Friday, January 9, 2015

Pushing Pixels: How Shovel Knight Was Inspired By 8-Bit Limits

A before and after look at the original and then simplified look of the King Knight
Released last year by indie developer Yacht Club Games to critical and fan acclaim, Shovel Knight was an action platformer that paid homage to the design sensibilities of the 8-bit era in general and the NES in particular, staying close to the limited color palette of the console. But what limitations did the design team have to work with? With the power of the PC and modern console at their command, what did limitations did they choose to keep and what did they choose to discard?

David D'Angelo, a programmer for Yacht Club Games, answers those questions and more in a recent blog post on Gamasutra entitled "Breaking The NES For Shovel Knight". The image above is accompanied by an explanation on how limiting sprite detail wasn't just slavish devotion to NES hardware limits but a deliberate design choice:
A character with too many colors stuck out like a sore thumb. We worked back and forth with detail levels and colors until we found a combo that looked great, [because] a sprite too detailed is also really hard to animate! In this example, you can see the original King Knight design. While the left sprite has only 5 colors (as was our stated limitation), it was too detailed and almost felt closer to a 16 bit sprite. After taking a few passes to simplify the shapes for readability and simplicity, we ended up with the sprite that you see in game!
The entire post is a really interesting look into the design choices that were made in the goal for capturing a gaming aesthetic, so if you want to know more, check it out!

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