Thursday, December 30, 2021

2019 Blind Kaizo Race OST

Happy New Year's, everyone! This isn't a typical update post since my previous one was very recent so I'm holding off until sometime later in Janruary before I give everyone a taste of what's to come throughout 2022. For now I wanted to squeeze out one final project before the end of the year, and since I've gone quite some time since I made one of these.

Back in the year 2019, a "Kaizo" ROM hack of Super Mario World was created specifically for Summer Games Done Quick 2019: the 2019 Blind Kaizo Race. Instead of controlling Mario, you play as one of eight Kaizo Mario World speedrunners split off into two teams: the blue-clad One Tile Men, and the orange-donning Lunar Magicians and carry them through seven levels of chaos. At the event itself, the teams would rotate out their respective players each time one bit the dust, and the run concluded with the One Tile Men winning the event overall. That said the ending doesn't change based on which team you carry to the end of the game, so for casual runs it mostly boils down to which set of runners you prefer.

The OST is a 10-track collaboration of both original and converted tunes from five different artists, all rendered in Super Mario World's engine. Ripping them was not as straightforward as you might expect since only ZSNES provided audio that wasn't prone to stuttering mid-song, and still some songs were affected and didn't result in flawless recordings despite my best efforts.. Two of the levels spawned enemies that would produce some kind of sound- interrupting the recording's first parts, and the credits, well, cannot be accessed unless you beat the final level. Since I had no patience to play through the hack, I edited the levels through Lunar Magic so the enemies cannot cause sounds to play through their actions and the final level can be beaten by just taking a door to the final room then defeating the boss in a much safer environment without killer plants everywhere. At the end of the day I still managed to do everything the night before New Year's and provide something to cap off 2021, despite the possible likelihood that I'll have to come back to this hack and re-rip a song or two in order to improve the recordings.

Will I rip the songs from another Kaizo hack? Likely not, as many of them run for much longer lengths and don't give you the connivance of skipping levels or jumping straight to the final level. Anyways, you can grab the download for the soundtrack here and I'll see you all in the new year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Finale of 2021

It's nearing the end of the year 2021, and the pandemic still looms over the world.

Times lately have been a mix of stagnant and slow progress, including a recent visit from two different repairmen late November before Thanksgiving to get things started towards breathing new life into my retro arcade machines and get the game room and arcade better fit for local visitors. My Xbox One is now fixed and able to play games again after months of breaking due to a failed system update, but on the flipside my launch edition Nintendo Wii might never see life again due to its busted disk drive being not easily repairable or replaceable and save transfers between two different Wii's not being as convenient of a process as I'd like it to be. I have a spare Wii, sure, but it's strictly for homebrew games and expansions and has not been updated in a long while since late 2013 to reflect updates for various mods.

Outside the game room and arcade, not much else was done. Mostly it comes from having very little inspiration with nothing of highlight going on outside and large-scale cons still being out of the picture until April next year provided Omicron doesn't get too severe by mid Spring (and for those wondering, I'm not due for my booster until February). I'm still trying to improve my physical physique and recover from some issues with one of my legs so when con season does start I'm sort of back to the athletic prowess I was before the pandemic hit. In other words I'm putting priorities towards real-life matters, and not helping is having to watch over my mother while she's laid up from surgery earlier this month and not being able to do much of anything until January when she recovers.

Some new art on Aozora and his close pals Satoru and Zik, plus a new face and a character I have yet to draw in my style, have been in the works since August and I've been developing it off and on. Once again the pace has been... pretty glacial despite my best efforts to keep focused. Aozora's girlfriend Keisha and her pal Sakaki are in the queue for after the boys are finished, and I've long hinted at making these renders of my girls in Clip Studio Paint in an effort to learn the program following being recommended it by more than several of my artist buddies. I still have plans to launch an artist's Twitter and a Discord server to help further my works and serve as a general hangout spot respectively. I originally planned to launch the artist Twitter and the Discord community this month, but postponed it to a point where I felt more comfortable with doing art and other content at a good pace in the case of the former and work on adding bots to the latter to help with role management in the case of the latter.

For other ventures for Aozora and co, I begun development of a page for a more descriptive and visual format for displaying my original characters for Aozora's Adventure compared to the current Wiki. Currently it is very barebones as I have not been feeling the drive to go work extensively on character lore and character bios- even on the Wiki. That's not to say Aozora has had nothing worked on lately beyond the above WIP's; in the background there have been some attempts to get several different drafts and documents for game ideas for the Aozora's Adventure project going, just to give an insight on exactly how each game would function. From 2D platform games, to racing games, to a full-on tournament fighter (a given when you have so many detailed character designs that you always think "how would they work in a fighting game?" while designing them). As for game-development itself, since it was stressing me the heck out months ago, I've put it on hold until sometime next year so I can get myself into a more productive mood, and I'm the opposite of that.

I've also been considering getting into game streaming just as much as I'm considering getting into 3D modeling, programing, and web design. Only I need to get myself a better PC rig, which is hard with all the GPU shortages due to ridiculous demand, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to make due with my 2015 rig for a bit longer and possibly when Windows 11 gets better. After having to jump between several big-name and small-name streamers I think I might have what it takes to broadcast a game or two, even if I won't be able to stream everything in my collection since I have no capture cards to record from my TV's and I'd be forced to use emulation whenever I want to or not. Still, it might give me that social experience that I haven't had since November 2019.

Since it's getting late, I might as well wrap it up for now and save what else I could bring up for a future post. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Friday, October 22, 2021

The 2022 Convention Schedule

A new year is almost upon us and after two years of laying dormant from the greater public for... reasons, I feel confident and safe enough to return to attending conventions following getting vaccinated earlier in the summer. Provided cases don't suddenly jump by Spring 2022 and the cons get closed by the organizers, my goal is to attend the same six cons I made yearly traditions in 2018 and 2019.

