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 sixteencolours.net and textmod.es 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) textfiles.com (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!)

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Cuntlet II (NSFW)

All right, it's time to get this new year off with a bang! I'll be skipping around chronologically a little bit here (I appreciate that provided that it's all vintage or at the very least retro, the particular sequence isn't terribly critical: the important aspect is that with this particular title, I'm better off not posting it at my workplace.)
My relationship to this title goes back over 20 years: indeed, 31 years ago, Atari released Gauntlet II into the arcades, a refinement of the previous year's Gauntlet, and I remember playing it (a couple of years down the line) at Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's subsequent venture, Chuck E. Cheese. But in 1989, the arcade title was ported for home play under MS-DOS by PC users, and that's where this story really gets started. A few more years along and a copy had wound its way down to my custody, a neat specimen with mind-blowing digitized PC speaker sound and a kind of same-machine simultaneous multiplayer, with memory suggesting three keyboard inputs and the 4th player controlled by joystick. It was fun and continue credits were not so necessarily constrained by material conditions as at the arcade, but some hacker out there thought that there was still room for improvement.
Back when I was getting started (woah!) a bit over a decade ago documenting games at Mobygames, I thought that there was the correct place to catalogue and demonstrate the precise way in which this game's cake was... iced, but despite a few different approaches, the volunteer approvers there held firm to their commitment that the site's mission was to document games in the state in which they were initially sold on store shelves, not ways in which they were subsequently altered by immature miscreants and fan translators. So the only outlet left available to me was to make a note in the game's trivia -- a note I was delighted eventually trickled down and worked its way into another game blog I follow when Gauntlet 2's turn came up in their queue.  But I did hold on to the screenshots I originally attempted to use to demonstrate the hexedited hack's distinguishing points, and now at last I'm going to share them for ... posterity.
What's this?  The splash screen is familiar (you can compare and contrast with the original versions of these screens) but ... somewhat altered.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  Is it the wizard's robe?  Perhaps the elf's goatee?  No, wait... what's that the valkyrie is holding in her hand?  Hang on a minute, the logo isn't quite right, that doesn't say "Gauntlet" anymore, it says... what the hell is a "Cuntlet"?  (Here's a clue: if you try to research this game online, its name would traditionally invoke quite a great deal of pornography.  Hilariously, since the opening of the Internet Archive's arcade (and the penetrating reports by bloggers into its seamy underbelly), the edited game has been reclaiming its rightful place at the head of the search returns.  And speaking of head...
This informative screen demonstrates to us that the original gang of four heroes featured in Gauntlet II have had their names and character classes revamped since perhaps the last time you'd seen this screen.  Also the corporate attribution has been tweaked slightly, and ... gosh, that's a hell of a company logo! Do you think you can buy it on a mug or t-shirt?
The introductory screens continue, elaborating into what kinds of objects and equipment you're likely to encounter in this series of deeper dungeons.  Some of them look as they always did (what's a puerile equivalent to a mirror?  oh, forget it!) and others are quite a bit more... seemingly derived from a very old copy of the alt.sex FAQ.  Ice cubes?  Vitamin E?
It is in the rogue's gallery of opponents where the full scope of this reenvisioned implementation unfolds, as the denizens of the monster-filled pit are all transformed from their relatively humbly initial forms into a series of riffs on male genitalia -- a homophobic tip of the hat to the most horrible things the presumably cishet hackers could imagine overrunning them in waves emerging from a genitalia-generator?  (The presence of the breast is somewhat incongruous, and of course the misspelled "buthole" is equal-opportunity, but elsewise the roster looks like it might have emerged from a lesbian's worst nightmare.)  The most interesting transformation here is the game's initial "it", a magical player-transferrable status (as you would when playing "tag") that acts as a monster magnet, rebranded as AIDS.  In light of that chilling new context, reducing all the other monsters to enormous phalli seems rather tame by comparison.
And here you go.  Gameplay remains unchanged from the game we all know and love, but I gotta tell you, even in a game I'd never endorse eating food sitting on the floor so nearby to a pool of semen.  (Speaking of which, when characters die in this game, they are reduced to a mere wet spot on the mattress.  It's not much of a theme, so you've got to work it!)
And.. you get the idea.  (Same but different!) I'm not prepared to offer it up for download (anymore, I learned my lesson circa 1995 after being locked out of a BBS I co-administered by uploading an archive of the game for play and proclaiming it, in jest, to be Nitty's [the SysOp's] favorite game!") but if this game interests you (for even a minute, to paraphrase the late Leonard Cohen, you are lost) you can play it through your web browser courtesy of the Internet Archive.  And who knows, if this post sees enough interest, maybe when the right occasion rolls around (Valentine's Day?  Which is the holiday of orgiastic frenzy?  May Day?  A cursory Googling suggests that for ancient Rome, it was ... all of them!) I might profile the hard-to-believe French phallic Bomberman clone Bomb'X.  (But until then, my entry on it over at Mobygames, allowed due to not being a hack of another game, is reasonably comprehensive.)

