Critique > Pixel Art

Looking for critique on some game art (gifs)


Last time I posted here was like 5 years ago, and looking at my art from back then makes me kind of embarrassed lol

Please let me know if posts like this aren't allowed.

But anyway, I'm looking for opinions on some game artwork. I have the following gifs from Unity (Please ignore the banding, it's pretty much the only way to keep file sizes down). The game has no background yet, but the idea is for it to be an underground forest, hence why the lighting is dark:

The scene is just a random scene I've set up to experiment with the art, and not anything for the final game. I'm also not decided on whether the lighting and bloom should be pixelated or not.

Lighting enabled:

Lighting disabled:

There's also the following sprite sheet, please ignore how messy it is.

The palette is also here, I'm looking for advice on whether I should make my own palette or not:

The dog looks like it's floating most of the time. I can't tell if the animation is meant to be a run or walk or something else, because the poses don't look particularly like any of them. It looks like you're reusing the jump poses? I recommend making some unique poses for each animation, even though it's more work. If you look up "dog run cycle" online, you should get lots of results, including some photos like these: one, two. Your animation doesn't need to have these many frames, you can get away with 3-4, as long as they include the extremes of the pose - the leap with both legs off the ground and apart, and when both legs are together under the body. There are similar resources for walking animations, if that's what you're aiming for.

Since you have a dark outline on the dog's paws, the dog always appears like it's floating 1px off the ground, which doesn't help with the floaty look. For the animation frames where the dog is on the ground, have the legs go all the way to the ground, without an outline in the middle. It'll help it look much more grounded. The sprites might look weird in isolation without the outline, but you have to consider the final look. No one's going to be looking at the sprites in isolation.

The environment art looks nice, but rather bland and flat. You've got castle walls and some brown dirt with grass on it, these appear in just about every generic tileset and tell me nothing about your game's world, or even genre or general mood. Even if a generic setting is the goal, you can make it look unique and convey a mood through how you draw them. You've drawn a very generic brick pattern, for example, but the bricks look neither old and cracked nor new. You have crystals and some tiles for vines growing on the bricks, but nothing about the other tiles suggests that the place is abandoned or what might've happened to it.

The light brick surface on which you walk looks nice, but has the same problem of telling us nothing. At a closer look, the brick also seems to be melting? That might be cool, if it's intentional. If it's intentional, make it more obvious perhaps, with larger gloops of stone? And if it's not melting, then what is happening to it? I thought at first it was just cracked and rough (unlike all the other bricks xP), but then I noticed some tiles have the brick dripping down onto lower bricks.

In short: You seem to be going for an overgrown fantasy castle look. Give some thought to how and when it became like this, and integrate indications of this into the other tiles, even those that don't directly show plants. If it's been a while and it naturally got like this, make the bricks less perfectly even, add some cracks. If it magically suddenly became like this, make the bricks tidier and brighter to show their newness.

Speaking of integrating the plants and bricks: try having the moss, vines, and grass follow the brick lines a bit more. Moss and grass especially tend to favour upward-facing surfaces, so they'll often have grown further in the bits where the mortar is gone, and just on the upper edges of the bricks in general. This can make help them look like they're actually growing on the bricks rather than just merely slapped on.

The ground tiles have very noisy edges, especially compared to the clean geometric pattern within. The edges should feel like they're consistent with the front, they should have the same scale of detail. The ground overall feels out of place with the bricks and the detailed grass on top of it. The bricks seem to be going for an only mildly stylised texture and get dark towards the middle, while the ground has a Sonic-like highly stylised pattern, and gets dark at the bottom. They don't look like they belong in the same game. Then you also have the background ground/stone(?) texture, which is just a pattern throughout without going solid anywhere. Notice how Sonic, when it does use its patterned textures (mostly in Emerald Hill Zone), uses them throughout the map, and maps using more realistic textures have such textures throughout (and the more "realistic" textures are still very geometric, which maintains a sense of consistency).
I think the stylisation on the ground looks cool, but if you're going for that kind of look, commit to it, stylise everything else too. And if you want a less stylised look overall, then don't stylise the ground either, unless you have some story reason for it that's explained to the player.
In your maps, it looks like you have lighter tiles behind the dirt, so the dirt looks blockier than it has to.

