If you follow me over on Twitter you’ll have noticed that over the last few months I’ve been drawing a complete Contra Guide book. I started this little project back in January thinking it would be something I could maybe draw in a few weeks. I was heavily inspired by the video game map making that Jeremy Parish was doing over on Retronauts, and I was looking for a project to do that wouldn’t involve looking at a computer screen. The goal was to draw up a map for each stage and the bad guys that went along with those stages. Then it kind of spiraled into something bigger than that. Four months later (although sometimes weeks would go by where I didn’t have a chance to touch the project) I now have a 24 page book about the entirety of Contra for the NES. All of which has been drawn by hand. The maps are crude, and my hand writing is (for better or worse) my hand writing, but that’s the fun of it.
Throughout the creation of the book I have had many people ask me if it would ever be available for purchase either physically or digitally. Unfortunately I do not have a means to physically publish this book at the moment. However I can publish it digitally and on top of that I can give it to people right now. Starting today you will be able to download a PDF of this guide through Gumroad (above!) all for the price of whatever you feel it is worth. Want it for free? No problem. Want to kick in a dollar or two? Swell!
Like many people my age that grew up with video games, I have a strong fondness for old strategy guides, instruction manuals and game magazines. Many of these resources would be full of cool illustrations that you couldn’t see anywhere else. In the case of Nintendo Power they would often have unofficial art drawn just for their guides and previews. As companies have locked down art assets, publications tightened their art budgets and video game manuals have just about gone away, this style of guide book has all but vanished. This book is a tribute to those guides and magazines.
I hope you have as much fun scrolling through it as I did making it. Enjoy!
I have been a fan of Square Painter’s work for some time now and I really love his overly large pixel paintings that he’s done. It always seemed like something fun to do so I decided a few months ago that I wanted to try my hand at a large painting myself. Of course life happened and I never got around to actually making the painting, but then when I was out of work and had that magical time period between getting an offer to start a new gig it opened up the time for me to do something I wanted to do. I already had all the supplies together and now it was time to make my pixel painting. The following are the steps I took in order to pull this painting off. Keep in mind this is a long process. I spent just over 40 hours on actually painting it, plus maybe another 5 of so of prep time before I even started. So don’t expect to blast through this in a night or two.
Figuring Out What You Want to Paint
I wanted to paint a screen shot from Castlevania. In particular I wanted to paint the Clock Tower scene from the original NES game. The first thing I did was find a proper resolution screen shot in GIF (or PNG) format from the exact scene I wanted to paint.
Like many people that grew up with video games during the late 80s and early 90s, I have a very strong appreciation toward the box art that Konami used to make for their games. Artwork on the covers of games like Turtles in Time, Super Castlevania 4 and Contra 3: The Alien Wars has stuck with and inspired me through the years. For many years, the box artist behind these games had gone nameless, but recently discovered to have been painted by a man named Tom duBois. It turns out that Mr. duBois is still painting incredible pictures, though very different from the commercial art he used to create for clients like Konami. Regardless, a few months ago I had the idea to paint up a series of covers inspired by his old artwork. Mainly to learn how to step my game up a bit in regards to digital painting, but also as a tribute to his work. The following are the images I created and below that the steps I took in order to try and emulate the work the best I could.
A few weeks ago Vernon Shaw tweeted that he was looking for some Super Mario Maker courses to use for Game Grumps so I submitted my level Bob-omb’s Blast Barrage and it turns out they ended up using it for the show (my level starts at around the 6:25 mark)! I actually wrote about the creative process for this level in a blog post on my current employer’s blog a few months ago. Since then this level has gone through even further updates as Super Mario Maker added more features. I had fun watching them play the level and making discoveries about how it worked. I especially got a smile out of Arin claiming one of the later tasks to be “pretty cool.” After 100 episodes of playing Mario Maker levels you would think they have seen it at, so it was a nice subtle compliment.
So I thought this was a nice surprise worth sharing, and Arin’s kind words about the work I (we’ve) done through the years was (and is) very uplifting.
