Category Archives: Graphics

Book Review: Arcade Game Typography: The Art of Pixel Type

Arcade Game Typography

This book sits firmly at the intersection of gaming nerdiness and typographical geekery. It’s a deep-dive into the heavily constrained but creative world of the typefaces of 70s, 80s, and 90s arcade games.

Toshi Omagari’s book is a combination of glossy coffee table experience and reference manual, with both full-colour screenshots and the fonts themselves, laid out in their raw 8×8 gridded glory.

There are plenty of screenshots of the fonts being used in-situ in classic games, as well as more esoteric ones like Yu Suzuki’s lesser known work Dynamite Dux. There are also some interesting historic tidbits about the development of the fonts – including the lineage; how fonts were “borrowed” and adapted by various arcade machine manufacturers rather than being created from scratch.


The book is organised around font styles rather than decades or genres, so all the serif typefaces are in their own section, for example. Other groups include decorative, slanted and horizontally accented fonts. However if you do want to find a particular game, you can use the index to locate it. There are around 250 by my reckoning, picked from the around 4,500 that Omagari included in his research.

It’s great to see a book like this delve so deeply into one specific aspect of video game design. It uses a set of constraints to restrict the subject matter (8×8, monospaced, pixel-based, arcade games only), but then revels in exploring all the ways in which artists and developers found to squeeze value from those 64 precious pixels. It’s geeky and fascinating.

Arcade Game Typography: The Art of Pixel Type, by Toshi Omagari, published by Thames and Hudson (associate link, or do what I did and buy from here and support your local bookshop).

Lego Millennium Falcon – Buy or Build?

soloStar Wars has been very much in my thoughts lately. Like pretty much everyone in the world, probably, given the huge marketing push behind The Force Awakens. So I couldn’t help but stop and stare when, in the window of a sleepy toy shop in a quiet corner of the UK where my Dad lives, I saw a large, impressive-looking Lego Millennium Falcon. I peered closer, then recoiled in horror at the price tag: £189.99! Whoa.

So like any sensible person, I turned to the internet to see if this beauty was available anywhere else at a more reasonable price. And that’s when I fell into the rabbit hole of Lego Millennium Falcons: rare ultimate collector editions, custom-builds, retired models, 10179s, BrickLinks and MOCs. Oh my.
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SpriteKit for Cocos2D developers

spritekit logoOn my recent iOS puzzler Wordz, I decided not to reinvent the wheel, and instead use an off-the-shelf 2d game framework. I settled on Cocos2d. It makes it very easy to put together sprite-based games or apps by providing all the basic pieces like a scene graph, animations and integration with a couple of physics engines. It’s built on OpenGL but, happily, hides all that away from you – unless you need it.

No sooner had I released it, than Apple came out and announced a new framework for 2d games: SpriteKit. And it’s remarkably similar to Cocos2d. Here I’ll take a look at a few places where they differ, so you know what to look out for if you’re considering migrating to SpriteKit.
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Dynamic D3 with Knockout.js

A couple of things happened recently that prompted me to write this blog post. Firstly, I’ve been playing around with HTML5/javascript based user interfaces and data visualisation. Secondly, I watched a fascinating presentation from UX guru Brett Victor, making me wonder if it was possible to create an interactive, data-drawing app like the one he demonstrates, purely with Javascript. There are 2 well established JS frameworks that we could combine to help us here: Knockout.js and D3. But can we make them work well together?
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A short (and round) history of the button

Early MacOS OK and Cancel buttons
Early MacOS OK and Cancel buttons
The push button. It’s truly the blunt instrument of UI design. While most other controls provide some indication of the type of operation they’re performing – sliders are adjusting a value, a switch is moving between two states – buttons just mean “do something”. What? The only way to tell is to press it and see. But this shouldn’t be the case.
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Kinect SDK with F#

Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?
Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?
I finally got around to taking a look at the Kinect SDK the other day, partly because I was interested to see how the API looked from F#. Unfortunately getting it going turned out to be more of a pain than I was expecting.

The first bit was easy: I’m “lucky” enough to have one of the older Xboxes, which meant I’d had to get a Kinect with separate power, which is the one required by the SDK. Now all I needed was a Windows machine to develop on.
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onedotzero – Sprites – doing it for the kids

pleixI’ve been a fan of onedotzero – the forward-looking moving-image festival – for many years. I always try and make it to at least one of the screenings, normally wow+flutter, but with a couple of kids it’s been getting a bit difficult to find the time recently. The content could be pretty “dark”, so it’s definitely not a good idea to bring them along, in fact you have to be 16 years old to get into the screenings.

But this year, much to my surprise and delight, they introduced a special, Sunday-afternoon screening especially for kids, called “Sprites”; excellent! Now I had an excuse to bring the whole family along too! Was it a co-incidence that Shane Walter, curator of the festival, and his lady wife have had a baby this year…? Maybe…
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