Thumpies: The Making of an Odd-Ball Rhythm Game (Part 2 of 4)

“The Name Game”

The name Thumpies didn’t come to us until around half way through the project.  The working title was BeatBox for the first while but once the art style developed and the bouncing balls became bizarre furry creatures we got playing around with names like Thumper and then eventually Thumpies.  We wanted a name that somehow related to sound and music, but could also be a name for what the little characters were.  When we finally came up with Thumpies we all loved it and it instantly stuck.  It was a little nerve-wracking searching around the internet to make sure the name Thumpies wasn’t already taken because it just felt so right to us.




“Nostalgic Inspirations”

In the process of creating the Thumpies logo and deciding on the font for the game a few strange coincidences started to occur to me.  Once the yellow and red logo was completed I suddenly realized that it was accidentally quite similar to the Smarties candy logo.  While making the menu font and wanting it to be warm and fun looking, I noticed that it kind of looked like Alpha-Getti pasta letters.  I came to the realization that much of my nostalgia for 1980’s candy, toys, and cartoons had seeped into the visual style of everything in the game… and I decided to run with it.  Some of the backgrounds are inspired by old toys I loved as a kid growing up in the 80’s like Snake Mountain from Masters Of The Universe.  Madballs toys were an obvious influence if you’re at all familiar with them.  Even the Great Tree that the Thumpies live in is probably influenced by the Gummi Bears, or actually now that I think about it as I write this, that tree the Keebler Elves lived in from those old cookie commercials – wow, I haven’t thought of that for 20 years!

As a kid I grew up really loving things that glowed in the dark like green rubber skeletons and wallcrawlers and I still hope to implement something ’glow in the dark’ into Thumpies at some point if we get to do more with them or their little Thumpie-verse.  I thought it would be very cool if some levels would go dark and the creatures and mushroom drums would glow with crazy black-light effects. Maybe if the player let the Thumpies eat too many butterflies they would become motion-blurred and this trippy glowing effect could happen as a result.

When the game was released in February 2010 (on a Wednesday I dubbed “Thump Day”) many of the reviewers very favorably likened the game’s unique visual style to old childhood favorites of theirs like The Muppet Show, the movie Labyrinth, the Madballs toys, and the beloved children’s book by Maurice Sendak called Where The Wild Things Are.  Everyone seemed to completely love the bizarre music style as well and requests were coming in for some kind of .mp3 release of the songs.


“Cute, Creepy, and Organic”

The visual style of the game is a bizarre mix of cute and creepy.  I tired to make certain to “reel myself in” and not make any of the creatures too gross or too evil looking because we wanted to keep the game fairly accessible to a nice wide range of players.  In the 1980′s there were tons of great toys aimed at young boys where the whole appeal of the toys was how “gross” they were.  Toys like Madballs and Boglins and I even remember a Mad Scientist Monster Lab where you would boil the Play-Doh flesh from plastic skeletons – Wow!  Personally I think there’s a lot of appeal in that fine line between something being cute yet also somewhat threatening.  Like a cute puppy or kitten that’s frantically scrambling to bite into your foot, your loose sock flopping around tempting them.  You cringe and yelp when they sink their teeth into your toe, but you’re also thinking “Awww that’s so cuuute!  Now where did I put the peroxide?”

I tried to keep the range of characters diverse and balanced.  Some are more on the cute side with soothers or pigtails, and then there are those with head-worms or double rows of very sharp teeth.  The first couple Thumpies that are initially playable we kept more on the generic side so as you play further and further you unlock the more bizarre designs.  The first Thumpie in the roster is a pink little guy with jack-o’-lantern teeth and a manic look in his wide yellow eyes.  I decided to name him NoObiE.  This is a reference to the nickname ‘Noob’ which is what new videogame players sometimes get referred to as if they clearly don’t know what they’re doing yet.  NoObiE kind of became the quintessential Thumpie that all others were an offshoot from.  He also became the game’s icon.

The overall look of the game’s visuals eventually became an organic style, like a cartoony and twisted form of nature.   The main level selection became a gnarled old tree which I’ve always loved drawing when I was growing up.  It’s interesting looking back at some of my artwork from high school where I made goblins peeking out of tree stumps, and sullen faeries perched on colourful mushrooms.  A lot of that old artwork looks an awful lot like concept art for Thumpies.  In keeping with this organic style I decided to make the drum pads of the game into mushrooms and tree stumps, and even the odd passing turtle.  Our prototype was very quickly morphing into quite a unique looking game and it was turning some heads in the office.  The music began moving into a much more organic and tribal direction at the same time, and Dave started working some crazy vocals into the songs.  More and more Thumpies characters were being modeled and textured and coming to life each day, and it was time to bring some of the team into the recording studio to give them voices!  I remember that Kalon W. our programmer on the Thumpies team shocked me with some of the voices he excised that night … but I’ll get into that next time.  “Stay tuned” for Part 3.


7 Comments + Add Comment

  • Are you planning on releasing this game for android? With the android community beeing as large as it is it would be an awesome place to release this game in.

    • I agree Slappy, but unfortunately there are no plans as of yet.

      • It’s not in the works either? Read somewhere that you where working on Burn the rope for android http://twitter.com/#!/BurnTheRope/status/43771626940153856 atleast that’s what your twitter suggested so i hope your plans havn’t been scrapped :) .

        • /facepalm this has been posted in the wrong damn game post :< was supposed to be in the burn the rope section and not thumpies.

          • Haha, well then good news! Yep, Burn the Rope is coming to Android, extreeeeemly soon infact.

  • That’s awesome news Chris! I can’t wait i’ve tried it on my mates iphone and i love the game!

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