For those wondering, I skipped New York Comic Con 2021 and have no plans on attending Anime NYC 2021 either since the state of the pandemic is still deep enough to where I'd rather stay home and not risk getting sick with a con as big as NYCC. Thankfully I did see through footage by others that the booths in Dealer's Room were much more spread out (haven't seen much on the artist's alley but it sounds like its in the same boat) and the overall attendance was cut in half, eliminating much of the crowds that otherwise congested up the walkways and making traversing the con much easier compared to digging and plowing through hordes of people. This especially effected Castle Point Anime Convention since its's a two-day con and the Meadowlands Expo is nowhere near as big as many of the other venues that host conventions later in the year. Even the Long Island Retro Game Expo, another con taking place in a rather small venue at the Cradle of Aviation, manages to corral its bigger crowds into only the first-floor dealer's room, leaving the free play consoles/computers and the arcade on the second and third floors without the large clusters you associate with most cons.

As mentioned above, these six conventions will be my main destinations throughout 2022- this time represented with what would have been the character choices for 2021 alongside the characters for 2022. Since Eternal Con and AnimeNYC have yet to announce their dates for their 2022 conventions, I can't say on when exactly I'll be attending each con beyond "no Sundays or Thrusdays except as a last resort". I learned that the hard way after AnimeNEXT 2016 due to the vastly reduced convention hours on the final day compared to the other days the con takes place once you factor in that I usually don't get to these conventions till around noon and I have to warp my sleep schedule quite a bit for the cons outside of Long Island so I have some time in the mornings to have breakfast and do the final bit of prep before I drive off. And since I exhaust my time at the con throughout the entire day running a marathon across the Dealer's Room, the Artist's Alley, and the rest of the convention borderline breaking my voice, I don't think I can last more than one day anyways.

CPAC 2022 will also be the first big convention of mine since two things from the previous year: The start of the pandemic, and the big hard drive crash I went through all the way back in late 2020 that took all of my convention and cosplay photos with it. Thus, I want to dedicate 2022 to filling in a new album of photos and a gallery of cosplays to show the full experience of the con, and as with previous years I will be posting the full galleries of cosplays on my Facebook for the three anime-focused cons, plus assorted pictures of the con itself on Twitter and Instagram. There are some smaller local events on Long Island that I'm considering as well, two or three of them to be exact, but I will not be providing large-scale coverage of them on social media since their general attendance is much lower. There are some other conventions that I've been thinking of  for the potential future, but most of them are too far or don't really appeal to any of my tastes, as much as something like a fighting game con would appeal to me but I don't know of any in the Long Island, NYC, or New Jersey areas (if they exist).

Anyways I'm gonna call this blog post done so I can go get some of my projects and ideas worked on and start thinking of what to do for the up and coming holidays. Catch you all later.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Quest for new Super Mario Bros. 1 spriterips

For those expecting another traditional update post, I don't have much to add besides what I brought up on Twitter over the past few days, and right now I'm still trying to find my footing in productivity again, if not in game development at this time (that'll get its own blog entry later) then certainly in the field of doing normal art. The last art I did of an Aozora's Adventure cast member was in September 2019, and since then there's only been a modern take on Super Justin earlier this year which I slacked on pretty hard since starting on it in February, in part since while it was a neat return to form, making two poses of the same character at the same time in addition to one that I initially abandoned outside of one community for being rather underdeveloped, both in looks and background, was exhausting to say the least. So I'm going to go back to Aozora for the time being to provide some new character renders to characters I haven't drawn since 2014, including one new face not in my style yet.

Anyways onto today's subject. For those of you that have seen a blog post of mine from back in March, I've long stopped contributing routinely to The Spriters' Resource website but didn't exactly rule out the site entirely and could potentially have come back with a surprise rip or two every now and then. And after some convincing from a bud of mine as well as some groups I'm a part of, I've decided to redo some of my oldest sheets that I've posted to the site and re-rip the entirety of Nintendo's original Super Mario Bros. and its two offshoots: The Lost Levels, and All Night Nippon. (why do those sound like episode names for a retro FPS?)

For reference, her are the original sheets:

Someone else would update the above sheet to have outlines, but the ones to follow weren't so lucky:

These sheets were done when I only had a very minimal grasp on how the four palettes were sorted, as well as the key differences between tiles and sprites, leading to a lot more overlap between the sheets than usual along with not much in the way of explaining how some of the more cryptic elements worked (how does Hammer Bro hammer throwing work, as an example). My only emulator at the time was the Mac version of Nestopia, and  while it got the job done and let you use a rewind feature right off the bat, it lacked any of the debugging, frame-by-frame advancing, map viewing, or sprite viewing capabilities of FCEUX and Mesen, resulting in several inaccuracies in the sheets.

The goal of this project is to take the original sheets I've ripped in the past, re-rip every sprite across all three versions of SMB1, and re-assemble them into new sheets, including the player characters, enemies, tilesets, objects, backgrounds, and text/text screens (title screen, game over, and the endings). Upgrades from the existing sheets would include:

