Critique => Pixel Art => Topic started by: pebblesage on December 23, 2018, 06:48:02 pm

Title: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 23, 2018, 06:48:02 pm
Hello everyone !

I am quite new in pixel art and I am currently making a small NES style platformer. These are the 2 main characters for the game in various versions, seen from both sides. If possible I would like some critique and suggestions on them, and the preferred versions ( if any ) of them.





Below is some general info about the setting, influences, artistic direction and key issues I have with my current versions.


It is a game mainly in a sci-fi setting with a bit of fantasy. In particular exploration of sci-fi ruins.


The art style started with being similar to Castlevania and Bloodstained ( girl legs are very similar to Miriam's from Bloodstained ) and then took a slight RPG form.

Artistic Direction

The guy goes for a more free spirited and a bit wild but dependable feeling.

The girl goes for a flowery visual form and a sweet but dynamic feeling.

The colors are restricted to NES ones, as are in the NES NTSC Aseprite Palette. I kept a darker background than the recommended 50% gray since the characters will be in settings with dark background and medium lighting foreground. 3 colors per character and sprite size at most 24x40. Dithering is not preferred but I am open to suggestions.


Guy : I've fiddled with him for a while but a lot of parts have a rougher feeling than I would like. Also I wonder if I should give him more width to match a bit more with the girl's width.

Girl : I am mainly wondering if her stance feels awkward.

Both : Do they feel as a team and partners visually ?

Thank you for your time !
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: MysteryMeat on December 23, 2018, 07:36:40 pm
I'm looking pretty hard and I can't spot the differences between the versions, would you mind going into that a bit?
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 23, 2018, 08:02:50 pm
Ah, sorry. I should have said clothing selection.

Guy : The first version has a normal shirt, while the second is open with a necklace for a more wild ( I hope ) feeling.

Girl : The first and second differ on the legs, with the first having black tights and "white" boots, while the second is all "white". The third is the same as the second as far legs are concerned but I wanted less ornaments above. The simplest of the three visually.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Nives on December 23, 2018, 09:23:08 pm
Hey. Just want to say those are looking really good.  They could totally fit the NES era.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: loni_art on December 24, 2018, 03:19:43 am
cute! the color choices are fine and the shapes are mostly alright, however i feel the outline was working more against it than towards the sprite
i chose the gal cause she cuter and easier to edit
edits i did:
first of all, longer arms, they bothered me because they were oh so slightly short, remember that the hand touches the thigh when on rest
i changed the socks to be a different color, cause them being white and outlined was too noisy
killed all the outlines possible and made most of the shapes "connected" (eg: no diagonal connections on the bands of jacket)
made the arm facing the background darker, because it looked cooler :p
and then some small edits to posture and such
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Vinik on December 24, 2018, 03:39:48 am
Excellent edit. The only downside is that it looses the versatility of the outline in case he has the characters against bright backgrounds. But if the game is mostly dark this surely the way to go.

The highlights in the boy's hair also bothers me a bit, it is a creative touch but I feels more like a backlight or a inverse outline than something that gives his hair volume.

Love the characters, specially their jrpg doll faces, wonder how the the genres never crossed over in NES era, it works very well.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Ambivorous on December 24, 2018, 11:52:38 am
I actually like the girl as she is. Especially the first one.
I think your guy could use a more expressive pose though. It also looked like her was wearing a pirate hat.


I changed the pose, gave him a pirate hat, changed the clothes a little and matched the colours to the girl more.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Ma3vis on December 24, 2018, 01:08:00 pm
Apologies for the lazy edits

@Ambivorous You try too hard to clearly detail the sprites
Just remove chunks of unnecessary color from the highlighted areas
If you wanna make sprites, what Loni said is right. Start with a shaded simple outline, then just add textures
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 24, 2018, 09:37:07 pm
Thank you everyone for your responses !

After a lot of tinkering with the girl I lean towards number 4 (towards the right) below. The guy is WIP and not shown for now. Depending on the testing with tiles I might have to enclose the sprites in outlines again though. The pirate version idea of @Ambivorous clicked well with me and can easily fit into the setting.


The first is my original, the second is by @loni_art, the third is a combo of the two and the fourth has a more "pirate" flavor.

Below are some other versions of the fourth with minor arm differences.


What are your thoughts ?


