Spanish artist Dani Oliver has been creating pixel art for around 15 years. His day job involves 2D art at a game studio, but not pixel work, which he indulges in more as a hobby, often recreating well-known videogame characters, many from the far-reaching Nintendo universe. His favourite vintage games are the early Zelda and Final Fantasy titles and the Soul Blazer series, while among more modern offerings he picks Xenoblade, the Smash Bros series, and Kingdom Hearts.
APPEAL “I appreciate all kinds of art, but pixel art in particular always felt very unique to me, specially when it looks like it could be in a legit 2D game. I think the aesthetic of pixel art can’t be matched with other medium, like vector art or 3D, which are in no way inferior or superior, but there it is a certain look in pixel art games that look very appealing to me. I always have fun trying to imagine characters as they could be in a 2D game. For example, in my Hyrule Warriors sprites, I imagine that it would be very cool to have a 2D version of the game with big sprites and fluid animations – maybe a fighting game. It’s probably a simple reason, but I have lot of fun with it. Of course, I do it also directly related to game development. I would like to be able to release a full game featuring pixel art someday!”
BACKGROUND “I started around 2000, but with a whole different approach. I was very into the beginnings of the RPG Maker scene, with the 95 and 2000 versions, and I started making my first sprites as assets in those programs. As time passed, I tried new things with pixel art, not limited by RPG Maker any more, and I found it very exciting. Years later, I met my friend Orkimides, and we made Card Gallery, a website where we made sprites of every character we could think of in a unified style. In 2007 we started a project called Card Sagas Wars, a fighting game made with the MUGEN engine, using the sprites we’d been making for Card Gallery. It got very popular as time passed, and we put a lot of effort into it, working on it on our free time and over entire weekends. Unfortunately we didn’t get to release a playable version. It’s very unstable and glitchy, so it’s not really worth releasing at its current state. At the moment we both work at the same company and don’t have much time to work on it as we also work on other things, but I hope we can restart it sometime.”
A LOVE OF NINTENDO “I guess I’m just another hardcore Nintendo fan in the world! I’ve been playing since the NES days, and I’m completely in love with the characters they create, since they’ve been around all my life and I find them really charming and charismatic. I’ll probably be 50 years old and still playing A Link To The Past and following their new creations. I hope they continue doing it for a while.”
INSPIRATION “Aside from videogames, obviously, I get a lot of inspiration from other artists, who blow me away almost every day. In my job we have discussions where we talk about the work of awesome artists we find, and we try to learn from them – like, “[Sighs] I want to be as good as this guy!” Then we help each other to try to get there. It’s a very cool environment to work in, since there the people here are very skilled, and they help you to improve. I also get a lot of ideas from anime and movies. I’ve been a big fan of Disney since my childhood – I’ve never missed a Disney film at the cinema. It’s a shame that 2D animation is slowly dying out in terms of the big screen, but I have to admit that the latest 3D movies are great in terms of their animation and technology. Zootopia was amazing, for example.”
THE SCENE “It certainly has changed a lot over the years. At the moment I think it’s quite amazing that there is such a wide variety of styles of pixel art – that was very rare to see in the old days. You see games with a retro aesthetic but which also have modern touches, such as Undertale, and absolutely beautiful games such as Shantae or Owlboy, and charming ones like Hyper Light Drifter. For the most part it feels like the philosophy of ‘less is more’ is popular at the moment, and it’s a very good philosophy. I think more people are getting interested in pixel art, and it will be around for a while, at least. I’ve seen a lot of new artists make more progress in just one year than I managed over ten years – it’s amazing how talented these new generations are. So it’ll be pretty exciting to see what’s next.”
ADVICE “Enjoy what you make, and never be afraid of trying new things – it’s the best way to improving yourself. If you’re starting out and getting a bit lost, don’t give up – nowadays there’s an enormous amount of inspiration, tools and tutorials that weren’t around when I started, so it’s much easier to get into pixel art, so long as you persevere.”