Episode 20: Spellcorked and Inventory Hero (Special Format!)

[00:00:00] Christa Mrgan: Welcome to the Playdate podcast, bringing you stories from game designers, developers, and the team behind Playdate, the little yellow game console with a crank. I’m Christa Mrgan. This week’s episode is again in a special format, where instead of doing an episode for each of the games in week nine of Playdate Season One, I invited the teams from Spellcorked, and Inventory Hero to play each other’s games and get on Zoom for a joint interview they could ask each other questions.

[00:00:27] Spoiler alert: we talk about the overall gist of both games and some details are revealed, including an Easter egg or two. So consider yourself warned. First, let’s meet the teams!

[00:00:38] Ryan Splendorr: I am Ryan Splendorr. I was the artist on Spellcorked.

[00:00:41] Nick Splendorr: Hi I’m Nick Splendorr. I’ve led the development, I guess I programmed most of Spellcorked.

[00:00:46] Jada Gibbs: I’m Jada Gibbs and I came up with the concept and did the design for Spellcorked.

[00:00:52] Steven Frank: Hi, I’m Steven Frank and I had the idea for Inventory Hero and contributed somewhat to the design and prototypes.

[00:01:00] James Moore: Hi, my name’s James Moore and I did the programming on Inventory hero.

[00:01:05] Neven Mrgan: I’m Neven Mrgan and I did the art on Inventory Hero and a little bit of design.

[00:01:09] Nick Suttner: I’m, I’m Nick Suttner and I had the chaotic idea of two teams, interviewing each other with us, so

[00:01:15] Christa Mrgan: Yes, thanks Nick. I think both of these special format episodes in this season worked out really well, I’m so glad you suggested this and that you were able to join in for this episode.

[00:01:24] So now I’ll have everyone tell you a little bit about their games and then just let the conversation unfold from there. We’ll start with Spellcorked.

[00:01:33] Jada Gibbs: I think I’ll let Nick take this one.

[00:01:34] Nick Splendorr: Oh me?

[00:01:35] Jada Gibbs: Yeah. You always say it really well.

[00:01:37] Nick Splendorr: Oh, okay. Let me see if I remember. Okay, so Spellcorked is a game about being a young witch who’s just graduated college and you’re setting up an online store to deliver potions to people in need. we you know, looked at WarioWare and visual novels and also the, just like classics of literature you know, put something, no, I’m just kidding. And uh, you know, it has a daily cycle where each day you wake up, you check your e-meow uh, see if you have any orders or new ingredients. And just try to guess what you need to make as best you can and hope to impress your professor, your girlfriend, and the

[00:02:12] Steven Frank: Inventory Hero is uh, sort of an action R P G, where Everything is sort of taken care for you except the inventory management, which is your responsibility in the game.

[00:02:24] Christa Mrgan: Cool. Can each group just gimme a little background about if and how you’ve worked together before? is it just a coincidence that two of the people on your team have the last name Splendorr, Spellcorked folks, or is that…?

[00:02:34] Nick Splendorr: Total coincidence. Yeah, we’d never met

[00:02:37] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah, it, it’s it’s so strange.

[00:02:39] Nick Suttner: I’ve noticed that you both, you both pronounced your last name slightly differently, which was very confusing to me

[00:02:44] Nick Splendorr: Well, you know, we come from different, parts of the house. You know, we are, we’re brothers, and we grew up down the hall from each other. So yeah, we have totally different regional dialects, yeah, Ryan and I have been working creative stuff together ever since he was born. I think. I’m a little bit older, and so before that I had to go solo until I was about three, And

[00:03:01] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah. I I joined, I joined the band a little bit late. They say.

[00:03:04] Nick Splendorr: Right. But he and I you know, sort of went different divergent paths as adults and then came back around together to doing things as a team. and we worked on a game called Bug Speed Collider with our friend Tony Ghostbrite, who also joined development of Spellcorked about halfway through to help us finish the code on that.

[00:03:21] Um, we did that a few years ago and we’ve worked on different stuff, collaborated in different ways and uh, when Jada asked me if I would help program this thing. I said, okay, but like, we gotta get Ryan, right?

[00:03:32] Jada Gibbs: To which absolutely yes yes, but in terms of us knowing each other I think were all brought together by a mutual friend. So

[00:03:40] Nick Splendorr: we met while Ryan and I were wearing Fox kigurumies at Pax West in 2015 or 16 2016, I think promoting what is now called Tunic the game. So we helped just work the booth, and Jada was stationed right around the corner and we became fast friends. So

[00:03:58] Ryan Splendorr: yes, it was, it was a very, very nice meeting for all of us. We kind. of were new to a booth scene of any kind and had been dragged along. And I got called in secondarily to just be like a fox that people could look at and interact with and ended up having a great time there, but kind of found solace with the booths around us and Jada was one of one of the people that we connected with the most. So that’s kind of how, how we started that. And then kind of saw each other at different conventions throughout the years and formed a friendship and then decided to work on stuff together.

[00:04:34] Christa Mrgan: That’s great. so Spellcorked is the first thing you’ve collaborated on together? And , how did you first hear about Playdate and what made you want to make a game for it?

[00:04:43] Jada Gibbs: Great question. how did we first hear about Playdate? I believe our mutual friend Felix had mentioned about the Playdate after it was initially announced. And the concept sounded really interesting to me. I’ve always been A big fan of smaller handheld consoles and the crank sounded wonderful and the idea of a tactile game where you’re crafting with potion ingredients has always been something I’ve been really excited about. And the first, the first thing that got me really thinking about the implementation of it in recent years was the HD Rumble on the Switch Joycons. And so I’d been thinking about it after they did the big talk about the HD Rumble. And then we heard about the Playdate and I was like, oh, that would also be really, really perfect for something where you’re crafting and working with ingredients and having something that feels a little more tactile.

[00:05:28] Nick Splendorr: Yeah. I first heard About the Playdate because I’ve been using Panic software since the early two thousands. So, you know, I I’ve worked most of my career as a web developer, so I’ve had Transmit installed on every computer for 20 years.

[00:05:40] Christa Mrgan: Transmit is Panic’s FTP Client. Did you know Panic Makes Mac Software?

[00:05:45] Nick Splendorr: And, um, yeah, been following along and, and was super excited to hear that y’all were doing a console of all things and really admire the work that you’ve done with, Untitled Goose and, all the game stuff has been really great.

[00:05:54] So, Very excited like, when Jada said, oh, do you wanna help me make a Playdate game? I was like, are you for real,

[00:06:00] I that, that thing’s really cool. And so yeah, Here we are.

[00:06:04] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah. And I, I, for me, I I kind of heard about it from a consumer perspective from the get go. Like, You know, if you follow gaming news Playdate was announced at a certain point, and you just see this little handhold with a crank and you just go, oh, that’s, that’s something cool. That’s interesting.

[00:06:20] And as a pixel artist for quite a while at this point, it kind of struck that chord in me. I was like, ah, man, black and white. Like, we’re just getting back to the basics. Crisp pixel art, that’s a, a really nice thing to exist in the world. So when the opportunity came around to actually work on something for it Nick and Jada both approached me and, and asked if I would like to help with the game. And I said, heck yeah. So here we are.

[00:06:45] Christa Mrgan: Oh, Fantastic. And so Neven, James and Steven, you all have worked together before.

