Friday, 27 January 2017

Post-it note 8-bit sprites at UBC

And here, I'll prove it, I went back and took some photos. Now, these aren't great-quality renditions for several reasons -- a) I'm sure they look much better inside their offices, the intended wallpaper orientation broadcasting inward rather than projecting outward b) I'm sure the sun has bleached the colour out of the Post-it Notes, c) supposing that the colours available in Post-it form were remotely close to the original palettes to begin with. And of course, d) you have the caveat that the office-pointing creations were mainly done for the benefit of their creators, meaning that what we see for the most part are mirror-images of the sprites. But all the same, it's a great curio distributed across several offices in several buildings! I've sorted them chronologically by game, and included original sprite art where possible for purposes of comparison.

We begin with this vessel from Taito's Space Invaders -- you may not be able to immediately place it as an Invader, and that's because what we see here is the bonus UFO that occasionally promenades across the top of the screen, presenting a bonus target for skill-shooters.
(You know, that little red ship there!) So it's a growing phenomenon!
Next up we have some visitors from Namco's all-time video game mascot champions, Pac-Man, pursued by a ghost quick on what would be his heels if he had any, & about to snack down on a juicy cherry he only wishes was a power pill!
(You know... Pac-Man! The sprites should be iconic by this point, they are all rendered in the appropriate proportions and ratios.)
And here we have Nintendo's hero of Donkey Kong, Mario, living up to his original name ("Jumpman") and ... jumping. This sprite appears to be of Mundane (mushroom-less) Mario from Super Mario Bros., and conspicuously... why is he jumping left? That whole game, as Super Mario Run recently demonstrated, is simply an endless progression from left to right!
Ah yes, he's facing left because the sprite is inverted for the benefit of the office occupant. And ... not in the same office, but nearby, another sprite of SMB1 provenance, the best power-up the game can offer: a fire flower.
(Not as colourful as its appearance in-game, but we take what we can get.)
An old confidante, expert in all matters regarding the university campus for decades, explained what I saw here as a demonstration of one particular phenomenon: that grad students grow bored easily.  The vintage of games represented here suggests that the hypothetical grad students in question are in their mid to late 30s, so hats off to these fully grown adults making the most of their coffee breaks! It beats working on your income tax or checking your cholesterol. 
Finally, we have what could either be considered a work-in-progress or ... well, I can't find the word for it: I recall that they have a room of statuary of Greek Antiquity in the Louvre, missing arms and legs -- a stream epitomized by the Venus de Milo or Winged Victory of Samothrace, beautiful despite (or perhaps because of) their missing pieces.   In the "Don't Eat The Pictures" TV special, the Sesame Street crew are inadvertently locked in New York's Metropolitan Museum overnight and Oscar the Grouch sings an ode to these beautiful wrecks as the sublimest variety of garbage.  Here that aesthetic philosophy is epitomized in the upper torso of Capcom's hero MegaMan captured in the middle of one of his distinctive and flamboyant underwear  jumps.
Yeah, that's the one!

I am aware that office windows pixelart installations are not unknown or even unusual, often grander in scale but merely temporary in tenure.  I can go online to see them, but these are remarkable as I stumbled across the trove while going about my everyday life: reality still fails to be as echo-chamber curated as our mediated online experiences are.  Despite the humbleness of these pieces, I celebrate the longevity of their slow and gradual accumulation as potential cornerstones of what might someday amount to a wildlife refuge for game sprites. I look forward to reporting back in a decade. 

Bonus! A reader noted that she had witnessed similar office-window pixelart near her workplace and submitted the following (historical, sadly -- it's been since removed) Smash-Bros. mash-up taste of Link, a Boo Buddy, and his phantasmal colleague from Pac-Man:

Clearly all the work of a dedicated individual. I like the story told by the courtyard I found because it represents a handful of alienated souls in different fields, calling out to each other in a common language despite being strangers. If you have similar images to share, please send them in and I'll post them up here!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Video game textmode art part 27: Hiding in plain sight over at Deviantart

