Wherein I discuss my artistic inabilities, a pair of semi-pleasant acquisitions, Kirby’s cake rolls, and how games keep on dying.
This week’s mental parasite pertains to how, for my own creative work, I prepare these “sprite art dioramas.” I originally began doing this in 2019, as I felt I needed to include images with every piece of content I release on Nigma Box. So, when doing original writings with TSF Series and my fifth novel, Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth, I decided to create simplistic sprite art, as that seemed to be the easiest form of artwork for me to make. Or at least that was the economical reason.
Growing up, I was an avid fan of sprite comics, including Pokémon-X, Bob and George, Sonic and Pals, Heroes, Inc., and a whole lot more that have been lost to the annals. Part of me always wanted to do something similar, but I never settled on a concept I could follow, and the only art tool I had back then was Paintbrush. However, I always adored sprite art and wanted to do something associated with it, so, when this opportunity came to mind, I decided to learn a new skill.
However, rather than try to create a style from scratch, I decided to make edits of the 8-Bit character sprites from the Danganronpa series, as I thought they were this pleasant blend of simple, small, expressive, and distinguishable. At first, I was fumbling in the dark in order to create garbage like this, this, or this. Which I have subsequently updated with these improved versions.
Over the past three years, I have improved my artistic skills. I learned how to craft little shoebox environments, I began pursuing more abstract or complex imagery, and I have gotten moderately efficient at this process. I have been slowly refining my style guide, as I think the original approach I took had a bit too much black in the character sprites, and that there was too much contrast between the hair colors. Also, I have been slowly dipping my toes into the effects tab of Paint.net, which is why I have started making abominations like this:
Despite all of this however, I still do not consider myself to be an ‘artist.’ I only do this when I need assets for a work, and I only make art assets that are supplemental to something else, namely a story. What I do is not like what a career artist or illustrator does. What I do is more similar to a middle-aged semi-retired white woman making watercolor paintings on Sundays while drinking wine.
But even if I made however many of my ‘sprite art dioramas’ a week, I would still feel bad about considering myself an ‘artist.’ Because I am still really stupid when it comes to even basic things like recolors and cropping an image.
With recoloring, there are generally two ways to go about it. You can use the recolor tool to change a range of colors to something else. Which I do all the time. But the other way is to go into the color and saturation setting, and move the color sider around. This can produce better results than the alternative, but sometimes not, and I simply don’t understand why. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve started saying that color is the Eldritch abomination of reality.
But the worst part about recoloring is selecting the right area. While the magic wand is the go-to tool, at least for rubes like me, it merely selects a range of colors based on a selection of color. It does not analyze the picture, identify black lines, or distinguish between skin color and environment. In those instances, I guess you are supposed to use the lasso instead, and then do some pixel hunting to get rid of stray discolored pixels. …Except that also seems like a lot of work for what should be a fairly simple function.
The same frustration applies to the act of cropping an image. Sometimes, this is dirt-munchingly easy. Other times, it is a pain in the tuchus if the thing you want is against a complex background. Because, again, you need to use the magic wand and lasso to extract things. Manually! …And then correct things to the pixel.
I feel like there is something super basic that I do not understand when it comes to functions like this. For example, I tried to do a recolor of the protagonist of the TF visual novel, Mice Tea, Margaret. Specifically, a recolor to make her look more like Maxxie Flare from Verde’s Doohickey. While I think this recolor looks okay at a glance, I know I got things wrong. But I don’t know what I got wrong or how to un-wrong it!
Also, my Mice Tea review has been delayed to August. Because that game is so good that it needs to be a treat! And if dummy dumb Nattie-chan wants to get a treat, she needs to do an accomplishment. So she is going to TRY to get out The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan by August 15th. Can she do it? Well, she finished chapter 11 out of 17 last night, and she has not done any edits, so… MAYBE!!!
No joke, I might actually be able to do it, but I would likely need to delay the header image creation process and do most of the art stuff after August 15th. …I still have not made any sprite for Babs, Caroline, or girl-mode Terra.
