New edition of 8bit Card Deck red-y to go

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/08/03/new-edition-of-8bit-card-deck.html

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The question that always rises in the back of my mind is whether the 8-bit aesthetic is larger than nostalgia at this point. I mean, there are already generations of non-young adults for whom “retro” gaming actually means fairly high poly-rate FP 3D open worlds.

On some level, pixelation is pointillism is cross-stitch is Chuck Close, but I do wonder how much it has managed to carve out a unique art space outside of just “man, my hands were shaking when I got the Magical Shield in Legend of Zelda”

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Thanks a lot @beschizza. I’m trying to curb my spending.

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What, you mean Coordinate Plane Mosaic? THhhhhhhh. I heard it had some relationship to “computer art” but Thhhhhhh computers are so declasse. Thhhhhh,

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That really hits me in the 12 year old nostalgia, but I’d need my 12 year old eyes back to actually play with such a deck.

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It’s more than nostalgia for independent developers, in that it’s far less resource intensive to produce a game using the 8-bit aesthetic than it is to do even low-poly 3d.

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IMO the appeal of “pixel art” never really had that much to do with gaming nostalgia, and often when people conflate the two, the nostalgia part becomes a big dumb albatross.

I think it’s uncontroversial to say that what first made pixel art cool “again” was eBoy’s isometric cityscape stuff, which doesn’t actually look like any retro game visuals at all, apart from some formal traits that grow organically out of that drawing process (and it’s not like it’s slavishly made in NeoPaint on an antique PS/2; they use transparency and continuous gradients and what not). A bunch of their other stuff, like the erstwhile BingBong logo, does use a strict “8-bit” language, but even then that’s more Susan Kare than retro gaming.

I see a lot of games where it feels like the thought process was “pixel art is cool; I only understand that as a reference to old [Amiga / ZX Spectrum / Nintendo] games; therefore the more rigidly I ape ancient platforms, the cooler it will be”. It makes for a bunch of unnecessarily hard-to-look-at games that have given up on anything apart from joyless fan service.

The way I see it, pixel art is a substantial drawing practice in its own right; its value doesn’t come from games any more than oil painting gets its value from long-dead Italian rich people. Lots of the most interesting examples have nothing to do with games (eBoy, Paul Robertson), and the most interesting examples that are packaged as games don’t shackle themselves to specific otaku identities (Sword & Sorcery, The Touryst, Fez, even some Nitrome games).

(I’m consciously positioning it in terms of drawing rather than fine art; it’s worth taking seriously, but not too seriously)

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Also, much like with the “distressed VHS” look, most 8-bit graphics weren’t this bad (well, okay, the Atari 2600 was). People remember than 8-bit graphics were blocky (or like you said were too young to remember it and just have seen other attempts at retro-ized graphics), and then they exaggerate it beyond absurdity

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I don’t know why this is bothering me so much, but really, you’re wrong. Just like… wrong.

Those card designs are about 32 pixels wide, which give enough space for about 9 columns of cards on a 320x200 display with a little blank space in between, i.e, very close to the same level of detail as the ones in Hoyle’s Book Of Games (technically 16-bit, but… https://youtu.be/41s7TFDIStU?t=129). NES solitaire is similar (https://youtu.be/bYGI162kabQ?t=114). Like most games of the era, Hoyle’s optimized for legibility of the numbers, rather than aesthetically pleasing proportions; these cards are optimized to match the proportions of playing cards, so they use a teeny weeny font, which would be unusual but not unheard of. Side note about that, most developers of the time would have habitually avoided such a tiny font because CRTs were frequently a little blurry at the single-pixel level and a font like that would be even harder to make out than it is blown up.

There’s the additional detail that for most text, as a programmer, you’d be trying to use a tile engine that almost universally worked in 8-pixel-wide tiles, so a 4-pixel-wide font would be technically a drag, but in this case the playing card is a big bitmap anyway. To reiterate, there were definitely outliers that valued layout and compactness over any of these considerations.

If anything it looks too GOOD to me, because the palette is crafted for the purpose. Rare was the 8 bit machine that had more than 16 different colours to choose from, period. Maybe that’s what’s confusing you? 16-bit era colour selection, 8-bit era resolutions?

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Seriously. I was there in the era, having a computer since 1982. You’d be right that cards would have be that blocky to fit nine across, but what games would really need that? Most forms of poker use five cards. Most forms of solitaire have six or seven columns. And many games had the cards overlap anyway, with only one card being shown in full and the rest only showing their value and suit.

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I literally just linked videos of two games from the era that have cards with nearly the same pixel dimensions as the cards under discussion. What are you trying to prove by saying you remember it different? Are you saying Hoyle’s wasn’t popular? It was the #1 card game for DOS PCs as far as I know, and spawned a franchise with almost 30 releases. ???

Sure, I won’t argue with the idea that people exaggerate pixelation sometimes in a way that isn’t totally authentic to the time. You could say that the blockiness of the pixels isn’t authentic because they’d be out of focus on a real CRT. I really don’t think you can argue about the resolution though. Even if you find some other game that had higher resolution cards it doesn’t change that there WERE popular games that used card bitmaps in an almost identical format.

(I did a quick survey and the only game out of the C64, NES, Apple 2, and BBC Micro games I checked that had cards wider than 40 pixels was a BBC Micro poker game – probably because that machine had a higher horizontal resolution. It was like 1 game out of maybe 12 I looked at.)

If you don’t like the cards or the aesthetic, fine. It doesn’t need some “objective” criticism. It definitely doesn’t need a wrong and misinformed one.

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I’m not doubting that many games eschewed graphic fidelity of cards for a more schematic approach (after all the only thing you really need to play is the suit and value and the rest is just aesthetics), just that 8-bit graphics didn’t have to be that way. And with clever use of color there was even an primitive form of anti-aliasing going on so even with comparatively low resolutions you didn’t see these jagged edges.

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I challenge you to find a single example of a computer card game from an actual 8-bit micro or game system, that used any of the techniques you’re describing, or otherwise rendered cards with greater fidelity or complexity than these.

I love everything thats 8-bit but this is perhaps too much?

Interesting to see if that analysis changes between Mark’s version of the logo:

And the eBoy one:

We have made some efforts over the years to part from the 8-bit aesthetic, but the logo remains. Here’s an approved-in-principle but as yet unused evolution from that aesthetic I made a couple of years ago. At small sizes it would be effectively unnoticeable, but it can now go on larger screens or paper without digging people’s eyes out.

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