Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bayonetta 2 Pixel Art and Twitter Glory

So Bayonetta 2 is getting pretty near release in North America, and I'm pretty excited about it. I've loved Platinum Games since back when they were Clover Studios, and more games from them is always a good thing. I absolutely adore the Wonderful 101, but I sadly missed out on Bayonetta, as I didn't have an Xbox 360 or PS3 when it came out, and never found the time to pick it up subsequently. The Wii U rerelease packaged with Bayonetta 2 will be my first time playing the original, and I'm looking forward to it.

It's been a long time since I did a real good demake, partly because nothing has caught my fancy and partly because I've been busy with other things which have occupied most of my time, but I enjoyed doing this kind of thing and thought it might be fun to do again. The goal was to picture a scene from Bayo 2, as if it were a classic 2D action game, ala Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden.

I'm probably most pleased with the sky, as capturing the sort of ethereal radiance was very tough, but I also am pretty proud of how much of Bayonetta's features I was able to squeeze into that sprite. People tend to 'oooo' and 'aaaaa' over really big sprites, but honestly those are much easier to make good, as they start to just become small drawings after a while. It's REALLY challenge to turn a hundred or so pixels into something that looks like anything, let alone a specific character, so I think I accomplished something good here.

I was also granted the supreme honor of having Bayonetta's real life daddy, madman Hideki Kamiya retweet the image with rare enthusiasm. Probably the first post I've eve made on Twitter that ANYBODY has ever looked at. Yay!

In other news, I'll be wrapping up the fourth issue of Nova Phase this week, which means it should be on (digital) store shelves in the near future, with the print compilation of 3 and 4 available on Amazon soon after. I hope. I'll make an announcement. In the mean time, issue 3 is available on Comixology now, so if you haven't already, check it out!

Also working on the next chapter of Ja-Ja-Ja-Janken!, which is coming along nicely. With Saturday morning cartoons becoming officially extinct like, next month, I feel like my work on Saturday Morning Anime is more dire than ever.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saturday Morning Anime for Grown Up Kids: Ja-Ja-Ja-Janken!

Imagine, if you will, that it is 6:00 am, and you are eight years old. In your hands you hold a bowl of Lucky Charms, and a television remote. The rest of your family is either still asleep or already out of the house, and the television belongs to you for a few glorious hours. Eager with anticipation, you turn on a fuzzy network TV channel, maybe twenty three or forty eight, and witness something magical...

That's it for now. More of this, as well as probably many other comics, coming in the near future. Enjoy!

Ninja Turtles Erasers and Halloween Treats

There's something intensely satisfying about acquiring pleasant little doodads, and I was recently treated to a few awesome discoveries at my local Target. It's been quite a while since my K'nex Pac-Man and Mario obsession, and with nothing but Halo and Call of Duty in the Mega Bloks blind bag bins (a somewhat alarming sign of the times, I think), I have largely been without trinkets to waste my money on. This all changed a few days ago, when I accompanied my wife for a stroll around our local Target monolith. Her intention was to purchase some command strips to hang up Zelda posters we framed and then shoved in a corner three months ago, but, as always, I was patrolling the isles for something to scratch my itch, and by the time we were at the check out, I had found three things that tickled my fancy.

The first, and perhaps most satisfying, was a box of Halloween themed Little Debbie brownies. LD brownies were the highlight of my lunch experience between grades 1 and probably 9, so I have a soft spot for the greazy little things. The Halloween theme, however, is what made these truly impossible to pass up. Each brownie is cut into a crude pumpkin shape, sort of an oblong hexagon, with orange frosting, flavored a bit like candy corn, and a spooooooky jack-o-lantern face. The fact that they were on sale for around a dollar or so was nice as well.

Armed with my box of tasty treats, I continued to troll the store for further satisfaction. I stumbled upon a sale on eShop cards, which basically amounts to free money, and was for several minutes engaged in a tumultuous inner conflict. Buy one, get a second 25% off... not exactly irresistible... Even with a 50 dollar card, you're only getting around 12.50 free, and dropping 87.50 on a casual trip to Target, exclusively set aside for future digital purchases, seemed unseemly. I eventually settled on two ten dollar cards, but only because they also came with AR cards for the 3ds application Photos with Mario. I love AR cards (I have as many of the Kid Icarus cards as I could get my hands on), so getting a couple bucks was a nice incentive. I got a Goomba, and Princess Peach. That was all they had.

Now, I had planned for this to be the extent of my purchase, but felt compelled to check out the impulse purchase wall by the registers, where they usually keep trading cards, whether they be Yugioh, Pokemon, Magic, or My Little Pony, baseball cards, and other little collectible junk. My eyes fell upon a blind bag looking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles package, a tie in to the decent Nick cartoon and not the Michael Bay monstrosity, and had my curiosity sparked. On closer inspection, the product claimed to be a puzzle eraser, a term I had never heard before and didn't really know what to make of. Still, the package contents felt substantial, and it was cheap enough that I was comfortable taking a risk, around a buck or so. I wasn't sure what I was getting, exactly, but I was optimistic.

