Colors Live is the latest entry in the long standing digital art series. It has seen an extremely impressive Kickstarter campaign, which can be backed by clicking here. I was fortunate enough to ask Jens Anderson his thoughts on Colors!Live.
Q: Colors! 3D was a brilliant package, and it’s still something a lot of people (myself included) are still using. With the jump over to Nintendo Switch, what spurred you on to make this release? How was it working with Nintendo again?
A: This is an important question to me and I talk about it a bit on the Kickstarter page. I didn’t want to make a version of Colors for the Nintendo Switch, unless it was better than Colors! 3D, and since the Switch doesn’t have a stylus, that was a problem. This all changed when I realized that we it was possible for us to make our own stylus in collaboration with a friend of mine in Hong Kong.
As for Nintendo, they pretty much looked at me blankly when I, as a small indie developer, said that I wanted to ship my game bundled with hardware. But after showing them how well it worked, they were very supported to figure out how we could make that happen. Doing a Kickstarter was the solution for us on how to get Colors Live and Colors SonarPen to the players as a bundle.
Q: The sonarpen is an interesting concept for this new release, and something that we haven’t seen on Nintendo Switch before. How easy was this to integrate with the touch screen on the Switch? Especially when the functionality such as pressure sensitivity wasn’t something that Nintendo had originally planned for the system.
A: Colors Live is uses the normal touch screen functionality of the Switch to figure out where you are painting, but it’s the pressure sensitivity that makes Colors SonarPen special. It basically emulates a headset and you plug it into the audio jack. This allows Colors Live to communicate with the pen and measure how hard the player is pressing the stylus to the screen. It’s very novel approach and to get it to work I had to do some fun signal processing with the Switch audio-chip, but it works really well.
Q: Aside from implementing the sonarpen, how was it developing for the Switch in comparison to say, the 3DS? Even though they’re both Nintendo systems, the architecture behind them is quite a bit different.
A: For every console generation it gets easier and easier. More things are handled by the OS and with the GPU architecture being very similar to what’s available on PC and mobile, developers already have a solid understanding and mature toolset to use.
For the Colors! 3D I had to spend a lot of time on optimizations, to just make sure it ran smoothly and didn’t run out of memory on the 3DS. Since neither Colors Live nor the previous game I worked on, Yoku’s Island Express, is really trying to push the hardware to it limits, I don’t have to spend too much time working on that with the Switch.
I love working with the Switch. The basic devkit looks just like a retail Switch and I can carry it with me to work wherever I want. Also, it’s great to be able to bring it so easily with me when I want someone to test the latest version.
Q: The Colors Quest mode is a really interesting way to ensure that people are constantly pushing themselves (and each other) to produce even better works of art. Will this feature be continually supported for the duration of the Switch’s lifespan?
A: That’s the idea! It’s honestly is a somewhat experimental feature, but I’m really excited about it! You get to paint one painting a day with a set theme, and by doing that you progress through the campaign. What’s really special about it is that it’s built to encourage players to improve over time, by using some clever crowd-sourcing mechanics to help generate feedback. A great way to learn anything, is doing that a short while every day, and the whole game mode is built around that idea.
It will be interesting to see what people think about it, and if it proves out to work as well as I think it will, I’ll keep adding additional worlds and challenges for as long as people enjoy it.
Q: The screenshot function on the Switch is a nice addition, although sometimes the compression used on the consoles when uploading the photos online takes the shine off of the pictures. Will there be an option in Colors!Live to save the images directly to the microSD card and then copy them off of it afterwards?
I don’t think there is a way for me to save things directly to the microSD. However, you can always upload it to the online gallery (privately or publicly) and grab the uncompressed version from colorslive.com.
Q: During the development cycle, you no doubt had to do a lot of digital paintings. Have you got any left over from the alpha build of the software, and is this viewable as an Easter Egg in the final build of Colors Live?
Ha! If you only knew what a terrible painter I am. Part of the reason I did the original version of Colors was that I wanted to challenge myself to learn painting – and for a while it worked. But like most things, you need to keep doing it to keep your skills, and I didn’t do that. It’s possible to dig up some of my paintings in the online gallery though, but I won’t help anyone to do that. 🙂
Q: Apart from using Colors Live on your Switch, what other games do you enjoy playing? It’s always great to see what creators are playing for inspiration and just to unwind in general.
I have periods in my life when I play a ton, and periods when I don’t. The last couple of months, I have pretty much only played games with my kids – Minecraft (both the normal and the new Dungeons), Pokémon (both Go and Let’s Go), My Time at Portia, No Man’s Sky and also some Hearthstone Battlegrounds for just me. Earlier in the year I worked my way through plenty of games though. Some of my recent favorites are Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Moonlighter, Oxygen Not Included, Cultist Simulator. And a couple of my favorites from the last couple of years was Outer Wilds, Subnautica, and Dead Cells.
If you don’t manage to back the Kickstarter, Colors Live will be available to download from the Nintendo eShop as well.