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SherrelE

Retro Art Design or Laziness?

16 posts in this topic

So I've been pondering this for a while after watching a game review series called The Best Gamers. (www.youtube.com/user/thebestgamersusa)
They're essentially a troll show, meant to get people riled up, nothing to take seriously. However, one of the hosts made a point that is bugging me a bit,
The indie game genre (for lack of a better term) is becoming more and more out in the open with programs like Steam and Xbox Live giving people a chance to be heard under the mass of AAA developers, and that's fantastic! I love seeing all these innovative games coming up. However in terms of art design, I've noticed a trend. It seems that a large portion of indie developers are using a "retro" art style. Games like Minecraft and FEZ are good examples. This isn't directly bothersome of course, but I'm starting to get the idea that in leu of doing creative artwork for a game, developers are using retro styled graphics simply for the reason that it's easier to make. I'm not by any means saying that a game HAS to look amazing for it to be good, or ALL games have to have different or creative art styles, but I am saying that maybe the retro style is becoming less and less of a style and becoming more and more of a copout. Just a sentiment, what do you think, GD? Edited by SherrelE
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I don't like the term easier for retro style art too. The reason is, that you can create retro style art, often sprites (pixel art), faster, though it is still hard to make it look good. The work pipeline of a AAA 3d game is really huge (concept->sculpt->low-poly->baking->texturing->rigging->animation), each step requiring lot of work and dedication. Retro/pixel art just have less steps, even if each step needs a lot of work and dedication too.
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[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1350462376' post='4991052']
The work pipeline of a AAA 3d game is really huge (concept->sculpt->low-poly->baking->texturing->rigging->animation), each step requiring lot of work and dedication.
[/quote]

I'm not saying a game has to be 3D to not be retro looking. Minecraft is 3D but it maintains a retro look with its textures, while Limbo is 2D but maintains a more moderl feel with its art design.
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[quote name='SherrelE' timestamp='1350468632' post='4991073']
Minecraft is 3D but it maintains a retro look with its textures, while Limbo is 2D but maintains a more moderl feel with its art design.
[/quote]
I would not call minecraft retro, but consistent. Using cubes to describe volume and squares to describe a texture is just consistent, and consistency is an important feature in art, but this is certainly arguable. But I call this approach as modern as limbo. Limbo is just silhouette and light/shadow, nothing new, even older than pixel art, but the composition of these elements in this way in a computer game is modern and unseen as is the use of blocky elements in minecraft.

I just want to point out, that modern/retro look is often influenced by our perception, if we don't like it, we see the negative aspects first (mehh... it looks dated) and adding furhter, unreasoned aspects too (retro => easy => lazy). Therefore is modern/retro not described by the size of the fan base [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/tongue.png[/img]
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[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1350471669' post='4991080']
[quote name='SherrelE' timestamp='1350468632' post='4991073']
Minecraft is 3D but it maintains a retro look with its textures, while Limbo is 2D but maintains a more moderl feel with its art design.
[/quote]
I would not call minecraft retro, but consistent. Using cubes to describe volume and squares to describe a texture is just consistent, and consistency is an important feature in art, but this is certainly arguable. But I call this approach as modern as limbo. Limbo is just silhouette and light/shadow, nothing new, even older than pixel art, but the composition of these elements in this way in a computer game is modern and unseen as is the use of blocky elements in minecraft.

I just want to point out, that modern/retro look is often influenced by our perception, if we don't like it, we see the negative aspects first (mehh... it looks dated) and adding furhter, unreasoned aspects too (retro => easy => lazy). Therefore is modern/retro not described by the size of the fan base [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/tongue.png[/img]
[/quote]

"Consistency" could be a valid assertion, I just disagree. But to say that Limbo is old and done, I would need an example or two to believe. I'm not trying to sound pessimistic in this thread, only making a point of concern for the indie genre (again, for lack of a better term). I never said ALL retro was easy or lazy, but it seems like with this much an influx in games with the style it could be so with some cases, and I certainly wouldn't say that "modern/retro is described by the size of the fanbase," how does that factor in?
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Interesting observation. I gotta say that I'm a little guilty of it myself because I've never been very talented in the art deparment, but I've been able to come up with some pretty decent, basic pixel art. I find that creating art for games is a little easier when working with the often tight contraints of retro pixel art. But it can also be a challenge as well. How do you best convey what you want in 32x16 pixels and three colors? I think someone with a talent in art would actually have a harder time conforming to retro contraints.

