General => General Discussion => Topic started by: BLEED on January 13, 2014, 01:22:06 am

Title: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: BLEED on January 13, 2014, 01:22:06 am
Hello, new guy here. :)
I pass here from time to time and always see good advices and critics from everyone and thought it was the perfect place to discuss that subject.

So, I'm asking this question since, for a large group of gamers, pixel art is irrelevant, outdated and a huge turnoff when it comes to video games graphics. Sometimes it's just a matter of preference instead of free thrashing, but it's also very criptic to explain and put it into words. Especially, with for example, my dad who is an occasional player and has seen the evolution of graphics over time, but without playing a lot of genres of games, of artistic realisations, etc.

My best way to explain it to those people is to say something like : ''Well it's kind of like music really. At some point there was classic and other genres that are now less popular, but are still a thing even with evolution of technology and instruments. These compositions are still enjoyable. ''

But really ... It's not only a nostalgia thing (or a budget and crew problem). There is more than the nostalgia.

I've read some articles by game devs and artists like Konjak and D-Pad Studio (creator of the future masterpiece Owlboy) and found them quite interesting ... I can't seem to find the links, but hey, I'll try harder if people are interest in 'em. :x

Yeah, so, why pixel art ? What d'you think ? What's your opinion about all this ?  :D
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: Ashbad on January 13, 2014, 01:35:59 am
Well, your "Classical Music" example is exactly on-mark with my opinion as well.  What you deem "Classical" refers to mostly European Music that was most prominent from the late 15th century to the early 20th century.  Over time it advanced from simple tonal music to more involved romantic-era music.  But we still had composers in the mid-to-late 20th century like Reich and Cage, and 21st century composers, who took/take ideas from centuries earlier and either emulated them accordingly, or added modern techniques to the style.  Similar to pixel art today, with the new theories on things like pixel clusters being added to an otherwise old style

But also the nostalgia of course.  That's why I make/use pixel art.  It's my number one reason

other than that, it's a good way to fit more detail into a smaller space with more precision at times than uncontrolled digital art, I suppose

Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: API-Beast on January 13, 2014, 03:14:18 am
Pixel Art today is way different than it was in the past. Today you have sharp pixels, you didn't have that 1980, nor did you have graphics tablets, unlimited palette control or 1:1 pixel aspect ratio.

Crappy pixel art might be a turn off, but that's because it is done crappy. There are plenty of games with pixel art made by complete amateurs, of course that doesn't fulfill very high quality standards as we have them in games today.

About classical music, there is a newer genre that is kinda a split of from classical music, sometimes classified as "Epic Music" or sometimes just as "Soundtrack" since that is it's primary purpose. You have instruments and patterns similar to classical music, but unlike classical music it doesn't deters from using modern elements such as rhythmic percussion or synthetic instruments. So if the old pixel art for blurry Television sets are Classical Music then we what pixel artists are doing today isn't Classical Music but a further developed form of it.

For me it's definitely not nostalgia, I wasn't even alive when pixel art was the major art form for video games. Games from my childhood used pre-rendered 3D models with reduced palettes. (E.g. Win95/98 era.)

Enough written for now, it's 4AM and I still have something to do  :crazy:
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: NaCl on January 13, 2014, 03:42:36 am
I feel like the advancing technology has created an illusion of continuous "improvement" in graphics. The assumption is that graphics were always trying to approach something that looked realistic, but the technology was holding that back. As technology improved, artists were able to move closer to this ideal. I simply don't think this is the case, and I think that people who consider pixel art to be simple nostalgia or retro are confusing the advancing of the technology with the improvement of the art.  In fact, I think if computers sprung forth with the capacity for complex realistic 3D graphics from the start, pixel art (or something like it) would still exist. That's because the computer screen is made of pixels, their manipulation and mastery is inevitable. Higher level techniques that obfuscate them (anti-aliasing and such) are secondary.
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: PixelPiledriver on January 13, 2014, 05:07:12 am
Welcome to Pixelation.
Artistically, rendering pixels by hand is fun to work with.
Graphically, hardware and code structure has made some cool advancements for rendering pixels from data.
Why do you ask?
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: cels on January 13, 2014, 05:33:07 am
I enjoy discussions like this one. It's interesting to see people wrestle with their own artistic preferences and try to justify them rationally. But on a rational level, I agree with NaCl, that the study of mastering individual pixels is a logical choice when working with any medium consisting ultimately of individual pixels. Indeed, I imagine that the ultimate closing of the circle, at present, would be if rendering software was able, somehow, to emulate the extremely complex process of pixel art. Imagine if every frame in a game of Grand Theft Auto or Quake Arena was essentially pixel art. But then, that will probably never happen, just like we will never see the iBeeper or a blu-ray compatible laser disc player.

