AuthorTopic: Altered Beast - a cluster study  (Read 28222 times)

Offline Helm

  • Moderator
  • 0110
  • *
  • Posts: 5159
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile
    • Asides-Bsides

Altered Beast - a cluster study

on: November 29, 2012, 04:35:27 pm
So I've been looking at Altered Beast for the Mega Drive lately. It's one of the first games I played as a child on my brand new 16 bit console and it's stayed with me. It's a deeply flawed game that would be of little interest to anyone who doesn't study the history of videogames and/or has nostalgic ties to it. But the art in it is very interesting to us pixel artists. I won't go into a full commercial critique here because that's a bit too broad for what I want us to do in this thread. If you haven't played Altered Beast, you could do worse than watch this Chronsega episode to get a feel for it.

Now I want you to look at the isolated main character sprite.



This is a reduced version from the arcade game's sprite, made to work with Mega Drive bitlengths and limits. But don't look at the arcade original too much because here's what I want you (us) to do:

I want you to modify this sprite using what you know now about how pixels work together. Do not change the palette or the outline of the sprite too drastically, do not completely remake it in a different style or machine spec. Just take what is already there and polish it using current techniques. Feel free to edit the anatomy and design of the sprite within the limits of the original aesthetic, as you understand it.

This excercise is useful because it shows the fundamental qualities of pixel art. Your edit should be something that theoretically, were the original artist working on the game to think of it, could have implemented back in 1989.

My version is below. Do not look at it before you're done with your version. Then feel free to compare and contrast, justify your changes or challenge mine. We can look at a few more sprites from this era and/or game later on, perhaps.

Here is my edit

And my edit notes:

1. What I've understood of the game is that it wants to be beefcake, but not in an ironic way (if irony were even possible in 1989 in Japanese game design). Practicality is not a concern, strength is symbolized through muscles. Muscles ultimately lead to becoming beyond-human, in-human. The undertone is similar to that of bodybuilding. So I looked for reference in contemporary body building, especially after the Arnold revolution, which also is not concerned with people being practically fit or strong or athletes, but with the symbol of strength in-itself.

I sculpted the body further and especially the legs which I believe where a big missed opportunity for conveying beefcake by Sega's artists.

2. Besides those alterations, the rest is a thorough cluster study, most of which is best contrasted against other cluster studies you've hopefully made.

3. I did some reuse of the secondary colors in primary spaces, as I am wont to do. Not much more can be done (I think, feel free to prove me wrong) without altering the palette wholesale.

Feel free to post your versions below, as well as talk to any length about the topic.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 01:49:36 pm by ptoing »

Offline Carnivac

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 269
  • Karma: +0/-0
  • Mayhem Attack Squad
    • View Profile
    • Doctor Who - Retro Sprite Gallery

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #1 on: November 29, 2012, 07:17:09 pm
Hm, I had a bit of free time while cooking foods and I saw this topic and thought I'd have a go as Altered Beast is a game I've always disliked and part of that was the graphics and thought I'd give editing the hero a go.   But after glancing at the topic again while spriting and comparing to the original sprite I think maybe I've misunderstood the topic.  I don't actually know what clusters are.  I tend to avoid the more 'arty' or technical sides of pixel art as I prefer finding my own way and comfortness in what I pixel.  So if this is wrong please ignore it.
 
I shall post it here anyways.  Is the one on the right.  Yeah it could be better and refined a bit more but I feel I did what I set out to do and make the sprite feel somewhat more 'solid' which is a problem I had with the Mega Drive/Genesis version of the game as I felt the characters just felt too 'paper-like' and two-dimensional flat in feel to find the combat satisfying enough.

NES, Amiga & Amstrad CPC inspired
I know nothing about pixel art
http://carnivac.tumblr.com/

Offline Helm

  • Moderator
  • 0110
  • *
  • Posts: 5159
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile
    • Asides-Bsides

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #2 on: November 29, 2012, 07:20:59 pm
Thank you for participating! I really like your sprite, and I share some of your concerns with the original's 'paper thin'-ness.

I don't think there's anything arty about clusters. I mean by it how pixels of different colors are arranged in shapes and how these shapes touch each other. If anything it's a very nitty-gritty technical concern, not abstract theory. It's interesting to me that although you've sidestepped that aspect of the thread, what you've produced is still prime material for what I'm trying to do here.

Would you care to critique my take and receive some critique for your take of the sprite?

Offline yaomon17

  • 0011
  • **
  • Posts: 660
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • YaomonKS
    • taiya.sun
    • http://pixeljoint.com/p/28472.htm
    • yaomon17
    • valedev
    • playvale
    • View Profile
    • portfolio

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #3 on: November 30, 2012, 04:34:29 am
:huh:

Offline Hideon

  • 0001
  • *
  • Posts: 33
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #4 on: November 30, 2012, 06:25:39 am
I think I need the meme "I have no idea what I'm doing" right now.



