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Messages - pkmays
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Pixel Art / Re: Action
« on: October 22, 2007, 06:47:50 pm »
His shadow shouldn't be getting so huge, it really confused me. Actually, when he jumps, it should probably get smaller.

2D & 3D / Re: Official OT-Creativity Thread 2
« on: October 22, 2007, 08:23:02 am »
Why Helm, how uncharacteristically passive-aggressive of you. These seem to be model sheets, which usually are rendered with this sort of view. But yes, throwing in some cool camera angles, dramatic lighting, and more refined outlining will add a lot interest to the stuff I've seen from SplatPixel.

General Discussion / Re: Official Off-Topic Thread
« on: October 22, 2007, 07:50:08 am »

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ
« on: October 21, 2007, 09:09:09 pm »
Given that this has stirred up a fairly serious hornet's nest I'm not sure that I should be posting any continuance of this piece here, in spite of the fact that if I want to actually learn something when all of this is said and done this is the best place for it. Considering it's basic premise and my desire not to have to wade through a dozen or so posts bashing the "technique" that is the basis of the challenge to glean the kernels of actual critique and comments on the piece itself...I do appreciate the comments and criticism that the piece has received but I don't see how the current direction of the thread is going to help the piece come to a place that isn't going to offend anyone's sensibilities...

Don’t worry about it, these detailed theoretical debates are the reason I, and I’m sure many of the older members joined the original Pixelation years ago. Most people come here to improve their own skills, and threads like this are invaluable. Sorry the direction has been so dominantly theoretical, but you just happen to be the right (or wrong) person in the right place at the right time. After Helm and Baccaman started harping in on the issue I felt this was a good a thread as any to address my thoughts on the subject. I think it’s definitely time for me to make some official corrections and addendums to my old tutorial.

...But, the nature of the beast is that you cannot have an outline color solution for every b/g type so there this sometimes this fails...

...I've often been a little purturbed by the citing of SF sprites to be criticized so harshly as to me they were/are certainly at the pinnacle of the pixel mountain (along with the Metal Slugs and Zeldas...) but I know that's just personal taste and asthetics differ from individual to individual...

Yup, aesthetics do play a huge roll in what we consider the masterworks of game art. We are a product of our environments. I’m really not sure if I’d even have any interest in pixel art if it weren’t for fighters. So I can say that I am definitely biased to the late 90’s arcade fighter type of pixel art. Nor do I see any problems with that. We all have our own shticks, if we didn't, none of us would have any passion for our craft.

That said, there are things I’ve always disliked about the Alpha graphics. The anime style is increasingly not my thing, the color ramps aren’t as imaginative as they could be, the AA on skin is almost always harsher than it should be. A million things I can nitpick, because it's not my own creation. Still, the games are invaluable as reference material. I've learned so much from their treatment on edges and lines, and they are prime examples of efficient animation and well constructed (though still highly stylized) anatomy.

Yes that's what I mean because that's what selout *is*. It's a term you and tsu invented that does a very specific thing. It's been difficult to kill it as a term all these years and I'm stil fighting the good fight and now pixeljoint has a 'selout contest', good god.
selout is different from the others slightly in that it requires tedious application.  don't confuse work with thought, or pattern with description!  often, treating the line properly and attractively is easier than selout which follows a bizarre sort of formula that people end up second-guessing (as well they should!).  No, selout is no better than pillow shading in that it is complicated, ugly, and employs no visual reasoning.

I can’t speak for what Tsu or St0ven or any of the others were thinking at the time, but yeah, that’s how I saw it. I said to myself, “Well, Capcom is outlining in a lot of places, but in other places they are breaking the outlines. So they must be making black or really dark outlines and selectively going in and breaking them for this effect.” It didn’t even occur to me that they were also anti-aliasing and choosing the value of shades based on a specific background value. Chock it up to my lack experience and the initial excitement of when we started to "get it." I started pixeling in the summer of 2001 and wrote that tutorial in one day, less than a year after starting. I'm either going to have to completely revamp it or get Zoggles to take it down completely.

…The actual technique used in various videogames is both a byproduct of just shading a thing and is part of a larger skillset of rendering that cannot be seen outside that skillset's context, nor can it be honed as a disparate 'technique' like dithering or manual antialiasing…

Sure, and if I where to write some new tutorials, I would treat it as an end of book addition to a skillset that should be well established before even attempting it. A good primer in form, color, movement, AA, and the issues of sprite and backgrounds interaction would be prerequisites. Only then would I talk about ways of lightening outlines and anti-aliasing into a neutral background.
But yes, I agree. Selout doesn’t need to exist as a term or technique. It’s a misnomer for a technique that doesn’t work. It needs to die altogether.

