AuthorTopic: Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?  (Read 4590 times)

Offline RAV

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Re: Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?

Reply #10 on: June 27, 2016, 01:04:14 pm
There is a difference between sharing an aspect in some sense, or being the most defining trademark brought to a whole new level for unique consequences that changed a lot of things. That is then making the aspect a new contribution.

Of course art had purpose before, and even pure aesthetics can have an important function, for example psychological, and to communicate various human affairs. Art has been used and made to requirements, long before the digital revolution. For example, ornaments on buildings and ships, or advertizing, or propaganda as less flattering example. And the creation of art certainly involves functional craftmanship. And so likewise, the other way around, a greater functionality of art in some way, can benefit every other purpose. But what we classify for functionality changed and expanded in the digital age, up until today, so compared to now, art from a hundred years ago can seem relatively non-functional.

However, no doubt the digital era starting with pixel art greatly exploded the possibilities in which art connects and interacts with things, works and people. It expanded the ways art as a profession can be exercised, and how meaningful it is to society. The desire for art experience, and the desire to make art a useful service, both greatly increased. The countless consequences were unlike anything before, on the computer art medium. That is the new dimension of functionality added first with pixel art.

The precision, amount and kind of specifications, to make art part of something, what a "puzzle" can do, in the process and result, what experience this can create, the role and importance, the flexibility of art, the consequences were something else. And traits that were dormant in art became more dominant in digital art, starting with pixel art. This is what pixel art brought to the table of arts, by means of pattern, reduction and reuse. The means have been increased today, but many of the principles that pixel art stood for are still important to what makes art so versatile today. And it is amusing to realize, the other arts learned a lot from the master, they became strong from pixel art. I think it's important to learn what the nature of its strength is, most of all to better learn pixel art.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2016, 01:52:37 pm by RAV »

Offline nessx007

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Re: Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?

Reply #11 on: June 28, 2016, 07:18:25 am
Just to clarify, by "the other arts" you mean the higher-fidelity digital mediums that followed pixel art?

But yeah I agree that "functional" has a fairly broad definition in the arts. You could say artistic realism "functions" as a means to game immersion, or a generally attractive art style "functions" as good advertising for the game, etc.

It occured to me recently, hearing people discussing the look of old Playstation games, that there is a timeless quality to 2D pixel art in particular that extends beyond just rose-tinted nostalgia glasses a lot of us wear. Don't get me wrong, the PS1/N64 era had some amazing games and occupied an even larger slice of my childhood than SNES games, but you don't see many (if any?) indie devs or hobbyists recreating that extreme blocky/sharp polygonal aesthetic. And maybe there's other reasons for that, but I think you'd be hard pressed to convince anyone, who have no connection to that era of games, that they were objectively pleasant to look at. Even in spite of my fond memories, I look back at some of my favorite games from that time in surprised at the rougness of the visuals. Granted there are stand out examples, and from a technical stand-point, what devs were able to achieve with the hardware was impressive. But you would think, if the pixel art wave was motivated purely by nostalgia, shouldn't we now be seeing a wave of people "bringing back" PS1/N64 games? Anyway, just a thought (might be slightly tangental to original point of this thread).

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Offline RAV

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Re: Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?

Reply #12 on: June 28, 2016, 12:12:29 pm
Yes, because the other arts all transitioned to digital now as well, and learned the lessons that pixel art pioneered, just like pixel art learned from classic arts. It's kinda the "student has become the master" thing.

I'd even say, most art today is experienced as interactive content. And how interesting that interactivity is, has become part of qualifying art. Functionality can affect aesthetic perception.