Mr. Beast: I don't think you need to have been alive for nostalgia to play a role. I get a great deal of nostalgia from various 1950's, 1960's and 1970's peculiarities. And I was born in the 1980's.

Pixel art is such a vast category of art that I don't believe there are anyone who are turned off by it. There is pixel art out there that you wouldn't know was pixel art, unless someone told you or you were an experienced pixel artists yourself. A lot of pixel artists strive to make their art look like it was photoshopped, or even taken as a picture. I think it's more about the style, rather than the method. There are 3D FPS that I really love and others that I really hate, simply due to their artistic style. I like 3D games, I love Super Mario, but I hate the style of almost every Mario Game they've made since Nintendo 64 came out. Low resolution pixel art isn't for everyone, but neither is low poly-count 3D games (https://www.google.no/search?q=3d+boxer+games&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=s3nTUrrBN8mG4AShj4GoCA&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1920&bih=946#q=4d+sport+boxing&tbm=isch).
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: BLEED on January 13, 2014, 06:09:28 am
Oh, cool to already have some replies. :]

@ Ashbad : I was just giving a rough idea with my music genre example, but what you said is exactly my point. About the nostalgia part, I guess the exposure to it and the fact that games had to be that way is kind of obligatory. Trying to create convincing piece with details in little dimensions was a point in one of Konjak's part of the text I think (I really have to find it with the other one). Thank you ! :)

@ Mr. Beast : Agreed on the limitation part. It's something I omitted in my little intro message, but definately a turning point. It's really the same as the music argument; you can create something similar without what was not possible at the time. On the bad pixelated games, I don't know. Sometimes it's just the overall style that can give this impression even if the realisation is good. For instance the game FEZ (which emulate pixel art without really being it) is often judged childish because of it's environnements and stuff ... Even if it's a fine adventure-puzzle game that still has mysteries unsolved as of today ... Childish, yeah. Something made like VVVVVV is just incomprehensible for an avid ''graphics matters'' gamer. Yes, they do, but it's not only realism that can create beautiful games. What is wrong or poorly executed in this game in term of art ? It's just minimalism and for a simple platformer like this, why would you need more. Thanks for that comment. And what got you into pixel art ?  :P

@ NaCl : The same point about limitation. :) Also, yes, obviously, I'm fine with pixel art and sprites when it's, let's say, ''appropriate''. Not that it can be inappropriate, but realism isn't exactly what every game wants to have. Nobody wants a Mario game with photorealistic elements and physics, what would be the point in doing that ? And I was talking about how my dad perceives this kind of thing and how he don't get why I still want to play to these games when I can have ''immersive'' (immersion is such a touchy subject in video games) realistic games ? It's just a different perception really. I get that people appreciate games like Skyrim because they feel real with touch of fantasy as if you were into an alternative reality, but that doesn't mean that every games have to be in that genre. I never tried the Oculus Rift but, what is the point of it with games that aren't first person ? To me, it's really just cutting any distraction rather than creating something immersive since it's basically the same experience as playing on a normal screen in those conditions ... But that's another debate.  ;D Thanks !