  • Colored backgrounds due to certain art programs not playing nice with transparency *cough *MSPaint*cough* alongside spaced-out sprites and the addition of bounding boxes to better show the exact size of each sprite/tile and make them easier to extract from the sheet.
  • Different sheets for each version of SMB1, only including sprites and tiles used in that version. The only exception would be the large mushroom platforms- since they got removed and replaced with clouds in Lost Levels but received Lost Levels-styled updates in All Night Nippon, they'd be included in the Lost Levels tileset sheet for consistency with the other two variants of the tileset sheet.
  • Detailed notes explaining certain functions in-depth that aren't able to be elaborated on visually, or explaining mechanics of the game and hardware. When appropriate, key differences between versions are also mentioned, such as cloud platform tiles in place of mushroom platform tiles in The Lost Levels.
  • A full set of visual palettes for every sprite/tile.
  • For the first time in a SMB1 sheet, two different emulator palettes: Nestopia and the visually similar Mesen for being the one Nintendo classifies as the official palette based on its use in the NES Mini and the NES Online service, and FCEUX for being a general fan favorite palette in the community.
Despite all that I'm doing to make the sheets as polished as can be, don't take this project as a hint that ripping sprites will return to being a full-blown hobby of mine as it was throughout most of the 2010's. It's more so that I will never have to touch any part of SMB1 when it comes to extracting its assets and putting them into sheets. And that's especially after making the game such a big part of the early 2010's whenever it be through the discovery of ROM hacks whenever they be the most prolific ones or the ones not commonly available to the public, or getting into Mari0 custom level, graphic, and tileset creation, and need I remind everyone that latter of those was what cemented my hobby of sprite-ripping when I struggled to keep up with producing artwork.

So take this little project as, for the time being, one final "hoo-rah" to the sprite-ripping hobby I've had for roughly eight or nine years from my final few years of high school to the late 2010's that were dominated by a big boom in conventions. I got way too many things I need to get to drafting, planning, and working on later this year and in the rest of the 2020's to better shape up my future and since creating these sprite sheets, despite the convenience they provide to the public, doesn't really further my desires to create games, artwork, and sprites of my own, it'll be difficult fitting in contributions to the Spriters' Resource unless I get it on the mind and have time to kill. No matter what happens though I'll always enjoy my experiences working with and getting to know the Spriters' Resource community, as well as the greater VG Resource community overall. If I ever do come back to sprite ripping for a brief period, you will be the first to know.

Friday, August 13, 2021

2009 called, they want their Super Justin art back.

I think it's a fair thing to say that I've come a long way since the era I first joined the internet, and while I'm still trying to get my motivation boosted (which is hard where there's still a pandemic out), clearing out some of these smaller projects and occasionally jumping into tutorials for the 3D art tool Blender, with Game Maker to follow soon enough, I figured I'd drop some of the better and less rushed content I produced during my freshman year (and the first month in sophomore year) in high school.

Unfortunately one thing that will always strain this era of Super Justin was its... complicated relationship with the doujin-soft game Rosenkreuzstilette. To make a long story short, trying to make brother figures to well-liked characters and have the resulting designs be much weaker and cartoony (both in design and personality) didn't exactly work, and the series not knowing what age demographic it was trying to appeal too didn't help either. Thus, many of the Super Justin arts of the time also co-starred censored versions of one or more of the Rosenkreuzstilette girls- which of course won't fly in this new era where I've shifted from a failed series that doesn't know what demographic it's aiming for to an ongoing series in production with a defined target demographic. So for that reason I won't be showing anything that I can't easily crop/edit out, and anything that was "early Photoshop hell" won't be shown either because they scream unoriginality and are easily the most cringe-inducing works of the lot.

This particular art from April 20th was posted just a little under one month since joining DeviantArt. It was a celebration of having posted 100 individual artworks to the site, many of which came from when the then-modern era of Super Justin began in August 2008. Those will likely be dumped in a separate post (if at all) since most of them were made in MS Paint on Windows 2000.
These next two subjects come to us from April 23rd, 2009. This was the period when "early Super Justin" was starting to develop an art style, but it still remained heavily stylized and cartoony. That said it's very apparent the art was made quickly and with nothing resembling consistency- just whatever I had on the mind at the time and something that'll be a recurring theme throughout this post. Body parts having different sizes, no attempt to clean up the lineart when I scanned it to color in, etc.

This particular art was another milestone pic and features Justin's brother Matt and his sister Amy- the latter of which would be retconned into his older cousin due to her taller, more mature build.

Of course, Tan-Tan would get his own art later that day, drawn on notebook paper as with many of my character arts of the time. Despite its resemblance to a character sheet for a newly created cast member- this wasn't the first appearance of Tan-Tan in the slightest as he debuted months prior in September 2008 as a robot buddy to Justin (sort of what Rush is to Mega Man). Tan-Tan's simple design compared to the human figures I was more familiar with let me really play around with his emotions and personality and he would sneak into other, unrelated pictures as a comic foil to Justin just as much as he was a buddy. He even got a second character sheet in early October 2009 that was a little more polished and had new emotions, but because this was around when I canceled Super Justin, it was never scanned and colored in. Besides, I don't think anything I do nowadays with Tan-Tan will ever top "smug Tan-Tan".

April 29th brought a series of powered-up arts of Justin, featuring four elemental powers (fire, thunder, ice, and water) plus a Mario-inspired Raccoon form and a Kirby-inspired Jet form. Many of these powers would be retained when the torch was handed over to Aozora, but with more diverse transformations beyond a straight up palette swap (starting from later on, at least).

On May 15th, the full realization of the Super Justin universe being greatly grounded around Rosenkreuzstilette was created- a mock-up title screen of "Rock-Justin" with the most cursed running pose I think I've ever drawn. The project itself was literally "diet Rosenkreuzstilette" in structure and the levels were going to be more typical Mega Man fare than the medieval-gothic Castlevania feel that RKS used. To no one's surprise, it was canned when Super Justin folded and eventually turned into the Rock-Aozora series, reusing some of the Rock Justin concepts but taking the ideas in a less derivative direction and featuring an ensemble of entirely new characters created in late 2011 and early 2012. If Rock-Justin was re-created today, it would play drastically different different from your typical Mega Man game.

