Since it was part of my last post, it's been on my mind since yesterday.
he(Right click on it and click View Image to see the full view.)
This is now one of my most favorite images for a lot of reasons, but primarily because it shows both the evolution of a character and an artist together. However, when I showed this to a friend just now, he picked out the ones he liked the most, and it made me realize there's even more to this image than I thought.
Not only does it paint a picture of growth, it also paints one of struggle.
When I first started game development in 2003, I had been under the impression that I was waiting for everything to become clear to me. By way of reinforcement, I was mislead by teachers to believe that I'd suddenly see the light and start drawing and developing games like a pro as soon as I got to college. I was waiting for that day to come instead of working towards that goal. "Just take it when you get to college. You'll learn so much more there." I believed the lie...
It wasn't until high school that I started to realize I was wasting my time and college was no different from any other grade level, just harder, and that's when I dug in for myself.
The first few years, the character above didn't exist. I didn't have access to the internet at home, hell, no one did. I had no idea how it worked. My first introduction to the internet was only three years prior, in middle school, and my first time getting totally unsupervised use was a year after, for some dumb school assignment. And that's when I accidentally discovered there was porn on the internet. That was the greatest half hour of my 12 year old life....
Ahem... as I was saying... I didn't have internet, and I didn't know how to use it as well as I do now. So what I did was grab images from a bunch of NES classics off fan sites that had them posted. Namely Super Mario 1 and 3, and Kirby's Adventure, put them on some 3.5 Floppy disks (yes, I had 3.5 floppies in 2003, and I had a computer that still took them, and so did my school) and saved them to take home. For the first year of high school, I practiced at home on Game Maker 6, badly imitating NES sprites as best I could... on MS Paint... the old one... with only 3 undos. I eventually moved on to Sega Genesis sprites. In my Junior year, I had a laptop and was told about RPG Maker 2003 and iDraw, which was a step up from MS Paint.
At about 2008, the character above was starting to take form for the first time, and I had learned to shade by practicing drawing with a mouse in GIMP.
I didn't have much of a style, and the character was still mostly under development at the time, so when next I drew him, I went back into a fully black outline, (as was how I drew back then), and used a lot more color, sticking more to his actual design and to less how I wanted him to look.
Actually, the drawing above comes sometime between the second and third sprites, but I still had more on an idea of how I wanted him. You can tell because his earlier design didn't have a green jaw. The green, after it was added, stopped just at the end of his neck.
In 2009, I went back to his old palette, because I liked it better. I was still struggling with how to do away with the outline back then. But I was learning how to make it stand out much less.
Half way through making the sprite sheet for the 4th one, the character underwent a massive physical change. There actually exists a previous version of that one.
Towards the end of 2009, you can actually see that I started to dabble with ways of getting rid of the outline. The sprite, however, was ugly, and after doing quite a few frames of animation for it, I eventually ditched it. Surprisingly, that was one of my more ambitious projects at the time.
2010 was when I explored the possibility of doing an RPG with the character instead of a platformer, which all but the first sprite on the list would have been. As you can see, I lapsed back into my old ways with the outline. I was stuck in this mindset that the way I was doing things was the only way to do things, but I was never able to figure out why other, better sprite artists were able to do so much better than me. It was a really brutal position to be in.
2011 was a step forward for me. I was going to get the game done. I'd even won a concept contest and was set to collab with someone. But in the middle of the project, he vanished, his Youtube channel when completely dormant, and he stopped responding to me. He posted one more video after that, and was never seen nor heard from again.
The latter 2011 one was an attempt at doing my character in more HD than ever before. It's clear just by looking at it that I was kind of starting to get the hang of spriting, but still had no real idea of how to utilize shading properly.
2012, the big one, was just for fun. It was my attempt at doing a super detailed sprite, and also to practice pixel art in GIMP so I could stop relying on iDraw. He was never meant to be so muscular. But I started with his chest, and just started adding details where I thought it would look the best. When the torso was done, he looked really toned and muscular, and really hot, so I ran with it and made the rest of him muscular to match his torso. That was once my magnum opus... It's has an enormous impact on not only his my skill, but also on his design.
Surprisingly, I still didn't get it at the time. I didn't understand why the 2012 giant sprite looked so good, and I lapsed back into the style of the second one from 2011. I wish I could show you the transition, but I didn't draw him in that time, so it happened with other sprites, some of which I don't have any more. I deleted them due to being inferior or unnecessary.
2013 was the first version of him done in Photoshop, and was based heavily on the giant one that came before it. Shocker, I still didn't really get why it looked good. I had managed to break free of the rigid ideas I had of doing sprites, but I still wasn't quite there, yet. But I proved to myself that I could easily do it again if I wanted to, so there had at least been progress.
In 2015, I took the same design and condensed it down further, probably because he just didn't look young enough, still. By then I had a handle on my new style, but still had more growth to under go, even though I didn't realize it.
After cancelling work on the project for an 11th time, I started to get things I hadn't gotten before. I started to understand things that I had been blind to for 9 years.
The last sprite in the image, finished literally just today, is a result of everything just sort of suddenly clicking all at once while listening to Mountain King from the Atari game by the same name. It's still kind of a work in progress, because issues with shading makes him look kind of fat, when he's really just puffing his chest out like the giant sprite, but it's an order of magnitude better than all previous attempts, and all previous sprites, including ones that aren't just this character.
That's a little better. Consider this the first teaser and only a small taste of what's hopefully to come.
I still have a long way to go, but not bad for some nobody with no college-level education though, huh?
Holy shit, you know what I just noticed?
Despite the countless changes I've made to his design, his outfit has remained unchanged for 9 years. Blue jacket, orange collar, no sleeves, no zipper or buttons, and too short for him.
His eyes have always been the same, as well. No matter how I changed his colors, his eyes have always been yellow.
It's really cool to see.