I do have a love of old pixel art, especially as designed for the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance, which differs from the pixel art of the SNES, or the NES, in that it was designed for an LCD screen where you could see the pixels, rather than a CRT which would blend them together. But it is not just aesthetic appreciation which causes me to love pixel art. It is also the things pixel art says.
A tile mapped world says “this world can be broad and expansive because it is built out of reusable components instead of bespoke ones. A tile mapped world says “you can dig on every ground square, instead of just in designated digging spots.” It also says “I’m not going to pretend this is a movie instead of a video game.”
These statements have been made by 3D graphics; notably Minecraft. And so, as I play around in 3D, I’m trying to do so in a way where I keep those implicit statements pixel art gives. I’m intentionally creating a tilemapped world.
In fact, at the moment, I’m rebuilding Prelude to Nightmare in a different art style. If it works, I can expand it out to an RPG with robots, or whatever I like.
This little tech demo only proves that the tiles are possible. The movement code is no good, though I’m pleased with how well it works for all that. And I think I’m okay with this look. It’s low poly; near the amount of polygons a playstation or n64 game would have, though I’m using that budget not as an aesthetic, but as a way to keep complexity low. It isn’t pretending to be a movie. But it does have potential to look nice with a little polish. An adventure game or JRPG from this perspective would be, in my view, a worthy accomplishment. So I’m going to make myself some nuggets, and forge ahead.
Some days if you ask me what my favorite game is, I’ll say Super Metroid, or Megaman X, or Sonic 3 & K. But most days I will say Link’s Awakening. And you can see this DNA in the little Hat Trick minigame I made a year or two back.
I’m not even trying to hide it.
But one of the things that makes Link’s Awakening special is the jumping. It is a 3D Zelda made on an 8 bit system. And I could add jumping to a pixel art (or HD 2D) game by faking a Z axis. Or I could just switch into 3D mode in Godot and use the Z axis that already exists.
And, indeed, I’ve played with this from time to time.
And indeed, Nintendo remade my favorite game in 3D. And I don’t completely hate it. In fact, I actually love the graphics.
I bought it. I don’t ever play it. Against it, I leverage the following complaints:
The controls feel sluggish instead of responsive. I suspect this was a sacrifice of gameplay to animation quality. It may also be all in my head. But it feels like there’s more time between when I press a button and the thing I want happens, and I hate that.
The depth of field effect irritates me. I love the graphics, but I hate that anything more than a few feet away from you is blurred. I know why they did it: it makes the world feel more like a photograph of a diorama filled with toys. But I don’t care. It still bugs me.
I dislike many of the remixes of the music.
I dislike that they added twice as many secret seashells, and then also doubled the seashell requirement to get the Level 2 Sword instead of just having the extra seashells unlock extra things. Seashells have gone from a delightful secret to a chore.
I can take or leave the dungeon builder, but I can’t take or leave them sticking dungeon blocks in treasure chests that originally contained something I cared about, instead of making new places to stick them.
So, I will watch runs of Link’s Awakening 3D on YouTube. But whenever I want to play Link’s Awakening, I boot up my 3DS and play the eShop version. Or play the original gameboy version with the select bug.
But I don’t hate the 3D. I think making a low-poly 3D top down “2D Zelda-like” in similar visual style to Link’s Awakening 3D might work for me. In fact, I’ve done experiments in finding an art style I’d like for it.
And why not mix in a bit of Megaman X and Metroid in there? Make the hero a low-poly robot. Bring back the “Dronefu” game concept. See, the thing is, making complex animations where a robot character has its various body parts swapped out for other body parts is hard in 2D. But in 3D, it’s not hard.
If I made a game that gameplay wise, felt like Link’s Awakening, but used 3D graphics, and you went around collecting new body parts for your robot.. that might be my favorite game ever. And it’s actually kind of possible. Within the bounds of reason for a one-man team to do. So, while I discussed in my previous post that a JRPG might be more profitable in the long run, and a better way to tell my stories… I feel I am going to start playing in this arena.
A game is complete when it has a start menu, sound and graphics options, an input screen (although, ideally input customization options), a credits screen, and gameplay with the game over conditions (win conditions, lose conditions, so on).
I do not release incomplete games.
I did get a start menu, sound and graphics options, and an input screen implemented. So I’m partway there. But I’m not all the way there. And my mother is coming home in two weeks, so more and more of my time needs to be spent preparing her house for occupation.
Now, between cleaning and working on the game, it is possible that I can, this week finish the game. But that leaves me three weeks in January to expand and polish it instead of all 4, at best less time per week than I expected to have, and I’m not trucking along as quick as I expected, even adjusting my expectations for the last game I worked on.
Besides that, my Business Plan, while “finished” with as much information as I have, needs to be polished and brought to the agencies that are expecting it. Preferably soon. Like this week or so.