@ PixelPiledriver : Thank you for the welcome, I appreciate it ! Artistically, I guess this could be said about a lot of art form, but yes. There's that, the simple pleasure of it and the working method. Graphically, well, this could also be said about a lot of other form of data structuration. So I believe the whole point is again the method and appeal of it's effectiveness both artistically and graphically.  ;) Also, I'm asking because those things really interest me and I enjoy talking about it, as a partial time artist, it's great to heard from other artists as well. :]

@ cels : Yeah, I also enjoy these.
I also agree with NaCl on that part, but you just add the starting question; why would you work with pixel art in the first place ? And about the 3D games with pixel renders, isn't it what Minecraft is without the complexity of shapes and modeling ? The thing is that, I feel like this is more texturing than anything. I don't really see what you meant on that part; the same game with pixel art texture (pretty much what FEZ did) or the game rebuilt to be pixel art ? Anyway, agreed on the nostalgia bit, there's also a great part of appreciation in a genre/style about it. Thank you for your reply, I'm not quite sure about the last parts, but I'll come up with something. I'm thinking of chatting with a friend of mine that don't like pixel art to get more grounds. ^^

I'm done for now, I'm going to bed. :]
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: cels on January 13, 2014, 06:51:20 am
The thing is that, I feel like this is more texturing than anything. I don't really see what you meant on that part; the same game with pixel art texture (pretty much what FEZ did) or the game rebuilt to be pixel art ?
Well, I started thinking about it when I saw this tool, presented in another thread on this forum;

Now, this is a tool to draw prettier lines in Photoshop. But a similar method could feasibily be used to render 3D games, so that every frame looks like it was hand-crafted by a pixel artist. Similar to how Borderlands 1 & 2 are rendered in a way so it looks almost like a cartoon, with very strong dark outlines on every object, and relatively flat surfaces with soft lighting and non-realistic textures.

Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: Cyangmou on January 13, 2014, 10:46:00 am
Making games is business and industry, so the cost factor is an argument.

well... modern games costs hundreds of thousands (medium project size) to millions of dollars (AAA) just to do the art
a decent looking completed pixel art game with a art budget of ~30-50k US$ will look fine enough.

That's quite affordable for a lot of indies who want to start out professionally with their own game studio.
pixel art provides a wide gamut of different styles which can all be emulated quite easily. Means you can emulate realism, do abstract graphical things or use a bold outlined over the top style with quite less difference in terms of effort. Means you can do games with pixel art for every target audience.

I have never heard so far from a legit majority: oh that game is made with pixel art, I don't play it. There are people who dislike 2D games, but they dislike also digital or hand painted 2D games.

Games like minecraft proved that a game don't needs to look superior to be a great game. But since the human is a visual being t's also good to have a great looking game which is cheap to produce. Graphics will let a person play a game, but if they are turned off by their first visual impression, the chance that they will try a game gets significantly smaller. Means we don't even play a lot of great games because they just look crap (you'd never have played minecraft if it won't have been hyped)

Another plus is that pixel art supports animation quite well. Whenever you use a painted digital art style you will have style problems with characters.

And there is the fact that edits and variations of already existing art are quite easy to do (colors, small details). Means you can end up with a lot of edited content produced fairly cheap.

For the phone market pixel art was (and is) ideal because it's very effective in terms of file sizes

Nostalgia might be a reason as well. But there are also nostalgical games which don't use pixel art any more (Mighty no. 9, New Giana sisters game...) - Usually you decide first on the overall art style and then you decide if you also milk the udder of nostalgia.

The bigger pixel art gets in terms of resolution the more complex it gets to craft and the more time it needs.
I mean of course you can do absolute outstanding things, like Owlboy, however that's not really affordable if you are just trying to get a game completed and a company running in first place.
But even if you think of Konjak and Owlboy - both games are done by a single artist. Means no art team.
You can make quite big games with a single artist, which leads basically to any problems in terms of art direction, style QA and so on (aside that the artist who does the graphics will grow by experience if the project is big enough).

