Ballpoint Universe Is Mad, Gorgeous, Entirely Hand-Drawn

I think the word you're looking for is *completely speechless*

Hey, remember pens? Once upon a time, humanity used them for chewing into gnarled oblivion (and also writing) before we evolved the ability to channel our psychic whims through keyboards, touch screens, and the like. Depressingly, there will probably soon be a generation that actually needs that explained to them. They’ll then nod astonishment through their VR displays before adding, “Wait, what’s a keyboard?” At which point I will fall down. I will fall down and burst into outraged (and very real) flames.  But until then, can we all come together and appreciate just how completely incredible Ballpoint Universe‘s entirely ballpoint-drawn universe looks? I mean, goodness. The exploration platformer/shmup (yes, that is a thing) looks brilliant in motion too, and you can experience it via either a trailer after the break or a free demo.

Those are the tangled, triumphant scrawlings of some demented crazy person. I’m certain of it. The basic premise of Ballpoint Universe’s world, however, is actually kind of adorable.

“Every inkling of creativity goes somewhere, every thought, hum, sketch, scribble, dance, spoken word is both pulled out of, and fed back into a creativerse so vast it has no real logical meaning. In the realms of notebook paper, creativity is hunted down like an infection. The ordered societies of logic: Geometry, Algebra, Grammar, Physics, and Anatomy wage war on the creative spurts that have settled on their pages, and they are winning. But every idea starts small, and even the smallest spark can start a raging inferno.”

You, then, assume the role of an especially spunky little spurt, taking the fight back to the logicians both on foot and in an exceedingly pointy, highly customizable space ship.

It’s a bit of a strange mix, but the demo is – for the most part – encouraging. The platforming area, while basic, is a visual treat, and it’s populated by suitably alien creatures, like a disembodied boot person and a TV creature that says, “I’d really enjoy it if you stared at my face for a few hours. But y’know, you don’t have to.” His name is Telegreg. Delightful. As someone who doodled all sorts of oddities in notebook margins (I INVENTED SPONGEBOB I SWEAR), I wholeheartedly approve.

Shooting, however, proved a little more worrisome. Yes, I entered my first mission carrying an arsenal that was already ceiling-high with parts, but the levels quickly grew repetitive, and movement felt imprecise. Admittedly, melee weapons, shields, and things of that nature suggest that combat could become quite varied and situation-based, but I need to see more before I can write this off as a mere early game problem.

That said, I’m not in any way, shape, form, or doodle of a mechanical steampunk owl creature writing this one off. It’s positively packed with promise, so I’m eagerly awaiting its May 2013 drop date. Which is very soon! Hurrah!


  1. Ansob says:

    If the art style looks familiar, it’s because this used to be called “College Ruled Universe” and had a successful KS a while back.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Man, I regretted not backing it then, but I was low on cash at the time. Glad to see they’re on track for a concrete release date.

  2. Don Reba says:

    If you like ballpoint pen art, you owe it to yourself to check out Samuel Silva.

    • Spacewalk says:

      And Dennis Dread if ya like death metal.

    • yhancik says:

      I always found such realistic drawings/paintings to be quite a futile exercise. Sure it’s an impressive stunt, as it is to see a guy climb the Everest in a wheelchair, or eat the Chichester Cathedral. But in the end of the day, it just looks like a photo with a filter. It’s not even like the process itself is in any way meaningful (as one could argue it is in the case of Jackson Pollock or On Kawara). Just “omg realism!”.

      Ballpoint Universe at least has its own style ;)

      • Kitsunin says:

        I actually think there are some pretty fascinating appearances to that realistic style, little imperfections that make it unique. But you’re right, it would be way more simple and less of a timesink to just use filters for that effect.

      • Don Reba says:

        I think the purpose of photo-realistic drawing is mostly personal. We humans are not actually aware of what we see, exactly. The signals from our photo receptors undergo sweeping transformations on route to consciousness. It becomes most striking in specially constructed illusions, but really this is something an artist has to wrestle with every step of the way. In order to create a close reproduction of a photograph, one has to reverse-engineer his mind in a fashion.

        Moreover, it is possible to make a drawing more realistic than a photograph, but that would be subject for another lecture. :)

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        As someone who can’t draw organics for beans (or at least without great difficulty, so it’s probably a matter of training) and who finds “the process” quite meaningful (in some objective ways, but mostly a vague, fuzzy ¡art! way — although I still think Pollock is bollocks), I respectfully disagree. I’m blown away by that Samuel Silva art. Thanks for the link, Don!

        But yeah, Ballpoint Universe has a pretty amazing style. Assuming it’s also fun, I look forward to playing it!

      • TT says:

        We have to keep in mind we´r looking at a pixel representation of a scan tru the “monitor filter”. The actual original must be quite different.

      • MentatYP says:

        It’s a strange, backwards world we live in where incredibly skillful people who are capable of realistic depictions of real objects have the merit of their art questioned when compared to an artist who slings paint at a canvas to see what sticks.

        • elgonzo says:

          Well, think about it. Take a photograph. Use a gridding technique to reproduce, or just use a projector to beam the picture like a blue print onto your canvas. Voila, you have just made your realistic reproduction, erm…, painting.

          Since the advent of photographic devices, doing a photo-realistic painting does not require much skill. That is probably one of the reasons why photo-realistic depictions lost artistic value since the invention of camera and photographic plate.

          Don’t get me wrong. Making a photo-realistic painting Duerer-style without reproduction techniques is no small feat. But as an artist of today, is it your desire to stand next to your piece, needing to repeatedly disclaim: “I did not use reproduction techniques. I am a true artist.”?

          • Machocruz says:

            A Durer is not possible simply using reproduction techniques. There is a personal canon of shape, proportion, color and technique that the artist filtered his observation of nature through. His work is not photo realism by any stretch. Neither were any of the classical European painters of the 15th-18th centuries.

            Even as painting came closer to a photographic look, I don’t see how photography means painting like Bouguereau ceased to require skill, especially seeing that no one today is able to match his subtle placement of value and hue, his combination of ideal form and accurate drawing, the perfection of his figures.

        • MikoSquiz says:

          We’ve got a machine at the office that can make photorealistic reproductions of images.

  3. Gap Gen says:

    Gonna wait for the Wot I Ink.

  4. Sic says:

    So, is it first and foremost a shmup or a platformer? I’m confused.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Hm. While the game looks amazing and possibly fun, I’m kind of irritated that it (apparently) shows mathematics and science as enemies of creativity. :/

  6. Shadowcat says:

    Needs more sodium.

  7. vash47 says:

    While the game looks beautiful, the game is terribly boring.

  8. says:

    Something about games not being art?

    I forget.

  9. Synesthesia says:

    Wow. I pity the guy who had to make all those alpha channels.

    • elgonzo says:

      I think the same every time i watch a movie with lot’s of CGI…

  10. elgonzo says:

    “The ordered societies of logic […] wage war on the creative spurts […]”

    Aka: Be dumb and creative, or be intelligent and unimaginative.

    Now, that’s a world view i didn’t come across since quite some time. But here it is…

    EDIT: @Bluerps: Yup…

  11. cptgone says:

    there should be a law against calling ballpoints pens. although i must admit bics are great for art.