Did you ever sit around as a kid and draw video game characters? Let’s take this one step further: Instead of characters, did you sit around and draw platformer (Think: Super Mario Bros) levels that you hoped would one day be real somehow? I think the guys at Roundthird software did these things too.
Pixel Press is an upcoming iOS (and hopefully Android) app that will let people take their game-design ambitions to real-life, even without any coding experience. How it works is this: The subject prints out a 2-page .pdf file. One page is instructions, and one page is a proprietary “grid” that the pixel press app recognizes. The user draws the level on the grid using the guidelines on the instructions page to draw the correct shapes (the app will need to recognize certain shapes, so they can be obstacles, blocks, etc. when translated to the game). Once the level is drawn, a picture is taken with the iOS device, and the level is scanned into the game using the same technology that makes handwriting recognition possible. For a full breakdown by the developers, check out this video:
The idea reminds us a lot of something like Little Big Planet. Both games are more than a “game”, they are a “platform”. The developer of Pixel Press promises to have user creations downloadable by the entire community so everyone can challenge each other. Soon after the game is released the best levels will rise to the top via ratings – all of this makes the replayability virtually limitless. Don’t like drawing by hand? You’ll be able to play all the levels instead of create them. Currently, the developers are toying with the idea of an “in-game” level editor that doesn’t require pencil + paper, but what’s the fun in that?
As a platform, Pixel Press looks very promising, and could be a useful tool for not just gamers, but also parents, students, and teachers respectively. Roundthird wants parents to get involved with their kids – drawing on the grid paper could be a fun family activity, and family members can challenge each other to high-score runs. The benefits in the classroom are also heavily weighed on Pixel Press’ website. It’s been suggested that video games increase a child’s imagination and help exercise the brain – increasing logic capabilities and hand-eye coordination. Also literacy and problem-solving skills are groomed while playing the proper games. While using Pixel Press, “Students will need to follow directions, concentrate, use their imagination, and they can even work as a team if you prefer.” Can you imagine this being used in art class, or science? Maybe even math. I wish I could go back to my childhood if that were the case…
The concept of Pixel Press looks very fun and intuitive. However, it is not released yet for any platform. Currently, the developers are looking for help via our old friends at Kickstarter. For a mere $6 pledge, you are guaranteed a copy of Pixel Press when it’s released – for iPhone, iPad, iPod, and (maybe) Android. The Android version is a “stretch” goal – a stretch goal kicks in after the fact if people keep donating past the goal. Roundthird is seeking $100,000 total to produce the platform on iOS, and complete funding; The Android version will kick in at $350k.
Pixel Press has a lot of early praise from a number of reputable gaming blogs and news outlets. The Verge calls it a “gateway drug” to game design. If funded, the entire project is slated to be completed by December, 2013.