Speaking of Rock-Aozora, it was even meant to have a sequel! On May 20th, I introduced the ensemble of Dan (top left), Inferno (top right), Richard (bottom left), and Wrenchi (bottom right) to DeviantArt. They were only slightly more unique than the likes of Roger and Zax, with only Richard being explicitly based on a Rosenkreuzstilette character. Since the four were more B-list creations and didn't last as long as the original Super Justin cast from 2008, I didn't do as much with them compared to the likes of Justin, Roger, and Zax and promptly swept the entire quartet under the rug when Super Justin hit the bucket.
May 28th saw the release of the first of three group shots featuring the Super Justin cast of the time, and just to give you a taste of how much I didn't want to show, everything pertaining to characters I didn't own were all mosaic'd out. That's how much of an old shame many of these pics were for the time and I wouldn't know what to do if I had included more.

Noteworthy in this pic are three characters not seen in prior posts: Isamu (cyan), Otzi (light blue), and Stitch (green). The latter two were both scrapped and wouldn't return for the reboot since I thought they were extremely weak designs (shorts and a basketball uniform? Really?!). As for Isamu, I kinda stopped eventually doing things with him beyond making him a foil to Tan-Tan (a foil to a foil, I guess).
Before you know it, it was June. The whole "Quantity versus quality" thing was still getting out of hand, especially with those "early Photoshop hell" pics still cropping up every now and then. They seemed to become more prominent on certain days but my normal traditional arts still appeared to hold them off. And June 2nd brought the return of Fire Justin for one last piece made with colored pencils. It at least managed to come out decent, but it still has obvious issues if you know where to look. I mean, wow, that color job on the background.
On June 9th, I posted this for what was my fifteenth birthday, in perhaps one of if not the only time I ever made celebratory birthday art. And now here I am, twelve years later not really bothering to do the same thing due to the cavalcade of other projects I've gotten to (and plus I was already working on new art for Justin at the time this year) The small Justin candle topper would have been a cute custom accessory for a cake but I'm not sure if I'd ever attempt to light it...
June 10th saw the arrival of the second of three group shots featuring the Super Justin cast at the time. Of course it was covered in Rosenkreuzstilette characters so I had to crop out all but four of the rest of the subjets in the image (and they would be harder to pixelate). This particular illustration features Justin, Otzi, and Zax, alongside another character in blue named Koreno. He was another character that... wasn't designed that well in hindsight, suffering from the same issue as Otzi and Stitch and not making it to the reboot.
Then came the third group shot with an even bigger ensemble that was posted on June 14th, but it somehow managed to look even worse than the full version of the second group. The only part I'm comfortable with showing is Justin, since I was so proud of it back in the day that it became my profile pic for a while on DeviantArt.
Things would go quiet for the rest of June. This art from June 23rd was, ironically enough, posted before shit hit the fan, and it was a very fitting metaphor for what was to come. Some offscreen drama erupted and I further realized that my rushjob quantity versus quality art style wasn't fit for what I was trying to accomplish, so in came the beginning of the end for what was the original Super Justin series throughout the remainder of July, August, and September.
...Okay, I lied. Before June ended, a new piece featuring Inferno was released on June 26th, and if you need further proof that my ability to make backgrounds only barely evolved since 2009, here you go. My year of learning Photoshop in 9th grade graphic design class in high school had come to an end and I would not get to use Photoshop in the class again until 11th grade kicked off in 2010, and by then Aozora had already started development.
July 1st brought in a hypothetical design for early adult Justin, which added some more visual flair to his outfit. It unfortunately didn't stick for his younger self and before you know it Justin was back to his original ensemble. I was still posting art regularly and continued to upload multiple artworks, but I attempted to brach out with more non-Justin art and artwork that featured the Rosenkreuzstilette cast completely separate from the Justin cast.
July 15th brought the final piece of Koreno to the masses and sure my digital art was getting slightly better but some of that stink from earlier in the year was still there and Koreno's design remained underwhelming even though it was now more than just a swimsuit.
July 18th got a new piece of Dan artwork, and at this rate I was realizing Dan was another character that I wasn't particularly fond of, and for many of the same reasons as Koreno. You have to really, really work to make a "walking shirtless scene" both cool and enjoyable, and when the chests lack any sort of muscle detail they just look boring. This wasn't the last time we would see Dan, but he wouldn't be a prolific character behind the scenes by any means.
July 24th gave Tan-Tan another piece of time in the spotlight, alongside two other robots with the same build as him: The super-bubbly San-San and the highly dramatic Ran-Ran. While I did make an effort to distance them in both appearance and personality, San-San was very much the "Ms. Pac-Man" to Tan-Tan and Ran-Ran was yet another foil to him when Isamu already played the role.
Realizing my efforts to get into digital at the time (as you saw with Koreno and Dan) weren't really working out, I decided to step back into making traditional art, starting with this group art of the original five boys from the era in Justin, Roger, Zax, Otzi, and Stitch performing in a band in a recreation of the "Sonic the Hedgehog Band" image meant for the original Sonic the Hedgehog. It easily eclipsed the three massive group shots I made earlier in the spring in quality, with more on-model characters than what was previously done.

