Aarne Hunziker lives in Finland, where he’s working on the forthcoming 8bit-styled action game Cyber Shadow from the comfort of his living room. Having worked on mobile and social games for ten years, he came to the realisation that he wanted to get back to “what I enjoyed doing on my banged-up 486 when I was a kid.” When he’s not creating pixel art, he’s renovating his Mazda RX-8, while his favourite games include the Contra and Zelda series, Chrono Trigger and Xenogears.
APPEAL “Pixels are easily quantifiable building blocks of infinite possibilities. A 16×32 grid can become a ninja, a robot, a plumber, you name it, while leaving a lot room for imagination. A handful of pixels has the potential to carry as much weight as a full 3D character with motion-captured animation and state-of-the-art effects while requiring far fewer resources to pull off.”
HISTORY “About 20 years ago I stumbled upon a feature in the NESticle emulator that let you modify the graphics of NES games. The idea of having your own personal drawing jumping around in a game made of magic and wonder was exhilarating. Over time, the most visible change has been the tools. I draw on a Wacom instead of using a mouse, with Photoshop rather than an emulator interface. The biggest change, though, has been the realisation that I can create the magic and wonder I experienced as a kid just by myself.”
STYLE “As a kid I used to copy images from comics and manga by eye and show them off to my friends. Eventually I’d draw my own comics, mostly in black-and-white, sometimes adding a splash of colour with markers. I was influenced by comics like Transformers and manga like Battle Angel Alita, and the style just settled itself. It’s how I enjoy drawing: using black to carve into the void, revealing shapes of decaying mecha and destruction.”
INSPIRATION “The very exact moment is usually when I take a shower and close my eyes and something just pops up. Half the game is designed away from the computer screen, when my mind is drifting about carelessly, sometimes bumping into interesting ideas. These ideas manifest from bits and pieces of my favourite things that linger in the back of my head – like engineering in the Enterprise, Prime firing an Ion Blaster, a robot master exploding, a V8 Interceptor overlooking a wasteland, and so on.”
RESTRICTIONS “Creating an 8bit-style game feels like home. Following the restrictions becomes a puzzle, so making the game is also kinda like playing. As well as being fun in itself, following a set of rules will keep the game more consistent and believable.”
THE SCENE “It’s interesting to see all the new works inspired by old platforms, some running on the actual hardware, some combining aesthetics from different eras, and some going totally crazy and making people wonder what the definition of pixel art is.”
ADVICE “Do what you like in a way that feels fun. It will make you a master at your own style and it won’t feel like work at all. Keep placing one pixel next to another and eventually you will have your own window to a world filled with magic and wonder.”