To further develop my knowledge of my chosen discipline, I will look at a couple of practitioners that have been relevant to or have inspired my work; one that is old and one that is more contemporary.
While doing this I will take into consideration the formal elements, narrative, materials, processes and techniques used.
Contemporary – Glauber Kotaki: Rogue Legacy.
The first practitioner that I will be looking into is Glauber Kotaki. Glauber is a 2D artist who created the art on one of my biggest influences, Rogue Legacy. Rogue Legacy is a platformer with a fantasy setting that also falls into the genres of metroidvania and rogue-lite.
The story of Rogue Legacy starts with a knight called Johannes entering Castle Hamson in search of a cure for his father, the king from a grave illness but he never returns. It is told in the game that he threw away all his families money and betrayed the king, which then starts a long legacy of stories in search for an answer and revenge.. It uses permanent death to continue the story through heirs as they try to get through the castle in order to discover the secret that has doomed their family line.
As the player traverses the castle they find many journals left behind by Johannes depicting his story in search for the cure, but why do these character continue to go into the castle one after another to almost certain death? One of the descendants of Johannes says:
“When I was a child, my father left us. To conquer what has been in so far, unconquerable. The Castle Hamson, the place where our ancestor had vanished to ages ago. Our family has been very poor for a long time, all of our wealth taken away when Johannes made a deal with the demon Charon in pursuit of his… justly goal.
Father told me of when he was a child and his father left for Hamson, to at last rid us of this accursed fate and to bring closure to our sordid history. Grandpa failed and didn’t come back. Now that Father was of age, he too was going to attempt to finish the unfinishable. I was afraid. I didn’t want to lose my father. He told me not to worry, patting me on my head as he slipped his helmet upon his head, and told me that he would be the one to break this neverending cycle. He smiled down at me, and I smiled back up at him. I wanted to believe him, I truly did, but I knew it was a lie. I think he did too.
He never came home.
The heartbreak was painful… and yet, it was expected. Over the past several hundred years, every family head has tried, and failed to stop this seemingly neverending cycle of loss. And now it’s my turn.”
The subtext of the game tackles some really hard-hitting issues such as loss, and the idea of having the duty to finish what those before you had started. The game can also been seen as tackling Pyrrhic victory in a sense as person after person died in pursuit of something that in the end was actually all a lie as it was the king who threw away the country’s money, and left his country in ruin all for selfish gain. It questions if loyalty is always worth it as it shows that Johannes betrayed the king but only because the king had betrayed them. Sometimes unwavering loyalty isn’t worth the sacrifices that must be made to uphold it, which can relate in terms to the First World War as a lot of lives were sacrificed for some very questionable reasons that had become very blurred by the end of the war.
The game was created by a very small team of people that one of the developers Kenny Lee spent over 400 hours trying to find an artist that would hand them work that matched the quality of their portfolio. Around 4 months into development of the game they found Glauber Kotaki who would produce what the Lee brother’s were after. They wanted to create a more forgiving 2D version of Demon Souls and thought that pixel art would be a safe, effective and cheap way about it. They did at one point try to hire another artist to do the environments of the game but the illustrations were not meshing well with the rest of the game and so they decided to stick to just Glauber for the artwork.
At first they were creating a mega castle of over a thousand rooms that would be all interconnected, and they were trying to create a customisable combat system, but this all proving too expensive and time consuming for them. In the end they scrapped the combat system and the mega castle for a much simpler procedural generated castle as well as a consistent and simple combat system.
In an article Glauber talks about how he created each body part as a group of many different layers, this meant he could create animations just by changing positions of the body parts instead of drawing more frames. Having the body parts layered in this way meant that he could also make slight changes to armour pieces separately so that each new character would look different from the last.
Another technique he talks about is the use of tile-sets and discernible patterns to compound each area. These consisted of 3 tiles, background, foreground and floor, they did this so they could implement them into the game as fast as possible.
Glauber has had the biggest impact on my work and what I want to do with pixel art. Once I picked up my passion for pixel art, Glauber’s work in Rogue Legacy has been a huge influence not only on the style of how I work but also the sort of pixel art I want to create, focusing on fantasy/medieval genres.
While researching more into Glauber I found his YouTube channel where he has uploaded a few time lapses of him creating pixel art. I watched a few of them and saw how I could improve on my own creative progress when it comes to fleshing out the base of the character. When he silhouettes he makes sure to choose a colour that allows him to add depth so when he comes around to each body part, he knows if it’s in front or behind and if it needs shading or not. I think I will definitely do this with my pieces from now because I have had some trouble remembering the exact shape of limbs when they overlap other parts of the body.
