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:

Holiday Funnies - Little Nemo and Santa Claus
about 1 year ago – Fri, Dec 24, 2021 at 07:58:36 AM

Hello dear Dreamers and Backers,

Happy Holidays from Team Nemo! We're going to take a few days of well-earned rest but we wanted to post some updates of what we've been working on, along with sharing some holiday cheer with you all who have so generously believed in our project. 

Game design update

If you follow us on social media (including at our new Instagram page!) or listen to the weekly Brainstorming podcast, you may have seen that a lot of our current work is high-level planning for the rest of the game. Behind the scenes, we've been blocking out areas like the Forest and Nemo's House to give them the same treatment we've given the Night Sky in our vertical slice. 

Along with these efforts, I've also been updating our render pipeline to produce a more realistic Ben Day dot effect and aged look on the background. We've even utilized some of Unity's internal post-processing effects (specifically "Chromatic Aberration") to simulate the overprinting effect that caused some of the colors in the original Nemo comics to be slightly misaligned. Not only does this give the game a more stylized look, it also helps players better distinguish between foreground and background (something that's been very positively received in playtests so far!) 

This image gives a good sense of the updated Ben Day dot effect, as well as the color correction and overprinting effects used in the backgrounds.
The Mushroom Forest really sings with these effects.

I've been working on converting other scenes to the new camera and rendering system, along with adding more depth to Nemo's House using 3D backdrops and layered foreground and background sprites. The latter is still a work-in-progress (we haven't textured the backdrops or created all the sprites yet), but early tests are VERY promising.

The Ice Palace rendered with the new camera and post-processing effects. The effects on things like the staircase really give the backgrounds the feeling of an aged newspaper comic.
An early version of what we have planned for Nemo's House. A simple 3D model (still un-textured) in the background and toys in the foreground give a great sense of depth.

Little Nemo meets Santa Claus

Working on the ice level and the toys in Little Nemo's room this week definitely put the team in the festive spirit, so I thought we could revisit some of Little Nemo's visits with Santa Claus for a special holiday edition of "Sunday Funnies." 

Santa Claus, of course, is derived from the informal Dutch word Sinterklaas, an abbreviation of Sint Nikolaas, or Saint Nicholas, a very-real 4th century Greek saint known for his gift-giving. Public Domain Review's Pictorial History of Santa Claus credits the modern incarnation of Santa as the creation of poet Clement C. Moore (author of The Night Before Christmas) and Civil War-era cartoonist Thomas Nast. Moore's famous poem codified many of the aspects we associate with Santa, including his fur-trimmed suit and "Little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly." As a well-published cartoonist, Nast's Santa illustrations were likewise widely distributed and influential to how people perceived the Jolly Old Elf. 

This illustration of Santa Claus, perhaps Nast's most famous, was published in 1881 and is among the most influential in establishing the modern look of the holiday figure. Smithsonian Magazine contends that, like Nast's other illustrations, this image was itself a piece of propaganda arguing in favor of higher wages for military veterans.

Despite what the Coca-Cola company would have you believe (a popular myth is that their illustrators were the ones to establish the look of the modern Santa, despite it most certainly being Nast), as a figure in the public domain, the "rules" of Santa's look were very much in flux in Winsor McCay's time. 

An example of Santa Claus's still "in-flux" look among illustrators is brought to us by none other than L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz books. In 1902 he published The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, featuring an illustration of Santa clad in black with leopard-print trim on the cover. The image links to a scan of the book on Internet Archive.

Santa first appears in Little Nemo in Slumberland on December 17th, 1905. In this strip, Santa gives permission to give Little Nemo a tour of his workshop to one of his assistants, an adventure requested by King Morpheus himself. The comic gives us the sense that Morpheus and Santa are on equal and amicable terms in the dream world, a nice piece of lore for McCay's comic. 

The December 17th, 1905 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland, featuring the first appearance of Santa Claus in the comic.

