August 3, 2014

Pixel Painting - Friendly Rivals (Sonic & Knuckles)

It was only a matter of time before a Sonic commission came up. To reminisce how big Sega was back in the day is kind of hilarious. They caused so much havoc in the balance of power that no one had been able to do before. That five-year triumph period alone is enough to cement them in video game history. And it was all arguably a fluke, because even when they were on top they were making outrageously stupid decisions.

While they've had some financial success since then, quality-wise they've been all over the board (mostly on the crappy side). Sonic is a video game icon, though, and his image has allowed Sega to continue to root itself in the minds of players everywhere (for better or for worse).

The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge had the "lock-on technology," which I still think is really cool, as well as a huge technical achievement. Knuckles wasn't even supposed to be a very important character, but it was the 90s, and he had attitude, so yeah.

And I love love love Blue Sphere. I have put so many hours into that repetitive, simple, awesome game.

There are a lot of sprites for each character, so I sent the buyer most of them and let him choose which poses he liked best. He chose well. That dark blue on Sonic is such a pain in the ass though. It's so translucent, but attempting to make it more opaque always adjusts the color too far.

Still using that Mega Man-esque background. It still looks good. I am experimenting with others, just because I'm starting to get bored with this one. I had originally thought of doing the white lines crisscrossing on the black background that Sega always used for Genesis/Mega Drive stuff, but it didn't look very good. I'm happy with how they turned out all the same.

Commissions are always welcome. Price varies based on the size and complexity of the sprite/scene. I moderate comments, so feel free to leave one with your contact email and request and I'll get back to you ASAP.

July 11, 2014

Pix'n Love Publishing Frustrations - Part 2

[UPDATE: Pix'n Love is deleting negative feedback on their most recent Facebook posts. You know, where people complain that they're not receiving their books, refund, tracking number, email, or any sort of response whatsoever from Pix'n Love. Instead of addressing the issue, they're just sweeping it under the rug. So when you look at the page, it has Pix'n Love asking for feedback, and almost only positive responses. How lovely.]

Here we are again...

A few months ago, I posted about a certain French publisher and their abysmal business practices. Jump ahead to now. Where are we with our promises, Pix'n Love Publishing? Have we learned anything, or tried to make up for past slights?

Whoa! An actual updated website? Actual books in stock? After all this waiting, you've finally come through, Pix'n Love! I'm so happy! Time to just walk away with this good happy feeling inside without investigating further!

Except...Hmm. Upon closer inspection, only the surface of the site has been touched up. The History of Nintendo volumes are still listed as "In Stock," but prices of these books elsewhere are nearly double Pix'n Love's listing, so I'm going to say that part hasn't been updated. And the Gunpei Yokoi biography is still listed as "TBA" for a release date, so...I guess that hasn't changed either.

But hey, The History of Mario is finally out! Really surprising, actually. I'm sure tons of people are looking forward to ordering, reading, and enjoying it for years to come.

But what's that, right at the top? Let me take a closer look...

500 copies!? Are you serious? After all this time, only 500 English copies are going into circulation? That's a pretty low number. So people that find out months down the road are probably going to be out of luck, huh? Dang. I would guess that Pix'n Love is taking a hard financial hit on these books, since they took pre-order money before figuring out how much it was going to cost (which is incredibly stupid, by the way). They claim that the 500 is in addition to the pre-order copies, but I highly doubt it.

Well, at least your general business practices have improved, right? That's a relief...wait, what?

I'm really not surprised. It's just their same old practice of stealing money. Here's their "excuse" as to why they didn't respond:

It's just the same old story of Pix'n Love trying to shove the blame elsewhere and avoid responsibility. You would think that the whole team going to an expo right after taking orders would be something you would notify customers of (or at least set up an automated email response). Nobody is left to manage orders, process money received, contact buyers, or ship things out. And the Japan Expo is July 2 - 6. People placed orders as early as June 17. That excuse doesn't cover all your bases of inadequacy, especially when you posted this more than ten days prior:

You are a business. You have taken people's money. You are expected to follow through on delivering a product and having some sort of customer serviceEspecially when you've repeatedly stated time and time again that your top priority is communication with your English customers. Whatever though, am I right? It's not like Pix'n Love has a shady past dealing with English customers, right? It's not like they have to try and regain trust, right? And I love how they use the phrase "after-sales service." It's a terrible attempt to conceal the statement, "We will do our best to actually send you what you paid for and not just flat out steal your money."

Let's delve a bit into Pix'n Love itself for a moment, shall we? One of the three founders behind the whole operation is Jean-Marc Demoly. He has experience in the publishing industry prior to Pix'n Love (though how he defines "experience" is surely different from most). Harold Goldberg, who wrote the book All Your Base Are Belong to Us, actually went to the publishing company Demoly worked for back then (MCES Publishing), and had the pleasure of having Demoly as a representative. You can read all about Goldberg's wonderful experiences here. If you don't have time to read the article, just know the title is "When A Publisher Tries To Scam You."

Demoly obviously has not changed, but simply helped create a company where he doesn't have to answer to anyone above him, thus avoiding being let go for incompetence. There's an interview he gave with Retro Collect back in 2011 (before the shit hit the fan), where he drops the statement that sums up Pix'n Love Publishing to a T:

Retro Collect: To bring this interview to a close we would like to thank and congratulate you for expanding the audience of your writings with these English translations. Is there anything left you want to tell our readers?

