Pokémon Uranium

Uraniumlogo

I suppose I shouldn’t get much further into this blog without talking about my own game, the one where practically all my fakemon designs go: Pokemon Uranium.

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Here are some at-a-glance facts about Pokemon Uranium: it is not a ROM hack. It is a Pokemon styled game made using RPGMaker XP and Pokemon Essentials, a template that allows anyone, given enough time and dedication, to make their own Pokemon game with limited programming expertise required. It is designed to be played on PC, though you can get it to work on Macintosh too, apparently. You can download and play it right now, if you want to: the latest release is v3.1, which came out in May… of 2013. We haven’t had a new beta release in a long while, mostly because we planned to release the completed game… only it’s just kept on growing, and growing, with no end in sight.

Rest assured, the latest release has plenty of content: I estimate the total gameplay to be about 10~12 hours long. It contains 5 gyms, 3 optional sidequests, and 90 different species of Pokemon, a handful of them canon species (including Dunsparce, Corsola, and Mareep) but the vast majority are all-new. I’m quite proud of the version of Uranium that’s currently playable, but frankly it pales in comparison to the state the game is in now. I eagerly anticipate the day we are able to release our completed game, but unfortunately it’s just not quite ready yet, and won’t be any time soon.

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Venisi city, one of my favorite areas in the game.

Uranium is made primarily by two people: myself, and JV who is responsible for coding the actual game, making the maps, scripting the cutscenes, putting together our original musical score, troubleshooting and fixing bugs, and basically everything else that’s important and essential for this game to work. Without JV, there would be no playable game at all. I could never have made it this far into realizing my forever dream of making my own Pokemon game without his eternal patience and support. You rule, JV.

As for my part, I do the designs & sprites for the fakemon (most of them — there’s a handful that were designed by other people). I also write the plot, and all of the in-game dialogue. I plan the movesets, although this is often a collaborative endeavor. But none of this would have any meaning if I didn’t have JV to put it all together into a playable, fun, and (mostly) bug-free package.

The fully-evolved starters: Metalynx, Archilles, and Electruxo

The fully-evolved starters: Metalynx, Archilles, and Electruxo.

I feel like I’ve summarized Uranium a million and one times, considering I built & maintain the official website, WikiTumblr page, Twitch channel and numerous other sub-sites and social media thingamajigs that I have trouble keeping track of them all. But here are some things that make Uranium special, in case you’re too lazy to read the Info page I spent so much time setting up for this exact purpose:

  • New region, Tandor
  • New fakemon, at least 100
  • New evolutions of canon Pokemon, including Corsola and Dunsparce
  • New Pokemon type, Nuclear

There are also new features that we have added since the last beta and will be in the next game release, which include:

  • GTS
  • Wonder Trade
  • Mystery Gift
  • Mega Evolutions
  • Nuzlocke Mode
  • Virtual Trainer Battle (upload your team and battle against CPU-controlled teams of other players. Compete for global ranking!)
  • Custom Pokemon Showdown server (not actually in game, but I consider it a feature)

In case you think this is complete bull crap, here are some screenshots to prove it’s real:

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Nuzlocke mode settings

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Virtual trainer card

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Showdown server graciously provided to us by the kind folks at Fuji Labs — though I should note it’s not 100% working quite yet.

Most of this is, again, all JV’s doing whilst I sat around twiddling my thumbs and rearranging pixels on a screen. I have little doubt that when this project is done, it’s going to be a big freakin’ deal — well, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. We’ve made it this far by working a little bit at a time. I’ve seen too many fangame projects get too big, too fast, and collapse under the weight of all their failed ideas. We have a solid base already, so it’s just a matter of making adjustments until it’s perfect. At this point, we will hardly settle for anything less.

My reasons for making this game are simple. It’s not for money (because Pokemon is copyright so, like, we can’t profit from it), or for glory (and honestly, I kind of dread the backlash that games like this inevitably receive). It’s simply about following the dream I’ve had ever since I was a little Twitch.

