Thursday, 15 June 2017

Video game appearances in recent artpacks, first half 2017

As the datestamp on the embedded Tweet suggests, I've been meaning to get this post up since March (original title: "first quarter 2017") but keep getting caught up in the little routines of preparing, producing and promoting released artpacks on a monthly basis. Then as more packs come out, their contents need also to be integrated into this draft-in-progress.. three steps forward, two steps back. But I'm ready to publish it and move on with other long-delayed posts here at Pixel Pompeii.

As the post title suggests, people are releasing artpacks: mostly it's me and Mistigris, but most impactfully Blocktronics also gets a few out annually to much wider audiences. There are other groups active out there -- Galza, Titan and now Fuel -- but for purposes of this blog post, they fall outside our scope... since I'm not doing an artpack highlights reel generally, but rather a comprehensive look at art included in those releases made concerning video game themes. (And they released no art this year that I could find engaging those themes.)

But Mistigris sure released a lot of it! The year kicked off with MIST0117 in January, and we got underway with a humdinger: Awesome Angela's textile piece (I'm not yet comfortable eyeballing the difference between needlepoint and cross-stitch, something I maybe should have gotten sorted out before I decided I'd start releasing it in my artpacks) "Mario Inception", depicting Mario and Luigi playing on an NES... a game about them playing a game on an NES... a game about them playing a game... and, OK, 4 layers deep, we can't really tell what they're playing. Maybe Q*Bert.

Did someone say "Q*Bert"? Ed "Starstew" Statsny was sure thinking of it when he began drawing this piece, "Astracenauts", but he quickly went off on a highly divergent tangent. All the same, step pyramids made of Qubes... sorry, cubes, will always bring me back to memories of that Escherian arena.
That's not quite it for MIST0117, but you already saw the remainder in our most recent post here, April's teletext round-up. That post actually sucked a lot of air out of this one, but no worries -- as it turns out, a half-year of wool-gathering still left us with quite a bit of other on-theme material to share... as you shall see. On to MIST0217! Awesome Angela rises to the top here (alphabetically especially), demonstrating her main visual art practice of fusion bead pixelart. Something a little racy for Valentine's Day that I think I saddled with the clunky title "Bedroom Kingdom".
Discovered in response to the previous month's Mario Inception, we were privileged to share a parallel textile work of fractal Mario recursion by the Japanese Ranbahol, ingeniously depicting a pixelart Mario composed entirely of variantly-coloured tiny Marios used as picture elements. This kind of work is slow going: we look forward to also sharing their next creation, but this piece concluded in February and its follow-up probably won't yet be done in time for our next July collection. Actually making your own Mario games might be faster.
Now, for a change of pace, on March 1st ANSI art masters Blocktronics released their first collection of the year, "There Will Be Blocks", greatly to the benefit of this blog post... it was full of video game-themed ANSI art. That's right, you can stop peeping with horror from behind the hands clapped over your eyes, no more fusion beads or needlepoint for a while! We open with this piece featuring the protagonist of the 1985 Atari Games arcade game Paperboy -- delivering the news in the Blocktronics infofile, as it turns out.
Filth dazzled us with these new pieces of ANSI art for two classic BBS door games known for their native ANSI art, Legend of the Red Dragon and Tradewars 2002. (One of my most popular YouTube videos is simply a walk through the ANSImated art assets of that latter game, but the sublimely minimalist pieces of the original lack a certain sophisticated flair Filth brings to the table here.)
... here's a little Minecraft action, the modern game perhaps best suited to ANSI art aesthetics!
Enzo was really the video game hero of this pack, not only delivering a scene inspired by Lucasarts' The Secret of Monkey Island...
plus a touch of Ghosts 'n Goblins also...
But also this tremendous colly (related screens stacked on top of each other) walking viewers through the early, Atari-centric (but fear not, we also get representation from Taito, Namco, Nintendo, Activision, Konami, Data East and Capcom) history of video gaming in the arcade / 2600 era, entitled "The Dream Shall Never Die". Really in leaner times this individual artwork would merit a colossal post all to itself, depicting the chronological progression of video games through (takes a deep breath) Pong, Tank, Breakout, Air-Sea Battle, Street Racer, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaxian, Lunar Lander, Superman, Pac-Man, Centipede, Battlezone, Missile Command, Boxing, Phoenix, Berzerk, Rogue, Rally-X, Frogger, River Raid, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Defender, Tennis, Ms. Pac-Man, Pitfall, Donkey Kong Jr., Moon Patrol, Q*Bert, Spiderman, Mario Bros., Enduro, Elevator Action, Karate Champ and Ghosts 'n Goblins (again).

