AuthorTopic: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue  (Read 27209 times)

Offline Ryumaru

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Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

on: May 24, 2013, 08:37:14 am
Attention all pokemon masters! This time around we'll be taking a look at the games that started a cultural sensation that remains popular and is even releasing a 6th generation later this year!

Game: Pokemon (red and blue version)
Platform: Gameboy
Developer: Gamefreak
Publisher: Nintendo

Pokemon is an rpg that is the hallmark of many a childhood; exhibiting charming but less than optimized graphics on the gameboy handheld system. With a resolution as tiny as 160x144 and only 4 shades to use ( note: the gameboy color hardware allowed for injecting some palettes into the original greyscale pieces) concerns of readability and priority are of chief concern. What it lacks in masterful pixel work it makes up for by excelling in these categories. But is there a reason we can't have our pokecake and eat it too?




You can use the visual boy advance for emulation of this game ( on mac I prefer kiGB) and there's plenty of videos and such spread across the internets, it IS pokemon afterall! Better yet, whip out your old gameboy, find some AA's and annoy your parents by turning up the evolution music at the dinner table.


« Last Edit: May 27, 2013, 03:12:05 pm by Crow »

Offline Crow

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Re: Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #1 on: May 24, 2013, 12:12:31 pm
Ahem.
Idea: if you want to do activities, throw me a PM. If they're good/acceptable, you can do them. Not too many at once, so I'll regulate them. I'm assuming that's okay with the other members of the staff. If there's anything wrong with that, tell me please. I'd really like to see some activity in the activity forum though ;D

Still, I approve, and will move this to the right forum. It'd be great if you could create a banner I can put up at the top right, as usual. Banner size is 150x65.

Edit: Just saw this is supposed to be a draft instead? Moved back, changed title. Tell me once you're ready to pull this through, alright?
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 12:20:33 pm by Crow »
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Offline Helm

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #2 on: May 24, 2013, 12:27:54 pm
This also needs all the pokemens in a sprite sheet. I know... boring work, but important. So anyone can pick one and remake it as they wish.

Also, do you want people to follow the actual original specs?

Offline Crow

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #3 on: May 24, 2013, 12:53:40 pm
Spriters Resource offers a sheet with all of them here. Behinds here.
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Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #4 on: May 24, 2013, 12:57:31 pm

The pixels are off in this one.
(I hate it when photoshop does this)

Is the PKMN shortening due to the original being in japanese, and the whole translated word not fitting in?
Also, I hadn't noticed before that the foremost sprites are at a lower resolution. It's a cheap way to make them feel closer though.

The 4 color limitation, is that only per sprite?

Offline Crow

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #5 on: May 24, 2013, 01:16:23 pm
Is the PKMN shortening due to the original being in japanese, and the whole translated word not fitting in?

The original just said ポケモン (PO-KE-MO-N), but it was on the left side, on the bottom. In the translated one, it doesn't fit on the right side with just three characters, so they made it small, too.
No pixel expert, just a coding monkey (´ω`)っ旦~~

Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #6 on: May 24, 2013, 01:42:59 pm
Ah, yeah, it doesn't take up as much space with japanese characters, might be even less if they'd use kanji, but I guess they don't since it's for kids.

If the english font wasn't so wide they could have had Fight - Item - Pokemon - Run too.

Offline Crow

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #7 on: May 24, 2013, 01:48:01 pm
Ah, yeah, it doesn't take up as much space with japanese characters, might be even less if they'd use kanji, but I guess they don't since it's for kids.

They mostly didn't use Kanji because the resolution is way too low to make them readable and not too big at the same time.
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Offline tim

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #8 on: May 24, 2013, 02:27:11 pm
The thread needs some serious clarification. What do you ask us to do ?
Redraw a frame of pokemon ? Animate a pokemon ? Should we respect the gameboy specs ?
Thanks.
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Offline Carnivac

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #9 on: May 24, 2013, 03:26:40 pm
Not a Pokemon fan at all (I had Blue when it first came out but more because a girl I liked had Red rather than anything to do with the game itself).  I was always curious though why the non-battle sections looked so vastly inferior to something like Link's Awakening (in my opinion the greatest Gameboy ever made... and the best Zelda, with Link to the Past close behind) which was released many years earlier.  The Pokemon battle sprites, at least in these early versions, just look too scrappy to me as well.  The broken black outlines, particularly noticable on the Squirtle(?) just do not work for me.
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Offline Corinthian Baby

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #10 on: May 24, 2013, 03:29:12 pm
Creature stuff is great, (just peep Cure's remakes of the original 150) but I would also like to look at some tiles and the evolution of the tiles over the pokemon generations charting how they developed.

Offline Arne

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #11 on: May 24, 2013, 03:46:24 pm
And I just looked at the Yellow game data. It appears the graphics (and probably the entire stat blocks) for the monsters is compressed or formatted strangely (to make transfer more secure?). The title screen, map tiles, NPCs, badges, slot machines, pika scenes etc. Are easily visible as they are stored in 2bp gameboy style.

Finding full sprite sheets of the monsters on the net is super easy though.

Many sprites can be found here:
http://www.spriters-resource.com/search/?q=pokemon&g=1
http://www.spriters-resource.com/gameboy/pokerb/sheet/8727

Keep in mind that these are probably ripped, not dumped. Rippers often make mistakes. There are other Pokémon fan-sites which have full sheets like these.

Found some stuff about the Monster/Trainer gfx:
http://hax.iimarck.us/topic/2253/
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 04:04:26 pm by Arne »

Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #12 on: May 24, 2013, 04:23:32 pm
Hm, so regarding limitations..