Starting off with some acquisition news, Supermassive Games has been acquired by Nordisk Games. With Supermassive having begun its life in a support role for a lot of other Sony titles, namely LittleBigPlanet, before helming the 2015 hit Until Dawn. A AAA horror experience that led to a wave of successors in the form of the episodic The Dark Pictures Anthology and June 2022’s The Quarry.
Nordisk, meanwhile, is a Dutch entertainment company who has been steadily making investments into European game developers over the years. With their most noteworthy subsidiaries being the fully owned Avalanche (Just Cause 4, Rage 2), and the 40% owned MercurySteam (Metroid Dread, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow).
This seems like a curious acquisition at a glance— a seemingly random Dutch entertainment company purchased an English AAA developer with a solid track record within a niche genre— However, it made sense after a few minutes of thought and light research. Supermassive was originally dependent on Sony to keep them afloat, and it would not be that much of a stretch to say they were a ‘second party’ studio.
But, after helping them with Sony’s initial VR line-up, Supermassive began working with other publishers. Namely Bandai Namco, who published The Dark Pictures Anthology as part of their efforts to establish a stronger western presence within the company. However, the second major partner Supermassive paired up with was Google, who was originally going to publish The Quarry as a Stadia exclusive… before they decided to stop production on first party or exclusive titles.
Shortly after this Google arrangement went up in smoke, Nordisk purchased a 30.7% stake in Supermassive, and from there, the story pretty much writes itself. Supermassive realized how shaky it was being a standalone developer with a staff of over 200, so they sought the security of an owner. And while I barely know anything about Nordisk, I quickly found a GamesIndustry.biz article where the managing director said, “we are not a publisher and don’t have aspirations to be… We want to help our companies grow strong, but remain independent.” Huh. I don’t enjoy giving big companies the benefit of the doubt, but that sure gives me the impression that Nordisk probably won’t shut down studios, force them to act in support roles, lay off the staff after big projects, or anything of the sort. So… maybe they’re one of those elusive good homes for game developers.
What about Nintendo? Are they a good home? …Probably not. When it comes to non-Japanese studios, Nintendo tends to be very restrictive with what they approve and accept. Yet when it comes to their fellow Japanese, they seem to be a lot more open to collaboration. Why is that? Probably a mixture of xenophobia, a language barrier, and cultural differences that include a desire to do things ‘the traditional way.’
Anyway, this is not leading into a story about how Nintendo bought another Japanese developer. Instead, they’re paying an incredibly modest 34.5 million yen ($250,000 USD) for a “visual content” studio by the name of Dynamo Pictures. A company who has been fairly active in recent years, partnering with bigger studios in order to produce motion capture, CG animation, VR attractions for amusement centers, and a few music videos.
They don’t seem like an immediate ‘best fit’ for Nintendo, but Nintendo is dead set on expanding their IP into amusement centers, film, and animation over the next few years. While they could loan out their IP, Nintendo tends to be a bit controlling, so it also makes sense that they would want to have their own studio. A studio whose name they would, naturally, want to rename it Nintendo Pictures for brand synergy.
By the way, this story marked the first time I ran a JPY to USD conversion in 2022, and I am shocked at how low the yen’s value is at the moment. With all this talk about the USD inflation rate skyrocketing, I thought that other currencies would be safer bets, but nope!
Speaking of Nintendo, they decided to drop a few announcements this week, including the reveal of a new Kirby game and a second trailer for Bayonetta 3. Both of which would have been major parts of a Nintendo Direct in most cases, so I guess there will not be a ‘full’ or ‘major’ Nintendo Direct this summer. I’d say poor Nintendorks, but… nah, they do this to themselves. And while I have little to say about anything Bayonetta related (I dislike playing most character action games), let’s talk about that new Kirby hotness!
…It’s weird how many Kirby games take their titular protagonist and rob him of his limbs. Kirby’s Pinball Land, Kirby’s Dream Course, Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, Kirby: Canvas Curse, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. And of those games, only one of them was a sequel… a sequel that probably should have come to Switch, but never did for whatever reason. Anyhow, the fine folks at Hal have not only recognized this fine tradition, but found a whole new deluge of stuff for Kirby to do with his limbs
severed tucked against his tum-tum. And that’s race against a couple of buddies while gorging himself on food in a world made entirely of sweets and other tasty treats!