[00:06:50] Neven Mrgan: Yeah, all James and Steve and I all work at Panic. We have for years and years now. And then Steve and I have worked in a number of like small game prototypes or game ideas just here and there. And James and I have uh, worked on some iOS games Black Bar and Gray Out together. So I’m very happy to work with both of them on any new game thing.

[00:07:13] Christa Mrgan: James, how’d you first hear about the Playdate ? Just kidding.

[00:07:15] James Moore: Well, the Playdate was the worst kept secret at least that I knew of for years because everybody at Panic, you know, it was supposed to be top secret for a long time, but I know I was telling my friends about this weird thing I was working on. I mean, I was going to Malaysia. I couldn’t say why I, I couldn’t exactly say I was, wasn’t going to Malaysia for work. Um,

[00:07:38] Yeah, for transmit imported . SFTP protocols. Yeah, so I’m actually surprised to hear from the Spellcorked team that they didn’t actually hear about it through word of mouth, through the very broad network that Panic has because everybody was telling everybody, I think at least one or two degrees of separation away. Yeah, so I’m the youngest of the three four Panic employees here at 11 years working at Panic, so I’ve known Steven Neven for a long time and gaming and game philosophizing is something we all do a lot of here, so working on games is just totally natural.

[00:08:22] Steven Frank: Well, i, I’ve been with Panic since day one. I’m one of the founders, so, it’s, it’s pretty cool to hear from Nick that you’ve been using Transmit for 20 years and that’s, it’s awesome. so yeah, we’ve taken a weird course from Mac software to game publishing to hardware console, and, we, we have some other podcast episodes that are more about the history of Playdate, but it’s, it’s a pretty interesting story of, of how we got there. So I encourage people, listen to those if they’re interested. But yeah, I guess that’s all I’d say about that one.

[00:08:49] Nick Suttner: I, I think, if I’m remembering right too from the Panic side, and Christa can cut this out if this is not true, but I believe as well you mentioned Felix as, as a connection to the Spellcorked team um, as well for quite helping get this project started.

[00:09:01] Christa Mrgan: Yeah, I’ve definitely mentioned Felix Kramer on this podcast before, but they’re an awesome producer and game biz dev person who helped Panic out a lot with both Untitled Goose game and Playdate.

[00:09:11] Nick Suttner: And I think, if I remember right, it was at a point where Felix and I were doing some consulting for Panic and sort of talking with Steven and everyone about the, the kind of season one lineup we were planning. And I think you know, because it was such a long project, I think for a while a lot of things felt kind of iffy of like, oh, there’s a lot of games in production, but we don’t know who’s going to sort of stick around to see it through.

[00:09:29] And so maybe let’s like get a few more irons in the fire and also talk to some teams who were like, want to tangibly like start a thing now, even though it’s relatively late in the, Playdate, life cycle, but it’s still a ways away from release. and I Believe that, that you were one of the teams uh, or at least as individuals, maybe not a team yet.

[00:09:44] I, I, I’m not sure that Felix had in mind. they Were like, . Oh yeah. I know some great folks who I imagine would love to make a game, and it sounds like you’d all heard of Playdate already. and I think very quickly it was clear that uh, you all had like pitch and a great clear vision for this, even as a really unique game.

[00:09:57] So that was cool to see come together.

[00:10:00] Nick Splendorr: Yeah, Thanks.

[00:10:00] Nick Suttner: I think one thing that I noticed about both these games actually is that one commonality is that they both feel like a piece that could have been like extracted from a larger, like full fledged rpg. Like this could be like a, you know, in like the Witcher or something you could like, play both these games in, in some way.

[00:10:17] But it feels like you took this piece and then like made it its interesting own thing and then built it into a, a, you know, a full game that’s still like a bit arcade-y to kind of fit with the hardware. But I’m curious if that’s how both teams think about it. And is that an interesting framework to think about making smaller games within?

[00:10:32] Nick Splendorr: I would say so. we Definitely talked a lot about the scope at the beginning of development and it would’ve been very natural for Spellcorked to have a component where you leave the house and go exploring and looking for ingredients and that sort of thing. And of course, that would just be a whole other game on top of the game that we made and So our initial, our initial design work was around, okay, what is this system capable of? what’s included? How do we use the crank in the most interesting ways that we can figure out? there were definitely a lot of decisions around like, okay, well instead of leaving the house, what if we just make a really detailed house?

[00:11:10] What if we just lean in and make the parts that are here as detailed as we can? That seems like a, a similar maybe focus for Inventory Hero too, where you’re just like, all right, let’s concentrate on this, like one piece of the experience rather than trying to manage your movement as well as when you’re attacking and all of that stuff. Right?

[00:11:27] Neven Mrgan: Yeah, I, I like to think of Inventory Hero as a comedy r p g. Comedy both, in like hopefully the game is a little funny on its own, but also the premise is silly when you think about it because it’s like, it’s unclear within the story of the game why this is all you’re doing. Like the fighting is happening automatically, the questing is happening automatically, and you’re handling what should be the most boring like accounting style job for a hero out on a quest, which is like shifting things left and right in your inventory slots. But I love that, then, at least for me, the whole approach was that given that that’s the one hammer that like, Steve Gave us, you know, with his idea for the game, then everything was going to be a nail and like every single thing you did from that, on that point on, whether it’s like equipping gear or you know, having spells or whatever, everything is done in that one mechanic. And that is one of those things of how you shave down, you know, a game with a world and a story and characters into one thing. I like to think of it as looking at a game through a keyhole where it’s like you can see the world on the other side, but you have an eighth of an inch, you know, of a, of a hole to look through. And so you just try to get as much done as possible through that. And there are like some just sort of like realities behind it, which is that this game was made by like two and a half people who have been very busy with like the whole console itself. So we know that we can’t just put in 18 months into this and you know, build out everything we’d love to have. So let’s pick what it is and what it isn’t. Then steve picked, I think, an idea that’s just like narrow enough to, to be doable, but then it’s, it also is rich enough that maybe feels like you are doing different stuff as you’re playing.

[00:13:07] Steven Frank: I, have to credit a lot of the inspiration for Inventory Hero comes from a windows game that was kind of, uh, cult classic in the early two thousands called Progress Quest. I see some heads nodding in the, in the zoom here, but yeah. It was, like, not, not a traditional game, game with graphics. You launch it, it looks like a Windows app, you know, it looks almost like a spreadsheet.

[00:13:27] And you, you roll your character and you get your stats, and then there’s basically a go button. and You hit go and this progress bar fills up, you know, killing a skeleton, 10%, 20%, 30%, killing an or 10%, 20% thing. And you just let it sit in the background and occasionally your, your experience points go up and you level up and then your character returns to town to sell all their, their loot and then goes back to the dungeon to fight. You literally don’t do anything. And, and in a way, this is the, the, the I think the granddaddy of, of all current mobile games like, you know, the, the whole genre of idle games, um so that game was a little bit in, in the back of my mind. But also I really enjoy games like. You know, Diablo, any, anything where you’re, you’re collecting loot and then going into your inventory like, okay, this is like 10% better than what I already have, and swapping it out. And it just kind of struck me as an amusing idea that, you know, it’s at a point, it becomes more about the inventory management than the actual, like the fighting part is kind of secondary. It’s like really about like, can I get gear that has, you know, very slightly better stats and, and uh, now I’m stronger and better. And so I guess that was the, the origin of the Inventory Hero idea.