Why are they using such a mix of black/white and 4 color palettes.
Wouldn't they have been able to add some color and AA to the font and gui?
 Because I started playing around with it, but I'm not sure if my edit would work technically..

Offline Arne

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #13 on: May 24, 2013, 04:58:42 pm
The font in old games often use just one bitplane (e.g. BG and black) with the second bitplane being used for other 1bp gfx such as GUI stuff. It saves a little memory.

Regarding color, I think the original games were for the regular GB so they didn't have color data. The GBC would recognize certain popular GB games and attempt to colorize them using built in palettes for the BG and FG objects. The actual GBC games had much more detailed color data associated with the gfx of course.

For the R/B Pokémon games, just look at what they did with the monochrome tones. Lots of gentle nibbling and aliasing on the outlines it seems. I think the larger failings lie in the figure constructions. There are some clumsy poses, odd proportions and lack of faithfulness to source illustrations, but all these issues were addressed in the later versions.

Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #14 on: May 24, 2013, 05:15:34 pm
Hm, interesting..

But still quite confusing on how the colors are decided.
In the Blue title screen Squirtle is orange while he's blue in combat.

So should we draw everything using the original GB palette or the modified GBC?

Offline Arne

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #15 on: May 24, 2013, 06:53:10 pm
The GBC somehow recognized zones or banks in GB games and applied palettes selectively.

As I understand it, Commercial Critique is more about looking at what the games did. Look at the efficiencies and inefficiencies, within the context of the hardware/memory restrictions and display presentation (LCD/CRT whatever). Then maybe try to emulate the awesome things they did and integrate it into your own style, or do paintovers to figure out what they perhaps could have done better (or could they?).

Offline Ryumaru

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #16 on: May 24, 2013, 07:14:57 pm
I think, when it comes to the activity, it would be important to have your mockup or revamp work well with the original grey value scale of the gameboy, then perhaps some research could be done into what palettes were used and available, then you could attempt making your piece work in color too ( it seems that hues would change by location mostly. Each pokemon also seems to have it's own palette!)

edit: pokemans have been added. I'm also interested in exactly how the fonts work as the text doesn't always align to tiles, and if I'm not mistaken I've seen at least one gbc game with AAed text... I think?
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 07:19:59 pm by Ryumaru »

Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #17 on: May 24, 2013, 07:31:57 pm
Hm, but the kerning for the font is awful, so I assumed they were just rendering the tiles one after another. I mean look at the spacing around each 'I'.

So when will this activity start? I've already done an edit for the GUI.  ::)

edit: The colors of those sprites looks way more pale than the screenshots..
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 07:34:53 pm by Seiseki »

Offline Azuyre

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #18 on: May 24, 2013, 09:22:49 pm
Here are the fronts and backs from TSR, these colors match the screenshots a bit better.

Offline Cure

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #19 on: May 25, 2013, 07:26:18 am
Don't forget trainer sprites



St. Anne/pokemarts/pokecenters/overworld sprites might also be worth revamping. The tile sets for the rest of the game are fairly simple and repetitive.

So is this just restricted to red/blue, or are green and yellow sprites under review as well?

Offline Pix3M

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #20 on: May 25, 2013, 07:36:53 am
I have a feeling that the game didn't have a particularly strong artist. For the sake of this thread, think we can confirm whether they got a professional to do the sprites rather than having a programmer with some art skills do the work?

Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #21 on: May 25, 2013, 08:29:37 am
I have a feeling that the game didn't have a particularly strong artist. For the sake of this thread, think we can confirm whether they got a professional to do the sprites rather than having a programmer with some art skills do the work?

It's not that bad, is it?

Also, with anything commercial, time is much more important and most players have no idea what banding is, nor do they care, they just want to play the game as soon as possible.
I also feel that people who don't see themselves as pixel artist just blames all the faults on the medium instead of a lack of understanding of the medium.. Like, "This is good enough for pixel art.." or "Meh, it's pixelart so yeah it's gonna look a bit bad.."

edit: So on the technical side.
Are we going to follow the limitations of the game, ie. the way the game was coded with the layout, sizes, palettes.
Or the limitations of the Gameboy, like how things could have been coded within the limits of gameboy specs. (this could quickly get out of hand, although it might be more interesting.)
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 09:39:13 am by Seiseki »

Offline Charlieton

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #22 on: May 25, 2013, 11:08:26 am
I've always felt like the monster sprites in these original games were somewhat inconsistent in their style. It looks as though they were made by several different artists. Some of the monsters look like the artist wanted them to have a natural, realistic look, with detailed rendering. One that stands out with these qualities is Sandshrew (2nd row, third from the right in Azuyres post). You only need to look at the monsters right next to it, to see vastly different styles. Even its evolved form looks more cartoonish, with large, flat colour clusters. You can see this distinction all over the sprite sheet, with some monsters looking more three dimensional with their shading, and others completely flat, but more colorful.
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Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #23 on: May 25, 2013, 11:40:56 am
Yeah, some use dithering, others have high contrast due to black patches while some are just very plain or gentle in their shading.

Offline Mr. Fahrenheit

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #24 on: May 25, 2013, 12:32:17 pm
I'd like it if we did yellow as well because that's the one I played.  :P

Offline Seiseki

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #25 on: May 25, 2013, 01:18:34 pm
I'd like it if we did yellow as well because that's the one I played.  :P

I played yellow too, because I wanted to play as Ash with pikachu, after seeing the anime.  ::)
Pikachu looks terrible in R/B though, like wtf were they even thinking, it looks nothing like pikachu.

I think it would be interesting to compare R/B with some of the improvements made in Yellow, but focus should be on R/B.




Offline Charlieton

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #26 on: May 25, 2013, 02:25:01 pm
Pikachu looks terrible in R/B though, like wtf were they even thinking, it looks nothing like pikachu.

