wow it`s been like a week without a post. I`ll chalk that to the fact i was celebrating my birthday in various pub related ways.
anyhoo, update. my superbrothers sword and sorcery case study is taking a lot longer than I thought. it`s over 4000 words now and i`m about halfway through the game, it`s a lot bigger then all the reviews would have me believe. although the fact i`m writing stuff down every few seconds is most likely adding onto the playtime. so it wont be posted untill a little later in the week, and is therefore going to overlap into objective 2.
speaking of that, I`ve had about 2 replies from developers I questioned, hopefully some more replies come in during the week and i can blog about them aswell.
got my project plan and timetable updated, here they are.
|1. Abstract (Approx 250 words)|
|The project aims to explore the use of 16 bit aesthetic visual as a means of stylization and a mechanic in modern videogames, media and culture. And subsequently developed an interactive piece based on my findings. Retro aesthetics have a wide appeal mainly because they are nostalgic to many, however many people didn’t grow up with them the same way. But I wish to examine the appeal of these visuals not just from a nostalgic viewpoint, but on the basis that the style has its own merits and is still worthwhile despite being a result of previous technical limitations.On that note, the style can work very well when developed alongside modern technology and innovations, and my research aims to figure out innovative ways to combine them. I will accomplish this by performing various media tests and a final piece which will be aided by various case studies and input from developers who have been working in the field of retro visuals and new technology.The developer `input` will be a question and answer session on the subject and the case studies will be on titles which have utilised the style for modern development successfully. There will be three separate media tests all-encompassing different ideas and genres. They won’t be interactive, just simple videos acting as a `proof of concept` demo. The final piece will be a summarisation of all my research and will be a playable demo which will use a combination of regular vector 2D art and a 16-bit aesthetic.|
|2. Project Aim and Objectives|
|The aim of the research is to explore the use of 16 bit graphics as a means of stylization and a mechanic in modern videogames, media and culture. And subsequently develop an interactive piece based on my findings.The objectives are as follows1.0 Examine contemporary examples to discover what works and what doesn’t2.0 Question developers who have used the style to understand their decision to use the style3.0 Create various media tests to experiment using the aesthetic as a mechanic4.0 Develop a final interactive piece encompassing all of my research to use the visual style as a gameplay mechanic|
|Retro visuals are unique to the videogame industry. Lower resolution visuals were created because of technical limitations, and they continue to be hugely iconic of our medium in all forms of media. Developers shouldn’t be in such a hurry to abandon the style in the pursuit of graphical perfection because that is coming to a peak shortly in our industry with the eventual transition to cloud gaming.Gaijin games have been an indie breakout in this generation, thanks to their stylistic bit.trip series. The bit.trip games are stylistic retro throwbacks which perfectly utilize the style of retro games but the advantages that modern technology can offer. It`s proven to be a winning template for smaller designers everywhere as they have managed to create multiple innovative and award-winning games for a minimal cost. Not to mention their games have immense appeal to gamers who appreciate the retro aesthetic despite not being a part of any previous franchise or even having existed on any technology before this generation.Development costs are only set to rise and this method of development would be the perfect solution to help struggling indie developers break into the market. An inexpensive style which has wide appeal.Not to mention there are a plethora of conventions and exhibitions all dedicated to showcasing retro video games.|
|4. Project Methodology|
|For the first batch of case studies I will play through the chosen games and write down my experience, then dissect my findings to extract the specific elements which help the retro style and modern technology work together so well. It is a very specific element to try to distill so the case studies will be highly thorough and have a large word count.For the Q&A with developers, I will propose a series of questions unique to each developer regarding their development history/products in development to try to understand their inner workings and affinity for the style.For the third objective I will have used a sketchbook throughout the entire year to conceptualize three game concepts for media tests in an attempt to showcase the potential of the style as a mechanic. After a process of research and iteration I will begin work on each concept individually, this will consist of three animations made in flash.For the final piece, I will create an interactive product which is designed to showcase my research and different art styles fully.|
|5. Outcomes and Deliverables|
|1.0 4 case studies2.0 Developer insights from the questions asked3.0 media tests in the form of concept videos showcasing mechanics4.0 Interactive piece encompassing all of the years research and findings|
|6. Expertise and Experience of Project Proposer|
|The proposed has extensive experience with adobe Photoshop for all forms of 2D art and adobe flash for animation. Music and programming will be outsourced.Most of the project assets are within the proposed abilities such as sketchbooks and game studies. The construction of the interactive product can begin as soon as all art assets in place, so at the end of objective 3.|
1.1 Case Studies
1.1.1 bit.trip beat
1.1.2 bit trip runner
1.1.3 dark void zero
1.1.4 Superbrothers: s&s
2.1 Developer Q&A
2.1.1 compile and assess answers
3.1 media tests
3.1.1 conceptulisation period
3.1.2 demo 1 production
3.1.3 demo 2 production
3.1.4 demo 3 production
4.1 Final piece
|8. Ethics and Risk Assessment|
|1.adobe photoshop2.adobe flash3.various video editing software|
also, one of my amazon books came through but it turned out to be a major disappointment.
this was one of the books I bought because 1. it didn’t have any previews so I assumed it had some text in it, considering the title of it is “pixel based illustration and design” but no, it`s just portfolio padding for a bevy of artists.
and 2. all of the artists included did include links to their websites but most of them are dead links, the book came out in 2004 but still. and the links which aren’t 404 are either in different languages or completely irrelevant/unnavigable.
