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A Call for Player Testimonials

Have you played a demo of our game in the last two years? Can you help us cross our funding goal with a personal testimony of how the game impacted you? Send us a video or text message to info (at), and we’ll include it in our testimonial update next week.  Thank you for your support! We’re 76% of the way there!



We've launched a Kickstarter, and we're coming to OUYA, PC & Mac via Steam Simultaneously!


Hi Friends,

The game has come a long way in the past year.  We have just a few scenes left to build before we can work on fixing bugs and polishing the game for release and we’ve taken a hard look at our budget and decided that we need to raise more funds to finish game in the way we believe it should to be finished. This also means that we will be delaying the release until mid-late 2015.

The most important way in which the design has changed in the last year is how we’ve incorporated and encoded interaction with Joel into the experience.  We did not start out the design of our game with much animation. In the demo scene we showed last year, we didn’t represent Joel visually at all.

That has changed drastically.  We have Joel dancing, and clapping, laughing, and playing in the park or playing catch with a dog.  Our newest member of the team, Ryan Cousins, who has been working with us since January, has brought the expertise we needed to be able to do this and we find the interactions we get to create in the game very rewarding.

That’s just one example of how the game has grown since we started. We also have a few more scenes than we planned, but we believe they are necessary because they tell a more complete story, the story that needs to be told more than the one we set out to tell.  We started this project while Joel was still with us.  Joel’s death this year made us realize that the details of what happened to Joel do not matter as much as just being with Joel mattered, and we desire to reflect that truth in every scene of the game.

Our Kickstarter is live right now, along with this campaign and with help from OUYAIndie Fund and a private investor loan, we feel that we will be able to finish this game well.

We’ve been given this amazing platform to tell Joel’s story and we want to tell yours too, so we’ve made space for you in the game through our backer rewards. We want to enable you to really participate in the creation of That Dragon, Cancer.

We need about 3,000 backers who will contribute $30 to our campaign in order to be fully funded.  Will you be one of them?

We’re Launching on OUYA, Windows, and Mac Simultaneously!

Also, we are very happy to announce that, in association with OUYA, we will be releasing the game for PC and MAC download through Steam on the same day we release on OUYA.  OUYA has been really great about working with us and our desire to bring this game to as many people as possible as soon as possible and were willing to change our exclusivity terms to do that.  I’m not sure how many companies would be open to that so late in a project, but I believe we’ve found a special partner in OUYA.  They believe in games, they believe in indies, and they believe in us.

So please, share the kickstarter page on your social networks and with your friends and family, and be a day one backer. We need your help to make this happen. Thank you.





Recovering from PAX, Charity Update, Let's keep it going.

I just wanted to say Thank you for PAX. We got to meet many new amazing, caring and kind people this weekend, and I’m continually encouraged that this industry is full of loving people.  One new friend came back at the end of PAX just to check on me and make sure I was doing alright.

This weekend we raised $110 and gave out some beautiful art. Thank you so much for those who took the time to donate (even though our wifi situation made it a bit cumbersome.) For those of you that still want to donate, use the link I’ve provided in this post.

We will soon make space for the art on our website, so that the rest of you can see the beautiful, personal artwork made by game players and game makers and game spouses; with experiences that show just how diverse are the voices and stories of those in the gaming community.

I also received word, that had we given more time, some other artists would have contributed pieces. We’d like to keep the call open. Keep sending art. Keep telling your stories.

We’ll post submissions, if we receive a donation of any amount, we’ll email out a print ready PDF file of the donor’s choice.


ps. If you want to practice your art, come hangout with us on We hangout on google for 10 minutes every week day and make art together.


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On Sound Design and Goodwill

Jon Hillman, That Dragon, Cancer sound designer, composer, programmer.
Jon Hillman, That Dragon, Cancer sound designer, composer, programmer.

While working on an upcoming scene, we discovered a need for a classic ‘Spin n’ Say’ toy to be created, with which the player will interact. It’s been a while since I played with this kind of toy, and after a brief search around the house I remembered how few of my sons’ toys make noise (you gotta do what you can to stay sane). A few seconds on the internet later, I was well-reminded of how this toy works: pull a lever, a dial spins, and delightful low-fi narration and animal noises ensue. In our toy’s case, there’s also some buttons and an extra lever.

