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Old 01-27-2015, 03:02 AM
JackWriter (Offline)
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I've written an article about Pixel art and I just put it on the blog. Then when I pasted the same thing in a forum, some say that its not good writing. So I want to know what went wrong with what I've written recently.

Will pixel art die?

There are so many ways to make video game visuals these days. Thereís hand drawing, cel shading, 3D modelling, clay animation, vector graphics, water color and my most favourite of them allÖ..pixel art!
But over the years, pixel art is slowly dying off because companies like Nintendo, Sega and many others donít seem to focus on the pixel art. Yet we see some indie developers making games using pixel art as means of convincing the world that pixel art is still out there.

I have lots of memories playing games that illustrate pixel art. The best part in those memories is that words cannot explain the beauty of the art in pixels. Iíll never the times Iíve played Sonic 3 and Knuckles where the colors were vibrant. There is never a time I cribbed about the art being in pixels. One of my all-time favourite games called Titus the Fox had the best pixel art Iíve ever seen that I just forgot that I was playing a game that didnít have much of visual power in them. How could I ever forget Rayman that showed fantastic animation and stunning visuals, not to mention my times playing Jazz Jackrabbit 2!




But what is pixel art? Why is it important to not only just gaming but also outside of games in general? Well to understand that, we need to go into the history of how games were made back then around the 70ís.
The first video game made was from William Higinbothom who made a tennis simulator where two players could play on a machine. The game while not successful had a legacy and this game was soon implemented by Nolan Bushnell with the game called PongÖ.although, itís debatable seeing that Ralph Baer(Who is now dead by the way. Rest in peace friend) happened to have made the games from the Magnavox Odyssey so technicallyÖ.. Itís Ralph.

Anyways, after the success of Pong, more games tend to show up. But this time, Japan comes along bringing out arcade hits like Space Invaders and Pac Man. Then after that Nintendo shows up with Donkey Kong in the arcade and then Super Mario Bros for the NES and then SEGA shows up and then came the console wars springing with tons of great quality games from either side, and then Sony comes to the market with the Play station and the rest is history.

So what were these games made with? What type of art style was used as means of creating the gameís visuals? The answer to that is pixel art. Every game that you can think of back in the 80ís and the mid 90ís is rendered in pixel art, drawn in pixel art and most of all, limited to pixel art only.
How pixel art is drawn is quite tedious actually as itís similar to hand drawn except that instead of doing it page by page for the animation, pixel art is done pixel by pixel. Meaning that every pixel used in the art, is very critical and judges the gameís visuals. Not only that but it also has something to do with the technical limitations each console has and as a result, developers either compensate with the limitations like in Super Mario Bros, where the clouds are the same as the grassy fields except with their colors being swapped. Or, push the limitations of the console which convince consumers that a console can still outwit a just released model like Donkey Kong Country having pre rendered graphics or Shantae having visuals of a Game Boy Advance game when its running on Game Boy Color.

One of the best things about pixel art is the storage capacity is very small which means that data storage can be manageable without some technical issues like how you would see in 3D games. For instance, games in pixel art run very smooth when compared to most 3D games, of course you will expect some screen flickering and some slowdown when playing 8 bit games but from 16-bit and onward, this is never an issue unless there are too many things happening on the screen. And yes, the same thing can be said in 3D games where the game will run perfectly smooth and not have much of issues, but 3D games require a lot of data storage.

With these positive things in mind about pixel art comes with a price. Animation in pixel art isnít as easy as animation in 3D. Like I said earlier, every pixel in pixel art is critical and so the animation has to be drawn pixel by pixel because the pixels canít be edited like in 3D. If pixels are scaled, they lose their quality and they have to be redrawn to suit the quality.
So with these two negative points being in the way of pixel art, we can see why a lot have chosen to make games in 3D because it satisfies both the consumers and the production because of how powerful 3D visuals are. I can tell you right now that of all the 3D platform games that Iíve played, Super Mario Galaxy 2 has some of the best visuals ever in a platform game.
So with that in mind, things are looking rather dull for 3D. Nearly every game is being made in 3D whether it being cartoons, water color and lots of other types of art. The dullest Iíve ever seen of 3D graphics being done poorly is in the New Super Mario Bros series, as every model is reused over and over again for every instalment with the only exception of some animation tweaks and different level design aesthetics.

