Without any prior knowledge on pixel art (outside of having played tons of retro games), I decided to give it a shot. How hard could it be? Turns out, it’s hard… and time consuming!
Well, here it is – my first ever attempt at pixel art…
I gave up even before attaching Nixie’s antenna to his head! C’mon! But hey, at least I managed to add one layer of shading between the black and white top of his head, right?
So, here’s the nice part – the time that passed between making this uninspired naïve attempt and then creating what I consider to be game-usable main character sprites really wasn’t that long. I also didn’t even really make any other finished sprites in between. Instead what I did was watch a metric ton of youtube videos about pixel art (specifically about character sprites) and also looked at hundreds of sprites from my favorite 16 bit games. I dissected Sparkster from Rocket Knight Adventures, Ristar, Megaman X, Super Metroid’s Samus, and of course Sonic the Hedgehog to really understand how even the simplest of pixel arrangements can have such an effect on a character’s appearance. Now that I know what goes into making a pixel art sprite sheet, I’m even more blown away by the games of my childhood – they made those without the luxury of layered Photoshop files after all!
However, I have to point out one sprite in particular that for some reason spring boarded me into creating Nixie’s sprite and that is Lilac from Freedom Planet. I mainly used Lilac’s sprite as a size reference for how tall I wanted Nixie to be, but I must admit I did steal one thing to get to ball rolling – her eyeball. From there it was like a switch went off. I just started drawing and shading with pixels until I was convinced it didn’t look terrible. I hadn’t even fully worked out Nixie’s body design yet, so I supposed I sort of designed Nixie’s final appearance as pixels first before revising my final drawings of him (a backward process I haphazardly repeated with the second character design, Jaxa).
I’m still not 100% comfortable with pixel art, but I’m getting better with every attempt. The next big frontier to tackle is creating an environment and my own tile set – of which I will need many.