Well, I thought the regular look of Pikachu was only established after the first game. I recall having read articles about the game around the time when it was just newly released in Japan, and that they had polled children on which monster they liked most, based on the games. Pikachu won, and it's been my understanding that this informed the decision to make it the mascot of the series and star of the subsequent show. That could explain why it looks so different in the first game.

However, these are hazy memories from way back, and I was a child :lol:. I haven't bothered to confirm these suspicions at any time since.

When faced with a question, head to Wikipedia! This seems like good information: "Ken Sugimori, artist and longtime friend of [Satoshi] Tajiri, headed the development of drawings and designs of the Pokémon, working with a team of less than ten people who conceived the various designs for all 151 Pokémon. Sugimori in turn finalized each design, drawing the Pokémon from various angles in order to assist Game Freak's graphics department in properly rendering the creature."
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 02:37:47 pm by Charlieton »
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Offline Pix3M

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #27 on: May 25, 2013, 03:57:54 pm
It's not that bad, is it?

Also, with anything commercial, time is much more important and most players have no idea what banding is, nor do they care, they just want to play the game as soon as possible.
I also feel that people who don't see themselves as pixel artist just blames all the faults on the medium instead of a lack of understanding of the medium.. Like, "This is good enough for pixel art.." or "Meh, it's pixelart so yeah it's gonna look a bit bad.."

Let's put aside the pixel technique. Obviously the technique is bad but I would bet there are a lot more interesting things we can bring up about the art. What I am noticing is that some of the pokemon sprites have compositional problems. Others have noodly appendages and anatomy quirks that doesn't seem intentional. I think there's plenty of stuff you shouldn't need to be a pixel artist to notice with these sprites.

But then again I just read that Ken Sugimori worked at the original Red/Green versions as a character and pokemon designer. Whatever was the deal with stylistic inconsistencies, he has definitely become a stronger artist over time.

Quick notes glancing through each pokemon.

Bulbasaur: Something tells me that it's not a smart idea to have its legs cover both sides of its mouth.
Ivysaur: Only one leaf is visible. More visible leaves might do this some justice.
Squirtle: This sprite has bad readability. The mouth would be more readable if that mouth cluster was black. The arms are also short so the raised arm appears to be part of its shell, but the solution is to make that arm longer.
Wartortle and Blastoise: Wonky forms are wonky. So many parts are shaded the same way so it flattens the forms.
Caterpie: Noise under its mouth.
Beedril: Aaahahaha, I can relate when I've seen plenty of pony artists who draw hind legs much like humans. Beedril's legs are structured like a pair super-simplified human legs. I noticed that in later versions Beedril's 'foot' is much larger now.
Pidgey Family: Did the spriter know how wings work? The anatomy is different from each evolution. Pigeot has the most confusing composition.
Spearow: Readability, dammit! I can't tell how the wing is attached to the body.
Ekans: Interesting head anatomy. iirc snakes do not have a brow and I am not sure what the brow is adding to the design.
Arbok: The body looks like one of a worm, not a snake. Same for Ekans. Not sure how a more proper texture would work out, but possibly they made the body worm-like for the sake of ease.
Pikachu: One leg appears to be different from the other.
Raichu: Two visual tangents: the arm touching the ear, and the tail touching the underside.
Sandslash: Broken neck?
Ninetails: The raised leg appears shrunken.
Golbat: Haha, how is that tongue attached to its mouth? Composition is also a tad confusing.

There's a lot of pokemon to go through but I'll stop here for now. Other stuff for me to do atm now
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 04:18:56 pm by Pix3M »

Offline Conzeit

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #28 on: May 25, 2013, 05:29:30 pm
a bit offtopic but
Arne: I always did find your little article on the pokemans very interesting, your point about how these first 151 had more empashis combining separate concepts and less decorative parts strikes quite true. You mentioned there you only liked about 30 of these in that article, which are they? I always was curious about what would be your examples of good pokemans

Did you guys check the pokemon Green sprites? I think those are actually the original sprites, and some of them they vary from the sanctioned look even further

just check out this spaced out Drowzee...I love it XD

I think we should base our remakes on the red/green red/blue sprites rather than the boring sanitized nitnendo spritesheets, lots more room for interpretation here. Plus,  I understood it what motivated the creation of this topic was the idea of remaking an old game that looked really crappy and looked really popular....not to compete in terms of pixeling with the pixelartists of the lastest 2d pokemon game.

The point of the activity still isnt very clear to me, just a mockup of pokemon in GBC specs? you should make that clear in the first post of the thread, and compile the sheets we on which should base our remakes  Ruymaru
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 06:08:16 pm by Conceit »

Offline Crow

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #29 on: May 25, 2013, 06:20:40 pm
Did you guys check the pokemon Green sprites? I think those are actually the original sprites

They are. Red and Blue in Europe and the USA were sort of a 1.1 release. Green and original Red also still had the swap glitch in place (you could swap Pokemon with items, creating memory errors, allowing a 4 minute glitch speedrun).
No pixel expert, just a coding monkey (´ω`)っ旦~~

Offline Corinthian Baby

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #30 on: May 25, 2013, 06:33:52 pm
I think we should be looking at these sprites in the initial GB 4 color greys first, and then looking about how we can apply 4 color preset pallets to them efficiently. Just to kind of see how we would do it vs. how they did it.

I think looking from the green sprites to the red/blue we're more familiar with, we can see what kind of criticisms they received and how they tried to improve them. One interesting thing about the sprites is because of the limited room, they used perspective and foreshortening to fit some of their designs in place. While it adds depth, it can also cause readability issues, so it's a double edged sword. I really think it works for Sycther and Hitmonlee. Others like Machamp and Hitmonchan look more confusing at first glance.

