If you’ve seen me in the last year, I was probably wearing some sort of Exocolonist merch.
Between finishing Exocolonist and waiting for it to come out, I entertained myself by making basically an entire wardrobe of test pieces. They didn’t all work out… well honestly most did not! One of them is currently for sale in the Official Finji Store, which is the limited edition Hawaiian shirt Mei designed. Colin and I both love the pink version:
Another merch item I was keen to make was a real, in-your-hands, physical card game. I imagined we’d use these as business cards and give them out at events like PAX, with the idea that if you collected enough you could play a micro-game to try to make the highest-scoring hand just like in Exocolonist.
They have the same names and art as in the game and feature some of our amazing 100 card artists, but I had to tweak the values and rules a little to be playable on a tabletop.
It was worth doing, because dang, this little game turned out to be fun! Colin and I took prototypes to events so we could playtest it with friends. The rules are simpler than the actual game, because adding up a lot of little numbers is more easily done by a computer than in your head. Instead, you need to arrange five cards from your hand of seven to earn bonuses from a list. For example a pair is worth ⭐, or having all cards of the same color is worth ⭐⭐.
You win if you can get three stars, which is almost always possible, but sometimes pretty hard. We play a multiplayer variant where we both draw a hand and try to find the best score, then swap and see if we can find a better one.
It’s 52 beautiful cards in an adorable little tin box, available made-on-demand at The Game Crafter.
“Secret” Unreleased Merch
Now I’ll let you in on a secret! Once the Hawaiian shirts sell out, if you’re still desperate to get your hands on one, you may still be able to get one printed on demand from the source at ArtsCow. Some of my unshipped experiments are in there too!
I also have a couple designs up on HugePOD, another place that offers on demand all-over prints. These shops print the art onto flat fabric first, then cut and sew like they normally would. It’s a neat process that means they can have hundreds of styles to choose from, although they do take extra time to ship because they have to make them after you order.
Though most of these designs will never go beyond my own wardrobe, it was so much fun to do. Let me tell you, it’s a bit addictive (and way easier than you’d think) to design your own clothes!
Earlier we had the honor to be nominated for Best Storytelling in the 2022 Golden Joystick Awards, Games For Impact at The Game Awards (their most misguided category according to Kotaku), Best Playstation Game of the Year in the PLAY Magazine Awards. Back in 2020 I Was a Teenage Exocolonist won the IndieCade award for Procedural Design. And honestly? I’m cool with our nomination for “most pretentious indie game” in 4chan’s Vidya Gaem awards. That’s how you know you’ve really made it.
Since I am linking links, Northway Games has been in the IGF before: Incredipede for Visual Art in 2013, and Fantastic Contraption VR for Nuovo in 2016, and Deep Under the Sky had an honorable mention for Audio in 2015. But this is the first time one of my games has made it, and I am on cloud nine!
For I Was a Teenage Exocolonist’s release, we partnered with some phenomenally talented cosplayers, including the amazing Ellie Amber featured here dressed as adult Anemone. I was absolutely bowled over with how much creativity and attention to detail went into these costumes.
Seriously, so beautiful!! Check out Ellie’s making-of process videos on Instagram:
Ellie also created a PDF of cut-and-sew patterns for the costume and accessories, right down to Anemone’s scale-armored skin flakes:
And there are so many others! This was organized by our friends at Finji and ICO, so each new cosplay post was a delightful surprise to me and the Exo team. Seeing our characters out in the real world is so magical! Many of these creators also posted creation process videos, so scroll through their feeds for more instructions/techniques/mindblowing gorgeousness.
To celebrate the launch of @exocolonist, I made this Tammy cosplay! If you like beautiful art, narrative-driven gameplay, and aren't afraid of some adult themes, check out I Was a Teenage Exocolonist! https://t.co/rAgbCjylF2
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is officially released today! I started development almost exactly five years ago, and wowowow has the game ever grown up since then!
I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who supported Exocolonist and helped create it. Artists Meilee Chao, Eduardo Vargas, Sarah Webb, Leanne Roed, Sarah Roland, Diego De la Rocha, and our hundred card artsits for making the game so breathtakingly beautiful. Narrative designer Lindsay Ishihiro for making us laugh, cry, and fall in love with their moving prose. Gord, Em and others from A Shell in the Pit Audio, and all of our incredible musicians, for adding another dimension of wonder and beauty to the game.
Thanks to my husband Colin Northway for helping with tricky algorithms and game balancing, and for a tremendous amount of emotional support, idea-bouncing and code checks over the last five years.
Thanks to our publishers Finji, our QA and porting teams, and a very special thank you virtual hug to our incredible beta testers and all of our fans for your support and encouragement. And to my dad, who has logged hundreds of hours living life after life on the planet Vertumna.
Thank you, friends.
Okay enough mushy stuff, it’s release day!
The team and I have been eagerly waiting to open the gates and invite everyone to come explore our beautiful planet Vertumna. I hope you find it as charming, thrilling, moving, and fun as we do, and I can’t wait to hear what sort of Teenage Exocolonist you’ll be.
