Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Video game textmode art part 29: Teletext!

RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE! It made as good a note as any to begin this blog on, so I will also use this moment from Altered Beast to open this post.
(My notes haven't been what, in a perfect world, they ought to be. So I'm not 100% certain on the attribution of many of these pieces. When I began the stockpile, I kind of assumed that modern teletext was the primary domain of Illarterate (check out his portfolio here!), and that any I'd come across would have originated from his desk. It's a moving target, and as our information improves, the article will be updated.)

Yes, I've given it away: today's installment of "video game textmode art" (what, only part 29? slacker!) deals with the topic of teletext -- of all textmode art forms, hands-down the one that, in its heyday, reached the most people... millions, direct through their television sets! And like any other form of textmode art -- indeed, any other art form, period! -- it has been used to celebrate and glorify the cultural genre that is video games. Here, today, I share you all the specimens I've been able to locate.

Unsurprisingly, many of the modern game-themed teletext works have been created as promotional material for other video-game-related projects -- review magazines, podcasts, online communities etc. A single simple joystick here represents Retro Video Gamer:

Retro Unlim ups the hardware game, with a full arcade cabinet:
Illarterate here demonstrates his mastery by giving us two very different depictions of the same subject, Nintendo's Game Boy handheld -- first, including a genius minimalist Mario on-screen...
... and another one with a blank screen.
He also (for reasons known only to himself) illustrated the following celebration of the Atari 2600 clone the "TV Boy". Illarterate: if it is a video game system and has the word "boy" in its name, I will draw it in teletext. (Oh yeah? Then where's the Virtual Boy? What, the limited teletext palette doesn't give you a nice enough shade of red?) [Ill: "Suggestion noted re. Virtual Boy..." ]
And one more piece of hardware celebrated, Codemasters' add-on the Game Genie, promoting Retro Unlimited Radio:
Bridging the gap between pure-hardware systems and the era of consoles to come, here's a rendition of Pong in action!
And direct to the Atari 2600, it's TeletextR celebrating Warren Robinett's Adventure, credited as home to the first easter egg! (TeletextR maintains a teletext portfolio also over here.) I gather that this Space Invaders appearance is a period one, and aired during the game's first big flowering -- during which it singlehandedly caused a coin shortage in Japan -- airing on the CeeFax service over Christmas 1978.
Here's another take on that popular subject by the Dutch Lektrolab - which I learned about from Illarterate's old but fascinating blog Pixel is Power.
Still more Invaders, with a touch of Zero Wing...
Yet more Invaders!
And perhaps our most recent specimen, Polyducks' fancy version as presented at the recent Block Party 2017 convention:
Now for a fresh topic, totally not played-out... a Pac-Man, also created at Block Party 2017:
And our post's first (but surely not last) appearance of works by Horsenburger, a man who eats and breathes teletext (go on and support his Patreon, he produces these images on a daily basis!)... two portraits of Pac-Man: first, as depicted in his 1982 Hanna-Barbera cartoon...
... and then a presentation more in line with how Namco is showing him today:

And let's wrap this section up with a great big Pac-Man playfield:
Here we have two versions of Horsenburger's take on Capcom's MegaMan. Teletext is a medium full of compromises. Basically you can have high resolution...
... or you can have an increased colour palette. Now quick, choose one!
Oh, wait, Paul Davis demonstrates that you can still make a pretty handy representation of MegaMan without using any colours at all!
Here's an old teletext trick also enjoyed by ANSI art: the use and abuse of flashing colours for fun and profit! TeletextR shares this Manic Miner logo with us...
And the natural follow-up, also by TeletextR -- a tribute to its sequel Jet Set Willy:

That static screen it nice, but Tim, uh, "Tim M" takes it one step further, animating these teletext screens on his teletext-compatible BBC Micro, reproducing the opening scene from Jet Set Willy: I recently shared Illarterate's "Scum Labs" piece without having the slightest inkling that it originated from a video game, but he set me straight: you see this lady between levels in Midway's 1997 Rampage World Tour:

