Pencil Test Studio’s upcoming point-and-click adventure Armikrog is poised to win over the hearts of gamers with charming stop-motion, clay-animated, lovable characters, and a nostalgic look inspired by a familiar gun-toting insect: Earthworm Jim. Ed Schofield, cofounded Pencil Test Studios with Mike Dietz, gave us an inside look at the game’s development – and why he and Dietz chose to utilize stop-motion graphics, a style seldom used by other developers. “Mike and I had been part of the development team that created a clay- and puppet-animated game called The Neverhood back in 1996. The artisan approach to making [it]was something that we really enjoyed, so we immediately knew that we wanted to use this process again,” Schofield said. “It’s a very time-consuming process that doesn’t leave much room for error.”
Not only did the duo work on The Neverhood, they also worked on Earthworm Jim. In fact, they recruited Doug TenNapel, Jim’s creator, to lend them a hand with the Armikrog characters. “Both the Earthworm Jim and Armikrog characters were created by our pal TenNapel,” Schofield said. “So you can definitely see his unique art style in both. Over the course of a few days, he created the characters and the basic story for [the game].” The game’s central character, Tommynaut, finds himself trapped in a fortress called Armikrog, which he must escape from by exploring the world and solving puzzles. Though a simple-sounding plot at first, the developers promise to create lore around the game as development commences, and they’ve made strides in that department since the game’s conception. “The game now includes a recent history of the Armikrog fortress told by animated creatures, as well as very deep detailed histories that can be read at the player’s own pace,” Schofield said. “In addition, we’ve also started to outline Tommynaut’s personal journey through the writing of his personal log found on our Armikrog Facebook page.”
The game’s most peculiar character is Tommynaut’s sidekick Beak Beak, a talking blind dog that resembles a bird. According to Schofield, Beak beak’s characteristics – including the Brooklyn-esque accent proposed by Rob Paulsen, his voice actor – instantly make him lovable. “The fact that he’s a blind dog that looks like a bird gives him immediate charm and intrigue,” Schofield said. “This along with his weisenheimer attitude makes him the perfect sidekick to Tommynaut’s straight-shooting persona.” Schofield went on to discuss the game’s soundtrack, and why he chose to collaborate with Terry Scott Taylor, who also composed the music for The Neverhood.
“Terry is very collaborative and draws a lot of inspiration directly from the projects he’s involved with,” Schofield said. “So we sent him some concept drawings and test animations, along with some musical influences like the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Terry took everything in and infused it with his own personal style. The result has been a soundtrack that plays on Armikrog’s key themes of being magical, otherworldly, haunting, and just plain fun.”
Set for release later this year, the developers said they eventually plan to make sure the game sees as many platforms as possible – from Windows, Mac, Linux, and the Wii U, to even tablets and smartphones. “We had always hoped to eventually do a broader release of the game, so now that the opportunities are there, we want to make that happen,” Schofield said.