This game, Kirby’s Dream Buffet, is an immensely cute yet endearingly simple… obstacle course game? Yeah, let’s go with that! And though there is not much to gather from its 30 seconds of fragmented gameplay, the game looks like it has the makings of a solid ‘game night party game.’
Given its course-based nature, it is easy to view this game as a racing title at first, when it truly isn’t. The goal of the game is to consume as many foodstuffs as possible while navigating around a linear course peppered with side paths, different lanes, and vertical sub-routes to explore. This opens up an interesting layer of complexity, where a slower route might have better foodstuffs along it. And if players lagging behind want to catch up to the competition, they will need to balance the optimal route with whatever route still has unconsumed foodstuffs.
All of which is in addition to using assorted abilities to mess up other players, nab more goodies, and earn the favor of… Master Hand and Crazy Hand? Is this their new home now that Super Smash Bros. is over (as people know it)?
Regardless, Kirby’s Dream Buffet is set to release sometime this summer, which is an awfully vague date for a game announced in July, as a download only title. A factoid that implies that this is going to be less of a buffet and more of a trip to a sweets shop.
…Like the Home Economist or Sara Lee… neither of which are still around nowadays, when those were the go-to places for candy and sweets as a child. Now the locations are being used by a pizza place and a kosher catering company. I would be upset about that, but neither store made a whole bunch of sense.
Home Economist was this utterly massive store that could have been broken down into three suites. While Sara Lee was a block away from Village Market Place— a ‘fruit store’ as my mother insists on calling it, despite the fact they’re a regular-arse grocery.
The pizza place actually shares the former Home Economist store space with a religious food store, both of which make sense considering the location (a strip mall that was home to a dentist and gym/yoga place). And the kosher catering company makes perfect sense in that location— sandwiched between three synagogues. How does that even work? I dunno. Skokie’s just like that.
…I spent over an hour researching and rewriting that tangent. Orz.
Anything else on the topic list? Well, the producer of the Lollipop Chainsaw remake made a clarification to his statement last week, but I’d rather not talk about the game until actual footage is shown.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft has been getting extra flak for choosing to remove online components and DLC, from a bunch of 10-ish year old titles. I originally had something to say about it when it seemed like Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD was going to be delisted and removed from Steam users’ accounts, but Ubisoft cleared that matter a few days later. They are just delisting the game. Which is still stupid for a game they fully own, but I guess they want people to pirate this old version and buy Assassin’s Creed 3 Remastered, which contains Assassin’s Creed Liberation Remastered.
While I think all games should be available to purchase via perpetual licenses that legally represent ownership of the product, the situation has gotten so bad that I’m fine if a game gets merely delisted. Instead, I focus my energy on getting furious when entire games are killed, archived, and put in a state where they can never be played again. I thought about talking about this in a Natalie Rambles, but most of my talking points would be lifted from Ross Scott’s Dead Game News series.
By the way, there have been three instances where people have recommended that I check out Ross Scott’s “Games as a service” is fraud. video. And considering how few people recommend that I check something out, that is quite the anomaly. Even more so because I have been following Ross Scott for nearly a decade. I was deeply invested in Freeman’s Mind during its early days, to the point where I became heavily invested in the Mind community. And I consider Ross’s Game Dungeon to be one of the best ‘check out this game’ video series around. They are this lovely mix of a condensed let’s play, a casual review, and an archeological adventure, given how most of the games he plays tend to be older or more obscure titles.
…Okay, I can feel myself revving up for a primo gush sesh featuring ThorHighHeels, Hazel, and the rising eroge queen Amelie Doree, so I’m just going to “put a psycho bullet in this bitch” and end things on this note:
There is no better way to die than to be eaten alive by erotic foxes while Moonlight Sexy Dance by Miho Nakayama plays in the background.