I’m surely not alone when I say that music has got me through these crazy times. Old constants have been called upon just that little bit more during lockdown, to the extent that I’ve started to worry if the neighbours hate hearing the same songs over and over. Not that it’s enough to make me actually stop, mind you.

Of course, there are new – and ‘old new’ – earworms popping up all the time. I happened to catch a classic Top of the Pops on BBC Four – they’ve been showing them for about a decade now, starting from 1976 and running from there. They’re now up to late 1990. On said episode, the number one was The Beautiful South with A Little Time and, well, it’s been hard to escape since. I’m not surprised it did well at the time. Anyway, this is why we have this pixel portrait of Briana Corrigan. What a voice! And a feisty lyric, which might explain my colour choices.

Now maybe I’ve done this, I’ll be able to move on. But I doubt it.

I thought the scanlines and EGA palette would give it a suitably 1990 feel. I had been looking for an excuse to use the palette for a while now, and you can probably see why, but nothing has been happening at all lately on the productivity front, until Briana. So, thanks Briana.

Back when I was picked up to work on RetroMania Wrestling, I thought I’d better start practising pixel art. I even devoted an entire category to it on here, as those were the days when I would actually post semi-regularly.

This compelled me to go back to the very process which got me the job – where I took sprites from WrestleFest and tried to turn them into people who weren’t featured in the original game. So, to round things off, here are a selection of practise runs ranging from 2018 to just a few months ago. It was quite fun trying to capture the various likenesses and outrageous costumes – one thing that has dawned on me is that whilst pixel art might look simple on the surface, there’s actually scope for a lot of detail.

As I’ve said before with these, they are NOT RetroMania sprites, sorry if you find this and it gets your hopes up. Most of these guys are off the table for the game, unfortunately. It’s just for practise.

One month on from release, it seems like the game has gone down pretty well, with an 88% positive rating on Steam and various 4-star reviews elsewhere. Yay! I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Thanks to John Blaze for the much needed inspiration with these and, indeed, for recommending me for the RetroMania job in the first place.

Well, it’s out on Steam anyway. Console releases are to follow, but shouldn’t be too long coming. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be RetroMania if everything went smoothly.

Also, if you happen to have $800 to blow, you can get the RetroMania IIrcade cabinet!

Anyway, yay! It has been fun binging on gameplay videos over the last few days. All I really did was the character sprite art, but, in the days leading up to Friday’s release I found myself feeling quite nervous for Mike as this was really his baby; it has been in the works as a commercial entity for just over two years, but prior to that he’d been working on it as a hobby for several more. I am thrilled to see the reaction has been mostly positive, and hopefully that bodes well for future content – more superstars, more match types and more playability. With a community behind this game, the sky really is the limit. Or, at least, the skies not patrolled by WWE or AEW.

If you think you’re up to the challenge, grab RetroMania Wrestling and let the team know what you think!

Back in those heady days of 2018, I had a go at some Channel 4 mocks, not for the first time either. “Let’s see how we get on with the blocks in 2021” I said at the end of that post. And look what’s happened!!! Prescient or predictable? I know what my money’s on.

Anyway, these were inspired by a favourite YouTuber returning to the fray after several years and posting various mocks of his own – one of which sees the Channel 4 blocks morphing into the TV Ark logo. Musing on that idea of fusion, I took two favourites – the 1982 package from Four, and the neon lights BBC Two ident from 1991 – and smooshed them together. Here are the results. It’s rather busier than the original in terms of lighting and possibly the reason Lambie-Nairn kept to neon blue is revealed here, as things go a tad Chrismassy. But I thought it would be criminal to do this for Channel 4 and not use the colours. I probably say it every time I post Four stuff, but they really should bring the colours back.

The lights are cloned and set to flash at random. It’s possible to have an animated sequence whilst this is going, so really I could have had another bash at some of the original Four motifs. But I thought stationary was effective and quite satisfying in itself.

As both idents used here were created by the Lambie-Nairn agency, I can’t let this post go by without a tribute to the man behind it all, Martin Lambie-Nairn, who passed away over Christmas. What a genius Martin was; a true visionary who made marks that inspired me, along with countless others I’m sure. Thank you, Martin.

cd2021_1B

Imagine Countdown still going in 2021.

Imagine me still posting about Countdown in 2021.

Well, indeed, a new year brings the same old shizzle. In more ways than one, this time around. I have little to say about this programme that hasn’t already been posted several times, so let’s just move on to the project. I had covered all studio sets for the show, bar the current one, introduced in 2017 for the show’s 77th series. So here we are, for the completionists out there. It was certainly evolution over revolution and in some ways a bit of a downgrade from the classy predecessor – the upper section looks a bit like someone left the scaffolding up – but I guess simplicity was the word in mind (yes, that’s ten letters). With nice lighting I suppose it looks decent enough, and the desk is rather swish.

I hadn’t really watched Countdown for a year or so when lockdown (the first one) struck, but rather got back into it as I found it snuck nicely into my schedule. I’m sure that was the case for some other people too, and with another one looming that process may repeat itself. It’s good to have an old classic on hand for some simple escapism, with some astonishment at just how bad at the game I have become. But I suppose that’s part of the fun. There’s also the prospect of a new presenter in its fortieth year, with Nick Hewer to step down in the summer; at first it was for a few weeks’ shielding, then he decided to jack it in altogether. I can’t say I’m too upset about that, though to have stuck at it for as long as he has is impressive. Hopefully they find a host who can wake the show (and Rachel) up a bit and restore some of the spark it used to have. Basically, what I’m saying is they should just give it to Colin Murray. It’s either he or Moira Stuart.

