Industry icon Hiroshi Ono – often referred to as “Mr Dotman” – has died at 64 after a long illness.
Ono’s passing was announced on his official Twitter account earlier today (October 18). According to Automaton, Ono was recently hospitalised for “suspected autoimmune hepatitis”.
During his time as a pixel artist at Namco, Ono created the sprites for Galaga and worked as a graphic designer on Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Xevious and more.
Through his iconic sprite designs, fans and fellow developers alike dubbed Ono “Mr. Dotman” due to the popularity and high quality of his pixel artwork.
— Mr.ドットマン@中の人はチームドットマンスタッフ (@MrDotman_info) October 18, 2021
As reported by Kotaku, Ono joined Namco in 1979, though his work went largely uncredited at the height of its popularity. Ono worked within Namco – and eventually Bandai-Namco – until 2013, at which point he left the company to go freelance.
In 2011, Galaga creator Shigeru Yokoyama described how Ono brought his initial concept art to life and crediting him with the final sprite designs used in the game.
“They were actually drawn by Hiroshi Ono, a designer who, from Galaga onwards, became famous for drawing these kind of sprites. He became known as Mr Dotman, an authority on pixel design, but these characters were the first he made.”
My 15 daughter found this and said with a smile a while back, "I love the red cat. So cute! " I was impressed his pixel arts didn't only inspire my generation strongly but also stood the test of time. I know they will all miss you too…
R.I.P. Hiroshi Ono-san aka Mr. Dotman. pic.twitter.com/a1LORxc8rN
— Yuzo Koshiro (@yuzokoshiro) October 18, 2021
Streets of Rage composer Yuzo Koshiro also shared a tribute, stating, “I was impressed his pixel arts didn’t only inspire my generation strongly but also stood the test of time”.
Fans in Japan recently raised funds to create a documentary on Ono’s life. The project describes Ono as a “legendary dot painter” and highlights his contribution to “the golden age of video games in the 1980s”.
Following Ono’s death, the documentary page has been updated to confirm that “this project could not be closed” and production will continue.