3. it came with a dvd which details the creation of the pixel. two hyperfast cartoons which simply repeat whats in the introduction page of the book. the one small semblance of text in the entire book and it`s reguritated as sprite cartoons. extremely unhelpful.
sure it has lots o nice pictures but that’s all it`s good for
anyhoo, got some better links courtesy of a reply letter from superbrothers craig adams. he was`nt up for answering any questions but he was nice enough to direct me to an interview he`d done lately which had plenty of good information for my cause.
[8bit today] How did you get into pixelling? Tell a bit about your background.
SUPERBROTHERS was founded in 2003 with a mission to mine the expressive potential of low fi videogames and present them to a broad 21st century audience.
i love that term `low-fi` i think i`ll start using it on this blog
At length, I left a post-secondary education in Earth and Ocean Sciences at a west coast university to attend five years of art school ‘back east’ here in Canada, where I began exploring several methods of image-making, with the eventual goal of creating audiovisually sophisticated videogame-type projects with fresh, enjoyable & potentially meaningful logic systems. It had occurred to me that ‘audiovisually sophisticated’ did not necessarily require ‘technologically more complex’, and I could envision a style of retro pixel art that could be both startlingly fresh AND be relatively economical to deploy.
Using individual blocks of color to form a precise visual statement is a technique that dates back through the ages at least as far as 4th century Macedonia, arguably reaching its apex with the Christian mosaics of the byzantine empire eight centuries later. It is largely due to the impact of the pixel – that most basic unit of an electronic display – that these grid based pictures are enjoying a degree of uniqueness in the here and now.
For many among us, this peculiarly abstracted visual language hearkens back only as far as the antiquated computer technology & electronic amusements of yesteryear. Necessarily tessellated to accommodate the limited capacities of the machines of that age, the scenarios that were presented in these diversionary programs were nonetheless enchanting, their stories & structures often derived from a rich international tapestry of folktale, myth, imagination & human experience.
As editorial illustration, this imagery is inherently appropriate for subjects related to technology, communication & entertainment. Due to its current visibility in pop culture it has also proven to be an appropriate choice for advertising and fashion applications. As a deliberate mode of artistic representation, in film or in interactive spaces, the painterly SUPERBROTHERS approach to pixel artwork seems to contain a unique expressive power.
he mentions that the visual style is economic and fresh in this industry, two good points. he also compares pixel visuals to christian works of art from the 4th century. veering dangerously close into the whole `games as art` territory but i can see the similarities in composition. he comes from a highly artistic background and works in a lot of art related fields so he know`s his stuff.
on this website, i also digged up some other interviews with various other pixel artists. here`s some good quotes from minusbaby aka Richard Alexander Caraballo
[8bit today] Instead of being restricted by limitations, you give the 8bit touch to it by mind. Could you tell more about your process of working?
[Minusbaby] “Because I come from a sort of mixed media background on a several fronts (dependent on what was around and what I could afford) – computer, spray paint, lead, carbon, oil pastels, fake gold leaf, smoke, fire, ink and anything else – I felt that there was no reason for me to stick to traditional pixel art techniques. While I do follow a set of rules based on grids, aspect ratios and aliasing, everything else is fair game. For example, a Commodore 64’s palette is limited to sixteen colors.
A few months ago, I made a Pulsewave flier using its palette along with darker versions of the original sixteen colors. While some purists have a tough time giving me respect, my color choices and disregard of the screen resolutions of the original consoles and computers set a personal precedent allowing me to do whatever I want, therefore avoiding boredom and inspiring growth. I am done being bothered by conservative crews who can’t cope. Besides, it’s fun to be naughty and break rules.
that`s quite interesting, apparently there`s a subset of pixel artists who adhere strongly to sticking with the original limitation. maybe for the benefit of emulation or strict imitation, but otherwise it`s best to expand upon it.
got yet another one from an artist called helm (Telemachus Stavropoulos)
[8bit today] What is the background to your story of today, how did your creativity evolve?
[Helm] I came to do pixels because of video-games. I have had a long interest in graphical adventure games (both making them and playing them) and various action and platform titles mainly on the Mega Drive which was the only console my parents ever bought for me.
