week 6 start

first things first, here`s the bit cops intro that sucked two days out of my life

music doesn’t belong to me

it was a fun experiment, in retrospect I wish I had done more with the animation of the logo and maybe the characters faces. but otherwise I feel I emulated the look and feel of the 16 bit era opening screens. maybe a flashing `press start` next time for kicks. I did learn quite a bit from doing it though, the ripple effect on the water was made using a single row of pixels and adjusting them one movement at a time. I was`nt very happy with how the buildings came out, they may have been easier to read with an isometric view (which I noticed a lot, whenever I see cityscapes in 16 bit games. streets of rage and the ninja turtles games are prominent examples) but I was worried it might lopside the angle of th scene.

next time I get the itch for some practise based research I may make a patriot opening screen, but first things first. I need to hunker down and get my draft proposal finished.

as for the rest of this post, research links! summon has`nt really been turning up anything related to my field. so these will have to do in the meantime.

i`ve been digging up a lot of information regarding wayforward, as they`ve made a lot of high-profile sprite games for various platforms. (mostly DS)  matt bozon from the company has this to say regarding 2D graphics and gameplay

In Matt’s mind, the DS may be more friendly to a 2D gaming aesthetic, especially with its digital and touch-screen interfaces. Matt argues: “As far as this stuff goes, one of the things I like about DS is that it’s not so far from GBA. It welcomes 2D gaming, and it also welcomes 2D game concepts in 3D space. I think that a lot of times people have difficulty limiting themselves, because if they’re on PS2 and they can move through all that space, it’s hard to pull back and restrain yourself and say, even if it’s a fully 3D game, we’re going to confine our gameplay to moving on two planes.

anyone remember how difficult it was trying to fight in a 3D space in this game?

For instance, older games have significant advantages over newer games in elements like high and low attacks – a character that can simply attack high or attack low. That kind of thing isn’t done a lot in newer titles, because if the game is fully 3D, you can’t deal in things that are as abstract concepts as “Let’s attack from the side, because we can have a nice clean view.” These elements are small nuances of gameplay that you relied heavily on before. But now, with a lot of the 3D games, all of the movements are very broad, or you’re attacking in hemispheres. You get large attack spaces, and it becomes more clunky and less precise.

I totally agree with him, the lack of immediacy in a 3D space is partly why a lot of game genres have became dormant over the years. and quite obviously he`s referring to 2D scrolling beat em ups. or maybe arena beat em ups that don’t use 2D lanes for movement. there are various workarounds for smoothing out the kink. guardian heroes has a very innovative design where your character can hop between three vertical lanes to fight in.

Sega Saturn did 2D fantastically.

guardian heroes is a 2D scrolling beat em up which came out originally for the Sega Saturn, it`s recently been released on Xbox live arcade.  this whole `lane` gameplay idea is in a lot of great platformers too. littlebigplanet, shantae, and the promising upcoming mutant mudds. I think it`s a brilliant idea because it gives a visual flourish and more depth to the environments. parallax layers actually have a purpose now aside from window dressing.

reminds me of cave story quite a bit

this is an indie game called action fist. and I`m featuring it here because it is a 2D pixel based game which I really dig, and it inspires me.  it even has co-op which i`m a fan of. the weapon system is a lot like gunstar heroes where you combine 3 different elements to create wholly unique weapons. and don’t forget the driving sections, quite an ambitious amount of features for an indie game.  i love the gratuitous amount of layers used in parallax scrolling and the dense amount of objects on-screen at once. yet another title to add to the ever-growing collection of games that use retro style and new tech.

next link is a interview with some of the team behind contra 4 (wayforward yet again, love those guys) and there`s a telling statement about the sprite scene in game’s development.

Ed: How has the talent scene changed in recent times? I recall hearing that Konami had some difficulty finding excellent sprite artists for the early GBA Castlevania titles, although that seems to have changed around. How has the Internet helped studios and talent get together?

i`ve been talking about these guys a lot

Matt – WayForward has always had really great sprite artists & animators. But yes, the Internet makes it easier to find people. Before, we had to train ourselves, whereas now we can shop around. We really value individuals who love pixel art, wherever they can be found.

in the rest of the interview they talk about throwbacks from the original games and what glitches they decided to keep/remove. contra 4 is something of an extreme example of the older generation. it`s hard as nails and it`s deceiededly old school in it`s presentation. the contra series did veer off into 3D during the playstation2 years but it wasnt very well received. they could probably make it work if they balance the mechanics and fine tune the camera/controls. but then it runs the risk of losing that fine balance between player skill and the feeling of accomplishment. ergo, keep it in 2D.

now as you can probably tell, i`m a big fan of retro genres as i`ve done nothing but rave about their excellence in past posts. there’s an article up on thegameprodigy which discusses at length, choosing the art style, to suit your game type. in their words..

Most indie developers sadly don’t put much thought into their game artwork.  The current trend, running along with the Experimental Gameplay Sessions and other conferences, is to focus squarely on mechanics.  Artwork is an afterthought, often just chosen randomly or by deciding what is the easiest to pull off.