Those 2 games games however would also look good if they were done in another medium, the artists are just extremely skilled.
Craftmanship in pixel art has solely to do with the skill level of the artist - like in every art style.
There are crap looking 3d games, crap looking flash games and crap looking pixel art games. Those games usually look crap because the artists weren't really skilled or the art budget was tight - or in the worst case both.

Another thing to mention would be "programmer art".
The use of rough pixels give amateurs a chance to produce something with a reference which doesn't look "complete crap" (although it still lacks very basic artistically knowledge).
For a lot of programmers who can't do art properly and don't have the budget to pay an artist pixel art is a valid option. Esp. really low-res stuff, because it hides the fact, that you can't do art very well quite effective.
This however has not a lot to do with properly crafted pixel art from pixel artists.

Then there are some subcultures like e.g the demoscene, who still use their old ataris to do demos and to make pixel art or pixel graphics on them. The pure demonstration of skills with given restrictions so to say. If you have never been at a demoparty it's quite hard to explain.

TL;DR: because of economy
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: RAV on January 13, 2014, 06:29:25 pm
"Pixel art" has always been through all ages usurping all media, for good reasons. Oil Painting didn't make cross-stitch obsolete. And in terms of music, Pixel art is the guitar, it will always be around, because it is the most straightforward way of creating art on the computer. Lowest barrier of access, open-ended mastery. This enables you to concentrate on problems of art rather than problems of tool usage. Any elementary school grader figures out MS Paint within minutes and spends the rest of the day trying to figure out proportions and colours... then for the rest of his life.

Tools for 3d stuff commonly bury a beginner's spontaneous creativity in the middle of a dark forest of functionality. Open Maya or Blender, and you spend the next three years finding all the knobs and buttons that matter to what you want to do at your current level of skill. As if the only pixel art tool were a full blown Photoshop.

Not only is pixel art the most straightforward way of creating art on a computer, pixel art games are the most straightforward way of coding a game from the ground up. The problem is that increasing the complexity of one part, often ripples outward to all other parts, increasing their complexity as well. You have one cool new feature, and now all other features have to take that into account. The difficulty of development in all departments can greatly explode from adding one little innocent thing that sounds cool by itself. Correspondingly, limiting this enables you to concentrate on the design of a good game rather than fiddling around with problems of implementation in eternal feature creep.

Pixel art games can have fantastic art and tech, and tend to excel most likely where it matters, just that truly exceptional ambitions are rare in any medium -- the biggest part is always starters learning the ropes, and because pixel art games invite creativity so much, you see a lot of that. But in the end, this is its strength, rather than weakness, and its means of continued relevance through little adaptation in its universality.

The secret of success of "Minecraft" is that it's more 3d editor than a game, bringing 3d art creation closer to pixel art creation, in terms of accessability. It's become the "MS Paint" of 3d, so to speak. Obviously there was a big gap in the market that 3d overlooked all this time in hunting for hollywood. What's still needed is the "GrafX2" for more professional artists, that gives more convenient power of control, without overpowering uncontrolled. And technically, it also is the most "to-the-point" of all 3d coding.

I don't see these two realms in competition, they fit better to their prospective kind of production. And if I were to make a "Minecraftian" game that's actually a good game more than editor, in the sense of Chronotrigger, I'd still need a huge amount of pixel art assets, from elaborate portraits, to menues, to fonts, to effects, all kinds of things everywhere, that are not only still easier to make in pixel art, but also you can't quite make look right as voxel art. And at the same time, asset creation is so familiar in both, it still would be the same artists anyway, rather than a dozen different specialists a blockbuster game needs these days.
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: Crow on January 13, 2014, 11:24:50 pm
As a non-artist in this large pool of artists, let me try to explain it from my point of view: why not? It looks rad ;D
Title: Re: Why do we still use pixel art nowadays ?
Post by: BLEED on January 14, 2014, 12:30:43 am
Thanks for all the replies. :)

I've read them all, but I don't have the time right now to answer everyone !

'Later !