They also look much more zany and cartoony in the green sprites, the poses are more dynamic, aggressive and tensed in the red/blue ones. Maybe they studied how composition works best either directly before or after the action. That's why those perspective ones look kind of out of place because it's somewhat during the action.

Look at green version Kabuto, from a design perspective, pretty readable. Compared to red/blue Kabuto, a bit more confusing, especially if you don't have the comparison, and are just going from the sprite. I remember playing the original and thinking how weird he was, I thought those 2 dots on his shell were his eyes. So changing the sprites to be more battle ready also created new issues I geuss. But look how well it works for green Porygon to r/b Porygon. One is like testing the waters to get comfortable with the design, the other pushes it into the 3rd dimension.

For the record I still don't know what's going on with Trainer Cuball's crotch protector.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 07:13:22 pm by Corinthian Baby »

Offline PypeBros

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #31 on: May 25, 2013, 07:57:38 pm
May I ask for some hint (excel-like "C3" coordinates, for instance) for identifying which picture you're referencing to ? I'm afraid pikachu, salamčche and bulbizar are the only one I could name...

Offline Ryumaru

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #32 on: May 25, 2013, 08:03:33 pm
For reference, here are the pokemon yellow sprites that were created once the look and convention of pokemon was in place from the anime and other media. I think these sprites are quite beautiful and really handle the restrictions well; however, I can't help but feel there is a certain charm from the red/blue sprites that is lost in the more commercial and consistent yellow counterpart.



edit: The activity thread is up.
I'd especially like clarification on the palette swapping that the gameboy color could do with the original graphics. Can anyone shed more light on this? Almost every pokemon has it's own separate, relatively saturated palette, but the overworld is almost all a washed out, pastel couple of palette entries. Was there any reason the hardware couldn't separate from different assets such as trees or buildings? Was this perhaps just something that wasn't fully utilized by Gamefreak due to time or resource restraints?

Also I'm very interested in how the fonts work as well. Arne, you said that most often they only used 1 bit channel to save a bit on memory. do you think that it would have been possible to create fonts with some single layer AA to help smoothen and increase readability? This game is actually pretty text heavy so this is an asset that could surely use some sprucing up.

It may be beyond the scope of the activity, but it would be interesting to find out how much space the pokemon game took up from it's available cartridge. Perhaps at the least we could theorize of space saving techniques that would allow for some of the more "extravagant" things such as AAed fonts.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 08:45:29 pm by Ryumaru »

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #33 on: May 25, 2013, 08:55:45 pm
I really would love to have a new commercial critique but I personally don't think that Pokemon Green/Red/Blue is a good subject for a commercial critique.
I don't want to be the kill-joy here but the things which are concerning me:

-Pokemon Green was the first version of the commercial most successful videogame series nowaday (there are in total 66 games, 23 games are from the main series). All first versions have some weaknesses which the developers usually try to avoid in the next versions.

-the style and art direction of a modern "classical" pokemon game looks and feels really similar to the first versions. Every new version "perfectionized" another aspect of the game while maintaining the roots of the series (graphics and gameplay).

-the graphic was functional, but the designs were good. The game definitely had a well thought-out style - there will always be smaller inconsistencies, but the normal player don't cares.
There were a lot of gameboy games which you could play through in about 2 hours. Pokemon managed to provide a world which took you dozens of hours to discover. The developers definitely sacrificed aesthetical value due to gameplay (I don't say that details could have been solved better, but they fixed them with the new versions anyways).
I played Pokemon Red as I was 5, but the graphics never feeled wrong to me - The cool part for me was always that you can catch, train and evolve cool monsters which are all different. I recognized a city as a city, a path as a path and a cave as a cave.

-(nearly) everybody has played one part of the series. So everybody has his own nostalgical memories of the game. The nostalgy factor usually kills the unprejudiced argumentation.

All in all I think everybody has made up his mind about the game so far, of course we can collect the opinions and try to "fix" stuff which is already fixed. There are a lot of games which changed from 2D to 3D like Metroid (I know that there are a few GBA titles) and where there would be place for quite some improvement (the newer 2D Castlevanias prooved it).
And there are lots of games without sequels and bad graphics which are also worth a look from the "critique" point of view.

A much more interesting attempt would be to look what the developers changed with the newer versions, especially graphics-wise. There were a lot of changes and a lot of changes to the good side. The last version I played was Ruby and  it was much better, although it looked and feeled still the same.
just some thoughts from my side
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Offline Ryumaru

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #34 on: May 25, 2013, 09:40:19 pm
I really would love to have a new commercial critique but I personally don't think that Pokemon Green/Red/Blue is a good subject for a commercial critique.
I don't want to be the kill-joy here but the things which are concerning me:

-Pokemon Green was the first version of the commercial most successful videogame series nowaday (there are in total 66 games, 23 games are from the main series). All first versions have some weaknesses which the developers usually try to avoid in the next versions.

-the style and art direction of a modern "classical" pokemon game looks and feels really similar to the first versions. Every new version "perfectionized" another aspect of the game while maintaining the roots of the series (graphics and gameplay).

-the graphic was functional, but the designs were good. The game definitely had a well thought-out style - there will always be smaller inconsistencies, but the normal player don't cares.
There were a lot of gameboy games which you could play through in about 2 hours. Pokemon managed to provide a world which took you dozens of hours to discover. The developers definitely sacrificed aesthetical value due to gameplay (I don't say that details could have been solved better, but they fixed them with the new versions anyways).
I played Pokemon Red as I was 5, but the graphics never feeled wrong to me - The cool part for me was always that you can catch, train and evolve cool monsters which are all different. I recognized a city as a city, a path as a path and a cave as a cave.