The artwork was made on August 26th and by then I started to give myself more time with each drawing than I had earlier in the year, relying less on quantity in favor of making each piece more polished. This was also when I began to invest more heavily into normal Rosenkreuzstilette art, phasing out the censored designs I was using in favor of the real deals and not letting the Super Justin cast cross over with them as much. This would also be the last time the characters' "classic" looks would be used since I first developed them all the way back in 2008- just one month shy of their first anniversary. It also marked the final appearance of Stitch- while I did have plans for him years later in 2013 to redesign him and make his appearance more interesting, the idea never happened and after losing all traces of what it would have been to the hard drive crash in 2020, it will likely never come to be, considering I went all in on Justin, Roger, and Zax being the main trio and Aozora being a much more enjoyable 'venture for me these days when it comes to full art (considering it took me quite some time to finish the new 2021 Justin render due to pandemic fatigue among other things).
On the other hand, it wouldn't be the end of Otzi just yet as he would get one last pic to himself on August 31st in new clothing in addition to a group shot with some Rosenkreuzstilette characters the same day- and it would be the very last time the Rosenkreuzstilette cast would appear alongside the Justin cast. While this new Otzi appearance was an improvement, the "makeup" around his face and hair was maybe a little too much (and it was obviously a brush with no trimming to the edges) and a simple kimono could only do so much to improve what was previously a character wearing nothing. Otzi, of course, wouldn't see another image featuring himself when Super Justin would retire, and would be excluded from the reboot.
And here it is: the ending of the end. September would be mostly filled with more Rosenkreuzstilette art and some meme posts, but some Super Justin art was ultimately produced. Despite that, this would be the final month of Super Justin's original run. September 1st brought a simple pic of Tan-Tan and the last one I have on record for the little bugger before the reboot. It was also very experimental, going all in on a minimalist tri-color style that honestly doesn't take advantage of the yellow and white as well as it could have.

Tan-Tan would survive into the current era of Super Justin, but his counterparts San-San and Ran-Ran were both dumped, combining small traits of them into Tan-Tan thanks to his highly variable personality and "acts of comedy".
September 10th brought in new artwork for Amy, though the attempt to make it a full size definitely hurt the quality of it, considering I was more used to smaller and medium-size figures that didn't take up all of the paper. This would be the last time Amy would get any art and indeed, from here on out it would be the "final" appearances for everyone.
Following the Otzi redesign, I began redesigning some of the regulars that have been sticking with the series since the new era started to improve their designs. On September 18th, the new Roger you all know today and the one I've shared previously on this blog would be created, taking the design from the May 28th group shot and upgrading it. Gone were the Kamina glasses and instead a slick orange visor was added since I thought it complemented his look better and gave his hair more form. His wings would also change later on in the reboot to more typical bat wings as they looked more powerful and practical while still complementing Roger's overall look (I've yet to draw them though).
Two days later on September 20th, Zax got his overhaul as well. It was an improvement, yes, but it was still with its problems. Namely, it was way too revealing and the idea of a "beach scientist" did not work with this look. I had since updated the look in modern times changing the red shorts into mahogany pants, fixed the shoes, and did some tweaking to the arms to make them more anatomically correct. The giant mallet that was first drawn onto Zax in the June 10th group became his staple "morph arm", though in the future I'd like to make the arm larger and robotic with metal platings while keeping the transformation aspect intact, shaping the arm into different forms as his arm here already does. Rocket boosters for fast speed, spiked hands for smashing more quickly than the hammer, drills for tunneling through the ground, literally I could be here all day but I have to get this finished eventually.
September 22nd would become the final date of regular art for Justin and pals. A new Justin render would join the two existing fullbody renders (albeit without shading and some slanted anatomy until later when I edited it post production) and the new characters created on May 20th would get one final piece of art together. Dan kept the same overall design but had more defined abs, a more consistent hair shape, a longer skirt, and a few visual changes to the spear. Inferno got more buff and had his collar transformed into a scarf, Richard's shirt was made to cover up his navel and his jacket had buttons added on, and Wrenchi swapped his wrench with one that was more visually appealing. Even with these updates, it unfortunately wouldn't "save" the project, as days later I would declare the Super Justin series ultimately finished and retired.
The last day anything resembling Super Justin would release would be September 24th, featuring the return of his Mario/Kirby-style transformations in addition to four based off of Rayman 3. Following the decision to cancel the project, I left the arts up for a small bit before going through and removing (or rather, stashing) everything related to Super Justin uploaded across those six months a few days later. It was a good spring and a good (if stressful) summer for the crew but me wanting to do something more original without outright snatching existing characters overpowered my thoughts as the sixth and final month posting the crew online to DeviantArt and the thirteenth overall since they were first developed came to a close.
October 2009 would see the entry of Aozora and his initial crew of five as I shifted into doing more polished fanart while developing the first phase of Aozora in the background. The Rosenkreuzstilette girls continued to stick around in my DeviantArt gallery, completely disconnected from any of the changes they underwent to "censor" them in Super Justin. 2010 was filled with the characters until a little over halfway into the year, and as I shifted more towards Aozora character art in 2011, the last piece of fanart I would make for Rosenkreuzstilette would be in April 2011. Even today, the way I draw the more elegant and "cutesy" women was directly based around RKS and you can still see that today with characters like Talisha or Mignonette.

And that puts the initial run of Super Justin to a close. I do have other artwork from earlier in the Super Justin series depicting the characters but I don't have access to them as of now. Today, the characters exist in Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart, with Justin, Matt, and Amy playable in their own dedicated pack (with Roger, Zax, and Tan-Tan in the works but they'll be ready "When They're Done". I've also been considering doing more traditional sketches better displaying some of the new looks/abilities the characters would have, intervened with trying to get things off my to-do list, make new Aozora art, learn some 3D modeling, and finally figure out programing so I can bring one of my game ideas to life. But that's another story.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Meanwhile in August

So July has come and gone and August has emerged... and I don't exactly feel at my peak. Ontop of realizing just how many projects I have left to contend with, including a very brief return to the Spriters' Resource to re-rip the entirety of the original Super Mario Bros. and its many offshoots, my sister ended up in an accident, leaving her with a concussion and having to spend her free time stuck in dark, dimly-lit rooms unable to look at any screens and it put a lot of stress on my family and myself as well, having to seal up all the windows with tarps and towels to prevent her from getting irritated plus ferry her around since she can't drive. While this was for the best of intentions, it made me feel really down deep inside, having to see my sister hurt in what would have been a big moment for her and the house having to reshape so she can navigate without too much eye strain was like we were all under the same effect and I was going nuts from the lack of light in the house for up to a little over a week. It also doesn't help that I wanted to catch the Olympics (despite 

Currently she is still recovering and while she's feeling better, it's still far from perfect, but still progress in the long run. That said the entire ordeal had much more of an effect on me than I would have thought, especially when earlier in the week I got my second and final COVID-19 shot to hopefully bring this pandemic fatigue on my end to a close- and it absolutely wrecked me the following day- I felt the worst I've felt in a long while and it made me realize just how uninspired I've been lately to do big projects, including getting to work on all these game-dev ideas on the mind as well as writing up more complete info on all these Aozora games and characters and getting both a personal website and Discord constructed. It made me feel alone and isolated, as if I didn't have anyone that would offer to lend a hand in a project of mine ever, even when the game-developing season kicks off in the future. It brought me to tears and it made me question my relationship with my family.

