Twisted Pixel Games

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Twisted Pixel Games
Industry Computer and video games
Interactive entertainment
Founded 2006
Headquarters Austin, Texas, United States
Key people
Josh Bear, CCO
Bill Muehl, CEO
Frank Wilson, CTO
Products The Maw
'Splosion Man
Comic Jumper
Ms. Splosion Man
The Gunstringer
Wilson's Heart
Number of employees
Parent Independent (2006-2011; 2015–present)
Microsoft Studios (2011-2015)

Twisted Pixel Games is a video game developer based in Austin, Texas. Originally a contractor, Twisted Pixel now releases games based on their own intellectual properties such as The Maw and 'Splosion Man. The company uses their own proprietary engine, known as BEARD, to power their games. On October 12, 2011, it was announced that Twisted Pixel had become part of Microsoft Studios. However, Twisted Pixel was separated from Microsoft and become an independent company again starting from September 30, 2015.


Twisted Pixel Games was founded in 2006 by industry veterans Michael Wilford, Frank Wilson and Josh Bear.[1] The company first performed contract work for the now-defunct Midway Games, providing engineering work for NBA Ballers: Chosen One and Blitz: The League II. In 2008 Twisted Pixel announced that their focus had shifted to digitally distributed games based on their own new intellectual properties.[1] In 2008 the company moved from Madison, Indiana to their current location in Austin, Texas. According to CEO Michael Wilford the move was to "tap into a broader talent pool."[2]

Initially, Twisted Pixel targeted WiiWare as their service of choice. Speaking of the 2005 planned state of the service "Back then, WiiWare was planned to be more like Xbox Live Arcade" stated CEO Michael Wilford.[3] He noted the original plans for the service would require companies to submit games to Nintendo for approval, similar to the submission process Microsoft uses for Xbox Live Arcade. Early discussions with Microsoft were not positive, but Wilford stated that Nintendo was eager to work with them. "Twisted Pixel was the first company to get a green light for WiiWare."[3] Nintendo later changed their WiiWare model to one that required no submission process. Twisted Pixel opted not to use the service and continued talks with Microsoft. In 2007, Wilford met with David Every, the portfolio planner for Xbox Live Arcade at that time. Twisted Pixel pitched multiple games, including The Maw, which would become their first Xbox Live Arcade title.[3]

Released on January 21, 2009, The Maw tells the story of the extraterrestrial Frank and a purple, amorphous creature called The Maw, who have crash-landed their spacecraft on an alien planet.[4] Their second title, 'Splosion Man, is a platform game where players control an escaped science experiment with the ability to explode himself repeatedly.[5] It was released on July 22, 2009. Twisted Pixel's third title, Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley was released October 6, 2010. Players control Captain Smiley, a comic book hero whose comics are poorly received. Seeking help from Twisted Pixel themselves he "jumps" in other comics, hoping to glean from each genre's popularity.[6] On December 3, 2010 Twisted Pixel announced Ms. Splosion Man, a sequel to 2009's 'Splosion Man.[7] It was released on July 13, 2011.

On February 1, 2011, the company revealed their fifth original game, The Gunstringer, a third person shooter designed for use with the Xbox 360 Kinect peripheral. The game was originally intended to be the first Xbox Live Arcade game to be featured as a Kinect title but instead became a retail release.[8] It is set as a live-action play set in the Old West. The protagonist, killed by his posse, has been resurrected and seeks revenge. Live action sequences for the game were filmed at The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas where the company is located.[9]

On September 30, 2015, Twisted Pixel Games announced that they had been separated from Microsoft Studios and become an independent studio again.[10]

Their games have been generally well received by critics, and collectively have won several awards. The Maw won the 2008 Audience Choice award at PAX10,[11] and was a finalist at the Independent Games Festival 2009.[12] 'Splosion Man was voted by the Xbox Live community as the Best Original Xbox Live Arcade Game of 2009.[13] In a September 2010 ranking, IGN listed it eleventh in their top twenty-five Xbox Live Arcade titles of all time.[14] It also received several Best of E3 awards in 2009.[15] Captain Smiley, the lead character in Comic Jumper received the Best New Character award from Official Xbox Magazine in 2010.[16]


In 2009 the company released its first teaser trailer for Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley. This caught the attention of an independent comics publisher, Fierce Comics who produces The Maniacal Smile, a character that has been in print form since 1998. Captain Smiley retained many similarities to The Maniacal Smile and Fierce Comics and Twisted Pixel agreed to showcase their differences by having The Maniacal Smile appear in the Comic Jumper video game to include an unlockable issue and have Captain Smiley appear in a stand alone issue of The Maniacal Smile.

