Nick Pasto and daughter Bella have set out to create a video game together in Super Chibi Knight, a sequel to Pasto's original Flash game, Chibi Knight. He most recently programmed the excellent Abobo's Big Adventure.
With Super Chibi Knight, Pasto is not only interested in offering his daughter a taste of his childhood gaming through a retro-inspired side-scroller, but also wants to teach her (and us) a bit about gender equality in games.
"The idea for the original Chibi Knight kind of sprang from having a daughter and seeing a world where girls are slightly pigeon-holed into what they're supposed to like and not like," Pasto tells Joystiq. "I wanted to make a game that would be accessible to kids (but still fun for adults) but that would be slightly subversive about gender roles and make the player wonder whether the hero is a boy or a girl (the gender in Chibi Knight 1 is obscured by a knight's helmet, but the voice is feminine) and then hopefully ask themselves if it really matters."
Pasto says people still ask him whether Chibi Knight is a boy or girl.
"My daughter didn't ask specifically to make a game with me, but she really thrives on any kind of shared project, it makes her feel connected to me and I thought a video game would be a great way to dovetail that desire with something I love." Pasto says video games were a kind of "awakening" for him after high school, and he regrets not having "been exposed to the creation process behind video games" when he was younger. "Through video games, suddenly math made sense, I found myself thinking more logically about other areas of my life, I discovered a whole 'technical' side to myself that I never knew existed. I hope that some of that rubs off on Bella as we're working through Super Chibi Knight together."
Bella's involvement in Super Chibi Knight is pretty extensive, Pasto says. She's done sketches for enemies and even designed armor and swords, bosses and more. "It's fun to take her young flat designs and update them to fit the game's art style, but still try to keep the 'spirit' of the original. She's not experienced yet at translating what she wants into something that works practically, but that's my job."
She's also a Super Chibi Knight playtester, providing Pasto with a good gauge for what to expect from players. "When she gets overly frustrated, I know I need to nerf that part. For example, whenever there's a NPC or some interaction with lots of text, she loses interest fast. I've tried to limit the amount of text and break important things into digestible chunks with a lot more visual cues. She's helped me tune the game so that the player experiences the background story and quest assignments rather than just reading them." Pasto sees average gamers and 8 year-old girls as having a lot in common, namely short attention spans and a "desire to be entertained, hooked, and engaged without being frustrated."
Bella's input on violence is another important part for Pasto as he works on the game. "She definitely likes feeling adventurous with the sword slashing, running, and jumping, but is not a fan of needless gore," Pasto says. "She enjoys the satisfaction of vanquishing a boss, but doesn't want to see blood and guts splattered all over. That's a tough balance for me because I love cartoon gore, but I've tried to use visual and sound effects that convey the same satisfaction while keeping a modicum of taste with the gore in an attempt to make it something that doesn't offend Bella's innocence. In a way, that can be another callback to the classic Nintendo seal of approval that turned the blood in Mortal Kombat into 'sweat.'"
Super Chibi Knight, planned for PC, Mac and Linux, is currently asking for votes on Steam Greenlight. Pasto is also looking for beta testers through Super Chibi Knight's official website – and they don't all have to be relatives.