-(nearly) everybody has played one part of the series. So everybody has his own nostalgical memories of the game. The nostalgy factor usually kills the unprejudiced argumentation.

All in all I think everybody has made up his mind about the game so far, of course we can collect the opinions and try to "fix" stuff which is already fixed. There are a lot of games which changed from 2D to 3D like Metroid (I know that there are a few GBA titles) and where there would be place for quite some improvement (the newer 2D Castlevanias prooved it).
And there are lots of games without sequels and bad graphics which are also worth a look from the "critique" point of view.

A much more interesting attempt would be to look what the developers changed with the newer versions, especially graphics-wise. There were a lot of changes and a lot of changes to the good side. The last version I played was Ruby and  it was much better, although it looked and feeled still the same.
just some thoughts from my side

What you find as reasons that a critique is unnecessary or unfruitful, I find to be the best reasons to have a critique. the success of this game is huge, and it may very well have been to the expansive world that the red and blue versions gave ( comparative to other GB games as you say) but at the end of the day, that world is made up of 8x8 tiles, all of which can include 4 shades of grey; the beautiful thing about this is that the gameboy doesn't care how those shades are placed inside it which means that if we are using the same amount of tiles for an asset and can make it better in terms of pixel art technique as well as traditional art values and game art specific concerns, why not do it?

The charm and nostalgia that surrounds this game actually gives depth to the critique as there is a necessity to balance technical qualities with the more abstract qualities that are inherent in the less than " perfect" graphics.

It is not of our concern whether the graphics were "fixed"in next generations on the gameboy advance and the like ( ruby and sapphire actually have some pretty bad graphics too, employing many of the poor conventions this game established) . I think many of us agree that there are some things that could be fixed in this original generation with the hardware it had available that could lead to a more aesthetically pleasing game.

Critique is not necessarily about a a solution or an answer either. if, after the activity, we find that we've only moved laterally- we may realize that this game full of mismatched GUI, mixed resolution battle scenes, and sometimes deformed looking creatures, hit on some special nerve of perfection within imperfection. Finding that out through exploration of the game's graphics and attempting actual revamps is much more fulfilling I think, than just saying " nah, it was good enough for the time".

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Re: [TALK] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #35 on: May 26, 2013, 09:21:17 am
Pokémon Yellow is 1 megabyte and has tons of unused space between data segments from what I can tell. R/B are probably quite a bit smaller but I don't have them. Uncompressed 8*8px 2BP tiles take 16 bytes on both the NES and Gameboy (color data is stored elsewhere). A full 16*16 tile NES tile table thus takes 256 tiles * 16 bytes. Sometimes NES games have loose tile segments scattered about, and the GB games I've looked at don't seem to have full tile tables at all (in ROM). In PKMNY there are little segments with SS.ANNE and furniture and places. These go into the video memory when needed, alongside common/shared tiles no doubt.

As for the 1 bitplane (b/w) stuff. Here's the font right under the Japanese logo. You'd think it has anti-aliasing judging by the 2BP mode view, left, but it looked suspiciously wonky so I wrote a 1BP view mode which revealed the truth. There can be no anti-aliasing in 1bp mode. (The gfx underneath appears garbled because it's on a different offset multiple.)



It's a fixed width font of course. You can't easily have kerning on these old tile based systems (and you need annoying extra code for stuff like end of line detection).

On the NES, 1bp stuff tend to look overlayed and not squished, like this:



If I recall correctly, the monster designs were established fairly early on, it's just that the R/B pixel art was a little off. Meaning, they didn't "find" the designs with the later games. They just did better pixel representations (probably pretty taxing to do graphics for 150 monsters the first time around with a smaller team).

Conceit> I like the designs to various degrees, and sometimes I just like the one aspect of a design but not another, or I like how a design looks but not how it relates to other evolutions. I've never liked Mankey and Primeape much. Primeape feels like an unnecessary evolution. But in light of the newer monkey Pokémon I think Mankey is a fairly memorable design somewhere at heart since it has the quirky ball-body going on and is not just a cartoon ape with stuff on it. Anyways, it's really hard for me to pick a specific set of 30. It depends on what the filter is... Cute, Cool, interesting double function of details, memorable, nice evolution set, fun-ugly, great familiar made unfamiliar combo.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 11:00:41 am by Arne »

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Re: [TALK] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #36 on: May 26, 2013, 09:34:41 am
If pokemon yellow had extra space then there must have been the ability to make room for the full res back sprites the game so desperately could have used.

Do you know how text and the GUI elements are treated in game? I think I remember reading they were on a special priority level or something of the sort. Was there a special mode or function these assets used that made multiple colors for anti aliasing impossible?

If so, could it perhaps have been worked around with tiles ( seems especially doable with portions of the battle screen that stay static)?

Offline Corinthian Baby

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Re: [TALK] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #37 on: May 26, 2013, 05:44:16 pm
Not quite as related to memory space, but I was looking over the tiles and I think they are fairly succinct and readable for a GB game. I know that when I played as a kid, I didn't really have to think, "what is that?" Of course there are the infamous barrels everywhere that literally could have been anything else, but for the most part the buildings are recognizable, the grasss, the trees look like trees. It's just the crazy pallets being used to render if you played on GBC (Which I did). Everything was either all red or all green, I remember that, and I think the GB chose more red pallet stuff because I was playing "red version", and same for blue and blue.