[00:14:36] James Moore: Steve, I can’t help but think that Borderlands also influenced you on this concept, 'cuz I know you love Borderlands.

[00:14:41] Steven Frank: I’m not proud of my love for Borderlands

[00:14:44] James Moore: the comedy and the inventory management.

[00:14:46] Steven Frank: but yes, I’ve played hundreds of hours of Borderlands and it’s, it’s not so much that it’s a fantastic game, but yeah, getting new loot is, is like every bit as much fun as, as playing a slot machine in a casino is So

[00:14:59] Neven Mrgan: I was originally reminded when, when Steve was first talking about Inventory Hero also of like on my commodore 64 in the eighties, like the football manager games, which were popular in Europe. I’m sure something like that was popular here, but it’s it’s soccer, but you don’t get to play any soccer or see any soccer. You just see a bunch of text screens of which players you’re trading. And so like you’re just handling the boring behind the scenes stuff. And I kind of love that. It has like a “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” kind of like, sort of feel to me where you’re looking at it through the wrong end of the, you know, telescope or something. But that’s, that’s fun, especially once you’re familiar with something as basic as rPGs you know, all the tropes and the setting the game doesn’t even have to establish that for you. You get it.

[00:15:41] Nick Splendorr: Right. That’s a question that Ryan had, sort of related to, like, how much are you communicating like how uh, Ryan do you wanna ask?

[00:15:48] Ryan Splendorr: yeah, yeah I I mean, I guess the, the general question would be like, what was the process of developing how much information you told the player at any point? What was the information architecture needed to convey all this stuff that, you know, you probably know in an R P G already but how did you decide what to show and how to kind of represent that?

[00:16:12] Because in, in my play through of the game, it, it was super hectic to start. It was, I was looking at this and, and you’re, you’re not told anything except, hey, You have some inventory, just manage it well. And the rest of it was this kind of very interesting exploration of the screen space. What I could actually move around. There’s very little like button prompts of any kind or whatnot. And so there’s, there’s a lot of like intangible information. and I’m curious how you guys went through and said, we’re pretty sure they might know this, but how do we build upon that kind of thing?

[00:16:47] James Moore: I mean, I can talk a little bit about that. I’m a very longtime RPG player. So games with numbers in them are like very near and dear to my heart. And when we, how many years ago did we start the game? Six years ago or something? Anyway, I mean you can imagine like stripped down to its core, like Steve was saying, there’s a slot machine mechanic. There’s a piece of gear, it has a number. Is that number bigger than the number that’s over here? And we, I think just over time we started adding symbols for this number is a attack number versus a defense number. And then what does it mean when you get hit? Well, you lose hit points obviously, but then we added a, like, gear damage thing. Well, like how do we represent that? Like how do we, knowing that the game’s fundamental Thrust is to put the player under increasing amounts of stress. How do we keep layering on the stress as you level up in the game? And so you’re seeing numbers, you’re having to compare them quickly. Now some of the numbers are flashing. and more numbers are flashing, and then there’s a thing up here that starts to flash and it’s got new symbols next to it. What does that mean? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? There are counters that are countering down and so as we would just play the game, we would just, I mean, I was personally

[00:18:13] like, what’s another piece of visual sort of noise , you need to understand that we can just keep adding as the game ratchets up the stress level. So I tried to use my RPG knowledge to make the numbers meaningful, but also they’re meant to stress you out. So it’s kind of anti user experience in a way.

[00:18:38] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah, and that was, that was the thing that struck me. Which was it? It kind of banged on both sides of that door, right where it was. It, it’s like you said, it’s stressful but it’s easy enough to figure out. But you have to be willing to figure it out. You have to be willing to click on the thing. You have to be willing to throw the thing away, which is not an intuitive sense that I wanted to do at the beginning. and I was telling them like my, my play throughs, it was all the first play throughs that I did I wanna save the health items. I would want to like hang on to the things cuz it’s telling you to like, Hey, save these things and, and throw away other things. And, and you want, you want to manage that perfectly. And that’s such a big part of the general RPG ethos. And the thing that it made me like, laugh out loud when I just oh, just use it all. I just, I just, it has to all go away all the time because more’s always gonna come. And that was the kind of turning point where I said, oh, this is, this is really actually something very cool. Now I get it. And, so it, it’s cool to hear that you went about it that particular way and wanted it to be stressful and wanted it to. Kind of overwhelm you, cuz I did feel that.

[00:19:43] Neven Mrgan: Not to psychoanalyze Steve, but I feel like part of his idea for the game comes from being like an adult and a homeowner and having a lot of possessions and having to put them on shelves or in storage boxes or donate them or get rid of them. And at least I feel like this constant like low level stress of like, oh my God, we have too much stuff. Or Oh my God, there’s things that we need to replace or whatever. So to me it feels like also a bit of a, like a modern consumer, the game.

[00:20:12] Nick Splendorr: Sure. I, you, y’all have probably talked about Marie Kondo in the process of working on this game, right? It’s like at a certain point you’re like, none of this brings me joy. I don’t Like any of things. B, B, B, B!

[00:20:21] James Moore: Yeah,

[00:20:22] Neven Mrgan: there’s a, there’s a thing in the game also where you get a really cool looking item, like a cool looking hat, but it’s stats are not that great. And then the next thing is like a dumb straw hat that has better stats. And then you have to. You have to, you know, like you have to decide between your aesthetic appreciation or just the pure raw math, which is all that the game is in the end. So that, that was, that was done on purpose. There are items that are very valuable that look like total crap on purpose, just to mess with your sort of emotional response to

[00:20:51] Nick Splendorr: That’s great. I’ve never been so excited to find a pair of Crocs in my life. , . is what I felt at a certain point.

[00:20:56] Jada Gibbs: Absolutely. No. Me and every RPG I feel very called out in, in that like, oh no, this looks way better. Fashion always comes first. comes first. there’s no way I’m dropping this way better looking hat for this this other thing that has considerably less worth.

[00:21:13] James Moore: Well, we also like use the if you’ve played RPGs, you know, this effect. It’s like you’re starting, you’re starting to play the game, and you get your first potion and you’re like, whew, I gotta, I gotta, save that. I know there’s a fight coming up, I need to save that. And like 10 hours later you’re still carrying around that potion cuz you didn’t quite get to a situation where you felt like you needed to use it. And 10 hours later you’ve got 50 of those potions and you don’t know what to do with them. And the same with the gear. I better keep a spare sword just in case. but the game starts moving so fast that once your slots are full, we just start picking a random slot and pushing those things out. And so it’s, it’s a kind of a player abuse, for fun.

[00:21:51] Nick Splendorr: Yeah. And it works.

[00:21:53] Neven Mrgan: it’s. . So that, that, that brings up a point. So, Jada, you worked, I assume, on the like, story of the game, right? Like the, the, the what happens and, and why, and then how in the, in the game. So it’s a, a Spellcorked is a very like, relaxing game. And it’s sort of, it does a thing that I think is really impressive, which is that it kind of leads you by the hand, like the first few days are pretty easy, right? You know, you’re kind of doing what, what you’re told to do, but it’s really fun to do because you’re constantly discovering new things, things new to you as the player. You’re constantly seeing new graphics, all of which are incredible. The animations are just mind blowing. And it does have that feeling of being mentored by a professor character where you feel very like, secure in what you’re doing in the game. And I thought that that was really cool how it kind of felt like like a soothing experience in that sense.

