Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends

Created by Team Nemo

An indie game based on Winsor McCay's groundbreaking comic strip.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Sunday Funnies: The inspirations behind Nightmare Fiends' Mushroom Forest
about 3 years ago – Thu, Apr 29, 2021 at 04:58:45 PM

Happy Sunday backers! 

Welcome to the second part of our series on the comic inspirations of some of our levels. In the last episode, we covered the Little Nemo in Slumberland comics that will inspire our Night Sky level. This time, we want to explore some of the inspirations for our Mushroom Forest level, and how we're incorporating elements of the comics into our gameplay (Warning: some of the comics in today's update feature McCay's "Impie" character, so content warning for racial caricature.)

For us right now, this level is super-important, because it is the level that we'll be working with for the next few months as we make our "vertical slice" - the very polished demo of a small portion of a game that developers use to establish the workflow for their whole project. 

Early concepts

The Mushroom Forest was one of the earliest areas that we talked about - the second piece of concept art that we created for the game. The classic "all mushroom" version is one of the earliest and most famous episodes of the Little Nemo comics, where Nemo is tasked with walking through a forest of huge mushrooms to reach Slumberland. 

Image source: Comic Strip Library

The comic is the first one where McCay would use his staircase panel layout, where panels on the second tier grow taller and downward, and the third tier has panels that grow shorter, down to the size of the "wake up!" panel. Since this is early in the strip, it falls within the "can Nemo get to Slumberland?" arc, where every week Nemo tried some new way to reach the Princess. In this one, he's asked to not touch the sensitive mushrooms or they will fall. McCay used the panel size in the second tier to introduce the scale of the forest, then used the collapsing size of the frames on the third tier to make the collapsing mushrooms feel more claustrophobic. 

The Princess is jumping quickly from mushroom to mushroom before they collapse beneath her.

So first of all, this level needed mushrooms! Not just mushrooms though, falling mushrooms that challenged players. Falling mushrooms allows us to utilize a platforming video game classic: falling platforms. 

We've got some of these objects implemented in the game and set up to collapse with the same segmented effect that McCay uses in the comics. We'll keep updating these as we continue to hone these features.

Beyond McCay's Mushroom Forest

Mushroom Forest concept art

That first Mushroom Forest was not the only time that McCay took Nemo to forest-like environments. In the comics, the area immediately surrounding Morpheus's Palace is usually depicted as being heavily forested, so we decided to incorporate elements of several forests throughout Little Nemo. 

One of the first we talked about was the forest that Nemo and friends are sent to in the September 8, 1907 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland, which introduces the characters we've called the "Forest Giants" (content warning for racial caricature.) 

Image source: Comic Strip Library

In the following comic, the giants are shown to wield trees like clubs as they chase Nemo, Flip, and Impie. We wanted to incorporate these characters as monsters that would slam down their clubs from the background of the stage and into the foreground. This gives us a visually interesting mechanic to base areas of the level around. 

In level design, I think it's fun to create drama by adding elements that give the player "one more thing" to keep track of as they play. With the giants, we can create a straightforward area where the player only has to avoid the giants' clubs (as shown above), but we can also start to pair them with other enemies and obstacles to "juice" the idea and make interesting combinations. 

Peony's proving ground

As we currently have the game laid out, the Mushroom Forest will be the second level that players visit. It will also be where Peony officially joins the player's team. For this reason, the level will feature lots of places where we'll demonstrate Peony's abilities: her wall and ceiling cling as well as her bomb attack. 

One element we're toying around with is the Love Birds from the October 29, 1905 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland, where Nemo has to walk in stilts over a field of thorny plants to reach Slumberland, and is interrupted by love-stricken birds who walk on stilt-like legs. 

Image source: Comic Strip Library

This feature is early in development, but the idea is to use the birds as friendly creatures who will walk Nemo and friends over fields of brambles on their long legs. It also gives us opportunities to pair this mechanic with Peony's wall and ceiling climb: players can use Peony to reach areas where they will be able to jump or drop onto the Love Bird's heads and progress over brambles. 

Love Bird render - the legs will be animated separately at various heights.

Of course, there will also be our bosses, the Pie Eaters, the clowns who try to eat Nemo and his friend Bon Bon in the Little Nemo strip from February 25, 1906. Grappling with these monsters leads Nemo and Popcorn, a royal attendant, to be locked out of Slumberland until the gates open again the following Sunday. 

