Archive entry by Ste Pickford on Tue, 14 Jul 2009
I posted the concept art sketch a while ago. This is the actual in-game map graphic from IronSword, the first NES game we did, around 1987 / 1988.
We were going for the Capcom / Ghosts 'n' Goblins kind of look, but it's fair to say that the in-game version of the map doesn't have anything like the amount of detail that the sketch does. I think the sketch was part of the pitch to get the gig in the first place, before I knew anything about what the NES was capable of (we were working mostly on the Amiga at the time, and the NES is quite a step back from the Amiga from an artist's point of view, even though it can probably push more around the screen at a higher frame rate thanks to the hardware scrolling).
The image at the top is a screenshot of the game. The lower image is a working version of the same screen from my backups. You can see where I've removed all the repeated characters from the map, and then above the actual block of character data that would be stored in the ROM, containing only the actual unique character data for this screen. I think the font was in a different 'block' of character data that could be paged in separately. The floating heads of the elementals were sprites overlaid over the top, so didn't need to fit into the same character set.
The job of graphic was always about 30% drawing, and about 70% fiddly technical stuff (which was why so many terrible artists - people who couldn't draw at all - made decent video game artists back then, if they could manage the technical side of things well enough).