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From Boston to Japan: CAMD Alumni’s Game Accepted to International Games Festival

A game, entitled Super Slime Arena, created by two Northeastern alumni, Oskar Strom ‘16, Digital Art and Game Design, and Mark Trueblood ‘16, also Digital Art and Game Design, was recently accepted to Bitsummit, a popular independent game festival in Japan – the largest of its kind. The event allows people to test new games and games in development, and judges select several games from the exhibited games to present with awards. One of the festival’s original goals was to help push Japanese indie developers into the spotlight in both their own country and abroad, and while the event has certainly done this, it has hardly been a Japanese-only affair. Developers have come from the U.S., Seoul, and a few places in between… just take Oskar, for example!

During his time at Northeastern, Oskar worked at many great companies such as Neuroscouting, the Northeastern University Game Studio,and iRobot. He has gone on to found his own three-person indie game studio, JellyTeam L.L.C. working in art production, game design, marketing, and company management. Super Slime Arena is the studio’s first shipped game!

The game initially started as a project for Oskar’s Game Interface Design class in 2013, taught by faculty member Casper Harteveld. The idea, originally from Mark, was to create a very accessible fighting game with minimalist controls.

“We were both co-designers; I handled the art and Mark did the programming. We were inspired by classic game series like Kirby and Super Smash Bros along with more modern games like the then-recently released Divekick and TowerFall,” said Oskar, remembering the inception of the game.

Oskar and Mark chose slimes as the mascot characters of their game partially just because they liked them, but also because of their popularity in the medium. This made them a perfect  choice for a game that felt iconic and classic – but with a twist. Oskar and Mark also wanted to make the game very low resolution (320×180 pixels) but still allow for large numbers of players, of which there is no limit built into the game.

The cute and pixelated quality of the slimes allows each type to be easily recognizable, and makes the actual animation and character-design process simpler so they can make new characters more easily.

Oskar and his team have been working on Super Slime Arena for about five years. However, development on the game has never been full time and they have had some significant breaks in between working on the game.

Their basic development cycle was finding a convention or exhibition they could enter the game into and then working on it for a while up to that event with a goal in mind, whether it be making new characters or trying out new stages. Then, they would stop for a while until they found another event  to bring it to. Development was also significantly slowed last year after Oskar was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and went through chemotherapy.

Oskar was initially surprised by how the game has developed.

“We didn’t originally intend for it to be a commercial game but as we kept working on it got big enough that we thought we might as well try and polish it up as our first game released to market,” he said.

Another fellow Northeastern alumnus Liam Fratturo, who majored in Computer Science and Game Design (CCIS ’16), joined the team later in development to help work on the online multiplayer addition. This helped position the game to be the force that it is today, and BitSummit is the next step in its growth and exposure to a wider audience.

Bringing Super Slime Area to conventions in Japan holds an even more special meaning for Oskar and his team.

“Japanese games have been a huge part of my life since I was a kid, and were a big influence on Super Slime Arena,” said Oskar. “First and foremost, I want to share my work with the people who created many of the games that inspired me and continue to be pioneers in the gaming industry.”

BitSummit is a great opportunity to showcase the game to the Japanese market and give JellyTeam L.L.C. a chance to grow their base and attract media coverage. Oskar and his team are also interested in bringing the game to home consoles which, in Japan, is almost impossible without a publisher for a Western developer. Luckily, they have already been contacted by an interested publisher that they are meeting with at BitSummit!

Despite the plethora of ideas, Super Slime Arena is still Oskar’s main project. The most current development of the game is a fairly in-depth campaign/story mode that they are hoping to have finished by the end of the year. Oskar is also going to be working on a series of prototypes with the team that will be used to decide on the next major project.

“Those are secret for now, but will likely be quite different from Super Slime Arena in scope and nature,” he hinted.

And while there are many games in a similar style to theirs, Oskar knows their game is unique.

“I would say that what makes Super Slime Arena different from a lot of other party fighting games is its presentation, character variety, and a few special quirks that make it stand out,” he explained.

There are a lot of games that utilize pixel art, but Oskar thinks that Super Slime Arena’s hyper-cute aesthetic and tiny characters (most of them are less than 10×10 pixels) set it apart and service its fun, family-friendly accessible mechanics well.

“We also have quite a lot of characters (currently 32) that adds a lot of variety in matchups and keeps things feeling fresh, and we’re planning on adding new slimes in the future as well!” Oskar added.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Super Slime Arena has some interesting mechanics that no other game has had before. The game has five different gameplay modes ranging from traditional pick-your-character(s) and fight (Elimination) to a “race” mode (called Slime Rush) that has you trying to get a KO with each type of slime, etc.

The “signature” mode for the game is Shuffle. In this mode, you play through a bunch of different slimes and when you are knocked out, you change into a new, random slime. This randomness makes the game mode very unpredictable and requires players to think on the fly to succeed.

Super Slime Arena also places no limits on the amount of people that can play at once as long as you have controllers for them.

“We’ve had some massive 20+ player games at conventions before which were really crazy and chaotic, although I think the game works best with about 6-8 people,” Oskar laughed.

Aside from not limiting the number of players, the most unique aspect of Super Slime Arena is that it can use virtually any type of controller if you can connect that controller to a PC. This means one can play Super Slime Arena with anything from an Xbox controller, to Dance Dance Revolution dance mats, to the DJ Hero turntable, Donkey Kong Bongos, the Dreamcast Fishing Rod, and Guitar Hero guitars. The main reason for this ability was a part of JellyTeam’s accessibility philosophy. This means that even a custom-made controller for someone with disability can be easily configured and used with the game.

Oskar and his team are geared up for a fantastic presentation at BitSummit. Reviews are already positive for Super Slime Arena. Dustin Bailey of GamePedia said “Single-screen, competitive brawlers might be a dime a dozen these days, but it’s rare to find one as unique and charming as Super Slime Arena.” Tyler Robertson of Hardcore Gamer echoed this compliment, saying “What was just a class project started in 2013, Super Slime Arena has evolved into a simple and accessible arena fighter that is cute, goofy and lots of fun.”

We wish Oskar and Mark great luck in their trip to Japan. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Super Slime Arena!