Mimeo and the Kleptopus King

As anyone on Dribbble already knows, I have been hard at work on my next iPhone/iPod touch game for the past two months. With the public launch of Dribbble imminent (I haven’t heard anything more concrete than “soonish”) I thought the Mimeoverse could use a proper introduction.

Mimeo in the Wood

Early last year, I applied for a MakeWork grant from local Chattanooga arts initiative CreateHere. In May (thanks in part to generous recommendation letters from the talented Messrs. Marcotte and Rubin and some handsome illustrations by Mr. Cornell) I was awarded partial funding for my proposal to create a faux 16-bit game engine. My new game designs are far more ambitious than my inaugural effort, Horror Vacui, aspiring to multiple worlds and levels, various unique power-ups and hand-crafted pixel graphics, all of Super Nintendo caliber.

A few months after the release of Fever I started on the engine. This past December I took a whole week off from support to make one last uninterrupted push and finished the core components of asset management, audio/visual output, a unique touch-based input method, and tile-based animated sprites and maps. I also built out an HTML-prototype map editor. It may sound like I took a vacation to get some work done but when you’re doing what you love, it’s really not work.

A simple proof of concept was required to iron out any kinks in the finished frameworks. That concept proved more interesting than the original game I set out to create.

Pushing Pixels

Before I get to Mimeo, I want to address my love of pixels. The aesthetics of Mimeo (and Horror Vacui before it) are not born solely from nostalgia. Good pixel art strikes the perfect balance between appreciable craftsmanship and the gestalt. A single pixel out of place, one too few or too many, ruins the illusion. There’s an unmuddied, economy of expression, the thankless result of the limitations of cartridge-based consoles.

At its core, play, and by extension video games, is learning. Call it discovery or mastery but a good game introduces new ideas (teaches), leverages existing ones (reviews) and layers them to create unique challenges (tests). Teaching, at its core, is communicating. Verbosity is an academic sleeping pill. A game’s graphics are the player’s teacher and a good teacher is consistent, clear, and concise. Like good pixel art.

Super Mimeo Bros.

Mimeo (even the name) started as a Mario clone with a twist: instead of power-ups affecting the player, they affect the entire game world. A story and mythos quickly developed. The so-called Mimeoverse consists of two 16-bit demiverses sharing 32-bits between them. When the evil Kleptopus King, an 8-bit octopus with an inferiority complex, discovers a portal into Mimeo’s realm and begins to syphon off its bits, Mimeo is sucked in and down-sampled to 2-bit. So begins Mimeo’s quest to restore balance to the demiverses.

Mimeo in the Hood

Mimeo collects carts to upscale himself and the game world and enables switching between acquired resolutions to solve platforming puzzles. He will find guidance from nearest-neighbor and native rabbit Gaido. Collected bits translate into 1ups. Disposing of certain types of enemies leaves behind hoodies that grant Mimeo special abilities. The Quantum Glove puts Mimeo’s bits in a state of quantum superposition; enemies can’t hit him but they can’t dodge him either. “It’s so bad.”

8-bit Hits

In addition to creating the scenario, programming and designing all the graphics I’m also composing and producing all the music. The game uses a Nintendo NES 2A03 APU sound chip emulator (courtesy of Blargg) for authentic sounds that will keep pace with the game’s graphics. Here’s some sample mp3s of the foreboding Fortress:

I’m using a combination of MilkyTracker with the nespack.s3m samples for composing, Garageband for arranging, and MML for producing the final NSFs used in the game.


I’m aiming for a 2010 holiday season release. There is still much work to be done as every asset exists in 4 different resolutions (I said this project was ambitious) but the majority of core pieces are already in place.

You can catch up on past progress on Dribble once it goes public and follow along with the unfolding process on Mimeo in the Tumbleverse, a development diary. Over the course of development I uploaded some short demo videos to Flickr and this slightly longer executive summary progress report to Vimeo:

An MML Bundle for Textmate
The Pipeline
Shaun Inman
February 23rd, 2010 at 8:35 am