Even as games have adopted incredible graphics and physics, we still love to play 2-D side scrollers. One reason is that, for independent programmers, they’re now relatively simple to code. The other, bigger reason is that they’re still fun.
Pixel Press combines the best of both of these worlds: creation and play. It’s a Kickstarter-backed iOS app with hopes to allow anyone to draw their own Mario-esque sidescrolling levels on paper, then photograph those levels to play on screen. Once digitized, users can add textures and preset skins. They can even tweak the hero, the music, and the level’s general physics before sharing the levels with friends. And it’s all easy enough to do without ever learning to code.
But we were still curious, why start with paper? Why not just make an app that makes level creation 100% digital? "There is a certain charm to drawing the level," creator Robin Rath tells Co.Design. "We don’t want to lose that just because it can be done digitally."
That’s the key word: charm. Pixel Press’s goal is not mere simplicity. In fact, to draw some of a level’s more complicated architecture, like platforms that move, or surfaces covered with spikes, impromptu artists will need to learn a sort of visual code—lines and tick marks to clarify an object’s range of motion. For instance, if you’d like a fireball to erupt from lava, you don’t draw a fireball, you draw a slash in the square you’d like it to appear, because the app will recognize this tiny mark better than an elaborate scrawl.
No doubt, this language complicates matters, but only a bit. I’d bet that this sprinkling of esoteric code actually makes drawing levels more satisfying, as if you’re fluent in a language that can be learned in moments—like drawing in Pig Latin.
Pixel Press is currently a concept raising funds to become a reality.