I feel the Bee Gees should take some of the credit for this, as they have bound into my life for some unknown reason and their bizarre groove was the backing track for this build. “TRAGEDY…” My neighbours must love me.

Happy New Year. The countdown to the end of lockdown is on.

Ahh…

I would ramble at length as usual, but my brain is in the Christmas-New Year sludge, this time more than ever it seems. I have to admit, I am enjoying not doing much of anything at all.

This animation loop was rendered back in March, as a submission for Thurne Mill’s 200th birthday exhibition (which, of course, was indefinitely postponed). Thanks to the BBC Sound Effects Archive for the audio.

Perhaps it will calm things down for you, for all of eighteen seconds at least.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, which means it’s that time to post a card again. Originally I was going to try something completely different, but I thought I should really continue the trend of pixel and voxel for this year’s Christmas card, so here we have a star created in Magicavoxel. In fact, only a quarter of the star is physically present; the rest is merely a reflection in an isometric view. Interesting, huh?

2020: what is there to say?

Thank you to all of the key workers who have looked after us this year, and everyone who has just done the right thing. You are stars.

It does seem harder than ever to get into the festivities this year, but I hope everyone has as happy and as peaceful a Christmas as possible. Let’s hope things are different next time around.

Merry Christmas.

“I hate that hedgehog!”

Of course there’s a Robotnik Day. He just declared it one minute ago! I have to thank YouTube for this one. Not for the first time, its recommendation algorithm is responsible for this post. You see, amongst all the cute cat, husky and Timothy Dalton videos, an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog appeared. At the time it was seen as a bit crap and, let me assure you, it is rather – and that might explain why only one series was made. It may also explain the cult following online. Needless to say, I loved the show as a youngster, getting up at stupid o’clock on Saturdays to watch it and collecting several of the video tapes and watching them repeatedly. You can understand why I had to click that recommendation and watch. It’s mindless silliness.

Naturally, the chief villain, Dr. Robotnik, was my favourite character for he was responsible for most of the laughs. Voiced by Long John Baldry and flanked by his two haplessly hopeless henchmen in Scratch (robot chicken) and Grounder (robot… erm?), it was hard not to side with them against a Sonic so cocky and obnoxious you were relieved he never spoke in the Mega Drive games.

Other than Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – a surprisingly addictive puzzle game – this version of Robotnik never appeared in a video game, so I thought I’d have a go at converting him to pixel art. I did consider recreating some of the Mega Drive boss battles with him, but that didn’t turn out well, sadly. So, we just have some poses with some animation chucked in to make up for it. At the top, we have Robotnik’s frustration at Sonic foiling his latest scheme. Below was a bit of experimentation and perhaps a little tame for a super villain; maybe he’s waiting for his “metallic morons” to arrive.

How about a static pose for us to finish, ‘Botnik?

There we are. And once again I have to mention that his name is Robotnik and not “Eggman”. Thank you.

I’ve seen countless versions of these little cut-away isometric interiors whilst browsing the work of various voxel creators, such that, if you’re starting out, it appears to be the law to make at least one. Hence, I thought I’d better try. But I wasn’t going to make one of my bedroom. I ended up riffing off The Crystal Maze and going all Aztec Zone this evening. It was the most iconic of all the zones, surely, and those cramped little game cells seen on the show were ideal inspiration for such a challenge.

I’m not sure what on earth the contestants are supposed to be doing in these cells – but then the chances are they wouldn’t even if it had been blatantly obvious. Bless them.

The first attempt was, perhaps expectedly, a bit naff. I was just throwing things in all over the place really and not remembering what I’d learnt last time around; namely, to actually engage the brain as to what I’m doing. For shame. Did have some fun playing around with the water feature, though I’m not sure the water texture is really working, nor the gargoyle itself for that matter.

The addition of greenery and some paint lifted it somewhat. The semi-buried items were less than successful, though. On a 50×50 grid, I probably should’ve seen that coming a mile off. Ah well.

Third time around, and we’re looking rather better now, a sort of mixture of the two giving a result I’m okay with. The time spent on the walls paid off, and the water has been muddied up a little; certainly enough to make sure you don’t lose your footing on those stepping stones. What’s more, I discovered the emission function and turned the ‘sun’ down to let the torches really do their thing, with a nice toasty glow lighting up the cell. It’s a powerful feature for which I can imagine many good uses. I look forward to playing with it.

At least it’s more interesting than modelling my bedroom.

Well, not quite starting blocks. But the recent penchant for pixels had me thinking once again about ephtracy’s MagicaVoxel, which has been sitting around on my machine for years now and, besides a piece or two here and there, hasn’t been put to particularly good use. My excuses are that I found the interface a little daunting and the camera seemed to do its own thing – usually not what I needed it to be doing. Well, I thought it was about time I came face to face with this old nemesis and settled the score once and for all.

I was going to make something.

Really, I was just being a drama queen for a change. It’s nowhere near as scary a program as I had told myself it was – actually, it’s rather fun and therapeutic once you get your head around the camera. Time disappears just as it does with 2D pixel art, or sticking Lego blocks together. I just started doodling really, thinking of Lego playsets, and coming up with some sort of ruined monument:

It’s not going to win any awards, but the lessons learnt in that session were very valuable indeed. And I actually wanted to make something else, rather than hit close and throw the PC in the bin so that’s a big hurdle cleared. Hence, the next two hours were spent modelling something on a larger scale; a ruined church, a not uncommon sight around these parts:

This one was lots of fun, and I think captures some of that toylike charm.

Yes, it does take a bit of getting used to, and I still have a great deal to learn, but MagicaVoxel is quite an enjoyable experience once you get going, and hopefully I’ll be using it more from now on. I’m sure if you use it more than once every two years you’ll pick it up even quicker than I did. And it’s free, which is always nice.