Lastly, watch out for the tangent of the lowest crystal on the second tree in the tileset. The way it's placed exactly 1px into the trunk all around makes it look like it has a dark outline.

Edit: I completely forgot to talk about colours! If you don't have a specific look in mind and don't feel confident in choosing colours, then starting with a palette like that is good, since it helps you get started. However, don't feel like you have to use only those colours, feel free to change or add colours if you think it helps your specific art look better. You might end up with something very different at the end, or with largely the same palette, and the only thing that matters is that the resulting art works well.

Thanks for the reply! It's all very informative. I'm going to try and reply to it all with my own thoughts though I'm very disjointed and horrible at explaining myself, so I'm sorry for that lol

So you're definitely right in that it looks generic, and no the drippyness isn't intentional, it's supposed to look cracked and ruined, though I'll go back and give it a bit more thought.

The dirt came at the very beginning when I sat down and decided "okay, I'm going to get good at making tilesets", and then after came the bricks. There's definitely a bit of inconsistency between the two styles so I'll have to decide which to keep, though both are tempting.

I was trying to add more uniqueness into it with that crystally look, but clearly I need to go more with that and incorporate that sort of theme more with the rest of the tiles rather than just the trees. This is still early so it definitely wouldn't be hard to add more of those elements, though I'm not sure if it would really make it unique enough.

I definitely want to work more on the background too, but I really am stuck with the tiles and I'm not sure how to edit them to make them fit into the ruined look without being noisy and messy. Earlier the background bricks were much smaller and really had that sort of gritty and ruined look but I found it to be far too noisy and made the whole thing look ugly.

One other thing is that I do like the sort of hard edge look of the outline, which I planned to incorporate into both the player and the enemies and other characters, while keeping it from the tiles to help them stand out more. I'm going for a sort of lighthearted and "clean" look with a bright clean contrasting colour palette, though I'm not sure if I'd call it clean as there is detail, but that's the closest word I can think of right now. Am I making sense? lol

Overall, I guess that's kind of the work I'm trying to go for, I'm trying to make it bright and colourful, with characters and interactable elements standing out, hence the outline. I'm really terrible at explaining myself so I hope what I've said and what I have helps to convey what I'm going for.

The idea is for this to, possibly, be either a roguelite or a metroidvania (it really is too early to tell but I have ideas), the entire idea of the biomes being that they're underground, but places you wouldn't expect to find underground.

One of my ideas for a later area is a huge open cavern with a floating city in it, which I thought could look interesting. That sort of thing, where you never know what to expect next. I think keeping it as a forest with ruins would be okay for the first area, just to not jump right into the deep end, though it does need work to make it less generic.

For making things look worn and imperfect without adding a lot of noise, my preferred method is to just tilt some things a bit. Especially with larger bricks like this, it's pretty easy, it's very clear when bricks are misaligned because their normal pattern is so regular and well-understood. Colour variation, such big splotches or whole bricks of a different colour, can also help without adding much visual noise.

You could also make some variant tiles that have more detail/noise (cracks, etc), but which you use sparingly. That way, you can have some noisy bits without the whole scene being noisy.

I think biomes you'd not expect being underground is a pretty good idea, but you should still put thought into at least the recent history of the locations before you draw the tiles, so that they don't just look like Floating Fantasy City #50972 but with a dark background xP The overall concept of a location is important, but it's the small-scale stuff that players spend most of their time looking at, so you should put some thought into it. For example, for the rocky backgrounds in your giant cavern, don't just draw some "rocks", think about what kinds of rocks they might be, and how they came to be in the formations that they are. The lumpy uniform rock look is very common in games, but how often do you see rock formations that look like that? Those kinds of rocks are easy to make work in small tiles, but you might be able to make something more effective by taking the time to draw some large-scale rocks instead, perhaps just as some highlights in an otherwise solid mass, to avoid making the scene too noisy and to keep the tile count low. The shapes of these rocks and other parts of the environment will influence the mood of the location, and you can even use them to wordlessly inform the player about the backstory.


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