Pixel Graphics Part II

Last time we talked about how resolution and scale, as well as modern effects can make a pixel art games visuals look weird.

For me, consistency is very important. Choosing any visual style is a commitment to stick to that style and try to make all the elements fit together. While you want certain visual elements to stick out, you don’t want them to stick out because they don’t match the overall theme of the game.

Pixel Half Minute Hero
Half Minute Hero is a pretty good example of doing almost everything wrong. Look at the various pixel sizes and hi-res effects and interface. Nothing fits! At least the art isn’t bad.

In Part II of this article, I’ll talk about a couple more things that really bug me whenever I see them.

Pixel Sin No3: Rotating

pixel rotationBack in the days before the NES, when the Atari 2600 was still alive and well, memory was very limited and a lot of games didn’t have sprites for all directions the player could be facing…let alone have them be animated.

With technology progressing, memory was increased and developers used it to put more graphics in the games. Of course processing power was still limited, so it was usually very difficult or impossible to just rotate a top-down sprite to the desired position. So each angle had to be drawn by hand. Or at least half of them, the other half would be mirrored.

Today, it’s not a problem rotating any number of sprites to any desired position. The problem is often, that the games actual resolution is much higher than the sprites supposed resolution, meaning the rotated sprite isn’t really following any rules anymore. It still looks somewhat pixel-ish but it’s obvious that the actual resolution is much higher and suddenly you have angled pixels, which isn’t possible with an actual limited resolution.

A slightly better way to rotate sprites is doing it in the actual game resolution, meaning the pixels don’t get angled and everything looks nice. It’s also not 100% accurate, because the smooth sprite rotation was only possible in later generations, when 2D was on its way out, but I guess it’s a huge time saver, especially for smaller developers, so depending on how it’s done and used, I’d let it slide.

Pixel Sin No4: Weird low-tech pixel-art

pixel low

I’m not calling this style inherently bad, but a number of games that use pixel “art” seem to just have pixels in them for the sake of it, without having any artistic ambition.

Just because something has a blocky, low resolution, doesn’t mean you don’t have to at least try to put in an effort. Nowadays a lot of these pixel-art games look much worse than what developers did 25 years ago. Look at the art of companies like SNK, Lucasfilm Games, Squaresoft and others in the 90s. I’m not saying it’s easy to achieve a level like this, but please, do more than drawing stick figures.

But a lot of younger gamers don’t even know the difference. If it’s got a low resolution and is in 2D it looks like crap, case closed.

Further reading: Here‘s a small article I found about pixel art in games. What struck me the most however, was the image the author used, showing how pixel art is seemingly devolving recently.

Next time I’ll talk about some other minor things that bug me, examples of modern games that do it mostly right and my fears about my own game development.

Did you agree with these points or do you think there are legitimate reasons for purposely implementing pixel style visuals in such a way? Let me know in the comments!