I think the style is popular because the indie developers now, are, for the most part, people who grew up with that style and are fondly paying tribute to it. Indie development, in some ways, is the antithesis to AAA development. AAA development is, for the most part, focused on visuals over gameplay. Indie development seems to say, "Let's strip away all these flashy visuals and go back to gameplay."
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That's an interesting perspective, Archendrus. I think after reading your response I kind of agree.
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I'd argue that it is easier to "get it right" with simpler graphics. As someone above said, consitency is important. I would even go as far as to say, consistency is THE most important factor. The more eye candy you add the harder it gets to balance everything to achieve this level of consistency.

btw, 1991: [url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgkf6wooDmw"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgkf6wooDmw[/url]

I find limbo to be similar, of course with more colors (or grayscales ;) ), smoother animations and physics.
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[quote name='Madhed' timestamp='1350497876' post='4991207']
btw, 1991: [url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgkf6wooDmw"]https://www.youtube....h?v=Zgkf6wooDmw[/url]

I find limbo to be similar, of course with more colors (or grayscales ;) ), smoother animations and physics.
[/quote]

Oh thanks! I was wondering what he was talking about.

[quote name='Madhed' timestamp='1350497876' post='4991207']
I'd argue that it is easier to "get it right" with simpler graphics. As someone above said, consitency is important. I would even go as far as to say, consistency is THE most important factor. The more eye candy you add the harder it gets to balance everything to achieve this level of consistency.
[/quote]

I would disagree as far as calling consistency THE most important factor as you said, though I do see your point. Still, I think it's perfectly reasonable to have a more high-res art style without giving up a factor of consistency. Would it be more work? Sure, but that goes to the main point of the thread in that use of a retro style could be used more for purpose of implementing less work into your art.
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[quote name='SherrelE' timestamp='1350502615' post='4991225']
I would disagree as far as calling consistency THE most important factor as you said, though I do see your point. Still, I think it's perfectly reasonable to have a more high-res art style without giving up a factor of consistency. Would it be more work? Sure, but that goes to the main point of the thread in that use of a retro style could be used more for purpose of implementing less work into your art.
[/quote]

No, the thread's title contains the word [b]laziness[/b]. Doing less work does not equal laziness in this context. It's more about risk management and cost effectiveness. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
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I always found pixel art *much* harder than 3d modelling. Back in the Amiga days I struggled and struggled in DPaint to create decent art for my projects. Although I loved the Amiga scene, in creative terms it was a relief to move to the pc and start using 3ds max.

To me, pre-rendering sprites is the laziest method in graphics. You can be pretty sloppy with your modelling and still get good results. Once I made a top-down space game with pre-rendered graphics for an old WindowsCE based smartphone. We didn't bother modelling the bottom of many of the ships since you'd never see them!
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Pixely graphics are ok, maybe they are just lacking bew features which polygons use nowadays.

Add some HDR lighting and bump mapping and then they can be compared xD
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Making good-looking low-res pixel art or low-poly models is just as difficult as their high-fidelity counterparts, and requires different, but equal, skills. Imagine, for example, trying to create a unique appearance and character to 20 different sprites whose heads are a mere 12 pixels across. It's really hard! In fact, this is why old console games always had around half of the character dedicated to the head of the character. Proportional sprites, unless they occupy many more pixels, are devoid of personality.

The reason small developers and indies often choose the retro aesthetic is that it allows them to get by with *less* art, not *worse* art. If your character is only 16 or 32 pixels across, then a 4-frame walk-cycle looks perfectly fine, whereas for bigger sprites it would look stilted and jerky--not fluid at all.

Other good reasons are that it simplifies the art-pipeline on the back end, and makes fewer technical requirements of the game engine.

Simpler aesthetics and gameplay are really just an acknowledgement of the small team sizes involved, but it doesn't mean that the art or experience of playing is any less worthy, valuable, or enjoyable.
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All good points, I just hope people don't think I'm trying to be insulting to indie dev's who do use it, I really wasn't trying to be.
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Personally for me, the retro style is the only thing I can somewhat achieve so being a sole indie developer right now it is all I have to work with. That being said I think there are probably a lot of indie's that are in the same boat. I have spent countless hours doing tutorials, reading, playing with my tablet but in the end the best I can do after 5 years is very small pixel sprites such as in [url="http://www.brandonmcculligh.ca/ProjectDetailPage.aspx?195128207190157049108098073143025188077197013023=021132194252101074001227170175029017096157248219"]this[/url] because I can hide the imperfections in the scale.
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