[00:22:42] Jada Gibbs: it’s, yeah, I, one of the earliest. kind of like v vibe and feeling discussions that we had had, We definitely landed on uh, chill beats to mix potions to, and even tried to go that direction with, with the music that we had made for it and everything else. We wanted it to be that feeling of just like, you’re just relaxed, you’re running your shop, but it’s kind of a cathartic exercise to mix potions and see what you end up with.

[00:23:05] Neven Mrgan: There aren’t like, there aren’t really like devastating failed states to the game, right? Like, you can do things right or wrong, but, but being wrong isn’t like a big deal,

[00:23:15] Jada Gibbs: We really wanted that to come through. the idea of like a really punishing fail state was one of the things that we, from a very early point, decided we didn’t want at all, and that people should be able to experiment and play with ingredients and find out what the result is. Reviews come in and they tell you like, maybe this isn’t exactly what I wanted, but they’re almost not like, they’re not devastating. Like you’re not gonna get a review that’s gonna tank your shop and shot

[00:23:40] Nick Splendorr: in, in the same way that you find like and inventory hero that doesn’t match your expectations. Exactly. Like, the shoes that have really high points, but have holes in the bottom. The reviews in Spellcorked for the Welp ratings, we wanted it to be fun to see them, even if you didn’t do it, quote unquote. Right. and we talked a lot About failing forward as a design concept throughout the whole game.

[00:24:02] And like, yeah, even if you pick every single, if you pick both ingredients wrong and you grind 'em wrong and you do whatever else wrong, you still get something which is a little joke. or like one Point, right. Versus the maximum of six points. But James asked me yesterday like, can you redo a potion if you realize that you’ve chosen the wrong ingredients? And we talked a lot about that, but we decided no. You made a potion, you’re gonna ship it. You don’t have time for that because we didn’t want people to get stuck on one day aiming for perfection, where the next day you get another set of orders, maybe you get a new ingredient, new stuff is happening. And so we wanted it to keep moving forward.

[00:24:39] And make you not feel bad about just trying stuff and seeing what happens.

[00:24:43] Nick Suttner: You mentioned the, the grinding. There’s this really beautiful, satisfying, like mortar and pestle element that’s so central to the game and makes beautiful use of the crank as well. I, I would kind of assume that was the starting point of like, you had some crank ideas and then you built a game around it. Is, is that true? And, and how did you arrive at the, the rest of that setting? So you’re all nodding , so maybe, but

[00:25:02] Jada Gibbs: Um, Yeah, the, tactile element of just working with tools was the very basis to everything I wanted to make a game around. the other stuff kind of formed around it as we came together as a group and started having laughs about ideas on like why someone could be running the shop and what the motivation is. But the the idea that you’re the working with a tool in close proximity and just like grinding up beans or whatever it may be, or cutting things with a really wild looking knife and , just weird contraptions was the heart of what I wanted to create as an experience.

[00:25:35] James Moore: Did you ever consider turning this Playdate sideways for the mortar and pestle? Kind of like how you do the pouring so, you’d get the crank at the top? I found myself wanting that.

[00:25:44] Nick Splendorr: we did. And for the, basically that would narrow the play field In a way that would make it hard to spread out the ingredients and make them distinguishable. Is what I thought as we were working that

[00:25:55] James Moore: makes sense.

[00:25:56] Neven Mrgan: As somebody who used the mortar and pencil in the kitchen quite a bit, you’ve nailed that feeling so much. because it is all about like, first, you know, striking them down to crush them, and then only then does the rotational action actually become, you know, useful. You can’t just do one or the other, it’s not the right thing. So,

[00:26:14] Jada Gibbs: Thank you.

[00:26:15] Nick Splendorr: Thank you. Thanks.

[00:26:16] James Moore: I, I found all those, the, the two physical interactions, extremely satisfying, like really good sound design. Yeah, it just, it just came together really well, and, and it was the first time using the Playdate or playing a Playdate game where I wish we had put the tiniest little buzzing device into the playdate itself. So you could have gotten a little bit of vibration grinding, you know, just to really bring that home. But you guys did a fantastic job on on it.

[00:26:48] Jada Gibbs: Thank you.

[00:26:49] Christa Mrgan: So the sound design was mostly em Halberstadt of A Shell in the P it, right? The sound design is really beautiful. I love the music too, but can you talk about how the sound design helps tell that story?

[00:26:59] Jada Gibbs: yeah, without the element of vibration and without haptics or anything like that, your, visual indicators and your sound design are, the things that have to come forward to really reinforce that tactility. And so, we’ve all known Em for years as well, and immediately thought of her as soon as we started discussing sound effects and reached out to her very early on and were like, we would love to have you on a thing if you have time for it. And so,

[00:27:22] Nick Splendorr: she has such an incredible sense of sound. It’s remarkable. it was a really fun sort of mini game for us to like, come up with things that we needed sound for and to sort of send her the pitch and then like, know, just sit in, in eager anticipation as we waited for the sound to come back. And then when we get to put it in the game and hear it in action and just go, it’s perfect. We nailed it. She did so good.

[00:27:46] Neven Mrgan: Is there anything better than like, using your own placeholder sound for some like beeper boop, you know, and like you get used to it after a few weeks, like whatever it works and then the sound person sends you the actual thing and you’re like, oh my God, now it’s real.

[00:27:58] Nick Splendorr: so good.

[00:27:59] Jada Gibbs: It’s so good.

[00:28:01] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah. It’s, it’s the thing that ties like video game together, right? Like a video game is a visual interface, but the sound just kind of adds a secondary layer that you can’t get from anything visually. Um, and that’s the same across all the visual mediums, I guess. But with a video game when you, when you have the chance to do an action, and then it makes a really nice sound on top of looking good there’s, there’s nothing better than that for me and for our game Em was kind of the perfect choice too. Just on top of her excellent sense of sound and whatnot, her, her ability to feel that kind of thing out.

[00:28:39] And her personality, I think lent itself to our game, specifically the witchy nature, the, the kind of like, natural ingredients that we were using, but kind of mystical. Her personality type fits. Her sound design for that kind of game on top of her use of the skills too, I think, which was why I was so excited to, to get it on.

[00:29:00] Jada Gibbs: Yeah, she also was incredible if, if we had notes on anything, we would send her these, like wild descriptions of what we thought it should sound like. We’re like, oh, make this more space. like, or more, more Metallic, but not in this metal way, in this way instead. And she would just like get these wild requests from us and she would nail it each time. Like she’d come back with a revision and we’d be like, oh, it’s perfect. It worked out really well.

[00:29:26] Christa Mrgan: awesome. What was sound design like on Inventory Hero?

[00:29:30] Neven Mrgan: Jesus and aaron basically, is that we just trust them to, to do what they

[00:29:35] James Moore: well, we had placeholder sounds for about five years. The ones that you found on the internet. And then two, yeah, two fellows here at panic who are both musicians kind of organically got together and on their own were just like, let’s, let’s start making some music. Let’s try making some Playdate music. It was something that we, we needed music and sounds for many play day games for a long time. And they just, they filled that niche. And now I don’t know how many tracks they’ve produced so far. I mean, dozens and dozens and dozens for different, all kinds of different games. Yeah, they, that they’ve been great to work with cuz I would do the same thing. Like they would do a track for Inventory Hero and I’d be like, okay, so I kind of want a medieval metal kind of a sound. And it was like, that’s all I had to say. And then they’d go away and they’d come back and they’d be like,

[00:30:28] Nick Splendorr: That’s the wonderful thing about collaborating with people that you trust and whose skills far outstrip your own in a certain area, is to be able to just like go like, is this helpful? Can you maybe more like this. And then they take it way, way farther than you could have. Inventory Hero Sounds great by the way. Each of the songs for each of the zones has just exactly the right vibe. Um, and I really enjoyed that part of it too.

