Marketplace’s prime pixel-pushers
Texture talk with the artists behind Marketplace’s launch line-up
Minecraft has a pretty distinctive style, but if the front page of this very website shows anything, it’s how brilliantly the community (that’s you!) have adapted and changed the look of its world, conjuring creations that completely transform the game.
No small part of that is down to the amazing work done by texture artists. Some lend their pixel skills to transform players’ appearance. We have a lot of love for our old chums Steve and Alex, but there are so many more ways players want to express themselves - turning themselves into space adventurers, demonic overlords, bespectacled boffins and even more outlandish creatures, all summoned from the community’s ample imagination. Other creators have even larger projects in mind, reworking each and every texture in the game to wholly alter the look and feel of Minecraft - making it barely recognisable and, often, very beautiful indeed.
With the launch of Marketplace we wanted to get some of these powerful Photoshop wizards on board: Eneija, Sphax, Razzleberry Fox, Polymaps and Imagiverse have all worked to change how the game looks, in ways little and large. Here’s a quick round-up of who they are and what cool things they’ve made for Marketplace!
Eneija is a pretty big name in pixel-pushing circles - a prolific purveyor of fine skins!
“I’ve been making skins since I first started playing Minecraft on the PC over 5 years ago,” she says. “Character customization has always been one of my favorite parts in games, and having the chance to completely design my own skin pixel by pixel was a dream. I have been doing digital art in various forms starting with when I found Microsoft Paint on our family computer as a kid and then moving to Adobe Photoshop when I was 13 years old. I loved creating all kinds of artwork – from drawings of my Neopets to animated gifs of my friends and I.”
"Character customization is my favorite part in games, so completely designing my own skin pixel by pixel was a dream."
Though Eneija’s art style has evolved over the years, and she can adapt to a range of styles, her use of colour remains pretty distinctive.
“I love creating skins that are fun, vibrant, and playful, or that carry some specific story along with them,” she says. “The skin pack I have completed for the launch is the Pastel Skin Pack. It’s an explosion of delightful, soft colors on a variety of different characters. I wanted to give players the chance to have a pack that represents all types of people and that was light-hearted and expressive. I love color, and getting to put together a rainbow-esque pack full of happy gradients and fun little details was such a pleasure.”
The collective name may be new, but the Imagiverse team are old hands at Minecraft, having been friends since the Alpha. Their first offering for Marketplace is a fat pack of skins along with a custom world that explores their theme even further.
Called Relics of the Privateers, the map is a sprawling pirate-themed world, and is what the team consider an “experience map”.
“An experience map is a world where the base idea of Minecraft isn't necessarily changed, but the things inside the world are, creating a brand new experience for players,” explains Imagiverse’s CDFDMAN. “We've created a world based around a set of tropical islands, filled with colonial villagers, pirates, hidden treasure, and all sorts of new wildlife. The main island is where a majority of the settlements are, both of colonial settlers or farmers, and of pirates."
"We've also created a wilder island,” says CDFDMAN. “It's built around dense jungle and tropical ruins - filled with unique wildlife. Players have the opportunity to explore this world at their own pace, and almost always run into something entirely new that they might have missed previously. While quests and puzzles are optional, we've hidden them throughout the map for players to find - along with a whole lot of ‘pirate booty’.”
What better way to get into the spirit of the map than by slipping into one of the 20 skins made especially to accompany it.
“We've also made a skin pack that compliments that main theme of exploring a tropical world,” says CDFDMAN. “Included are Pirate Captains, Sailors, Admirals, Colonial Settlers, Castaways, and a few ‘special’ humanoid creatures.”
Those special creatures would be the ‘fishfolk’ - nautical oddities that meld marine life with humankind in curious ways!
“Our special fishfolk skins in this pack were some of our favorite ones to make!” says CDFDMAN. “There are a set of mermaids, ‘Captain Crabby’ and his friend, Fiskgutt the fish sailor.”
A team of four long-time friends, Polymaps has created a Stone Age-themed texture pack for the launch of Marketplace, transporting players back to a world of cartoony cavemen and long-extinct beasts.
