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Pixel-Art in video games, not just some squares.

Con-Z-epT

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I only played the game for 2-3 hours. We’ll after the guy got the sword and I was able to actually experience most of the combat dynamics.

The game finally picked up for me then. I think my main problem with it was the awful amount of dialogue and cutscenes to get to that point.

I loved the aesthetic, but I wish the game had gotten to the fun part earlier.
I admit that it starts slow but it gets better and better throughout. You should give it another chance!
 

Con-Z-epT

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Played through Shakdown: Hawaii in just 9 hours including the platinum trophy.
That game was awesome. I need more of this!

Blasphemous is giving me a hard time on the other hand. Some parts are incredibly challenging.
It is really stunning visually and a cause to keep going despite also having some solid gameplay.

In addition to the two games i also bought Xeno Crisis. Another brutal difficult game. But fun to play.

 
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Drizzlehell

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I used to scoff at pixel art games because I thought that it's a genre designed solely to prey on the nostalgia of older gamers. Maybe there's still some truth to that but I just don't care anymore because I had a chance to check out some of them and they're pretty damn fun.

My favorite are those retro first-person shooters such as Ion Fury, Project Warlock, Dusk, or Amid Evil. But recently I also grabbed Huntdown when it was on sale and have been having an absolute blast with it. I also really liked Salts and Sanctuary a few years back.

 
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Con-Z-epT

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Eldest Souls is out and is looking good.
Keen to dive in in the near future.



Monster Harvest should be out on August the 19th.
Harvest Moon combined with Pokémon. What else do you need. :messenger_grinning:

 
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NeoIkaruGAF

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mother of god danger GIF


This is why people who’ve never seen / don’t remember a CRT image and shit on pixel art make me irrationally angry.

Fuck raw pixels.
 
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Holammer

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I tried something different, a Chinese only game called 罪印 (guilt). It's a Wonderboy in Monster World esque RPG platformer with some really sweet pixel art and atmosphere. It's published by iFAction Studio, the developers of iFAction Game Maker so I assume it's developed with that software.
I could play it for 25 minutes until I hit the language barrier and couldn't figure out how to progress further. What I could see it looks like a potential indie hit, if it gets a translation. There are problems, like no good fullscreen mode, maximizing the picture makes it look horrible jagged mess and there's no controller support afaik.





 

SlimeGooGoo

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That game is very nicely drawn but I would argue it's a little busy with how much detail is on screen at once.
It isn't though, as the artist clearly makes very good use of value to differentiate between the foreground and backgrounds layers.
Also, that has nothing to do with pixel art x traditional art, since it's a topic about art in general. You can also have really bad values with pixel art.
 
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SpiceRacz

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Why do you think it was disappointing?

It is on my list of games i need to play and the reception seems to be positive overall.

I can only speak for myself, but I found the game to be remarkably mediocre in almost every way. That's also my opinion on most modern metroidvanias though - Iconoclasts, Timespinner, Shantae games, etc.
 
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Con-Z-epT

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I can only speak for myself, but I found the game to be remarkably mediocre in almost every way. That's also my opinion on most modern metroidvanias though - Iconoclasts, Timespinner, Shantae games, etc.
Guess i'll find out soon for myself.
 

TheDreadBaron

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It isn't though, as the artist clearly makes very good use of value to differentiate between the foreground and backgrounds layers.
Also, that has nothing to do with pixel art x traditional art, since it's a topic about art in general. You can also have really bad values with pixel art.
I think it’s related because pixel art has to imply detail by its inherent limitations. That video is talking about painting shadows specifically but i was drawing a more general comparison of focusing the composition by controlling detail in certain areas. I think that game looks great in motion and a lot of games with that look (like the new ghosts and goblins) come off weird in screenshots like old flash games, but they look good in motion.

I was mostly just trying to offer a response to the HD rasterized art is superior idea that is forgetting about technique. It’s not better just because it has more detail.
 