[00:30:54] Neven Mrgan: Ryan, I feel like I want to talk about your art. I assume you did all the art in terms of the pixel art, but also animating it, right? It’s so good. The first part of Spellcorked that I ever saw was just the cat animation right after loading. And I was immediately, like, Oh my God, this looks better than anything I’ve ever seen on a Playdate screen after working on this thing for 10 years. What, what is even like a typical number of frames for you for an animation? Like the cap walks across the screen in like two and a half seconds. How many frames is that? What frame rate are you gonna add?

[00:31:24] Ryan Splendorr: That kind of varies based on the need of of what you’re developing, right? That came after a, a long period of us figuring out that we were gonna have kind of a longer load time to be able to get, get our game started up. And so we had Beaumer, the cat that’s your companion throughout all the game. And I had, I had done kind of a more simple, I think it was. a, a 12 frame animation of that, that walk cycle. Just as kind of a design experience to play with this character, see, see what we could do on the screen relatively early on in the development. And then I just one night decided to take that a couple of levels above and, and kind of went, Hey, I want to do kind of like a maybe more like a Disney style animation pass on this. Probably go for uh, full 24 frames second. everybody seemed receptive of that. So I, I went into a hole for a little bit and drew a bunch of frames, uh, roughed it out and did kind of the full design, animation process from the ground up and came out with that walk cycle.

[00:32:32] And then on top of that decided that it needed to look more magical. And so all of the like sparkle and painterly animation that happens after that was kind of in addition to on top of this animation like if we’re gonna make it the loading screen, shouldn’t it just like open up into the shop?

[00:32:50] How do we get that to happen? What’s, what’s a good way to do that? And I played with a lot of different motions for having Beaumer doing different things and having swirls to open the screen or, or different ways. And, and ultimately I came back to that walk cycle and just went, shouldn’t we just have him walk across and just like, open the universe for you?

[00:33:10] And so, yeah. Yeah, it’s a, it’s a full 24 frame per second. I suppose that’s, you know, there’s, there’s a couple of hundred frames in there for that one. And is the most detailed animation in the game itself because it needed to be everything else was kind of on a, on a, on a basis What are we doing?

[00:33:31] How can we keep it tactile? Is there time to do something with a flourish? Or is do we, do we need it to, to stay snappy? Most of the animations in the game you know, sit more on a 10 to 12 f p s, cycle, generally speaking because it, it kind of sat in that nice space of, Hey, I gotta make a lot of art for this game, it turns out, and what can I do that is both visually appealing, but also still kind of holds true to how I wanna represent that. So there’s, there’s a lot of different fps if you want to, if you wanna talk about it that way throughout the game that we kind of just cycle in as needed.

[00:34:08] James Moore: I also was really struck by the animation, especially the first time you used that, the alchemical frog small circle animations and how they all have this self-contained world with this kind of psychedelic art style of things, blending into others. And it reminded me a little bit of the art in the Midnight Gospel. Do you know that Netflix show by Pendleton Ward? It remind just those, a tiny character living their own world and living out their own little lifecycle in this small space reminded me of that show and that those are, those are so like, joyous and linking them together in this, with all this pipe and then like a tiny drop comes out. I just was like, wow. That’s bringing uh, like the magic within the magic Shop. I really enjoyed that.

[00:35:01] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah, i, I really appreciate that. That one was definitely the hardest tool for us to develop and, and get the feeling right because it kind of, as you guys mentioned earlier, the, the first two tools that you’re are, are super physical and they’re, they’re very much a, Hey, we’re in a space, we’re gonna do a thing.

[00:35:19] You an object that you’re manipulating directly. And the alimbic itself was a thing that we knew that we wanted in the game and then had to go through a bunch of iterations because it’s essential to the distillation process of a potion. But it wasn’t exactly clear as we were developing it, how to make that into a mini game. And to make it fun to be a mini game. And

[00:35:44] so we kind of ended up at this, we have these other two very physical tools that had been more fleshed out And the alimbic. I started to play with this idea of like, sure, we have a, we have a couple of familiars that kind of already live in the shop.

[00:35:58] But how do we, how do we expand upon that and show that there’s a world outside of the shop itself? We, we never leave the shop. What are, where are these opportunities that we can give to like, expand the universe a little bit? and did a couple of test animations for those guys and, and had to really, really play it. that, especially that screen where all the orbs happen and, and the creatures come out was probably the, the longest development process for art in the game itself in terms of just having to redraw so many times to figure out what’s the, what’s the right variety of things to have on screen here. Should we do them one at a time so they’re bigger on the screen? Can we have all three of them all at once?

[00:36:40] Is it gonna come across that they’re their like own little world? Is that interesting? And to hear you say that really makes my heart grow a little bit, cuz that that’s, that was a labor of love and, and I kind of, each of those little creatures has, has a name and a history inside of my head at this point. Was, was definitely one of the more fun pieces to, to develop. And those were also the, the other more detailed animations I got to do for the game. So that, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s a cool tool.

[00:37:09] Nick Splendorr: One thing I like about Ryan is his sense of motion and that he can take these things and, and just make them feel alive with very little detail. And the other thing I really like about him is that he will let me suggest anything and then go and do it. And so like my part of that design process is like, okay, but what if the whale is like in space ? and like I am cursed with visions that I cannot execute uh, in, in an artistic medium in the way that he can. And so for, for me to, to, to see something that he’s done and then, and for all of us to play with it and piggyback off of it, we all have a great time together. Okay, but what if it’s more like this or, Ooh, that makes me think of this. And the piggyback brainstorm process in this group of people is one of the, one of the best times I’ve had collaboratively probably in my whole life.

[00:37:54] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah, I, would agree with that. It brought endless joy uh, at various pieces of the development of this scam for Nick or Jada to have either just done a little doodle on a sketchpad or have said three words out loud during one of our meetings that we’re like, what, what, what, did you just say? And then to come back to them with a sketch or like a roughed out animation of like, oh yeah, but did you mean this? And have them go like, yes, let’s do this. put it in. That’s a really fun

[00:38:24] Nick Splendorr: Yeah. We should also give a quick shout out to we had our friend, Ryan Kingdom, do key art and some character design stuff, and the like designs of the ingredients themselves, like the big illustrations that are in the ingredient shelf. Those are based on illustrations that we Ryan Kingdom do because we love his illustrative style. And so that was a good like, sort of seed concept, art stage seed for Ryan Splendorr to build off of and you know, bring to life.

