Working on marketing and communications at a game studio it’s easy to believe that game development is all press releases and innovative social media campaigns. I post a picture up on Facebook and get a few people to LIKE, SHARE or COMMENT on it and then presto the game is released.
Apparently there’s a lot more that goes into making a game than most of us marketers know. For example today HUGS’ CEO & Creative Director Eric Foster showed me the above screenshot and told me about how the team had been adding new fonts and dialogue boxes today. It’s a little thing that myself, and most gamers, probably don’t even really notice consciously or even think about when we consider what goes into creating the games we love.
It may not be sexy like a sponsorship with Anna Kendrick or featuring our game on Conan, but dialogue boxes and font choices are the sorts of things that need to be done to make a game. If we don’t notice them when they’re done well we sure as heck notice when they’re done poorly.
I’ll be over here trying to see if we have the budget to hire Anna Kendrick to be in our launch trailer (spoiler: we don’t) and putting something on Facebook asking people to LIKE, SHARE or COMMENT this blog post.
Legacy of the Copper Skies Isen and Tir work together in Pendon’s pixel art style.
Pixel art had always appealed to Joe Pendon, though he has dabbled in three dimensions before and hopes to again. Right out of school and looking for work in Toronto he saw a demand for 2D pixel art from some of the local game companies and so it made sense to him to follow his passion down that route.
After focusing on building a pixel art portfolio he applied to the one local Toronto studio looking for a pixel artist and got the job. With that Pendon notes, “My career in gaming began. Pixel art got my foot through the door and I continue to strive to get better at it every day.”
A fan of Super Nintendo RPGs he’d been exposed to some of the industry’s high watermarks for pixel art. Even today he’s excited when talking about when I ask him about his favourite games, “Earthbound, hands down! It was my first RPG and a game that I still play at least once a year. Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI are close seconds.”
An image from The Pocalypse II, a game set in The Pocalypse, a pixel art Flash web comic created by Pendon.
Next he created Green Pixel, a game development turned freelance pixel art company, and the long running Flash web comic The Pocalypse which he still maintains. To teach himself coding he created the game The Monolith which as seen success on web and mobile.
The prospect of new challenges drew him to join Horrible Unicorn Game Studios.
“I’m most excited about creating all the worlds that the game (Legacy of the Copper Skies) takes place in. Having multiple worlds with very different aesthetics lets me play around with varying styles and techniques. I’m also excited about all the modern effects we can utilize that will visually complement my pixel art,” he explained when I asked him what he was most interested in about the work he was doing.
“Oh, and robots, I’m always excited to design robots,” he added.
As Tir approaches the Mother Statue he is cast in a strange light. Three glowing orbs orbit the statue’s outstretched hand each representing a different world within Legacy of the Copper Skies. Blue for Grimstad the home of fellow adventurer Isen. Green for his world of Ebura. Yellow for a world that the studio’s marketing department won’t let him talk about yet. He continues his approach as the light is dynamic cast about by technology beyond his ken yet suitably impressive for a 2D adventure game from an indie studio.
One of the main development goals for Horrible Unicorn Game Studios’ first game was to take a genre of game that we all had a great fondness for (the 2D adventure game) and bring modern development techniques and design aesthetics to it. While a large part of that is focused on the story and how developed our characters will be fleshed there will be also technical chances for us to show off how far games have come since Link was told that it was dangerous to go alone.
Bringing dynamic lighting helps make the worlds of Grimstad, Ebura and [redacted] feel more alive. The fantasy worlds of Legacy of the Copper Skies may not be real places but the depth of the world is enhanced by artistic aspects like lighting that reacts to in-game situations. This also helps to further enhance the already stellar beauty of Lead Artist Joe Pendon’s pixel art vision.