I stumbled upon M.U.L.E. recenly, as in 2006 or so (It's when I drew most of the stuff seen here). It's a game about economics with lots of emergence coming from the interaction between players. It was made in 1983 by Dani Bunten. There are a couple of versions of it, but I prefer the C64 one because of its clean graphics. Anyways, the game has lots of fun aliens and I wanted to draw them.
Thoughts which had been fermenting in my mind for a long time began bubbling up so I had to jot something new down. The low resolution of M.U.L.E. leaves a lot of room for imagination, and the various remakes have gone off in various directions. I wanted to see what happened if one tries to stay very faithful to the graphical delivery of the original game. White desert, same iconography, etc. Also, I tried to figure out how things work physically, such as how a Mule deploys into the icon on the land lot.
First, some hastily gathered reference:
And now the 2012 art. I've kept things very rough to work myself towards the many requirements that I set up. Settling on a design too early is like... uh, slowly digging a pit with a polishing brush.
With the mule design, I think my current, rough design is getting there, but at this stage I can't say whether the design is fun or not. I'll have to come up with a head with emotive capacity, but doesn't look stupid-goofy aka derpy. I'm not sure about moving the legs in under the body to match the gait and shape of the original AT-AT design.
It would be fun with the inactive players (and others?) strolling around in the city, breathing life into the setting. Might be confusing though.
The graphics in M.U.L.E. are quite... graphical in a clean way. The aliens are derivative and a bit cheesy, but varied in form. It's easy to spot Pac-Man, E.T. and the AT-AT... (and maybe Donkey Kong?). It seemed like a bad idea to just draw those, so I tried to see my own thing in the pixels.
The aliens are colored by a teamcolor (chosen by the player). For the first sets of interpretations that I did (2006/2009) I simply assigned a color to each alien. The 2012 approach was to use colored suits of some sort. The natural colors of the aliens were kept somewhat muted (or should be) so the suit color can stand out. I also chose to use unusual colors for the aliens. E.T. couldn't be brown for example. Chicken couldn't be yellow.
2012 above. Took some time I didn't have, because upon seeing the old 2006-2009 below, I felt I could reach new places. The text and art below is older and might repeat or conflict with sentiments expressed above.
The Leggite sprite is inconsistant, from the side it looks like a Joust ostrich (Joust was the inspiration of balloon fight). From the front it's similar to a Star Raiders refueler ship (ie. mechanical and blocky). The sideview looks a bit more organic. I think it would be funny with a suspension stilt thing skipping along in the desert, and I made the creature in control a worm or slime with no legs at all, just for contrast. Perhaps it's fast, but sometimes falls over.
The Spheroid is very shape shifty in my mind. I tried a robotic (Xmen cyclops) head on #1 but it doesn't allow any expression. I think I'll always make it the misfortunate one in my little 'funnies', cuz it's funny how it can't do anything about getting robbed, having no arms and all. Maybe it just has little larvae knobs.
The Bonzoid, like many of the other sprites has a block in the face. Perhaps it is a gasmask or cyclopian goggles. It might be a monoped, but maybe there weren't enough pixels to draw two legs. Still, draw what you see. The intention of the original artist matters less at this point, unless there's supplemental art, as there is in the case of the Wampus/Wumpus.
The Mechtron were inspired by these old Basic books. BASIC Games and More BASIC Games (Go to thumbnails). I also made a few designs based on consoles/computers, but in the end (2009) I just drew something which looks like the sprite.
Still, I think the idea of a facial expression on a screen is very fun and silly. Someone presented the idea of making pirate Mechtrons with a little patch over the big pixel eye, which is fun because it's not actually an eye. Aslo, I'm not sure if Atari-800 biege one works with the camera lens thing. I'm tempted to do a Commodore Sx64 head though, as it corresponds with the shape on the sprite quite well, with some tweaks (screen in the middle, floppy drive on the side, and a lens on the other). Its belly would have a little keyboard it could flip out and re-program itself with (by using the arms, a very silly concept of course).
I also did some Wampus/Wumpus research. It's a big, intelligent, possibly deadly, 4-legged, opossum/sloth with suction cups, maybe a drill tail. There was a game called Hunt the Wumpus and it has some vague description of the creature (there even were a few pencil doodles in some old BASIC books).
As I've understood it, the M.U.L.E.s are customized in a hangar, then parts of it is deployed to form the ...stuff on the lot while a basic M.U.L.E. works the lot. They can also run off, but I suppose they pack their stuff before doing so. It would be interesting to work out some designs where all of this comes together.
I found some interesting white deserts when googling for white desert sand etc. Giving the terrain color would sort of ruin it. Snow might not work, because somehow I get the impression of a desert. I think the map part of the game is very nice and clean graphically, and a regular sand colored desert would feel too plain and normal. They're on an alien planet, after all.
I explored some ideas for natural resources and wild life, but they might not fit into M.U.L.E..
The ship doesn't match the topdown view much... I have zero patience for perspective, somehow I think I'll get away with cheating, but I never do of course.
These are some ideas for illustrations which could help fluffing up the universe.