How should a 2D pixel art game look nowadays?

Athreous

Member
I'm really tired of these pixelated games... Is it too hard to do some good high res pixels? Like this one:

 
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I always marvel when I see pixel art + butter smooth animations, see Cuphead, that blend for me is the top notch pixel graphics nowadays

But I know it's not the most popular opinion, my favourite is the Katana Zero style: low res, vibrant colours, high fps count
 

NeoIkaruGAF

Gold Member
Thanks for supplying us the reason why pixel art games are still relevant. When the artwork is too clean, it leaves a 2D game feeling like a cheap mobile game.
All those games look great in motion. Still images can be very deceiving for games like the Wonder Boy remake and Shantae. There’s really nothing chip about them once you’re seeing them actually running on a TV screen.

This is related to the topic at hand, too. Unfiltered pixel art blown up to modern resolutions can look pretty much awful to somebody who never saw it as intended.
 

StormCell

Member
All those games look great in motion. Still images can be very deceiving for games like the Wonder Boy remake and Shantae. There’s really nothing chip about them once you’re seeing them actually running on a TV screen.

This is related to the topic at hand, too. Unfiltered pixel art blown up to modern resolutions can look pretty much awful to somebody who never saw it as intended.

Probably a better point to offer is that some/most of the attempts to adapt older 2D into a cleaner high resolution art style seem to lose something or come out kind of sterilized. A grittier art style is better for something like 2D Castlevania -- Bloodstianed is 3D with a side scroller view, but you can see that if it was a clean high res art it would be totally flat but if it retained its gritty dirty look it would still work.
 

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
Probably a better point to offer is that some/most of the attempts to adapt older 2D into a cleaner high resolution art style seem to lose something or come out kind of sterilized. A grittier art style is better for something like 2D Castlevania -- Bloodstianed is 3D with a side scroller view, but you can see that if it was a clean high res art it would be totally flat but if it retained its gritty dirty look it would still work.
It's all up to the chosen art style and the artist's skill, not a limitation of the medium per se.

The problem is that most big name developers don't care about 2D anymore since the PS1 days, and they don't invest in improving that area anymore. There are some developers that put a lot of effort in 2D, and the result is outstanding

I can imagine a Castlevania game with an art style similar to Dragon's Crown, with some tweaks here and there:

 
Hello :)

I personally often look photos of games on CRTs, to imagine exactly (and remember) what was the difference and why there were so great :pie_thinking: And what is always surprising me is that low resolution images like "640 x 480" pixels often look almost HD on this kind of screens, when it looks just bad on a digital screen.





(source: http://www.diffusedion.co.uk/2020.html )


But this is how a 480p image looks on our modern screen:



Yes, it's bad! :messenger_confused:


To have the same feeling (more or less) than a 480p image on a CRT monitor, we need big resolutions on a digital screen. Like here, with a 1080p image:



For me, the big difference is that a modern screen acts like a magnifying glass on the details on the image.

However, we can see differences too between the CRT TVs and the CRT monitors.





We see the pixels a lot more with the PC version of "Sonic & Knuckles" (the Genesis has a resolution of 320 x 224 pixels and I think the resolution is just doubled in the PC version).
If we think about this, it's not so different of this:



It's just that CRTs are more sweet and organic to the eyes and that digital screens acts more like a magnifying glass on the details.

In fact, there is no big problem with the 3D games, because we can often display them in a 1080p resolution or more, even if like I said, it's like a magnifying glass and so we can see more the bad quality textures.
The real problem is with very low resolution like "320 x 240" pixels and less, because it looked great on a CRT TV and the scanlines, not so bad on a CRT monitor, even with big pixels, but not enough sweet on a modern display.

Same problem with old videos. The result with an upscaling isn't very great, particularly if we have a source in 240p or less.

Here is per example the most natural image that I can have with the 480p image above upscaled to 1080p:



I upscaled it with this AviSynth script:

eedi3_rpow2(2, cshift="BicubicResize")
BilinearResize(1440, 1080)

I tried lots of things, and even if I can have sharpened images, it will be worse somewhere else. It's a compromise, but even here I'm far from the quality of a 480p image displayed on a CRT monitor. And with a 240p image, we have only choice between a very blurry image or a pixelated image.


