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A general debate on Retro / Pixel / Voxel / Blocky Horror Show games


Hello Goaty ♥
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I was wondering generally how often a choice of visual style in a game goes beyond “this looks nice”, “this is easily comprehensible”, or “this is achievable with our skill set and budget”. Cuphead is just the game that’s previously made me think about that. But with Celeste or Ori or anything else, does it *mean* anything that it looks the way it does? 

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4 hours ago, Made of Ghosts said:

I was wondering generally how often a choice of visual style in a game goes beyond “this looks nice”, “this is easily comprehensible”, or “this is achievable with our skill set and budget”. Cuphead is just the game that’s previously made me think about that. But with Celeste or Ori or anything else, does it *mean* anything that it looks the way it does? 

 

I think Papers Please is a good example of a pixel art style not just fitting in with the game, but enhancing it. The art makes the people look grey and worn down, and makes everything - both documents and people - look like indistinct photocopies of photocopies. And an art style evoking the capabilities of '80s computers is appropriate for a game set in a Cold War bureaucracy.

 

IIRC, the art style also affects the gameplay, because the indistinct faces and X-rays slow you down a bit when you're making comparisons to the photos in documents. If the game had a more broadly cartoony style, it'd be as easy as a game of Guess Who.

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11 hours ago, Made of Ghosts said:

I was wondering generally how often a choice of visual style in a game goes beyond “this looks nice”, “this is easily comprehensible”, or “this is achievable with our skill set and budget”. Cuphead is just the game that’s previously made me think about that. But with Celeste or Ori or anything else, does it *mean* anything that it looks the way it does? 

 

With Cuphead, I believe the style came first and the game was built around the developer's preferred tastes - there's no reason it looks like it does other than that's what they wanted to make. Which is as good a reason as any.

 

The broader question itself is interesting and probably worth a topic in its own right.

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7 hours ago, Nick R said:

 

I think Papers Please is a good example of a pixel art style not just fitting in with the game, but enhancing it. The art makes the people look grey and worn down, and makes everything - both documents and people - look like indistinct photocopies of photocopies. And an art style evoking the capabilities of '80s computers is appropriate for a game set in a Cold War bureaucracy.

 

IIRC, the art style also affects the gameplay, because the indistinct faces and X-rays slow you down a bit when you're making comparisons to the photos in documents. If the game had a more broadly cartoony style, it'd be as easy as a game of Guess Who.

 

Lucas Pope kept a dev log on tigsource during the development:
 

Quote

More About the Art
I don't have any formal art training so I'm just gonna copy what I see elsewhere. One thing I like about some of the better pixel-art games is the limited palette. Instead of choosing a global palette though, I'm going to try limiting individual objects or backgrounds to ~3 shades. That's not a hard rule and if it doesn't look good I'm flexible. You can already see a few places in the mockup like that.

For the initial version of the game I'm going to do everything in mid-res pixel art. Pixel art is just way easier, faster, and more enjoyable for me. When it comes to most commercial games however I think pixel art may not be a good choice. It works great for indies and people close to the scene, but my feeling is that most mainstream players prefer a smoother non-pixelated look. I've made some rough experiments with converting the small character portraits to full vector images and they don't look half bad. If I decide to turn this in to a commercial game it's possible I'll do that for all the art. I kinda did the same thing with Helsing's Fire and that turned out ok.

 

Page 2 has more stuff about the faces: https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=29750.20

 

It's worth a read through to see how it all develops.

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Pixel art is a stylistic choice, sure.

 

The problem for me is the proliferation of it. It often feels like it is a budget / skill choice because no doubt it takes some doing to make something as engaging and beautiful as Hollow Knight, and for every properly hand drawn game there seems to be 10 pixel games alongside it, in the case of new indie games.

 

Pixel art is like a 4-white-guys-with-guitars indie band. There's nothing inherently wrong with that setup, but after you've seen band after band take the stage at a festival looking and sounding exactly the same as the last, with the same sound, same production values, same pretending to be pained and emotional despite probably having quite a nice middle class life - it's very hard to get excited about. 

 

 

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I think that could be said about any well-trodden style. A lot of lo-fi pixel art games aim to ape the NES aesthetic, with its limited palettes and two-tone sprites, and after a while you're going to think the same of that as you do the proliferation of brown and grey military shooters, or bright and colourful casual puzzlers full of gems, or the four white guys with guitars.

 

The use of pixel art isn't the problem there, it's the lack of imagination to do something interesting with it to set it apart from the crowd.

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31 minutes ago, therearerules said:

No.

 

It encouraged a surge in platformers-as-[shitty, overwrought ]parables, but yeah, it very definitely didn't spur on a renaissance of high-res Amiga-looking 2D games. Thankfully.

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  • Hello Goaty ♥ changed the title to A general debate on Retro / Pixel / Voxel / Blocky Horror Show games

It's just such a weird question, considering

a) Braid is made to look like a watercolour and has no blocky pixelart,

and

b) Fez is literally standing right next to it.

 

I believe now that Goaty thinks pixelart is just another word for 2D platformer.

 

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12 minutes ago, Wiper said:

 

It encouraged a surge in platformers-as-[shitty, overwrought ]parables, but yeah, it very definitely didn't spur on a renaissance of high-res Amiga-looking 2D games. Thankfully.

It looked a bit like elf to me for some reason. 