SlimeGooGoo

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I think it’s related because pixel art has to imply detail
Even non pixelated art has to imply detail as well.
Here, see how the foreground is more detailed and constrasts with the background that is more blurry and pale? Same principle.




I think that game looks great in motion and a lot of games with that look (like the new ghosts and goblins) come off weird in screenshots like old flash games, but they look good in motion.
I still don't understand how the first thought that comes to people's mind when they see this is "flash animation"
Guess Spirited Away's animations should be called "flash" too...





I was mostly just trying to offer a response to the HD rasterized art is superior idea that is forgetting about technique. It’s not better just because it has more detail.
We've come to a point that we have the hardware and equipment to achieve marvelous art in 2D video games. Artists now are not limited to filling tiny squares one by one in order to get something on the screen. They can now draw on the surface of a digital tablet as if they were drawing on paper. They can now animate and have a lot of tools at their disposal to get film-like animations on their screen.

Yet most indie developers hide behind this "retro" look & feel excuse to justify using 8x8 sprites to cheapen the development of the game.
It's not even about preserving some "lost knowledge", it's just about making something quick and dirty and that requires less effort to get things done.

Making high-resolution pixel art takes too much effort and most artists don't even bother, because they know the time it takes to finish a pixel art work increases exponentially the more the resolution increases. Making animations on high resolution pixel art? Not gonna happen.

We could be living in some 2D "renaissance", yet we are stuck with pixel art with the same limitations as in the 80's.
This trend should die already, no offense intended.
 
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eyesabitdull

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Question: Why can't CRT visual effects be replicated to the T in the form of say, a filter, or a reshade-ish application?

Has there really been no solution to this in 2021?

I'm nowhere a huge enthusiast in Pixel Games (though I do play them), and so I bear no information on this question. An insight would be great!
 

TheDreadBaron

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Even non pixelated art has to imply detail as well.
Here, see how the foreground is more detailed and constrasts with the background that is more blurry and pale? Same principle.

I still don't understand how the first thought that comes to people's mind when they see this is "flash animation"
Guess Spirited Away's animations should be called "flash" too...

We've come to a point that we have the hardware and equipment to achieve marvelous art in 2D video games. Artists now are not limited to filling tiny squares one by one in order to get something on the screen. They can now draw on the surface of a digital tablet as if they were drawing on paper. They can now animate and have a lot of tools at their disposal to get film-like animations on their screen.

Yet most indie developers hide behind this "retro" look & feel excuse to justify using 8x8 sprites to cheapen the development of the game.
It's not even about preserving some "lost knowledge", it's just about making something quick and dirty and that requires less effort to get things done.

Making high-resolution pixel art takes too much effort and most artists don't even bother, because they know the time it takes to finish a pixel art work increases exponentially the more the resolution increases. Making animations on high resolution pixel art? Not gonna happen.

We could be living in some 2D "renaissance", yet we are stuck with pixel art with the same limitations as in the 80's.
This trend should die already, no offense intended.

Yeah any style of art can take advantage of that principle, but my point was pixel art is hard limited by its resolution and I think the results of working in this limited way can be quite striking. Higher resolution art is not as limited and can show more detail and the thing I notice about a lot of it in games is that it looks rather busy.

Spirited away doesn't look anything like a flash animation, but in a game environment certain 2D presentations bring new grounds flash games to mind which is off putting for some. The examples you posted are really nice animation! I agree that low effort art sucks and throwing a few pixels together is one way to do it. I just don't think low effort pixel art is good point of comparison with high quality high res art.

I agree there was some mystique and retro appeal to modern pixel art games that was partially a gimmick, but I think it's evolved beyond that into a more modern pixel art style that is actually designed to be displayed on flat panels.

I wouldn't ever want to throw away pixel art in the junk bin of game history because we can create higher res art now. There are people that work in that higher res 2D medium, but as you say it's a lot more work and it's not clear to me from the results that it's worth it.

Vanillaware games look strange to me. River city girls looks fantastic. One man's opinion.
 

