What NOT to do in a Sprite Series
Written By: Mr.Video
Introduction: Hello there dear readers, this is the author. After talking with my fellow animator and friend, Shadow624, I’ve decided to write a guide of sorts for prospering sprite animators. More specifically it’s a guide on what NOT to do in any sprite series.
Now, I’m by no means what you’d call a seasoned animator. My specialty is more geared towards writing than it is animation, so it’s frustrating to see how many clichés and overused elements have become a cookie-cutter set for sprite series. It’s especially sad when these series had a concept full of potential to be something great.
Before we begin, I would like to say before this that I am targeting no one individual, and do not mean to insult the creator of any series that may or may not fit the descriptions used in this document. Thank you and I hope you will find this to be a helpful resource in your writing.
Section 1: Plot
Before we get into the really deep stuff, let me jab a little about plot. In a series, it’s the most important aspect to consider along with presentation. The two are actually in a bit of a symbiotic relationship when it gets down to it. You’re probably thinking, “Well golly-gosh Mr. V, what do you mean by that?” Well allow me to elaborate.
Let’s say a sprite series is animated well, uses effects appropriately and just in general is crafted with love and care. For younger viewers, that’ll be more than enough to entertain them. But with a poorly put together story marred with numerous plot-holes will not go unnoticed by an older age group. Sure, it looks nice and pretty, but without a good story to hold it all together, it really hampers the experience with its over-all stupidity.
Then you could have the opposite situation, you could have written an epic that even the greatest of fan-writers would nod in approval of. The character portrayal could feel like it was something out of its source material, there could be believable development and all that other jazz. But if the animation quality is well…not so great, it’ll be hard for the audience to sit through and the majority will end up passing it off as garbage.
Balance is the key my friends! Now for some tips for when you want to take a swing at writing a story for a sprite series. The biggest thing I stress when writing is originality. (Well, as original as you can be writing fan-fiction anyways.) It’s alright to draw inspiration from other works, but copying popular ideas is never a good idea. Give your story its own identity, preferably one that isn’t referred to as “That one series that completely ripped off SMBZ.”(We’ll cover this more in depth in section 3.)
Another rule of mine is to portray all the characters in the story as close to their canon personality as possible. One of the highest praises you can get is when you’re told your series feels like it’s an official release from whatever company owns the rights to whatever franchise your series is based around. This means keeping characters like Mario and Link who are mute in their games completely silent. (And for the love of god, do not use the Super Mario Bros Show or any other video-game based TV show as an excuse for having mute characters talk. Use only official games as a reference for their personalities.)
Another guideline I have for character portrayal is swearing. Let’s say one day in your sprite series, Princess Peach decides to take up swearing. In my personal opinion, this is not a good idea; it does not fit the character’s personality, plus it really doesn’t line-up with the useries she comes from, considering it’s a rated E-for everyone and all...Could it work in some situations with certain characters? Yes. Most of the time? Not so much, no.
But if you really feel the need to have a character swear in your series but are having difficulty telling if it’s really appropriate for the character in question, just follow this rule: If they didn’t swear in their respective game/manga whatever series, then don’t have them swear in your Flash video.
Meaning for a character like say Shadow the Hedgehog, it’s perfectly fine for him to slip a few “damn”s in here and there, since he has done it an official game release in the past. Cursing can also work for certain characters who haven’t canonically cursed in their source material, like say Ganondorf(To my memory anyways.), but you’ll have to use better judgment in that regard.
Section 2: Fan Characters
Ah, fan-characters...A common sight in sprite animation. Some of the biggest names in sprite animation have incorporated them into their stories, such as 3-Up and Super Mario Bros. Z. Despite how well received they have been in those series, they can be a risky gamble that can either make or break a series.
On one hand, they can make a series feel unique and offer something new to the audience. But on the other, they can easily ruin the series and scare off viewers through their sheer stupidity. You’ll probably want to prevent this, so here are some personal rules I follow when adding a fan character to the mix.
1. Mercy, please do not just recolor a character: If you’re going to make a fan character, at least put in the time and effort to give them a unique look. Please don’t dig up some Megaman sprites, color him green and say, “Hey guys look at my new OC, Spike! Isn’t he the coolest!?” First of all, that isn’t exactly original (Well, as original as a fan-character can get anyways.), and second, it’s just a green Megaman. That’s the only thing people will identify him as. If you need further convincing, just google your name with the words, “the Hedgehog” after it to see how horrible of an idea it is to recolor.
2. Do NOT make them overpowered: Seriously, just don’t. Unless they’ll be acting as the big-bad, they should not be some ridiculously god-like being that can destroy a galaxy just by blinking and is completely invulnerable. It makes things boring for the viewer, not to mention it makes you, the writer look a little bad.
