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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Scott Balmer Has All Items In The Game Interview

Scott Balmer's special mixed media piece for the interview.
Scott Balmer's recent pieces of Zelda Items and Mario Items have been buzzing around the Internet for some time now. Just going over his other work you can see he's a gamer with exquisite skill, an artist with great talent. Each item for his pieces has been recrafted from his view. It begs the questions why don't special art editions of Nintendo games come up? If Mario and Zelda can take on sticker and cartooish forms why not make levels with diferrent artists taking over with thier own style. Scott Balmer is a prime example of what such a game could looks likel. At the very least, he should be doing special edition player guides wrapped in leather jackets. Below, I asked him a few questions about his work and some of his views on gaming in general.

Scott Balmer's

Your pieces Mario and Zelda Items have been sweeping the Internet, they are both amazing work based on each series.  What made you want to create them and in the style you did?

There's always been no shortage of Zelda fan art but interestingly there hasn't been that much that focus on the actual items themselves. Most I've seen feature link struggling to carry the numerous items accumulated during his adventures. I also kind of liked how the items were arranged in the games like in 'A Link to the Past' and the way they were always presented with each item set at an angle, which was one of a few reasons why I ended up looking purely at the items themselves.

Actually the Zelda one first started off as something to spruce up my twitter landing page but while working on it I thought it would be good to make them into wallpapers for all to enjoy.

The Mario themed items came after how well received the Zelda wallpapers/icons went down where I thought it would be great to feature items from Mario's own adventures. 

What research did you have to do to for the pieces, did you just track pictures down online or did you replay some of the games?

Mostly it was from memory, I've pretty much played and completed most of the Zelda/Mario games so it was more on thinking about using a mixture of items spanning the series such as the Roc's feather which I can remember came from Link's Awakening just because it was the only item from back in the 2D Zelda sprite days that I can think of that allowed link to jump. 

Personally it was my goal to add items spanning the Zelda games rather than focusing on recent titles such as Ocarina of Time. That's why there is the blue candle from Zelda 2 and the raft/ladder from the original Zelda amongst the rest.

I still had a brief look around just to make sure that there's nothing I might of missed out which was either pretty much a staple of the Zelda games or for something a bit obscure but fitted nicely with the items that were already done.

Having said that, I'm thinking about maybe doing a piece based around the masks from Majora's Mask when i have time.

As for Mario, his games have less items than Zelda but he also has some of the most memorable, from the warp whistles to the pow block, there's always an item in the Mario universe which is easily recognisable as with a large chunk of his enemies too.

Why did you release them all for free? Why not make them into prints our art pieces? I don't see them in your shop.

I haven't actually ruled out making the designs prints yet or even better, seeing on what other printable items that these designs could be used on such things like maybe pillows or something. 

Are you currently an avid gamer or just had feelings of nostalgia for the items pieces? If currently gaming, what are you playing?

I still play games, maybe even a bit too much (I've been gaming since the 8bit days) I have a fairly large collection spanning over a good few platforms, its not huge but it's something thats expanded from my first few games on the nes to the current system purely because i don't believe in part exchanging them for another game, I like to have the option to be able to go back and revisit a title if if I get the urge to play it.  

I even have the two cdi Zelda games (don't have the third, its too expensive) and the Mario one but unfortunately don't have a cdi to play them on.

Is there anything that excites you or angers you about gamer culture? I was just at a Independent games festival called IndieCade that showcased a lot of innovative stuff and it's very different than just playing online over Xbox.

I think the way some folk react about other systems/games gets pretty annoying, I've never really understood why someone would worship and defend one console when really they should be getting into trying many different genres of games on varying and different systems.

Right now I'd say that independent gaming is where the innovation is at, most mainstream games seem to be pushing familiarity over innovation resulting in games that may be good but aren't that rewarding.

Indie devs on the other hand are willing to take elements of gameplay and flip it upside-down offering something which brings back all the elements of fun and enjoyment compared to seeing numerous sequels and safe 'me too' titles churned out by large-scale devs and publishers.

I like what the indie scene is doing it really is giving large mainstream publishers a run for their money. It's also great that IndieCade also exists as this will offer more creative and fun games in front of the general public.

Did you grow up with arcades? Arcades are dwindling in America, two very well known ones in LA are closing this December.

It still pains me on what has happened to arcades, I really miss them, there's nothing like it. What I would give to see the glowing screens from the cabinets to the random noises coming from all the games in the background while either gathering around the crowd to play the latest and greatest or moving on to some forgotten classic hidden in the corner. 

I also miss how adventurous the game devs were on the cabinet designs, it's the little things like the bean bag that thumps the side of the cabinet when q-bert falls off the isometric stage to sitting in a movable cockpit like that found with afterburner.

Its a shame that more and more Arcades in the west are shuttering their doors considering that this was how a lot of us found the latest games and brought gamers together at a time when most folk still saw gaming as a solitary affair. 

Would you say England differs than the rest of the world when it comes to gaming?

Not really, there was a time in the 8bit/16bit days where the UK (well Europe in general) would be the last area to get the latest game releases, but I think now its pretty much flipped over for certain titles and/or for getting games that haven't been released in the US. I'm sure the states missed out on the psone game Vib Ribbon and then there was the original dreamcast release of shemue 2, two great games probably released over here possibly because the game publishers initially thought it would sell better here than in the states. 

While more recently games like Xenoblade were released in Europe first while folks in the US had to actively get themselves heard by Nintendo that they wanted to see the game released in the states.

Then there is sometimes the little extras added to the game just to make up for being last on the release date or has taken time to get all the localisations done such as the European Extreme difficulty in MGS 2 and with Demon's Souls Black Phantom Edition since it took about a year to get a European release.

But mostly nowadays, its largely the same.

What are the other interests and hobbies are in your life?

The usual things like movies, books and such, especially those with a bit of a cult status and other fun unusual things that catch my eye.

You bio says you're into Tetris, why exactly are you into that enough to write it in your bio. Have you seen the documentary "Ecstasy Of Order: The Tetris Masters", it's a nice look into the competitions and best players behind it.
I haven't really seen that documentary, I'll look at for it, sounds good. 

Anyway about the Tetris thing, I kind of added that to my bio not only cause I like Tetris but it was more or less a way to differentiate myself from other illustrator's/designer's and how they write about themselves as a means to be more memorable. Even if it means that someone says 'your that artist/illustrator who likes Tetris' more than mentioning my work pretty much means its done its job.

Plus its also a great game involving spacial problem solving which really is quite close to illustration/design as both are about solving problems visually.

I see you were in the "So You Created a Wormhole” Time Travel Art Show at local IAM8BIT. I hope you'll be part of a future video game art show like the last Super IAM8BIT. If you could do a future piece based on gaming or any game what might you create?

Ever since I saw the books for both iam8bit and super iam8bit shows, I've been really longing to be a part of one of their shows. 

When I got asked if I would like to take part in the 'So You Created a Wormhole' I jumped at the chance. I kind of got involved with this show pretty close to the deadline but it was great to have been asked to contribute something towards the exhibition.

I'm hoping that at some point in the future I will be asked to contribute to another show as I would love to work with the folks at iam8bit again.

Mario Items
Zelda Items