After I gave him top marks for that piece he said he'd follow it up with an homage to the original Rampage -- as long as he could do it using the palette in the Amstrad CPC home conversion. Well, all right! I'm sure the artists hate it when I do this, but here -- you can compare and contrast.
Here's a funny gag that you might have overlooked -- sports results as would be grist of the mill for teletext services, but the sport they're reporting on is the Bitmap Brothers' brutal (deluxe) Speedball:
Now, Sam & Max come in and out of this series -- best known to a certain segment thanks to their appearance in Lucasarts adventure games (including their own), though originating in comics and most widely enjoyed as a TV program. Fox Kids here in this vintage art was almost certainly promoting airtime of that latter incarnation of Max, but I can't resist folding him in here anyway:
Another vintage Fox Kids teletext illustration: I can't say that I recognize the character, but whoever they are they plainly owe a debt to Rare's DKC reimagining of Donkey Kong (egad, I just learned about the 1998 Donkey Kong Country cartoon (!) -- this is indeed the most "street" member of the Kong clan, "Funky Kong"):
While we're touting one-off teletext conversions of video game heroes, here's Polyducks's rendition of Q*Bert, spotted recently in a Mistigris artpack! (I can't get over reducing Coily the purple snake to a sinister purple letter S. Hats-off minimalism!) Polyducks works across many media -- even as far as textmode goes, it's far more typical for him to mint PETSCII-style images using Rexpaint -- and doesn't just do conversions of game screens, but also makes mock-up screens for games that never were -- but should be! ... and of course, also just plain makes games. Portfolio here.
And an Illarterate adaptation of my two favorite video game dragons, Bub and Bob from Bubble Bobble:
Here's a Retrounlim promo (that pun? surely the handiwork of Illarterate) featuring Codemasters' hard-boiled hero egg Dizzy...
And Illarterate again, celebrating one of the most reviled of NES carts, the infamous Cheetahmen!
Here Horsenburger trips forward a console generation with this teletext ode to Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis (or MegaDrive, as they would have called it in the UK)...
And two more Horsenburger conversions for now -- after he consciously observed what qualities teletext shared with the UK's king of period home computers the ZX Spectrum he began trying to reproduce game screens, starting with Jet-Pac by Ultimate Play-The-Game (aka Rare)...
And continuing on with the Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge...
TeletextR: "ZX81 Screens are not the hardest things to convert to Teletext, but I like the charm of them." Here's his take on the Spectrum classic 3-D Monster Maze...
And here TeletextR takes on Gunfight: "Excuse the Blue numbers, can't do Black on White in a legal way!" Ahh... constraints.
A couple more! TeletextR draws the tiny hero of Bruce Lee writ large...
And one more TeletextR conversion -- this screen adapts "Saboteur":
Have you got a minute? Phil Mainwaring (of "Phil's Place") is seemingly on a mission to convert every image pertaining to early computing and render it in teletext, as demonstrated through this animated .GIF cycling through his oeuvre, touching on Taito, Acornsoft, Atari, Coleco, Commodore, Sega, the TRS-80's renowned Dancing Demon, Chuckie Egg, Elite, Granny's Garden, Knight Lore, Space Invaders, Pac-Man ... and hundreds more!
OK, we got small, now let's get big again. Some of you may say that Tron is a movie, not a video game, and you would have a point, but in my books it basically gets a free pass. Here's Horsenburger drawing a round of Light Cycles...
and here, he draws a logo complete with a Recognizer from Space Paranoids!
Now, rounding the bend, three teletext Marios! Here's one by Horsenburger... it's a-him, Mario!
This one is somewhat enhanced, a Super Mario complete with Fire Flower! (And a logo for PFFT, which... eludes me.) [Illarterate thought it would be the sound a fireball would make being lanuched... I see it more as a "plip plip", "PFFT" perhaps when firing into water and self-extinguishing... only no, Mario's fireballs burn even underwater, no doubt thanks to a magnesium core. ... But I digress.)
And one final fancy Mario, advertising episode 7 of Retro Unlimited Radio!
Finally, just to prove that teletext isn't just for old (sorry, vintage "classic") games: here's a fresh slice of Horsenburger adapting a character from the recent Mass Effect: Andromeda. I haven't played the game yet (let's be honest, I may not see it for a decade) but I believe that's ... Sara Ryder.
Bonus: can't believe I somehow overlooked it -- one final Horsenburger piece, from Gremlin and Chupa-Chup, it's the Ninja of the Nth Dimension -- Zool!
And there you have it! That's all for now! See you all again soon!