3. Avoid being a Mary Sue: If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the generally agreed upon definition of a Mary Sue is basically an over-idealized character that usually has some sort of connection with canonic characters such as being a love interest, familial relation, etc. The entire universe seemingly revolves around them and their cooky adventures, and all the canon characters love him or her. This is honestly something that is frowned upon in the world of fan-writing, and should be avoided. I mean I know we’d all love to create an uber cool fan-character like Skylar the Hedgehog: Shadow’s cousin from an alternate dimension who’s a master at all he attempts, and who’s in a really serious relationship with Blaze, but it’s just bad writing.
Other than that, just use good judgment and having a fan-character should be no trouble.
Section 3: The SMBZ Effect
Anyone whose followed sprite animation has undoubtedly heard of if not watched Super Mario Bros Z. Created by Alvin-Earthworm, it has been hailed by many as the greatest sprite series ever made. While some might argue about that, it’s hard to deny that SMBZ has had a huge impact on today’s sprite animation, with Alvin-Earthworm often times being cited as inspiration for other sprite related works. In fact, it could be said that the series raised the standards for sprite animation.
However, SMBZ may have been a bit too inspiring, as many things that SMBZ used are commonly seen in sprite animation. This includes the practically shoe-horned use of Mecha Sonic (Seriously, raise of hands, who actually gave two shits about this guy before SMBZ came around?), the Koopa Bros, the fan characters Basilix and Mecha Mario(Basically always without AE’s consent.) Not used as much, but are slowly drifting into this list are the Axem Rangers X, and Axem Blue both of which are fan-elements created by Alvin for SMBZ. (Despite being unrelated to SMBZ, another character that can fall into this list is the fan character Merlow by Destruction-Series, a recolor of the character Emerl.)
A sub-pool for this trend also includes music that was used in the series as well, although the problem isn’t nearly as bad as the character pool in the previous paragraph. Songs like Back to Mad by Texas Faggot, Dark Samus Appears from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Crisis City: Whirlwind from Sonic 06 has seen a lot more use since the debuted in SMBZ. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has just about as much right to use these songs as AE. But I would try avoiding these themes, as they’ve begun to be played to the point they’ve lost their effect and are actually expected to be heard.
What I covered so far is what I like to refer to as the SMBZ effect. And honestly, you should avoid the cookie-cutter that was created by SMBZ. You should try and use your own ideas, not replicate what made SMBZ great. But as bad as the constant wannabe SMBZ’s that have more or less pepper the internet now, there’s something worse: Fan remakes.
Ever since SMBZ was discontinued by AE after episode 8, fans have cried for the series’ revival. And that’s exactly what’s happening, albeit through the hands of the fans. This is another big no-no for me, and here’s why:
1. They’re doing it despite AE having said that he didn’t want anyone finishing the series; deliberately doing the exact opposite of what he said is extremely disrespectful in my book.
2. They’re adding things that go against what AE had envisioned for the series, like inclusion of Megaman X or Kirby.
3. The creators of these New SMBZs are riding off the coat-tails of SMBZ’s fame, not bothering to write something of their own. That goes against my tip on writing in section 1: originality.
Anyways, moral of the story: For the love of all that’s holy and righteous in this world, DON’T MAKE AN SMBZ CLONE! Seriously, this, in my opinion, is the biggest reason why sprite animation isn’t as exciting as it used to be. Too many people are too eager to recycle SMBZ’s ideas rather than present some new exciting ideas.
Final Section: Conclusion
Alright, after having read this document, I hope you, the reader will take the knowledge you’ve gathered here and apply it when crafting your own series. So I hope to see less of Mecha Sonic and the Koopa Bros and more variety.
Before you go, I have two final tips left to share; the first one is to write down all your ideas. No matter what they are. Write them on paper; type them up in a word-document, tape-recorder, anything. I used to keep all my ideas in my head, but after my friend Shadow624 told me to start jotting things down, my thoughts became so much more clear and easier to organize than when I kept it all in my head.
And my final tip is this: Never give up. I know it sounds corny, but just hear me out. There’ll be times when writing can be tough, sometimes you’ll begin to doubt yourself and wonder if you’re really cut out for all of this. I know I’ve been there. But just keep trying, the road is a long one, but one worth traveling! Trust me, it is.
Well, that’s all I have to say. Now, go out there and make something awesome! I know you can do it! Believe in the you that I believe in!
I used to be that one spriter on Flipnote Hatena until I quit. Ironically, the site got taken down a year after anyway. Now I use Flash and Photoshop to make stuff.
Current Residence: United States of America
Favourite genres of music: Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Techno, Trance, Industrial, "Touhou"
Favourite style of art: Video Games, Anime, Pixel
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Favorite Game: Mother 3