I want to take a moment to just say that I have vastly under appreciated the development of eraser design and construction, as what I ended up with was surprisingly bad ass. It's basically a miniature figure that you assemble from a few pieces, constructed of rubbery eraser stuff, and the final product is pretty impressive. The figure is made up of a lower body (hips and legs), two pieces (front and back) that meet with the lower body to form the shell, two arms that plug in fairly sturdily, a weird little nub of a head, and a bandanna that is almost impossible to get on to the head piece, and that has hilariously dead googly eyes painted on.Once finished, the figure stands maybe 3-3.5 inches tall, and comes with a little weapon made of hard plastic. I had purchased Donatello, or Don-chan as we affectionately call him in my household, partially because I liked him as a kid and partially because his was the front most bag on the rack. I later coerced a friend into getting me Raphael, who, although less cooperative in the standing process, is pretty decent as well.

I really like these figures, for a few reasons. The sculpt and construction is surprisingly good, and considering these things are supposed to be erasers, they actually work pretty well as straight up toys, whether you mean to play with them or just stand them around your desk (I do a little of both). They are also super cheap, which is another major factor in their appeal. As a grown man, I find it pretty hard to justify toy purchases, which is why I tend to gravitate towards figures of the small and cheap variety. I would never drop the cash to have a full set of Turtles figures for desk display, as they're simply to expensive. These little guys are great, though, as I can cheaply get a satisfying set of the whole gang for less than the cost of a single, full fledged Turtle figure, without sacrificing too much in terms of detail or sheer coolness, as these are several billion steps ahead of the also small and cheap Lego Turtle figures in that department.

I don't know how well they work as erasers though.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A New Direction, And Saturday Morning Anime For Grown Up Kids

I've been doing a good deal of thinking lately, about what I want to do creatively. I have spent the last two months or so working almost non-stop on the fourth issue of Nova Phase, which I think looks and reads pretty damn awesome, but it's made me question certain hopes and beliefs I had held on to. For the longest time, I thought that getting a comic published would change everything for me. I thought that someday I would get this big break, and suddenly my career would be awesome. I've been working on Nova Phase for quite some time now, and although the initial high of positive reviews and long awaited validation was nice, it has since given way to the very real feeling that, in many ways, this is getting me nowhere.

Nova Phase is a very time consuming project. I draft, draw, color, shade, and letter the entire thing myself. It's very difficult to work quickly, because the precise placement of every pixel is very important to the look of the finished product, and the scale of the art is literally hundreds of times larger than any traditional pixel art project really should be. There are probably a billion more pixels in a single issue of Nova Phase than in any one real 8-bit game game, and despite the scale, I still chip away at it zoomed in so close that it's like painting with your face an inch away from the canvas.

It also makes me absolutely zero money. I have never made a cent from Nova Phase, and probably never will. To produce Nova Phase in a remotely timely manner would require me to work on it like a full time job, which would mean I wouldn't have time for a full time job, which would mean that I would not ever make any money. I don't even have time to find commission work, let alone work on any commission that I did find. As an adult with very adult sized bills, this makes life very difficult, as I never have any money.

So here I am, almost a year after my big dream of professional comic artistry came true, and very little has changed. I'm still nobody, and I'm still basically poor.

So like I said, I've been thinking. After years of casual research, I have determined that there exists no existing publisher that deals in the type of content I'm interested in creating. Every major and minor publishing house is either too schlocky, too artsy, or too impenetrable to present a good match for what I want to do. There just isn't an environment for what I want to do. But what do I want to do exactly? I thought long and hard about that, but after analyzing the ideas I am most enamored with, I think I have more or less nailed it down.

I want to make Saturday Morning Anime For Grown Up Kids. I want to make the kind of stupid, D-list, hastily dubbed by Fox Kids without watching the whole thing to compete with Pokemon, Saturday morning anime, but with the added benefit of absolute self awareness. I want to write comics that know exactly why they are stupid, and then go absolutely off the wall. I want to deconstruct the kind of crazy crap I watched as a kid, but without losing the colorful fun or frantic energy that made those shows so hypnotic. I've tossed around a few names for this subgenre that I am trying to pioneer. A Self-Abridging Series could be one description, but I think  Saturday Morning Anime For Grown Up Kids is a bit more catchy. There are, I think, a few shows out there that might fit into this subgenre, though perhaps unknowingly. Black Dynamite, Gintama, and to some extent Steven Universe are good examples of what I'm after.

Also, I don't want to sell anything. I have no means of distribution, and no interest in seeking a partnership or deal with any existing entity that could handle such a thing, so I'm just gonna give this crap away for free. I want my online presence to be a constant stream of maddening content, available to anyone and everyone, completely free of charge. I'm gonna be poor either way, so I'd rather be poor and have people enjoying my work than not, so I think this is the best way.

Finally, I need to split up my blogs. Although I have long populated Doki Doki Arcade with whatever I damn well felt like, I think the time has come to focus. Doki Doki Arcade will remain focused on video game related musings, of which I will probably still have many. I'm planning an exhaustive article on Time Stalkers once I manage to get some momentum going, so never fear. I also finally got a scanner again, so getting quick art up here will be much easier. In fact, the illustration at the top of this page will have been done in like, 25 minutes as soon as I am done writing this. I can't want to see how it turns out.

