Why is Pixel art used SO much?

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  • Looking around in the indie game community I've noticed a ton of games utilizing pixel art. Not that it's bad or anything but I'm just wondering why SO many people use it? There are a ton of mediums and styles out there for people to use but so many rely on pixel art or even bad graphics and slap a tag on their game stating that it's "old school graphics!"

    I'm not mad about it or anything, I'm just wondering overall why other mediums seem to be so neglected in indie video games (especially since we have the technology now days to go way beyond pixel).

  • Two main reasons that I can guess:

    1. Many people simply find it easier*. <img src="smileys/smiley17.gif" border="0" align="middle" />

    2. Many people grew up playing games like that, so that's what they want to make.

    (*I wouldn't say it is, but it's at least more accessible**. It's comparable to building something out of toothpicks or something with huge construction equipment, which one's easier to pick up?)

    (**Despite being more accessible, it's just as difficult to create GOOD pixel art as it is good any other kind of art.)

  • "Old School Graphics" is not equal to "Masterfully crafted low res Graphics, Like Zelda, DK, Mario, and all those nice looking classics"

    It's just a meaningless marketing term. There was tons of crap low-res back in the NES/SNES days too.

    Bad graphics are bad no matter what the resolution. You see poop come out of MSpaint, and you see high-res Photoshop poop. An artist is an artist, and if he knows how to draw, it shows. People look at pixel art as if it's some kind of skill different to classical drawing.

    More people have access and know how to use MSpaint = Predominantly MSpaint poop.

    Also, Advantages to low resolution:

    Rendering a smaller area uses less gpu time: The game can run faster and do more than a high-res equivalent.

    It's more abstract in general, hence can be more "realistic", depending on style. Just as a book is photorealistic (in one's mind), pixel art stays just far away enough from attempting to simulate reality, and the player's brain interpolates the heavy lack of information.

    As graphics become increasingly defined (and thus, high-res), the users brain tries to match the larger dataset of pixels against the "ideals" it has for that object. Thus, any small errors in perspective, line width, shadow depth, facial spacing, add up fast, and all those non-matches equal what the average person defines as "Bad Graphics": graphics which miss so many "matches to their ideal" that they break imagination and continuous thought. "Mobile Style" High-res, like angry birds, Cut the rope, etc. Is just a high resolution implementation of Low-res abstraction, if that makes any sense to you (simple shapes and shading). That's why they all look cartoony, because to approach realism at higher resolutions is to increase potential missed matches and "bad-graphics-ness".

    Achieving the maximum available realism (for any given resolution) increases exponentially as you increase resolution.

  • It's both easier and it's a nostalgia trigger, sometimes it's good to get away from 3D models.

  • It's easier to start with. There's less space to make mistakes for someone new, and there's no need for expensive software.

  • Also, it�s easier to animate and to control expectations. When you see Mario in 8bits you don�t expect him to have a full walk cycle, 2 frames to show he�s walking are enough. ;]

  • I grew up doing pixel art, for me it's just something I'd always want to do. I'd say that pixel art only defines one part of your entire art style. Under the umbrella of pixel art you still can have a wide range of different looking styles. Same with raster or vector graphics.

  • Most independent devs have no money.

    Thus, the cheapest way to make graphics at little time and effort spent is pixel-graphics. Especially when MS Paint is free.

    There, that's the reason.

    Does most of it suck? Yes.

    To see good pixel art, look at some arcade games from the 80s and 90s - Like Irem's X-Multiply, or Capcom's Strider Hiryu. Or the obvious poster-child of sprite games, Metal Slug (also check out In the Hunt! Another beautiful- scratch that, ASTOUNDINGLY beautiful sprite game).

    I for one like 2D art better than 3D models, because as mentioned, it's a lot easier to see and enjoy stylistic 2D art than it is to be fully immersed in a 3D world.

    There are exceptions, but aesthetic style is important. It's a lot easier to be drawn in to Jet Grind Radio's colorful cartoony world than something like Black Ops, because it's too easy to notice when things are just uncanny.

  • Pixel Art is known for quality of videogames and support for all resolutions if the sampling is point.

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  • These are good answers. Thanks. Really was just wondering what was the reasoning behind it. I like it! I wouldn't mind seeing more variety in art styles tho, I cannot lie about that

  • I like pixel art because of the aesthetics and because I have complete control over each pixel. I also enjoy working under color and space limitations

  • ^^ When i was a child , the first game i played is game with pixel art graphic, and i still love pixel game, maybe it's kind of remind me about childhood :D

  • I've seen lot of people do pixel art in games and have some hi-res smooth rotations and stuff in them. This is when i'm asking the same question.

    I don't like too simple pixel art as it's in Super Mario 1. I like more how things look in Super Mario 3.

    In 90's I used to do long animations with this icon software called Microangelo. It was fun to see how just one pixel can change the whole thing.

    I think people like to do pixel art for the same reasons as people like to draw manga and make things look Japanese. In the end most of these drawings just look awful.

  • All in all, I think EmpororIng has the most common answer (Even if that's not the case in this thread).

    The other ways of making 2D art involve either buying some expensive stuff such as a decent tablet and Photoshop... or it involves the masochistic practice of drawing on paper, scanning it into a program, and then coloring it in. And just praying that your scanner picks up every line drawn perfectly.

    Pixels, on the other hand, are completely native to computers and therefore are bound to be the most common type of drawing in programs. There's tons of free stuff out there that concentrate on this, and that's probably why you see so much of it now.

    As for me? I like drawing pixel art because it feels like I have the most control. If I see a mistake or feel my sprite looks bad, it's very easy to edit and I can do it with far more precision than I can with the eraser tool in photoshop or GIMP.

    I must admit though, it's very hard for pixel art to stand up to the more popular forms of 2D art today.

  • great answer Jim15. Looking at it that way makes a ton of sense.

    I fall into the category of the people that draw everything by hand, scan it into photoshop and color. But i could see why others wouldnt want to do that. But overall, it's not really that bad once you get a workflow going.

    Editing sprites is probably my biggest problem since that usually means redrawing an entire sprite if it didnt work well with the animation.

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