I know most of this is personal matters but I wanted to express how exactly I'm feeling at the moment and scenarios like this is why I opted to get vaccinated, so I can go out on ventures and have more social interactions without the fear of getting seriously ill. And I'd like to spend some time getting some of these "smaller" projects of mine that wouldn't induce as much stress as a larger project would finished before I suddenly add another one to the mix or develop yet another game idea in my head that'll have to be added to the list.

I'll keep everyone updated on Twitter if I have any new developments- I do have some trips planned for later in August to make up for the lack of cons and long drives outside my home area since November- though I'm not announcing where I'm going since these will be, for the most part, private ventures to boost my motivation to enjoy life and work harder.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Games Done Quick Withdrawal

It's that time of the year again, huh? Well all last week was the 2021 alliteration of a little charity marathon known as Summer Games Done Quick, and I (mostly) took off the week to watch it in full while storms ravaged the area around my home. My game rooms saw no activity and I effectively wrecked my sleep schedule sleeping late and waking up earlier than usual on certain nights, especially Monday Morning's Nintendo Entertainment System block.

Overall, SGDQ2021 was a good marathon and something that I got a lot of enjoyment and hype out of especially in these times even when some minor nitpicks forming over some of the choices made for the event and the game selection. At the end of a day it was a great set with both some popular titles, some not-so-popular titles in my head I've been wondering when the Games Done Quick marathons would return to being in-person as they have from the very first marathon all the way to Awesome Games Done Quick 2020. With the past three marathons having to adapt the "Online" moniker and make runners run the game from their homes, it effectively killed the live crowds that crowded up behind the runner(s) and their couch and reacted to every single little thing the runner accomplished. Do some crazy stunt? Lots of applause. Pull off a successful clip? Thunderous cheers. Some lame joke is told through a donation? A chorus of booing. All that is lost when you make the event a strictly-online event but unlike your typical convention that could do only online panels as a result of the pandemic, the main part of the event (the speedrunning) is still fully intact, even though SGDQ2020 did have its fair share of technical issues as a result of the online shift.

If there's one notable element in the transition to online that benefited the event as a whole, it allows for a far greater and broader selection of runners from across the world that could participate in the event without having to deal with the time and cost to travel to the event physically, especially if the runner was based outside of the U.S. In short, it's a degree of accessibility that wasn't there in the marathons before SGDQ 2020 Online and it made me wonder if this aspect could be preserved for when the live marathons return, involving a combination of both live runs and online runs. The former would still be the main focus, including the single camera showing the runner playing the current game, the couch behind them, and the audience watching and reacting to the action unfolding on the projector screens not shown on the camera. Online runs, on the other hand, would continue the format used by the three online marathons but would swap out the runner's webcam for a shot of the crowd like what's used in live runs, only in this case the runner's webcam would be positioned in the corner of the view. Alternate views would be needed for runs involving multiple runners but at its core it would be a format friendly for both live runs and online runs.

For real though, the marathon was nuts. Day 1 was strong right out of the gate and I think it was the best Day 1 of the online era of marathons, Days 2 and 3 had some solid runs, Day 4 was swallowed up mostly by a run of Golden Sun: the Lost Age that remained a fun watch all the way through and has its fair share of great runs before and after it, and it only got better in the final three days. Day 5 brought the chaos that was the Silly Games Done Quick block, the Sonic block, two runs focused on the DLC for Doom Eternal, and a Generation V Pokémon race. Day 6 was the sole TAS run of the marathon followed by two very, very hype rhythm game showcases (separated by a run of Breath of the Wild), and Day 7 was the unofficial, day-wide "Nintendo block" co-starring Super Meat Boy Forever (the game that got advertised again and again during the GDQ marathons for years) and two Souls games, concluding at the very end with Kingdom Hearts II. Of course not every run was a hit for me, considering some of the games I did see felt very samey (all the first-person games I noticed in the late hours throughout the marathon and the four hours of five Castlevania games in a row on Day 3). The Mega Man runs all being on separate days in lieu of a full block and two of them taking place in the early mornings instead of the usual late morning/early-to-mid afternoons used by major franchises was also a move that I didn't agree with either, though at least it was an improvement over SGDQ 2020's single Mega Man run.

At the end of the day it was nice being able to take the week off and enjoy some games and now I'll be trying to get back to my regular schedule and find the motivation I desperately need in these times.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart Custom Skincolor Extravaganza

Going into this article, you’re probably wondering where did I get an idea like this from? Well, back in 2019 I spent quite a bit of time making custom mock-up colors for Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart and I teamed up with a user in the game’s community named Xkower to produce Collabcolors, a community-made color pack for Vanilla that operated as its own .exe. However, you could not bring these skincolors online into net games unless others also had the .exe and players without it would be displayed with the wrong skincolors. Vanilla Sonic Robo Blast 2 would give server hosts the ability to add on extra skincolors in Version 2.2.5 through scripts, whenever they be traditional skincolors, wild and wacky skincolors meant to be jokes, and a whole slew of animated skincolors.