ANYWAY, Doki Doki Arcade will continue to focus on video games, while my original comic creations will get a new home, probably called Saturday Morning Anime For Grown Up Kids, but I haven't decided yet. We shall see. Original creations that take the form of games, like Bird Force, I will play by ear. They will probably be represented on both sites, or maybe I'll make a development blog.

In the past, I was too shy and ashamed of self promotion to bother caring how many people looked at my work, but things are different now. For my work to matter at all, people need to see it, and for that to happen, I need to get out there. Nova Phase made me recede into a quiet place of non-stop work, but I need to get out of that place and back to interacting. Nobody else is going to make an environment in which my work will thrive, so I need to try to make one myself. That's what I'm gonna do.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lots of work on AtomMan

Was seized by the desire to work on AtomMan, a project I've been working on and off on for a very long time. It was actually the first ever game I ever made, waaaay back in like 1999, when I was just a 6th grader! It originally started as a MegaMan fan game, but after a little while, I guess I wanted to make up my own bad guys and such, and it turned into a VERY thinly veiled ripoff, parody, homage, or whatever you want to call it. The sprites were even just crappy recolored versions of MegaMan characters, with pretty minor tweaks. There was a great deal of humor in the game, and some pretty terrible and basic gameplay, but I felt pretty accomplished.

Now, years later, I couldn't really resist the urge to look at these characters again, and I started to think that maybe there was some potential here. Sure, it started as a pretty basic ripoff, but some of the designs had genuinely cool elements, and I thought I could re-imagine it into something much more original, while still obviously honoring the games that inspired it.

So yeah, the inspiration is probably SUPER OBVIOUS, but I think this turned out really well. I don't want to talk to much about the story just yet, but these guys are the main bad guys.

Now, because I can't focus on anything, this is both a comic and a game, so here's some of the animations and such I've whipped up!

 Look at him go! These are just his basic animations, but there are going to be tons of other weapons and maybe even forms to take on. To get started, though, I think these are coming along nicely.

I also mocked up a little screenshot today, which I think turned out well. This is the first time since being a kid that I've gotten this far on this project, so it's pretty exciting.

 Not  finished anything yet, but just trying to establish the look of the game. Obviously very MegaMan inspired, not going to debate or deny that, but I want to push this game into some pretty out there territory. I want to try to bring all the things I loved about the Legends and Battle Network games into the basic gameplay of a 2D classic MegaMan game, but there's elements of other games from this era that I really loved back then, including Shenmue, Brave Fencer Musashi, Legend of Zelda and Mystical Ninja.

OKAY! So that's what I got so far. Feeling pretty good about it so far, but definitely a work in progress.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shenmue is Tons of Fun Until One of its Billion Discs Don't Work

Okay, okay, so it only has three discs, actually, but it is still mighty annoying to not be able to finish the game. I recently set my Dreamcast up after having not really played it for, well, a very long time, and since I had only brought a few games with me, I had to choose between playing one of the Sonic Adventures or Shenmue. Although, unlike many people, I actually don't have anything but fond feelings for the Adventure games, I decided to revisit Shenmue, as I had only a year or two earlier replayed both of Sonic's Dreamcast outings. 

I like the Dreamcast. I liked it when it came out, and I still like it now. It was the first console I had ever bought with my own money, but my library of games was basically limited to whatever my older siblings bought (they had moved out by then and had their own Dreamcast, which I guess was why I wanted one so bad). I spent sooo much time playing Marvel Vs. Capcom, House of the Dead 2, Sonic Adventure 2, and of course, Shenmue. Other favorites included Record of Lodoss War, an absolutely absurd Diablo clone based on Ryo Mizuno's books and the awesome anime they inspired, and Gundam Side Story 0079: Rise From The Ashes. At this point in my life I was basically in love with Japanese cartoons, with Lodoss War and Gundam being among my favorites, but both of those games were actually better stand alone titles than they were licensed games, to be honest. 

Now, at this point in my life, I can't help but shake the feeling that I've already played anything worthwhile on the consoles with which I am most familiar. I know that isn't actually true, but it just FEELS like I have exhausted the supply of good, or even decent, games on most of my machines. It wasn't until recently rediscovering the Dreamcast that I realized I had barely scratched the surface of its library, due to my being 11 and having no money. This was actually distressingly exciting for me, as in a way it feels like the final unexplored frontier. I tracked down a few games that caught my eye, including survival horror game Carrier, insane action adventure Blue Stinger, and an RPG called Timstalkers, which appears to combine dungeon crawling, turn based combat, and monster raising, which personally sounds like an absolute free time annihilator. 

