ToeJam creator releases Facebook app

Teases return to classic SEGA franchise.

The twisted mind behind bonkers SEGA Mega Drive classic ToeJam and Earl has just launched his latest effort - a free Facebook app called Deko-Deko Mail.

As you can see in the trailer below, the new title from Greg Johnson's Humanature Studios is a simple set-up that lets you add cute animations to your Facebook messages and wall posts. However, it started life as a much more ambitious DS title for SEGA that never saw the light of day.

"It was going to have a deep behavioral AI engine driving contextual behaviors, procedural animations, data-streaming that allowed any character to be combined with any other character, a unique 2D look built with the 3D engine that wiggled, and a huge amount of data," Johnson revealed to Eurogamer.

However, the initial vision was scaled back to a "simpler personality test product" as time ran short. SEGA got cold feet after a management re-shuffle and dropped the game, but not before a trailer made its way onto the internet.

"It surprised me that they never chose to release it," said Johnson. "I suspect it was mainly just that they were busy with other things and it probably fell off their radar."

The Facebook app is the first step in realising the lofty ambitions Johnson's team initially started out with.

"My ultimate plan is to basically finish what I started on the DS and create a world editor where people can create and customize their own planets and fill them with characters who they can interact with in emotionally expressive ways," Johnson explained.

"As a step towards that I thought I'd take our amazing pile of animations and allow people to drop them into their emails and IMs - both online and on mobile devices like iPhone/iPad and Android.

Johnson went on to explain how the idea stemmed from a similar Japanese social phenomenon known as Deko Mairu.

"My beautiful wife is from Japan - I'm a total Japan nut - and they have the most amazing visuals on their cell phones. They are way ahead of us. Over there, if you get a message from someone with no images you start to wonder why they don't like you."

"Me and my team figured we'd start off with just a single animation and posting on Facebook. As you can see there is a grand master plan that extends far beyond this however. Now that we've launched I just need to drum up some bucks to make it all happen."

Other than realising his full Deko-Deko Mail masterplan, Johnson also hinted at a potential return to more traditional game design, and possibly even the franchise that made his name.

"If I can make enough money I also want to create some new ToeJam and Earl products – especially for online and mobile. Multiplayer of course."

"I have many other game concepts that I'd love to build – but it all takes money – so there is a rather blurry line between 'hopes' and 'plans'," he added.

"One thing I do know is that I'm tired of playing the game with publishers where the take creative control when they please, and make all the profits. I'm going to keep trying to boot strap and be independent, even if it means building small. Small and free is the way to go, and maybe I'll get lucky."

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Fred Dutton

Fred Dutton

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Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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