Early Practitioner – Steffen Sauerteig (eBoy):
eBoy are a pixel art group founded in 1997 by Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital. Although they were definitely not the first to be pixel artists, their perfection of the craft has caused them to often be dubbed ‘The Godfathers of Pixel”.
Sauerteig was born in East Berlin back when Germany was divided. He was the son of a General in the East German army, which had caused him to be active within politics when he was a teen, even taking part in the Leipzig demonstrations. After he had finished high school he became an electrician for East German TV but gave up that job after a year as he got bored of creating state propaganda. He moved onto selling hand-knit backpacks at markets with his wife all the while longing to move to the West.
At the age of 21 he witnessed the reunification of Germany and he remembers back to being amazed by the labels and packaging in supermarkets.
“All the buildings were worn down. No billboards, not even that many trees. In the West it was shiny, everything was colorful.” – Sauerteig.
Alongside Smital, he enrolled at the Berlin institute of Design where he studied video arts. They loved all the abstract layouts and typography of magazines at the time, which caused them to develop a liking for brand design.
“For them, the fall of the wall ushered in a new world with new aesthetics.”
In 1994 Steffen met Kai while he was a student intern at MetaDesign. They bonded very quickly, sharing a vision for screen-based design, and caught on to the detailed block-building that was pixel art. After Steffen graduated in 1996 the pair started uploading pixel designs to their website, eventually later Smital joined them and a few months later eBoy was founded.
The eBoy Style:
Eboy have gained a reputation for their style as it has become known around the world through their work with huge companies such as Nike, Xbox, Red bull and many many more. eBoy’s 2D illusion of 3D pixel art style goes back to the days of 8-bit computer graphics, and although their work was originally to be seen only on the computer screen, they are featured everywhere from mainstream ad campaigns to Peecol toys.
Below is an infographic I created about Steffen & eBoy’s work.
I created this infographic because after writing the report on Glauber Kotaki I thought that it wasn’t appealing enough and although it was presented well as a report it lacked anything eye-catching, this lead me to decide to organise what I found out about Steffen & eBoy more visually. I did this because it is a good way of displaying information that is both useful and appealing to the reader. People tend to remember things better through visuals rather than data/text, and an infographic is much easier to remember than a large condensed group of text.
Oliver Campbell. 2013. ROGUE LEGACY: ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT STORIES OF 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: https://betweenhimandher.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/rogue-legacy-one-of-the-most-important-stories-of-2013/. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
Glauber Kotaki. 2013. The Art of Rogue Legacy, or “why less is more”. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/GlauberKotaki/20130812/198106/The_Art_of_Rogue_Legacy_or_quotwhy_less_is_morequot.php. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
thepunkeffect. 2013. INDIE UNCHAINED – ROGUE LEGACY REVIEW AND INTERVIEW WITH DEVELOPER TEDDY LEE. [ONLINE] Available at: http://thepunkeffect.com/indie-unchained-rogue-legacy-review-and-interview-with-developer-teddy-lee/. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
Rich Stanton. 2013. The making of Rogue Legacy. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-07-29-the-making-of-rogue-legacy. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
Glauber Kotaki. (2014). Duelyst – Concept art to Pixel art. [Online Video]. 4 April 2014. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3swQeUJ5gM. [Accessed: 2 March 2017].
Creative Bloq Staff . 2011. eBoy. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.creativebloq.com/computer-arts/eboy-8118614. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
Amar Toor. No Date. PIXEL PERFECT: THE STORY OF EBOY. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theverge.com/2014/6/17/5803850/pixel-perfect-the-story-of-eboy. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
eBoy. No Date. shop_tokyo_fullsize.png. [ONLINE] Available at: http://hello.eboy.com/eboy/wp-content/uploads/shop/shop_tokyo_fullsize.png. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws. 2015. supermarket1-1280×450. [ONLINE] Available at: https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/static.nextnature.net/app/uploads/2015/08/supermarket1-1280×450.jpg. [Accessed 2 March 2017].
8bitdecals, (2012), eboy-zoomed-vehicle-from-8bitdecals-099 [ONLINE]. Available at: http://8bitdecals.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/eboy-zoomed-vehicle-from-8bitdecals-099.png [Accessed 2 March 2017].
thunderchunky, (2014) PT-Steffen-on-his-Desk-ANI-01k-retina [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.thunderchunky.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/PT-Steffen-on-his-Desk-ANI-01k-retina.gif [Accessed 2 March 2017].