Design Highlights #1: Pixel Art Sworcery

Welcome to a new series by the illustrious 0XP, where we’ll be highlighting effective features of games I seek to emulate in my own work.



I never did know the exact definition of the word, hold on I’ll just go for a goggle, let’s see…

*sound effect of a tarantula getting off with a Taser on top of a pile of dominoes*


Oh no, that makes me sound rather up myself a bit doesn’t it? Okay, we’re having a do over – LIGHTS!

I never did ask him where to buy his blackout curtains.

Cheers Terry!

Welcome all to a new series by the appropriately modest 0XP, where we’ll be looking at individual elements, features, systems, decisions and features of games from throughout history and delving into why I would like to emulate them in my own projects. Think of it as a “if you like this game, you’ll probably like the game I’m making” series. Oh shit. that’s actually a better title – Terry!

I don’t pay Terry enough – or anything – he doesn’t exit.

(Was very proud of that animation, so I put it centre stage and repeated it. You know you’ve done the same in pottery class).

For the first episode of the series I thought I’d focus on something I’ve been playing with recently: pixel art!

pixel sword
Nope. Not belling and rings.

Yes, you couldn’t be more desperately independent than if you grew a beard and whipped out a ukulele, but I will be most probably using pixel art in my own game – at least while I’m arting them.

I’ve been a big fan of the style ever since played the gorgeous Sword & Sworcery by Capybara Studios and Superbrothers a few years ago and instantly fell in love with the lanky character models and impossibly intricate background work that could only be described as ‘pixel painting’.

╚═། . ◯ o ◯ . །═╝

The common themes in the games I’ll be talking about in this podcast are uniqueness and simplicity. Sworcery’s style combines both in its character designs, which feature quite blocky (ha, get it – sqwares!) bodies and brittle, one pixel-wide limbs and extremities, which make it looking something like a pixely Adventure Time. I’ve been trying to stem procrastination with my first foray into pixel art on the day of writing this scene, and I immediately sought to ape Sworcery’s jimmies:

I think they turned out rather well.

The next game is FEZ by the internet’s most beloved man. I have a soft spot for FEZ cos it was the first game in years that challenged me OUTSIDE the game as well as INSIDE (sadly studio PlayDead’s Inside does not have pixel art, but I like its style also), and I found the visuals charming and clear. Not to say that Mr Popular isn’t a great pixel artist, but if you look closely (in between loops of the most GIFable thing in existence) you’ll see that the world is actually made of simple patterns repeated and then touched up individually to give detail.

I like to imagine the little FEZ guy steals from behind the bar with his powers and then just sits in the third dimension by himself, drinking. 

This is a more formulaic approach than Superbrothers’ seemingly painstaking process of delicately deploying each tiny coloured sqware (not to denigrate the former in any way), and one I think will be more suited a beginner in pixel drawing such as myself.

Seems like the near decade-long trend of owls everytime, everywhere extends to video games too, apparently.

Speaking of pixel drawing I think I could do but am probably a million years away from, let’s talk about a dinky little fencer by the name of Nidhogg (no relation).

If you had the chance to change your fate… WUDE YA?

And riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight (or left, depending on your orientation) at the other end of the spectrum is the game that took 8 years to make because the art’s so detailed: Owlboy.

I thought I’d end on a twist (as we once loved M. Night for: RIP(career))  with this one as, full confession: never played Owlboy, never will. From all the gameplay trailers I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything mechanically that I haven’t already played a thousand times over. To be quite frank, I think from a development perspective it was a case of putting the cart before the horse:  focusing so much on pursuing an art style that the rest of the game suffers heavily – and no doubt the team did as well.

I know that might irk some, as often some of the greatest artistic and technological breakthroughs are achieved through dogged perseverance, but I’d argue in this case it wasn’t worth it.

Guess how long this took to make? Nope, higher. Higher. Higher. Too High!                            Higher…

THAT BEING SAID – it is undoubtedly stunning. I mean you could spend days just looking at the thing. The detail is insane in the membrane’s mainframe – it looks hand drawn, even though it was drawn PIXEL BY PIXEL ON A COMPUTER. Gotta respect that commitment and skill, everything else aside.

So I’m gonna make mine look as good as Owlboy, yeah? Great. Another transmission wrapped nicely – hit the credits Terry!

Terry underwent design changes between animations and is now two people that I don’t pay or exist.

You can follow my progress on here, or on my other media outlets such as TumblrFacebookInstagram and Twitter. Any feedback is greatly appreciated as it’s early days and I would be more than happy to answer any questions.

Thank you all once again for tuning in your sets to our local station, we’ll be back again later in the week for another top up of that sweet sweet sweet one too many sweet juice. Au Goodbye!


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