Image source: Cartoon Strip Library

These creepy clowns will guard the path to Slumberland during the player's first trip to the Mushroom Forest level and attack by leaping around the stage (subject to change.) Think of them as similar to Goopy Le Grande from Cuphead or the Bobbins Bros. from the SNES game Plok

The current plan is to have them fight Nemo and friends in a duo (one clown with red polka dots and another with blue.) Peony's ability to drop bombs behind her will let her leave traps for the clowns as they leap around the stage. 

These guys are already kind of terrible, so of course when they Nightmare Fiends offer them expanded powers to take on Nemo and friends, they gladly accept! What trouble will their new monstrous forms cause for Nemo? 

That's all for this episode of the Sunday Funnies! Are you looking forward to playing the Mushroom Forest level? We'll keep you updated as this quickly-developing environment goes into development this Summer! 

That's all for today! As always, see you in the funny papers! 

Chris and Team Nemo 

Brainstorming Podcast #6 - Early Level Design of Mushroom Forest
about 3 years ago – Thu, Apr 29, 2021 at 04:57:53 PM

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Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends in the news: What it Means to be a "Hand-Drawn Game"
about 3 years ago – Fri, Apr 23, 2021 at 05:06:05 PM

Happy Friday backers! 

Just a small update today. We've spent much of the week working with BackerKit's quality assurance folks on the Pledge Management system and are going to meet internally on the best timeline to roll that out. In case you missed it, we also have our Slacker Backer and Add-on shop active there, so go check it out if there's something you missed during the campaign or tell your friends if they were unable to pledge last month! 

We also have an exciting piece of news to share - Chris was interviewed by Polygon for an article on hand-drawn video games! The article was just released yesterday and also features interviews with the developers of Cozy Grove, If Found..., Nobody Saves the World, and some other really awesome games!

For Little Nemo, Chris emphasized that hand-drawn art and animation was a key feature for honoring both the original Little Nemo in Slumberland comics and finding ways to explore the ways that the comics impacted art, animation, and video games. Some of our choices for techniques were made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but these choices also led us to find new approaches for how to use modern animation tools: 

"For us “hand-drawn” is a way to experiment with bringing game art closer to other art forms (especially traditional animation, which [Winsor] McCay was an early pioneer of) and getting to explore animation history. We’re paying homage to the artwork of an important figure that set the stage for many of the processes we use today, so we wanted to get as close to his style as possible.
COVID-19 knocked out our ability to do a full in-studio ink-on-cels process of the kind you saw with Cuphead (or traditional feature animation in general), so we’re using the new 2D animation tools in the free and open-source digital animation program Blender. Rather than using vectors or anything like that, we’re still drawing the animations by hand with tablets following traditional animation principles like Disney’s 12 Principles of Animation, in-betweening (which McCay invented), and so on. To keep this process as “old school” as possible, we’re staying away from more modern elements of our animation software like armatures (“bones” put inside artwork to make it move), “puppet” animation (think Flash cartoons), or interpolation (draw shape A, then draw shape B on a later frame, and the computer makes everything between.) We’re doing everything we can with straightforward drawing.
Nightmare Fiends is as much a celebration of an important artist’s work as much as it is a cool indie game. Winsor McCay laid the groundwork for the comics and animation industries as we know them, which in turn had a lot of influences on games."

Little Nemo was just one game featured in the article, so go check it out over at Polygon for a look inside the artwork of other games! 


Team Nemo

BackerKit Slacker Backer shop is live!
about 3 years ago – Sun, Apr 18, 2021 at 05:26:37 PM

Dear backers,

Happy Friday! We've been busy with some additional e-mailings, meetings, and spreadsheet juggling this week, but we have some news on much-requested post-campaign features!

First of all, our Slacker Backer shop is LIVE at the link below:

Little Nemo Slacker Backer shop on BackerKit

We've also linked it to the big blue button on our Kickstarter page so if you know of anyone who wasn't able to get in on the campaign, they can now join in! 

We're offering most of the physical rewards and add-ons from the campaign on the store (including the much-requested 8-bit costumes!) Please note that the items have a shipping date of October 2022 since it's like an extension of the campaign (in that same spirit - maybe we can hit some new stretch goals here?) 

Pledge management

We'll also be able to do your Backer Surveys (many of the questions are already set up) and pledge management through BackerKit. These options usually go live when the surveys go out, so we'll keep you updated on that timeline. It will likely be a few months from now. There will be a window after the surveys where backers will be able to edit their order (in case you move, etc.) 

We'll also do an update sometime this weekend to send out the latest Discord access links. 

That's it for now! Have a great weekend! 

Team Nemo

Brainstorming Podcast Episode 5: The In-Game Museum and Mr. Bunion
about 3 years ago – Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 11:58:05 PM

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