In January 2011, Capcom released an iOS game entitled MaXplosion, which featured several similarities to 'Splosion Man, including the same game mechanics. Speaking on Twitter, Twisted Pixel programmer Mike Henry believed the game to be "a complete theft". Twisted Pixel CEO Michael Wilford also pointed out that they once pitched 'Splosion Man to Capcom, but was rejected.[17] Twisted Pixel does not plan to take legal action against Capcom.[18] Capcom responded to the allegations saying that the game was developed independently by Capcom Mobile, a different division from the one that had discussions with Twisted Pixel, and the game's similarities to 'Splosion Man was a coincidence.[19] Wilford later explained that the pitch to Capcom was presented to the US branch of the company, and that the UK division handles all mobile game development. He stated that it was unlikely that Capcom US passed on the game pitch to Capcom UK.[3]


All of Twisted Pixel's games are powered by BEARD, a proprietary engine.[20] Content is developed with the company's proprietary Razor editor in conjunction with RAD Game Tools' Granny 3D animation toolset.[21][22] Razor can be adapted to develop in 3D or 2.5D configurations. Games are scripted using Lua, which allows the developers to share code between titles.[21]

Developed games

Year Title Platform(s) Genre
2009 The Maw Xbox 360, Windows Action-adventure
2009 'Splosion Man Xbox 360 Action, Platformer
2010 Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley Xbox 360 Side-scroller, beat 'em up
2011 Ms. Splosion Man Xbox 360, Windows Platformer
2011 The Gunstringer Xbox 360 Third-person shooter, rail shooter
2013 LocoCycle Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows Racing, vehicular combat
2017 Wilson's Heart Oculus Rift


  1. ^ a b Kumar, Mathew (2008-07-09). "Q&A: Twisted Pixel's Wilford On Being Swallowed By The Maw". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  2. ^ "GameSetInterview: 'The Maw's Deleted Scenes - A Twisted Pixel Approach to DLC'". Game Set Watch. 2009-03-18. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Game Informer" (September 2011). The Zen of Twisted Pixel
  4. ^ Whitehead, Dan (2009-01-29). "The Maw Xbox 360 Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  5. ^ Sessler, Adam (2009-06-15). "Splosion Man Hands On Preview". G4TV. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  6. ^ OXM Staff (2010-10-04). "Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley". Official Xbox Magazine UK. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  7. ^ Grant, Christopher (2010-12-03). "Ms. Splosion Man makes her debut, sploding 'fall of 2011'". Joystiq. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  8. ^ Navarro, Alex (2011-06-07). "The Gunstringer Is a Retail Game Now, But Is It Any Good?". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 2011-06-12. 
  9. ^ Fletcher, JC (2011-01-26). "Twisted Pixel shooting video in Austin for unannounced game". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  10. ^ Dyer, Mitch (September 30, 2015). "LocoCycle Developer Twisted Pixel Is An Indie Studio Again". IGN. Retrieved September 30, 2015. 
  11. ^ Fahey, Mike (2008-09-23). "The Maw Devours PAX 10 Audience Choice Award". Kotaku. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  12. ^ "The 12th Annual Independent Games Festival: Finalists and Winners". Independent Games Festival. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  13. ^ Hryb, Larry (2010-04-06). "Xbox LIVE Marketplace release schedule". Retrieved 2010-10-03. 
  14. ^ "The Top 25 Xbox Live Arcade Games". IGN. 2010-09-16. Retrieved 2010-09-16. 
  15. ^ Ferry (2009-07-22). "On Xbox Live Arcade today: Splosion Man". Video Games Blogger. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  16. ^ "@OXM OfficialXboxMagazine". Official Xbox Magazine via Twitter. 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2011-01-20. Well-deserved! Give the Cap our congrats. RT @mrwilford: Thanks @OXM for voting Captain Smiley as 2010's "Best New Character"! Awesome! 
  17. ^ Ivan, Tom (2011-01-12). "Splosion Man dev accuses Capcom of 'complete game theft'". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  18. ^ McElroy, Justin (2011-01-13). "Twisted Pixel CEO: We won't pursue legal action over Capcom's MaXplosion". Joystiq. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  19. ^ Good, Owen (2011-01-13). "Capcom 'Saddened' By Plagiarism Allegations". Kotaku. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  20. ^ Gilbert, Ben (2010-12-03). "Twisted Pixel's Josh Bear on giving Ms. Splosion Man more than just a bow". Joystiq. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  21. ^ a b "Dev Talk-Twisted Pixel Games". Gamer's Mint. 2010-02-17. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  22. ^ Alexander, Leigh (2010-07-19). "Twisted Pixel Uses RAD's Granny 3D In Comic Jumper, BEARD Engine". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 

External links

  • Official website
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