Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Edmund Mcmillen Independently good, but is it for the wrong reasons

Hey Folks

This is going to be one of my biggest reports ever on this blog, probably because i have found my ultimate new hero.


Ok so here we go Edmund McMillen is an independent indie games artist and comic book artist. His work is very recognisable for his graphic characters, odd backgrounds and very strange stories for his games. Edmund is responsible for creating popular games such as;

"Gish" Winner of the 2005 IGF Grand Prize, the 2005 IGF Innovation in Game Design, and multiple Game of the Year awards.

"Super Meatboy" Downloadable game of the year - Gamespot (editors choice, Readers Choice), Downloadable game of the year - EGM, Downloadable game of the year - Gametrailers, Most Challenging game of the year - IGN, Most addicting game of the year - Destructiod, Best Soundtrack of the year - Destruciod, Best DLC of the year - Destructiod and Best old School Kick in the ass - Gamesradar.

"The Binding Of Isaac" nominated for Independant game of the Year - VGA

Mcmillen grew up in Santa Cruz California with his mother and stepfather, his mother has always dreamed to live near the beach and so she took her family including Edmund to Santa Cruz along the side of the beach. Despite the attractions and the perfect place for a kid to grow up in Edmund decides to stay indoors whilst drawing and playing video games all day long.

Edmund's mind tend to take him to very strange places and draw strange things, one in particular was monsters illustrating his phobias as a child.
In third grade of school his teacher suggested that Edmund suffered from being mentally disturbed and suggested his art was "A cry for help". Edmund never got on well with his stepfather and when things went out of hand he would stay with his grandmother, she was very supportive of him in everything he did especially his art. when she passed away Edmund realised that she kept all his drawings in a box but written little notes on then describing what Edmund was feeling that day he drew them.

Edmund started a pastime of writing comics with a very dark and eerie style to the illustrations, he wanted to become an independent artist and work for himself to satisfy others so he wrote, designed and printed his own comics. He designed a comic called "This Is A Cry For Help" and promoted it to a company called Slave Labour Graphics and independant company particularly known for dark and humorous off beat comics. Edmund sadly got rejected right away, he tried again a few months later and again got rejected so he decided to promote his comics online.
Edmund started to work online and slowly moved into animation. Strangely enough Edmund never had any art training, he never went to college and just worked on his own. He tried a flash course but failed the programme but he was happy with the experience he needed to get off the ground. Edmund trained himself art basics online and slowly moved his way up to the hard stuff like lighting and anatomy.

When he got into animation he worked with an animator called Dan Paladin who worked on the animations for castle crashers. He suggested to Edmund to pick up "The Animators Survival Kit" a book made by Richard Williams, one of the main character animators for the film "Who framed Roger Rabbit".
Edmund now had some experience on basic animations and artwork for games so he joined a small indie games company called Chronic Logic where he worked for free and created box art for games such as "Bridge Construction Set" and "Tryptych" Eventually Edmund wanted to create a character driven game with basic mechanics so they worked on a game called "Gish" a character made from a blob of tar who can jump and stick to walls and used the environment to defeat his enemies.

By using Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Linux,They created a physics based blob that can mould and move to any shape of the environment keeping the weight and physics mass to the character.

Edmund worked on his first fully independant character driven game called "Cereus Peashy" Created in Flash in 2007.
When a Peashy comes of age, he is given a mask made from the skull of a Kankerling and sent on the trial of Ire. Working his way through Golgotha, the young Cereus Peashy must prove his worth by killing all who cross his path.
Eventually making his way to the Fall City where like his ancestors before him, he will adorn the Crimson Mask and become a true Cereus Peashy.
Edmund worked with Tom Fulp who worked on the flash version of "Alien Homonid" together they worked on all the mechanics, animations, colouring of "Cereus Peashy" but eventually Tom Got an offer to make "Alien Homonid" into a console game so he couldn't work with Edmund anymore which meant he had to work independently again.
Edmunds influences were a combination of computer games, illustrations, different people and cartoons he watched when he was younger aswel as today.

He has been inspired by his niece to create a game called "Aether" about a boy who climbs on top of a monster and they fly around outer space exploring different planets. He meets odd and weird looking creatures who needs his help to solve their problems but when he does they are still never satisfied. As he solves these problems that planet grows smaller and smaller until eventually the boy could hold the planet in his hands and the earth breaks.

Edmunds aim of this game was to let people understand and look into his mind when he was a child. To explain that its great to have all these wonderful ideas and go all out t uncover them and explore them, but it pays a price of isolation and being obsessed with things that never seem perfect no matter how much you have done to change it for the better.
He has been inspired by animations such as; "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Ren and Stimpy"

You can see from his influences and these pictures or Ren and Stimpy where he gets his gruesome images from but what really gets me is his influences from "The Garbage Pail Kids" these are illustrations of some of the most bizarre things i have ever seen even more gruesome that what i would come up with.

Edmunds disgusting characters

Edmund used to go to church a lot when he was younger and when he created "The Binding Of Isaac" the inspiration for this game came from biblical terms, as such Isaac's mother was told by God to sacrifice Isaac to prove her faith of love in God. The same idea as the story of Isaac in the Bible but Edmund creates a horrible twist in this game with dead babies, monsters with diseases and man eating silk worms all trapped inside a basement in which issac descends into to hide from his psychotic mother.
Edmund has been inspired by Miyamoto who is the creator of the "Super Mario" franchise. Also in the fact that Miyamoto like to explore outside and gather inspirations from all around the world. As Edmund explains himself.

