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Games With Simple Visually Appealing 2D Worlds

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I'm planning on making a top down 2d rpg style game. I'll be doing the artwork, and I am fascinated by how simple yet appealing certain artstyles are.

The trait of simplicity is an absolute necessity for me as it saves tons of time and keeps me within my artistic capabilities (I'm definitely not a pro artist).

 

Here's a screenshot of what I'm talking about from Pokemon. It's about as simple as it gets yet it is its own visually appealing style.

 

400px-Pokemon-GSC-Johto-IlexForest.png

 

 

 

 

Now Here is another 2d world that is absolutely beautiful to me but definitely too advanced for me to accomplish. From Zenonia:

 

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So my main question: Does anyone have any recommendations/examples for highly simple yet beautiful 2d top-down style worlds. I know the original zelda games are well done too. Also any tips/strategies you may have for a beginner like me to keep in mind when designing worlds like this. Thanks!

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Also any tips/strategies you may have for a beginner like me to keep in mind when designing worlds like this.

Hi. Some things I would've liked to read when I was in your position:

- If you haven't ever tried to make graphics for a game then please have realistic expectations of yourself, on these first tries. I don't mean this in a condescending way: you're looking at pro games and wanting to do the same. It's like competing with a famous chef with cooking -- like, right now, if you had to join a competition on cooking, would you stand out? With graphics it's no different, it's a skill.

- Try to use other resources than just game screens as reference. They are the final product, someone else's vision, and they have gone through research to get there.
It's more valuable for you to understand other references and work on applying that to your graphics. An example is concept art: if you look at a piece of concept art, can you make pixel art in the same style? You're looking to use a similar palette, shape language \ designs, textures etc. to those of the concept(s).

- Working with a low resolution (pixel art) is not a way to skip learning how to draw and paint. In fact each pixel matters that much more, you need to understand what you're doing. You should be able to draw\paint something in high resolution as well as adapting that to a lower resolution (image taken from that "So you want to become a pixel artist" tutorial).

I hope you do well, good luck.

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The top image was pixel art but the bottom zenonia picture I think is hand painted tiles. If you look at the trees and the ground tiles there is no pixelation at all and too many blended colors are used to be pixel art. There is some good looking pixel art out there so its getting harder and harder to tell these days.

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I had to look at some images. There seems to be a DS version of Zenonia, and it has pixelation.
I agree with you that it has a much richer palette than what you'd find in genuine console games with technical constraints, so maybe call it "modern" pixel art.
 
zenonia_1371739.jpg
 
zenonia_1371745.jpg
 
zenonia_1371749.jpg

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The sequels have better graphics, it can be hand painted tiles like you said or even large images that are streamed. It's difficult to say which graphics I like best, they both look nice.

zenonias_01.jpg

original_e853ed79df.jpg

Zenonia_5_16.png

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Thanks for the info Kryzon. I'm not sure where I was going with this topic. I think I was mainly looking for inspiration. Some other games I've seen with nice 2d top-down style art are Sword of Mana and Secret of Mana. 

 

The more I examine the art, the more I see that you are correct; even "simple" art makes incredible choices for each pixel in order to make their shading stand out and come to life. Perhaps my favorite art that is both "simple" yet beautiful and unique comes from Super Mario World. (This is not a top down game so I guess I'm violating my rules). I'm impressed by how they use only like 3 or 4 different shades between their lighting and shadows for their objects, but the world still seems so rich and vibrant. It's perhaps the best example of "simple" yet visually appealing art that I can think of.

 

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35787-Super_Mario_World_(USA)-2.jpg

 

WiiUVC_SuperMarioWorld_09_mediaplayer_la

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I didn't know if you had any experience doing artwork for games, so it was safer to assume that you didn't.
If you're looking for inspiration I recommend Pinterest as one of the places to go to. You need to make an account there (it's easy and free), otherwise you get this very annoying nag screen asking you to log in. But then you can keep logged in forever.

Looking for "indie pixel art" it finds plenty of stuff that's been curated by other people, so at least you're not thrown in a jungle of content like DeviantArt.
For example, two picks from that Pinterest search:

6d0773988024916f6a42a8f492fa2da2.gif

Cco_Xv_z_XIAENWUU.png

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I like what they did with the overworld of super mario 3D world for wii u myself. You can run around freely but you can still join levels. The colors they use are very soothing to the eyes.

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