AuthorTopic: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!  (Read 173260 times)

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #100 on: June 05, 2010, 06:38:45 pm
On the reinvigorated interest in retro art, pixel art and the demoscene

Demoscene art broadly falls within the 'Realist' end of the triangle suggested in the beginning of this article. As such its goal has always been primarily to convey lushly rendered images in spite of the limitations of the digital imagery format. Though there were demoscene artists that were adept low-color/restricted mode pixel artists, the aesthetic strength of pixels and precisely controlled pixel clusters is downplayed, especially in the Amiga demoscene, in favor of the illusion of unrestricted illustration. Colors were mixed to offer the illusion that there were no discernible color limit, antialias smoothened out the perceived resolution to the closest possible approximation of infinite, so on. Sometimes sharp single pixel or pixel line specular are a feature of this work but I've grown to question whether they were intended as any sort of 'pixel art' statement.

Lately there's been a resurgence of interest in some forms of pixel art, mostly the low-color fake 8-bitesque variety where the pixels are chunky, bright and visible. We often stumble across articles from outside sources mentioning the beauty of pixel art and the examples cited are often blocky chunky retro pieces of that sort (or isometric Eboy stuff). Why isn't there a similar interest then in the demoscene type of pixel art, though a lot of it is striking to look at and certainly its made of pixels?

I offer two (well, three) explanations for this. On one hand, demoscene art achieves its goal a bit too much, therefore it doesn't look like pixel art exactly. It looks like peculiarly sharp cgi/photoshop work in small resolutions. Its graces are apparent to those that zoom and Those that Zoom are an esoteric bunch in any climate. Most people use blurry browsers now, keep this in mind. Some people love this 'quasi-cg' look but it seems they mostly come from an 80's computer scene background to begin with. In this way demoscene artwork is insular, it's from the scene and for the scene. I doubt there will ever be again a wider interest in that type of realistic pixel artwork, regardless of how well its made, technically. At most art appreciators will wonder from afar.

I do not think the lack of interest is due to how much of that artwork was straight copies from photographs or Frazetta illustrations as I don't think the wide public minds this. After all we're the result of a very self-voracious pop culture where anything worth looking at is worth looking at as if it's new again at some point.

On the other hand I think demoscene-type artwork isn't enjoying a similar resurgence in interest as the retro-art type of work because it isn't closely related to indie gaming. On a very significant level it seems that the interest in retro pixel art is tied very directly to feelings of nostalgia over outmodded console and other gaming systems on the part of those enthusiasts. The demoscene *is* related to gaming but in a tangential manner and going from personal experience, a frustrating one as well. Does anyone remember watching a demo by some group and struggling to find out what button to press to 'start the game'? Surely all this awesome-looking art meant you were watching the intro to some game, right? I think that sort of warm-cold disappointment when one realizes this is after all just a showcase of skill on a computer used for interactive pursuits colors the memory of scene artwork by insiders and outsiders the same. It's also useful to remember that the results of when demoscenesters made games were usually disappointing to abysmal (though exceptions exist).

Actually I think there's a third reason for this disparity of interest in the facets of pixel artistry, and one that possibly puts the middle-ground between 'retro style' pixel art and 'demoscene' style realistic pixel art in a possible future advantage.

As outsiders become re-accustomed with the newer strands of retro-looking pixel art they will unconsciously begin to prize the main attraction, beneath the chunky nostalgic sprites and the bright colors. I believe that is the sense of 'controlled medium gives controlled results' that the grind-based essence of pixel art allows for is the ultimate charm of it. I believe pixel artists might be consciously unaware of it but that's the sort of result their work strives for naturally, the workflow leads to precise pixel clusters and maximization of effect through controlled movement.

Demoscene artwork obfuscates its pixel-art nature too much for control to show for the beginner appreciator of the form. Sometimes it's so obscured that even experienced artists such as us cannot tell if something is controlled until we zoom in. However modern pixel art by modern artists that are influenced and aware of 'new-school' techniques manage to combine both the vitality and sharpness of retro-style pixel art and the fluidity and realism of demoscene art, oftentimes in the same piece. I believe that's a gateway for the increased sophistication of the interest of the curious outsiders to the medium. Through this 'middle stage' which is both game-arty and art-arty, where new-school pixel techniques developed for crisp monitors are well-established and endorsed that a wider public can come to appreciate the history of the medium.

If the artist reader is interested in pursuing this end I suggest to them to:

1. Avoid overblurry 'demoscene' style gradient-based soft render artwork that obfuscates the pixel art aspect of pixel art too much. The "OMG I can't believe this is pixelled!" effect that was so prized for those whose craftsman mentality was based around wooing insiders and winning competitions is not at this time pertinent.

