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80’s Sci-Fi Inspiration – Brazil


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This has to be one of the coolest movie posters of all time

Over the weekend I decided to indulge in a little art house & old school movie viewing. Working in a creative medium such as games, it’s always a good idea to draw inspiration from various outside sources. It’s no secret that games, from their very inception were influenced by the film, animation and comic book mediums, considerably.

I’ve always been a fan of the science fiction genre, my interest started when I picked up an issue of 2000 AD (loved the Judge Dredd universe) and following the G-Force (also known as Gatchaman or Battle of the Planets) tv animation series. The 80’s in particular were a great time for the genre, an unprecedented number of excellent sci-fi movies were produced. So many, in fact, that it was difficult to keep up. One particular movie that I heard good things about but never got round to seeing is – Brazil.

Finally I managed something of a double bill, watching Brazil alongside Holy Motors. Both films were predictably unhinged, Holy Motors takes the cake – gorging on it and then spewing it out. Truth be said, I had high hopes for Holy Motors but it didn’t quite live up to the hype in my opinion. Certainly no sci-fi flick here, however treading experimental art movie territory closely. Seemingly a French Mulholland Drive of sorts, but with an entirely different message.

Brazil is a completely different beast altogether, definitely the better of the two movies by a significant margin. Directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Jonathan Pryce and Robert De Niro in this 1984-inspired dystopian cult-classic. Irreverent with a healthy dose of slapstick and satire goes some way to dilute the bureaucratic retro-futurist world depicted. Ironically, many countries in the present day seem to closely resemble this world, just without the aesthetic and humour.

There is also a healthy dose of the fantastical and exploration of the high-concept. The idea of an artificial simulated world as depicted in the Matrix films is not unique. Even Megazone 23, a Japanese anime produced by AIC in the mid-80’s covered similar ground. An excellent three part OVA that I should make a point of covering in a future article. While the use of this concept makes for some incredibly interesting sci-fi, it’s a concept that is sourced from certain religious spheres. Namely from the Ancient Gnostics and to a certain extent eastern esotericism including Buddhism.

Surely a movie such as Brazil would have shocked audiences with the issues it was exploring back in 1985. Watching it for the first time, 30 years later there just isn’t much shock value left. But this doesn’t diminish the film in any way, shape or form. For one, it’s delightfully unique while conveying a warning about bureaucracy and the police state.

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Boasting some startling imagery and composition, movie buffs & game developers take note

Brazil certainly has the hallmarks of a top-notch cinematic experience, however it wouldn’t translate well as a game. At least, I’m not aware of there ever being a game conversion of this particular film license. Quite frankly, that’s a good thing as Brazil is so incredibly nuanced, it’s beyond the scope of the majority of game developers to reinterpret successfully.

Nevertheless, what I got out of Brazil was further affirmation of taking creative risks. There’s much in this movie that is off-kilter but in the grand scheme of things – everything works out!


Top 10 Articles Of 2014

We’re almost a fortnight into 2015 and I hope it’s been going great for everyone. Here at 16-BIT Shock HQ, things are moving along at a brisk pace. Work on game projects resumed early last week, after a short holiday break.

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Before moving on with fresh content for the new year, let’s take this opportunity for a brief recap of top posts on this blog. Several articles proved to be quite popular with readers and it would be great to showcase them again. Particularly for those who discovered this blog, only recently. The following list features a quick rundown of those posts truly, resonating with folks during 2014, and my personal viewpoint of why that is the case.

Just click on the relative heading and you will be taken directly to the article:

