In last week’s iDevBlogADay post I talked about how I was considering making my next game in the “doodle” style, but I eventually decided otherwise. This week, I’ll talk about the style I’m going with instead: 8-bit.
What is 8-bit?
The 8-bit name comes from 8-bit computer architecture, but the 8-bit style itself is really based on games from the 8-bit console era (NES and Master System). These days, the name “8-bit” seems to cover stuff from the 16-bit era as well. 8-bit graphics are called pixel art, and they have low resolution and low colour depth. The music in 8-bit games has a very distinct sound and is often called “chiptunes”.
Let’s be honest: it’s just plain cool. Unlike doodle graphics, I get the sense that using pixel art adds credibility instead of taking it away. It’s been used a lot, and yet it never really seems overused. Pixel art is also a ton of fun to create. It requires a certain amount of skill, but it’s much easier to make (for me) than the style I was originally considering for my next game (pre-rendered 3D).
8-bit inspired music is also awesome, with a style all its own. I’m planning to make the music for this game myself, mostly because I’d love to dabble in making music that sounds like this: http://georgeandjonathan.com/.
I’m not 100% certain of the approach I’m going end up taking to get the graphics to look right. The general idea I’ve seen in most 8-bit iOS games is that they double the pixel sizes, so that each in-game pixel takes up four real screen pixels(sixteen on the Retina display). For now, I’m actually using double-sized assets and rendering in 480×320 but I may move to using a half-size buffer and assets so that it’s truly low-res.
I’ve seen different 8-bit games use different approaches. For example, Super Quick Hook has low res in-game sprites, but the text is actually pretty small and high res:
Sprite something is *awesome*. It’s an iPad app for creating pixel art sprites, and it’s what convinced me that 8-bit was the right style for my game. You can use it to easily create pixel drawings, which it’ll export as transparent sprite sheets. Well worth the $2.99
SFXR is a simple 8-bit retro sound generator that was created as a way for devs at Ludum Dare to create sound effects really quickly. It’s open source, and has been ported to Flash for convenient in-browser use: http://www.superflashbros.net/as3sfxr/
SunVox is a free cross-platform music making application. I have to admit that I haven’t used SunVox yet, but it looks really cool, and I’ve heard some awesome music created with it. For music creation on the go, there’s also a SunVox iPhone app ($4.99).