Usually we compare old 2d and old 3d, and can only see a disadvantage in that 3d, today. But just for a moment, let's turn that around, assume a perspective back in the day. At the beginning of digital, there were no digital artists. You hired traditional artists, and taught them what they needed to know. They were the first generation of digital artists. Now, with the eyes of a traditional artist, who's used to study the greatest artworks in history, imagine how ridiculous the first attempts at pixel graphics would look. An absurdly huge downgrade in aesthetics. But also in process they expected from what they knew. So what fascinated them about pixels anyway then? All the new creativity and experiences it allowed functionally. And that made pixel art look interesting. It looked good. And likewise, what did people see in the first 3d games? "Objectively", the first 3d looked so horrible compared to the latest pixel art of the day, not only today but also back in the day. So what fascinated them? Again, it looked fantastic because it allowed new creativity and new experiences, that "skewed" aesthetic perception. So that is a bit the irony, when pixel artists today reduce other things down to just their own established sense of aesthetic, and don't get what other people see in it. What do kids see in Minecraft? Pure Love.

Only just about now has 3d reached a fidelity that it can actually stand the test of time. But I noticed that of those few 3d games from long ago that look any decent at all, it's those that designed their content such as if it were for pixel art. And those indie games today that go for simplified 3d graphics that work, do so with much style -- they don't have to fully leverage graphics power, since it's past the point of saturation.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2016, 01:51:38 am by RAV »

Offline Ai

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Re: Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?

Reply #13 on: June 29, 2016, 05:31:53 am
Rather than 'as if it were for pixel art', I think it's a fully general principle about technology (cf. Systemantics): If you attempt to push the technology to the limits ('hide the seams'), you get a overly-complex system that initially looks flashy but ages rapidly. If you work with the technology ('make the seams interesting'), you get something that is more modest but maintainable and robust.

Pixel art exemplifies that principle of 'an interesting, robust system is more valuable than a polished system', IMO.
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline RAV

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Re: Place and Purpose of Pixel Art?

Reply #14 on: June 29, 2016, 01:03:21 pm
Pixel Art was absolute high tech in its heyday. For the entirety of its relevancy, it was an engine of progress, and games drove the hardware to its breaking points. Actually, the lengths people went to edge out just a little more, the systemic complication this caused, was quite ridiculous and awkward, barely manageable and error prone. I was visiting some Retro Conventions, and they exhibited games on all original hardware, and I've got to say, it was not all so pleasant to look at, as we sometimes believe today from emulators and resource extraction. The slowdowns, flickering and other hiccups that were sometimes taken as acceptable trade offs for gaining a feature advantage over competition, were glaring now more than ever.

Now you might think that's all different today, we learned to appreciate pixel art in a different way now. But I'd not be so sure about that. Actually, when you look at the market today, a pixel art arms race has once again begun for upping the ante, with people making great efforts in their development, pushing not hardware but middleware, to make their pixel art stand out. If you were to look at their project sources, you'd notice it ain't that pretty as you'd hope, often much more complicated actually than doing straight 3d nowadays. And even in communities for pixel artists, you see them often push it with unimaginable amounts of effort put into high fidelity images. That graphics arms race never stopped. No matter the subject, some people will interpret design as to do more with less, others will interpret it as to do more than was thought possible.

However, in the past, no matter the push, the restrictions were still so harsh, that the art styles developed to make pixel art work were necessary in a way that they were not after. It is even so, that the wave of realism that came with 3d was a conscient decision to break away from the aesthetics of pixel art. 3d was meant to be a revolution, and even the graphics design was meant to communicate that. But it is pretty much only today that realism actually works. And those 3d titles that held themselves closer to the design principles that were developed first for pixel art, aged best.

Hell, in a lot of ways, today's Minecraft is actually a step back even from the original Doom! However what we also learn to appreciate is not only the visuals of pixel art, but its mechanic behaviour for how to create and play, and clearly Minecraft is in many more ways a huge step forward in that above the old Doom, or any other modern title for that matter. So what is at first surprising to think about, how can all these people today accept Minecraft's visuals, not only accept but even love? And the reason is, that its aesthetic makes perfect sense in light of the functionality.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2016, 01:28:08 pm by RAV »