[00:38:52] Steven Frank: I’ve been so impressed with what or devs have been able to do with, with art and animation on the Playdate, given that it’s a tiny little black and white screen. It’s not even gray scale. you get black, you get white and you know that’s that. And you can tell there are definitely people who don’t kind of get it cuz they’re like, but it doesn’t even have a colored screen. And they’re not kind of tuned into that, that idea that it’s, it’s actually constraints that really push, you know, creative ideas. And so yeah, to see something like the, the animations in this game is, is spectacular. It, it makes me think of around the time, kind of the, like mid to late nineties when kind of everything games went to 3d. and it’s like, but wait, pixel art and animation’s just kind of starting to get interesting. And we finally have a computer with more than a megabyte of memory, It’s, we can actually put some more frames in the animations. And it’s like, no, we’re all, we’re all doing 3D now. And so it’s been nice to kind of put, somewhat of a throwback visual technology on modern hardware and kind of bring those two things back together.

[00:39:49] I’ve been so excited to see in the indie community what people are doing with pixel art and, and stuff these days.

[00:39:55] Nick Splendorr: Absolutely. We talk about that exact thing, like how we, we want to carry forward that tradition of the art style a little bit, and that you do have this opportunity to do things that are really detailed from a technical implementation standpoint, getting those massive animations in and like managing the memory around them and loading things in and out and so forth, keeping them smooth was hardest thing, from a developer perspective.

[00:40:19] The fact that we were able to get it to work on the hardware was extremely gratifying and really cool.

[00:40:25] And It was a huge learning process for me. I had Just started to study game programming like a couple years beforehand. Like I said, I’ve done like web, development and that kind of thing. but coming Into it, and we used the Lua, part of the SDK exclusively. I don’t know how to write code in c. And I didn’t really know how to write code in Lua too long before we started that. But it was really fascinating and I really loved the opportunity to get sort of into that nitty gritty, the constraints being both like, oh, how do I work with this? But also cool, I don’t have to worry about a million different things. I’m just focusing on this one tighter aspect. and I think During development, I read just as part of my education, I read like the Black Book of Doom and Wolfenstein and like read these older resources about how these things are gonna, and whenever I was stressed out about, oh no, I keep hitting the memory limit, I’d go, well, at least it’s not a 4 86. And at the same time, I think one of the biggest development moments for us was when we started hitting the memory limit, like maybe five or 10 minutes into every game session. Like we’d put in so much art, and I hadn’t done anything to remove stuff from memory. I just said, it’s loaded in, that’s great. It’ll be available anytime. Uh, That turns out you can’t do that. You’re not allowed to do that.

[00:41:38] so I had to take a, a whole step back and then did a whole bunch of optimizing. But for me, one of the biggest resources I found was some, some optimization tips that someone had written for working on a J2ME nokia phone CPU from the two thousands. This is better than that. Much better. But in terms of the concepts and things that I needed to learn to work with, where it’s like, oh, I don’t have two gigabytes of memory in your web browser. Sorry, everybody. You know, an infinite amount of CPU time. Like it’s, you really have to optimize it. That was a really challenging but ultimately fun and, and really gratifying experience to, I don’t know, have to think harder about that than I had before

[00:42:13] Ryan Splendorr: It was fun for me to watch Nick have to figure out the steps right from the, from the artist’s perspective of every time I would draw something we kind of figured out the art style as it went along and it kept evolving and we finally had this nice style that I could work in. but then, you know, you have the want to make something bigger and make another nice thing and make another nice thing or or whatnot. And every step of the way I had to ask him and just go, are you sure that I can, should I draw this? Will you be able to add it in? Is it is a.

[00:42:44] Nick Splendorr: yeah, of course. Yeah, sure. Shrug, go ahead.

[00:42:47] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah. And, and he would just say Yes. And so I would do it. And then he had to figure out these really creative ways to work around that, to even make it possible. it was super gratifying to watch that loop and and watch him grow in the process of doing that. So,

[00:43:03] Nick Splendorr: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Hubris, but I discovered it. I had some for the first time and but we made it work.

[00:43:09] Jada Gibbs: just in terms learning and Utilizing a console like this also being a new experience for us as the Playdate was constantly evolving while we were making the game. And so working on a, a hardware platform that is also in process was a thing that none of us had really come face to face with before. And so that led to a lot of interesting challenges and SDK updates

[00:43:30] and us going into the updates being like, all right, if something maybe explodes, how are we gonna tackle that? Like,

[00:43:36] Nick Splendorr: well, and to your credit, very few exploded.

[00:43:38] Jada Gibbs: Yes.

[00:43:39] Nick Splendorr: ,but there were changes, right? There were, there were things we had to adapt to along the way but always for the better. So, yeah, it was stressful from my perspective of like, oh gosh, is there something terrible about to happen? And in in the end it was like, oh, no, no, no. It just keeps keeps getting better. These, these people know what they’re doing.

[00:43:54] Jada Gibbs: Also the troubleshooting involved in that, being like, oh, is this a problem on our side or is this something that we’re running into on the hardware end of things? how do we begin the, the troubleshooting and, the, bug solving in a scenario where maybe it’s hardware induced, and so growing and learning with a tool that is also growing and learning was was challenging, but really interesting and really fun…

[00:44:14] we had we had a lot of help from the folks at Panic. You’ve all been so, so, so great to work with. and, the forum, I believe that, has that been going the whole time? I can’t remember, but we, we definitely had moments of talking to other people in the developer’s forum and have gotten a lot of resources and, and tips through that.

[00:44:28] Nick Splendorr: Yeah. And that includes totally crucial pieces of code that were written by other people in the community. Shaun Inman wrote a couple of Pieces of code like, something that, took a folder full of separate images, combined them into an image table and gave them key value references look crucial. So important. Thank you, Shaun.

[00:44:45] Christa Mrgan: Yes. And Sean is not only active in the developer forum, he’s also an engineer at Panic. He created the Pulp and Caps tools and his award-winning game Ratcheteer is included in Playdate Season One.

[00:44:56] Nick Splendorr: And Dustin Mierau wrote the, uh, Fluid animation that that we use for pouring the potions.

[00:45:01] James Moore: was wondering

[00:45:02] Christa Mrgan: uh, yeah, I was gonna ask about that too: is that like a procedural animation or is that like a Sprite that Ryan drew?

[00:45:07] Nick Splendorr: No, it’s a, it’s a, polygon with points along the top and, and curves. And Dustin just did this as an exercise because he’s incredible

[00:45:16] Christa Mrgan: He is incredible, and we’re really looking forward to Dustin’s forthcoming app slash game called Playmaker, so keep an eye out for that soon!.

[00:45:23] Nick Splendorr: And so a, a lot of my process for developing this game was “what pieces already exist that I don’t have to do anything with?” And and so that includes this fluid script, where I went. Oh, perfect. As long as I can make that work, we’ll be able to pour the potions. Did I have to work really hard to rotate it 90 degrees from how it was before? Yes, but that’s not Dustin’s fault. That’s my fault 'cuz I wanted it be sideways. But that also includes at the very beginning one of the SDK technologies I locked onto first was the grid view, Built into the Playdate sDK, Most of this game is built on the grid view. It is a big menu, and I saw it in my head. I was like, oh, if each screen is a menu item and you’re just moving left to right, then we can have this simulated first person perspective. And I tried to explain that to Jada and Ryan.

[00:46:08] They were like, “oh, we don’t want it to be a menu, though.” I’m like, don’t worry. It’s not gonna look like a menu. Give me a week. And it was really cool. It was really fun to, to find ways to repurpose the, tech that was available and the experiments that people were doing on the forums and, and to get feedback on the way certain code things It was really, I I, I thought it was wonderful. I had a great time.

