“Ever since I became a father (to a wonderful 2-year-old baby girl) my world has turned upside-down so to speak.”

I know that might sound cliché, but as someone who works as a home-based artist (as I needed to be at home to take care of my daughter at times) in our team here at Popsicle Games, it’s REALLY tough especially when your little bundle of joy is so clingy and wants nothing but to spend as much time with you as possible.

While this might sound cute and all, its tough and at times nail-bitingly frustrating. Imagine trying to work on your project and then your little angel suddenly decides it’s a good time to join you and sit on your lap. Imagine just how tough it can be when there’s a small person on your lap, trying to get your attention (by showing me her new trick or her new toy), as you desperately try your darndest to illustrate and finish all your asset work before the deadline. And on days that she’s REALLY bored, she’ll even try to press the keyboard or tap the screen on my PC, as she tries to imitate me work. Nothing is more frustrating than a sudden change of tools you’re using in either Photoshop or Illustrator, because your kiddo pressed a button on your keyboard. :/

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But as tough as that gets, having a lil kiddo work with you is not only joy at times (especially when your little one takes interest in your work), but they are also great in judging your work as an artist. The late Satoru Iwata of Nintendo once said:

“I’ve never once been embarrassed that children have supported Nintendo. I’m proud of it. That’s because children judge products based on instinct.”

And this is the story of how my daughter helped me at work in Popsicle Games.

Now lately, I’ve been encouraged to sometimes show my work to my lil kid, and see if it’s something that resonates with her or if she would like it. And that’s what I did with our latest upcoming game: Samurai Doge VS Ninja Neko.

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Now a little backstory. Samurai Doge VS Ninja Neko first began its life as a game jam project and was the sort of baby of our artist, Abby. So when we all decided that the project showed promise and was deemed worthy to be developed into a full game, I inherited the project and I looked at how I can improve and make the game cuter and more colorful that even my little kiddo would love to play it (or at least in her case, to want to touch the screen of the phone and tap the little critters). That was my goal.

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And so, I went ahead and redid the art which was previously pixel art, into vector. I tried to put more color and vibrancy to the assets, and in each step, I would always “consult” with my daughter on the side and see if it’s something she can identify with. First would be to check if she can identify via my illustrations, whether she’s looking at a Doge (dog) or a Neko (cat). So I showed her a Ninja Neko and she immediately pointed the screen and said “Papa, meow!”, and when I showed her a Samurai Doge, she responded with “Papa, aw!! Aw!!” (imitating a dog barking). Guess that was as good as any indicator for me that I was on the right track. So I went ahead and showed the assets to the team, and with a few tweaks here and there, we got to finalize the look of our doges and nekos.

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As we were demoing our game, I felt that the game lacked a bit of detail. While the art was good, I felt as if the game was too “mechanical” and so I suggested we add details to the animation like the enemy taunting the player when they successfully hit the shrine’s torii gate that players must defend. But HOW to go about it and illustrate it, was something that I got stuck with. And so, I walked off my desk for a while and played with my daughter. And as we were playing with her toys, I played with her Hello Kitty funko figure and tried to make some funny expressions with it. And as I was playing with the toy, the idea hit me and as soon as I could, I went back to my desk and scribbled how to go about it.

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I showed the art sample to the team, and they loved the idea so much that we immediately implemented it on our latest build. And upon playing the game, we loved it. That short mocking laugh of enemies as soon as they successfully hit the shrine made players more invested in defending the shrine much more than when it was just random enemies throwing shurikens non-stop. It even made some players either frustrated or laugh at the expression. Heck I showed my wife the latest build with the mocking laughter on, and she was digging it. 😀

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And last but certainly not the least, I showed my latest work to my daughter. And as soon as she saw the laughing animation of the enemies, she giggled and was all smiles. Mission accomplished.

While it’s true that life for me has turned upside-down and chaotic at times, having my daughter around me has been helpful for me, specially in getting me out of a mental block every now and then. It’s definitely great being a game dev dad. :)