"Hey Toejam!" "Whattup, Earl?" "Check it out! I'mma pose for a piece of ANSI art while dabbing to these sick grooves!"
Yes, my friends, it's time for another installment of Video Game Textmode Art. Now, where do you go when you're looking for ANSI art of Sega Genesis hip-hop heroes Toejam & Earl? This is a trick question: even supposing our regular haunts of and are both feeling well enough today to serve up requests, you won't find it released in a traditional artscene context. Instead, its discovery was a happy accident at a spin-off from the artscene, that digital art gallery portfolio site known as DeviantArt, home to endless quantities of Bronie and/or erotic furry fanart. Since they offer ANSI/ASCII art as one category in their filing system, it turns out that quite a bit of modern textmode artwork has gravitated there, much of it either in an historical or a totally outsider vein... some of it dealing with video game themes such as I cover on this beat. (The above piece was drawn by one Elph.) So here today I have for you the top gamey pickings from my poring over the top 2000 returns of ANSI/ASCII its endless scroll dished up.
Xbox 360
We begin with the hardware, the fundamental factor without which no video gaming is possible. Here Mooks13 drew an Xbox360 suffering from the dreaded GAME OVER affliction known as the Red Ring of Death. (I'm not sure what's up with Blogger here -- I instruct it to show images at full size, and then we get this "click to see this large picture" nonsense.)
A little more classic, here's a mint NES controller drawn by Xanta16. (You can tell that it's mint because of the absence of greasy orange Cheeto crumb accumulations in the crevices.)
Speaking of "classic", here's a panel from a webcomic drawn in the roguelike style by nupanick1. You may not realise that you have what it takes in you to draw textmode art, but if you can string together a few lines of octothorpes with an @ in the middle, you are already a Hack cartographer par excellence! (And here you thought you were just a hack.)
We saw a bunch of these last time, but here's another excellent specimen of its kind: a big, bold and colourful celebration of Taito's Bubble bobble, drawn by skizo.
Enthusiasts of textmode art everywhere lost out when classic-contemporary ANSI artist bym (Big Yellow Man) died in 2014 in a freak accident. But as the man was rigorous about mirroring his creations on DeviantArt, it was a chance to once again immerse myself in his skilled works -- and marvel at just how many of them contained references to video games! The patron saints of this blog series are Reset Survivor and Konami -- thankfully both still among the living. But a third empty chair is at the games table. Anyhow, here he drew a dragon demonstrating to some Bomberman personages just what pyrotechnics could be.
Hadoc, have you been tampering with the retractor servomotors in MegaMan's leg again?
A rough early work by cccfire (who has gone on to far greater things since!), this piece explores several aspects of the game Portal.
And there's another Portal piece, by ansicat: the scope is narrower, limiting itself to an exploration of the weighted companion cube, so the focus is necessarily a little tighter.
We've seen earlier in this series a riotous celebration of the perhaps underrated Pokemon Mudkip -- well, here he is again, in effect and in progress in ASCII form as drawn by ansi86.
The picture is nothing special -- I mean, it's very nice original artwork of a textmode dragon, but as far as our specific theme of videogame-derived art goes, it's a non-starter. But wow, look at that font -- the name of the BBS advertised, "Dragon's Lair", is of course the same as that Don Bluth-animated arcade coin-op classic... and adapts its logo perfectly to the strange new blocky medium!
Anakhronizein is most definitely one of the two flying Volk brothers from 8bitMUSH (also the textmode training ground of the above cccfire), and drew ANSI renditions of these three monsters inspired by their depictions as sprites in Final Fantasy games (such as you've seen here before): that was a wolf, here is a Medusa, and then there are three palette-swapped versions of flans as depicted in FF X-2.
This bad dead dude from the Badlands is an adaptation of Jeff Easley's box art for the SSI/Westwood 1st-person CRPG Eye of the Beholder. Some liberties are taken, but isn't that always necessarily the case in textmode matters? (Well, no: sit tight for the shell script pictures of sprites from pixelart games.)
But first let's change gears with a most likely machine-generated (they don't much care about the finer points of how the sausage is made over at DA) ASCII art logo by pxkittylovexq for the Sega Saturn game Nights:
Now today the big story really is terminal scripts that work like and look like ANSI art, but aren't ANSI as we know it. But it's a big tent, and I for one am a lumper rather than a splitter, so let's welcome this stuff right on in here. hdquote opens with a pair of pixelart sprites from Cave Story, the first of which (Quote) is just getting warmed up and the second of which (Curly Brace) is in full ANSI-esque effect!
And since this is now the preferred medium for indie hipsterism, how about a nice hot helping of Super Meat Boy?
Of course, it doesn't have to be rendered as ANSI to make an impact: Simon Belmont is left (by emgrte) as ASCII here and loving it!
The terminal shell scripting continues apace, hdquote working on a Pac-Man in progress here...
... and what naturally follows? Wait, don't answer that question, the answer is of course: a ghost! (But just which ghost is it? Thank you, Wikipedia, for keeping tabs on all the really important details... unlike BBS door games, this is totally notable!: "Kinky -- also called Kinzo -– a yellow Ghost that only appeared in Pac-Man Arrangement.")
But the Pac wouldn't be held back -- here's perhaps his smallest ANSI art appearance ever, a tiny excerpt from a larger piece by our friend bym discussed above:
And a more substantial piece: "Usual Suspects" by m00ks13:
And because one oldschool turn deserves another, here's another hdquote script-produced nod to Space Invaders: And a tiny "Space Invaders" ANSI interlude by thykka as we move along... Here we go, scripts can also be used to render a triforce from the Legend of Zelda games...
... an act that might, sometimes, be preferable to manually drawing a logo celebrating the game, as xanta16 has done here:
Ideal would be a hand-drawn ANSI art picture of Link by a skilled & talented master of the form, such as avg offers here:
Yes, my friends, we're out of the trough and into the victory lap! Since I haven't played it yet, I failed to pick up on this Blocktronics Mass Effect ANSI by Aaron Frick:
I only previously knew of a single Titanfall ANSI drawn by artscene alumnus (and now Titanfall dev -- this is no fan tribute, it comes from about as close to the horse's mouth as one can get) Jon "Slothy" Shiring. I'm very glad I found it (in the unlikeliest of places!) because I like it quite a bit more than the other one I saw:
Last but not least, we return to the source -- not just a subject of extreme and textmode antiquity, but also from a vintage creator of textmode art. You previously saw him on this very blog cranking out enormous quantities of Iron Maiden-inspired ANSI art circa 1992 as The Necromancer, but he is back, he has found DeviantArt, he has uploaded many of his old ANSIs there, and a "recent" film has moved him to step back in the saddle: the film is GET LAMP by the same Jason Scott who runs (also the subject of a previous installment of VG textmode art) (this vintage computing ghetto really is a small world, isn't it?), a film which makes as its subject the text adventure, specifically as perfected in its commercial era by the company Infocom, purveyors of eg. Zork. (Incidentally, before GET LAMP, Jason Scott also made The BBS documentary, including an entire section entitled ARTSCENE, dedicated to those old bones I spend so much time disturbing here. One of my teenaged compositions even appears in it briefly!)
Did I say "last"? Please excuse me, I couldn't pass up including this piece -- a crazy ANSI art adaptation by deaconpenguin of kraAaZy sprite art from the SNES cult favorite Earthbound:
And that's all for now, video game textmode fans! But fear not: I still have a dozen or so posts's worth of this stuff hanging around in the queue -- in time I will be discharging all of it, but also visiting other related subjects dear to my heart. This one just, er, jumped the queue due to the quantity of curious and quality material, vintage and current, that presented itself relevant to this series. It came unexpected to the door and knocked so very hard I simply couldn't say no!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Christmas haul, 2016