TheDreadBaron

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Question: Why can't CRT visual effects be replicated to the T in the form of say, a filter, or a reshade-ish application?

Has there really been no solution to this in 2021?

I'm nowhere a huge enthusiast in Pixel Games (though I do play them), and so I bear no information on this question. An insight would be great!
This is totally a thing!

 
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SlimeGooGoo

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but in a game environment certain 2D presentations bring new grounds flash games to mind which is off putting for some
Likewise, it depends on how much effort the artist puts into the art. Vector art comes to mind, which is plain and simple although scalable.

I just don't think low effort pixel art is good point of comparison with high quality high res art.
I'm not sure I compared both? My only point was that indie developers choose pixel art usually because it's cheaper, and you can get away with 2 or 3 frame animations. So it's not that they "care" about pixel art or that they really really want to do their game "retro" because they want to preserve pixel art, but really just because it's quicker and requires less skill.
( just look at Stardew Valley and Undertale for instance, almost no skill was required to draw and animate the sprites)

I wouldn't ever want to throw away pixel art in the junk bin of game history because we can create higher res art now
Perhaps I was a little too extreme when saying that "pixel art should die".
I just think that 2D developers should focus on "high res" digital art instead of pixel art to raise the bar for 2D games somewhat.

Cuphead, Dragon's Crown, Wonder Boy and Ori have shown us what can be achieved by ditching pixel art, and that inspires and gives confidence to new developers to try a little harder.

There are so many talented 2D artists out there, and I think that would give them new opportunities.

Vanillaware games look strange to me. River city girls looks fantastic. One man's opinion.
Yeah, I think the exact opposite. To each their own, heh.
 
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Holammer

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While I looked at my steam achievements I got reminded of a _.:*~beautiful~*:._ pixel art game called Tiny Barbarian DX released in 2013. It's available on PC & Switch.
The graphics, music and mechanics feel 8-bit/arcade "authentic" and my only gripe is some of the platforming. It could learn from Celeste to be a bit more forgiving.



Games looks fabulous with a ReShade. Before and after.



 
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Con-Z-epT

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I've finally played through Blasphemous over the course of the weekend and i'm pleasantly surprised by its overall quality.

The main draw for me was the fact that there is not a lot of hand holding here and you are on your own to figure things out.
Some really captivating puzzles, awesome boss fights, sinister mood all around and a striking presentation.
Beautiful and varied levels and enemies. The combat could have used a bit more depth but other than that i have nothing to complain.
I will try to figure out how to get the second ending and collect some more missing items next week. I would recommend this game to everyone!

Thanks again to all of you who recommended me the game!



They even put an arcade into the game where you can play an 8 bit retro version of the game. :messenger_grinning_smiling: How cool is that!?

 

Con-Z-epT

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The Playstation Youtube channel uploaded some cool trailers today so let's have a look.

Carrion



This was available everywhere i think except on Playstation.
I haven't played it yet but i will dive in once it is released.
I love the premise of the game.

Here is an older gameplay trailer if you don't know the game.



The second one would be a gameplay trailer for Axiom Verge 2.
I loved the first one but i disliked the new look of the second game quite a lot.
But this trailer looks really good and i'm in awe again.




What do you guys think?
 
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Holammer

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Got reminded by a 2017 game called 88 Heroes today. A game that never made a splash, which is a crying shame as it plays and feels like one of those old 80's Atari arcade games with super crisp high resolution graphics, games like Toobin' and Paperboy. The game is super hard and heroes range from useless to amazing.
Developed by the guys behind Super House of Dead Ninjas, Xeno Crisis (previously mentioned in this thread) and recently Battle Axe.

Gave it a try and the uneven scanline effect in the background on Dr H8's monitor looks bad at 1440p. With no options to change settings in-game. It's still playable, but minor annoyance.


Available on PC and all the consoles
 
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GreenAlien

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Not out yet and maybe not quite as beautiful as some of the others here, but the trailer still succeeds in making me interested.