[00:46:26] Jada Gibbs: On that, note of. Working with uh, hardware so early on and, pieces from other folks. And you’ve said that Inventory Hero was a quite a few years thing that you were working on. How then did that work out for you guys being very early on in the Playdate hardware?

[00:46:44] James Moore: It’s been fine. Inventory hero is a real dumb game behind the scenes and it’s never pushed, really pushed the limits of the hardware. So as the SDK has moved forward there have occasionally been breaking changes where I had to simply replace one function with another. but it’s built on a lot of code that I had to write out of necessity that’s now maybe a part of the SDK or even optimized into something that’s much faster than what is actually running inside of Inventory Hero.

[00:47:21] Neven Mrgan: I was going to mention James, I, I looked at some of the code cause I’m sort of trying to teach myself lua also, and I looked at the inventory hero code and it’s like, oh my God. This doesn’t even know about like the built-in timers. It’s like doing everything manual, which is sprites. There’s no timers. Everything is just like literal math and, and spitting things out on

[00:47:39] James Moore: Well, I wrote a lot of animation handling things in Inventory hero, and then I pushed them into the SDK myself thinking, oh, the developers will want to use this. And then that lived for a little while and then Dan or dave or somebody came along and said, oh, this this can be better or this needs to be pushed down into the C layer to be faster. And then it was removed. But my stuff, my old stuff just lives on inside of the inventory hero code base and it’s fine. I mean, when we first were able to start writing games for the device, Dave said the maximum FPSs is 20.

[00:48:15] Christa Mrgan: Dave Hayden is the lead Playdate engineer at Panic and Dan Messing, who James mentioned a moment ago, wrote a lot of the Playdate operating system,

[00:48:22] James Moore: And so that’s what we developed for is 20. And then he was sort of like, you know, I’ve been experimenting and we can unlock the frame rate. You can just let it run as fast as you want. But theoretically the manufacturer says the maximum refresh rate’s 50. And so I just unlocked the frame rate on Inventory Hero and it got up to 40 or something like that. And it looked so much better at 40 than 20 because it was, it’s all frame rate independent code. And so it was just things like that evolving over the literally over the years. They just kept pulling more blood from the stone, basically, and the game. We were just able to take advantage of little things here and there to make things faster and nicer and, yeah. I just wanna say one more thing about that this, this evolution over time. You mentioned Dustin Mireau. We have a discord, and when he posted the first video of that fluid animation, I think everyone at Panic was like, what? because Because for, I mean, you take my word for this, for literally years we’ve been saying, do we need a physics engine in the sdk? And if so like, can the CPU even support a physics engine? We looked at box 2d, we looked at porting all kinds of things, and, and, and so really, advanced simulations like that fluid simulation, I I think we’re like over the horizon for us mentally because we’ve been heads down for so many years. And then just have someone pop up and be like, Hey, look at this. Look at this thing I made. And we were like, wow, okay. Like this. It’s, it’s capable of a more than I think we even imagined because we just, you know, as we brought in more fresh thinking and fresh ideas, the horizon has just expanded so much, even from what we imagined.

[00:50:10]

[00:50:12] James Moore: This is to the whole Spellcorked team: if there was a thing, item, creature in the Spellcorked universe that you felt like would be funny to have appear in the Inventory Hero universe, please reach out and let us know.

[00:50:30] Nick Splendorr: We will have a very serious meeting about

[00:50:33] Jada Gibbs: very serious

[00:50:35] Neven Mrgan: Q3 …Yeah.

[00:50:36] James Moore: Put it on the whiteboard.

[00:50:38] Nick Splendorr: One of the things that I really love about Inventory Hero is how funny it is and the things like the rabbits and the mushrooms and things that get into your inventory that start multiplying. And that, at a certain point I was like, oh you know, there’s test driven development. There’s different development philosophies. And I was like, these people use the same thing we do, which is joke driven development, which is just, what’s the funniest thing we can do right now?

[00:51:01] Jada Gibbs: Yeah, I was, I was curious which of the items you got the biggest laugh out of when, when it occurred to you to put it in?

[00:51:08] James Moore: I love the Crocs .

[00:51:10] Nick Splendorr: Me too.

[00:51:11] Neven Mrgan: there’s one pair of footwear that I think is like the funniest and the most cursed way. It’s the, it’s the bare feet one where you like actually pick, but like you pick it up, which doesn’t make any sense. You pick up these like disembodied feet. feet, which I mean, it’s communicating that you’re going to be barefoot, but like you pick them up and just every part of that is just funny to me.

[00:51:34] Jada Gibbs: incredible.

[00:51:35] Nick Splendorr: That’s a pretty twisted

[00:51:36] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah. And and that was kind of one of, one of the things I was gonna ask to you, Neven kind of was like for for the art of the game and, and all of these like little, little funny items that you had to draw and create. What was, what was the push and pull there between you and the rest of the team as far as how much would just draw a thing.

[00:51:59] And present it and be like, can we also have this? Or was it people sending you suggestions what was, what was the balance there?

[00:52:07] Neven Mrgan: Well, fortunately I think James trusts me so that like I can basically put in any dumb thing I, I want, I don’t think he has had to push back on anything. But then James himself, also, we have, there’s like a pretty basic file where these are listed and James would just add things or just ask me to add stuff. He asked last year, the last, the last item that we added was a face mask in like, you know, 1981 or whenever we started this game. We didn’t really think of that. But then last year he said we have to have like an, I think it’s, it’s listed as N 95 face mask or something. So yeah, so James just kept uh, suggesting these, and I feel like, you know, James can speak to this, but like it’s probably driven by his love of just RPG in general as a genre.

[00:52:46] James Moore: Y yeah. I mean, if you’ve played Skyrim or something like that, like where you can pick up almost any piece of garbage you come across on the ground. It’s like we were just talking about this earlier today. In my mind the head canon of Inventory Hero is that it exists at this like, metaverse Nexus of all other games that exist on the Playdate. And so for me, anything that exists either in the Panic Game universe so Firewatch or goose Game, or the Playdate Game Universe, anything from any of those games is fair game to appear an Inventory Hero as this an the Thor Ragnorak movie, remember they, they end up on the garbage planet where the, there are these portals and the trash from all the other universes just falls in. that’s inventory hero in my mind. So was no gag that was off limits. really.

[00:53:36] Jada Gibbs: I love it, it’s very good.

[00:53:39] Nick Splendorr: it’s great. We also you were very generous in complimenting the art in Spellcorked, But I also wanted to say that the art uh, in Inventory Hero is fantastic. And so many of the little character animations, especially the the fur ball and then the first time I saw the like little sailor human just walking forward, it’s, they’re very good.

[00:53:56] Very cute. Well done on that stuff.

[00:53:58] Ryan Splendorr: You, managed to do a, really evocative style with It’s not a heavy animation style. Right. And that’s, that’s, you asked me how many, how many frames I used in certain things, and I’d like to compliment you on how limited you kept frame selection for basically the entire game.

[00:54:17] Neven Mrgan: I’m just lazy. That’s all it is. , I’m lazy and I don’t know any better, so I’m just like trying to make, the best thing. Yeah. But I, but I’m aware of that. I’m aware of that. Yeah, exactly. So I’m, I’m leaning into it.

[00:54:27] James Moore: I think, all the character animations are eight frames. Neven,

[00:54:31] Neven Mrgan: That sounds about right. Yeah.

