Flying at symbol! Code Man rides a unicorn to space!? We get coffee. Yay, coffee! Arca

The Melancholy Death of Code Man

For the first few months, we didn’t have an art style for Erase All Kittens. We were too busy focusing on technicalities and the puzzle levels. The main character was simply an @ symbol, collecting kittens by rolling across the screen. Then for MozFest, it drastically evolved into a stick-like code man with curly brackets for a head. We called him code man.

We spent weeks designing the look and feel for the game. It was difficult because we knew there’d be restrictions within the code levels, but we still wanted a high level of detail. We looked at lots of different games, and how well the art style worked with the gameplay. Joe would come round to mine after work, we’d get tacos from Chilango down the road and do some research, ie. spend a few hours playing indie games like Machinarium and Limbo.

I was particularly enraptured by Robot Unicorn Attack - I think the combination of the double jumps and life-affirming soundtrack could reform any hardened psychopath. If you crash and burn, it’s okay! ‘You became a star’. I still play it sometimes for a little boost of endorphins.

Finally, we agreed on a colourful, geometric art style with a quirky tone of voice. At the start of December, I posted an ad on ConceptArt.org - a web community of artists - in hope that someone good would be interested and available. Amazingly, lots of people replied. Most of their portfolios were great, but we liked one girl’s in particular. She was the first person to reply to our ad - her name was Leonie, and she’d just graduated from Central Saint Martins.

Me and Joe met her in a cafe in Liverpool Street, then we pretty much started working together straight away. Leonie picked up the geometric style really easily - she turned my scribbled level designs and characters into beautiful illustrations.

After she joined the team, code man was reborn as Arca, a cute and mysterious non-human human in a cape with a kitten hood. It was a more complex character, and would bob along, incognito, in the face of the evil operation E.A.K.