Also, two more that might worth mentioning.

Unsighted


Totemic
 
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YoshiMadness

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Even though I'm not well versed in the '80s and '90s microcomputer scene, I would love to see a modern indie dev go for a ZX Spectrum style look. I just love the use of color in Speccy games. Ironically, because of the color limitations compared to more powerful platforms at the time, Spectrum games look MORE colorful than other contemporaries of the day. The way the colors clash with one another, and the bright, vibrant garishness, it's like playing through a gaudy neon acid trip, and I freaking love it!

As an American born in '93, I missed out on this era. I've always wanted to take a deep dive into the library and find out why retrogaming Brits have such reverence for this machine. Any British people wanna weigh in?
 
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Holammer

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Even though I'm not well versed in the '80s and '90s microcomputer scene, I would love to see a modern indie dev go for a ZX Spectrum style look. I just love the use of color in Speccy games. Ironically, because of the color limitations compared to more powerful platforms at the time, Spectrum games look MORE colorful than other contemporaries of the day. The way the colors clash with one another, and the bright, vibrant garishness, it's like playing through a gaudy neon acid trip, and I freaking love it!

As an American born in '93, I missed out on this era. I've always wanted to take a deep dive into the library and find out why retrogaming Brits have such reverence for this machine. Any British people wanna weigh in?
There are some games on Steam trying to replicate the Speccy look, but I suspect most of the development is made for actual 8-bit hardware.


There's a similar "scene" for games with the MSX aesthetic.

 

Con-Z-epT

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I started to play Metaloid: Origin and was close to beating it this week. Looks decent but not as spectacular after i played Blasphemous.
I like it since the gameplay is quite solid. Think Megaman and you know what is going on. I definitely recommend it.



I also bought Axiom Verge 2 today but who knows when i will find the time to play that. :messenger_grinning:
 
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TheDreadBaron

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I'm reminded of this talk.


Specifically he talks about how the limitations of 8bit art foster creativity. Having an unlimited palette is daunting and you can flounder in indecision with so many choices. The animations he created through palette swapping are incredibly beautiful, especially understanding the limitations that they were created within.
 
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WitchHunter

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Easy: Pixelated graphics lets your imagination run wild, your brain fills in the gaps. Cutting edge graphics have to provide you with a pleasing or perfect setting to please you, and that's hard.
 

Holammer

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Putting a spotlight on Fist's Elimination Tower from 2017. I would never have learned about it if not for Nerf Now talking about the game. Curious I checked it out and it's great.
The setting is a game show where you, with a limited amount of contestants try to reach the top of a tower while not getting fisted. It's a precision platformer that does a good job at educating the player on the mechanics as you progress.

Art employs a very conservative palette and is all chunky, but I like it. What sells it is the over-the-top host, Allison Fist.




Game is tough and requires some memorization.

 
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Holammer

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Just saw this via Niche Gamer. It's for PC and Switch and It looks like a fusion of Japanese & Euro-platformers on the Megadrive. A little bit of Dynamite Headdy and Zool mixed together.
 
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jigglet

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It's just the best. I'm so glad this wasn't a fad. When there was a huge indie pixel art revival like 15 years ago I was worried it would be a temporary thing.
 

Con-Z-epT

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Although i'm happy that it was announced i'm not sure if i like the deviation in terms of gameplay.
The first one also resembled pixel art much better while not being exactly pixel art in itself.

Feels weird since i loved the first game so much. Guess i'll have to wait and see.
 
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Holammer

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Saw that Blasphemous is about to get a last major content update so I checked if it was ReShade'ed already. The game comes with a built in CRT filter which is *hilariously* bad, so I have to show it off.
First the raw, followed by the CRT filter and my own ReShade setup.
ReShade gives the image an amazing texture while its own CRT effect looks like it was made by someone that never saw a CRT display in his life and only got descriptions from drunk sailors to work with. For the ReShade example there's some chromatic aberration type artifacts around the bright/white areas when you use grille or slot, but the colors are much more vivid than with shadow and it's not that noticeable in motion.


