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‘Life of Pixel’ – A Pixel by Pixel Interview with Developer Richard Hill-Whittall

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After playing through the platforming nightmare (this is a positive) that is Life of Pixel, I felt it necessary to pick one of the brains behind this trip through retro wonderland. I am pleased to be joined today by Richard Hill-Whittall of Super Icon Limited for a short interview on the company’s history, Life of Pixeland future projects. Life of Pixel is a platforming adventure where you control a single pixel through generations of gaming and technology, avoiding angry bats and perilous spike-filled dungeons. Video game fans young and old can find a chunk of personal gaming nostalgia with this hidden gem. Life of Pixel can be purchased now on the Wii U e shop for $9.99. For more information check out the official Nintendo page for Life of Pixel 

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Koru Taylor: Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to us. To begin we were wondering how was Super Icon Limited founded?

Richard Hill-Whittall: Super Icon was founded in 2012, initially working on PlayStation. We then started work on PC, releasing a couple of games onto Steam, and around that time we got our WiiU dev kits ? We then got to work on Life of Pixel and Vektor Wars for WiiU. Pixel is out, and Vektor Wars is currently going through Nintendo Lotcheck, so the release should be soon.

ZX81

ZX81

KT: Clearly there is a labor of love poured into Life of Pixel, as it pays homage to several gaming consoles of the past. Tell us about your staff?

RHW: We’re small; currently there are the 3 of us – Claire who is in charge of business development, Rich who is the head of development and also lead art/design/audio and Steve who is our coder.

For Life of Pixel, we commissioned several freelance musicians – those who actually create music using the hardware of the various vintage systems. We wanted to make sure the soundtrack was properly authentic. We also worked with a freelance pixel artist, who reworked the sprites and worked on some of the level tilesets.

Life of Pixel was extremely enjoyable, even if constantly frustrating.

ATARI 2600

ATARI 2600

KT: Tell us about the development process?

RHW: Life of Pixel originated on PlayStation Mobile, albeit with quite a bit less content. We then ported the codebase over to Unity, so we could support PC and consoles much easier.

In terms of the design, I never really got to do pixel art the first time around as I was too young – so I missed out professionally on the entire 8-bit era. I really wanted to explore the old systems and work within the graphical limitations of the machines and immerse myself in the classic games that I spent many hours playing when I was growing up. So Life of Pixel was born.

I started with my favourite machines that I owned back when I first started playing games. I researched the graphics capabilities, pixel resolutions, colour palettes & scrolling of each machine, with the aim to recreate those limitations as closely as possible.

I loved doing those graphics – getting into old school pixel art, within strict limitations.

ZX SPECTRUM

ZX SPECTRUM

KT: What were your inspirations while making Life of Pixel?

RHW: Many different classic games. Here is a quick run-down, although there are many more – I wanted to leave a few surprises…

Uridium, Castlevania, Jet Set Willy, Exolon, Ghosts’n Goblins, Rick Dangerous, Sonic, Super Mario, Monty Mole, Blagger, Exile, Pitfall, Chucky Egg, Citadel, Megaman, Altered Beast, Streets of Rage.

BBC MICRO

BBC MICRO

KT: Your next Nintendo project, Vektor Wars, shifts gears and brings us fps robot fighting. We are excited about its release. How is development going?

RHW: Very well – it took a little longer than expected as we had to recode many of the Unity plugins we were using as they were just not optimized for consoles. That was a headache – and certainly for the future we will be far more careful when choosing Unity plugins to use!

We’ve gone back and forth with Lotcheck a few times at Nintendo. We’ve encountered a few Unity bugs too in the WiiU plugin, but we’re just about there now sorting all of those out.

AMSTRAD CPC464

AMSTRAD CPC464

KT: What was the moment you fell in love with video games? 

RHW: Steve and myself early 80s – my first system was an Atari 2600, and my first computer a Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Looking back, I owned (in the order I got them) an Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, Gameboy, Megadrive, SNES, Playstation, Gameboy Color, GBA, Gamecube, N64, and then onto stuff like Xbox.

Claire’s first computer was a green-screen Amstrad, then she met me and we’ve been together since then ?

COMMODORE 64

COMMODORE 64

KT: Will there be a Life of Pixel 2?

RHW: Yes – although it is taking a slightly different approach, with more of a user-creation aspect. It is early days yet, but we should start to make good progress soon.

GAMEBOY

GAMEBOY

NES/FAMICOM

NES/FAMICOM

MASTER SYSTEM

MASTER SYSTEM

APPLE II

APPLE II

COMMODORE AMIGA

COMMODORE AMIGA

MEGADRIVE/GENESIS

MEGADRIVE/GENESIS

SNES/SUPER FAMICOM

SNES/SUPER FAMICOM

Koru is a video game stuff person, Pro-Wrestling junkie, computer technician and a moderately attractive wise-ass. Growing up in Boston, Koru had a goal of working in the gaming industry, so he began his own game review show, found a few journalism jobs along the way, and continues to learn and grow in the industry he loves. You can check out his work at youtube/KoruProductions Or play him online! Wii U: Koru-of-KGR 3DS: Koru-KGR Fightcade: Koru-KGR

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