Twitch Canvas from Kitfox Games

Platforms like Twitch are making it easier for game devs to experiment with crowdsourced input and social engagement. Independent Montreal-based studio Kitfox Games is a perfect example, as their new Twitch Canvas app shows how these can be used to make beautiful pixel art.Twitch Canvas Kitfox Games

In the same vein as the Reddit/r/place pixel art experiment, the Twitch Canvas from Kitfox Games allows users to input coordinates and place pixels, one by one, to collectively build a piece of art. It also shows a new dimension in online gaming, where users get to impact the outcome of the experience to a collective degree.

We were curious about how Twitch Canvas came to be, so we reached out to Tanya and Marcelo at Kitfox to find out.

What inspired this Twitch Canvas ‘project’?
Tanya: Marcelo and I have wanted to experiment with Twitch crowd interactions for a long time, but only recently did we decide to spend a few days exploring the possibilities. I had the beginnings of an idea for a crowd art toy back when Twitch ran their Bob Ross spotlight, and then when reddit ran /r/place for April 1st, similar rules seemed like an easy starting point.

Is it a just for fun project or is this part of something bigger?
Tanya: Both! Obviously we used the limited palette to help draw attention to The Shrouded Isle (coming August 4th!), but that was mostly a convenient overlap. We’d love to keep exploring more Twitch toys and Twitch-based gameplay, and have tons of ideas for it, but Twitch Canvas itself is probably always going to just be a for-fun thing.

What were your biggest concerns around using a live creative format?
Tanya: Penises and hate speech. It’s great that Twitch already has some pretty heavy modding tools, but giving people a whole new platform for being racist or drawing penises seemed a bit scary. Luckily, we have the best community in the world, and only 1 brief penis and 1 brief swastika appeared, both of which were erased by other viewers within hours.

That’s a pretty good outcome for the internet. Why Twitch? Did you make use of Twitch-specific features, or could this be ported onto another platform?
Tanya: We specifically wanted to take advantage of the heavy lifting Twitch does towards massively multiplayer inputs — they already handle the distinct user accounts & usernames, streaming to clients, anti-spam, etc. We listed “top artists” according to usernames, for example. So although we built the Twitch Canvas app itself in Unity and it could theoretically run wherever, it’s made specifically for Twitch.

Can you share anything about how the Twitch Canvas app was made?
Marcelo: It was made using Unity 5. It has a 256×256 texture that is scaled to be exactly 4 times its size on screen. The program then connects and listens to twitch chat, identifying the relevant commands and changing the pixels in the texture accordingly. The end result is streamed to Kitfox’s channel normally with OBS.

Tanya: If you want to know more, this Thursday at 4pm, we’ll be streaming Marcelo actually working on the Canvas, implementing some kind of minor functionality and explaining the tech. So stop by and ask your questions!

Will you do it again?
Tanya: We’ll definitely run it another few times! We will try a couple of different palettes and maybe some aesthetic changes or other inputs. Our current plan is to put up a new variant of the Canvas every Tuesday for a few weeks, so check back regularly!

What applications do you foresee for ‘collective’ creative applications?
Tanya: I hope someone figures out how to make Paint 3D into a crowdsourced art project. That would be incredible.

Marcelo: I foresee games that are played exclusively on Twitch in the future, when certain design problems will be solved.

Tanya: Definitely! I hope we get to make one before it’s too much of a gold rush, but… at the very least, I can’t wait to play them!


As Tanya said, you can catch the Kitfox Games team streaming more of Twitch Canvas today, Thursday May 18th at 4pm and every Tuesday with a new canvas variant (for now). If you love Kitfox’s group pixel art app as much as we did, let them know!

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  • On May 18, 2017