Although as time went on and I got to the GBA games, I thought to myself "I could make this better, I would change this map, etc." By the time it got to the DS games, I was like "good god get me some AA". And there are a lot of graphical changes I would make to those, but it also is psedo 3D in that it changes/shifts the view to stay within perspective instead of being fixed. But those are critiques for another time, perhaps.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 05:46:40 pm by Corinthian Baby »

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Re: [TALK] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #38 on: May 26, 2013, 08:42:14 pm
You can see the dialog box panel border with the pokéballs in my dump above. It's in 2bp mode, but was kept B/W because it was more graphical. I think the 1 bitplane stuff is done to save game data space, not video memory space. I'm guessing anything which goes into video memory is translated to 2bp but I could be wrong. SML had 4 color/shade fonts (just regular tiles). Personally I often prefer crisp text without AA on these old systems.

I don't mind the 2x backsprites much. The extra line thickness sort of works, puts the figure on a different plane than the opponent.

I think the backsprites were compressed along with the front sprites and can't easily be expanded to normal rez. And if they could, there would have to be room in the video memory tile table as well.. a lot more room since the images would be 4 times larger to cover the same area. 4*4 to 8*8? This would take... 48 tiles away from the other stuff which needs to be there, such as font, gui, opponent, battle fx... The GB had room for 256 tiles at once but could apparently switch banks mid screen and get another 128 out of it (move half a tile table down). Perhaps this is why the Pokémon are placed at the upper and lower half? Or maybe bank switch is made under both monsters to get lower case font etc. Looking at the tile tables in an emulator might answer this. I'm thinking since there's text and stuff at either halves it would have to exist in both banks, so you won't get that much extra space after all (I think you use the 128 tile overlap for shared tiles). Would be extra difficult to also squeeze in your grass tiles, but I might be wrong, it's not entirely uncommon to see some wasted space.

You can do a test, make a 16*16 tile canvas, plop in all the elements which might show at once, see if it fits. I'm thinking it could be done with some space over (Rough calculation in head gives me as much as 50-100 tiles to spare but maybe I'm missing something). Some tiles could be streamed in when needed, such as new battle effects (bubble beam and whatever). Trainer and monster never appears at the same time iirc. The HP bar and arrows can be seen in my dump above. They used tiles for the bar since drawing rects is a no-no.

Hmm, I just realized I developed a tool which automates tile counting a while back (2007). It takes an image, compares 8px tiles to find unique ones. Calculates visual similarities and number of copies (useful when optimizing tile count), and even makes a game map (since it now recognizes the tiles.). If anyone's interested I could upload it. It can count the number of tiles used in an image easily.
Balding's Quest tilemap tool
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 09:57:44 pm by Arne »

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #39 on: May 28, 2013, 10:22:40 pm
If anyone here has access to an emulator that can look at the tile tables and would like to share, that would be great! Unfortunately KiGB on a mac does not have that function. It would be interesting to get a closer look on how things are implemented and it might better inform our critique and the activity.

Arne: I think you're already talking a bit over my head as I didn't know there would be a difference between game data memory and video memory. Is there a place online you know of that has more information about what you're speaking of? Preferably gameboy specific.
Would all 151 pokemon backsprites have to fit on these tile tables?

I'm sure many would find use in your tile counter tool. Feel free to upload it :]

Offline buddy90

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #40 on: May 29, 2013, 02:33:02 am
Here is my technical 2-cents.

In red/blue, all pokemon and trainer sprites, both regular and back sprites, are compressed. Don't feel concerned then about taking up too much space,
as there are techical ways around it. Also, the back sprites were particularly bad, but in my opinion it appears as if these were pixeled in a small resolution,
and then blown up later. It could have been they already drew all the backsprites in a small resolution before deciding it to make it a higher one, and to save time
they just resized it rather than redraw every single one.

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #41 on: May 29, 2013, 01:57:37 pm
buddy90> The tiles were compressed because of space concerns, perhaps (why else would you compress stuff?). At any rate, it makes things difficult since if a replacement sprite has more information at maximum compression (than the original), then it can't write over the original since it would also write over other data. It needs to be placed at a different location and pointed to using the pointer in the Pokémon's data chunk, and this is a bit of a hassle. There are tools for it however.

Ryumaru> I'm just talking about "ROM" (i.e. the file. All the data of the game, graphics and code and music is stored there) and "RAM" (specifically, the memory for tiles).

Gameboy games litter the gfx all over the place in the "ROM", but the game program collects the stuff into one place when it is to be showed on the screen. However, the hardware can move gfx data into the video memory so fast that the effect can be used for animation, and maybe extra intermediate (flicker) colors. I think this is done between screen updates though.

At a minimum, it seems you have 256 tiles of space in video memory. As I understand it, sometime during the screen update the hardware can move the tile table pointer 128 tiles forward, giving you 128 old tiles plus 128 new ones.

Let's try to imagine how many tiles we need for the battle screen:

7*7 for opponent.
4*4 for back/self. (Edit, looks like 8*8 or baked in 2X, and stored twice!)
8 for HP bar animation +2 for ends
About 45ish for CAPS font with nums and symbols, and 26 more for small letters (apparently usable at top of screen in names too, not just in the dialog box at the bottom). Edit: Also some apostrophes and accents. 96 total with some unused, and maybe 32 blank chars excluded.
About 10ish for GUI trinkets.
Spawn and attack effects, no clue. Perhaps not all kept in ram at once.
6 for GUI box (which occasionally is used higher up on the screen so it's probably not benefiting from the +128 trick either).

I get <200 for that that stuff (Edit: True if not counting the weirdness going on), so they probably don't do a lot of swapping out unused stuff (Edit: e.g attack splash effects). Anyways, looking at the tile table in an emu would perhaps show the layout and economy.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2013, 07:07:48 pm by Arne »

Offline YellowLime

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #42 on: May 29, 2013, 04:17:10 pm
The version I associate with 1st gen is Yellow, since it's the first I owned and played.

