April 21, 2015 -- Simple Room -- Image
Click on images for larger view.
This pixel art room served for reference.
This pixel art sprite was used for the mockup encounter.
Experimenting with colour on wall. colour is fun. we don't need to overdo it, but it's not 1970 either. When it makes sense and is a perceptual improvement, we make good use of it without jumping too many awkward hoops. Making good use of what you have at hand is in spirit of pixel art.
kept the bumpiness of the walls subtle along the colour shifts for now. A couple more shades might pronounce it more, but I wanted to see with how little work and light I could get it satisfying enough. As is now, when you actually move along it, all the wall's stones and structure appear sufficiently non-flat flying by you, more than the screenshot conveys. For now, I find it appealing in its simplicity and clarity that it maintains at this level, non distracting as an ubiquitous effect. I could sculpt things out harder, but I wonder maybe overly pronounced try-hard structure should be reserved for objects of interests, doodads and the like. maybe a rarer wall tile that's crumbed or caved in, for dramaturgy. I should try show what I mean in another video next time I get the chance.
I further accentuated depth perception of the coloured wall by breaking up the shadow line at its top and bottom transition. It's interesting to see what just a few subtle pixels can do in impression, before resorting to excessive sculpting, lights and shading. Each little voxel counts, makes or breaks. Be deliberate.
Now let's make the scene a little more interesting with adding height level. This is not Wolfenstein. Make great use of all dimensions in design.
That the bricks of column and wall have different sizes and hard transition, helped with better visually differentiating them, along with the subtle colour shift, without a lot of fine extra shading. Since it is more a symbolic style, it's a different logic in visual design to make it work, than realism. And you can get away with strange choices, if they have perceptual sense.
Not sure if it looks too strange, though. Maybe I should rather have a different column material/design altogether to avoid this. But for now it is what it is. wanted to see if and how I can make this work, as a challenge, to try learn something.
This whole colour mechanic is very interesting to experiment with, how cubes can melt into each other, either wholesome or even melt on one side and yet differ on the other. Look closely how it works across the samples.
Also, this aesthetic of being somehow flat, yet also somewhat bumpy, at the same time, all the more ambiguous on the move... it's kinda weird... in a good way. pretty pleasing to me. Not sure I want to actually fight it, but maybe go along. More elaborately sculpted when it counts, readable scene, and effective workflow.
Everything is fully destructible in-game, down to the atomic level. This room itself is just a tiny spot of one whole world map. Everything was made just like you saw me do in the videos.
March 28, 2015 -- Philosophical Layout -- Article
We try to maximize distinctive differences of pixel art to other digital art, regardless of past limitations. And finding solutions that are within this spirit to the art, that help define identity of the art, instead of confusing it.
There is no difference between a pixel or sprite or tile or map. It can be considered all the same on a technical level. Does this sound like confusing the matter? I believe these distinctions confuse the matter. And this has consequences to the workflow; and the question of what is pixel art.
And as such, you could see here, there is no difference between colour-picking and tile-picking, it just depends what your current selection encompasses. And neither makes it a difference what size your brush has or what form it has, like that of a tile for example. And that's also how the 45 degree blocks will make a comeback as basis of an advanced tileset logic, as much as pixel logic--if you so please. Because it all makes no longer a difference, it's unified, while keeping the spirit of pixelart intact, and even pronounce the core distinctiveness of this artform, regardless technical limitations of a time. This is pixel art in its most distinctive form as a process of art compared to other digital art, and arbitrary limitations are not necessary to force a defensive definition of this art form.
Pixel art is about combinatory logic in a grid space. limitations beyond that definition are just funny context to it. modes of the game. preferences. each interesting and fulfilling in its own right. Even the question of 2d or 3d becomes just another context to it. CG workflow that is less about combinatory problem in grid space, is less about pixel art -- the more strictly it is about combinatory problem in grid space, it transcendents contextual limits.
Snapping the brush of any size into a resolution grid, reinforces the identity of what is pixel art. That does not mean doing it different is not pixel art or bad pixel art. We must go away from taking it the wrong way. It means we have a strong point of orientation, a northern star, within the identity space of what is pixel art. And by that you are able to navigate your own way. By that we are able to conceptually grasp and develop pixel art, we are able to translate into other territory, be it platform or style. We are even better able to defy and spite it. And whether you accomplish making it look like painterly or realism or whatever, that's great, that's a praiseworthy accomplishment on its own, especially if you manage to do that within this strict logic of the art, especially though it might not be the best suited for it.
Playing into that, tiled based workflow is not necessarily meant for just producing tiled looking works. First and foremost it helps you build substance in the starting phase. you quickly build critical mass that you can customize, mold and tune into whatever unique vision you have. The dynamic fractal-tile approach turns pixel art into its own creative advantage. And there is a large potential of skill and creativity in fully utilizing this.
It seems to be a common verdict in the pixel art community that mixed resolution is bad aesthetics. Many of these sort of statements look at the issue from a stylistic/artistic point of view on a given work, as whether it is obviously mixed resolution. However, if you look at it from a technical perspective on the fundamental logic of the medium, you come to another conclusion: Almost every pixel art actually already is mixed resolution, whether it is intended or not. Whenever there are bigger clumps of clusters, there is a good chance this area could be technically described the same with bigger pixels of lower resolution. It's just non-obvious at first sight without dynamic adaptive grid visualization highlighting this abstractive fact.