It's all downhill from here, folks! Mistigris also released a March artpack, so here are some more fusion bead creations by Awesome Angela of Sleepy Stitch!
I titled that one "Bathroom Kingdom". See any trends emerging yet?
A clever visual mash-up, this one puts Princess Toadstool riding a Chain-chomp just like Miley Cyrus in the "Wrecking Ball" video. One helluva empty signifier!
And one more by Awesome Angela, one series she does is hypothesizing different mushroom power-ups Mario might encounter out in his travels. These represent different social networks Mario might find himself navigating. (Instantly dated late-2016 due to an appearance from our old friend the Vine microvideo service!)
I first looked up Cookieheart for her video game sprite art, but when I found that she also incorporated other VG themes into other styles of work, I was charmed. This is of course a Tetris-scape, strewn with cats and feline bonus items ... which brings us to the end of the VG-themed works from the Mistigris March artpack! This was, of course, followed promptly by the Mistigris APRIL artpack, which always is a little special, as we make it a fool's pack and stuff it with half-baked gags, dad jokes and, if we're lucky, the sublimely stupid. You can hear a little bit of it as the soundtrack to this post -- Simon of Trideja remade the Lavos theme to Chrono Trigger, then gradually began substituting out the synthesized chip instruments with goofy vocal samples. You've probably noticed that it gets stupider as it goes along! So will we proceed in this post, at least to this point.
My old colleague Glowing Fish -- the number one commentator at this blog's previous incarnation, Shilling Epilepsy to Mouth-Breathers (you can probably tell why the name changed, huh?) -- tried his hand at fusing video game situations with breathless Upworthy-style clickbait headlines. They're all a little funny, even if none of them are ... a lot funny. I don't think that it's possible to yield gold from this alchemical fusion, but these are very respectable lumps of bronze.
Taffi Louis' meme game is on a whole other level. This isn't in reference to an existing game, but the Platonic ideal of one that merely might have been... a refreshing change of pace from an unending series of face-shot simulators.
And here, another Taffi Louis special: a little Pokémon Go humour for grown-ups.
Finally, the April Fool's Mistigris artpack 2017 contained a genuine video game made for the PICO-8 fantasy console; the four-year-old son proposed the theme for what would become "Poop Blaster" (a toilet eats flying turds) and the father implemented it. Just an animated .GIF here, but I believe the playable game is included in the archive.

OK, now that we've got all that tremendous levity out of our system, it's on to the May Mistigris artpack -- and with it, a return to the glories of teletext, with pieces we released too late to fit in the previous teletext-centric post here on this blog. But first, a return to form for Awesome Angela -- a perler bead rendition of Neko Atsume's delightful cats!

Also, we have this piece of rare Mistigris ANSI art by our longtime colleague, Vancouver Chipmusic Society lynchpin bryface, who represented us at the Revision 2017 demoparty in the music and ANSI art categories, where this piece -- "The Four Channels of the Apocalypse", depicting the Game Boy on which he composes chiptunes (through LSDJ) and his travelling companion's Amiga 1000 -- rated 4th place.
Now, I believe I said something about teletext? Here it comes! From the Horsenburger teletext foundry: iD Software's foundational FPS, DooM!
Horsenburger presents... iD Software's genre-capping platformer, Commander Keen! (Specifically, the splash screen to Episode 4: The Secret of the Oracle.)
Horsenburger... leaves iD alone for a bit, and takes on HAL Laboratory's famished Protean protagonist, Kirby!
Awesome Angela isn't done with those 'shrooms: here are another set of iconic Super Mario power-ups mashed-up with other franchises and objects. Just what powers would Hello Kitty Mario have, anyway?
Starstew returns with a very non-computer-art styled drawing of a very electronic gaming subject in this piece, "Catari Returns". I can't place the specific game being referenced here (or is it from the artist's imagination?) but the cat is most definitely playing it on an Atari 2600:
And finally, a piece of needlepoint many months in the works, Morgan Lee's textile cartographic execution of the Hyrule Light World overland map from the Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past!
... all of which just about nearly brings us to the present, except for one final artpack: the Mistigris June collection. Included below are more pieces on similar themes from artists we've now seen before in this post, starting with Awesome Angela, who beaded up a Princess Toadstool re-enacting Marilyn Monroe's famous subway-vent-skirt-lifting pose from The Seven Year Itch:
Starstew returns with a drawing inspired by a contemporary game you may not have heard of, Breakforcist:
Horsenburger returns to the well with a gameplay screen from Saboteur redrawn in teletext:
He's just getting started! Horsenburger proceeds to teletextify Ruff from Enix's Dragon Quest 7:
We've seen a bit of Hyrule earlier in this post, and now here's Horsenburger's teletext Link:
Somebody stop him, Horsenburger is out of control! Here he takes on teletext portraits of three characters from "Arms" for the Nintendo Switch: Helix, Ribbon Girl and Spring Man:
Phew! But Horsenburger isn't quite done with us yet... last but not least, a scene from The Secret of Monkey Island! At least... a scene I dearly recall from the back of the game's box, which didn't actually appear in my version of the game! Maybe Horsenburger played some enhanced CD-ROM version (or a leaked pre-release beta!), I don't know.
And because one good Monkey Island piece deserves another, we close on another video game needlepoint pattern painstakingly rendered by Morgan Lee:
And that's it! Hopefully it won't take another six months to get another post out in this series, because... that makes for large posts! I'll just have to keep tabs on what kind of art is turning up in the artpacks and... undoubtedly, I'll be reporting back to you. (There will be other posts on related topics sooner; indeed, history suggests that you might be seeing a lot of activity here this summer.) Cheers!

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!