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Reading design insights and breaking NES constraints

Learning about design constraints on the NES is helpful.

Danielle Riendeau, Editor-in-Chief

May 7, 2024

1 Min Read
Pixel Shovel knight attacking a golden dragon
Yacht Club Games

I've been reading this fantastic blog on how the Shovel Knight designers and artists used NES constraints to help guide Shovel Knight: but they were not entirely beholden to them. This is very much how I've approached my own practice of pixel art in my own games: using constraints to guide design and art direction, but very much abandon them when it's better for the game to do so.

Especially interesting is the section on color palette choices!

"The NES was only capable of spitting out 54 different colors... and that's not a lot. The problem for us mainly came in trying to display a gradient in most hues. For example, there isn’t a very useful yellow, the darker spectrum of color is very underrepresented, and there aren’t many shades that work for displaying a character with a darker skin tone. Sticking to the NES palette was a big priority for us, though, as it gives a very distinctive look. In the end, we ended up with only a few extra colors."

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About the Author(s)

Danielle Riendeau

Editor-in-Chief, GameDeveloper.com

Danielle is the editor-in-chief of Game Developer, with previous editorial posts at Fanbyte, VICE, and Polygon. She’s also a lecturer in game design at the Berklee College of Music, and a hobbyist game developer in her spare time.

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