“Cavemen, woolly mammoth, dodo birds or frolicking frogs,” lists Polymap’s Sam, aka samasaurus6. “Every block, item and mob has been completely redesigned to really immerse the player in a vibrant Stone Age era. The villagers in our pack were greatly inspired by cavemen depictions in many 90s cartoons and comics; yet we also wanted to keep that iconic look of the default villager too. The end result is our own take on how villagers would have looked in the Stone Age, plus the way the iron golem lumbers around made it perfect for a big oafy caveman!”
"Every block, item and mob has been completely redesigned to really immerse the player in a vibrant Stone Age era."
Making the pack gave the team the chance to play with the entity model editing available on Pocket and Windows 10 Edition.
“Our artist, Skye, did a great job on really bringing the iron golem to life,” says Sam. “I hope players will be a fan of having him around their base and enjoy the sound effects which I recorded for him - while getting a lot of strange looks!”
This is just the first of their planned creations: “You can expect adventure maps, minigame maps and mashup packs to be coming!” Sam says.
Sphax’s PureBDcraft has already made a name for itself - offering one of the most popular texture overhauls out there, ditching the overt pixels for cartoon look composed of sharp vector lines and curves.
“The adventure started with the very first release of PureBDcraft in June 2011,” says Sphax. “I fell in love with the unique ideas and original gameplay of Minecraft but not so much with its aesthetic. Because a Minecraft world is not realistic - composed of blocks and blocky creatures - I thought that a Comic theme would perfectly suit.”
“I quickly released PureBDcraft with new textures for all the blocks,” he says. “Shortly after that, a real community of players started to support me with the project. That's how PureBDcraft and its unique Comicbook theme is born, followed by many updates along the years, until today - and for a lot of years to come, I hope!”
"PureBDcraft transforms the villagers from vanilla Minecraft into Jawa-like creatures - just one of various geeky winks."
There a lot of fun details in PureBDcraft - like the way the early tools have a distinctly handmade, amateurish feel: “One of the first pickaxes you can craft, for example, is made out of wood and stones. PureBDcraft has those items made of simple twisted sticks, dirty strings and loosely cut stones: nothing fancy or shiny but very cool to handle.”
“I also wanted to reinforce the feeling I had during my first plays by accentuating the mobs' personalities. The nasty creatures look a lot more scary and the peaceful ones even more friendly or funny,” says Sphax. “The enderman, for example, looks quite funny by default, but as soon as you look at it, it opens its mouth and lets you see its big teeth. Whereas the pig just looks bored being there, wandering the grassy plains. I jumped on the opportunity to give the villagers a very different look from vanilla Minecraft, transforming them into Jawa-like creatures - the mysterious, harmless merchants from Star Wars. And I must say this is just one of the various geeky winks PureBDcraft includes.”
One of things we love about Minecraft is that all kinds of people play it - and in all kinds of different ways! Razzleberry Fox’s skins are a perfect encapsulation of that spirit of diversity.
“The thing I was really interested in expressing with my skinpacks is that no matter your ethnicity, gender or beliefs, you can be whatever you want to be,” she says. “This is why I tried to make my packs as diverse and colorful as possible, using both player models equally and depicting all sorts of different people in them.”
She has two packs available on the store at launch.
"I try to make my packs as diverse and colorful as possible, using both player models equally and depicting all sorts of people."
"Everyday Heroes is for roleplaying something cool you want to be, as well as being a homage to people who make our daily lives better,” she says. “The second pack, Team Up!, is designed with minigames in mind. It has four different coloured teams made up of four people, each with a role to fill. I based it on Minecraft’s tools, so you have one team member representing each of the tools you use to survive in the early stages of Minecraft: the lumberjack represents the axe, the miner represents the pickaxe, the scout represents the shovel and the soldier represents the sword.”
The skins are bright and jolly, with subtle shading and a clever use of the armour layer to give skins detail and depth. As Razzleberry says, she uses “all the layers to try and portray a more organic, living, breathing skin”. And she certainly has!
So whether you want to be an astronaut or engineer, journey to the neolithic past or the age of sail, or simply give your world a cartoon makeover - there’s something for you on Marketplace.