I’m not saying that more time should be invested in artwork planning than gameplay planning.  But I am saying that it should be something developers think about.  As part of the Aesthetic Layout, artwork is what makes your game come alive.  It can augment or reduce the theme and effectiveness of your game, and as such it should not be taken lightly. During gameplay as well as in screenshots on your blog or review sites, artwork speaks volumes, and purposefully chosen artwork screams your game’s uniqueness.  Action packed games will have an action packed style.  Thoughtful or somber titles will have sadder tones, colors, and UI elements.

it`s something which got me thinking, in new indie games where they emulate the 16 and 8 bit styles. why necessarily constrict the design and genre to the aesthetic? for example, just because a game is simple and uses 2 buttons doesn’t mean it needs to look like an old NES game and vice versa. a 16 bit styled game could have all the metaphorical depth of a deep game like for example the elder scrolls series, but presented in a retro fashion. I personally would enjoy the combat a lot more, and the grand landscapes could be presented in the form of parallax layers, it would be a pixellated sight to behold.

mismatching aesthetic and gameplay style could be an interesting endeavour

I do fear I`m becoming too niche and introverted in my own theories. so to summarise, i don’t fully agree with the article. aside from the aspects of mood and colour schemes, but those are fundamental details which apply to any era of style.

next up, more dark void zero! an interview with the creators (other ocean) discussing the development and the balance they kept between new and old.

When you’re making a retro game like this, design-wise, what do you keep and what do you throw out from the old days of the NES. I mean, people could pretty easily point to the tenets of design back then.

MM: So, the greatest thing about the group at Other Ocean is a lot of the guys were making games back in the old days, like the NES era and Super Nintendo. So, for the people that signed up for the work here, they came from that era, so they made a large number of games back in the days that fit this mold. So, it was just exciting for everybody because you rarely get a chance to go back and build the games that you loved to build when you started your career. Back then, if you look back at the 80s and 90s, side-scrolling platformers and shooters were all the rage. And they kind of disappeared obviously with 3D and everything coming in.

It was just something that was really a treat to work on, so the guys that jumped in, we had old tools that we could use that we could count on. For instance, the pixel art in the game, it’s kind of a lost art, but we’ve had people who’ve done that for a long time. And for our company, which has done a lot of handheld for so long — we’ve worked on the Game Boy Color, which is very much like the NES — it was just natural.

So, it was this really comfortable thing to fall back into. And then when you think about the controls, we wanted to keep the NES controls… The simplicity was working to our benefit. We didn’t have much time to build this game, so to build artwork in 8-bits and design a game that had two buttons really shaved off the amount of time we had to put into it as far as production goes.

And we could just focus on just the core game design itself. We wanted it to feel good when you’re flying around and shooting things. We wanted it to actually be rewarding to interact with the game rather than figure out how much we can cram into it.

And so in terms of like the actual design of it, like you know, the punishing difficulty or the kind of… I mean, how far do you go with, “Yes, the screen will start to flicker when there are too many sprites” or things like that.

MM: We started out planning and doing all the sprite flicker and doing everything that we could to make it as authentic as possible to the NES, but it kind of got to a point where if you go down that road, it’s a fine line. If we go down that road, there were things that we would do in the gameplay that would be a lot more limiting than what people today would expect in a game.

So, for instance, we actually wanted to have far more enemies on screen than what you would normally get on an NES. So, we kind of quickly threw away the notion of sprite flicker and all these things that would be very problematic or limits that we’d have to impose on ourselves for gameplay.

And then we just basically wrote that off in the fiction as there was a special chipset, the System Zero chipset, that would be included in each cartridge like the FX chip that Super Nintendo would use and eliminate sprite flicker and that sort of thing.

they actually mention the lack of a sprite flicker which I mentioned in the earlier post when other ocean actually paid a visit to abertay. the design choice of having fewer assets and features/ meaning they can be polished to a higher degree is something that also interests me, and it`s why a lot of older games just `feel` so right. the elaborate scheme behind the titles fictitious back story was inconsequential to my area of research but still a really smart and entertaining marketing ploy.

next up, a video, showing off superbrothers: sword and sorcery

the graphical style is akin to 16 bit but with shades of early PC point and click games too. the in-game graphics are mainly retro sprites but it has some cleaner, modern flourishes like the user interface and special effects. the inclusion of social networking I`ll admit is quite innovative too. the animation also harkens back to a simpler time. unlike the sound design which has high quality music and sound effects. it doesn’t wholly embrace the old school style but I don’t think it`s trying to be. the developers have stated several times that the title is designed more as an experience than anything else. i`d like to find out more about why they chose the graphics they did. i also plan on actually playing the game soon.

that`s all for now! during this week i`m gonna make my project plan draft hopefully, and tackle whatever the lectures throw at me. and if i have energy to spare, finish my Halloween costume!

non uni stuff below this line

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the soldiers blackbox! now it`s actually black!

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