Of course, I had to wait for those games to arrive, and in the interim busied myself with Shenmue, which was actually full of surprises for me. I hadn't played the game in a VERY long time, probably not since it came out in 2000, so while I thought I remembered most of the game, there have been some pretty big things that had completely escaped my memory. I found myself literally opening every drawer and cabinet in Ryo Hazuki's house this time around, mostly for laughs and to see just how mundane they would allow me to be. This turned pretty exciting when I discovered an old key in my murdered father's desk. This was mind blowing to me, because nobody told me to go looking in there; that key was not my objective. As far as I was concerned, I was supposed to be asking locals if they had seen a black car. Obviously this excited me, as I was determined to find where that key was supposed to go. I searched high and low in the Hazuki household, removed literally every picture from the walls hoping to find a wall safe or something, but found nothing. It wasn't until I entered the dojo that I found a locked box. Inside, I found a sword. The sword fit into a hidden compartment behind a wall scroll. I was on a roll! Again, this was perhaps 20 minutes into the game. I hadn't even left Ryo's house yet, and yet I was engaged in some National Treasure shit. Of course, progressing any further on THAT particular distraction required another mystery item that I had not accidentally stumbled upon, and so I was forced to give up and move along with my investigation as it had been assigned to me: the black car. Still, I was refreshed by the freedom I had felt.

Shenmue really is a remarkable game. It's also an incredibly boring and cumbersome game, but honestly that doesn't really matter. The world feels so authentic, so real, and so detailed, that it's kind of weirdly pleasurable just walking around and talking to people. There's a great deal of freedom in Shenmue, but unlike alot of modern open world games, that freedom feels... special, somehow. There feels like there might be some consequence to your actions, I suppose. The NPCs are fairly distinct, with their own voices and often super weird personalities, each building feels distinct and placed with purpose. Compare that to something like Grand Theft Auto, where most of the pedestrians are just mindless faceless drones, and most of the buildings are just copy pasted filler. By comparison, Shenmue's game world feels dense with content and purpose, and there always seems to be some strange surprise popping up here and there. Sometimes you'll enter a building or a park completely on a whim, only to suddenly see some cutscene or learn a new move, and you walk away wondering "would I have missed that if I hadn't just decided to walk in here? Why did that happen?" Whether you're buying Sonic toys from a vending machine, feeding the kitten you find on the road, or hanging out at the arcade playing darts and Space Harrier, you feel immersed, somehow. 

Objectively, lots of modern games have aped some of Shenmue's approach, but I don't feel like anybody has really replicated that feeling of really being in a place. The Elder Scrolls games offer these huge worlds to dick around in, but they mostly feel dead. Sure, they are big, and there are a bunch of things scattered around, but none of it feels particularly consequential. Mass Effect, at least the first one, is similarly dense with dialogue and exploration, but again, the places never end up feeling very distinct. The adventurey talky bits of Mass Effect just seem like filler in between janky third person shooting, and neither seems as realized as it really could be. Deadly Premonition has probably come the closest to replicating the experience of adventure and exploration that Shenmue pioneered, which, after replaying Shenmue, I am realizing is probably why I found myself so enamored with it, in addition to its particular wackiness.

Of course, all of this more or less boils down to nothing but frustration when one advances to the third disc only to discover that the damn disc won't read. I don't know if it is scratched or what, but it doesn't seem to want to load my safe file, which leaves me basically stranded. I can't go back to disc 2, and I don't know whether disc 3 is actually busted or whether my safe file is wonky, so for now, I'm just gonna play Time Stalkers. 

That's a shame, though, because Shenmue is a game that deserves to be played, even today. Hell, maybe even especially today. Open world game design is more popular and possible than ever, and I think Shenmue still has alot to offer, provided that the player is willing to really get into the game. I sincerely hope someday Sega reissues or rereleases this game, maybe via the eShop (I am a Nintendo fan after all), but really any digital storefront would be ideal, as this, and honestly many Dreamcast games, shouldn't be lost to the ages.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

MegaMan Battle Network on Wii U Virtual Console Makes Me Very Happy

The Virtual Console was one of my favorite features of the original Wii. It was very cool to be able to go back and experience games from a bygone era, whether they were classics I remembered fondly, gems that I had missed in my youth, or, most excitingly, imports that had never made it to North America to begin with. The Wii's Virtual Console had a pretty impressive selection of consoles on offer, ranging from the 8-bit NES and Master System to the N64, plus weird stuff like the Turbo CD, and plenty of great games, including stellar imports like Monster World IV, Pulseman, and Dracula X, so when the Wii U Virtual Console got up and running, I was a little skeptical as to how much it really had to offer. Of course, I was almost immediately surprised (pleasantly) with the long awaited release of the SNES cult classic Earthbound, which i took to be proof positive that there was still plenty to look forward to, a feeling was ultimately justified when the unexpected announcement was made that the Wii U VC would soon feature Game Boy Advance games.

I've always considered the Game Boy Advance to be somewhat under appreciated. In my opinion, there were some truly wonderful games released on the handheld wonder, and at the time the prospect of having a secure, last foothold for 2D games in an era that was solidly 3D on the console side (the whole retro chic thing had yet to manifest) was comforting.  I still remember looking at the line up for the GBA and just being awestruck, and the two games I was most excited for were MegaMan Battle Network and MegaMan Zero. Oh MegaMan...

Let me set the scene here, because being a MegaMan fan at that point was very different then, and yet weirdly similar.  I had eagerly bought up every MegaMan game that had come out during PSX/N64 era, which was comparatively slim pickins. Sure, there were two awesome MegaMan Legends games, as well as a few traditional sidescrollers and even the bizarre Tron Bonne, but compared to the momentum the series had during my childhood, it was a time of famine. Six games on the NES! I loved MegaMan Legends something fierce, but I also missed the classic series in a way, and it seemed as if it was never coming back. When I saw Battle Network, though, I started to feel as if things were changing. I started to feel like MegaMan was BACK!