The posture is such an improvement and seems smooth and easy to animate, while how to make a version without an outline was a very useful study for me ! I practically made a combo of our versions with a bit of a round fluffy top instead of your shade and little shading in general since I want a brighter feeling. It was too keep the original character feeling and flowery form since it plays a role in the story and character design. I have not mentioned it but she has "fairy" wings.

As for the arms I get what you are saying and it was a headache for me. To preserve the overall flow of the form that I want, I kept them at that length. I have posted some other versions with a bit longer arms but any more than that and it doesn't feel "right" for me. It's a half pixel difference issue for me I guess.


The hair bothers me a bit too. Since I am going for a bit of a pirate theme it might be changed into a hat but I want to retain a bit of that wild/anime hair.


Nice ! This actually solves the problem I had about them not looking like a team. The two you made actually look like a team. Also the pose you made is what i will probably keep for the male character since mine indeed had a too neutral one, while the pirate hat actually clicked with me. A pirate theme can easily be incorporated into the story of the game and I think I will go towards that direction. The small edit on the girl is something I also kept in the new versions.

Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 26, 2018, 12:36:44 am
These are my current versions of the characters.


The guy's legs bother me a little, especially his crouching leg.

They are different from the original designs but I think they are more connected in a stylistic way and with a common theme.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Ma3vis on December 26, 2018, 12:55:05 am
Girl's knees look bent together as well
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Vinik on December 26, 2018, 01:55:01 am
Agree, it has been like that from the beginning, and it is probably intentional. I think you are going for a very girly feet position, like when some girls stand with their toes facing each other to look cute and childish, but they only do that for a few seconds and it makes for an uncomfortably looking idle stance. However, I admit it gives her a lot of character. Hard decision to be taken here.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 26, 2018, 02:15:06 am
Yes, I am actually going for that "girly" stance. The original version had that purpose too, but the stance was too awkward and felt difficult to start smooth animations for the rest of the movement states. However the legs from @loni_art's edit were capturing both that girly feeling and seem comfortable to change animations from it in an organic and "cutesy" way.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 27, 2018, 12:36:49 am

Changed the height, legs and various little things on the guy. Girl remained the same. I have various minor issues with them but these forms seem more functional than before to me.

There are still many issues to be solved like level and type of details, final colors, highlights on hair (of both, one or none of them), pixels here and there, them looking more of the same style etc. However, without the tileset of the environment and some true enemy sprites, those decisions are difficult for me to make right now, so for now I think I will use them as a broad stylistic base for the rest of the characters and tiles.

Hope they look nice.

Edit : Fixed a coloring mistake on the guy, where I mistakenly used 2 different blues.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Ambivorous on December 27, 2018, 11:36:24 pm
You have made some splendid progress.

I felt like they needed just a little more unification, so I made a little edit:


Following the simplifying process loni used, I made our male protagonist a little easier to work with.
I pushed some of the nice shapes on the characters. The flow of the girl and her jacket, and gave the guy some overall shape.
I added shoulder thingies to the girl's jacket and changed the guy's outfit a bit.

So, I wanted to define some narrative here:
They're wearing two halves of one pirate captain's outfit. The girl is wearing the hat and jacket while the guy is wearing everything that he'd wear under that.
To me this says that either the guy was a pirate captain and gave his sister the hat and jacket because she needed clothes (maybe she was rescued from kidnapped or something), or that their father/uncle/godfather was a pirate captain and left them the gear because he died saving their mother or some sappy thing. Either way, the two of them are incomplete versions of a pirate captain. They obviously belong together and there is some backstory as to why just in what they're wearing.

Do you have an actual story as to what's happening to them and why? This might help us with guiding you to a fitting art direction, especially if this is the basis for all future art.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: Ryumaru on December 28, 2018, 12:26:50 am
Hey there, lovely sprites and good progress in the thread! noodling with little pixel changes is fun for everybody ^_^

The biggest issue I see is the flat faces- the dude almost gets away with it as it gives him a strong jaw, but on the little girl it almost looks like an unflattering mask. Loni had a good solution in his edit.

Also on her legs you've gone straight past pigeon toed and into broken/ out of socket territory. Something more subtle will look and function better.

I tried two different face solution, one bigger and one smaller- which can change the perception from cuter to more realistic:


Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on December 28, 2018, 08:31:25 pm
Thank you both for your comments and suggestions.

