Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Friday, December 7, 2012

Art of Gaming: They Bleed Pixels

As I've mentioned before in my first installment Art of Gaming: The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav (PC), I'm not a gamer and I'm certainly no where near being claimed as a commentator or a journalist. I'm merely an artist who appreciates various works and just so happens to be bobbing around in a sea of gamers. With so much exposure to the gaming community, I find it interesting to watch people play games on PC, TV or on hand-held devices. Yes the gameplay is always exciting to see but to me it's the style that fascinates me the most.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about a fairly recent indie game that had come out towards the end of August by the name of They Bleed Pixels (PC) which was created by Spooky Squid Games Inc.. The small two man indie game company consists of game designer and pixel artist Miguel Sternberg and programmer Andrij Pilkiw, both individually known in the indie game community but now work together on their quirky and unique games.

Seeing so many people playing They Bleed Pixels (including YouTube personality Dodger of PressHeartToContinue and DexterityBonus), I noticed that this Gothic Lolita meets Lovecraft style had it's own unique qualities and twisted sense of humor. As the name suggests, yes this game is done in a pixel style but it there was something about it that reminded me of something. In a way it reminded me of how early comic books appeared back in the 1940s when they were just starting to add color such as the Captain Marvel Adventures comics. That Pop Art quality strangely enough works well with the game. Watching the trailer and some of the play-throughs, there was something that just didn't make any sense to me. Why did so many keep comparing it to the game Super Meat Boy which was produced by developer Team Meat? Was it color palette? Style? Or perhaps it was in reference of how the player moves in the environment? I had to find out about what inspired the guys at Spooky Squid Games to do the style they chose and how they felt about their game being compared to Super Meat Boy. I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from game designer Miguel Sternberg:

Hi Dawn,
I've actually been doing pixel art professionally for around a decade so going with a retro aesthetic for They Bleed Pixels was more of a natural continuation of what I've been doing then a deliberate choice for that particular game. I love the look of pixel art and really like working within it's restrictions. There isn't a specific game from my past that informed the look of TBP, more of a grab bag of influences from both inside and outside video games.
I have mixed feelings about reviewers comparing They Bleed Pixels to Super Meat Boy. If someone is reaching for a quick comparison to convey that They Bleed Pixels is a difficult platformer requiring precise jumping it makes sense to reach for Meat Boy since it's the best known recent game of that type. I have absolutely no problem with that! But I think the comparison doesn't hold up as well when you're talking about the games in more detail. Yes, they both have blood and saws but past that there really isn't that much in common. The move-set and physics (which are the core of any platforming game) are pretty different, Meatboy is much more momentum based for instance. Then there's the combat, checkpoint system and large sprawling levels... They're both hardcore platformers, and Super Meat Boy is a great game, but TBP and SMB are trying to do different things within the genre.
P.S. I saw your post on Takashi Murakami, I'm surprised so few of the artists were aware of his work!

It was so nice to see that Mr. Sternberg not only gave me an answer to my questions but explained his thoughts so clearly and to the point. After reading the email, my eyes were drawn down to his last comment and my heart skipped a beat when I realized that he was in reference to my post A common influence... maybe: Takashi Murakami (Nov. 14th). My braincells felt as if they were running at light-speed at the fact it dawned on me that he took time out of his probably busy day to look through my blog to see what I post and actually comment on it. It wasn't something that he had to do but the gesture itself was personally very appreciated.

If you're interested in getting They Bleed Pixels, you can find it here:
store.steampowered.comThey Bleed Pixels $9.99 (on sale for 66% off until Dec. 10th making it $3.39)
They Bleed Pixels Collector's Edition $12.99 (on sale for 66% off until Dec. 10th making it $4.41) 

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