But as you can see above, there were already some significant differences with the look of the image in very low resolutions between a consumer CRT TV and a CRT monitor.

We forget that we already had to choose at the time what kind of image we wanted with the emulators. There already were some shaders like "SuperEagle" or "2xSal". So it has always been a problem with low resolution contents.
 
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I'm really tired of these pixelated games... Is it too hard to do some good high res pixels? Like this one:


It's all up to the chosen art style and the artist's skill, not a limitation of the medium per se.

The problem is that most big name developers don't care about 2D anymore since the PS1 days, and they don't invest in improving that area anymore. There are some developers that put a lot of effort in 2D, and the result is outstanding

I can imagine a Castlevania game with an art style similar to Dragon's Crown, with some tweaks here and there:



In fact, I won't lie. I remember when I was a kid. One day I was playing "Mr. Nutz" on Super Nes on the CRT of my parents and I said something like that to my brother: "It's so beautiful! I know it's only an illusion (I was very close to the screen), but it's beautiful! It's strange, because we have the impression that there is like another world behind these black lines (I thought scanlines). It's amazing, because I think it's more a part of my imagination than what I'm seeing. It's a trick based on our imagination. But in fact, I hope that one day we will be able to play video games on big screens with very high resolutions without these ugly black lines, and without any trick."

It's so strange, but I remember that :messenger_smiling_with_eyes: I was close to the screen, analyzed the image and said something like that.

But some years after came the LCD monitors, and I was very disappointed... :messenger_neutral:
Since this moment, there was a kind of fracture between before and now.

I still want to see this technology to disappear. Even if big improvements have been done, it was always a bad technology to me compared to the CRT displays.
OLED are a lot better, but still not perfect.

For me, the perfect technology will be the one which will combines analog and digital technologies again. We won't have enough pixels to have a better image with the current technologies. And the "sample-and-hold effect" and the input lag are still a problem for me and are what differences a lot the CRTs from the digital displays.

The best technology will be the one which will make us forget the CRTs.

In fact, to come back to the 2D games, yes, some "no pixel art" games are beautiful (Cuphead for example), but other are too minimalist and look like flash games or mobile games like somebody said before on this thread :messenger_grinning_sweat:

But, I'm sure that the day when we will have the perfect technology of screens, if this day comes... every games will look great! :messenger_winking:
 
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Athreous

Member
In fact, I won't lie. I remember when I was a kid. One day I was playing "Mr. Nutz" on Super Nes on the CRT of my parents and I said something like that to my brother: "It's so beautiful! I know it's only an illusion (I was very close to the screen), but it's beautiful! It's strange, because we have the impression that there is like another world behind these black lines (I thought scanlines). It's amazing, because I think it's more a part of my imagination than what I'm seeing. It's a trick based on our imagination. But in fact, I hope that one day we will be able to play video games on big screens with very high resolutions without these ugly black lines, and without any trick."

It's so strange, but I remember that :messenger_smiling_with_eyes: I was close to the screen, analyzed the image and said something like that.

But some years after came the LCD monitors, and I was very disappointed... :messenger_neutral:
Since this moment, there was a kind of fracture between before and now.

I still want to see this technology to disappear. Even if big improvements have been done, it was always a bad technology to me compared to the CRT displays.
OLED are a lot better, but still not perfect.

For me, the perfect technology will be the one which will combines analog and digital technologies again. We won't have enough pixels to have a better image with the current technologies. And the "sample-and-hold effect" and the input lag are still a problem for me and are what differences a lot the CRTs from the digital displays.

The best technology will be the one which will make us forget the CRTs.

In fact, to come back to the 2D games, yes, some "no pixel art" games are beautiful (Cuphead for example), but other are too minimalist and look like flash games or mobile games like somebody said before on this thread :messenger_grinning_sweat:

But, I'm sure that the day when we will have the perfect technology of screens, if this day comes... every games will look great! :messenger_winking:
Oh, that's true!