Before jumping into the project, it's important to note that the game is capable of displaying up to 256 colors and cannot (outside of OpenGL mode) display any color outside that palette. Since Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart was built from version 2.1, various changes that would occur in the palette to expand the versatility of the colors featured in the jump from version 2.1 to version 2.2 don't exist. However, you can use a program called SLADE to convert graphics in the 2.2 palette into the one featured in 2.1 and vice versa, and the alterations will be immediately noticeable. For instance, this is what happens if you take the 2.2 palette and convert it to 2.1:

*Pale yellows, depending on the shade, are converted into light yellow, light orange, or light beige.

*Rose pinks become pale pinks, matching the ones already in the game.

*Seafoam greens become light cyans on the lighter end and teals on the darker end.

*Royal purples are converted into light blues or dark magentas depending on the hue.

*The four brightest shades of magenta are lost- the brightest of them becoming might blue and the rest turning into the lightest shade of magenta available in a palette.

It gets a little better if you take the 2.1 palette and convert it into 2.2, with the only change worth noting is the different type of teal used between the two palettes. But anyways with the above notes in mind I began to backport the more unique colors from vanilla Sonic Robo Blast 2 version 2.2 into Kart. The list of converted skin colors, in addition to the customs mentioned further down the article can be found in this gallery. As everything in this portion was a “Vanilla” color by technicality, I opted to merge them with Kart’s vanilla list:

  1. White
  2. Bone (A shade of grey not in Kart, in Vanilla it serves as a counterpart to Silver)
  3. Silver
  4. Grey
  5. Carbon (A shade of grey not in Kart, in Vanilla it serves as a counterpart to Nickel)
  6. Nickel
  7. Black
  8. Jet (A darker version of Skunk in Vanilla instead of being a dark steel blue)
  9. Skunk
  10. Fairy
  11. Popcorn
  12. Artichoke
  13. Pigeon
  14. Azure (A light grey/steel blue mix instead of a teal/purple mix)
  15. Slate (Fills the upper half of the color ramp with greys instead of lighter steel blues)
  16. Bluebell (Resembles a lighter version of Kart’s “Jet” color)
  17. Sepia
  18. Beige
  19. Walnut
  20. Brown
  21. Leather
  22. Bronze (Vanilla’s version of the color Leather, with dark browns that fade into a dark grey)
  23. Tan (Uses the pale yellows which do not convert successfully to Kart, so light orange is used)
  24. Salmon
  25. Pink
  26. Rose
  27. Brick
  28. Cinnamon
  29. Ruby
  30. Raspberry
  31. Cherry
  32. Red
  33. Crimson
  34. Maroon
  35. Lemonade
  36. Flame
  37. Scarlet
  38. Ketchup
  39. Dawn
  40. Peachy (Has a more dominant use of peach and pinks compared to Kart’s Peach color)
  41. Quail (A light brown that fades into lavender)
  42. Sunset
  43. Copper (Has a more “rustic” look compared to Kart’s version)
  44. Creamsicle
  45. Apricot (A shade of orange with peach for the highlights)
  46. Orange
  47. Pumpkin
  48. Rosewood
  49. Burgundy
  50. Tangerine
  51. Peach
  52. Caramel
  53. Cream
  54. Gold
  55. Royal
  56. Sandy (Resembles Royal but has a greater amount of brown in the color)
  57. Bronze
  58. Copper
  59. Quarry
  60. Yellow (Uses dark yellows in the back half of the ramp instead of golds)
  61. Yellow
  62. Mustard
  63. Crocodile
  64. Olive
  65. Vomit
  66. Garden
  67. Lime
  68. Lime (Resembles a lighter version of Handheld than is more yellow than green)
  69. Peridot (A color that combines army greens with dark yellow to emulate lime green)
  70. Apple (A shade of yellow-green in-between Vanilla’s Lime and Kart’s Handheld)
  71. Handheld
  72. Tea
  73. Pistachio
  74. Moss
  75. Camouflage
  76. Robo-Hood
  77. Mint
  78. Seafoam (A pale green that fades into teal, adjusted to give the former more exposure)
  79. Green
  80. Pinetree
  81. Forest (A darker green in comparison to Pinetree)
  82. Emerald
  83. Swamp
  84. Dream
  85. Plague
  86. Algae
  87. Caribbean
  88. Azure
  89. Cyan (Retrofitted into a successor to Vanilla 2.1’s teal color, uses color 247 to sell the effect)
  90. Aqua
  91. Teal
  92. Cyan
  93. Wave (A light blue that fades into a dark purple, converted to Magenta)
  94. Icy (A lighter Jawz)
  95. Jawz
  96. Cerulean
  97. Navy
  98. Cerulean (A dark navy blue darker than the above two)
  99. Platinum
  100. Slate
  101. Steel
  102. Thunder
  103. Rust
  104. Wristwatch
  105. Jet
  106. Sapphire
  107. Periwinkle
  108. Blue
  109. Blueberry
  110. Nova
  111. Pastel
  112. Vapor (Similar to Wave, but uses light blues to make the color appear more purple)
  113. Purple (Doesn’t use magentas in Vanilla, unlike the “Purple” in Kart)
  114. Moonslam
  115. Ultraviolet
  116. Dusk
  117. Bubblegum
  118. Purple
  119. Neon (A darker version of Kart’s Purple color, known as Indigo in Kart Z)
  120. Plum (Darker version of the below color)
  121. Violet (Resembles Fuchsia but uses dull pinks to transition into the magentas)
  122. Raspberry (Fades into magenta at the end instead of being a shade of red)
  123. Fuchsia
  124. Toxic
  125. Mauve
  126. Lavender
  127. Byzantium
  128. Pomegranate
  129. Lilac (A lighter version of Pomegranate)
  130. Lilac

Most colors in Vanilla, excluding the very dark colors, end with a dark color of the color’s shade. In Kart, all but the lightest colors fade into pure black (color 31). You may also notice that several of the ported Vanilla 2.2 skincolors share their names with several of the Kart colors. No color between the two are 100% alike but to go over exactly how all the skincolors with the same name compare would take too much time out of this read, and the skin olors that were chosen to be ported over were the ones that I felt offered something new to the table or showed just how a skincolor like Peridot would work in Kart without the necessary colors they used in 2.2's palette in the ramp.

