories prove a little more intriguing than that. Incredipede, an upcoming physics-based puzzle game from developer Colin Northway, was written in over a dozen different countries while the dev was backpacking around the world with his wife Sarah (who was also creating a game, Rebuild, on the move.) Those following the game will also know that it recently underwent a huge visual revamp, courtesy of artist Thomas Shahan. But what these people may not know is that Shahan was an artist who focused primarily on woodblocks, and Northway found him through Wikipedia, of all places. "When we travel, we like to spend one to three months in one place," explains Northway. "This makes traveling way cheaper (you can rent by the month) and it makes getting work done way easier. A few months is long enough to roll into a routine and really get some work done." "That being said, if we're in a big exciting city like Istanbul or Tokyo it can be hard to sit down and work. It's better if we're out in the middle of nowhere on a beach." Moving around so often can cause big problems, as you'd expect. When the couple were in the Philippines, for example, Sarah had finished up development on the iOS version of Rebuild, but didn't have a good enough internet connection to upload it to the App Store. She had to resort to putting the game on DropBox and asking developer friend Steph Therion (Faraway, Eliss) to upload it to Apple for her.

Chip away

And then there's the story of meeting Shahan. Northway was looking at the Wikipedia page for jumping spiders, no doubt as research for his own game, and really liked the picture that was used on the page. He tracked down the artist of the image, found all of Shahan's illustrations, and immediately fell in love with his style, especially his woodblock print Pond Gathering. "Thomas had never worked on video games before Incredipede, but he played them growing up and was game literate," notes Northway. "In a woodblock print you start with a solid surface and then cut away where you want there to be no ink. For some of the work in Incredipede, Thomas started with a solid black image on his computer and then 'carved' away the black with his tablet." Another rather extraordinary fact about Incredipede - Northway spent a whole two years prototyping game ideas before he settled for the concept behind Incredipede. He then took another two years to create the game.

"Games are about the interaction of systems," he says. "This interaction is really hard to imagine in your head. You can have a guess about what a game might be like but you don't actually know until you build it. This is why there are so few good original games." Two failed prototypes include a game where you build a brain out of birds, and a 2D platformer that utilized the Captain Forever engine by developer Farbs. "I might go back to the bird game," muses Northway. "It's beguiling." Incredipede is gearing up for a release next month, and is currently available for pre-order from Northway's website. It's also one of the most popular games on Steam Greenlight at the moment. Northway is "pretty confident that Incredipede is going to get in [to Steam via Greenlight], but I'm not counting any chickens."

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