That sweet, sweet, Gameboy Color Spirit

As stated before, I’ve been mulling over making a sprite comic to prototype my stories. Working name is Public Alpha. Although Alpha Test is a strong contender.

Here’s some images my mulling has produced:

The graphics follow some rules intended to give me hard restrictions that are, at the same time, maximally expressive.

  • Colors must be drawn from my Rainbow Rose palette. Rainbow Rose has been developed and tested by choosing colors and printing books via KDP. The result is a list of 32 colors that behave well for me when transitioning from screen to print. This means the comic should be printable as is; all I have to do is render a version with a high enough DPI.
  • There are three tile layers. Layer 1 is meant for parallax backgrounds. Layer 2 is meant for actual level art. Layer 3 is meant for HUDs, decorations, and tiles that need to appear in front of the sprites.
  • Every tile must follow a palette of 4 colors. If the tile is partially transparent, that’s one of the 4. However, there is no limit on the number of palettes. Tiles are 16×16 pixels.
  • If this were to be made into a game, the screen size would be 320×180, which would then stretch nicely into modern widescreen proportions.
  • Sprites are drawn between Layer 2 and 3.
  • Sprites must follow a palette of 5 colors: black, white, transparent, and two of choice.
  • The use of black and white in tiles is allowed, but discouraged.

These limitations do not actually match anything any game system has done. They are strongly inspired, however, by the Gameboy Color’s limitations. The GBC had four-color palettes like the NES. However, there were a couple of notable differences: the NES always set color zero to transparent; the GBC set color zero to transparent on sprites, but not on tiles. Moreover, the NES was limited to four palettes for backgrounds, and four for sprites, whereas the GBC had 8 for each.

“Black, white, transparent, and 2 colors” for sprites comes from GBC RPGs, like Pokémon Crystal, which would cheat by having a white background, and drawing their highlights in transparent so it looked like they got an extra color on their sprites.

Pokémon Crystal - Finale - YouTube
Dredged from the Interwebz

Or games like Shantae, which would use multiple palettes for a character, but the palette with, say, black, white, flesh tone, and transparent would be used to overly sprites of multiple characters.

Review: Shantae (3DS) - Digitally Downloaded

So, my rules aren’t rules that ever actually existed. They are designed to mimic existing rules combined with tricks people did to bend them. Speaking of which, I may introduce one bend: a sprite may be tinted. In this case, it would have the effect of overlaying an exact copy of the sprite, but with all the colors swapped for a specific color at a given level of transparency. Shantae used palette tinting (different thing, same general effect) to simulate light, shadows, and magical effects enormously, and I may steal that.

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