 

Braid isn't even that pixel-y in comparison to super meat boy so I'm not sure why Goaty came to that game as it is. 

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1 hour ago, Fry Crayola said:

I think that could be said about any well-trodden style. A lot of lo-fi pixel art games aim to ape the NES aesthetic, with its limited palettes and two-tone sprites, and after a while you're going to think the same of that as you do the proliferation of brown and grey military shooters, or bright and colourful casual puzzlers full of gems, or the four white guys with guitars.

 

The use of pixel art isn't the problem there, it's the lack of imagination to do something interesting with it to set it apart from the crowd.

 

Absolutely. If I wanted to drive my analogy into the ground, pixel art is a guitar with a distortion pedal. You still need good songs and to not be an utterly boring person!

 

And I agree with you. I intend to give it more time but I got really bored of Red Dead Redemption 2 very quickly because while it does have amazing graphics and slow, but realistic animation to create a very vivid and real world, the downside of that is I am not particularly interested in frontier type / wild west settings and so I cared very very little about any of the story or characters and felt like there was not much for me. I was expecting to enjoy it simply as a showcase for my new Xbox but, nah. 

 

For me the joy of smooth detailed hand drawn lines in something like Hades or Hollow Knight show me that I'm hungry for more games where there's some effort into making it feel like a proper hand drawn cartoon come to life.

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5 minutes ago, therearerules said:

It's just such a weird question, considering

a) Braid is made to look like a watercolour and has no blocky pixelart,

and

b) Fez is literally standing right next to it.

 

I believe now that Goaty thinks pixelart is just another word for 2D platformer.

 

 

Ok i was off the mark with Braid    - sorry about that

 

I'm really aiming at stuff like Mercenary Kings that has been made to look the way it does on superior hardware.

 

Mercenary-Kings-2.gif

 

An apology in advance if you like this game

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3 minutes ago, Hello Goaty ♥ said:

 

Ok i was off the mark with Braid    - sorry about that

 

I'm really aiming at stuff like Mercenary Kings that has been made to look the way it does on superior hardware.

 

Mercenary-Kings-2.gif

 

An apology in advance if you like this game

But that is intentionally a throw back to metal slug though?

 

That isn't a case of them making it look "bad" and not using the hardware it's on.

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8 minutes ago, Hello Goaty ♥ said:

 

Well it put me off anyway. ( Yes i tried it  ) 

Fair enough but you've seemingly been put off by things from an incorrect assumption. 

 

Understandable that you might have wanted a 2d shooter which looks amazing and pushes your machine of choice but mercenary kings wasn't ever intended to be that and was cheaper for that reason too. 

 

You're doing an equivalent of being pissed off that a copy of the Beano isn't like war and peace or something.

 

I get your point though, I'm not trying to be a dick about it.

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b00dles just used a phrase " Throw Back " And i guess that nails it perfectly in the jest of this thread.

Whenever I see a Now 80's or Now 90's album advertised on TV in this era. I get the same feeling of GROAN been there done that.

 

I just don't want to go back to any of it. 

My point STILL stands that these are interesting and vital games for those youngsters :blah:  that are experiencing these graphic styles for the first time round. 

I am impressed though at how programmers hide next-gen processes underneath the old graphics. I'll give them that one.

 

 

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When they try and create a style that look like an incredible neo geo game or late era snes then they usually look great, like this:

 

 

However if they try and make it look like a crappy 8 bit game I find it much harder to enjoy. Like this:

 

 

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I quite like retro aesthetics in games, but pixel art in 2D games is a bit much sometimes. I mean, what is it supposed to represent? Old games? They didn't look that pixelated though a CRT. I'll bet displaying them at 240p on a CRT wouldn't do them any favours either.

 

Plus, it's been mentioned further up thread, but it's easy to bang out lousy pixel art and miss the point that for older consoles, this was a hard limit. a tiny colour palette and trying to assemble levels from a limited number of tiles meant really creative solutions to these limits produce timeless graphics.

  

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I have no idea why indie bands are getting a kicking here, since there is derivative shite in every form of music and you'd struggle to name any in the last five years.

 

In any case, pixel art, like indie guitar bands and every other form of music, is really great when it's great. It doesn't matter if I played Final Fantasy III (VI) in 1994. It still looks great, and every attempt at improvement has made it look much worse. 

 

I do tend to much prefer 16-bit esque to 8-bit. But there are exceptions. Shovel knight is great, for example. 

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13 minutes ago, the_debaser said:

When they try and create a style that look like an incredible neo geo game or late era snes then they usually look great, like this:

 

 

However if they try and make it look like a crappy 8 bit game I find it much harder to enjoy. Like this:

 

 


Axiom Verge is hideous, not helped by the awful colour scheme. 

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11 minutes ago, Hello Goaty ♥ said:

But my shitty point is that I played those in 1992

You didn't though. You played side scrolling shooters and metroidvanias in 1992 maybe, but that's nothing to do with the graphics of Huntdown or Axiom Verge. This is all a bit grumpy old man shouting at clouds, or as has been said above, as though you won't watch a black and white film or one with subtitles.

 

You've gone from Minecraft, which isn't pixel art, to Braid, which isn't pixel art, to games that are pixel art, and you've tried to lump them all together. It seems like what you actually don't like is a game that doesn't have graphics that are trying to be realistic. Or maybe 2D games, though Minecraft isn't 2D, so I guess that isn't the case either.

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