Despite being in his workshop, Nemo did not meet Santa until a week later - 116 years ago today, on Christmas Eve, 1905. In this strip, Nemo finds Santa on the roof of his house on his yearly trip to deliver toys. Santa asks Nemo to watch his sleigh and reindeer while he is delivering Nemo's toys, but the reindeer themselves have other plans. They dart off, leaping from rooftop to rooftop with Nemo and the Sleigh in tow, eventually leaving Nemo behind dangling from a weathervane (an image that appears several times among McCay's comics.)

The December 24, 1905 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland, where Nemo meets Santa Claus.

This comic shows McCay's mastery of both layout in composing each panel to integrate Santa's reindeer, as well as his skill in conveying motion well before his work in animation - the reindeer are rendered in convincing poses that imply not only running, but leaping and tumbling over rooftops. 

McCay's Santa in these comics is very in-line with what we might recognize as a modern Santa, with a few details off of the usual model: he has a red coat and hat with fur trim, but the trim is brown and he wears blue pants. The following year would see an even more unique Santa, with a blue coat and heavier fur trim to keep out the cold. In this comic, a more mischievious Nemo gets another behind-the-scenes look at Santa's workshop, needing to continually be stopped by the Princess from exploring every door, and peeks at the present that his parents are getting from Santa, a pony (!!!). 

The December 23rd, 1906 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland features a blue-clad Santa. Perhaps this is his coat for celebrating Festivus (for the rest of us)?

Over time in McCay's comics, aspects of Santa's personality would be revealed, including that McCay saw Santa as something of a speed demon. This is hinted at in the 1905 Christmas Eve strip in the reindeer's disposition towards speed, but is expanded in 1907, when Santa is sent by Morpheus to find the missing Nemo and his friends. Rather than use his traditional sleigh, Santa opts for a modern motor car, speeding through and decking Morpehus's halls with scattered toys (content warning: racial caricature by way of the Impie character.) 

The December 22, 1907 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland, featuring Santa trying to "be up to date" by searching for Nemo and company in a modern car. The regret at trying modernity expressed by Santa at the end perhaps alludes to McCay's own skepticism of contemporary urban living and technology (McCay grew up in a small logging town).

Nemo is not the only one of the Slumberland gang to be visited by Santa, as McCay also depicts visitations to the Princess and other Slumberland residents throughout the comic's years of publication. In the several story arcs that saw Nemo and the Princess separated by fate, other adventures, or Flip's temporary destruction of Slumberland, Santa delivered Nemo himself to the Princess. In another strip, Flip dresses as Santa to deliver toys to underprivileged children during the gang's cross-country airship tour. This shows that even the trouble-making Flip isn't immune to the spirit of giving! (content warning on the Flip-as-Santa comic for an appearance by Impie and the racial caricature he brings.) 

In the December 20, 1908 episode of Little Nemo, Santa takes on a more traditional apperance (with some very nice shading!), and returns Little Nemo to Slumberland after his adventures elsewhere as a present for the Princess.
The December 25th (Christmas Day) 1910 episode of Little Nemo in Slumberland, where Flip takes on the mantle of Santa Claus to deliver toys to poor children, with some chimney-related hijinks.

While McCay had some mixed success with incorporating seasonal strips into his comics (Welcome to Slumberland has speculated that some may have been at the behest of his editors), McCay seems to have taken particular pleasure in creating strips with Santa Claus, making him an integral part of Slumberland.

We hope you've enjoyed our look at some of our favorite times that Little Nemo met Santa! What are some of your favorites? 

As an FYI, we're going to take some well-earned offline time and have our own holiday adventures (we hope you can do the same!) We wish you all a safe and happy holiday season. See you soon, and thank you again for a wonderful year and for believing in our game!

Best and brightest holiday wishes,

Chris and Team Nemo 

Little Nemo Brainstorming Podcast #29: Level flowchart drafts + game structure
over 1 year ago – Sun, Dec 19, 2021 at 10:57:11 PM

Hey Dreamers, Adrian here.