Some of these sounds are simple to make, basically put a microphone in front of something and press record. A few edits and minimal processing, and there you have it. So, I figured I’d head to the thrift store and see what they had. At first I saw nothing like what I needed - almost everything was digital with very few mechanics (no buttons, no moving lever, etc). I was about to leave when I threw some toys to the side in frustration, and the perfect toy was revealed. Lever…check. Spinning dial…check. Unbelievably annoying sounds coming from a tiny speaker inside a cheap plastic case with a happy farmer on it…CHECK.

Recording Sound with Spin and Say toy.
Recording Sound with Spin and Say toy.

Once back at the studio, my first priority was to get the batteries out of this thing. I’d need to be able to pull the lever and isolate the mechanical sounds I wanted. A few minutes of recording and editing later, and that work was done. I then wondered how to approach making our own narration and animal sounds, and most importantly how to make them sound like the toy. I have lots of tricks up my sleeves (ie; effect plug-ins and hardware), but was concerned with the time it might take to mimic the toy via processing,  and my declining mental health over that course of time.

Glancing down at the toy, which was face down with its guts hanging out the back, I realized I could probably add an audio input without much fuss. Then, mimicking the toy would be as easy as pressing play and putting a microphone in front of it. Thanks to the general state of things in my studio, my soldering iron/hacking tools were already out and ready to go. About 10-15 minutes later, I sent out a recording of a team-favorite track made through the toy. After a few very silly late-night voiceover sessions with Mike, we had our toy fully-realized in the game.

Guts of a toy
Guts of a toy

With all the fancy tools we have these days, I often forget about more organic, natural approaches. I’d probably still be tweaking some knob on an EQ, or auditioning impulse responses, if I hadn’t have just hacked that toy. Now I have a new tool on the shelf for whenever I need that ‘awesome’ sound again, and the world can rejoice in having one less Farmer whatever-his-name-is toys in circulation.

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On Work, Joy and Love.

In the midst of all of the struggle and pain in this last year, our family experienced a lot of joy.  I think that would likely be one of the most surprising aspects of our family life to one outside looking in.  

Joel’s illness often tethered us to our home for long stretches of time.  While I went to work, Amy would often spend many consecutive days driving more than an hour each way to Denver and back from Children’s Hospital; spending most of each day with Joel and one or more of our children in a tiny treatment room while Joel received chemo or waited for tests.

So when we received good news or had breaks in treatment, we loved to take long road trips as a family. 

One of the longer trips we took lasted two weeks and took us from Colorado to Washington, down the Coast of California to San Diego and back through Arizona.  I will always treasure our road trips, eating pizza in swim trunks at the local hotel; all six of us sleeping in a room with narrow; hard beds; driving for hours at a time through redwood forests and snowy mountain roads in van that smelled of 4 very messy boys, their toys and fast food wrappers, and dance parties.

One of the other blessings that has been mixed into my life is the ability to support my family and the cost of treatment through work on “That Dragon Cancer” as a full time job.  When I started this project with Josh, I had plenty of code experience, but very limited 3d artistic ability.

As you see from this picture, the uncanny valley is very real, and I was slipping from the ledge.  Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of throwing myself fully into work as an artist for the first time.  Working with Josh and Nat and Ryan, and learning and experimenting,  writing and drawing and sharing our story with the world has been tremendously fulfilling.

 And I’m grateful, that even though my skill does not yet match my taste, that we have the opportunity to honor Joel through this project, as well as the time and resources to create something beautiful and that gets more beautiful the longer we work on it.  This is especially vital to me now as we grieve; having the chance to throw all of my ability, and love, into work that matters to me has never been more important to my health and the health of my family.

I hope that this post encourages you, first that choosing work that matters too much to let yourself fail and choosing to go after it even when your skill doesn’t match your taste, is work worth completing.

This isn’t just my art, this is our art, and I think that is an important distinction.

It’s built on the experiences we choose to share together, and the beauty we choose to make together.

Create with each other, Learn from each other, Love one another.  It’s worth it.

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