And you know what? That feeling was not incorrect. Seven Battle Network games on the GBA, plus four MegaMan Zero games! There was just a steady stream of games, bosses, songs comics, shows... it was a kind of amazing time. Sure, I didn't have the time or money to keep up, to be honest, but I was just excited to see the art and designs for each new game! There was this fresh, modern feeling to everything, and yet it was all still familiar, it really felt like the MegaMan I remembered. Battle Network successfully reinvented the world of MegaMan as a slick, action RPG, and reintroduced classic characters with drastic new designs, and tons of personality.

When the GBA Virtual Console was announced, Battle Network was one of the first games I thought of. Now, Capcom has been a little squirrely with MegaMan recently, so nothing was certain, but with Megaman being a major player in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game, I felt that even they had to realize the time was right to start dipping into their ample supply of MegaMan games for rerelease. They've already done Wii U versions of several games, including the NES and SuperNES games, but so far very few third parties have done anything with the GBA VC. As far as I know, Namco was the only third party to tackle the GBA Virtual Console with Pac-man Collection, Klonoa, and most recently Mr. Driller 2, while others with huge libraries of GBA classics, like Konami and their many Castlevania games, have sat idle. Fortunately, this week Capcom took the plunge and joined Namco, releasing Battle Network as the beginning of a string of MegaMan related releases in the month of August.

So far, I've played for a few hours, and battled my first boss, FireMan.exe, and am having a blast. The Battle Network games combine action, card battle, and RPG elements with a charming game world populated by colorful characters. They manage to play totally unlike any other game on any console or handheld, and it always surprised me that they weren't more influential, as Capcom created a truly unique RPG experience for the Game Boy Advance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pixel Art for Fun and Profit

I don't know how forward I've been about this in the past, but damn would I love to just do pixel art professionally. I've dabbled in doing freelance stuff, like Boon Hill, and arguably Nova Phase is pixel art, though I don't really make ANY money off of that, so it's more like an expensive hobby than a job. I have still never seen any of my work, including freelance stuff, used in a finished game, except Bird Force, which I made myself and still really isn't done. I see tons of games come out that still utilize pixel art, so obviously somebody somewhere is doing this stuff for a living. That's what I want, but man,  doing something for a living is really hard when nobody will give you any money for it.

But still, I just love doing the stuff. I guess that's why its kind of weird that I've never tried bringing my work into the physical, real world, like that cyber demon from that one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You know the one. I've seen people do these little bead jobbies, and always thought it would be cool, but I don't generally think of myself as a craftsy person, so I never got into it. It's weird, but I just never did it. Until today, of course, when my fiance thought it would be cool to make a pixel art cake topper for our wedding. Good on her, because I think I might do a ton of this.

This was my first attempt at bringing a pixel work into the real world, like said Buffy episode. Moloch the Corrupter was the name of the demon, just looked that up. The sprite I used hasn't been shown off before, and is for a new project that is super early in development, a dice battling game called HyperDyce. It is in fact as ridiculous as it sounds, possibly more so, but more on that later. This is the player character, a scumbag dice battler called Jackalope Winfight, as he appears on the overworld between battles. But I've already said too much.

There's something remarkably satisfying about physical things. Pretty much all of my work is confined to the digital world, so being able to hold something I've created in my hands is kind of amazing. Although Nova Phase was intended to be a digital comic from the get go, getting my hands on the printed volume just felt really cool, and was actually the first time I felt genuinely excited about the whole experience. This is the first time I've been able to have this experience with my smaller scale pixel art, and I really like it.

I need way more of these little boards, and an assload more beads probably, but I think I'm gonna be doing alot more of these, maybe even selling them! I love the idea of making and selling stuff, maybe because of some weird, RPG, Animal Crossing brain problem, but whatever.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pac-Man Fever is a Real Thing and I Have it Sometimes

Is there anything Japanese text can't make me want?

So I have a weird relationship with Pac-Man. Unlike the other big mascots, Mario, Sonic, what have you, Pac-Man hasn't been nearly as successful at staying relevant, I guess. It actually came as a complete surprise to me that there are people who hold the Pac-Man World games in high regard, as growing up I kind of considered them pretty crappy. Pac-Man never seemed, to me anyway, to have the same kind of appeal as Super Mario, for example, because his world just didn't seem to evolve and grow naturally at all. The world of the Pac-Man World games, for example, just seemed lame.