Some people want to become doctors, or astronauts. But, me? I just wanted to make my own Pokemon game. I wanted to make the kind of game I’d like to play. If other people can enjoy it too, then I consider that to be a success.

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Moki town, where your journey begins.

I want to say more here that I haven’t said before, so let’s talk about how far we’ve come. JV and I have been working on Pokemon Uranium since 2008. For some real-life context, I was just starting high school at the time. Uranium wasn’t my first game project — I’d already gotten a lot of practice spriting and developing pretentious ideas about what it takes to make a Pokemon game from a previous project that never went anywhere, called Pokemon Amber, but that’s a story for another blog post. I knew what I had to do: I wanted to find someone who knew how to map and code, but were looking for someone who could sprite. It just so happened that JV was that exact person. We met on PokeCommunity and started talking (on MSN… those were the good ol’ days). Pretty soon we were able to put out a beta, which was a pretty big deal back then.

Only thing was… it looked like this:

3rd gen graphics with egregious cloud overlays everywhere because WHY NOT

The battle screens weren’t much better.

And my personal favorite…

dear god what IS that thing????

Part of the reason it’s taken 6 years to come this far is because Uranium underwent a total graphical overhaul, not just once but twice: in between betas 1 and 2 and then again between betas 2 and 3. If you can envision that, just picture the degree of improvement between betas 3 and 4, with “Beta” 4 intended to be the completed release of the game. We mean to keep most of the content from Beta 3 intact, though knowing me, I’ll still want to make some occasional tweaks along the way.

So, yeah, consider this a primer on the one thing I have dedicated more time to in my life than anything else, aside from maybe education. And being that I have worked on this game for a good quarter of my life, I have an infinite number of things to say about it, so expect me to return to this topic many, many times. Also, you are welcome to ask me questions. Lots and lots of questions! I love talking about this game.

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If this has piqued your interest, and you’d like to learn more, you can click any of those links towards the top of the article, or this one, to go to our website which functions as a landing page with more info about the game and a link to download it as well as links to all our various sub-sites. I’d also like to note that we have a forum for discussion about the game, and if you would like to know what we are working on right now or to be a part of the creative process in any way you are welcome to join.

That’s all for today. Next time, I’ll most likely do some meta-analysis of Pokemon designs, or another fakemon feature. Until then, have a great day!

~ Oripoke

Fakemon Designs: Shrimputy and Krillvolver

shrimputy line

Name: Shrimputy & Krillvolver
Type: Water/Fire
Ability: Sniper
Moves: Scald, Flame Burst, Smack Down, Bubblebeam, Flamethrower

I’ll start things off by talking about my most recent fakemon designs, Shrimputy and Krillvolver. Like most of my fakes, they are in Pokemon Uranium, found in the underwater routes. I’ll break these types of posts into two parts: the first where I talk about the methodology behind the design and the second where I talk about the sprite itself.

Design

Shrimputy and Krillvolver are based on 3 different things. The first, and primary aspect of their design, is a pistol shrimp:

One of those animals that just seem tailor-made to be Pokemon.

There’s a reason why the pistol shrimp is so badass. To quote Wikipedia:

The animal snaps a specialized claw shut to create a cavitation bubble that generates acoustic pressures of up to 80 kPa at a distance of 4 cm from the claw. As it extends out from the claw, the bubble reaches speeds of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and releases a sound reaching 218 decibels.[11] The pressure is strong enough to kill small fish.

The snap can also produce sonoluminescence from the collapsing cavitation bubble. As it collapses, the cavitation bubble reaches temperatures of over 5,000 K (4,700 °C).[15] In comparison, the surface temperature of the sun is estimated to be around 5,800 K (5,500 °C).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpheidae

It’s a shrimp that literally shoots boiling-hot water out of its claws to stun and kill prey. If that doesn’t sound like a Pokemon, I don’t know what does. It boggles the mind as to why a pistol shrimp Pokemon doesn’t already exist ye–

What’s that, you say? Oh…

Looks like they beat me to it.