In previous years through various permutations of this blog you have seen me document ridiculous holiday yields of video game-related gifts on a few occasions. Typically you can gauge what else is going on in my life by just how quickly I'm able to get a relevant blog post up -- last year we waited a whole month, while I imagine in previous years of sporadic employment I may have been able to get right on it with same-day or next-day service (since I was sure you were all on the edge of your seats, right?) Well, here we are -- I was able to attend to the documentation and tabulation right away, but a blog post is more than a spreadsheet update so it's taken me a while to be able to get around to explaining what makes the exceptional pieces just so exceptional.
Exhibit A... was what we thought was the whole enchilada, opened on Christmas morning as part of the "stocking" phrase of the holiday. Later, we would progress to Christmas dinner, which (it turns out) entailed some heavy-duty gift-receiving itself. But I get ahead of myself. As you can see, the preliminary haul was no slouch:
At twelve-'o-clock there's a schematic diagram T-shirt showing the guts of a Nintendo Entertainment System gamepad -- definitely Gamely. I don't know if I approve of the hardware fetishization (a good memory of software is a memory of experiences and stories, but a good memory of hardware is kind of ... a memory of a context in which other memories occurred, it's all a bit meta for me), but then again I have an NES on ice in storage in my basement, so who am I to throw shade? ... a trifecta of disc-based games: The Cat in the Hat for the original Xbox (whose games I can no longer run, having given my unit away under the false understanding that the 360 was backwards-compatible!), Barnyard for the Gamecube (not being previously familiar with the license, the game itself is turning out to deserve the nickname "Grand Theft Tractor"), and Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures part 2 for the WiiU (which I also do not have yet... maybe someday... maybe in a decade... maybe never?) (Not pictured: Mario Party 8.)

