AuthorTopic: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ  (Read 26092 times)

Offline Helm

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #10 on: October 20, 2007, 04:40:50 pm
*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 (in this piece check out the right contour of the snakewoman's arm). The demand (of a sprite being lost on a background) was the invention of Tsugumo and Pkmays back in the day which while rational at first glance, was really quite far-fetched. They created this reasoning to explain why capcom (and mostly capcom!) put the dark jaggies at the contours of their sprites. Now whether capcom does this for this reason or not nobody knows, but even if we consider that they do do it so the sprites pop up against a background, this technique creates in the eyes of many users far more ugly for what it is worth. A full outline with lightvariation does what selout needs to do without any of the ugly.

Offline baccaman21

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #11 on: October 20, 2007, 04:40:59 pm
what... like what I've been doing like since I've had access to more that 2 colors?  (see pacman / batman sprite in sig)

I still don't get it... all I know is old Helmy-boy don't like it and that the ole SF sprites use it?


Ok... I dig. (again) :P [I'll prbably query it again in 2 years time]
« Last Edit: October 20, 2007, 04:43:01 pm by baccaman21 »
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Offline eghost

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #12 on: October 20, 2007, 04:46:45 pm
*scratches head* Ok...Explains why Fejer's stuff works...And proves to me that I misunderstood the concept of selout as I was thinking more along the lines of the outlighting (light source outlining  :P) from the start.

Offline ndchristie

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #13 on: October 20, 2007, 08:26:29 pm
outlines will always be jagged unless treated as shapes instead of lines.  selout exacerbates the issue by starting with lines (a broken shape), and breaking them again to make even jaggier jaggies.  Pixelart is a subtle media, and you can't just rely on the eye to connect pixels unless there is overwhelming visual assistance, which is impossible over a small area.

the point : keep your shapes whole and let them work together to create the impression of contours.  EITHER dont let edges remain for a long time in the mid range, try to place dark shapes in the concavities of these forms and light shapes on the convexities, so that, assuming a background of a narrower range, you will always create a edge by being either significantly lighter or darker.  if you do not do this, keep the entire edge in the midrange, so that you achieve shape extension and a sense of overlap against the changing values of the bg.  The first though is your best bet of course, because the second creates flat, cartoony characters. 

The first is already visible in the left elbow and the torso, so i wont explain how to do it (you already know).
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Offline pkmays

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #14 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 swoo.net 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.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2007, 02:48:39 am by pkmays »

Offline baccaman21

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #15 on: October 20, 2007, 10:54:20 pm
....and that pretty much echo's my thoughts exactly... nice post PK.

Point being - that out of context it may be jarring... but placed into context things can work... a general rule I've used when creating my 'professional' graphics in the past has been to try the sprites out against varying tonal backgrounds, Black, white, grey and what I refer to as 'broken color' - ie some kind of texture that implies the generic 'feel' of whatever backgorund the sprite will mainly be resting on.

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...

What a fascinating insight into the techniques of (what i've always considered to be) masters of the pixel technique that is the SFA series... (I never liked SF2) - and to be frank, 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.

Anyway - good post - hat's off.
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Offline Helm

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #16 on: October 20, 2007, 11:44:12 pm
Quote
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.

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. 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. It's not that sort of thing, you come across decisions to make when you make game art that force you to find ways to deal with issues, in the case of 'good' selout, it's neither systematic nor formulaic as far as my eyes can tell and it definitely seems to be used on a case-by-case basis, therefore it's not a solid technique that should be discussed as such. Any person with experience in making game art will have delt with the sprite edge issue in many different ways, for many different sprites. 

Offline eghost

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #17 on: October 20, 2007, 11:54:20 pm
*blinks* Well...I definitely feel like I have a better handle on the theory behind several different outlining techniques...
That said I've got a new progress piece...Which upon further consideration and looking at the various examples looks like crap in many ways... :(
After reading through the book that this thread is rapidly becoming, I'm definitely thinking that I'm going to have to take an hour or three off from staring at this thing and see if I can come back to it with a more unified outlining concept in mind, because I can see both forms in use atm, and its causing much head scratching on my end...

Offline ndchristie

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #18 on: October 21, 2007, 12:07:06 am
im going to have to side with helm on this one.  selout as it is practised is like oekaki dithering or even the dreaded spray can.  people use it because they are told it works, not because it actually does.  each of these 3 "techniques" mimic actual qualities : edge treatment and line variation, using texture to break up color masses, and using noise to create the illusion of randomness.  The difference is that these 3 qualities require thought, practise, and a good eye, while the 3 "techniques" only require mindless application.

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.

EDIT: you newest post brings up another shitty and overused "technique," unblended "ambient lighting."  There is no such thing as a light source that only lights from a single direction, and the use of this SoM-made-popular technique (tsu and st0ven have a hand in this too, unintentionally) is extremely unattractive and visually jarring.  In addition to being generally unappealing, this flattens out your volumes and divides solid surfaces. the ONLY thing this does bring in is warm and cool interplay, but yo can achieve that just be making your shadows cold and your highlights warm (or the toher way around of course).
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Offline eghost

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Re: [WIP] Selout challenge from PJ

Reply #19 on: October 21, 2007, 02:15:07 am
@Adarias: I'm assuming you're referring to my (admittedly) rather bad attempt at a secondary light source to the right with the teal colors?
I can only chalk that up to being an (obviously) failed experiment...I'll have to fiddle with it more, via contour blending and such thus giving it the same kind of attention that I heaped on the primary light source...I think I can see a few ways to implement such a critter...

In regards to my use of techniques, in all honesty I poke around at a piece until I find what works to my eye...I can be completely honest when I say that I only really understand AA well and only have a moderately passable artistic talent considering the regulars around here...I throw things up here or at PJ and wait to see what more trained eyes have to say about the matter...

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...

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...

At this point I don't really care if this goes in for the challenge, or for that matter even qualifies for the challenge, I just want to improve the piece to the best of my abilities and maybe stretch my horizons and skills some...*shrugs*

Any rate thanks for staying tuned this long...If anyone wants to toss any C&C at the piece feel free...Thanks again to those who did add their two cents worth on the pic...