[00:54:32] James Moore: a small number.

[00:54:33] Neven Mrgan: It’s, yeah, the, the, it has sort of like a cardboard cutout sort of appearance, so I’m not going for smoothness, I’m not going for anything like that has volume. You know, it’s just sort of like “blep blep blep blep blep.”

[00:54:43] Nick Splendorr: totally works.

[00:54:45] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah, it worked super well. Did you guys ever have to battle against the, the kind of existential question that always exists in RPGs of Dressing the character in the items as he’s running along. Did you ever try that? Was that a thing that you ever, like, why doesn’t my armor appear on my character is a thing that somebody else asks?

[00:55:05] Neven Mrgan: great question. Earlier I mentioned that I’m lazy, so I was not going to draw every single thing in every frame of animation. So the way that it works is only your shield, your weapon and your headgear will show up on your character. And that’s because all of those just move on a flat plane. So the way it’s done is for every item, there’s a representation in the inventory and then there’s a body representation and the body representation. There’s just this like table of pixel offsets basically as your character is moving. And so they’re just like moving flat to the plane. I don’t have to draw new frames. It’s one frame that just moves with the head of the character and there’s just a table of pixel offsets for every, you know, framework animation of the character. Well, of the two characters, there’s two you can pick. So that’s all it is. I just have to draw all of those items twice, which is fine. Not a big deal. I do not wanna draw them for every frame of animation. And hopefully it works for people, you know, they’ve got fairly small bodies, you know, compared to their head size. So, you know, I think it just kind of works.

[00:55:59] James Moore: Yeah, it’s the mr. Potato head, style of animation.

[00:56:02] Neven Mrgan: yeah, yeah. Yeah.

[00:56:03] Ryan Splendorr: Yeah. No, I think, I think it works really be beautifully and, and that was never an actual thing that I needed. Right. But it, it’s, it’s a quiet thought that I had just in the, in the sense of somebody always asks it. Right. and

[00:56:15] Neven Mrgan: yeah. yeah.

[00:56:16] yeah. It would be amazing if, if I lived to be 300.

[00:56:23] Nick Splendorr: Well real quick we talked before Ryan and Jada only got to level like 20 something in Inventory Hero, and I just wanna say I got to level 73. I don’t know if that’s great or good, you know, but I also like, like I just wanted y’all real quick that like, the Uhoh, this is Big World, is a really great level introduction. I really got a kick outta

[00:56:39] that. That’s very funny. And the glitch levels are really cool. And I had a really good time just continuing to get further and further into Inventory Hero.

[00:56:47] And we tried to do that like there is something in Spellcorked, you can get an email if you get like a thousand Welp points or something. Like way too many like way too many. Don’t do that. But we put the things in there just in case there’s somebody that gets to have that little special experience where they get an email from us going, Hey you know, you can stop playing, right? You’re allowed to, but thank you.

[00:57:15] Jada Gibbs: I think It’s more along the lines of, “are you okay?”

[00:57:17] Neven Mrgan: James and I were just talking about the emails and how, you know, we haven’t finished the game either one of us yet, but we feel like the emails every day are kind of seeding new things that make you like, expect what’s, what’s coming in terms of story, you know, in the future. So yeah, that, that’s really good. Every day kind of like, makes you want to come back because clearly a new, you know, thread has been pulled on a little bit more.

[00:57:42] James Moore: I love the idea that there’s a witches, like a potion shop that exists in a world with internet technology.

[00:57:49] Christa Mrgan: Sure. Yes. Yes.

[00:57:50] James Moore: Maybe it’s all magic. ain’t it?

[00:57:51] Nick Splendorr: Well, right.

[00:57:54] It’s It’s an OW system in this crystal cube computer that we, we thought, oh, what does a modern witch have? Not a crystal ball, but a crystal cube instead. and it’s like an iMac, but it’s a big gem. And you know, that kind of stuff. We had a really good time like that, that sort of thing that you don’t comment

[00:58:09] directly on, but that is just part of the fabric of the world. How are these things getting there? Mm. We don’t know.

[00:58:14] Christa Mrgan: All the animations and sounds just for the crystal computer itself are so lovely and detailed.

[00:58:18] There were just too many things to cover in this episode. Anyway, James has one final question

[00:58:24] James Moore: Who, who do you think the player is in Inventory Hero? Neven and I have never talked about this, but I have a, I have my own theory.

[00:58:31] Ryan Splendorr: I, I pictured myself as like the little bag gremlin, right? Like, You’re, you’re just in there. You’re scratching around, you are throwing things out. You are handing them to him, putting it on his head. Like, that’s the imagery I got the entire time I was playing. I was like, Ooh, I want I wanna, I wanna reach out put this on it. Get rid of this. This doesn’t need to be here. Always. He looks like he’s hurt a little bit. That’s that, That was,

[00:58:54] Nick Splendorr: Yeah, I think I’m maybe as, you as soon as you ask, I imagine myself as a backpack with like animated straps.

[00:59:01] James Moore: think. You’re the sentient backpack.

[00:59:04] Jada Gibbs: That’s what I was gonna say as well. is Some kind of sentient backpack that is just managing whatever is inside of it.

[00:59:09] Nick Splendorr: Well, you nailed it

[00:59:10] James Moore: Yeah. I, hadn’t thought about it until a few days ago, and then suddenly I was like, wait, I might have to talk about this

[00:59:17] Nick Splendorr: That’s great.

[00:59:18] Neven Mrgan: Steve, do you have a theory given that it’s your game,

[00:59:20] Steven Frank: I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to think about it. But do you just saying like, you are, the backpack made me think of that story about the, the horse pants. Was that one of the ultimate games where they, they implemented your, your, the writeable horse as basically behind the scenes as a pair of pants that you put on. And so the horse would end up in your inventory and it was still applying all of the game systems to it. So the horse would like wander around in your inventory and like, eat your food. and it’s

[00:59:48] Neven Mrgan: It’s in a place that has a lot of stuff that the horse wants, so Yeah.

[00:59:52] Nick Splendorr: That’s fantastic.

[00:59:53] Christa Mrgan: Thanks so much for joining us for this special format edition of the Playdate Podcast. I tried to limit my asides or conversational footnotes as I like to call them, but you can find more information on the Spellcorked and Inventory Hero teams, as well as topics they discussed via the links in the show notes.

[01:00:11] Thanks again for listening and stay tuned for more episodes coming soon to the Playdate Podcast feed. Bye for now!

[01:00:16] Nick Splendorr: Bye.

[01:00:17] James Moore: bye.

[01:00:18] Christa Mrgan: The Playdate Podcast was written, produced, and edited by me, Christa Mrgan. Cabel Sasser and Simon Panrucker composed the theme song,

[01:00:25] Sound effects from Spellcorked were created by Em Halberstadt. Josh Turner and Taylor Ransom composed the music from Spellcorked. Sound design and music from Inventory Hero were composed by Jesus Diaz and Aaron Bell.

[01:00:36] Huge thanks to Tim Coulter and Ashur Cabrera for wrangling the podcast feed and working on the website, James Moore for making me an awesome .PDA file extraction app. And Neven Mrgan, who created the podcast artwork and site design.

[01:00:48] And thanks as always to everyone at panic. Playdate is shipping now and available for pre-order at play.date. Boy, everybody’s got these real nice microphones set ups. I’m like a troglodyte at home with my gaming headset.

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