Then there are the considerably more aged cartridge-based games for the Atari 2600 and Colecovision -- some early hits from big-name developers, but hang on a sec, can we zoom in there a little?

A photo posted by Rowan Lipkovits (@nicheinterests) on
Well, if you're going to have six copies of something, you could do worse than the killer app that was the Colecovision's Donkey Kong. (NB, only 3 copies for that machine, the other 3 for the VCS.) Moving right along... take a good, hard look at the fabric pattern on that stocking! Then we have a couple of baggies of Super Mario candy (gosh, I hope it isn't mushroom flavoured), light-up Super Mario bonus keychains (a question-box and a 1UP mushroom), a -- look closely! -- Super Mario Christmas ornament painted on a blown eggshell!, a Pac-Man ghost candy tin, Pac-Man drinking tumblers, and some kooky Playmobil pirate game for the Nintendo DS. Phew! I know, it's not a huge haul, but it's respectable enough, right? I know, I know -- "When I grew up, I put away childish things", yadda yadda.

Later that day, I uncovered the main attraction... did someone say cartridge-based games? My mother-in-law must have encountered a dealer liquidating their stock at a flea market. I didn't count, probably over a hundred Atari 2600 carts -- naturally, including a ton of duplicates, both in regards to what I already had and even internally (and heh, there's the seventh Donkey Kong of the day!) plus some Xonox two-headers and non-standard carts made by more niche third-parties than Activision and Imagic, but more interesting to me were other cartridges for systems I didn't own or had never even interacted with -- it's always exciting to someone as overexposed and blase about old video games as I am to go "hello, what's THIS?" to something never before seen: a few Atari 7800 carts, a couple of cartridges for the Atari 8-bit computers, a bunch of Texas Instruments TI-84 cartridges (hello, commercial release of Hunt the Wumpus! I had a chance to pick up a working machine in a Value Village basement when I was destitute and was crushed to find hours later -- and a few dollars richer -- that someone else had snapped it up), a few cartridges for the TRS-80 CoCo -- my first home computer, one of these games (Castle Guard, if memory suggests correctly a Pong clone) very likely part of my very first exposure to home video gaming.

(That's one HECK of a non-standard Pitfall! label... the usual one is included for comparison.)
There's also a handheld Tetris clone ("Brick game". There's Super Mario Galaxy stuffies. Pac-Man salt and pepper shakers (I find myself wondering at what point an entire kitchen can be decked out in the Pac-Man theme? (The fruit bowl is only allowed to contain the following: Cherries, Strawberries, Peaches and Apples.) A Super Mario Strikers backpack (that one actually went to my daughter, as did the stuffies, but I rounded them all up for the group photo.) And another Super Mario candy tin, next to ... you can't see it in the photo, but front centre are chocolates shaped like gamepads and joystick controllers... Here's a close-up. (I'm told that someone close to me has acquired some chocolate molds, so I may be seeing more of these in the future...)

My eldest has been going nuts trying to get me to play the Pac-Man game (I don't know that a WiiU will ever be in the cards, but who knows if the relatively small supply of them will flood the market once the Switch is released) but failing that, we enjoyed an excellent time over the holidays playing through all five of the Freddi Fish adventure games by Humongous Entertainment. I enjoyed them so much, I even bought them on Steam! (And I've got to say, they've held up quite a bit better than Cyan's children's games. But Freddi is the only one of the pack with a girl as the hero.)

So there we go, from a respectable if somewhat underwhelming (this family does Christmas in a big way, we're trying to throttle it down a little bit but apparently not yet!) haul in the morning to a truly overwhelming cavalcade of cartridges by sundown, making my Atari 2600 collection... truly formidable! (And if I had all the parts needed to get them working, my Colecovision and Intellivision would be holding their own also!) Who knows what my birthday in April will bring? (Well, the next installment of my twice-annual vintage gaming Big Pixel parties, of course... and chances are, we'll be giving away duplicate VCS cartridges at the door. Stay tuned!)