Hi there! I’m Pixelfrog
Pixel art seems to be “in” these days, particularly in the world of mobile gaming. For many long-time gamers, pixel art inherently gives off an aura of nostalgia and the good-ol’-days of 8-bit gaming. So why use pixel art for iBeg? Paying homage to the beloved games of our childhood? Hopping on the 8-bit style bandwagon? Probably a little of both. Truthfully, it just felt right. Our protagonist isn’t your usual spandex-clad superhero. We needed a style that reflected his character: simple, earnest, and approachable.
Becoming the Artist of iBeg
When Chris asked me if I wanted to try doing the art for the game, I was excited to have the chance to work on a side project, especially one based on a real-world issue. Having decided to adapt the style of pixel art was an added bonus, since pixel art is kind of special to me. To the extent that I included it as part of my online handle, pixelfrog (don’t get me started on the “frog” part, though!).
English Bay wasn’t my first time drawing a beach – one of my early pixel art works with little riceball characters.
General Art Style, Direction, and Sources of inspiration
There is no particular art style that I was going for when beginning iBeg. I’m sure Chris had some ideas in mind, but we wanted to allow the world of the homeless person to develop naturally, from trying out different things, and improving on them based on feedback. There isn’t particular colour palette, mood, theme, fill-in-any-technical-art-terms-here. It’s a combination of different styles and techniques I learned from studying (and mostly admiring) other pixel art works.
At first, when the game was set in a generic city, it was hard to nail down the exact “look” we wanted. I think the art style really came together when we decided to recreate Vancouver inside the game. We were able to scour the city and take reference pictures to capture all the little details and essence of each location. I’ll know I’ve done my job if people who have been to Vancouver or local residents will recognize the locations when they see them, and that it makes them smile when they do.
The Technical Details: Software and Hardware
A lot of people ask me what I use to draw my pixel art. I suppose I am a bit old-fashioned in the choice of my tools of the trade – I mainly use Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6. Yes, I have used newer versions of PSP. And yes, I have heard of Photoshop and GIMP. But I fell in love with PSP 5 ever since my parents enrolled me in a web design course when I was a kid and managed to convince them to spend $100 on PSP 6. I see it as money well spent – it’s gotten over a decade of use, and still counting.
Also, I draw using a regular mouse. I am not a huge fan of pen tablets, and I feel I am just as efficient with a mouse. I have to admit, though, Cintiqs look like a lot of fun to use!
Okay, to convince you that I am not living in the Stone Ages of technology, my mouse is wireless.
My mouse being humped by another mouse.
Deciding on A Resolution
One of the trickiest parts in the beginning was settling on a good resolution to work at. When working with pixel art, the easiest way to make the pixels themselves obvious is if the drawn images are scaled up.
The homeless person’s actual size.
Creating the homeless person
The homeless person didn’t go through too many iterations before we settled on a final look. Here is one of the first sketches pitched.
When creating a new character, I settle on the hairstyle, clothing and pose easily. The variation comes from the facial features, because it sets or has to abide by the style for the rest of the characters and that’s where I’m most indecisive. I started him off with a baseball cap, but that eventually turned into a blue toque. His clothing consists of a grungy brown coat, a yellowed shirt underneath, and some unfashionable baggy pants. Add some overgrown, messy locks and a pale complexion and there you have it – your very own homeless person!
If we were ever to do a female version, I wonder what she’d look like…
Tune in next time, when I’ll discuss the challenges of drawing backgrounds, designing HUD elements, and all sorts of other fun stuff about L’Art d’iBeg!