 
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Kataploom

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Hey GAF,

as much as i love cutting edge graphics and the strive for photorealistic depictions in the current gaming era i also have a heart for pixel-art games. I grew up in the 16 bit era and played anything i could get or my parents would buy me. Over the years i welcomed the technological progress in the gaming scene and the improvement it brought in terms of graphical advancements. But as i grew older i found myself going back to the pixelated goodness more frequently. I'm not even sure what draws me into this regularly. Maybe it reminds me of the simpler times when i was younger. Maybe it provides a good contrast to all the other games i play. I know that it just needs a cool screenshot or a good trailer for me, to dive into these games.

I want to use this thread to share my enthusiasm for video games that inherent pixel-art. To talk about old, new and upcoming games. To find hidden gems i have never seen before. Of course let's also dive into the gameplay aspect of these games than in the end, that is what keeps me playing. Maybe you are a pixel artist and want to tell us what goes into the making of the art style. I'm aware that some of these games might not be fully pixelated art in itself and that some of them, use different techniques which have nothing to do with pixel-art, to accomplish the look and feel of one. Feel free to point out where the difference lie and shed a light on the development processes if you'd like to share your knowledge. I'm sure not an expert when it comes to this.

Where do all these pixels come from and where will they lead us?

Here are some of my favorites from past years that look cool and are a blast to play.


Dead Cells
Developer Motion Twin is doing an outstanding job with Dead Cells. High octane gameplay with flashy visuals and the constant dread to die from one or two hits just to start all over again.
It is one of many games i bought just for the art style and kept playing for countless hours afterwards, because it is a blast to play, through its incredible responsiveness.
The animations in this game are so smooth that i always wonder how much time they put into it. The amount of free content that was added after launch is staggering and needs to be praised!
A brutally tough game and a wonderful visual accomplishment.




CrossCode
This one comes from Deck13 and Radical Fish Games. "Another one" that i bought immediately after i watched the trailer.
Awesome action RPG with deep and layered gameplay mechanics, mind bending puzzles and a carefully crafted art style that warped me back to forgotten times all while putting a fresh spin on everything.
As well as the main character of the game, Lea, i couldn't stop to play this game.




Valfaris
Stage Clear Studios and Steel Mantis brought me some of my best time with this piece of art. Incredible varied environments and weaponry.
A joy to look at through its excellent visuals from start to finish with super satisfying gameplay all around. A game that i play at least once a year.
It has a really cool risk and reward mechanic that makes you stronger when you leave checkpoints untouched. Totally metal!




Metal Slug Saga
An obvious choice. I haven't played all of them and i think there are 7 or 8 games as of now. These are a feast for the senses with so much going on on the screen that it feels overwhelming at times. There are also some cool twists in terms of gameplay here to find. Like the fact that you could get zombified in Metal Slug 3 for example. I wish that there would be an iteration that would be playable in full screen on a 4K TV with the art style. Without any borders i mean. Too many developers to count here so, shout out to everyone involved.




There are many more games i played over the years and i could go on forever but i want to give you pixel junkies some room to express.

I will leave some trailers for upcoming games that peaked my interest.




So GAF, what are your thoughts?
I've been feeling heavily saturated by how detailed games look today, that plus the uncanny valley I see with realistic light but with "something" constantly off... I've started to avoid AAA games and mostly play old games, Nintendo games and games with non realistic art due to that... I'll probably be looking for more pixelart indies...
 

Con-Z-epT

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This popped up in my feed. I didn't knew about it. Could be a rampage replacement.

 
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Con-Z-epT

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Holammer

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I check a twitter account called WhatsOnSteam almost daily and today I came across two interesting looking pixel art games. One is a more modern take on Anteater and an action platformer. Custodian looks good enough to be worth a look, I'll wait and see what user reviews say.


 
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