For my first in-depth look at Pixelscape: Oceans, I thought I would start at the beginning. Not because it’s the logical place to start, but because the beginning is so radically different than the near-end that it is at today. The undersea creation tool that has taken shape over the past year-plus actually started as a single screensaver of a virtual aquarium. I had no intention (or capability) of creating a program for people to use to make their own things. I was barely capable of using the program Clickteam Fusion 2.5 (a fantastic creation tool) to create MY thing. For a while though, it didn’t matter that I probably wouldn’t succeed.
When I began placing pixels down on the frame editor screen (where all the visuals are composed and placed in Fusion) I simply needed an outlet. The plan was to make a screensaver of an aquarium-like scene with a few virtual fish. I hoped to succeed at this, but didn’t expect to. Making the art was like creative yoga. An exercise in creativity that was more aimed at calming my mind and nerves than at strengthening my skills as a creator. The initial results were less than stellar but it was something to do to help with my anxiety, and so I persisted. In fact, it was my initial failures at creating authentic looking aquarium art that drove me toward the program I have today.
My first attempt at what was supposed to look like a home aquarium in a well lit room. I’m sorry you had to see this.
My failure ignited a search for inspiration and reference, which in turn re-ignited my passion for the natural world. After dozens of clips from the likes of Planet Earth and Finding Nemo to random Youtube clips of Sea Turtles just swimming around, I realized something that almost seemed counter-intuitive: My scope was too small. In trying to create something simple I was trapped by a need for perfection. If my virtual aquarium was to work I was going to have to nail a specific look that wasn’t easy to do in low-resolution pixel art. Instead, I needed to go…dare I say…deeper. The rich color set of the deep blue sea would provide a more illustrative, less clinical palette to work from. I could let my imagination loose, and worry less about the individual details and more about creating a complete experience. As the color palette grew, so too did the objects that I was creating. Eventually, after hours of creating new art, and starting to see some success, I wondered if it would be possible to create more than one scene.
What followed closely mirrored my initial search for oceanic inspiration: I began to consume tutorials, both written and visual, on the various different aspects I would need to create the tools that are in the program today. With each successful implementation of a new feature my mind raced toward new possibilities (and many more failures to be talked about in another post). Eventually, my mind wouldn’t stop racing, and there would be times when I would jump out of bed to write down a new feature idea I had: What if objects could be flipped and rotated? What if there were multiple layers to easily place background and foreground objects? What if I added multiple lighting options for different moods? What if some objects looked or behaved differently in some lighting? And on it went until I had something more resembling the Pixelscape: Oceans of today.
Not visible: The most recent addition- water distortion effects that create smooth warping and waving of the undersea scenes
The Missing Peace
The great irony of this story is that instead of calming my mind, like I had set out to, I was agitating it like I never had before, but at least the thoughts that constantly filled my head were good thoughts. Now, as I near completion, I do find myself able to sit and stare at one of my many virtual ocean scenes with burbling and bubbling sounds, and enchanting music (by the super talented Spacesick), and find the peace of mind that I was searching for over a year ago. My hope is that Pixelscape: Oceans can do the same for at least a few others, and if not, then maybe it can (re)ignite their passion for the ocean like it did mine.