Yeah, so, there kind of already is a Pokemon that’s based on a pistol shrimp. And what a cool design it is! Clauncher’s got a relatively simple design using three colors and a distinctive silhouette, and Clawitzer’s got a cool name as well as a badass-looking gigantic claw that can shoot laser beams. I think these are some really solid designs, and I also think it’s a crying shame that they’re a pure-Water type rather than the much more interesting Water/Fire which I used for my shrimps. In my defense, I had this line envisioned before the 6th gen was even released: Shrimputy’s design dates back to an old Pokemon forum RPG, and I liked it too much to just leave it behind.

Besides (and I am getting a bit defensive here), look how many goddamn crab Pokemon there are. Seriously.

There's a cream for that

(Those last 3 are Cocaran, Cararalm, and Cocancer, the other crab Pokemon found in Uranium. And uh, I guess Dwebble and Crustle are in there too. You could have half your team be crabs, if you wanted to. Nothing is stopping you.)

*cough* Anyway, knowing that I needed to tweak my pistol shrimp’s design to set it apart from Clauncher and Clawitzer, I did what I often do: pulled in other influences.

The Mantis Shrimp.

The mantis shrimp I mostly just included because of the pretty colors. Pretty and deadly: these guys are one of the crucial predators in their ecosystems, and have a similar kind of bullet-punch type deal like the pistol shrimp does. These guys will mess you up! The Oatmeal does a great job of explaining what makes these guys so awesome.

And secondly:

A cowboy.

There’s a reason that Shrimputy and Krillvolver look like they’re wearing cowboy hats: because, in addition to being shrimps, they are also cowboys. Here was my thought process: Pistol shrimp -> Who uses pistols? -> Cowboys use pistols -> Cowboy shrimp. In the end, I’m sorry I couldn’t get more “cowboy” into Krillvolver’s design, beyond the ten-gallon hat. I wanted to work a sheriff’s star into their design, but I couldn’t fit it in on a small pixel scale so I had to give it up.

Rest assured, though, these guys are the underwater police, and you won’t find a quicker draw anywhere in the seven seas.

Now that I’ve explained my thought process behind the gun-shrimp-cowboys, I’ll move on to the technical process behind the artwork:

Sprites

shrimputy line 2x

Let’s look at these again, but at a 2x zoom this time.

Would you believe that guns, swords, and other weapons are my least favorite things to pixel? I had to look up lots and lots of references to get Krillvolver’s gun to look like anything close to a real gun, while still keeping in mind that it’s a crab claw, too. In the end, I reached the sort of compromise you can see here, and I used all of the colors in its design to designate the different parts of the gun (handle, barrel, trigger, bullet chamber, and the thingy on top).

Like almost all of my sprites, I started with a sketch:

shrimps sketch

Forgive the atrocious cell phone quality.

Some details were changed between the sketch and the final product, including the whiskers (which were simplified to allow for more detail on the gun) and the number of legs. Shrimputy is also missing some details in the sketch, because I drew it from memory, but the sprite was already basically finished at that point. I should probably note that this was around my 4th or 5th draft of Krillvolver’s design, and the first one that I was mostly satisfied with.

Now, let’s talk color. Shrimputy has 3 main colors: pink, teal, and brown. It also has the darker blue on its back and the metallic grey on the barrel of the gun. This is less than ideal, honestly: I think that first-stage Pokemon should have a maximum of 4 colors, tops. 3 is ideal.

Comparatively, Krillvolver actually has even fewer colors. In fact, it only has a total of 10:

shrimputy palette

Krillvolver’s palette.

These are all the colors that I used in its sprite. Note how they blend into each other: the dark purple is shared between the red and yellow shades. Now, there’s no actual reason for me to limit my palette, since Uranium’s engine allows for any number of colors on a sprite. It’s more of a stylistic choice: I like to do the most with the fewest colors possible when it comes to my pixel art. The fact that a colorful creature such as a mantis shrimp can be represented with this few colors feels, in my book, like a success.

On the flip side, you may notice that it’s somewhat lacking in shading. That’s because I couldn’t really find a way to get shading to work without adding several new shades of color. In the end, I decided to add in a significant amount of detail in order to distract from the lack of shading on the carapace. You didn’t even notice, right? I’m not lazy or anything. Ha ha. Right. That would be ridiculous.

