Old School Color Cycling with HTML5

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Joe Huckaby writes about his HTML5 rendered color cycling, the 8-bit visual effect used typically to animate water or fire:

Unfortunately, more often than not this looked terrible, because the artist simply drew the scene once, picked some colors to be animated and set them to cycle. While this technically qualified as "color cycling", it looked more like a bad acid trip. For an example, just look at the water in this game.

However, there was one graphic artist who took the technique to a whole new level, and produced absolutely breathtaking color cycling scenes. Mark J. Ferrari, who also illustrated all the original backgrounds for LucasArts Loom, and some for The Secret of Monkey Island, invented his own unique ways of using color cycling for envrironmental effects that you really have to see to believe. These include rain, snow, ocean waves, moving fog, clouds, smoke, waterfalls, streams, lakes, and more. And all these effects are achieved without any layers or alpha channels -- just one single flat image with one 256 color palette.

Unfortunately the art of color cycling died out in the late 90s, giving way to newer technologies like 3D rendering and full 32-bit "true color" games. However, 2D pixel graphics of old are making a comeback in recent years, with mobile devices and web games. I thought now would be the time to reintroduce color cycling, using open web technologies like the HTML5 Canvas element. This demo is an implementation of a full 8-bit color cycling engine, rendered into an HTML5 Canvas in real-time. I am using 35 of Mark's original 640x480 pixel masterpieces which you can explore, and I added some ambient environmental soundtracks to match. Please enjoy, and the source code is free for you to use in your own projects

via Tim Maly

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