Just want to point out that while it obviously adheres to the official designs of the Pokemon, the sprites have their lines rendered interchangeably with black and color, creating this "discontinuous line" effect which I personally find annoying (take a look at Weepinbell or Voltorb to see what I mean).

Also, Wigglytuff was looking pretty bad in Red/Blue, but in the Green version it's ridiculous. :o

Edit: And hey, sorry for changing the topic. You guys can keep talking about/dissecting the graphics and game data now :crazy:
« Last Edit: May 29, 2013, 04:32:49 pm by YellowLime »

Offline Arne

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #43 on: May 29, 2013, 06:36:51 pm
I was wrong of course, regarding the back sprite being 4*4. The GB can't do 2X so it probably just decompresses to 2X.

Managed to take a peek at the PKMN Y tile tables during play. You can see the 2X sprites actually being 2X, so they take up twice the space. They are no doubt stored as 1x when compressed though. Maybe the original Pokémon games had much less ROM/File space and were forced to compress. Or maybe compression is due to some file transfer protocol which needed to be tight.



Unused tiles are not cleared from memory, just written over. The Trainer and Pokémon are never shown both at once so they write over each other. A lot of battle splash effects are kept in memory, but they are only streamed in once used, writing over the NPCs (the entire batch appeared once I used thundershock). When exiting combat, the NPCs write over the same space. The font is kept in the shared space in the middle. Space left over might be due to Japanese->English being less characters. Some residual hiragana and katakana can be seen. The game is using variable amount of tile space depending on location, so that's another reason for the unused space.

In battle mode, the top part of the backsprite is temporarily drawn as a movable sprite so it overlaps the opponent during the sideways movement, but everything else is background tiles. I see pikachu's 2X tiles twice... might be related, I dunno.

The indoor terrain chunk is kept almost exactly the same as in the ROM. The difference I could spot is the animated flower (in the dragon statue's head). This tile has several frames and is probably streamed in from elsewhere.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2013, 06:44:14 pm by Arne »

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #44 on: May 30, 2013, 02:18:47 am
[Pokemon Yellow Sprites]
So many amazing sprites in my opinion. Such a clear difference in quality from Blue and Red... and then there's Golem.

Also, didn't Red and Blue have different sprites from Green, despite being the same game? Is there a reason they decided to redo the sprites? I'm assuming it's the Kirby Eye thing, but in my opinion they took a step to the side in the sprites of R/B rather than forward. Many designs still looked quite silly/wonky, rather than "Americanizing" them. So I'm a little interested in something like this, when 150+ sprites would be redone, which would probably be very costly, and as far as I know Pokemon hadn't quite had its popularity spike to warrant it like it was when Yellow can around?

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Re: [DRAFT] Commercial Critique: Pokemon Red and Blue

Reply #45 on: May 30, 2013, 07:06:43 am
Also, didn't Red and Blue have different sprites from Green, despite being the same game?

As I said earlier, Red/Blue are sort of a 1.1 release. The original Red uses the same sprites as Green. I believe both Red and Green were also re-released in Japan, or rather, new cartridges thrown onto the market.
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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #46 on: May 30, 2013, 08:08:29 pm
I was wrong of course, regarding the back sprite being 4*4. The GB can't do 2X so it probably just decompresses to 2X.

Managed to take a peek at the PKMN Y tile tables during play. You can see the 2X sprites actually being 2X, so they take up twice the space. They are no doubt stored as 1x when compressed though. Maybe the original Pokémon games had much less ROM/File space and were forced to compress. Or maybe compression is due to some file transfer protocol which needed to be tight.



Unused tiles are not cleared from memory, just written over. The Trainer and Pokémon are never shown both at once so they write over each other. A lot of battle splash effects are kept in memory, but they are only streamed in once used, writing over the NPCs (the entire batch appeared once I used thundershock). When exiting combat, the NPCs write over the same space. The font is kept in the shared space in the middle. Space left over might be due to Japanese->English being less characters. Some residual hiragana and katakana can be seen. The game is using variable amount of tile space depending on location, so that's another reason for the unused space.

In battle mode, the top part of the backsprite is temporarily drawn as a movable sprite so it overlaps the opponent during the sideways movement, but everything else is background tiles. I see pikachu's 2X tiles twice... might be related, I dunno.

The indoor terrain chunk is kept almost exactly the same as in the ROM. The difference I could spot is the animated flower (in the dragon statue's head). This tile has several frames and is probably streamed in from elsewhere.

Thank you very much for the analysis of these screens. The issue of the back sprite becomes even more complex knowing that it's stored in that tile bank at 2x. While we may think it a copout to a "real" answer, time and budget restrictions could very well have contributed to their reasoning for them being how they are.

I wanted to ask you a question about tile rotation and mirroring. Is there any advantage to having assets that are completely symmetrical in this way? Does the game treat it as the same tile, or a separate one all together? I think a lot of interesting things could be done with asymmetry and lighting if there are treated as different tiles anyway.

Offline Arne

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #47 on: May 30, 2013, 09:07:57 pm
I honestly don't know a lot about the gameboy hardware, I'm just making guesses based on my superficial hacking experiences and reading. Sprites can be flipped, because there are flip flags specifically for sprites. I don't think there are any for background tiles. For the background tiles it seems like they had a budget for each zone about the size you see above.

Here's some more info, if you scroll down to Sprites:
http://fms.komkon.org/GameBoy/Tech/Software.html

It seems that the palettes are set per sprite (8*8 or 8*16), not per group or something, so Dusty's hair thing should be possible. Never seen any game do it though *shrugs* The system was active from 89 to 98 or something, so I expected to see some more crazy stuff towards the end but...

