Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Meet the Artists: Adam Rex and Chuck Gamble
We've got several more artists to introduce and I realize I'm running out of time, so we're doubling up today!
Adam Rex is a man of many talents. He has illustrated many books with other authors, including Neil Gaiman and Mac Barnett, plus he's written and illustrated several books of his own. One of my current favorites is the Cold Cereal Saga, which is about a breakfast cereal company that is stealing glamour from magical beasts and putting it into their cereal for nefarious purposes. It's all about things that are more than what they appear to be. But this isn't a new subject for Adam; one of his early picture books, Guess Again? is a playful guessing game for kids that continually turns the tables on their expectations, and it leaves my kids in stitches. (Um, not literally.)
Of working on Emperor's New Clothes, Adam says: "This is a return to form for me—I used to make my living doing art for card games, so I was so happy to get back to that after years at the children's book grind that I turned out some of my best work in any medium." You can find out more about Adam at his website AdamRex.com.
Chuck "Lucky Radish" Gamble has been cartooning and illustrating and animating for a long time for things from TV to computer games to websites to publications. Although much of his work has been for kids' stuff, he also works on projects for grown-ups—like Emperor's New Clothes. I first met Chuck because of his iOS app Slideamajig, which was later updated and expanded into Mixamajig. It's basically a mix-and-match app that has all of these goofy characters that you can swipe around to mix up their heads, torsos, legs, and headgear—or you can even put a photo of your own face in there to play dress up.
There's no mix-and-match feature in Emperor's New Clothes (maybe a future expansion for kids?), but for a game that really requires humor to work, I knew that Chuck could inject some silliness into the proceedings, as you can tell from the cover art. Although Chuck isn't known for his art for tabletop games, I knew his character designs skills would be quite handy in a game with so many characters. You can see more of Chuck's work at LuckyRadish.Tumblr.com.
Designer Diary: Believing Is Seeing
Obviously the visual gimmick of the ROOS is a big part of Emperor's New Clothes—it's what people are talking about the most in conversations I've seen online, so at any rate my attempts to start conversations about game design and Kickstarter and the nature of play have felt somewhat derailed. I suppose a lot of that is the novelty of it: maybe once the novelty wears off, people will want to talk to me about all the other aspects of the game, the things that I'm really passionate about.
One of the things about building a game around The Emperor's New Clothes is deciding how to interpret the story. Obviously I've added some more characters that weren't explicitly in the story, but I tried to make them characters that could have fit in a longer version of the story—although they're not in the original telling, they should feel like they fit in that world, that they wouldn't be out of place. But to really have the gameplay match the feel of the story, I had to ask myself what it felt like to be these characters: the Emperor, the Swindlers, the Minister, the townspeople, the Child. I had to see myself in their shoes, think about their motivations, and then decide how to put that into my game.
The most interesting thing to me is that the story doesn't have a moral. I already mentioned that before, but Hans Christian Andersen leaves that up to the reader to decide. Is it a cautionary tale about flattery, like Aesop's fable about the crow and the fox? Is it a lesson about speaking up despite having an unpopular opinion? Is it about putting on a brave face even after you've been publicly humiliated?
In most cases the Child is seen as wise, for speaking up and saying what everyone is thinking, for seeing through the ruse. "Out of the mouths of babes" and so on. However, there's another way to look at it as well, the way I know my children can say tactless things in public because they're still learning etiquette, the way you don't point at somebody's comb-over or shout across the room that somebody's fly is open. As adults, we see, but we pretend not to see—not always because we've been duped, but because of an unspoken agreement to make believe.
It's an interesting contrast to other fairy tales and classic stories. Children are often the heroes of the story—and if there's more than one child, then it's the youngest that gets things right. It's often the child who sees things as they really are (which doesn't necessarily mean just what is visible to the naked eye), who believes in the things that the adults have outgrown, who claps for Tinker Bell and notices the witch and listens carefully for the things that haven't been said. Children don't just make believe; they believe, and in stories it's that belief that helps them see.
Playing games is a lot like that. When we play a game, we choose to believe that an orange wooden cube is actually a Fighter, that the floor is hot lava, that we are in grave danger from a small plastic zombie. Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman use the term "the magic circle" (borrowed from Johan Huizinga) to describe this space where a game takes place, in which special rules apply. Within this magic circle, we see what we believe to be there, and together we create a reality that is not "objectively" true. As Salen and Zimmerman put it, "the term magic circle is appropriate because there is in fact something genuinely magical that happens when a game begins."
Another great visual example of this idea of "believing is seeing" is in the movie Hook, which takes some liberties in its adaptation of Peter Pan. One of the project backers actually pointed this out to me, because I hadn't seen it before. About an hour into the movie, there's a scene in which the grown-up Peter is sitting down to a feast with the Lost Boys … but when they uncover all the dishes, they look empty. All of the kids dig in and start slurping and chomping, while Peter sits there, starving and baffled. An argument ensues, during which Peter scoops up a bit of nothing and flings it with his spoon—and a blob of colorful ice cream hits a kid in the face. When he looks down, the feast is spread before him and he's finally able to dig in. It is when Peter decides to play along that he is rewarded with the riches that were sitting in front of him the whole time.
I think too often we tell kids "don't be silly!" Certainly there are times when silliness is more appropriate than others. But when it comes to playing games, I think it's important to be a little silly, to choose to believe in something that isn't real. Maybe somebody should have told the Child in The Emperor's New Clothes that sometimes, it's okay to be silly.
You Got Fleeced!
So along those lines, to help increase our exposure, we're throwing in this stretch goal JUST BECAUSE! I know a lot of you have been expecting this announcement since watching that initial video so I apologize for stringing you along, but here it is: the Emperor's New Fleece!
I know, we've got the T-shirt available already for those of you who like the box cover art, but sometimes you want something a little more subtle, and I think our fleece is an excellent solution. The one I'm wearing in the Kickstarter pitch video is a one-off, but we've been working with the same folks who created ThinkGeek's Interactive Portal T-shirt. They've done some unbelievable work with fabric technology. While our fleece is not as technically fancy as the Portal T-shirt, I think it's one that fans of Emperor's New Clothes will absolutely love.
The fleece is so lightweight it feels like there's nothing there at all, so you can start wearing it as soon as it arrives in August, even if you live in Florida. Unlike traditional polar fleece, ours is made of a material that is ultra-compact and crushable, making it easy to include in your reward package without upgrading to a larger box (and therefore increasing shipping costs). In keeping with the story, the formula is akin to what's described in the classic story, and I think it's just as stunning in fleece form as it would as a complete suit with train.
Best of all, it's FREE! That's right. We're taking a risk by announcing this now, but as long as we stay above our base funding level, we're going to include one of these with EVERY reward level at $25 or higher.
Oh, and did I mention it's the fleece totally transparent? No, it won't make YOU invisible—I admit, that would be much cooler, but we can't throw that in for free—but I think you'll agree that even making just the fleece itself invisible is quite a trick. Since it may be hard for you to get a good look at the fleece in the pitch video while I'm moving around, Casey McKinnon graciously agreed to model the fleece for us:
You may recognize Casey from her appearance on TableTop, playing Dixit with Wil Wheaton & Co., or from one of her many web series, most recently A Comicbook Orange. You can find out more about Casey at her website CaseyMcKinnon.com.