Playing for more than a score

That Peachey Thing: Western Shootout Game

On April 16, Western alum Joe Peachey’s game for iPhones and iPads, “Western Shootout,” was released via the iTunes App Store. Peachey, who finished his M.S. in WIU’s School of Computer Sciences last fall, said not only will 50 percent of the profits from “Western Shootout” be donated to the National Brain Tumor Society, but the apps and games he builds and sells through his new company, That Peachey Thing, will also all support a specific charity.

For avid gamers, the gaming experience — advancing to higher and higher levels, as well as achieving higher and higher scores — often drive the desire to play. But for Western Illinois University alumnus Joe Peachey, a game he recently published in Apple’s iTunes App Store, his desire to design a game that enables gamers to “play for something bigger” started with his own experience with a malignant brain tumor he had as a child and with a course he took in his graduate program in Western’s School of Computer Sciences.

On April 16, Peachey’s game, “Western Shootout” was released via iTunes. Peachey, who finished his M.S. in computer science last fall, said not only will 50 percent of the profits from “Western Shootout” be donated to a worthy cause (the National Brain Tumor Society), but the apps and games he builds and sells through his new company, That Peachey Thing, will also all support a specific charity.

“The idea behind ‘That Peachey Thing’ is to give 50 percent of the profits from any app made to a specific charity,” Peachey noted. “Each app will support a different cause. This way, others may play for something they feel passionate about. The idea is to let people play for something bigger than just high scores.”

Recently, Peachey provided some background about his new game, how he started it, and why he started his new company.

Western Shootout by Joe Peachey

Western Shootout can be purchased/downloaded from iTunes for iPhones and iPads. See the game preview at itunes.apple.com/us/app/western-shootout/id513810420.

Q). Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background at WIU: How did you get into building games? What are your professional pursuits in computer sciences and/or game development?

My undergraduate degree is in psychology with a minor in computer science from Olivet Nazarene University. After graduation, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in computer science. I am from the Midwest, and WIU allowed me the convenience of being close to home with an opportunity to be a research assistant and teaching assistant.

Originally, my plan was to study network security. During my last semester, I took Computer Graphics 465G. This class piqued my interest and laid the groundwork for my first app, “Western Shootout.” In February, I set up a small business, That Peachey Thing, to make apps and games. I recently took a job with Tata Consultancy Services as an iOS developer. I will be working on enterprise level iPad/iPhone applications.

Western Shootout by Joe Peachey: Game Play

Peachey’s “Western Shootout” game started as a project for his Computer Graphics 465G course. “I needed a final project that involved logic or a game. My friend and I were talking about learning iOS development, and I decided to use the iOS platform to do my final project,” he said.

Q). What gave you the idea for “Western Shootout”? Will you eventually publish it on the Android platform?

Western Shootout started as a project for Computer Graphics 465G. I needed a final project that involved logic or a game. My friend and I were talking about learning iOS development, and I decided to use the iOS platform to do my final project. My hope was to keep the game play simple enough to learn the basics of iOS development but also make it intriguing and fun to play. It started as an idea to shoot just one cowboy. My final project was just one cowboy and the player had 10 seconds to shoot him.

After graduation, I decided to finish the project and publish it to the App Store. Now there are a total of 36 levels across three different difficulties and three shooting galleries varying in difficulty. The game’s levels are simple: shoot all the “ bad guys” before time runs out. In the shooting galleries, the objective is to get a high score by shooting as many “bad guys” as possible in two minutes. The shooting galleries are a way to compete against friends via Apple’s Game Center. Eventually, I may work a little bit in the Android space. For now I will concentrate on my job as an iOS developer and see what the future holds.

Q). Why are you donating 50 percent of the profits you earn from Western Shootout to the National Brain Tumor Society?

At the age of eight, I began to experience seizures. It was discovered two years later that the seizures were caused by a malignant brain tumor. It was not until I was 11 years old that the brain tumor was removed. This was a very challenging and difficult time in my life and the lives of my family.

A vivid memory I have is just before surgery, I looked at my worried, but smiling, mom and wanted to reassure her that I would be okay. I told her, “Don’t worry mom, if I don’t see you when I wake up, I will see you in heaven.” I will never forget the peace I had before the surgery. After surgery I was completely healed and have not had any complications since. Many friends and family were praying for me and I truly believe God saved my life for a purpose. I believe God plans to use That Peachey Thing as a way for me to help others. Giving back to the National Brain Tumor Society is just one way I can begin to give back.

Q). What did you enjoy most about the process of developing the game?

Dealing with the graphics was a lot of fun. The graphics are what got me excited about developing in the iOS environment. Making something that other people would enjoy to play is also rewarding.

Q). Any advice for students or professionals interested in developing games and/or applications (for Apple or Android platform)?