Alright, seeing how this was originally supposed to be a critique thread, I’ll try to actually address the sprite in question.

At this point I'm at something of a loss as to where to direct the piece next, and torn between scrapping everything save the torso, sword/spear, and the basic shape of the tail and starting over OR tossing the whole thing into my scrap bin and starting a piece using what I actually understand...

I wouldn’t scrap it, you’ve got a nice foundation. The face and hair are especially strong. Some anatomy and readability issues exist, but nothing that can’t be fixed.

The main changes where giving her some hips and reducing the tangents. There were too many lines and curves that where touching but not intersecting, which made it hard to tell what space her body parts were inhabiting and what direction they were pointing. I lost some of the elegance in the curve from her hips to where her snake belly hits the ground, so you might try a different approach. What’s important is showing that her body recedes to the right and then back to the left, and finally back to the right. I’d also recommend you make the greenish tan of the belly visible when it bends back to the left to keep it grounded.

And then I tried to work the torso area for an example of how I would go about pixelating it. The skin especially needed some work.

The first and most important change when beginning was getting a medium gray background in so I can tell how dark the AA on the edges should go. I added a buffer shade to the skin to smooth things out as well. I completely avoided using the dark blue in the skin as it's just too big a jump in value to integrate attractively.

I also had to raise her left arm as it was too long below the elbow. I believe adding scales will do a world of good for the sprite. They can probably be rendered with the darker skin shades, or by adding a few dark blues, as I replaced your blue with a teal so it would buffer into the green of the skin.

Other than that, I’d say eliminate all the dark pixels on the sword and just block in the shape and form with color. I wouldn’t even outline the blade to keep it looking as sharp as possible.

Pixel Art / Re: Lectro Mockup Madness (Beware the claw; Oct 17)
« on: October 21, 2007, 05:48:28 pm »
Good, now you need to get rid of those random black pixels around the edges.

General Discussion / Re: Official Off-Topic Thread
« on: October 21, 2007, 06:20:22 am »
Although I have been subject to bits of nostalgia and temporarily crotchety old man syndrome when it comes to my memories of the "Good Old Days of Gaming", thinking back, I've realized it's always been the same. For every great video game (and book, and movie, and comic book, and television show, and music album) that's ever come out, there's always been 19 other piles of crap released at the same time, since the begging of time.

Just constantly keep your eyes peeled and make sure you don't miss any of the good stuff before it slips through the cracks and is forgotten by mankind's collective consciousness.

General Discussion / Re: Official Off-Topic Thread
« on: October 21, 2007, 05:01:07 am »
I've been playing around with a copy of Vista I got for free because I'm working at a college in the technology department. The new Windows Photo Gallery application, which replaces the default picture viewer in XP, actually seems to work on pixel art. I think it checks to see if the image has a palette, and if it does it disables that horrible interpolation that blurs everything as you zoom in.

So far, it's the only improvement I've been able to find. :^))

General Discussion / Re: Official Off-Topic Thread
« on: October 20, 2007, 10:06:41 pm »
Bully: Hey look, it's little TV. What's the ABC movie of the week this time TV? I'll tell you what it is, it's me kicking the crap out of you. It's a rerun from last week.
*snicker snag*

Better name: Vincent Thunderhammer Storm

Pixel Art / Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ
« on: October 20, 2007, 08:54:09 pm »
Quote from: pkmays
My feelings on selout have changed from back when it was the "hot new thing." I currently feel that solid colored outlines of various brightness with minimal internal AA tends to make for more attractive outlines. I'm probably thinking the same thing Indigo is. But really, skill and perception are the biggest factor in determining how good an outline looks regardless of the style. I didn't have very good perception of the technique I was trying to implement on the old blue board, and a lot of my sprites came out harsh and unattractive because I went overboard with selout.

I did and still do prefer selout to simply outlining or not outlining a large fighter/brawler type sprite. Capcom and their ilk used the technique very effectively, but they KNEW their sprites where always going to be overlayed on some sort of background. It's when you put those sprites on a light or arbitrary (i.e. transparent) background that things start looking ugly. Also, they didn't abuse the technique and use it on every single line in a sprite. Study some Alpha 3 sprites and you will see they have a lot of solid outlines all over the place. Like sarcasm, it is a subtle art to employ, go over board and you're just going to sound like a cynical asshat.

