May 082011

[Edit 11/13/11: Some five months after opening my game image section, Art Gallery, this post still gets a very large number of hits from Google searches, so I am removing the images from it. If you found this page from a Google image search, please head to the link above to find the art in question..]

When I started making the posters I mentioned in my last post (is a link to the prior post on a blog site necessary? It is here), I’m glad I started with Zak McKracken. Had I begun with Final Fight, I might have been discouraged enough to think this wasn’t worthwhile. This was a tough poster to put together.

Before we get to the poster, let’s talk about Final Fight, which is only one of the greatest games ever made. If you don’t happen to know Final Fight, there are a few steps you should take to remedy that. First, slap yourself in the face repeatedly. While you’re doing that, I recommend crying out phrases such as “What is wrong with me?” When your spouse, family member or neighbor comes along and asks why you’re doing this, tell them you don’t know Final Fight. If they’re not too ashamed to disown you, they might help enlighten you, which can be done via an old-school arcade, MAME, or if you’re lazy and willing to spend some money, picking up the very excellent Final Fight/Magic Sword Double Impact on XBox Live or the PSN.

Double Dragon was the grandfather of all modern-style beat-em-ups and Final Fight would be the father of them, for lack of better genealogical charting. It took the fighting action of Double Dragon, made it more fluid and faster-paced, threw in more enemies and weapons, added smashable items and health-replenishing food and, certainly helping its long-term popularity, had great graphics. While Final Fight is no Metal Slug 3, its art style still holds up over 20 years later. So, if you don’t know Final Fight, you need to remedy that as a basic part of your gaming education.

While I put an awful lot of work into this, the overall layout isn’t entirely original, or really at all original. My entire intention here was to replicate something I knew I’d never be able to find or afford, which is the arcade flyer for the game distributed back when the game was released. Scans for this item can be found online, but they’re all in small resolution with washed-out color and details, unfit for printing. I wanted something that looks like it just stepped out of 1989, with a pocket full of tokens and an afternoon to spend beating people up. Now at this point, I’m going to talk about how I made this in detail. If you’re not interested in that, you may want to skip ahead by hitting Control-F and searching for “Final Fight image”.

To do this, I analyzed the flyer itself to determine what components were needed: the background art, the Capcom logo, the Final Fight logo and, yes, the copyright text–for authenticity, you see. The background art wasn’t too difficult: I was able to find a good-sized scan taken from the Capcom Design Works art book that could be increased to the needed print resolution without artifacts appearing. As a direct scan from an art book, the image was crisp and colorful. The original image, however, was designed for a longer print (perhaps 11×17) instead of 11×14, so I had to lose some space at the bottom.

The Capcom logo was a little trickier; it’s hard to find a high-res image of that logo on a black background (at least for me); I ended up taking the logo from one of the existing flyer scans, touching up the edges and then taking the center part of a better, crisper logo and dropping it in so that at least the inside of the logo looked perfect. I drew black borders around the edges of the poster according to the original flyer.

Copyright text was added by doing a font analysis online from a scan of the font Capcom used in their late 80s materials. The closest match I could find was Faxfont, which looks almost identical, especially since it’s so small in the print.

That left just the Final Fight logo, which took more time than the entire rest of the poster combined. Let’s just say that finding a high-res image of the correct Final Fight logo is no small feat. This is not the proper Final Fight logo, nor is this or even this (although it’s closer); the actual logo has a certain brick placement and other small details and by God, I was going to have them. Where to get that was a tough question. It was only when searching through Google that I spotted where one could get the logo: the cover of the Final Fight soundtrack, GSM Capcom 3, which I purchased more than a decade ago. I pulled out our scanner, scanned in the CD case and painstakingly, over the course of hours, edited out the logo bit by bit from the black-and-white marbled morass it was placed on when they released the soundtrack. At long last with that done, I was ready to put all the pieces together and so here we are.

This Final Fight image is a great and unusual piece of art. Not only does it combine an uncommon use of isometric perspective, as opposed to frontal or side view which was common for the time, but your protagonists don’t even show their faces: Guy and Cody have their backs to the viewer, and Haggar (mayor of Metro City and the father of the girl you’re trying to rescue in the game) isn’t even present. At a time when even Capcom’s art normally featured heroes who were prominently in your face (see Commando, Ghosts n’ Goblins, Legendary Wings, Forgotten Worlds, etc.), it’s almost strange to have characters not practically hamming it up.

Notice how Andore (an enemy in the game patterned after Andre the Giant) is down in a pool of blood, the same blood dripping off Cody’s hand, while Guy is gearing up for but not actually delivering a kick. This “you missed something cool and something else cool is about to happen so don’t miss that” vibe compels you to want to play and see more. The faces of the two game enemies that we can actually see are nothing special and the one on the left (J) actually looks more like a mutant than the person he is in the game but, hey, nothing’s perfect. Fan-obsession Poison was not included; Capcom had no idea during the game’s release that she would become so popular.