See thatís the problem I have with 3D games in general. Every game in 3D is somehow identical to the other unless the visuals are tweaked to change its art style. When I see some footage of an FPS game like sayÖ..Call of Duty, I get the feeling that Iíve seen this game before like it kinda looks like Crysis.

Iím not saying that these games are identical in terms of Story, dialogue or heck, even the gameplay! (Ö.actually in gameplay wise, they do look a bit identical if you ask me personally.) But Iím just trying to say that they look the same. Compare the fields in both of these games. They look the same with the only difference of the graphics (which is resolution, not visuals.) and some minor changes in the texture but thatís just about it. If you go to buildings, they both look the same with the identical amount of color added to them. Characters are nearly identical except with their suits and the guns look the same.

Now in your defence, youíd say that you could easily pinpoint some identification of some pixel art games that looked the same no matter what angle you put in it. That pixel art can only be done in 2D whereas 3D canít be done in 2D.

And you know what? You got a half point there since pixel art relies on pixels, youíd expect the same colors to show up at some point of time between two games. But the other half point isnít there because the games that were made in pixel art had technical limitations where developers were simply forced to use the same colors and buildings. In todayís standards, seeing a 3D game with strong visuals and saying that it went through technical problems to have gone this far is no longer an excuse, because there really arenít much of technical limitations that would barely reach into those issues other than bugs and glitches.

But youíre other defence that 3D games canít be done in 2D completely losses its value because of the introduction to 2.5D graphics. What does this mean? Its 3D graphics that are implemented in 2D! Wow! What advancement! It canít get any better than this right? Well yeah, youíre rightÖ.It canít get any better than this!


I canít believe that developers are so obsessed into horse power that they decide to implement something like this now and expect us gamers to praise the visual quality these 2.5D games have.

I canít remember any 2.5D games that Iíve played so much other than New Super Mario Bros 2 and Donkey Kong Country Returns and Sonic Generations, but what I can say is that unless executed right like in the case of Super Smash Bros which have their ways of pleasing the eyes, most of these 2.5D games look horrible!

The visuals are for the most part, bland at best. The animation doesnít run smooth, and the worst of them all, you need a lot of ram to just play these games on PC even if they are in 2D.

Donít believe me? Ok. Letís take an example of a game called Castlevania: Rondo of Blood which was only released in Japan. The game came out globally in PSP and guess what happenedÖ..it used 2.5D graphics unlike the pixel graphics which were used in the original. While the gameís visuals were horrible, they at least gave you the option to play the original game in English text so I guess that helps. If you think the visual part doesnít help the port, then why Konami gave that option? Is it because many expected to have that same port from Japan or is it because the remake added stuff that makes it so that the original is better? The answer is both.

I can tell you that I wanted to get the original game by the look of the visuals itself and I can tell you that by looking at the visuals, the game is going to be amazing. But when seeing its remake, the animation and the visuals didnít convince me to get that game even with the option of switching the original.

Not only that, but the game added some changes that just arenít acceptable to me compared to the original so Iíll keep it to that. Yet simple features like playing the original game just shows that itís worth the purchase.
So with 2.5D graphics, 3D nearly absorbing the variety of art to make it look different and the fact that consumers want more of 3D look rather than pixel art, it all leaves to one question. What is the future of pixel art? Itís not going to die off soon but it will seem to be replaced by 3D graphics.
Well thereís a lot of hope for pixel art seeing that it fits mostly in the handheld eras and such. But itís not used as means of the visual option but rather as means of the technical option. What I mean is that if the handhelds become powerful than ever in technical standards, pixel art would simply be left out in favour of 3D graphics to compensate for the visuals. But I donít think that is likely to happen anytime soon because if handhelds become expensive, youíre only giving a mild audience for those expensive smartphones and handheld gaming devices. A good example for this is the PS Vita. A system that is too expensive because of its power and because of that, it couldnít appeal to everyone.

Pixel art is also one of the things that can be drawn outside of gaming. Mostly because itís also used for making adds, in calculators, for watch games (which are long dead now even if itís still out there!) and for small icons as well.

Pixel art is also used for indie developers as well as they use it as a visual option rather than a technical option. But there is an issue here in the indie crew and some western developers. They make pixel art as means of convincing players that retro feel and that this caters to those who love playing old school games and yet, when these games are released or played, they are just average at best and donít put the same quality as those in the past.