2. Learn your newschool techniques to the point where even your most lushly rendered pixel art clearly communicates 'I am made out of pixels, placed by hand' even at 1x zoom where a casual outsider can see the control and feel its impact.

3. On the other hand avoid oversimplified 'retro' art that downplays the importance of control over the basic nostalgia trip.

4. Finally and most importantly (though I guess this cannot be communicated as a simple suggestion) pixel artwork should be about something else than itself, being, pixel artwork. To get someone interested in pixels I believe we have to get them interested in what we're doing with pixels first. A lot of newschool art fails at this spectacularily, being aesthetically little more than variable excercises in how to anti-alias correctly and so on. Retro-art overcomes this hurdle because it is usually, *in service of a game*. If you don't want to make game pixel art, then make _____  pixel art, where the gap fill in with your heart's desire. Don't just make 'I need to win this demoscene compo' pixel art.

This is not a manifesto. I do not even plan to follow those guidelines to the letter as I have other interests other than creating art that operates as a gateway to the history of the medium for outsiders (though it is certainly one of my considerations) but to those that often lament that outside interest, who would like for their artwork to be accepted and for the wider public to be more aware of what pixel art as we see it is, then you can put your effort where your mouth is thusly. The 'middle ground' of pixel art requires intellectual honesty, make pixel art in a controlled fashion and have the end result speak of control and those idiosyncratic outsiders that find restriction/control schemata attractive will realize that pixel art is not just about 8bit nostalgia.

Offline Gil

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #101 on: June 05, 2010, 07:11:56 pm
The big problem is that indie gamers create abyssmal "retro art". When you tell them to fix up issues such as bland color palettes, banding and sloppy linework, you get the following answer:

"It's supposed to look like that because it's 8bit"

The artists are often looking for a quick gratification. I create this bad art, but it looks "retro", so I don't have to fix it.

Offline Helm

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #102 on: June 05, 2010, 08:29:35 pm
Let them. We're talking about what we'd do if we wanted to promote understanding of the medium. I sincerily believe that even 8-bit art with new-school sensibility and pixel knowledge will eventually be more well liked by the public than generic looking fake 'retro art'.

Offline Lizzrd

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #103 on: June 05, 2010, 10:54:47 pm
Bad pixelart just tends to look bad for everyone, not just pixel artists.
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Offline Gil

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #104 on: June 06, 2010, 02:11:56 am
That is decisively not true Lizzrd. I can show you multiple examples of pixel art that DID get global attention and none of them are above average quality. They are revered for their "retro" look.

Helm: true enough I guess. The problem would be to gather enough momentum to push pixel art as a medium into the open. The question is of course whether this is needed. It's not that important. I don't see an increase or decline in the number of pixel art fans for the last 5 or 10 years, so we really don't need to worry about the art dying out.

People think that the current indie gaming scene is rediscovering the pixel art aesthetic, but that's not true. When I was in art college 6 years ago, there was an equally big movement centered around the likes of Eboy.

Luckily for us there are quite a few excellent games out there that do get a fair bit of attention. Spelunky, Owlboy, Konjak's stuff, Wayforward's stuff. Unsurprisingly, most of the better pixel artists can trace their roots to Pixelation.

Offline Darien

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #105 on: June 06, 2010, 04:48:30 am
What are some of those games, Gil?  Can you give some examples?

Offline Stab

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #106 on: June 06, 2010, 05:09:00 am
most of the better pixel artists can trace their roots to Pixelation.

I like this statement and find it to be true. Also, it is important to note that most of the better pixel artists do things other than pixel art. Such as draw. Lots.

Offline Jad

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #107 on: June 07, 2010, 10:51:05 am
The big problem is that indie gamers create abyssmal "retro art". When you tell them to fix up issues such as bland color palettes, banding and sloppy linework, you get the following answer:

"It's supposed to look like that because it's 8bit"

The artists are often looking for a quick gratification. I create this bad art, but it looks "retro", so I don't have to fix it.

I often find that the answer is 'I can't really draw, but I want graphics for my game. I found this aesthetic to be a way for me to make art that actually looks like something'

or something like that.
' _ '

Offline CrazyMLC

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #108 on: June 07, 2010, 12:33:06 pm
I've talked with so many people just don't see the point of having good quality pixel art when games like Crysis or Doom 3 look so much better.
They thought that if you're just going to make pixel art you should make it 'retro', a.k.a. using small amounts of colors badly>:(
« Last Edit: June 07, 2010, 01:11:14 pm by CrazyMLC »

Offline Lizzrd

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Re: Ramblethread! A brainstorm approaches!

Reply #109 on: June 07, 2010, 01:29:15 pm
Yeah well they are stupid cause it's not r eally graphics that count, it's the fun you hvae playing it and how the controls are.
even more realistic games aren't possible before we get "better" controls to pc.
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