Touchfight Games is an exciting new indie studio that was co-formed between game journalist and author Nathan Meunier, artist Leonard Kenyon, and programmer Jon Kenyon. Their debut game Go To Bed will be released this fall, and with all the excitement we wanted to get to know Touchfight Games a little better. Nathan, Leonard, and Jon were kind enough to speak to us about their work.
148Apps: What inspired you decide to go from writing about games to creating games?
Nathan: I've always been a huge fan of indie games in particular. Covering indies was one of my passions early-on in my career, and it's been a beat that I've really enjoyed focusing on throughout the past 8-9 years I've spent writing in the games industry. There's something about the fierce DIY spirit and inherent creativity in independent games made by small studios that's always resonated with me.
Prior to kicking off a journalism career over a decade ago, I actually dabbled with creating small games using a much earlier version of Game Maker. Back then, the indie scene as we know it today didn't exist. It was a different world, and I wasn't equipped to do much of anything with the rough game ideas I was putting together. Given that journalism was my chosen career path, I got a gig working at a newspaper and eventually transitioned into covering the games industry full-time as a freelancer.
It's been a great run in the games press, and I don't plan to give up freelancing altogether, but shifting gears to explore developing games has given me an a much-needed creative boost that's rekindled my passion for games. Also, I live out in the middle of nowhere and am used to working alone, so having an opportunity to collaborate on projects with two other local kindred spirits and my co-conspirators, Jon Kenyon and Leonard Kenyon, has been a blast, too. It's something that was missing from my freelance routine.
148Apps: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered while shifting from writing to game design?
Nathan: Finding balance has been tricky. I'm still freelancing full-time and writing books on the side, which I love doing and plan to continue doing, but it's been hard to contain my enthusiasm for pushing forward with our current game projects and the studio in-general.
Because I work from home and set my own schedule, it's a lot easier for game dev time to accidentally spill into writing gig time. Dividing my time between slinging words to make ends meet and clocking out creative time to work on the game is a challenge. I don't want to drop the ball on money making writing gigs and related projects, but I'm also really eager to get the studio out there and see where we can take things.
I think once we get a few games out into the world and can generate a bit of income and momentum to take the pressure off of having to work on this only during our spare time, it'll make it easier to strike that balance. Right now, it's sort of full speed ahead on all fronts, which can feel exhilarating on some days and downright crazy on others.
148Apps: Your site says you make "Quirky games for quirky people". What counts as a quirky game for you?
Leonard: For me quirky is a feeling the combination of an art style and a voice give can something. A touch of oddness that makes you cock your head on the slight. Very much like us as people. We are musicians, writers, and artists first, so we hope our quirkiness in those fields will shine through the games we release, whether it's pretty or dark or silly or just pretty silly.
Nathan: Each of us has our own different quirks that we bring to the table, and when you meld them all together the stuff that comes out is pretty exciting - and absolutely weird. My own take on "quirky" leans towards the darker more demented side of things. I like playing games that elicit a gut-level "WTF is happening right now?" response. On one level, those are the kinds of games I want to make, but I'm also open to balancing that out with the other concepts we meld together as a team.
148Apps: What kind of game is Go to Bed, exactly?
Nathan: We're calling it a "bedroom defense" game that weaves-in elements of horror and has a quasi - albeit a dark one - children's book vibe. It's also entirely hand-drawn and in black and white, which plays into the atmosphere, too. There's a narrative and loose story that ties it all together, but the gameplay itself is designed to be simple.
You play as a young boy who's been sent to bed and discovers that, once the light goes out, there's all manner of horrifying evil creatures lurking in the darkness corners of your bedroom. Since humans are naturally so delicious, waves of shadow creatures come crawling towards you out of the darkness to get a taste.
On a basic level you have to tap, swipe, and flick away the increasingly aggressive droves of nightmare beasts that come slithering towards you. Each level has a timer, and the stages follow the progression of time throughout the night. You have to survive until morning, but it gets tougher as new shadow beings are thrown into the mix in greater speed and number.
Light and darkness come into play heavily, too. We have a few different collectible items that appear throughout stages. Some will power a few light-based special attacks that change lighting in the stage and help you out. Others can be amassed and spent to grab one-time use power-ups.
148Apps: How did you come up with the concept for Go To Bed?
Nathan: The core idea for Go To Bed, from the art style to the story and rough concept for mechanics, came from Leonard, our lead artist. We've been prototyping a handful of game projects to pursue as a group, and this is one he came up with and brought to the team. From there, we've been tinkering and expanding on it collaboratively.
Leonard: I was watching shadows on the wall as I was falling asleep and it sort of just popped in my head. As an illustrator, I have three comfortable places my pen can take me. From scratchy to cartoony. I'd say the art for Go To Bed lives somewhere in between those and in the realm of my favorites like Henson and Gorey. Not to compare! Only to admit and honor those influences.
148Apps: What kinds of games can we look forward to Touchfight developing in the future?
Jon: The three of us bring different things to the table with each game. Go To Bed combines Len's concept and hand drawn art with Nate's kooky and dark ideas; I myself lean toward retro style gaming, so you can definitely expect to see many combinations of these things in our future projects.
Nathan: We've got a few other neat and unusual games in the works alongside Go To Bed, and we're really excited to share details on those projects once we're a bit further along with them.
We're really eager to see what people think of Go To Bed, and we also have plans to add content post-release. If the game is well received, we have a sequel of sorts planned that puts an entirely different spin on the core game. Should be fun!