The interest in video-games was never divorced from pixel art for me, although by looking at my art it might not show as much as for other pixel artists. All my art is informed by the particular effects of computer aesthetics. Hard (and sometimes absurd) machine limitations as a breeding ground for innovative approaches to conveying emotions through visual art.
this echoes the same sentiment spoken by johnathon lavigne in an earlier post about stronger creativity coming from limitations.
so yeah, this 8bit today website is a goldmine for my literature review, almost makes up for that dross book i ordered.
still more to come, here’s some from an interview with a pixel pair known as Eddie (aka Ed) and James (aka Joe) Svärd
[8bit today] James: You’re studying architecture, how does your c64 work, often inspired by architecture and mathematical patterns, find its place in your new profession? How are they related for you?
[James] The inspiration for the c64 art is various and from a large span of low and high culture and usually not only from one discipline. In the studies in Architecture is basically the same. The relationship with my c64 art and Architecture could be said to be economical, spatial and social. Economic in the sense that I try to find ways of getting down to a clean result, taking away the excess and getting down to the essential of the intention.
it`s good to hear pixel art being compared to architecture it`s a comparison i`ve not came across yet in my research. it immediately makes me think of the isometric building style seen in so many web games.
okay that’s enough from 8bit today. i`ve got something even more relevant. eurogamer published a fantastic piece about the decline of the pixel in today’s hardware. it voices concerns about the pixel becoming extinct with the original Nintendo DS going out of production, arguably the last place for pixel games to thrive. here are some choice quotes from a bevy of developers
“I think pixel art has a unique artistic charm that you can’t find in polygon art and it is personally one of my favourite graphic styles, so it would indeed be sad to see pixel art being used less and less frequently.
this is from Mari Shirakawa the creative director of Kirby’s mass attack on Nintendo DS. it`s comforting to know that some developers are equally afraid of the graphics race as i am. it`s the developers who have some sway over where it happens or not. as matt bozon puts it here
“It’s burned into pop culture, so I don’t think it can truly go away,”
he`s right. it`s been incorporated into a plethora of media, and one recent example to wanted to post is the newest futurama episode. they have a segment where it`s all made using a retro pixel aesthetic. needless to say I loved it
. this is the only place you can see it as youtube doesn’t have it.
anyway im becoming distracted, more about the article.
Adam Saltsman, creator of iOS pixel art free-runner Canabalt, argues that its appeal goes beyond just pure nostalgia. Its purity, precision and clarity have myriad benefits when it comes to crafting engaging gameplay. He argues that the rigid predictability of pixel-by-pixel animation is much easier for the player to process and respond to than more modern techniques.
this is exactly what i noticed in my case study of bit.trip runner. he goes into further detail comparing the 2D and 3D street fighter games and how the 2D version offers a lot more rigidness and therefore accuracy for timings and the like. as he puts it
“For timing-based games, for learning from interactive game systems, the fact that there is a style or language for quantised motion helps people learn and it’s a really useful thing.”
this guy knows his stuff, the canabalt game is all about timing, it`s a tough as nails platformer not totally unlike bit.trip runner.
i`ve made the observation countless times that the pixel style is ideal for smaller developers, and matt bozon brings up the same point
“There are few barriers to entry, results come quickly and it’s possible to reach a professional standard much more easily than competing with a five star modern console game,”
this article is eerily similar to my research. i`ve also mentioned how the style is past the point of being used due to technical limitations, and should be a style in it`s own right. look what`s said here
“Remember the last 75 years of practical effects being the only form of special effects in film?” asks Bozon.
“Latex puppets and miniature sets were the only path until CG game along. Well, people are still entertaining the masses with puppetry, only now it’s by choice.
“It’s the same with pixel art. Creative people can work above the technology and set limits for themselves to create something that looks unique. So, you could say we’re past the golden age of pixels, but are now free to use them purely for self-expression.”
I really was barking up the wrong tree by using noir films as a comparison, i should have been looking at puppetry. it really is a fantastic article, I could quote it a dozen more times and I`m sure I will for my literature review but i`ll stop there for now before i copy the entire thing word for word.
non uni work below this line
i got my entry for the sonic cd contest out-of-the-way, here’s the finished piece
the image is inspired from various sources, there’s a fantastic bit in sonic cd when sonic passes through a machine which makes him small so he can fit through smaller gaps. i thought it was the best part of the game since I didn`nt know it was coming and the metal sonic fight had been overhyped. this scenes also a culmination of that part from the game and the storyline from the sonic fleetway comics where time paradoxes cause two sonic`s to be running around (generations much?) so yeah, doubt it`s gonna be a winner but a runner up prize would be nice 🙂
heres some close ups cause i know how wordpress loves to squash images
here`s the actual scene in the game, i reimagined the backgrounds and textures