Tag 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).

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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Drawing animated shapes and text in Core Animation layers

Star and text
Star and text
The other day I was overcome by the desire to create an animated start-burst, price-tag type graphic with iOS. Time to break out some Core Graphics and Core Animation code. On the way to getting it going, I came across some interesting gotchas, which I thought it’d be useful to talk about here.
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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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Minilight renderer in F#

Cornell Box in the evening
Cornell Box in the evening
I’m a sucker for eye-candy, and the other day I came across the beautifully lit renders produced by Minilight. It’s a nice, minimal implementation of a global illumination renderer that’s been ported to a wide variety of different languages from C to ActionScript. So of course, I couldn’t resist trying to implement it in F#.
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Creating an iPad flip-clock with Core Animation

flipclock_oneAs part of the sliding puzzle game I’m developing for the iPhone and iPad (well, I can’t survive on the profits from BattleFingers forever), I looked for a way to represent a numeric score and time display in an interesting way. One of the nicer visual effects you could use for this is the “flip-card clock” style, where each number consists of a top and bottom part, and the top part flips down to reveal the next number. It’s been used in a few other places including the home screen in the HTC Diamond device, and its physical, realistic style fits well with the iPad, so I set about creating a version for the iPhone and iPad using the built-in Core Animation library. Read on for more details.
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Highlights from onedotzero – wow+flutter

I took a trip down to London’s Southbank on Sunday evening to see wow+flutter, a showcase of short, digitally-themed animations that are part of onedotzero, an annual festival and tour celebrating “adventures in moving image”. I’ve been several times before when it was based at the ICA (it’s now moved to the BFI National Film Theatre), and I always find it really inspiring. Normally, I can never remember the details of the films I’ve seen – it’s pretty intense; with over an hour of back-to-back shorts each lasting only 1-3 minutes – but this year they provided a list of the films details, so I can report on some of my highlights and provide links to some of the films.

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