Thankfully, many indie developers tend to use pixel art as means of creativity. A perfect example for this is FEZ which uses pixel art for its innovative gameplay. An upcoming game called the adventures of pip uses pixel art through creativity and it looks very crisp so I canít wait to get my hands on it!

Pixel art wonít die out fast but technology is getting better and soon the ways of making games will change. I probably wonít be there to see that change, but I can feel it now that the change is done just for the betterment of entertainment. Now getting hand drawn art is also fading away in favour of 3D animationÖÖreally?

But we all want developers to use the pixel art quality in the end because they are the ones that keep making games nonstop. Just because 3D graphics are a way of making strong visuals and easy animation, doesnít mean that it should be the only visual option to combine with other visual options. A manga based game that uses the 3D cel shaded graphics, will remove the visual capture of the hand drawn style simply because they donít match well. But in your defence, you would say that 3D and 2D are completely different so I canít say that they canít match well because of their difference. Ok, Iíll give you that. But then why is the 3D medium used too much compared to the 2D medium? More to the point, why are 3D graphics used more than 2D graphics?

I saw footage of Nintendoís new game called S.T.E.A.M which uses 3D graphics with cel shading to make comic characters and I personally feel that Nintendo could just use Pixel art with actual hand drawn comic scenes to capture the feeling of comics.

Take another example. The professor Layton series which uses both hand drawn and pixel art and in the end, ended up becoming one of the most gorgeous looking games for the Nintendo DS. As soon as the fifth game showed up in the 3DS, the visuals have turned to 3D with cel shading which has lost the look of the earlier games.

Look at Pokemon where Game Freak recently started using 3D graphics for the next game series. It looks passable at best. But the real problem was that they had to make patches for the game because the game encountered bugs and whatnot which never happened in previous Pokemon games. Is this a bad thing for Game Freak? Certainly not since this is their first attempt to make the series go to 3D. Was it worth it though? Not really. As I said earlier, the graphics were just passable and come nowhere to those of 3D land or even Kid Icarus: Uprising. Then again, I play games for the gameplay and not for the graphics. But the visuals have to give that feeling that you want this game and not something like ďExperience Pokemon in 3D!Ē that just makes me feel like to just get it before I miss the chance.
Legend of Zelda: A link to the past was a game made for the SNES in 1991 and it had its sequel after 20 years called a link between worlds. This game while earning its title as the best game for the 3DS for both me and critics alike, its often criticized for its artstyle not looking as polished as the original.

And I can agree with that because the game is in top down perspective so if you canít see much of the details except during cut scenes, you might as well have the game in pixel art to emulate the feeling of playing the original game at the very least. Iím not saying that this game isnít ugly by any means but itís not as colourful as either Wind Waker or even skyward sword for that matter.

So letís think here for a second. Seeing as how time consuming 3D games can take to make, donít you think itís only fair to realize that the cost of games will also increase, not to mention the big risk that companies will face if the game isnít polished?

But wait a minuteÖ.just how is pixel art another form of art if it just renders the creations in the form of pixilation? Well I can say the same thing about 3D games that everything that the game is in 3D is not art but instead itís just the rendering can I?

Iím not trying to say that developers should use pixel art as means of making development easier or harder. If anything, development for a game is hard no matter how much technology has advanced. Iím just trying to bring to a point that developers shouldnít be sticking to only one medium which is 3D, and then combine that with other art styles just as means of getting what the audience wants or that itís a lot easier to take a lot of time to create these kinds of visuals in 3D because doing it pixel by pixel or doing it hand drawn is very hard.

I love 3D games too. In fact I have a lot of them that are my favourites! But I want something that looks different which most of them can only be done through second dimensional graphics in order to give me that different look and feel. And pixel art is one of them.

Pixel art has its own charm and its own benefit. Developers need to understand this and use it because itís another visual option to implement to games. 3D graphics are not the future of gaming. They are a future of how games will work in the 3D world. If some games donít work in 3D, then they will only be suitable for 2D until someone figures out how to make them work in 3D.

If hand drawn games on handhelds wonít be as good as what youíd see in PC, put pixel art in them to compensate the art style. That would be very appealing because we as gamers want some joy to see a variety of colors and the feeling of looking at the art. By eliminating the pixel art style, you are destroying another method of displaying art. You are eliminating a consumerís level of interest.

