For the last several months, I experimented with variations on the above piece, which started as a menu screen for a project. When the game was abandoned, I repurposed the screen to be a stand-alone piece.
For my future personal work, I plan to transition to a style that's less overworked. Ideally, I settle on something with the appearance of effortless mastery, although from my experience with art, this new approach will likely be more time consuming than the current one.
Typically, my pixel art doesn't start and end with a single PSD. Instead, I undertake a series of pencil sketches to explore shapes and compositions.
Please ignore what appears to be a beach volleyball player on the right. She's just doing her own thing, and had little influence on the final piece. Once I zero in on a sketch I like, I recreate it digitally, blocking out the colors to establish the mood.
This pixel sketch can serve as the foundation I work on top of to achieve the final piece, but mostly it's a side-by-side reference so all the energy doesn't die once I throw perspective lines over the WIP.
Keep watching this space! I have a number of exciting developments I will be able to share soon.
Remember that fierce-looking inmate sprite I posted? It was a foreshadowing for this entry.
Those murderous eyes!
Early this year, Nik Mikros and Josh Debonis of Bumblebear Games contacted me with a job opportunity. If those names don't ring a bell, you should know that they are the creative masterminds behind the multiplayer arcade sensation that's sweeping the nation, Killer Queen.
WB Games tapped Bumblebear to develop a 30-player arcade game on new platform by ESC. Ultimately, our creation would be played in the new game rooms installed in select Buffalo Wild Wings locations (currently they include Riverside, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Brookfield, WI). In addition, the game was recently showcased at the annual IndieCade Festival.
During development, our project underwent many iterations, but eventually burst from its cocoon as "Cops and Robbers" meets Pac Man on two projectors' worth of curved screen.
Photo from a public play test, July 2015.
Sample level layout
In prison, even the dirt wears stripes. Not only do they add visual interest, but also they give players a point of reference for horizontal alignment, which is helpful given the screen width. We named the cell blocks and corresponding switches to make it easier for players to yell intrstructions to their teammates.
Assortment of player sprites
Every villainous critter can double as a guard or an inmate. Dr. Frankenstein also advocates the use of interchangeable heads.
Menu screen sprite animation, unused
Walrus, warden, both start with the letter W. Follow the money.
Money bag item
The original sprite needed help to stand out on the giant screen, despite its animation and brightly-saturated yellow color. When I darkened the internal shadow in several frames, the resulting value shift served to catch the players' eyes.
In-game effect: explosion
The bomb powerup detonates, evoking Bomberman with its multidirectional spurts of flame. In fact, the game's visual design includes lots of classic video game references: bubbles like Bobble's, striped dirt like Dig Dug's, and electrocuted skeletons like Street Fighter II's.
In-game effect: electricity
To keep players from spamming the switches that control the cell doors, we made them produce a brief electric field when switched. In addition to reinforcing desired player behavior, the effect visually highlights the switch as a strategically-important region on the map.
In-game effect: sparkles
In-game effect: stars
If you and a group of friends (29 or fewer) ever have a chance to play Pixel Prison Blues, don't hesitate! It's even more fun than it looks.