The example I gave trully shows Sonic as a cheap flash game..., sadly.

But wouldn't be awesome, to have some good 2d games, with better quality pixels?

I'm dying waiting for a good remaster of Valkyrie Profile, Sonic 1-Knuckles, Breath of Fire 3-4, etc :D
 
Oh, that's true!

The example I gave trully shows Sonic as a cheap flash game..., sadly.

But wouldn't be awesome, to have some good 2d games, with better quality pixels?

I'm dying waiting for a good remaster of Valkyrie Profile, Sonic 1-Knuckles, Breath of Fire 3-4, etc :D

I'm not against remasters or remakes of old 2D games (and 2.5 or 3D). I would die for a modern version of the "Donkey Kong Country" games, the 1rst "Killer Instinct", the old "Tomb Raider" games or the "Legacy of Kain" games... :messenger_winking:

In fact, I'm not a pure fanatic of old things. I like lots of modern things too :)

By the way, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that if we are attached to these things, it's by pure nostalgia. I like to remember old things, I like to know that these things are important because there are part of our History, childhood, and lots of other things.

And I don't like that we forget some things, that we lost them, that we alter what was the story and what is the History :messenger_smiling:

Because these things existed, can still exist and we enjoyed them.

So, the only problem with remasters or remakes is that they should not denature what these games were at the time. And it's the most complicated thing when we modernize something.

Sometimes, just an ingredient can badly alter the taste of something if we change it. It's why so many people are attached to these games as they were and the material used for playing them I think.

Moreover, we can just see how the passage of CRTs to LCDs has altered the taste of the old 2D games, because it was a very important ingredient.

It's why for 3D games, I often prefere a simple HD remaster with just better textures, sounds, etc., rather than an entire remake. It's hard to do good remakes I think, even if some like "Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy" or "Spyro Reignited Trilogy" are great.

And for old 2D games, it's even more complicated. In theory, it's great, but in reality, not always... :confused:
 
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Athreous

Member
I'm not against remasters or remakes of old 2D games (and 2.5 or 3D). I would die for a modern version of the "Donkey Kong Country" games, the 1rst "Killer Instinct", the old "Tomb Raider" games or the "Legacy of Kain" games... :messenger_winking:

In fact, I'm not a pure fanatic of old things. I like lots of modern things too :)

By the way, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that if we are attached to these things, it's by pure nostalgia. I like to remember old things, I like to know that these things are important because there are part of our History, childhood, and lots of other things.

And I don't like that we forget some things, that we lost them, that we alter what was the story and what is the History :messenger_smiling:

Because these things existed, can still exist and we enjoyed them.

So, the only problem with remasters or remakes is that they should not denature what these games were at the time. And it's the most complicated thing when we modernize something.

Sometimes, just an ingredient can badly alter the taste of something if we change it. It's why so many people are attached to these games as they were and the material used for playing them I think.

Moreover, we can just see how the passage of CRTs to LCDs has altered the taste of the old 2D games, because it was a very important ingredient.

It's why for 3D games, I often prefere a simple HD remaster with just better textures, sounds, etc., rather than an entire remake. It's hard to do good remakes I think, even if some like "Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy" or "Spyro Reignited Trilogy" are great.

And for old 2D games, it's even more complicated. In theory, it's great, but in reality, not always... :confused:
Oh, man! You have some great points! Loved them!
 
S

SpongebobSquaredance

Unconfirmed Member
PS1 and Saturn had some of the most beautiful 2D sprite based games ever.

Rayman

Adventures of Lomax

Legends of Mana

Astal

X-Men vs Street Fighter

just to name a few...

I don't how much more you can do with this style on a technical level, but after several devs tried to emulate NES type of graphics I think games inspired by 2D games of the 32-bit era are the next step. Maybe even a game that tries to be as advanced as possible with sprite based graphics.


...this is already very pretty and in my opinion they could remake any SNES RPG with this look.. but maybe there is even more that's possible. Like AAA-2D or something like that. Idk
 
yup, the older games pixel art was designed with crt in mind. New pixal art should be designed with today's tech in mind, so if you want to look like old pixel art, you need to emulate crt properly.
 