"the world outside your room is important. It can also be very inspiring. Go take an adventure, then come home and write a game about it. That's what Miyamoto did. I believe that you can't be inspired without living."
So onto the games you know a bit about him so here is my talk about the games.

I have only played three of his games which are "Cereus peashy", "Super Meatboy" and "The Binding of Isaac"

So lets start with "Cereus Peashy"

The first thing i notice right away is the design of the character, Its a cactus with a mask a very unusual but interesting character to play with a quest to kill everything in his path.
The environment is in the dessert with warm colours to help display the dessert there is a balance between background, middle ground and foreground. The background is blurred with a mist to show what a typical dessert would look like also there are birds in the background so that shows more life around the world. The middle ground has usage of thick and light lines to portray depth in the mountains and the environment. The foreground has some clouds and effects of dust past by as you play.
You would expect to fight characters like scorpions and snakes but that is not the case edmund surpassingly makes you fight dead featus birds and strange floating monsters with stitches and little bug eyes.
The thing that catches my eye is the animation there are lots of things here that interest me.

First Peashy, when he is standing still he is shaking all over the place which to me could indicate he's insane, there is a good usage of squash and stretch in the character particularly when he runs, as his foot lands on the ground his head squashes to show weight in his cactus like head. good sense of gravity when he jumps with the delay at the peak of his double jump height with a somersault effect. good use of squash and stretch when he lands on the ground or jumps on enemies. I can see the anticipation when he emits his double jump.

The enemies in which some of them are called dumplings are with good qualities among the few i have seen during gameplay, if you notice the little dumpling enemies that stay in one place tend to have a unique squash to them which gives off their individuality as an enemy in the game, however the jumping enemies have no anticipation as they jump upwards. Then again the bird fetus boss has nice anticipation before he coughs up his blood ball.

there are nice animated effects in the dust that comes off Peashy and also when the enemies die theres a nice splatter of blood onto the camera and i like that sort of thing myself. The music is alright i feel that it needs to have a bit more of a beat going through it because this is a fast paced game to play. some of the sound effects are recognisable so i feel there should have been some originality in the effects.

Above all its a great little game to play but be warned it is extremely difficult to play and if you are not into all the gore and violence, then its not for you.

So second is "Super Meatboy"

The first thing i notice is that "Supermeat" Boy is heavily influenced by quite a few popular gaming franchises. The story is simple go through the levels to save your girlfriend, there are secret warp zone areas and unlockables to collect. the gameplay itself is influenced by Super Mario with the jumping abilities and the animation of supermeatboy because he raises his hand in the air like mario and can jump off walls just like mario.

When you enter the different worlds there are some introductions that are familiar to games such as the megaman introduction with the camera panning upwards a building with supermeatboy sitting on top of the building beaten up.

The first introduction of the first level is a reference from Street fighter however it is turned to a humorous state where Dr Fetus punches Meatboy's girlfriend in the face.

what is interesting about this game is the design of the environment its a simple looking style to play on with some effects of clouds and lighting when some of the obstacles become destroyed. Also when you go into a warp zone the whole game changes into a retro style platform and when you enter the dark world the whole environment turns into a silhouette style so very simple style but good use of the effects for the game.

there is not a lot of animation in this game that might be because of how the balance of gameplay comes into it. The levels you play you need to see practically the whole environment to see where to go. Also the characters are very small in the levels which is needed so you can see where to jump to or avoid. The cutscenes in the game were generated in flash, there are some squash and stretch but not enough to make them look visually pleasing. Its more about the gameplay rather than the story and the animation itself.
Lastly "The Binding of Isaac"

This is Edmunds most recent game to come out, this game has been heavily influenced by "The Legend of Zelda" franchise particularly the older style games where you complete the dungeon rooms to access the next one and finally defeat the bosses.

I feel that this is edmunds best style for animation and character design, every character has a unique style to their design in which they all fit perfectly in the world of Isaac each character has a unique way of attacking and all share the same principles of squash and stretch with anticipation and a good sense of weight and gravity.

The references are very well thought into place for example a troll bomb, Trolls are people who cause problems on the internet by putting irrelevant and offensive comments on peoples videos, messages and debates. In result these trolls cause problems and when you are playing isaac if you defeat and enemy or sometime clear a room one or 7 troll bombs appear in the room causing, "problems"

The interesting thing about isaac is the items you collect, these items changes your character design and makes you maybe more appealing or maybe more gruesome. However the game is very difficult to play but that is deliberate because the aim of the game is to not complete the game but collect all the items in the game by getting better at it.

So there you have it that is my small review about Edmund McMillen i have another article to write about him sharing what i personally feel about his work and his influences on me plus there is a debate about piracy that he discusses so i want to do that too.

so here are a few places where you could play some of the games :D

(Cereus Peashy) http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/358510

(Aether) http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/459147

(Super Meatboy) http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/463241

(The Binding of Isaac) http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/581168

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