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Cel-Shading: My not-so-well-thought-out opinions

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Well, this will be a small post to a very big subject, but lateley, I've been thinking, "IMO, cel-shading sucks". There, I said it. It just doesn't look good to me. I'm cool with cartoons, but cel-shading doesn't look cartoonly/2D because of how natural the motion is. It looks like something completley seperate that doesn't feel like realistic 3D CG or hald-drawn 2D cartoons. Now, despite what I just said, I don't find that this looks bad when it's used correctly. In Viewtiful Joe, where you played as a superhero in a "hyper-realistic" world, the bright colors, heavy inking, and lack of lighting made it look pretty cool. VJ wouldn't have been the same without it, and there (in a game that was completley 2D, mind you), it DID look cartoony. Killer7 used it to express a feeling of unreality and being "out-of-place", and did so quite effectivley. But when a 3D game attempting to seem realistic is cel-shaded it just looks cheap to me, like the developers were using it as a "style" so they wouldn't have to spend as much time surfacing. LoZ: Wind Waker just didn't feel (to me) as "magical" as the N64 3D Zeldas. Both Dark Cloud 2 and ZOE2 followed after first-gen PS2 games that had wowed me so intensley with their graphics, and the sequels of both games, although probably better games at heart, just turned me off because of their graphical style. At the expense of getting repetitive, I just want to ask, am I the ONLY person who feel this way. Professional reviewers seem to hump it like crazy, and though the cel-shading fad has passed, I'm still seeing a lot of new games being made that use it. What are all your thoughts on it. I apologize if offended anyone, Best of wishes, xycos (I hate making negitive posts, everyone is going to interpret this as trolling....)

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It depends on the feel that you're going for overall with your game. Like you said, some games' atmospheres lend themselves to the sort of 'out of place' feeling or 'lack of reality' aspect. I agree with your thoughts about some games using it inappropriately to avoid more surfacing work.

A game that I personally feel would have been better with realistic shading/coloring was Dragon Quest VIII. Mind you, this is my first game of this series so I can't relate to any of the previous ones or the sort of atmosphere that they try to give. I just think it could have offered more detail and a much less 'little kid' feeling to it without cel-shading.

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I find that cel-shading looks good with light smooth colours, like sky blues, & sand yellows. Cel-shading would have looked good on a game like banjo-kazoie rather then the recent line of TMNT games (which I own). A good example of well done cel-shading IMO is Tales of Symphonia.

EDIT: Now that I think about it, it looks good when they use textures with the cel-shading. Not so well if they rely on flat colours

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I think that for everything, it's good if used well and it's bad if used badly. It's about making the right decisions for the game you are making. I'm thinking about using cell shading in my game because: the game is kinda like an 'episode' of an on-going saga, it's ment to be fun and easy to play. The biggest reason I want to use it is because it should make the graphics easier. Yes it is a bit of a cop out, but I think it's a good trade for a single person effort to make some things easier.

Then again, I am still thinking about what graphics I'm going to use, so it's in the air.

I thought XIII was great.

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Cel shading implies a graphic style.
When a game attempts to look realistic AND cel-shaded, the complete effect is jarring.

In my book (that's a flashing OPINION WARNING) when cel-shading you shouldn't use textures for shade, because they're a different style and they break the image. In fact, I'd discourage any kind of texture that's not 1D (gradients and such).

Eyes? draw the outlines with polygons.
Clothe creases? face wrinkles and features? bump mapping!
bump mapping looks sweet with cel-shading, and the final product is very consistent. In fact, I would encourage the Doom3-style of modeling, where you model in high res and then simplify the geometry and get a bumpmap with the missing details.
When lit with cell shading and this bump, you'll get the effect of a detailed cartoon.

btw a cel (as in cel-shaded) is a sheet where you draw a character in traditional animation. Sorta like a cutout.
So yes, cel-shading is SUPPOSED to look like cutouts. a South Park game would definitely benefit from cel-shading.

I like the technique when it's properly used. Such as in Wind Waker (for what I've seen. Haven't played it yet! :x )

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I thought jet set radio made good use of cel-shading. It fit really well.

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i didn't play any N64 zelda games, but i thought wind waker looked great. the cel-shading was a nice "evolution" of the cartoony 2d graphics in the earlier zelda games.

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I agree with some of the others; cel-shading is a tool, and when used correctly it can be a wonderful effect, but like all tools it can be (and is) misused, just like the massive overuse of lens-flare effects.

As my example, I'm going to use the cel-shaded game XIII, in which I think the cel-shaded effect worked brilliantly. The whole feel and interface of the game was designed around the comic-book style, including the appearance of extra frames and the heavy outlines around things, along with the cheesy text (*tap* *tap* *tap* footsteps) hints for audio, etc. A few screenshots:
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Because the game was designed to suit the graphical style, it felt right, and actually added to the game. I think more games should try to be artistic like this, and investigate different styles of both gameplay and presentation.

Yes, it can and has been badly used, but I say blame the designers rather than the effect itself. Even the much-maligned lens-flare is a great effect when used properly in an appropriate situation.

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