So I need to re-estimate. Perhaps game dev should go into February. Perhaps I should make the game for the rest of January, take February off to work on tie-in comics and books as originally planned, but use the fact that my target release date is the Ides of March to schedule two weeks of March as polish.
There are other considerations. I would like to create a nice setting with pixelart me sitting at a desk or something, and script a discussion of the gameplay and the plans for the Last Legend series, to present as part of the business plan.
I’m not sure which plan is best. So I’m going to stop, make a polished business plan, make that scene in Last Legend Zero that explains Last Legend, and then next week I’ll be able to tell you what we are going to do next. My best guess is next week will also be an attempt to complete the game by adding the bare bones story and gameplay. Weeks 3 and 4 of January will be filling out the game. Adding new doodads. Characters. The like. And on we shall go.
After several days of consideration and a day walking ’round in chilly weather with a cyborg eyepatch and a cockatiel, I have settled on some conclusions for Bunny Trail Junction and my various projects going forward. Chief of these is this:
Vidya is Prime
Vidya is my prime medium. Comics, children’s books, internet videos, and so forth are all fine ways to tell stories, and I should use them, especially when vidya is unsuited to a specific story. But most of my alternative media should be vidya first, and then derived from vidya.
Now, there are arguments against vidya being prime.
Vidya is Bad!
I’ve been listening to a podcast called A Brief History of Power, and it has been recommending that we disconnect as much as possible from screens in general. Your life will, it is argued, be more functional without TV, Facebook, and Mario. And I agree. I try to limit my kids’ screen time and advocate the whole family limit theirs.
But I do not believe the technology is intrinsically evil. I believe it is a usable tool that has been made into a glowing idol before which men bow and receive propaganda from their gods. Christians ought to be wary of the tool because that is its primary usage. But we can and should use it to our ends by our means.
In A Brief History of Power, especially BHOP 063, Rev Fisk and Dr. Koontz make a distinction between media intended to be integrated into life and most media, which is design to wholly absorb your attention and suck you into its world. This is regarded by Fisk and Koontz as an unhealthy thing, especially in excess.
I am a proponent of Tolkien’s Escapism.
Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can! – J.R.R. Tolkien
That is, I agree that Escapism to the extent that you run away from the real world when you could be making it better is at some point a vice, and it is a vice that is clearly endorsed especially by the Pop Cult, one of the Secular Cults of my area and era.
The Pop Cult is devoted to movies, video games, and other franchises. It is the religion of Disney, Marvel, and other forms of mass media. Men escape their sad lives into fantasy worlds. The Pop Cult is offered up to the population by the Death Cult as a narcotic, and the media therein is intentionally laced with Death Cult propaganda. However, practitioners of the Pop Cult are not necessarily conscious Death Cult Members.
However, I believe that attention absorbing, escapist media is good, right, and salutary for two purposes, hinted at by Tolkien.
For Christian Rest. That is, for escape from this world, this vale of tears, with all its woe, toil, struggle, and incessant Death Cult propaganda.
For escape from cults. That is, Christian men should create media that permits refuge for their fellow believers, and a doorway to freedom from evil cults for the trapped cultists.
Consumption of non-Christian-made entertainment is not wholly contraindicated here. I’m not making a law saying “don’t watch TV”. Nor are Fisk and Koontz.
Fisk and Koontz, (and I) would recommend, rather, that you consider what the media you consume is doing to you, and consciously decide whether you want that to happen.
And what is indicated is the production of media by Christians.
Reasons FOR the Primacy of Vidya
I can make it. While the barriers of entry are lower than they ever have been, and continue to plummet, not many men can.
It combines all the skills in my talent stack, making it both more valuable and harder to duplicate.
Distribution is solved. While I can (and want to) make physical copies, I can give away a game to Kickstarter backers for 25% of the final intended cost, or as a free add-on for subscribing to my mailing list. These things are not possible for paper children’s books.
It is easier to derive my other media forms from vidya than vidya from the forms. I have already solved the problem of making black and white print comics from pixel art. I have not yet made motion comics for YouTube, but I suspect a game->video pipeline is simpler than a video->game pipeline.
It is much more likely (IMO) that I will build a game business that puts out books and comics than that I will build a book business that puts out games.
My new plan is to finish out December in Bunny Trail Junction, then go on indefinite hiatus while I roll up a video game business. That game business should quickly start leaking into videos, comics, and books as well. I hope in time to end the hiatus in February with a bimonthly format that carries through 2022, so that the 2021 annual and the 2022 annual are roughly the same size, but the Vidya is Prime.
I have tried being employed, and swallowing my arguments with my employer rather than walking out.
I have tried being unemployed.
I have tried being employed, but feeling quite content to walk out when things don’t suit me.
I dislike all of these states. But the first feels dishonest, and the other two at least feel honest.