Jean-Marc Demoly: Thanks for your congratulations, we really appreciate the compliments! We are fans rather than businessmen, so we are not very proficient in marketing, advertising and all those boring things.

There you have it, firsthand from the man himself. Aren't you glad that somebody with that set of skills and mindset is in charge of your money and the books you love? Yeah, forget all that "boring stuff," like refunding money, shipping products, and communicating with customers. Yuck. But back to the original topic of this post:

In addition to The History of Mario, there's a previously unannounced book that was just released! That's almost unbelievable. It's the Mario Goodies Collection, a brief documentation of the largest Mario-themed collection in the world. There's even two versions available. There's a normal "Classic" edition, and a "Tanuki Limited" edition. Wow, I guess it's kind of an apology for all those years of screwing people over. I'm sure nothing will go wrong with this. Heh heh heh...

If you were planning on getting the limited edition, it's already sold out. Sorry! Limited to 150 copies. Oh, did you read their Facebook page and think that there were 200? Sorry, according to their official site, it's only 150. Thanks for that, Pix'n Love.

And I really don't see Pix'n Love updating their site when the Classic edition is gone (see: the aforementioned History of Nintendo series). For all we know, that's already out of stock too. So order that at your own risk. I would say the main reason the Mario Goodies Collection was printed is because it's 95% pictures, so virtually no translation was necessary. They have learned at least one thing though. The English text is printed right below the French. So they save some money on printing costs by doing it all in one batch.

But look at what the sales say about the level of interest. 150 copies gone in less than a month. Now is the time to keep that momentum going, Pix'n Love. The interest is high, the demand is high, so get more shit translated, printed, and sent out like you've been claiming to want to do for years. Oh, but wait...that's just the "boring stuff." Never mind.

I can't imagine this will change anything. What will probably happen is that the hype over the History of Mario and Mario Goodies Collection books will build, Pix'n Love will announce newer translated books, take pre-orders, but then not release them for 3+ years (if at all). Anger will build up again, but this time by new people that don't know the publisher's and Demoly's history. It will be even easier for them to fool people because as stated above, Pix'n Love is flat out deleting negative feedback and comments from people that have their money stolen.

I can hear the laughter all the way from France.

Please don't forget! You can still pre-order the English printing of the Gunpei Yokoi biography! I'm sure it will be released quite soon!

Yeah, it's not happening.

The fact that Pix'n Love, the company of thieves, is offering to give a refund, could not send a clearer message.

I would love to be proven wrong. Every book I have that has somehow managed to make it over here is fantastic. I would love to have the ability to own more. So prove me wrong, Pix'n Love. The challenge stands. And I know how steep it is for you.

July 10, 2014

Mario Goodies Collection


I took a chance the other week with our favorite friends, Pix'n Love Publishing. I decided to purchase the recently released Mario Goodies Collection from their website directly. I absolutely kept track of everything going on with my order, because their history speaks for itself. After no contact or responses whatsoever for a good three weeks, it showed up unexpectedly in the mail. The fact that I was surprised that it arrived at all is a testament to Pix'n Love's business practices. And don't think I didn't repeatedly attempt to find out the status of my order. But on to the book itself.

This thing is great. It is a brief documentation of Mitsugi Kikai's Mario collection. Kikai holds the distinction of having the most Mario-related items in the world. His Guinness World Records certificate clocks it in at 5,400 individual unique items. However, he claims the actual total of all items he owns is closer to 20,000 (including doubles, etc.).

The book is primarily pictures, with tiny text snippets in between. This is a great format for a book like this, because Kikai has a lot of unique and rare items. The book is separated into eight sections:

  • Video Games
  • Books
  • Video & Audio
  • Figurines & Plushies
  • Life Accessories
  • Toys
  • Collector Goodies
  • Foreign Goodies

Thankfully, there are items from the Famicom-era all the way up to present day. For me, the older items stand out as being a lot more interesting, as the more modern things can be found in stores right now. I really enjoy the things from the period where Nintendo was a little more free on how their characters were presented, and things weren't as set in stone as they are today. The artwork on a lot of the boxes and promotional material is also way cooler than anything currently on Mario-themed stuff (in my opinion). Most of the pictures presented here are of older-era items.

Obviously, the book can't cover the entirety of Kikai's collection, but it definitely has a lot of variety, and the formatting is perfect. Pictures are all high quality and presented on a plain background. The text is unobtrusive, which is good, because the focus is on the items themselves. I made the grab for a "Tanuki Limited Edition," which was limited to 150 copies (supposedly). Apparently it is already sold out. I can't speak for the "Classic Edition," but the Tanuki version is a really nice hardcover with solid binding. The pages are of high quality, and all images are in vivid color. I believe the "Classic Edition" is softcover.

The only complaint I have is the flimsy half slipcover that goes over the book itself. The thought is nice. It's a pipe that Mario's face peeks out from. However, the material is very thin, and the fit is extremely snug. Already the edges are starting to fray, and I've only removed it once.

For Nintendo collectors, I would say that this book is definitely a must-have. The amount of items, high quality images, and organized way it's presented really make this book stand out in terms of quality. As stated before, Pix'n Love knows how to make books well. They just can't effectively handle the international business part to save their lives. They took a tiny step in the right direction by just printing the English text right below the French, so they didn't have to do two separate printings.

I would highly recommend picking this book up, but the only place to get it right now is Pix'n Love's website directly. Order at your own risk!