I had the pleasure to chat briefly via email with the art director for a fantastic Kickstarter game, Charmixy.
Tess Young took some time to answer my questions about this unique, puzzle-based combat game. It’s rare that I promote Kickstarter campaigns but I think this game has great vision, diverse characters, an intriguing game play concept, and lots of content for an entirely free game. Pretty much everything you could ask for in a game!
REGINA: What inspired you to become a game art designer?
What is your favorite thing about being a game designer? What is the biggest challenge?
What advice would you give young women wanting to get a start in the game industry?
How did you decide the game should be free?
There are lots of reasons why Charmixy is free. As a multiplayer game, the fun of the experience increases the more friends a player has who also own the game, so if the game is free, no one has an excuse not to play. In addition, players can sometimes be hesitant to risk money on a genre or developer who hasn’t proven themselves as successful. But most importantly, I want to make a fun game that is accessible to as many people as possible.
When I was younger, I grew up very poor. My family has never owned the latest generation of console, and I always bought my games out of the bargain bin or from a good sale. It was always very embarrassing for me when every kid in class was playing the newest Pokemon or Mario Kart and I couldn’t join in on the fun. I don’t want to create that barrier for anyone else–I hope that if everyone has fun games that they can play, there will be more people who express an interest in game development, art, and programming. If there is some way to financially support myself externally, I don’t think I will ever charge money for a game.
The game play looks very creative and inspired, a nice mix of chance and strategy. You mention this is the type of game you would like to play, but how did you come up with this mix of characters and game play?
It certainly would have been easier to simply make the core gameplay of puzzle combat, have a bunch of levels the player works through, and leave it at that, but I sadistically chose to put a ton more content in the game. I just happen to be a real sucker for a good story, especially the kinds that video games provide that suck you into this world that you can interact with and influence. Once we started using charms as a game mechanic, I imagined a fantasy world were there were these very cute witches learning how to duel with magic, and it was such a cool idea that I started building the external gameplay.
The first thing to get put in was the romance and friendship subplots. If the game takes place in this school environment with all these students interacting and such, I knew I had to allow players to develop relationships with these characters (I ADORE dating sims after all). One of the things I hate the most about dating sims is I’m usually very limited in the kinds of characters I can date. So I made as wide a range of personalities and backgrounds as I could think of, that way players can find at least one person who is interesting to them.
The art style looks anime inspired and has a host of diverse characters (go you!). What kinds of games or other media inspired your choices?
I’m a huge fan of the magical girl genre, primarily because it taught me that I could be a strong individual without having to hide or downplay my femininity. For a long time I have been looking for more video games that reflect the kind of aesthetic and attitude of Sailor Moon and Saint Tail or Little Witch Academia, but have been disappointed to discover that most games with lots of pink, glitter, and cuteness are marketed as things for children. I wanted to create something rich and challenging that wasn’t afraid to show off its frills!
What is your favorite game? (Other than Charmixy, of course!)
Ooh, there are so many. I have to give props to Journey for being one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played — it was also the first one that showed me just how different games can be. Although no words were spoken, I was moved to tears during the very last level. It is an experience that I highly recommend. The only game that beats it in terms of raw, jaw dropping visual beauty is Trine 2. There will be moments in that game where you have to stop playing (although it is very fun to play, especially with friends) and just look around you at all the breathtaking detail.
I also have to give props to two games made by Double Fine: Brutal Legend and Psychonauts. Those games were made almost a decade ago and to this day I can’t find a game with better story and character development—I’ll often go back and watch pieces of them to remind myself of how to craft a good narrative in Charmixy. I don’t think I can put my finger on why I like it so much, but FEZ is probably one of my all time favorites as well. Many people will tell you its boring, but they were the ones who just went through the motions without actually thinking about their environment. The whole point of FEZ is to discover the way an archaeologist discovers a hidden civilization (I’m not kidding, either, I had pads and pencils with me as I played, and I would decode little things on walls and draw diagrams and everything)!
Lastly, I’ve never had more fun that when I played the recently released Freedom Planet. It’s a game that may remind you a lot of early Sonic, but I promise you it is so much more. It was the first game in a long time that I had so much fun I would skip meals or cancel dates just so I could keep playing. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed Freedom Planet so much I brought on the composers of the soundtrack, Leila Wilson and Kamu, to write for Charmixy as well!
Be sure to check out Tess’s kickstarter for Charmixy!
Regina is a gamer, writer, teacher, and podcaster living in the Pacific Northwest. She completed her Ph.D. in 2011 from Washington State University in Vancouver and continues to teach there part time. Regina’s research interests focus on women and technology, and her dissertation discusses female gamers and identity in digital role playing games. A lifelong geek and technology enthusiast, Regina recently started a Girls Who Code club in support of their mission to close the gender gap in technology.
To continue the conversations about gender and gaming that Regina started during her research, she started a podcast called Game on Girl. Called the “NPR of game podcasts” by Chris Brown of The Married Gamers, the podcast features women involved in the game industry, and tackles some of the complicated issues in the gaming community. Season 2 began in the spring of 2018 and will premiere new episodes monthly.