You have made some valid points and it seems I will need to consider a major rework on the girl's body, since I have a few more issues with her myself ( mainly skirt sharpness ), while trying to retain as much cuteness as I can. As for the faces, my studies mainly involved Castlevania, and the squarish faces but with a more of a jRPG flavor are what I am actually going for  :).

For more info concerning artistic direction and narrative of the characters and setting :

Artistic direction

As I said at the start of the thread it's mainly darker backgrounds with brighter foregrounds. Below is one of my visual experiments with the game engine. Please ignore the extremely ugly tiles that seem to pierce the eyes. Don't zoom too much. I am putting the image here to show the general relationship between the values I am going for and the size relationships of the characters with the level. They are one of my quick experiments to get a visual feedback on general colors and not representative of the actual environment I am going for. More about that on the narrative section.


I changed a pixel in the guy's face to change the feel of the hair, changed his skin to a redder shade and made his blue a bit purpler. Changed both their darkest color to dark red.

The reason for those changes is that I am currently aiming for mainly using colder colors for most  of the environment with judicious (hopefully)  use of the warmer ones. So I made both characters closer to red to contrast the environments and differ from them. Maybe I will return the male character's skin to the one before if he is tiring to the eyes.

As for miscellaneous stuff, the Castlevania type GUI is temporary and mainly because I initially made the code for a NES Castlevania type game (minus stairs) so I could have a basis and then evolve it from there according to what I want. The current game's design itself is a child of Castlevania 3. The resolution of the game is 400x240 as shown by the image.


The setting is heavily influenced by the "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" movie's setting concerning the ecosystem, bugs and technological ruins.

Their world is at the end times. It's been years since their sun disappeared ( there is a reason they are still not frozen or devoured by a black hole or something ), while the gate at the end of the world, where the old gods sealed the "demons" from another world, has been breached and an alien ecosystem is constantly spreading from there.

In this world two orphans were living in a village playing and growing up together. One day, in order to save the boy, the girl suddenly grew insect wings. The girl was exiled from the village as an insect "demon" and the boy followed her. Together they made a living in this harsh world by turning to piracy as a duo. Trying to loot a ship that was heading towards the end of the world they found a journal mentioning wonders of the gods and people-like existences with insect wings beyond the gate. Wanting to find both, for different reasons each, they set out towards the end of the world and the truths they would discover beyond the gate.
Title: Re: [Feedback] [C+C] Characters for a NES-style platformer
Post by: pebblesage on January 03, 2019, 05:25:09 pm
Belated happy new year everyone !


Edit : Update ( version with changed arm on the guy )


Edit : Update 2 ( partial contours / shading ). These are actually my favorite versions but they do have the problem of the focus difficulty mentioned in the contour section. I keep both versions for now until I settle on definite backgrounds.


These are my latest versions. I think apart from some pixels that might change, I am mostly satisfied with them, but how do they look to you ?

Below are the changes I did and the reasoning behind them :


The most obvious change are the contours. Although I prefer the lack of them visually, there were problems when  the characters were placed in a screen where the background was not a single dark color. If the background was black or dark blue with some simple and small background props of one color ( similar to the picture in my previous post ) they looked nice, but in more complex backgrounds that also used the second darkest color, I had problems following the characters with my eyes. I don't know if it's my slight motion sickness, or how the human brain functions, but it was more relaxing and easy for my brain and eyes to track the characters and enemies if they had contours. It will also keep my options open in case I need brighter backgrounds at some point.


Changed the cute shape to taller and more "realistic", in order to make handling them easier as @Ambivorous and @Ryumaru suggested. Indeed, animation experiments have been far easier with these shapes. I think they are also more unified than before.


Generally, apart from the hat, she had a complete makeover. Changes to pants and boots similar to Nausicaa ( from the Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind movie ) and the blouse/jacket became a poncho with a pirate symbol to reinforce the theme. Less extreme pigeon toed stance. Added a small dark spot on the face to make it look less squarish. After @Ryumaru commented on it, it started bothering me too, but I still want to keep the overall jRPG feeling.


Not many changes apart from the more realistic look. Changed the legs to look like they have metal knee guards. It is not a classical pirate setting, but also a bit fantasy and a lot of sci-fi, so I found no problem with that direction. Also added a blue scar and some other minor changes. I am not 100% percent satisfied with the legs but I don't have any major issues.