UI BAKA

UI BAKA

Sci-Fi-O-Rama returns with a quick feature on a rather special Tumblr known simply as ‘UI BAKA‘.

Originating from ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’ this Tumblr celebrates the art of sci-fi interfaces with a particular slant towards Japanese Anime, something we’ve shamefully rarely covered.

So what to expect? Well all things bright and beautiful of course, and in this case that’s glowing wire spheres, rippling sine waves, flickering binaries and a large dollop of a targeting reticles.

Indeed whatever the incandescent element, and no matter the function, as long as somethings spins or pulses, it works.

Some original material here, as scanned from ‘Creative Computer Graphics’ (Cambridge University Press, 1984) this one I came across whilst searching through the Google Books archives, and intrigued I decided to order a hard copy. Google Books by the was is well worth a look, countless printed publications are logged and categorized dating from recent to way back. Most modern titles are subject to copyright so show just a selection of internal pages, but this is plenty to gain a flavour and if you have 10 mins to burn, I highly recommend a trawl through.

Creative Computer Graphics  - The Last Starfighter

Above: A still from The Last Starfighter (1984) this ‘Gunstar’ model is comprised of almost 400,000 Polygons, this was four times more than had ever been attempted with any other computer generated model and each frame took 5 minutes or more to render on the most powerful computer available, a Cray X-MP.

So a little more about ‘Creative Computer Graphics’, this was then, I presume,

Sci-Fi-O-Rama presents an analysis and artistic appreciation of five pioneering 8-bit and 16-bit computer games.

The era is the mid to late 80’s, a period fabulously rich in gaming concepts and innovation as developers frantically sought to grasp, harness and subsequently wring every last nanogram of creativity from the available platforms of the day. Each title here contained – for the time – an array of groundbreaking ideas and technologies. What else connects them? well of course I played them way back when and thus they are in some way or another forever burned into the hazy mists of my subconscious.

I’ve been mulling over this one for a while but wasn’t sure quite how to start, hence the recent posting log jam. I wanted to compose an extended retro game feature, but not just to give a rose tinted review of gameplay or mechanics. Here then is a more focused look at the visuals themselves, what fascinated back then and what us still so beautiful and relevant today, 2012.

1. Midwinter (1989) Microplay – Amiga/Atari St/IBMPC

Hailing way back from 1989 we begin with this wonderful in-game animation, taken from Mike Singleton‘s seminal first-person Action/Strategy game ‘Midwinter’. I actually covered the back story and game mechanics in depth a few years back, today the focus is the virtual world itself . This long forgotten classic (23 years old!) featured the implementation of many radical new ideas most notably it’s beautiful, fractal generated landscape, all 160,000 square miles of it. Upon this jagged stage of relentless grey and blue polygons the game would unfold, the above animation shows all of the objects to be found within this bleak digital realm.

This type of spinning model animation was not unique to Midwinter, as you’ll see below, but of them all this (for me) has the most resonance. Back them due to hardware restrictions, there was no texture or bump mapping – at least not in game – graphics could only run with a limited palette, though this was expanded by interlacing or dithering the colours.  Seen above this is the checkered, flickering effect as two filled blocks dance between each other. There’s also a real charm with the basic tones of this palette too, earthy terracotta, golden yellows and shades of evergreen jumping straight off the jet black background. A final note and a total giveaway of the era is the speed in which the objects rotate, the simplest and smallest revolving far faster, whilst the emulated 8Mhz processor slows to shift the larger models.

I’ll summerise to say how the subtle, simplistic genius of the design today could easily pass off as abstract pop-art.

Read more about Midwinter at Wikipedia

Midwinter Snow Witch

Midwinter Snow Bull

Alien Syndrome Marquee

Sinistar Marquee

Commando Marquee

Asteroids Marquee

Tempest Marquee

Crystal Castles

Zaxxon Marquee

Galaxian Marquee

Galaga Marquee

Bosconian Marquee

Rastan Marquee

A selection of Coin-Op/Arcade Machine “Marquees” beaming gloriously in brash 80’s technicolour… Marquees (in case you didn’t know) are used to illuminate the name of an arcade game at the top of its cabinet.

Stopping with a friend recently I was reminded of just how amazing this art is as he has a small selection of these marquees as fridge

Roger Dean – As chosen by those he has inspired

To tie in with the Sci-Fi-O-Rama design upgrade here’s the first of hopefully many special features this year! “Roger Dean, as chosen by those he has inspired”… So a quick bit of history on Roger Dean, just in case you aren’t familiar with him and his work:

Roger Dean (born 31 August 1944), is an English artist, designer, architect and publisher, best known for his work on album covers for musicians (particularly Progressive Rock acts). His unique, instantly recognisable style often features exotic, fantastic landscapes typically populated with dramatic, impossible natural rock formations, lush alien wildlife/fauna, and strange organic structures…

With the release of James Cameron’s technically groundbreaking blockbuster “Avatar” Roger’s currently enjoying a surge of interest in his work, as it’s obvious Avatars design team have borrowed many visual cues… to be fair though, It’s pretty much inconceivable to think of fantasy and sci-fi art without thinking of Roger Dean.

So to celebrate his work once more I’ve asked a selection of contemporary designers & artists to select their favourite Roger Dean piece and add a few notes as too why…

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Roger Dean - Billy Cox "Nitro Function"

Metal Slug Pixel Art

Metal Slug

Post Apocalyptic Background Pixel Art from SNK’s original 1996 Neo-Geo title Metal Slug, the run-and-gun classic. Apologies if you’re having to scroll your browser to the right (I am too), the thing about Pixel Art is it can’t really be scaled, it’s drawn for one size and one size only, and it’d be severely blasphemous to rescale this superb example!

So here’s a lush part of Metal Slug level one in all it’s limited palette glory, but hang on a minute where’s all the rest of the game art? well, that’s the other reason for the post, this image comes via The Video Game Atlas http://www.vgmaps.com/ a truly amazing resource if you are into the art of old school games. Loads of wicked stuff there, and worth visit for so many reason’s – Game Title Screens for example http://ow.ly/tHqJ great Typography.

Thanks Dan for the lead on this…

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