Something I’ve found during my Artistic Journey over the last year is that I like listening to things that motivate me. Sometimes all I need is a little push to get me in the right mind set in order to inspire me to work harder. Thanks to Stephen Silver I get that little push every Monday morning in the form of an Art Talk video.
Stephen brings years of experience not just as a successful artist, but as a father, into his insightful videos. As someone that is an “Art Dad” it’s nice to see the perspective of someone who not only gets it, but lives it. I’ll take whatever help I can get in figuring out just how to master this work, family, passion balance. However don’t think that there is nothing there for you if you don’t fall into that camp. The nice thing about Stephen’s videos is that they’re helpful for all ranges of artist be it a beginner or a seasoned industry professional.
Last June I signed up for my first panel at a local convention called Too Many Games. Without dancing around it, the panel had about 7 people show up to it. Yeah, it was a bit of a failure, but I think the presentation had some good info in there! Since then I’ve been trying to think of a way to share the presentation with everyone and I decided to do it through this blog post. This way, unlike recording a video, I can update it if I feel there was something I missed or would like to include later. I hope that you find this useful.
If you haven’t noticed I have been trying to put a little bit of effort back into the “Nerdlog.” Over the last two weeks I’ve had more updates than normal. The fact is, I miss writing. I’m not the best writer, but it’s something I do enjoy doing and it’s been missing in my life for a while. Second thing is, people actually still visit this thing! Can you believe that? Third thing is, well, I pay for it, I might as well use it! So let me address all of these points.
Like I said, I miss writing. I can’t say expect the same level of activity like back in the Nerdlog’s heyday, but I’d like to start having fun with it again. I’m not sure if I’m going to do them, but I even have some ideas for stuff like the old Feature articles I used to it. The Nerdlog is not going to be my focus though. That said, I’d like to have one or two updates a week. Two updates a week would be great!
Then there is the fact that people still visit this blog. Mostly there are three evergreen features I put together that still get a lot of traction. They are, The Wizard: Where Are They Now?, Restore your N64 to your former glory, and The Ultimate Guide to Restoring the NES. These articles were put together from ’07 through ’09. Since they still get a fair amount of visitors I have actually gone through all three of them and added a bit of new content to them. So much has changed in regards to all three of those topics since I wrote about them. Retro gaming exploded, my cleaning methods have changed, and parts that were hard to come by (like N64 analog sticks) are in full supply. In regards to The Wizard, we’ve learned more about the movie now that it’s picked up in popular culture through interviews with the director, and cast. I felt all of these things were important to add into the articles to freshen them up and keep them relevant.
Finally, the money thing. I have paid for Shamoozal.com’s web space out of pocket for over a decade. For ages I never even had a single ad on this site. It wasn’t until last year I added one whole Google Ad to every page. Believe me, it doesn’t give me much. In fact, I haven’t even been paid out from Google yet, that’s just how low of a figure that is. That said, I do plan on testing different ads and revenue generators. In an effort to be fully transparent, I’ve scattered Amazon listing links into some articles. If people click these and buy products through them, I get a very small commission. I’m not telling you to click these and buy things using them. I’m just putting it out there that these things are in place and that the reason they’re in place is to potentially take some of the burden off of me from this site that has essentially been a money pit for 10 years. Side note: I have no interest in doing something like a Patreon because I have nothing to offer in a Patreon like set up.
Anyway, hopefully I can keep the streak of new posts coming.
My brother Frank was a huge part of Shamoozal back when we were doing our thing. He’s the reason Crapfest Force and How to Hook up the NES turned out really nice. He did tons of work on the GFGames series. Lots of people think all that stuff was me but there were times when Frank was doing possibly even more animation work on Shamoozal than I was. We were juggling lots of stuff at that point, like running the blog, the message boards, a podcast and god knows what else. It was crazy!
Anyway, for the last few months Frank has been putting some time into his YouTube channel simply titled Frank Summers Animation. There you can find his reels and other highlights of his professional work. However he usually updates it with some sketches that he does live called Wednesday Lunch Live and has even recently started to add Toon Boom tutorials.