Lately, though I've been warming up to Pac-Man, for a few reasons. First of all, I guess in the current drought of anything remotely colorful or fun looking in the video game world, its refreshing to see a yellow ball with an impossibly huge grin running around. This isn't the 90s or even the 00s anymore, and this kind of thing just isn't everywhere like it used to be. There ain't no Klonoas or Tombas or Goemon's or really any kid friendly action platforming to be found outside of Nintendo's stuff, except maybe Skylanders, so when Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was announced, I was actually kind of excited. Not because I thought the game was going to be necessarily anything special, but just because it was nice to see a third party try to do platforming again. I love platformers, regardless of the amount of Ds they are in, and its always nice to have options beyond just Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

Ghostly Adventures also happened to turn out okay, in my opinion way more fun than the World games. I got the Wii U version for cheap, mostly because I like playing games on my Wii U, and mostly because I feel like that's the console where colorful platformers belong, and while I wasn't blown away (no, it was no Pac-Man Galaxy), I did enjoy the time I spent with the game. Had that time been a little longer, I would have probably been even more pleased, as it was on the short side, but maybe its unfair to be a grown man playing what is clearly for children and then complain about the length or difficulty... But still, Ghostly Adventures was a solid little 3D platformer with some cool level designs and some genuinely fun power ups, probably my favorite of which was the giant rolling stone Pac-Man head. Hilarious. I also genuinely appreciate that Namco went through the trouble of developing a dedicated 3ds game, and not just a port of the console version. Haven't played it yet, but it looks like a fairly charming sidescroller something Pac-Man has sadly little experience with.

This is by far my favorite power up.

Of course, the Pac is pretty big news right now, what with him set to appear in the next Super Smash Bros. game, which I honestly find to be absolutely hilarious. This news also led to a pretty amusing Pac-Man related release in the form of the Famicom version of the arcade oddity, Pac-Land. As the first scrolling platformer ever made, Pac-Land is a pretty odd game, and the Famicom version isn't any less whacky than the arcade original. I had never played the game and picked it up as a curiosity of sorts, as my Virtual Console is reserved almost exclusively for imports and other impossible to find in real life games, but man, its actually kind of fascinating. The controls are ass backwards, the game is Bubble Bobble levels of mysterious and random, and of course, Pac has a sharp lookin' alpine hat on. Its super weird, but also surprisingly addicting. Its no Super Mario Bros. 3 for sure, but its still worth looking into for how bizarre and challenging it is.

Lately my weird fascination with the character has come to focus on these neat little K'Nex toys that come in blind bags, which I love. I've always had an obsession with tiny toys distributed randomly, and as these happened to be on sale I bought kind of a lot.
Damn it, I don't want Cylindria or Spiral at all...
I was lucky enough to get Clyde (the giant orange ghost) on my first pull, but then met defeat with two consecutive Cylindria, the little pink punk girl with the Hot Topic combat boots. I was a little pissed, but at least grateful I didn't end up getting Spiral, the red idiot. Eventually, I did end up getting Pac himself, as well as Pinky, though her bag was already opened and as such she is missing an arm. Generally I like these guys, particularly the Pac, as he can actually open his mouth INSANELY FAR, which just looks great. Each set also comes with one of the lame generic ghosts, in either scared or not scared form, so I have a ton of those populating my desk as well.

I don't really know anything about the cartoon with which all of this current Pac stuff is associated, as I don't get Disney or any of its affiliate channels and my fiance won't let me watch cartoons anyway, but I did end up seeing some amazing ads for the Japanese dub. The Japanese title for the series (including the games and toys and such) is Pac-World, which I think sounds a bit cooler than the Harry Potter style title the North American version has, and the theme song, done by generally awesome dude Hyadain, is simply amazing.

I have no idea what is wrong with my brain, but I'm honestly tempted to try to download subtitled versions of the Japanese dub rather than watch the North American version. I am, in fact, a lunatic.

Anyway, so that's a quick summary of my recent and totally inexplicable romance with Pac-Man. I know that alot of people really hate the new design and direction or something, but it honestly doesn't seem any worse than anything else that has ever come out of the franchise, and I kinda love Pac's sneakers. Oh well.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


After a great deal of work, Bird Force is finally in a playable form! Still not nearly done, but the main gameplay is there! Please enjoy, and let me know what you think! Oh yeah, doesn't work on phones yet. Sorry!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bird Force Update!

Some time ago, I posted some mock-ups of a game I was half-jokingly planning about birds flying jets.  I had a fever of activity, possibly due to temporary madness induced by too much work on Nova Phase, which subsided once I was working full time. Now, however, I'm back to working on Nova Phase, and I guess the madness must have seized me again, because I started working on Bird Force again, only this time much more earnestly. I actually started trying to program the damn thing.

Using a somewhat stable free version of and HTML5 game development tool called Construct 2, I've started working pretty seriously. Things have not been going entirely smoothly, but I figured it would be fun to post my progress here. Eventually, I'd like to post a playable version here (if that is actually possible, that is), so for now, here are some shots of in development stuff!

Here's the first shot. It's a pretty simple game. You click to fly up, release to drift down. Moving rings come down towards the player, and you just need to fly through them to get points! As you can see, there is pretty minimal stuff going on here, but the basics of the game are in place. Woo, look at that score!
 Okay, no we're talking! We've got obstacles to avoid, a much more attractive score display, and slick, parallax scrolling to  fake depth on the clouds. There's also a neat little afterburner effect! Score has improved as well, thanks to a combo system that rewards players for flying through rings consecutively.
Accidentally left the game running, and got a pretty good score! Of course, the bombs weren't actually programmed to do anything other than look cool at this point, so the game was basically impossible to lose. Notice the sparkly effect around the ring! Yummy!
Finally programmed in a way to lose! Added some appropriate dialogue, as well as a cool game over screen! Now there is actually a game happening! And its actually pretty hard, as a matter of fact.