I Was a Teenage Exocolonist begins when you’re an innocent ten-year-old just taking their first steps on a brand new planet, and ends (if you survive!) when you reach age twenty after many trials and harrowing adventures. The mood of the game changes dramatically as your exocolony is plunged into disaster and loss. Some hardships are preventable, others inevitable no matter how many lives you live.
So it was a challenge to find a soundtrack which could represent that whole spectrum of emotions, and portray all the different people you might become during those ten years: maybe an alien-obsessed bookworm, a brave but pacifist explorer, a high-strung chef, or a kindhearted collector of oddities and odd friends.
Daniel Rosenfeld (aka C418, or “that Minecraft guy”) suggested the best way to represent all these different possible child, teenage, and adult yous would be a soundtrack made by various artists. So with the help of Gordon McGladdery from A Shell in the Pit (who are also doing our audio), I set about recruiting friends and new artists whose style jammed with what I was imagining.
The result is 27 tracks totaling 2 hours, featuring these 14 artists:
I put together a playlist of inspirations with some of my favorite game soundtracks (Stardew Valley, Wandersong, Jettomero, and yes Minecraft), some ambient electronic artists with heavy synths (Boards of Canada, Jean-Michel Jarre, Hologramme, Home), and some cool instruments (Plaid, Four Tet, Rone, Nine Inch Nails). Plus more tinkly piano, new age (Enya!), Beyoncé and Bulgarian choir to keep things weird.
Exocolonist is science fiction after all!
One spooky and melancholy sound I was particularly into was instruments recorded then played backwards, a prompt I gave artists along with the playlist.
I split the soundtrack into 3 parts:
1) First half of the game: innocent, bright and optimistic
2) Second half of the game: moodier, more tense and eerie
3) Exploration biomes: ambient and naturey
Some tracks appear throughout both halves of the game to tie it together. They’re all also divided up by season, matching light piano to the glittering peace of Quiet season, and darker synths to the mysterious tension of Glow season.
The exploration areas where you go to survey, forage or hunt are some of the most beautiful parts of the game, and I felt needed longer more ambient tracks to illustrate how it feels to be away from the bustle of the colony. A friend was discussing modular synths on his stream one day and played a sample of Jogging House‘s YouTube videos:
Jogging House had this wide array of beautiful musical toys with soothing flashing lights, and usually incorporated some kind of analog tape deck for a touch of static-warble effect. It sounded exactly like a peaceful evening on a bluff overlooking a Vertumnan mushwood forest. I was lucky to license six tracks from him, including this one – Pines – which appears during Wet season and one other special place.
These tracks were all pre-released by Jogging House through his electronic label Seil Records. I found another synth artist – Crooked Walking – through the label and we were later delighted to find out not only do we live in the same city, but we bumped into each other at a mutual friends’ event. Small world!
I met another artist busking here in Vancouver. Kiyoshi Iio (Koku) is no only a talented synth composer, he incorporates acoustic instruments including guitar, didgeridoo, and handpan.
Handpan is a relatively new instrument that combines cultural traditions from South Asia and the Caribbean and is associated with travellers and boho culture. Much like the people of Exocolonist, who are sort of a multinational hippie commune with a colony ship.
I think handpan sounds beautiful and ethereal, especially the way Koku plays it. It is a perfect fit for the mysterious beauty of the planet Vertumna.
Game composer and A Shell in the Pit founder Gordon McGladdery was a big part of the album production, from wrangling contracts and advising on edits to mastering tracks, and he wrote the game’s title track. I was stoked he played some morin khuur for it. A Shell in the Pit also did our audio, and some of Em Halberstadt‘s ambient building hums were so melodic they’re featured on the album too. A Shell in the Pit also composed the soundtrack for Wandersong, Rogue Legacy, and worked on sound for Untitled Goose Game and Night in the Woods.
You might recognize other artists from game soundtracks too. C418 of course from Minecraft (he’s also working on an unannounced game with Ivy Road). Pongball from Kunai and Road Warriors, scntfc from JETT and Oxenfree, Ghost Time Games from his own games Jettomero and Tux and Fanny, sintecta from GirlJail and other cool experimental jams, and Rupert Lally and Espen J Jörgensen (now collaborating with Al Diaz) from my game Rebuild 3.
The Finishing Touches
Jake Gauntlett’s beautiful ambient piano fit right in perfectly with all three parts of the soundtrack. The final track was a tough one though. I was looking for a vocal track to play over the end game sequence and credits, where you find out what path you and your friends’ lives take as adults.
Scouring new releases on Bandcamp I found Frances Aravel‘s track The Child You Were on her album Shining Out of the Dark. The melancholy lyrics and grungy guitar rock reminded me of my own teens as a 90’s kid. Take a listen and see if you feel it too:
So join us on YouTube on August 19th at 10am PT / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT to hear the rest of the soundtrack in its entirety, and chat with the devs and musicians. The I Was a Teenage Exocolonist soundtrack will be available to stream or buy starting August 19th on Spotify, Youtube Music, iTunes, Bandcamp, and other music platforms.
The game is launching on August 25th to Switch, PS4, PS5, PC, Mac, and Linux. Wishlist it today!