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DelireMan7

Member
And yes, that's the Switch Brigandine Collector Edition, a game everybody should buy !
You speak, I obey ! I just order it. I actually seen you speak about it somewhere else in the forum (maybe a thread you did about it ?) few weeks ago and it picked my interest.

Then I saw this comment and decided to go for it xD Not sure I'll play it now since I have a some games I want to play first but I took it before the physical edition go crazy on the price.
 

NeoIkaruGAF

Gold Member
One problem you have with high resolution is that you don’t only need more pixels for a single sprite, but also more frames of animation to achieve a correct impression of movement.

Low resolution, square-ish screens and the impulse-based generation of the image on CRTs combined to negate the need for many frames of animation. HD needs more, else the movement will look jerky and unnatural. Unfortunately, more frames of animation on a 2D sprite also means that movement looks slower - like when you film something at 1000fps with certain cameras. I remember when Bloodstained was in production, there were gifs comparing Alucard’s walking animation with Miriam’s. They were basically the same, except Miriam’s looked slower because it needed more frames to look the same (and a 16:9 screen takes much longer to cross than a 4:3 screen).
This is also why even older games like Megaman 8 feel significantly slower than the NES Megaman games. The bump in resolution from NES to PlayStation and Saturn was enough to show this effect already.
 

Wonko_C

Member
One problem you have with high resolution is that you don’t only need more pixels for a single sprite, but also more frames of animation to achieve a correct impression of movement.

Low resolution, square-ish screens and the impulse-based generation of the image on CRTs combined to negate the need for many frames of animation. HD needs more, else the movement will look jerky and unnatural. Unfortunately, more frames of animation on a 2D sprite also means that movement looks slower - like when you film something at 1000fps with certain cameras. I remember when Bloodstained was in production, there were gifs comparing Alucard’s walking animation with Miriam’s. They were basically the same, except Miriam’s looked slower because it needed more frames to look the same (and a 16:9 screen takes much longer to cross than a 4:3 screen).
This is also why even older games like Megaman 8 feel significantly slower than the NES Megaman games. The bump in resolution from NES to PlayStation and Saturn was enough to show this effect already.
Doesn't Guilty Gear Xrd have like, the same amount of animation frames than the previous games? I know Xrd is made with polygons, but it's made to look like the old sprite-based games just in HD, and it looks totally fine with the low frame count.
 

Holammer

Gold Member
Doesn't Guilty Gear Xrd have like, the same amount of animation frames than the previous games? I know Xrd is made with polygons, but it's made to look like the old sprite-based games just in HD, and it looks totally fine with the low frame count.
Yep, while it's a 60fps game, character animations are delibertly around 14fps'ish to focus on important keyframes. This to replicate the look and feel of old 2D fighting games. They do it on their other games like Granblue & Dragonball too.
 
Yes, I changed my mind too :)

Because in fact, it's really impressive!



And when I said that:

The only problem is that the graphics could have more personality.


I don't think that the graphics are bad, but that the creators could have been a bit more crazy, let it go a bit more.
But in fact, if it's supposed to be a remake HD, it's consistent.
But it's interesting, because we can imagine what could have been these games if they came out nowadays.

It's why I think that in any cases, an entire remake is harder to do than a remaster. They are more chances to miss the point. Because if we take for exemple a 3D game and that we just want to remaster it, with just better textures, etc., we often notice that the sceneries look a bit empty in HD, whereas they look perfectly filled on a CRT screen.

With the HD, more elements are needed to give an impression of life. It's more complicated. But on the other side, if there are too many elements, it will be hard for playing. So with an entire HD remake, we need more elements, with the risk to denature the original material.

Actually, I often have a reflexion about "What did the HD bring to us?".
I wonder sometimes if we didn't go too far, because even on old movies, even if the picture is beautiful, I often have the feeling that somewhere we lost something... the magic, the imagination! :unsure:

Lots of things were supposed to be based on an illusion, a trick. And now, we see everything! We are more in the analysis than the contemplation and the imagination. But I don't know if it's because of the high definition or because nowadays we haven't enough imagination to fill all these empty spaces that HD brought to us (whereas we were limited technically in the past, but exploited these limitations to the maximum with our imagination). And so now we prefer beautiful flat images instead of creating new universes with our imagination...