Do not be afraid to try something… just start. There are a lot of resources and people out there to help you along the way. A lot of things I learned came from blogs, stackoverflow.com, and other iOS Developers. Also, ask for help. There are a lot of people with different skills that have developed apps or want to learn more about the iOS platform. At WIU, Jacob Thurman has also developed apps for the App Store and was always willing to help. Toward the end of the development, I was getting help from a graphic artist, Jeff Barbee, and a musician, Lyndon Perry. Both were just dying to get into the iOS space. The more we collaborated; the more excited we became; therefore, the game just got better and better.

Visit That Peachey Thing at www.thatpeacheything.com

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Alum designs 2nd album cover for popular hip hop/rock group, Gym Class Heroes

WIU alum Evan Leake's album cover designs for Gym Class Heroes

Evan Leake's designs for Gym Class Heroes' debut album, "The Papercut Chronicles" (left) and the band's sequel "The Papercut Chronicles II"

When Evan Leake designed his first album cover for Gym Class Heroes‘ debut album “The Papercut Chronicles” back in 2005, he said the Geneva, NY-based rock/hip hop group had “just been freshly signed” to its label, Decaydance Records. Six years and a few albums later, Gym Class Heroes’ sequel to its debut album is number 10 on Billboard’s Rap Album chart (week ending December 3, 2011), and Leake has yet another dynamic cover design to his credit.

Recently, Leake—who earned his bachelor of fine arts from Western Illinois University’s Department of Art in 2006—was tapped to produce an album cover for Gym Class Heroes’ sequel to its debut album, “The Papercut Chronicles II.” According to Leake, he designed this second album cover so that “the artwork flowed seamlessly between the two albums, side by side.”

Charles Wright, art department chair at WIU, and I sent Evan some questions about his latest vision and creation for Gym Class Heroes. Following are Evan’s answers he sent to us via email.

Pale Bird Design Studio | Evan Leake

Pale Bird Design Studio | You can see more of Evan's work at http://www.facebook.com/palebird

Q: How did you first come to be involved with the album cover project for Gym Class Heroes?

Leake: I did the original “The Papercut Chronicles” album back in 2005, when Gym Class Heroes had just been freshly signed to their label. I had worked my way up to getting gigs with major and large independent record labels, and this project was given to me randomly. When the latest album, “The Papercut Chonricles II” came around, they contacted me to do the artwork once again.

Q: How did you conceptualize the first album cover for the band? Can you explain how the creative process works, between you and the band members?

Leake: I usually send artwork to the management and label people, who then, in turn, send the art to the band, so I don’t always get in touch with the band members themselves. This time around we had a couple phone conferences with Travie McCoy [lead vocals] up front to talk about art and photography before we began to get everyone on the same page. After that, we collaborated through management.

I don’t think the band had much in mind when we developed the original artwork. I know we wanted something brightly colored but “urban” and interesting. I took some of the standard iconography of hip hop culture, street art, etc., and made art that resembled stencil graffiti or something to that effect. We also incorporated photos of the band into a sort of collage.

For this most recent album, it was very important to the band’s lead Travie McCoy that the artwork for both albums fit together side by side, like puzzle pieces. I created the new artwork with similar, yet refined techniques and developed the cover for the album to match up directly next to the original.

We then fleshed out the inside of the booklet using portraits of the band again, but this time we gave each member a “totem,” featuring photos of them through childhood, a picture of them from the era of the original album, and then a modern portrait, stacked up to represent growth and reflection.

I was also able to create three single covers for songs that should be hitting the airwaves soon. These covers are designed so that they fit side by side with the cover and match up seamlessly as well. I am very excited for the success of this album, more than anything else I’ve worked on yet and am grateful for the opportunity to work with such talented musicians.

Q: Does the creative work (music) of the band influence your album cover design(s)? If so, how?

Leake: I always consider the band’s music when developing artwork for the band. I like to try new techniques for each CD I do. Sometimes bands will request a style similar to what I’ve done in the past, but I usually try to differentiate each layout so each CD has its own tone that suits the music. I usually like to listen to the record while working on the artwork, but sometimes it’s not so easy. It took a while for me to get a few watermarked MP3s for this latest release, and I didn’t hear the full album until it was released, but when I was working on the original, I had the full album 6 months or more before it came out. But that was a while ago, before the all the early leaks and filesharing.

Q: How did you create the album cover designs?

Leake: I used Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator to create the artwork. The original “Papercut” layout was entirely created in Photoshop, but this time I created the artwork as a 100 percent vector graphic, so that it could be easily adapted to other kinds of merchandise and stage backdrops, etc.

I feel like I was able to create a more interesting layout this time around, using photo collage based on photos the band provided me. I feel like the newest package is much more intentional than the original release. We were kind of just messing around back then, and so was the band. So I think the growth musically and visually really go hand in hand.

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Evan is the owner and lead designer of Pale Bird Design Studios. He is a native of Macomb and lives in Macomb. For more about Evan and his work for other bands, like Fallout Boy, Alkaline Trio, Atreyu, The Academy Is and Trapt, check out, “Local artist designs hit album covers,” which appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of the McDonough County Voice.

Bruce Walters, professor of art at WIU, contributed to this post