Mhm... maybe with black background, my try gets a bit better... mhm... *checking*
Nop, still a shit, sorry. ::)

Offline PixelPiledriver

  • 0011
  • **
  • Posts: 997
  • Karma: +6/-0
  • Yo!
    • View Profile
    • My Blog

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #5 on: November 30, 2012, 08:03:32 am
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 08:38:57 am by PixelPiledriver »
And knowing that it is, we seek what it is... ~ Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Chapter 1

Offline Helm

  • Moderator
  • 0110
  • *
  • Posts: 5159
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • View Profile
    • Asides-Bsides

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #6 on: November 30, 2012, 01:00:12 pm
:huh:

That's a great call on the shiny oily beefcake. I am surprised the Genesis version didn't keep any highlight colors, given the arcade original was quite shinier. Still, no speculars even in the original.

I think I need the meme "I have no idea what I'm doing" right now.



Mhm... maybe with black background, my try gets a bit better... mhm... *checking*
Nop, still a shit, sorry. ::)

I quite like it. What did you have in mind with the bandanna? Is it just for more badassery? I like the kind of gross leg muscles in yours, but I don't know about that selout, man :)




The head looks more like a Double Dragon head now! I think the idea with tinyhead is to accentuate the beefy muscles, especially when you get the third upgrade where the whole body bulks up but the head remains tiny. There's something to it that I think would be lost with a head of proportional size.

Likewise, I didn't touch the hugehands in the original too much, they're my favourite cluster (the foreground hand in particular) and one of the reasons I took the sprite and zoomed in on it to see what's up.

It's interesting in your process you took the background arm closer to the chest but you put it back out later, is it to keep the silluette readable?

Offline ptoing

  • Moderator
  • 0101
  • *
  • Posts: 3063
  • Karma: +0/-0
  • variegated quadrangle arranger
    • the_ptoing
    • http://pixeljoint.com/p/2191.htm
    • View Profile
    • Perpetually inactive website

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #7 on: November 30, 2012, 01:36:39 pm
I totally made him an 80s wrestler, mainly because he kinda seems to have a mullet and an some beard action going on. Also the pink top has a very 80s vibe.

Quite quick edit, good fun tho :)
There are no ugly colours, only ugly combinations of colours.

Offline yaomon17

  • 0011
  • **
  • Posts: 660
  • Karma: +0/-0
    • YaomonKS
    • taiya.sun
    • http://pixeljoint.com/p/28472.htm
    • yaomon17
    • valedev
    • playvale
    • View Profile
    • portfolio

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #8 on: November 30, 2012, 10:02:47 pm
I totally made him an 80s wrestler, mainly because he kinda seems to have a mullet and an some beard action going on. Also the pink top has a very 80s vibe.

Quite quick edit, good fun tho :)

My goodness that facial hair XD

Offline Ashbad

  • 0010
  • *
  • Posts: 226
  • Karma: +0/-0
  • I am governor Jerry Brown
    • View Profile
    • SoundCloud

Re: Altered Beast - a cluster study

Reply #9 on: November 30, 2012, 11:52:38 pm
While I made many notes about the clusters, I didn't change any anatomy -- partially why I'm a bit underwhelmed with my edit :(



I noticed a few things:

- Foot on the right was very long and very pointed; looked unnatural.
- Arm on (our) right is very loosely defined, and while I didn't change much, adding just a bit more of the darker midtone helped a bit.
- Kneecaps and visible part of the shins were not really defined at all, did a quick touch up there.
- I had quite some trouble on the arm on (our) left -- I should have used references in order to better define some realistic-looking muscles, which the original did not really have.
- Belt blends into the arm colors too much, my edit doesn't fix it that much, but it's somewhat improved.
- After looking at Ptoing's edit, I realize that his crotch area isn't very defined in order to show male "assets" -- I didn't do much with that myself though, because I finished my edit before looking at the ones already posted in order to see what I could do on my own.
- While I was timid to fix this in my edit, the darkest color on the skin-colored ramp was very underused and could have been used to greatly defined muscle groups (which all of the edits previous to mine seemed to do.)
- Very many banding problems; not terribly noticeable however with the given skin-tone ramp colors, which didn't contrast much, at least not at 1x viewing.  At 2x it jumps out a bit.  Not much staircase banding, but a lot of fat pixel/long fat pixel banding groups.

Hopefully my written analysis will make up for my below-par edit :)  I think I'm going to do a better one sometime tomorrow having seen what many of you guys have done.  I think I'll challenge myself more on the next one, going for a more complete transformation.

Also, speaking of colors, I think many pixel-level decisions may be different for this sprite considering how close together some of the colors are -- I wonder what the edits would look like if the colors were like this:



Food for thought, perhaps.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2012, 12:05:15 am by ptoing »