In part 2 of last week's conversation, we look at some draft maps of levels that I and Chris began to start discussing structure. What can you find on your first pass of a level? What goals do you need to accomplish on future passes once you have all of your characters and abilities? How do you get to new content? As always, a reminder that these drafts are all subject to change and do not reflect what you'll see in the final game, but it's a fun discussion that we think you'll enjoy!

Click here to download/listen!

This episode requires visual aid so here are the drafts we discuss so you can follow along with the episode:

Forest draft (Adrian)

Night Sky (Chris)

Slumberland (Chris)

Until next time Dreamers!

~ Adrian & Team Nemo

Little Nemo Brainstorming Podcast #28 - Variable Stats
over 1 year ago – Fri, Dec 10, 2021 at 05:59:20 PM

Hey Dreamers! Adrian here.

This podcast is a bit different in that in our effort to address two short topics, we ended up recording enough on each subject for two whole podcasts! But rather than putting out a two hour podcast (and so I could avoid editing a monster audio file in one sitting *ahem*), we decided to split it up into two separate episodes! So be on the look out for part two very soon!

 Click here to listen/download! 

For this half, Ben has implemented an attack strength variable which can be adjusted at our whim, be it for future character upgrades, food buffs cooked in the kitchen, etc. This got us thinking, what are some ways we can augment the characters attack power in the game, and what effect would it have on the game's design? It's a fun discussion, especially if you enjoy in-depth system design talk, so be sure to give it a listen!

Until next time Dreamers,

~ Adrian & Team Nemo

Little Nemo Brainstorming Podcast #27: Is this podcast a Metroidvania?
over 1 year ago – Wed, Nov 24, 2021 at 12:58:21 PM

Hey Dreamers! Adrian here.

This week, after a small tangent where we discuss the illustrious status of Metroidvania for several games, including our own, we talk about the level flow for each level of the game: what powers you need, what kinds of locks and keys will you find, and what can you take from one level and bring into another? By cementing the level flow and beginning to draft out the individual elements and characters you'll find in each level, Ben can begin coding out those individual systems and we can get to implementing the levels, creating the menus, and more. It's a fun discussion with a lot of really in-depth design considerations being solidified, so please give it a listen!

 Click here to listen/download! 

We're a bit cheeky about the internet discourse on the contentious phrase 'Metroidvania', but we are seriously interested in your opinions about exploratory platformers; what kind of exploration in games that you like in nonlinear games and what you hope to see in Little Nemo, so please let us know what you think in the comments or on Discord! Also, because I gave it a shout out in the podcast, here's a link to Kate Willeart's excellent video on  the hidden influences of Metroid that if you haven't seen, you really, really oughta. She also has an upcoming video on the origins of the term 'Metroidvania', so be on the look out for that as well!

Finally, with the Thanksgiving Holiday coming up in the US, we'll be taking a break from the podcast and streaming this week to spend time with our family. We'll be back in December with a new episode, so until then, Dreamers, I leave you with the classic Thanksgiving comic from the original Little Nemo in Slumberland. Enjoy the holiday if you celebrate, and we'll see you all again next time!

~ Adrian & Team Nemo

Little Nemo Brainstorming Podcast 26 - Level Intros
over 1 year ago – Sat, Nov 20, 2021 at 04:50:01 PM

Hey dreamers! Adrian here.

In this slightly late edition of the podcast, we chat about what happens when the player enters a new area for the first time. We're all big fans of the elaborate level introductions in games like Kingdom Hearts and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and how they prep the player for what's about to come. We discuss the most effective way to capture that energy that embodies the spirit of the Little Nemo comic and works within our specific constraints.

Click here to listen/download!

Related to this discussion is how we can incorporate a distinct theme and motif around our level intro and outros and the rest of the game, the contrast between Slumberland and the waking world, and the approach other games such as the Super Mario Bros. franchise take as well. It's a fun discussion and I'm looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts in the comments or the Discord server as well!

~ Adrian & Team Nemo