Unfortunately, after this the project literally fell apart due to some weird instability in the way the program paths files or something, and for  few days I couldn't even access my work. Very annoying. After a lot of reading on the Construct forums, I was able to figure out how to access my back up work and actually get some of my work back.
To celebrate, a title screen! Though I did a bit more tweaking on the combo system to today, this is about as far as I've come. I'd like to add a few more elements to this beta version, including at least 5 minutes of dialogue and of course maybe some music. Reading all about Famitracker and such, hopefully gonna be able to actually do something with that.

Anyway, that's it so far! Hopefully I can have something playable up here soon! I have no idea how that works, though.

Honesty important, right?

In other news, issue 4 of Nova Phase is going really well! Slowly making progress!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wii U eShop Gems: Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails

     I love my Wii U.  I'm not shy about my appreciation for Nintendo, even when popular opinion seems to be nothing but doom and gloom. There's just this sense of fun and whimsy on Nintendo machines that makes them stand out from the serious business of competition, and I appreciate that. Games are meant to be fun first and foremost, and in an era dominated by big budget cinematic grandstanding and technical pissing contests, Nintendo has remained resolute in their assertion that innovative and creative design trumps hardware specs every time. Unfortunately, this ideal has always created a divide between Nintendo and virtually everyone else in the industry, and right now it seems that the Wii U's line up is pretty sparse when it comes to third party efforts. Most major developers have abandoned Nintendo's struggling console, leaving a serious dearth in the system's slowly growing library. Despite the exit of giants like EA and Ubisoft, I've been finding plenty of games to play on my humble little gamepad. While the titans of the gaming industry have given up, a new generation of bright, lean, and creative studios has filled that void and supplied Nintendo's  eShop with some simply awesome titles. These independent developers are bringing a welcome sense of fun and innovation, and providing Wii U owners with experiences that value fun above all else.
    The improbably named Scram Kitty and his Buddy On Rails is one of many treasures to hit the eShop this year, and has been on my radar for some time.  The crisp visuals, fast gameplay, and of course, bewildering name all captured my imagination when it was first announced. Now that I've finally got my hands on it, I'm pleased to say it far exceeded my expectations. Beneath the slick presentation is some truly devious design, resulting in a game that will push even veteran players to previously unheard of levels of frustration and satisfaction.
     In theory, the game's premise is simple.  It is essentially a 2D platformer, with the unique twist of having the player affixed to a series of rails, as the title would imply. This allows Buddy to traverse walls and ceilings just as easily as the floor, and creates some truly mind bending platforming. Gravity and momentum work wonders in allowing players to jump and swing in unexpected ways, and the labyrinthine stages will have players moving in 360 degrees of fast paced action. It's a bit like Mario Galaxy in 2D, only its really nothing like that at all.

While the platforming is conceptually quirky, it is the devilish design of the stages themselves that bring out the best this system has to offer.  Huge, maze like, and occasionally hiding Metroid style puzzle and exploration, each stage feels like a carefully crafted play set, and can even be a bit daunting. To truly complete each main stage, players must complete all 4 objectives, which include finding the goal, defeating a hidden mini boss, collecting all of the coins, and chasing down a fast moving target. 100% success comes from mastering the traversal of each stage, a feat that requires both expert us of the rail jumping mechanic and careful study of the structure of level.  It's a system that can definitely breed frustration, but just as often rewards with a feeling of accomplishment at a job well done.
     Although Scram Kitty's design may be decidedly old school in its sense of challenge, its audiovisual presentation is thoroughly modern, with slick, colorful graphics that blend 2D and 3D, and an extremely catchy techno soundtrack. Each area has both a distinct visual style, and the many special effects for weapons and explosions are sharp and fluidly animated. The whole game has a satisfying quality that comes from a strong marriage of art and sound design, so every jump landed, missile fired, or enemy exploded feels good. Of course, this also means that every missed jump or laser to the face feels like a crushing defeat, but once you hear the thumping tunes your motivation returns in full force. The menus and HUD elements are also packed with charming little details, and overall the game's presentation is oozing with effort.

 Altogether, Dakko Dakko's Wii U debut is a remarkably charming title with deep platforming action and top notch presentation. In a time where most games are too busy talking at you and rendering explosive set pieces that would make Michael Bay blush, it really is refreshing to see a game like Scram Kitty, so totally focused on just being the best game it can. To me, this is the kind of game Nintendo consoles are made for: fun, quirky, and challenging.

On a side note, I think it's worth mentioning that this entire post was done exclusively on my Wii U gamepad. Pretty neat, and actually very relaxing after being at a computer all day!

UPDATE: Wow! A whole lot of spelling mistakes! That's what I get for typing on the gamepad, I guess...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Art Academy is pretty awesome.

Just disovered I can upload screenshots directly from the Wii U. Amazing. Here's a painting of Samus I did in Art Academy on Wii U. I will DEFINITELY be using this feature more often...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Don't Worry, I Fixed Gunvolt's NA Design!

Sarcasm. Even though the changes to Gunvolt's design are minor, I think it's kind of telling that someone, somewhere, though that North Americans would be uncomfortable with the exposed navel and braid. Like, he looks a little fey, that's no good in America. Just the first step in the BS backslide to the era of horrible hack job localisations. I really thought we were beyond this kind of thing.