But the paradox is that: more we fill some empty spaces, less we can use our imagination!
The other problem is that more we have to fill empty spaces, more we have the tendency to fill them artificially (best example: the Marvel movies).
 
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00_Zer0

Member
Like this:


I was a backer to this game because I'm a sucker for modern pixel games. I tried the filtered CRT look that the game offers and honestly it's way too dark and the scanlines too noticeable to look natural. On this game the pixels look great without any filter. Sometimes i use reshade on PC pixel games to get a look I like. When I use reshade on native pc games or even the shaders in RetroArch for my emulated games I don't expect perfection I just get something that i enjoy looking at while playing. I also use a program on Steam called Lossless Scaling (only $4.99 on Steam)and it does wonders for games like Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth.
 
I want to say that everybody who is saying that the "thing" which is missing for the old 2D games on the modern screens is the scanlines is right! :)
Unfortunately it is this!

Because I try everything for a long time to get a credible image with AviSynth scripts. I put blur here and here, remove, etc., and each time, it's always if I couldn't fall right. Simply because the scanlines are missing. But even with scanlines, it doesn't look right for me. It's still too digital, to perfect... It's strange to say that, but the old games need the imperfections of a analog device. There is nothing to do.

I compared with this video for example:



And it's clear that this image is inimitable.
 
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sobaka770

Member
It shouldn't look like anything, get those games some proper art. UbiArt was great. Ori is expensive but sublime.

I only get modern pixel art as a cost-saving measure, literally any game would look better without it. And yes, this includes shovel knight, celeste and dead cells.
 

sncvsrtoip

Member
I would like to see proper high budget 2d game, not pixelized but detailed and also not cheap flash style. Street fighter alpha 2, street fighter 3 still looks great imo (ofcourse on crt;d)
 
It shouldn't look like anything, get those games some proper art. UbiArt was great. Ori is expensive but sublime.

I only get modern pixel art as a cost-saving measure, literally any game would look better without it. And yes, this includes shovel knight, celeste and dead cells.

But Celeste is very charming, even with its big pixels (in fact bigger than Super Nes games)! 🙂 And I think without that, its gameplay wouldn't have been as efficient as it is. With modern pixel art games, for me there isn't any problem, because they were designed like that.

But the problem with old games, it's that they were clearly not designed with modern screens in mind.

In fact, maybe the true problem is that there is a kind of confusion between the old 2D games and the modern pixel art games, like if it was the same thing. For some people, the old 2D games have always been pixel art games like the new ones, when I think that the old ones were never pixel art games before the pixels became visible on our modern screens.

For me they were just 2D games. Somewhere, I think that the modern pixel art games are born on a misunderstanding, or a memory loss. In fact, maybe the pixel art games shouldn't exist. It should only have old 2D games and modern 2D games. The modern pixel art games are really born on a misunderstanding I think.

But now, we have them. And some of them are great! But yes, it's strange...

Nowadays we are nostalgic of a past that never existed. It's something else.
It's like the "modern retro" tendency.

Were the 80s something like that for you? :messenger_grinning_smiling:



Do you understand what I mean?
 
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It's all up to the chosen art style and the artist's skill, not a limitation of the medium per se.

The problem is that most big name developers don't care about 2D anymore since the PS1 days, and they don't invest in improving that area anymore. There are some developers that put a lot of effort in 2D, and the result is outstanding

I can imagine a Castlevania game with an art style similar to Dragon's Crown, with some tweaks here and there:

That would be awesome but would require an astronomical amount of work!
 
The problem I think, even with modern 2D games that are not pixel art games, it's that they still rest on old bases. There isn't really a dusting of the genre.
It's why we have new games with old graphic styles, because we still are using old mechanics.
 
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An interesting video of Digital Foundry about the Sonic 2 HD project :messenger_winking:



In fact, with hindsight, I have to admit that I'm really impressed by this fan project, because some official games can't do better.
 
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