It is possible, just possible, that there is a job out there in which I can be content. It is also possible that I need to learn, by the Grace of God, to be content in a suboptimal job.
But I think I had ought rather to try being self employed.
Previously I have stated that I think I would rather have a day job than have to choose my artistic projects on their profit merit. Now that day jobs require obeisance to the State Religion, I am less content with that conclusion.
I talked it over with my best friend. My real plan is to tinker until mid-September, and hope that I can be drugged into being a productive citizen. But my ultimate goal is to create a little media company that covers my family’s needs, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t act on that goal. And following a pragmatic plan that I have considered and ignored because I doubt I can hold to it with my ADHD, on the basis of “Well, I might get treated a month from now, and that might enable me to carry it through,” is every bit as sensible as getting a retail job for a month, and hoping my treatment allows me to hold down a real job.
That was where I ended my thoughts the day before yesterday. Yesterday was a whirlwind tour of journaling in the form of comic-making.
I hope never to run these comics on Bunny Trail Junction. Navel gazing is self-indulgent and poor entertainment. But the rules are I draw whatever I feel like at the time and hope God gives me something good. And the whole point of this blog is to permit me to be self-indulgent.
My theories about using green/red ramps for screens, and then printing in grayscale have been vindicated.
But for the sake of making a Wren RPG, I changed up my pixel art style to something more like a 2D Brawler.
Which drew on my cartoony hand-drawn style, and turned about and influenced it in return.
Now, I’ve been explaining my RPG notion in comic form, and have half a mind to put those episodes in the September BTJ..
But while the pixel art uses my Rainbow Rose color palette, which is intended for print, it wasn’t specifically designed with black and white printing in mind like the Rainboy Palette. So I had to get a sneak peak at how it would turn out in print. Fortunately, each monthly should preview the next monthly. And so..
It’s fine. It’s not great. Specifically targeting black and white would be a wiser choice. But it’s fine. Good enough to print.
But I’ve been going back and forth. When I get treatment, should I work on my RPG engine…
Or focus my energy on Dronefu?
Those are the financially viable ideas, right? I’ve made series of comics explaining both ideas that will likely one day run on BTJ.
The RPG is viable because when Alpha Dream died it left a huge void in the JRPG community. Maybe not big enough to feed Nintendo, but certainly big enough to feed me. Dronefu is viable because it’s basically Megaman X, only moreso. And HD drawings. Nobody wants another pixel art platformer, but HD platformers are still in it to win it, right?
But I got to thinking. Hat Trick is the thing that is turning heads right now. Any game I end up making will probably be heavily influenced by what parts of BTJ people are talking about. And I could make a pixel art Megaman X-style game with Merlin from Hat Trick. I’ve toyed with it before.
It came to a head this week because I crashed my bike and bruised up my hands. I’ve been unable to manage the fine motor functions of drawing for most of a week. It’s been frustrating.
Though I’ve pulled some pretty panels out of my recovery all the same.
And I thought about making Hat Trick comics using pixel art.
It felt wrong, so I didn’t do it.
I like how the Rainboy Palette comics turned out, so making pixel art strips for BTJ in general doesn’t feel wrong at all. But the notion of doing portions of Hat Trick in pixel for some reason causes my spirit to rebel.
So I tried an experiment. I took my Wren RPG sprites, downgraded them to Rainboy palettes, and dropped them in the bus stop scene.
It doesn’t look terrible. It looks okay. I can make comics this way.
And maybe games?
And maybe games. Maybe the combination of the Bunny Trail Junction webcomic, and making low-res pixel art platformers will work out for me. Can be turned into a career.
I think it can.
I just… love how much more expressive and stylized these larger sprites are. Even though they are 5x as much work as the smaller sprites, easily.
So, I tried popping myself and Jump the Shark into the retro diner. I had to scale up the door because it was obviously too small, but I didn’t really need to fix anything else.
It’s too small. But it’s not terribly too small. It’ll do until I get in the mood to make another. And… yeah. I’m thinking I’ll try making a platformer using these graphics. Maybe using Godot, but maybe just picking up my old Unity platformer. Because after all, it already has a shader meant for these palettes, and lighting effects ready to go. I could just fork it…
I’d want to scale up the world, or else scale back to the 16×24 sprites instead of the larger more detailed sprites. I dunno man. I kinda love both.
There’s a certain irony that the platformer already exists with Candy. Way back in the day, when I did a Ludum Dare with a programmer who is now my friend, I conceived in my head a platformer staring Merlin. But I swapped in Candy the Witch because if my partner turned out to be dodgy, I wanted a character I wouldn’t be too upset over losing to be in the game. And Hat Trick is fairly dear to me.
I do have Merlin in both sprite scales.
Well. Anyway. The comic is launching in roughly four days. Everything is primed and ready to go. I’ve got the first week loaded, the first month planned, the first two months drawn…