…So, yeah, that’s about all I have to say about these cowboy shrimp. If you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to ask! Next time, I’ll most likely post about my fakemon design process in a more general sense.

Until then, have a great day, and thank you for reading!

~ Oripoke

Welcome!

Sheebit, Terrabbit, and Laissure - some of my oldest designs

Hello, and welcome to my new art blog.

Oripoke, or オリポケ is the Japanese word for Fakemon — it’s short for “Original Pokemon”. Since Pokemon is itself short for “Pocket Monster”, it’s a sort of recursive acronym. I’ve adopted it as a handle because it’s concise, memorable and describes what I do best. However, you may also know me as Involuntary Twitch, or even Zephyr+ (from my old days on the PokeCommunity). Feel free to call me either Oripoke or Twitch — either one is fine with me.

First, a little about me: I got started doing pixel art around 8~9 years ago, when I was just discovering internet forums. I started out doing edits and “splices” but soon moved on to drawing pixel art from scratch. My tools of the trade are: Microsoft Paint, GraphicsGale, and Paint.net. I’m of the firm belief that you don’t need anything else, or any sort of paid program, in order to create pixel art. You can find a vast majority of my artwork on my DeviantART gallery, and you can see it in action if you play my game, Pokemon Uranium.

I will freely admit that I am not the best in the world at what I do. There are better fakemon designers, better pixel artists, and any number of talented and prolific people who do amazing work which puts mine to shame. I’ll name some of my influences, and you are welcome to view their work and draw inspiration from them as I do. What I hope to do with this blog is to shed some light on the process at work behind my design, and hopefully inspire and provoke some thought.

Some of my biggest artistic inspirations include:

There are many, many more, I’ve just listed a few. 🙂

Selkid, Syrentide, and Mega Syrentide

Why Fakemon?

It’s kind of strange, I know, putting this much value in something as seemingly unimportant as unofficial Pokemon. After all, there is exactly zero chance of ever having my designs immortalized in the official games, despite the dreams of my 9-year-old self who planned to “design a game and send it in to GameFreak so that they could make it”. However, I didn’t let that get in the way of my childhood dream of making my own Pokemon game. I’d seen Rom Hacks like Pokemon Quartz, which, despite the so-bad-it’s-good quality, I actually hold in high esteem because it’s one of the few 100% completed fan-made games with entirely original Pokemon that exists to this day.

Let me put it this way: Pokemon is one of the most successful video game franchises in the world. It has a universal appeal, to both children and adults, due to, I think, its unique idea of “catch ’em all”. My favorite aspect of the Pokemon games is completing the Pokedex, a project that is far from easy now that there are 718+ Pokemon out there at the time of writing. I also love the way that every adventure is unique, and each journey is your own personal narrative. It may be linear, and have a somewhat predictable plot, but no two Pokemon journeys are exactly alike. This personal story is what gives it such a wide appeal, and what compelled me to make a Pokemon game of my own.

CorsoreefNucleonDunseraph

I make fake Pokemon because I love Pokemon. I think there is infinite creative potential, and so many sources of inspiration for new creatures, but we only get a new generation of Pokemon every 5 years or so. I make fake Pokemon because I love to create, and Pokemon provides a template of sorts, where you can choose types, abilities, and moves that already exist. I also do design other kinds of creatures, including Digimon and original species, but I always return to Pokemon in the end. There’s no place like home, after all.

This post is risking getting a little long so I think I’ll end it here for today. In the future I plan to post about my design process, my techniques, tips and tricks when making pixel art, more information about Pokemon Uranium, what I think makes a strong or weak design, and much, much more. I hope you’ll get something out of this blog, whether it’s inspiration to make your own Fakemon or a better appreciation for the art of creature design. I invite feedback, comments, and criticism if you have anything to say. I look forward to sharing my ideas with you!

~ Oripoke

Volchik, Voltasu, Yatagaryu