Now some of you will say that consumers will be interested in whatever they desire. And yes, youíre right in that part. I love Platform games and Iím not into FPS games that much and Iím sure you have things that you love and others that youíre not into.

But art isnít like that at all. You canít judge art for what it is unless it doesnít look like art. I canít say that Pitfall has a primitive art style because thatís how Atari games were made back then and thatís how they made art for their games.

I canít say that Doom is ugly because of its pixel art being illustrated in 3D because back then, technology was getting better for games.
I remember playing Curse of Monkey Island. Words can never tell how much I love this game because it looks beautiful. Just seeing the game is good enough for me to keep playing the game.

When I played Escape from Monkey Island, I just couldnít say much about the visuals because they donít match the ones drawn on the box art that was for sure. Everything about the game looked just plain. There really wasnít much of attention in the detail of the clothes like wrinkles or that the animation wasnít as smooth as hand drawn. Of course this can also be said for the N64 But this game was on PC and in PS2 where games like Klonoa or Sly cooper or Rayman 2 looked better than this. But that wasnít the main problem with the game but rather, how itís played compared to the previous games.

I guess you can say that this is something more of a personal opinion rather than an actual discussion. You may be right over there. After all, if people are able to accept 3D visuals just like that and donít mind it being reused over and over again, then itís fine by me.

But I have one thing to ask. If a character model is used for one game, why does it have to be pasted for the next game and have the same movement for the animation for t unless there is some character change or that itís being developed for the next system?

Why do movies In general tend to use 3D animation exclusively for the movie when they show credits having some hand drawn sections? They donít mind doing those little things being hand drawn yet they mind the whole story being done the same way? If itís to please us that we saw some hand drawn animation in the end or in some parts; itís not doing enough justice for us at all. Why should we only see minor sections of hand drawn when we can see the whole movie being hand drawn?

Every time I see the credits for movies in general, I always say like ďThis shouldíve been the art for the entire movie and not this section alone!Ē If 3D is the future of entertainment in general, let alone games, At least make an attempt to make appealing visuals instead of making them mediocre or give me that thought that ďIíve seen better.Ē Yeah we get a lot of cool visuals in 3D games, but not so much for movies. Why couldnít Wreck-it-Ralph use Pixel art for the entire movie instead of using just the credits or minor sections to illustrate the pixel art? A movie based on video games does not show the origin of video games which is pixel art but emulates the movement of pixel art games through 3DÖÖwow. That is just sheer laziness. Isnít Disney all about putting emotions to their movies? Why couldnít they use the pixel art style to express it? The characters clearly tell
Atleast Adventure time and Regular Show give pixel art a right amount of justice although regular show doesnít illustrate pixel art properlyÖ..just saying.

I always thought that technology is supposed to make things easier to make software that could do things that the previous software couldnít. But not like this where the new method of showing the game so letís make games this way around and forget pixel art.

If thereís no other way to make the software that will make it easier to animate pixel art, then I can tell you that itís through laziness that developers avoid pixel art. Really I just had a heated argument about some guy in the forums who like everyone else agrees that 3D graphics are the future of gaming. Ok. Well then if 3D graphics are the future of gaming, why canít they work hard on making beautiful colors rather than seeing blocks with low detail? I can name lots of 3D games that do this but thereís so many that you just have to play it to believe it. If you really think Iím ranting about this, go see youtube channels like Game Sack where they really donít like 3D graphics a lot because it just doesnít work out for them most of the time.

Pixel art isnít going anywhere but the issue I have is that when it does go away, games will use 3D graphics which require a lot of loading, power and other things that take a long time to finish. I wonít be there to see that happen but when you or someone else does, itíll be more of something done in the past and so life must move on.

But that wonít stop pixel art now with voxels emulating the feeling of playing pixel games in 3D! so if that works out well, then I guess Iíll be fine with it. But it still wonít give that feeling that its pixelated or that its hand drawn being rendered to pixel art. I wonder how the next gen of gaming will be like when using pixel art. Will developers make software that finally manages to create pixel art easily like in 3D or will it be used in favour of minimalism art but done with 3D like Minecraft? I donít know about that. But what I do know is that if at all pixel art dies out, Iím going to spend quality time playing lots of games that have pixel art until Iíve played enough of them and try to accept the new style of voxel art from 3D.

I guess that sums up about why I think Pixel art should exist. So letís take a break and play Shovel Knight! Itís fun, charming and best of allÖ.itís drawn in pixel art!

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