Aground Developer Interviews Part Two - Pixel Perfect (Aaron)

edited July 2018 in Aground

Pixel Perfect

Welcome to the second installment of the Aground developer interview series! This week's interview features Aaron Norell, the pixel-pusher and animator extraordinaire for the project. Aaron is the Ontario based founder of Snobox Studio, and has been a professional artist for over twenty years.

Tell us about everything you do to bring Aground to life.

I am responsible for designing and animating assets (game pieces, characters, buildings, vehicles, etc) for the game. I create concept art, either 2D sketches or pixel prototypes. Once they are approved and tested, I revise or finalize the designs, create finished pixel versions and add animations, if required.

I also give creative input - we all brainstorm, discuss, offer opinions and ideas (to David, as Team lead/ Designer and Programmer, he has an overall idea/vision for the game as a whole, and he has final say on what makes it into the finished version) from game-play to characters to possible environments or plot/story elements.

Also, Play-testing! My favorite. When David completes a new area or adds a new character/item, I am always excited to try it out.

What would you say to someone interested in making art for games?

Make sure you have near-limitless drive and you LOVE what you do. Most of my experience is with freelance work, and it is often very difficult to find long lasting, good-paying work. Also, complete a post secondary, game-industry specific program, (I did not) to give you the best chances of success. If I could go back in time, I would definitely do so.

How do you stay motivated over the course of a longer (1 yr +) project like Aground?

Because Aground has been so well received by players, I find it easy to stay motivated. I am very happy we decided to put out an incomplete version (demo) first. To have so much player feedback, and for it to also be so positive and to have people so excited to offer suggestions, is a perfect motivator to continue the project. It is a lot more difficult to stay focused for so long on something yet untested.

What are your inspirations for your work on Aground?

Definitely early 1980’s style, Mario Bros, Dig-Dug, Zelda for SNES - old-school game mechanics and graphics.

What is your workflow like? How do you move from an idea to final in-game form?

I usually start with a list of items/ideas from David, and create the sprites requested from that list. I create either a 2d drawing/sketch of my idea(s), or a pixel “prototype” and move on to the final version based on that design. The pixel concepts are usually faster/easier to produce, as I often use the actual work I did on the concept piece as part of the final product. The 2D sketches still require I make a pixel prototype and then move on from there. I need to be careful when I am drawing 2D concepts, with proportion, details, etc. - to make sure they will transform well into the limited pixel versions, for use in game.

What is your favorite thing about working on this project?

The team. We all work so well together, everyone is respectful and open to discussion and opinions/input and criticism. That sort of environment does wonders for workflow and creativity.

I also happen to love making pixel sprites and animations. The challenge of creating such tiny graphics, from so few pixels, into so many recognizable things, is extremely fun, to me, and satisfying.

Bonus: what's the most adventurous or bravest thing you've ever done?

Probably the most adventurous, I visited Japan for 3 months, it was amazing, the people, the culture, the food! The technology, and it was so clean!! I had a wonderful time, ate such fresh, healthy food and walked around so much in the warm weather, I lost 13 kilos (about 28 lbs)! I consider it a once in a lifetime experience for me, BUT… I would love to visit again, someday.


You can follow Aaron on his Instagram or Twitter to see more of his awesome work!

Missed last week's interview? Check it out here: New Ground (David).

Next Week: Sound Bytes (Chase)

Part 3 will feature Chase Bethea, the composer and sound designer for Aground! See you then!

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