Anyway, so I just decided to push things all the way back and make a bad boxart Gunvolt. Done quickly, but it's supposed to be ugly, after all. I hate just looking at it... but at least it made me think about doing more painting in the near future. Anyone interested in hand painted posters of Bird Force!? No? Okay. I might do them anyway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Playing with animation

Been doing a little freehand animation lately. Nothing even remotely finished, but I do like what I came up with. These will probably display horribly though, because I am using a program absolutely not suited for animation.

Okay, yeah, so that's it. Like I said, nothing even remotely finished, just messing around before bed. If one of these comes together well enough, I might try doing a finished animation eventually (maybe even with color) but who knows if I'll ever get around to that. 

Inspired by finding some free time to watch Steven Universe. I forgot how much I enjoyed that show when it debuted. I tend to lose track of shows I like, so its always nice to get a chance to catch up a little bit. Good stuff.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Azure Striker Gunvolt Makes Me Question The Need For Mighty No. 9?

Keiji Inafune, the creator of acclaimed series such as Megaman, Dead Rising, and Onimusha has unveiled a new game from his recently formed company, Comcept. Since leaving Capcom, Inafune's studio has dabbled in all sorts of games, but this new title, tentatively called Azure Striker Gunvolt for North America, is probably the most familiar. Teaming up with Inticreates, the studio that developed the popular Megaman Zero and ZX subseries, it looks as though Inafune is getting back to his roots with a good old fashioned side scrolling action game. But there's something familiar about all this...

Yeah, not even a year ago, this same thing happened, but the game was called Mighty No. 9, and it went to Kickstarter to find funding. I was a very early supporter of Mighty No. 9 (and donated a considerable amount), but I generally don't like the fan interaction on these types of projects, and the long wait before anything resembling a finished game is shown off is agonizing. Add in some completely terrible and unfounded drama over something incredibly stupid, and Mighty No. 9 has kind of soured in my eyes. Meanwhile, Gunvolt comes completely out of nowhere, looks completely finished, looks AWESOME, and didn't require any kind of financial contribution from me to get going.

So what happened here? If Comcept and Inticreates were already creating an amazing looking sidescroller that looked to channel Megaman's spirit, why the need for kickstarter? Why the need for so much fan mongering and hyping? It's a little confusing.

Now, it should be noted that Gunvolt is only slated to release on the 3ds, which is honestly the platform that 90% of fans of Megaman or sidescrolling action would be anyway. Mighty No. 9 is shooting to launch on a staggering amount of platforms, so maybe Gunvolt is actually a smarter project. Going after a single platform that there is definitely a market on, and taking advantage of that unique hardware is generally a smarter idea than just trying to jam your game on to everything that plays games. Lots of side scrollers in particular, including Mutant Mudds and Gunman Clive, have seen significantly higher sales on the 3ds than other platforms, such as PSN and Steam, combined. Sales trends would seem to indicate that the audience for side scrolling action games is mostly on Nintendo's handheld. This isn't surprising, though, considering side scrolling action would tend to appeal to very dedicated players, most of which are going to be playing on a dedicated handheld. 

In any case, I'm excited for Gunvolt. I'm much more excited for it than I am for Mighty No. 9 at this point. The lack of fan interaction, community management, crowd funding and grandstanding in this project has refreshed my outlook on Inafune's new company. Whereas Mighty No. 9 seemed to put literally everything before the actual game, Gunvolt has done it right.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Finally Finished!

Wooo, finally finished the art and lettering for Nova Phase's third issue! Not gonna show anything off just yet, but I think this issue turned out pretty good.

In other news, I finally sat down and started reading the volumes of Animal Land that I picked up like, a year ago but never read. So good. So, so good. I don't have a ton of time or money to spend on reading comics anymore, but goddamn this series just keeps getting better and better, which is hard to imagine because I absolutely fell in love with it to start with. Although I can never really show the kind of praise this series deserves, here's a little warm-up tribute I did today.

Kurokagi is one of the most badass characters I've seen anywhere. I know that Animal Land will probably never be adapted into an animation or game, but the character designs are just so great I had to give it the pixel art treatment. I don't think a fighting game would work, since the characters' sizes vary so much, but maybe some kind of action/RTS hybrid, like Dillon's Rolling Western, would work. As I am typing this, I am realizing what a fantastic idea that is, damn. Oh well, won't happen.

That's it for now. Might do another bird related post in the near future, or possibly America themed. Things are shaping up nicely artwise. I think I'm getting the hang of animating these big assets, so I'm eager to move on to some of the other characters that haven't been shown off yet.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Another bird joins the Bird Force!

More Bird Force related madness. I use these as a break from my more stress inducing work. The team's up to four members so far! Here's a cutscene of sorts for good measure.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

More Bird Force Insanity

The beginning of the intro to Bird Force, a game that may or may not ever happen! Totally drawn frame by frame!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Concept Art- Bird Force

Birds are all the rage in the mobile gaming scene, eh? Here's my take on the bird subgenre of gaming.
Personally, this was just an excuse to make a bad ass fighter pilot bird. But the game would probably still be cool.