Such has been the pace of change in videogame technology over the past twenty years that the current releases of today bear little resemblance to those we were playing in the early 90s. But a fondness for looking back is still rife within the community, proved by the numerous articles on infinitecontinues celebrating the 8-bit sprites of yesteryear in various media. Swedish artist Markus (a.k.a. Junkboy) pays homage to gaming roots in a slightly different way – by re-imagining gaming’s current crop of titles as retro games. We bagged a few words with Junkboy to explain the origins of these ‘premakes’ and how they are made.
infinitecontinues: Hi Markus. Who are you and what do you do?
M: I am a Swedish illustrator and graphic artist born in the early 1980s. I am a self-taught doodler and I grew up wanting nothing more than to work with videogames. As a cruel twist of fate, I ended up doing work in the casual and social gaming side of things, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? In my spare time I dabble a bit with magazine work, indie game projects and pixel graphics. That’s when I go by the name of Junkboy.
ic: infinitecontinues found you by seeing your ‘de-make’ works online. You have had a fair bit of exposure through these – tell us a little more about them.
M: A fairly big chunk of Level, the magazine where they were originally published, is made up of a retro gaming section and the “demakes”, or “premakes” as we call them, are one of those pages. When we pick a game to “premake” we mainly look at what is being released in that particular month, or what kind of trends we are seeing. Sometimes though I will just make whatever I feel like on that particular day. From a highbrow perspective, you could describe the premakes as a way to contextualize contemporary games, by literally showing their historic roots. But that would be silly and pretentious, so the truth is more that we just think it’s a fun thing to do.
‘Soul Caliber’, ‘BioShock’ and ‘Bayonetta’ premakes
ic: What other types of work do you produce for Level?
M: I mostly produce anxiety and headaches for the layout and editorial staff. Sometimes I’ll make illustrations for articles and columns, as well as the occasional cover artwork. I really get to mix it up, play around with different styles and mediums, while getting paid for it. Every artist should be so lucky.
‘Clutter’ – Junkboy’s cover for the 50th issue of Level magazine
ic: Take us through the making of one of your ‘premakes’. What software and techniques do you use? How do you get it looking so perfectly retro like you do?
M: When I create pixel graphics, which is what the “premakes” basically are, I use Photoshop and GraphicsGale, an app that is specifically geared towards creating pixel graphic assets. The way I see it, the key to create something which feels authentically retro is to treat the image elements – all the characters, explosions and so on – exactly the same way as you would with actual art assets on a retro gaming system; limited colour palette, no alpha layers, no anti-alias. I tend to fake a bit in that regard, but the overall impression is that the “premakes” look more like screenshots than anything, and that’s what sells the illusion.
There is also a teeny-weeny bit of virgin sacrifices and black magic in the process, but that is better saved for another time.
‘Guitar Hero’, ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ and ‘Resident Evil 5′ premakes
ic: Are you a big gamer? What are you currently playing?
M: I am far too busy reading and talking about games, as well as creating them, than to actually play them. My attention span seems to have been getting shorter over the years as well and whenever I’m forced to sit through some tutorial that teaches me controls I already know from a dozen other games, I just feel like choking someone.
Having said that I’ve really been enjoying Alan Wake and Afterburner Climax lately, two very complimentary gaming experiences, somehow.
ic: How can people stay up-to-date with your new artworks?
M: Keep an eye on Kotaku, I’ve had a habit of showing up there lately. Who knew bribing actually worked? But, more realistically, you could check out my deviantArt or pixeljoint accounts, where I tend to upload stuff every now and then. My own website is in a perpetual state of construction and will not see the light of day for a while still. And, if you are in Sweden, it is your solemn duty to buy every new issue of Level, because my art graces the pages every now and then.