The art of Once Upon a Pixel: BioShock

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I made a video. It was the pilot episode of Once Upon a Pixel, a sort of sister series to the ever-popular Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’. It has a lot of art in it that I drew. People asked me if I would upload that art for their viewing pleasure, like I did with the MGS episode. I told those people, “Yes! I will very soon!”

So, I’m doing that now. Exclusively on Destructoid, I present to you the art of Once Upon a Pixel: BioShock! And just so it isn’t only a bunch of pictures, I’m also taking this opportunity to reflect back on the making of this episode and the origins of OUP.

Below is a jump link that will lead you to the postmortem. Belower is an art gallery containing all of the images used in the film. You can look at one or the other, or both! Enjoy!

The nonexistent animation and simplistic drawings may not be a huge clue, but a lot of work went into this episode! Admittedly, I exaggerated just a little by saying there were “over 50 images used” in the announcement post last week. Only after uploading them all did I realize that there are only 45.

But still! That’s a huge number, and it made for a much bigger project than the prototype OUP that appeared in HAWP. The Metal Gear Solid story only had about 24 images, in comparison. This episode was created over the span of about two months, most of which consisted of drawing. Don’t worry; a lot of time was spent trying to fit time to draw into my schedule, so altogether, it probably took just a few weeks.

BioShock took a lot from the MGS episode in terms of style (once again, credit goes to deathfetish, who created the great paper texture). This was something I did on purpose. The future may hold a lot of different, cool ideas for the series, but I didn’t want to “blow my load,” if you’ll pardon the expression, on the first go. The safest course of action was to make something similar-looking, but on a much bigger scale.

One of the things that changed was the amount of creative input I was offered. Once Upon a Pixel: MGS was a part of HAWP, which left most of the creative stuff up to the Burches. OUP: BioShock was different in that it was a lot more me. Anthony wrote a lot of the story, but the rest of the story and all of the visual jokes were done by myself. The reason for this is that I’m still playing through the game, and didn’t know the story in its entirety. Burch helped me fill in the blanks on the story side of things, and I used the game itself to study the way that different characters, objects, and places looked so that I could make the best replicas possible.

If OUP progresses as a series, I hope to take more and more creative control over things (but still let Anthony do a few things because he is a lot more funny than I am). We want OUP and HAWP to have very different tones to them, rather than have one just be an extension or obvious spin-off of the other. Like how Family Matters was technically a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, yet hardly anyone ever knew it.

Something really unique about the art is that it’s drawn in the first-person perspective. Anthony originally expected that I would draw the story from a third-person point of view, where all of Jack could be seen doing the various things he does. But I thought it would be cute to recreate the first-person view of the game, which was both an awesome idea and a horrible idea at the same time. It was awesome because it turned out looking great, but horrible because it meant I had to draw dozens and dozens of hands, which are probably the hardest part of the human body to draw correctly. I didn’t even go for realism and it was still tough!

One of the creative decisions I do regret is the usage of lines; if you remember the MGS episode, there was no line art. Initially, I left the lines in because I thought I was going to draw backgrounds for each scene. BioShock‘s settings are extremely dark and detailed, so I figured that I had to use outlines to keep things in the foreground and background from muddling together. When time restraints kept me from going all-out with backgrounds, it was way too late to change the style. Fortunately, everyone seemed to love the artwork all the same!

I learned a lot of things through this experience, time management and how to use a Cintiq among them (my old Wacom busted in the middle of production! You might be able to tell a slight difference in quality between some of the pictures…). But most importantly, I learned how much I really love the stories that games have to tell (even if they have lackluster endings). There are so many great ones, and so many that allow you to fill in the blanks with your imagination. Above all else, this makes me excited for what could possibly be the future of OUP. Anthony and I brainstormed the prototype so that we could somehow include my art in a cute HAWP episode, but it is steadily growing into something all its own.

As a final note, I have to give thanks to everyone who watched, Dugg, and wrote me with nice comments about OUP. I love making videogame-related art, whether it’s included with an editorial or stuffed into a video, and to get such an overwhelming amount of feedback on it was fantastic. You all are what keeps me going!

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Ashley Davis
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