My Famicase 2023

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, the My Famicase Exhibition!

I mentioned this briefly in the last Enjoyment Roundup; but for more context, My Famicase is a little show put on every spring by Satoshi Sakagami of METEOR gallery in Nishi-Ogikubo, Tokyo. Every year, folks from all over the world get to design brand new, imaginary games for the Super Famicom system (Japan’s version of the Super Nintendo) and have them displayed on physical cartridges for all to see! I’ve had the honor of participating in 3 previous exhibitions, but took last year off due to having zero extra creativity.

A fictitious Famicom cartridges on a black background. Title: Dream Garden Duo. Illustration of a futuristic couple holding hands and plants with scifi halos around their serene expressions.
A favorite past entry, Dream Garden Duo
A fictitious Famicom cartridges on a black background. Title: Gelatinous Cubicle. A skeleton, desk, chair, computer, and papers float freely inside a green, glowing mass.
And another, Gelatinous Cubicle: Dungeon Bureaucracy Simulator
A triangle, semi-occult-ish logo with an a drowsy eye in the center. It’s got a shiny, holographic sticker look to it.
The logo for ONUS, my fictitious game developer

A sweet & sticky space mystery

As with most of my previous entries, the idea for the name came first. I have a note on my phone where I workshop Famicase ideas throughout the year so that once I realize “oh dang I better get started” in February or so, I can get started without too much stress. Gelatinous Cubicle (2021’s entry) was born from this list, and I’m excited about some promising candidates for forthcoming years 😎

S’MARS quickly rose to the top this time, but I needed to figure out what it meant. Would it be about a planet made of gooey, burned confectionary? Maybe some sort of saccharine puzzle game? Thankfully, a rewatch of Sunshine and a YouTube playthrough of the Dead Space remake coincided to give the idea some loose structure.

As always, things start with some rough sketches. I typically do this only as long as it takes me to scratch out a few ideas or type lockups that I like.

Two pages of a small, pocket-sized sketchbook filled with S’MARS doodles. Left: s’more schematic and general notes to myself. Right: title treatment ideas.
The messier, the better

There’s something hungry out there...

I knew I wanted to do something with a sci-fi technical schematic look, with text overlaid using some sort of transparency or blending mode. I made the ship first, but it was a bit too complicated at first to have text reliably and legibly sit on top. But after 5 iterations or so, I hit a general layout and color scheme (inspired by NASA, ofc) that worked well.

Black and grey vector line drawing of the s’more ship. It has a quasi-isometric side perspective, and too many solar panels and other details.
An initial pass at the ship
Two vertically stacked, unfinished type examples for the game art. Top is very NASA-y, though only smells MAR at this stage. The bottom is a much more angular and rigid take, though abandoned after MA and some light grey spacing blocks.
Early type explorations

I remade and recolored my old Famicom cartridge vector template in Figma, and voila!

Off-white Famicom cartridge with navy blue, sky blue, and red art. The word S’MARS is overlaid atop a lined schematic drawing of a spaceship made of multiple modules and panel arrays arrange along a central axis. It seems reminiscent of marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers?

The final title treatment, especially, was a blast to develop. I knew I wanted something tech-y and somewhat interconnected, but earlier NASA-esque explorations didn’t pan out the way I wanted. Plus, the juxtaposition of such stark and rigid lettering and an ooey-gooey treat is kind of funny.

The tech-y, sci-fi title treatment I made for S’MARS — centered in solid white with outlined yellow versions radiating vertically off of it.
Thank you, have a nice day!

With Famicase entries, though, the art is only half of it. You’re also encouraged to write a short game description that will go onto the website and exhibition booklet. It could be anything, which is intimidating! But some of my aforementioned media consumption helped crystallize into this:

Mallow Core: offline. Graham Panel Array: unresponsive. Choc Strut Integrity: compromised. We’re 84 million miles from home, and there’s something hungry out there.

I could keep writing about this stuff for a while, but honestly I didn't document as much of the process or rejected concepts as I’d hoped 😅 If you’d like to read more sometime about these (like using extensive Figma components for the first time while making Gelatinous Cubicle) or anything else Famicase-related, hit that email link below.

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