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Pixel Art: Overdone Style or Simply a Tool of the Trade?

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So, every now and then, my mind drifts off into game development as a whole. Most of the topics I create tend to be that. Whether it's gameplay features, types of games, indie successes or styles and themes. I wrote a status on this but I got a few in depth answers so I kinda feel like a thread could spark more discussion.

In this case, I want to talk about pixel art and its prevalence in the indie scene. Part of what got me thinking about it was when I bought Game Dev Studio a couple of days ago. I bought when I was feeling that genre, a lot of you probably heard about or even played Game Dev Tycoon. Similar topics, pretty different gameplay and, also important art style. This isn't meant to be a review on either game and I won't get into the gameplay, but backstory of what got me thinking about it.

GDT uses a smoother, clean art style while GDS uses pixel art.

I've noticed there's a LOT of games that use the pixel art style. Like, a lot. Mostly indie games.

There's a reason for it, though. Pixel art can be a lot easier to work with, especially for people who aren't as artistically inclined. You can get a lot out of those jagged edges. And it generally works pretty well if you're going for the retro feel.

However, on the flip side, a lot of those games with the retro feel comes out. It stops feeling retro and kinda becomes the norm, doesn't it? That's not to say that you can't get a good looking game out of pixel art, of course not. And it's not to say it's an outdated style that needs to go away, but it's very easy to see a trend abused. I remember when everything had to have zombies in it or be a FPS around the mid-2000s.

Still, you could argue that pixel art is just an artistic choice that, given its frequency, is just as acceptable as something like cel-shading. Though, like art history, every style has a period that eventually comes to a close, I'm not sure when that is for pixel art in indie games.

Now, what are your thoughts on pixel art? Do you feel it's overstayed its welcome or should still be welcomed with opened arms? Maybe you take the middle route where it depends on the specific title?

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Pixel art as an aesthetic choice is just more economical if you're a small indie developer. Not only are the assets smaller in scale, but it's generally easier to produce pixel art than more higher res, drawn animations for a game. To me it's no surprise that it's so prevalent because of budgetary reasons and time reasons.

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I almost thought for a sec, the title said Pixar

And I’m like what??? How is Pixar style overdone when I only see few games use it? (Unleashed)

As for you actually meant, I agree that Pixel/8-bit era art is overused to the point that it’s not really a unique aesthetic anymore. 

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2 hours ago, Mega said:

Pixel art as an aesthetic choice is just more economical if you're a small indie developer. Not only are the assets smaller in scale, but it's generally easier to produce pixel art than more higher res, drawn animations for a game. To me it's no surprise that it's so prevalent because of budgetary reasons and time reasons.

One need only look at Braid for a case in point of this. Pretty much all the assets iirc were hand drawn, and sure it might look pretty in motion, but it also took them something like four years to get a game done this way between their small, two person team. In fact this isn't even just true of indie games. Though they were still technically sprites, one of the Guilty Gear games (forget which one, other than that I know it was before Xrd) made them in such high resolution that they were basically direct rips of their reference drawings, and someone on the team went on record that making graphics this way tended to get things done at roughly one frame per day, even with the resources they had over an indie group.

Power to the guys that wanna go all out on graphics, but most people making games on their own aren't making them for that reason. A lot of budding developers will want to focus their attention elsewhere on merits they can compete better with, gameplay or story devices probably being the two most obvious ones.

38 minutes ago, tailsBOOM! said:

Pixel art tends to keep it's integrity long after 3d games.   For example, the Genesis games hold up, while the Adventure games, beloved as they are, tend to look a bit, um awkward at times:

Image result for sonic adventure sonic

Pixel art will never look outdated, as the style itself doesn't change as much.

This is kind of an unfair comparison. SA1 doesn't fail to hold up because its polygons are dated, it fails to hold up because its artstyle is dated. That's as true of pixel art as it is of 3D art. There are some pretty dated 3D games that still hold up to this day because they're simply appealing to the eye despite (or sometimes even because of) the limitations of the day, just as much as there are 2D games from the 8 and 16 bit eras that look like pixellated vomit. I mean fucking hell, just look at the very next game after that.

sonic-adventure-2_733298_full.jpg?format

Artstyle trumps technical power every time, and that's true of any medium. Worst case, you might sometimes spot a creative shortcut the developers made to make things look more appealing than they are (most common example of this era would probably be 2D cutouts in crowds just of the top of my head), but I don't think I've ever thought less of a game's looks because of them.

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i think pixel art is rather overdone. i'm tired of seeing it. i don't hate pixel art per se (heck, my favorite indie game is a pixel art game), i'd just like to see more art styles for 2D indie games.

i get it's easier for small indie devs to pull pixel art off, but i'd love to see an equal amount of indie games looking like this:

MV5BZjI0NGJkZjEtZTM1NC00OGRhLWJjNWItNTNi

and ones looking like this:

Rayman-Legends.jpg

(i know these aren't indie games, just using them examples of these specific styles)

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5 minutes ago, blueblur98 said:

i think pixel art is rather overdone. i'm tired of seeing it. i don't hate pixel art per se (heck, my favorite indie game is a pixel art game), i'd just like to see more art styles for 2D indie games.

i get it's easier for small indie devs to pull pixel art off, but i'd love to see an equal amount of indie games looking like this:

MV5BZjI0NGJkZjEtZTM1NC00OGRhLWJjNWItNTNi

and ones looking like this:

Rayman-Legends.jpg

(i know these aren't indie games, just using them examples of these specific styles)

The big thing is time and money.

Pixel art and sprites can be produced at a relatively rapid pace. Especially for smaller teams, this is very helpful when there aren't so many smiled artists around. It's exponentially more difficult when pixel art (whether it's 8 bit, 32 bit or whatever else) is replaced with higher res, higher detail art or polygons. It's simply not possible for most indie devs to do.

Have a look at any digital storefront these days; how many indie games use a pseudo-retro artstyle? Now ask yourself how many of those games would exist if they went for something more ambitious? Almost none of them.

I find the sheer number of games that look like they're supposed to on the NES or Mega Drive etc to be exhausting. With so many aesthetically similar games out there right now and the usually striking contrast between something big budget/AAA and something more humble... Yeah, it gets tiring. But you can't have it both ways. 

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Pixel art as a budgetary and stylistic choice is fine.

 

 

Pixel art because you're trying to dickride the NES (or, more rarely, the vague "Super Gentendo" style that was more common the previous console generation but subsided a bit; except for the glut of Symphony of the Night clones) was already played out and creatively bankrupt when Mega Man 10 did it in 2010. That's because of trends, though, and I can't honestly say that the "hopelessly sterile polygonal interpretation of 2D artwork" that peaked around that same time (think Rocket Knight) was any better. If you actually commit to the style, like something like Shovel Knight or Mania did, it comes off as much more sincere.

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Yeah, Pixel Art is a valid tool of the trade, but there are a lot of overdone trends among indies, i.e., the "fat pixels" look, sprites with 1-pixel thick limbs, no outlines, etc. Few try to shoot for the  standards of SEGA, Capcom, and SNK (plus companies like Konami, IGS, Shiny, and Irem), as well.

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What a lot of people don't realise is that the highest quality pixel art is incredibly hard to do. In the SNES and Mega Drive days, the best pixel art was done by professional artists who were formally educated in art. They were working within technical limitations and creating great art rather than using pixel art to hide their own artistic limitations.

There's this stigma around pixel art that it's somehow easy to do, but it's not at the highest level. Not everyone can make sprites on the quality of the Classic Sonic games for example. While fan artists are talented, there's a night and day difference between their work and that of the official releases.

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