  1. Tools Of The Trade – GameMaker : Studio – Certainly the most read article on this site by a large margin, and quite understandably so. With the explosion of indie game development in recent years, everyone is looking around for the best ways to make games. This article gives a brief overview of one of the most popular game engines in existence today.
  2. Project MSG – Early Development – The game project I’ve been working on and has fortunately excited a few people. It’s a 2D retro-style shooting game with a top-down view perspective set within a cyberpunk universe. Many folks loved the logo and the pixel-art style, and in turn generated some interesting conversation between us. I appreciate all the input I’ve received and will be sharing more about this project in the near future.
  3. Developing For Vintage Hardware – It’s a no-brainer why this post struck a nerve, after all the number of retro gaming and computer aficionados keeps growing. Homebrew development is both intriguing and reinvigorating within the game development scene. Vintage consoles and computer systems, with their limited capabilities offer alternative, frankly more interesting roads for creative expression.
  4. Cybermanga – I’m a huge fan of anime & manga, particularly from the 80’s – 90’s. And it seems so are plenty of people visiting this site, even attracting significant traffic from Japan. The influence of these art forms play a big part in my own creative path and this post gives a brief overview.
  5. This Is For Retro Lovers – On the 2nd of June 2014, I wrote this blog’s very first post. Short, sweet and straight to the point – ultimately setting the general tone for future articles. Surprisingly it attracted a far larger audience than I was expecting, considering it was very early days for the blog.
  6. The 16-BIT Shock Design Philosophy – Probably one of the more important articles I’ve written here. The goal was to convey the direction that my game development projects were to take. Worth a read for recent visitors.
  7. Prototyping And Arcade Presentation – A fairly recent article, managing to gain far more traction than I was expecting. I covered an issue in games that I feel should gain more attention, and that’s the matter of how they are presented. Arcade games in particular are a great example of how this could be done.
  8. Anti-Establishment – Another one of those articles that had a significant impact with readers. Further reiterating key points from the 16-BIT Shock Design Philosophy article. Perhaps a tad more cheeky, but still attracting small trickles of traffic several months after it was published.
  9. Tools Of The Trade – GraphicsGale – At one point, pixel art seemed like it was a dying art form. Fortunately it has been rejuvenated recently with all the interest in retro and indie gaming. One of the better, if not the best pixel art editor is GraphicsGale. A personal favourite of mine which I go into more detail in this post.
  10. FM Synthesis & Video Games: Kick Drums & Toms – Last but not least, is this excellent article by Joe Giliver from Ocular Audio. Joe’s vast knowledge in music composition and FM synthesis is a great help in understanding what is substantially niche subject matter. Lately FM synthesis, is enjoying growing interest which is in line with the resurgence of retro gaming, computing and 80’s synthesizer music.

Plenty of reading there, great way to start the new year I would think. Future articles will tread similar ground for the most part. However, there will be a shift in focus around the periods when I’ll be releasing my game projects. Naturally there will be greater emphasis on these as should be expected.





Prototyping And Arcade Presentation

Recently I started working on a brand new prototype in order to test out some left-field ideas I’ve had in mind. Still sticking with a core shooting play mechanic and building upon a framework I’ve developed with Project MSG. However, this time the view point is from the side with completely different enemies and patterns. I wanted to explore a more disruptive science fiction theme than what would have been possible in Project MSG.

The prototype is interesting to say the least but is currently in a state that is comprised predominantly of place holder graphics. I’ll be starting soon on fresh assets and gradually polishing it up into a finished game. People that have been looking forward to Project MSG, will now have something extra to be excited about. There is a common thread and style running through both projects. I’m certain that if someone enjoys the one game, it’s quite likely that they will also enjoy the other.

Another issue that is close to my heart is that of game packaging, and how best to go about it. I’ve always felt that how a game is presented to the consumer is almost as important as the actual game itself. The reason why I believe this, is that we all start playing the game in our heads long before we actually do. It could start with some screenshots, a preview, an advertisement or any marketing materials of a particular game we’re excited about. On a subconscious level they just seem to infiltrate our head space, creating a mental play through and sometimes raising expectations to unrealistic levels.

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Sega’s Quartet is a cool game with a stunning arcade cab, Lee’s mustache makes everything better

If we’re purchasing a game that is available physically, usually the type and quality of the box art will serve a similar purpose. Owning a game with cool cover art helps to elevate it in most game collections, unless it’s a stinker. Of course we’re gradually moving in a direction where optical drives will go the way of the dodo, thus rendering games in physical form redundant. Already sales of physical games are in decline, while digital downloads are ever-increasing. There may be a market for physical games in the distant future, aimed directly at the core enthusiast. It may resemble that of vinyl limited edition runs, popular with music aficionados.

Unless there’s reasonable demand, I won’t be releasing any of my upcoming games in physical form. As a huge game fan, I prefer owning physical copies of my games versus digital. Reality and market trends dictate otherwise and it’s best to flow with the tide rather than against it. This creates a challenge on how best to ‘package’ a digital product that will generate similar emotions within it’s potential audience. For that I had to go back to my arcade gaming roots, where the logo, marquee, controller inserts and side artwork would be the first noticeable elements.

A cornucopia of bright, colourful graphic work, brilliantly combining marketing with play instructions. How arcade cabinets were adorned was a masterstroke to say the least, inevitably they still are in Japan where arcades remain relevant. While I wouldn’t fathom of packaging a digitally downloadable game as an arcade cab, the gist of it is similar. A visually powerful method to communicate what the game is about, and to quickly instruct the gamer how it’s played for their enjoyment.