Par exemple:

Here, the floor is the brightest area, and their feet end up looking the harshest. The upper body area, however fares much better. I'm noticing that Cody's back and Sodom's crescent blur nicely into the background.

And now when we throw them on black, they look fine all around.

Now throw them onto white, and the outlines in places are harsh...jarring. Sodom's entire left outline now has huge issues. And the sprites are getting that cardboard cutout effect.

Now on transparent. Does it look good to you? What if this was the default SMF theme? These sprites where not designed to be used with arbitrary background colors.

Now put them on a medium gray background. The sprites still have some crispness to the edges, but not to the point of being jagged. I have a strong suspicion that Capcom artists drew their sprites on a color close to this medium gray. Or perhaps they had someone who ran a bunch of color tests on their backgrounds and found a good average shade from them. Using this they could guage how dark to go in the outlined areas and avoid making them too harsh.

How dark you go with the pixels you're inserting on the edges makes a HUGE impact on the aesthetic value of the sprite. Good selout does not equal internal aliasing to black. This is the mistake I and many of us made when we where first figuring out the theory back in the days. Check out this thread which shows a prime example of this mistake. Actually this thread says pretty much everything I'm saying here, just not as explicitly.

Another example:

Her pants hurt me on white. I can deal with the other variations.

Also, like most things in life, you can't get something for nothing:

These look great. The characters blend into the backgrounds and get darker around the edges, but it's not just a simple 1 pixel border everywhere. They are breaking the outline in places to get some extra bulk to the forms which, in my opinion, is a much more elegant solution than straight colored outlines.

But when they get thrown in front of bright sand or sky, things get harsher. Breaking the outline makes lines on Terry's thighs harsher than if they had been outlined, and the broken lines call out single dark pixels on Mai's legs. This is the price you pay, and obviously Capcom and SNK where willing to deal with it.

Someone mentioned Keneth Fejer, and how he employs the technique well. Yes, he does use it well, because he keeps it subtle, he understand how to use contrast, and he knows when to just use an outline:

Here's his original.

And here's a butchered version using ZOMGSELOUT!!!

When these professional pixel pushers where doing the art, they where assuming that the character would be on a semi-dark background ~90% of the time. Every now and then they might jump in front of a bright blue sky or a bunch of light red motion trails, but for the most part they would be surrounded by trees and buildings and such. I think they realized that by throwing a few (well placed) slightly darker pixels around the outlines, they'd be able to get that anti-aliased effect on the sprite edges, and it could work well for just about every environment. Keep in mind there probably was an army of artists working on different characters, and as a result there are some genuinely bad examples in these games where one of the guys working on a set of frames just didn't quite get it.

Capcom's artists developed their technique by making games, which is much different than posting a sprite on a forum every now and then for a hobby. Because of this, I think it's very difficult to really pick up the technique and use it effectively unless you are actually making a game. This is also why I think having a selout challenge with the requirement of a transparent background is fundamentally flawed. You gain no advantage using the technique this way. Matter of fact, your sprite almost certainly will look worse off because of it. A better idea would be to have the creator of the challenge make a few different backgrounds, like a forest, street corner, and a cave.  Then have the contestants make a single sprite using the technique, and see if that sprite can work on each background.

*sigh* no that's just outlining, with color variation according to the lightsource, which is fine.

...Selout is putting broken outlines around the edges of the sprite which are darker than what they're outlining, with the express intent of having them not melt into a similarily-coloured background...

If you mean selout as defined by my crappy old tutorial, and the many bad attempts since it's inception, then yes, you are correct. But look at the above examples and you'll see they do respect the lightsource. Cody and Mary's hair, Terry's cap, Mai's arms--they avoid those darker pixels. But even then, they are breaking the outlines.

I believe it's an advanced technique, one that requires lots of practice to become competent at, and one that's really easy to screw up. Despite this, I think it can prove useful to everyone. At the very least, try it a few times to understand what it is and why you see it in so many games. Then you can integrate it, reject it, or whatever. Just don't scoff at it and call it worthless without any real proof.

P.S. I never really agreed that selout prevents sprites from getting lost in similarly colored backgrounds. Motion, the basic silhouette, and internal details play a much larger role than the outline. Like the hypothetical white ninja in a snow level--using dark pixels around his head and shoulders is just going to turn out ugly. It's better to either use outlines, no outlines, or just avoid the situation altogether and not put a white ninja on a snow level.

That's spiffy, but I wonder if it has any practical application in actual game or demo art?

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