Anyways, the page says tiles are loaded from the early part of the table, so I thiiink this confirms my idea that the extra copy of the backsprite there is used for overlaying the opponent tiles (which is terrain) during slide-in. However, only the very top is drawn as sprites. Here I've set the colors to clarify.


« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 09:09:54 pm by Arne »

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #48 on: June 02, 2013, 08:28:55 pm
All this remind me of Kirby Kid's someone's chat about pokemons, and how it could be interesting to have strength, velocity and other properties visually illustrated on-screen... like longer legs for velocity, stronger shoulders for strength, etc.

I fail to retrieve the illustration about that, though. Could it have been by Arne ?

edit: @conceit: stands corrected. Sorry for the noise.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 07:40:07 am by PypeBros »

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #49 on: June 03, 2013, 05:02:59 am
@PypeBros I just skimmed over that...what I can gather is he's talking about the player's skills...but I dont see anything represented visually. Do you just mean the bulbasaur evolution chain image he posted there?

Offline Arne

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #50 on: June 04, 2013, 01:29:49 pm
Regarding monster appearance matching abilities, I've been wanting to do something visual like that since I first saw Pokémon. Each creature would have an anatomical description and stuff like abilities and their stats would be calculated from that. If it has legs it can kick, but the agility and strength of kick would depend on stuff like leg length and musculature and a flying kick would take the entire creature mass into consideration, and the brain's talent for kicking would also have an affect, along with kicking practice and overall fighting experience.

Then there might be special organs like jets producing new kick variants, or clawed poisoned feet amplifying damage upon contact. If such engine could be made to work, each creature would just need a physical and mental description. But I fear it there would be many special cases which are hard to handle. Would a creature with many legs (lobster or crab) be great at kicking, or does the legs get in the way of each other? Maybe the system can handle it by making making such legs slow.

But how about a jumping spider? It has springy and bulky legs but it seems more like it would use a body slam rather than using a single foot as contact point. Maybe creatures with many legs can only do a spin kick. But then we have millipedes with many short legs. Another special case to handle.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 01:32:57 pm by Arne »

Offline YellowLime

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #51 on: June 04, 2013, 05:18:41 pm
Hey, very interesting idea actually ;D

But actually, animals with many legs usually have puny legs. Even if you were to invent your own creatures, more legs always means less space for legs, which means smaller legs.
So, a way to solve the issue would be to also take the mass of the feet into account, since kicking with a tiny leg is pretty much futile.

(Unless, the creature were to kick with many of its legs at once... Could it do that? Let's take the creature's balance into consideration... :yell:)

And you already mention musculature and body mass... how many independent variables would it take to functionally define a creature? Pokemon, in its apparent simplicity, probably takes about a hundred already (name, level, rarity, personality, base/actual stats, actual/learned/compatible moves...)

Obviously the abstraction has to stop at some point! Else one ends up with 3D data-points of each creature's body part's mass and volume. :blind:
« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 05:28:48 pm by YellowLime »

Offline Seiseki

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #52 on: June 04, 2013, 08:26:29 pm
Obviously the more legs the weaker they get, you'd also have to take into account body weight. An elephant has huge legs because it needs them for support.
A spider doesn't weight anything and has several legs which means each one is weaker.
A creature with only one leg would have a really beefy one, but the problem would be balance. :D

I think that idea is really cool, I like the whole wysiwyg approach to game design. It's complex beneath the surface, but you can instantly figure things out using logic.
It's a step up from the abstraction that creature stats in games usually have.

But I don't think it's a good idea for Pokemon..

Offline Pix3M

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #53 on: June 07, 2013, 05:08:56 pm
Eh... what happened... I was gonna lightly go over each sprite and make a few comments about them..

Anyways... my point from earlier, you can guess that Ken Sugimori wasn't particularly strong as an artist. It does kind of make me wonder how different the pokemon designs themselves can be if Ken was skilled as he is today. Anyone feel the same?

I'm noticing that many of the claws are basically spikes on a stub. Makes sense in smaller sizes like Ivysaur's feet when the resolution is so limiting but it starts looking lazy when they get as big as Hitmonlee or Snorlax.

Offline Conzeit

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Re: Commercial Critique - Pokemon Red/Blue

Reply #54 on: June 07, 2013, 08:35:32 pm
isnt what you guys are talking about where the parts translate into abilites...what Spore did? I know the gameplay famously sucked, but they did put that in.

Pix3M: You do know that Ken only designed the pokemon in the first generation, right? There's a bunch of designers working on them now, including an american in the last generation. Also, he did not pixel the sprites.
http://www.unseen64.net/2009/02/04/pokemon-red-blue-beta/
When you look at the prototype art in Capsule Monsters it becomes pretty obvious that Ken wasnt particularly inclined for the colorful cast of pokemon we have today, in that art half the monsters basically look like a Kangaskhan sans detail, one has a horn so he's Rhydon, another has a shell stuck in it's back so it's Slowbro, etc. Ever notice how Bulbasaur, Morawak, Mew, Kangaskhan all have the same basic head shape?

The colorful cast from now comes from the gameplay addition of types(elements). To visually convey the types they became a lot more creative and they started looking less like caricatures of real animals and more like Pokemon.

In an interview recently he even said his favorite pokemon was this thing http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/File:White_EN_boxart.png.

I dont want to sound like he's a hack or something, clearly he has done some good designs but most of what we associate the idea of "pokemon" with was a cummulation of factors, not something that came pristine out of this guy's head
« Last Edit: June 07, 2013, 09:42:30 pm by Conceit »