Oh yes, I promised some Doom as well, didn’t I?

I offer this purely for contrast. With Final Fight sitting at the “huge pile of work” end of the poster scale, Doom sits at the other. id released a poster for the game (most notably the print-signed version with Ultimate Doom) which features the game’s original box art, the game logo and id’s logo, all well-placed. The only thing I had to do here is trim some black border from the top and bottom of the poster, since the original looks to have made for 11×17. So I can’t even claim this as a poster I made, but it’s very nice regardless. What always struck me about Doom’s cover, apart from how ludicrous it was to include a second space marine, was how well it captured the feel of the game: stark, red, overwhelming. Don’t look at the individual demons, as a couple of them are laughable (especially the one grabbing the marine’s arm, no doubt anxious for some Beggin’ Strips)–instead look at the overall feel of the art and you’ve got the essence of the game. Plus seriously, that logo? It’s got to be one of the most iconic and thematically masterful items of all time.

Anyhow, that wraps up this post. Those of you bored with all this poster talk should find something more interesting in my next post, which will use cover art as a catalyst to discuss the video game war of the 80s between the East and West.


May 062011

[Edit 11/13/11: Some five months after opening my game image section, Art Gallery, this post still gets a very large number of hits from Google searches, so I am removing the images from it. If you found this page from a Google image search, please head to the link above to find the art in question..]

Lately I’ve been on a poster-making kick. It came about as the result of several stimuli, kind of like when the first person poured rum and coke in a glass to see what would happen (answer: only one of the best mixed drinks ever.) In this case, it was listening to good artist friend Amy Mebberson talk about poster prints she makes for conventions, combined with the realization that today’s world offers easy access to things like 11×14 poster prints from Snapfish.

Oh, there’s also the part where I have kicked myself for more than 20 years for not picking up the Konami Game Posters offered way back in the day. (That said, I actually feel pretty relieved now that I see this ad that Life Force and Metal Gear, the posters I would have wanted the most, aren’t in the set.)

Now, with the help of the internet, Photoshop and hours of work, I can have all the posters I want–and I intend to do just that. When I started this I only planned on making four posters — Wasteland, Zak McKracken, Final Fight and Salamander, representing four of the games I enjoyed the most as a kid, each with some nifty art. I’ve since made a few other posters and gathered the art for potentially dozens more. I’ve no illusions about ever having so many posters hung up or even possibly printed, but it’s a very relaxing pasttime. Since I’ve been unable to find sufficiently good quality scans of the proper Wasteland art, I moved ahead to Zak. And now, on to that poster.

Zak McKracken is an awesome classic game from Lucasarts, released in the 80s. I don’t think it had the same level of sales as Maniac Mansion, but I believe it was a better game, personally. You can read more about it elsewhere and you should find a way to play it. For the poster, I knew that finding art wouldn’t be difficult because I had months earlier discovered a site where someone took the original art from Zak, blew it up and painstakingly touched it up piece-by-piece to make it look great with none of the speckling and other artifacts one often finds when they scan a game’s box to 4000×6000 pixels.

I decided to make the poster look like the game’s box, which isn’t unheard of for games (see the Konami posters referenced above.) I found other medium-res scans of various editions of the game with which to get the text that overlays the picture and the “Lucasarts” logo in the box at the bottom. I decided to keep the “LucasArts Presents” at the top as well as the description blurb at the bottom as they didn’t interfere with the image that much. I then used Photoshop’s pattern generator to create a unique marbled border in the same vein as what had appeared on the original box. Overlay all that, make sure everything is resized appropriate to a 300dpi 11×14 print and we’re in business.

Zak’s poster is an example of great cover art. Whether you like the actual style being used or not, it fits the “feel” of the game and ties in many elements of the game (Zak and Annie on the cover, items from the game such as the fishbowl, power crystals, french bread, crayons, nose glasses, etc., and of course the aliens underneath, with the Mayan temple portrayed in the background) presented with a colorful flair–as if they actually communicated to the cover artist about what the game would be like; what a concept! And there’s still has room for not only the logo, but descriptive text and a border.

Note that neither Zak nor Annie are presented as glamorous or even above-average (unlike the characters on the Maniac Mansion cover, for instance.) Like later game characters such as Nathan Drake (of the Uncharted series), our heroes here are ordinary people, albeit ones placed in extraordinary situations, and to boldly display that on the cover is pretty awesome.

And that’s about all there is to it. Keep an eye out for future poster exploits and if you need a copy of this for your own printing interests, let me know.