Friday, 25 November 2016

Video game appearances in recent artpacks, late 2016

Howdy! Long time no post, I know, I've been quite busy with a couple of projects -- which you'll be reading more about in today's post! I have more of our bread and butter, video game ANSI art, to share with you, but also high resolution fan artwork -- and even actual game assets and box art imagery -- to share with you. And all that... to a soundtrack of artpack-released video-game cover songs. Performed on accordion. Weren't expecting that, were you? These tunes are just a part of the oeuvre of Adam "An Historic" Matlock, and to fortify the 22nd-anniversary Mistigris artpack that we just released (just, as in, yesterday), I thought they would be a nice bouleversement -- culture originating from a digital source and then manifesting through traditional, analogue means. We skimmed a suite of tunes from classic late-'90s Square console JPGs and you can enjoy them all here in this post. This is, of course, Aerith's theme from Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation 1, released way back in 1997.

But I get ahead of myself. The name you're used to seeing here, especially when covering recent developments in textmode artwork, is that of Blocktronics, the ANSI art mega-group. They had a Hallowe'en release last month and it did not disappoint! By which I mean, it contained not just ANSI art, but some ANSI art on video game themes. Here, for instance, is a 3D Space Invader by Enzo:

And from a the dedicated scholar of the oldschool, VileR (who you may recall from last year's Mistigris artpack) made the leap upstairs to Blocktronics with this piece, celebrating the latest iteration of The MS-DOS Collection with a handful of oldschool imagery made ANSIfied: in the distant mountains, the tanks from Scorched Earth duel endlessly; on the outskirts of the city (indeed, The City From SimCity 2000) a Kong-like simian, last seen in GORILLAS.BAS for QBasic bundled with MS-DOS 5, perches on a rooftop... meanwhile, rampaging through the streets brandishing a floppy diskette is Murphy from Supaplex. But why settle for my description, when you could drink it in with your eyes?
OK, that's it for Blocktronics for the time being(, and I'll mark the transition with another An Historic accordion track, the introduction to the Super Nintendo's Secret of Evermore from 1995). But my artgroup Mistigris also enjoyed a Hallowe'en artpack release, MIST1016. It featured no fewer than two pieces of spooky seasonal art inspired by Konami's vampire-slaying series Castlevania -- the first an ANSI art / HD photography mash-up experiment by Whazzit (who released many further similar pieces, fascinating despite being sans video game references, in the above Blocktronics pack). Here in a real-world church, an ANSI art Simon Belmont confronts an ANSI art Dracula, while ANSI art bats perch overhead. Basically, it's amazing.
Simpler, but still a splendid marriage of message and presentation, xer0 shared with us this (ANSI-less) glitched-up remix of a screen from Castlevania II. The message is intended to convey to the player that something has gone horribly wrong, but to a player, nothing would communicate that message more starkly than gameplay glitching out!
Which brings us to this month's Mistigris artpack, (Now playing: An Historic - Locke's Theme, from Final Fantasy VI for the SNES, 1994) which not only contained references to video games, but an actual game: Glitch by Chris Godber, which you can play here. But there were other intriguing goodies contained therein... consider the following, from the prolific desk of Starstew: a turtle playing Yar's Revenge on an Atari 2600:
And then we served up another VileR celebration of The DOS Collection all our own -- by wishing a happy 35th birthday to the IBM PC by invoking the game it included, Bill Gates' DONKEY.BAS ... which he also celebrated by making a tiny textmode re-implementation of earlier this year!
Next we have another piece by xer0, a bit of sprite art superimposed on an unrelated animation, leaving us with the curious spectacle of Luigi from Super Mario Bros. 3 endlessly running at raccoon flight speed across the surface of a record spinning on a turntable. This is an unlikely juxtaposition, as records were already a historical curiosity by 1988, the year of SMB3's release, with cassette tapes by far the market leader for music sales at least until 1991, when they were surpassed by compact disks. (See there, you didn't expect to learn anything from reading this post, did you?) Hence the title of the piece, I suppose: "Luigi is an OR hipster."
Here's a curio I jumped at the chance to share with the world: the original line art by artist Mark Ericksen for the unreleased game Nuclear Rush, for the unreleased Sega VR platform. It being so very, doubly unreleased, no one ever got a chance to enjoy his hard work... but it is undoubtedly video game-related, and so despite the glaring absence of those chunky pixels I know you all love so much, here it is!
Finally, MIST1116 contained something I'd been angling after for over a year, actual in-game art assets from Imaginary Games' 2015 mobile CCG Afterland, which featured the music of the Creaking Planks. Players just saw these things as little icon thumbnails on an already-small mobile screen, but I'd been to their offices and seen the full-sized originals hanging in frames and knew that the players were missing out not ever to see Elin Jonsson's artwork at a reasonable size... or, as is the case, quite a bit larger than you'd ever want to see on your computer monitor! The first is "Forlorn", and the second "Paria":
All that said and done, let's leave off with one more tune, An Historic's rendition of The Red Wings, from Final Fantasy IV for the Super Nintendo in 1991. Hats off to the artists, and here's looking forward to more inspired art derived from the realm of video games!