Of further note is Color 247, the bright neon cyan or teal. This color is never used in SRB2 and SRB2Kart’s internal graphics at any point, only seeing use to render transparency in textures in vanilla SRB2 and on skincolors in SRB2 2.1 and 2.2 (though in only one instance each). Meanwhile, Kart does not use color 247 for any skincolors by default, only using the darker teals that occupy Colors 220 through 223. It is still possible to see the color in-game if entering a colored sector that turns the sprites to a bright teal such as the underwater section of Paradise Hill Zone and through modding, players can add skins and sprites that use color 247. If the EXE is modded directly, skincolors that use color 247 can be added and will apply onto character skins without issue.

Still, there came the name conflicts and having to rename them all. The names chosen were influenced by some of the colors from the original Collabcolors, as well as the Mega Paint Drive (my spiritual successor for collabcolors) created for Vanilla and in one case, Super Sonic Robo Blast 2 Kart Z. Furthermore to ensure compatibility with the hundreds of characters in Kart already, none of the preexisting Kart colors had their names altered or ramps changed, and no character from the default cast or Bonuschars would have their prefcolors changed for consistency.

  • Jet -> Ink
  • Azure -> Ghost
  • Slate -> Marble
  • Copper -> Rust
  • Yellow -> Banana
  • Lime -> Sunflower
  • Cyan -> Frost
  • Cerulean -> Peacock
  • Purple -> Gemstone
  • Raspberry -> Magenta
  • Lilac -> Thistle

Following reconfiguring the Vanilla colors to better work alongside Kart’s, it was time to adapt the skincolors from Collabcolors. In the end, the ones I ultimately went with were colors I considered unique enough from both the Vanilla and Kart skincolor selections or had some other niche to warrant their inclusions. Understandably, this would mean a lot of colors from Collabcolors would be scrapped or receive major changes, and the colors that I did pick were the ones I considered “useful”, and which ones would work the best with custom characters in mind. In order to avoid dragging the number of colors through the roof, owing to the smaller number of available spots for extra colors in the .exe compared to Vanilla and the presence of the Vanilla recreations. The final list of add-on colors became:

  1. Diamond
  2. Raven
  3. Chocolate
  4. Earthworm
  5. Yogurt
  6. Pearl
  7. Strawberry
  8. Soda
  9. Bloodcell
  10. Mahogany
  11. Fiery
  12. Spice
  13. King
  14. Hot Dog
  15. Carnation
  16. Candy
  17. Nebula
  18. Steampunk
  19. Amber
  20. Carrot
  21. Cheese
  22. Dune
  23. Brass
  24. Lemon
  25. Casket
  26. Khaki
  27. Light
  28. Peppermint
  29. Laser
  30. Asparagus
  31. Army
  32. Crow
  33. Chartreuse
  34. Slime
  35. Leaf
  36. Evergreen
  37. Tropic
  38. Iguana
  39. Spearmint
  40. Patina
  41. Lakeside
  42. Electric
  43. Turquoise
  44. Pegasus
  45. Comet
  46. Lightning
  47. Vacation
  48. Ultramarine
  49. Depths
  50. Dianne
  51. Exotic
  52. Snow
  53. Moon
  54. Lunar
  55. Onix
  56. Lapis
  57. Orca
  58. Storm
  59. Midnight
  60. Cotton Candy
  61. Cyber
  62. Amethyst
  63. Iris
  64. Gothic
  65. Grape
  66. Indigo
  67. Magenta
  68. Disco
  69. Mulberry
  70. Boysenberry
  71. Plum
  72. Elderberry

The original plan called for 70 new skincolors but an extra two snuck in. The final result at least meets my specifications and 102 extra colors along with the original 100 is plenty enough. So then comes the tricky part: Getting everything into the game proper. Vanilla 2.2 has support for custom colors through addons- Kart, as you likely know, doesn’t. Thus, the only way to add the skincolors at this time would be to modify the .exe while steering away from changing/resorting the values of the skincolors. The only solution I could decide on would be appending the new skincolors to the end of the list after Lilac, starting with Bone from the Vanilla recreations and ending with Elderberry in the customs, keeping them as is from there or using the M_MoveColorBefore and M_MoveColorAfter functions in Vanilla to re-order the new skincolors alongside the 100 Kart colors while preserving their values.

The last bit I’ll mention (since this article is getting rather long) is the invcolor, short for Invert Color. This is the skincolor’s opposite on the RBY spectrum. Red uses Green, Blue uses Orange, Yellow uses Cyan, Black uses White, etc. This doesn’t apply to every skincolor, for instance Ketchup (a red skincolor) uses Mustard (a yellow skincolor) since they’re part of the same “condiments“ theme. This aspect of the invcolors would carry over to these new skincolors as well, either using the color’s direct opposite or another color based on the same theme. Vanilla 2.2 lets you pick which shade of the invcolor is used (out of 16), while Kart only has one shade (using the sixth color from the top of the ramp).

Any-who, that’s all I really got on this without dragging on the length of the post. I wanted to make this post and all the accompanying mock-ups more for the “What-If” novelty than anything else. Even if nothing comes out of these ideas I wanted to get them out into the wild anyways and I’ll admit it was fun re-creating all these in the time that it took.