Realizing this, with proper technical support, you have a much better orientation in canvas space. The dimensions and proportions of areas are much easier to eyeball on the fly in the planning phase, since instead of judging big confusing clusters of countless little pixels at same size, you intuitively compare their simplified definition as mixed resolution behind their seemingly continuous space: instead of 194 pixels of one area confusingly compared to the 295 pixels of the other, you may look at this same area as comprised of simpler cluster forms with 3 very big pixels, 4 smaller pixels and 5 very small pixels, of the same colour, attached to each other, clearly comparable to the other area made of 5 very big pixels, 2 smaller pixels and 4 very small pixels.
In the result this doesn't matter, without the grid overlay it's just continuous space in either case. but in the process it is quite convenient more than might be expected.
That voxels can have unique sides as much as a wholesome colour. makes for an interesting mechanic. You can shade an object by wholesome voxels, or shade it by-side of voxel. You can and will even mix the two techniques within the same image. wholesome voxel colourization helps hide the cubic form, it becomes a blob of colour, instead of a volume-object by itself. This keeps the viewer's attention on the overall form of the object that this voxel is part of; it suppresses corner noise that distracts from the actual object that the cubes combined are meant to describe. However, by-side colourization is just as useful, as there are just as many situations in which the emphasized "edgy-ness" is important part of overall definition of object. You want both. you have both.
This project is no "2d versus 3d", it merges both realms seamless, and what perspective is chosen, is decided on the fly; it is possible to just ignore 3d, make classic 2d sprites on the wall and convert it directly into bitmap, voxel for pixels on assumed full frontal. There really is no downside to this, and it can operate in a mode such, you wouldn't even realize you are not using classic "MS paint" instead of staring at a wall straight, within 3d space. You can easily ignore that, it's just an option that 3d is always just around the corner. Whether it has all the features you expect from mature 2d tools, is just a matter of effort and time.
However, I consider the development of this tool as something else than piling up all kinds of features and options. The goal is to produce a tool that is very directed in its design; that the usability design itself helps strongly define the core identity of the art, and serves as basis, as a point of orientation, like pixel art is in itself. A dedicated design towards the lean spirit of the basic combinatory problems in grid space. and that most of the effective workflows can boil down to surprisingly little but versatile functionality, that is playfully re-purposed towards the tactile situation, and thus highlights the spirit of the art instead of detracting from it.
March 26, 2015 -- Natural Selection -- Video
January 1, 2015 -- Simple House -- Image
This pixel art scene served for reference.
The tool enables a graphical fidelity well beyond my own poor skills to ever demonstrate.
But just because it's possible, doesn't mean it's what you always want. Sometimes you just want some good simple clean assets quick.
At least maybe that's how you want to start sketching and layout out first before iterating it into much more complex geometry later. If you really deem that necessary or desirable, that is.
While this is quite a gross under-utilization of what the tool is supposed to proof possible, freeing yourself from such ambition and just indulging the creative purity of simple fun, is as much a strength of the tool. Like in regular pixelart, your ambition scales with your resources. Be it time, money, or having it run on your smartphone. And even at this level, it takes plenty skill designing out an entire world like that.
I think amount and variety of content is key in whether a simpler design sells. The less amount and variety, the more detailed should it be. Most people think of it as a good "deal" that way. But most importantly, it's about keeping your senses fed, either by having much to see in one scene, or seeing many different scenes. So showing just one simple building isolated like that doesn't show the best advantage of its design, it looks kinda lazy. Like with good animations: the more interesting the movement, the less interesting can the character be, which in turn is easier to animate. Stickman fights can be super entertaining, as well as still-life paintings, for a different reason turned to advantage. Or in this case here a bustling town of distinct districts, and traveling several different towns showing various cultures and climates, made possible by a simplified design, but interesting as a whole.
So it comes down to the scale of game being filled out, and various types of games have various scales. Whatever detail or variety are at, it should not be stretched thin by the scale but keep up a good pacing, without being too busy either. Some sort of golden ratio. Ideally it would be plenty enough detailed and varied at the same time, so there's much to explore in the very moment, as well as many next. But more often than not you gotta choose between the two, like you choose between coding for better performance or less memory. And if you have both bad, it often is not enough. Maybe you try some balance instead of entirely disregarding one in favour of the other. But that also depends on what your kind of project profits more from by its nature, so you might better decide for one to more than make up for the other.
There's so many aspects and contexts to questions of detail, trying to find the right measures and proportions, when detail can be just too much for an eyesore as well, and detail and variety can converge in meaning. So much depends on a good sense of taste and "common sense" to get the best out of it, rather than just bluntly maximized possibility of them that may as well get the worst of it.
That too is the reason why a well made dynamic level of detail system is important the more dynamic the view on the scene is, aesthetically as much as for performance concerns.
While it is be possible to do surprisingly realistic scenes with it, generally you want to go more stylistic, suggestive and symbolic with it. However, whatever the case, the results can be much more organic and detailed than I have shown so far.
December 14, 2014 -- Basement -- Video
September 21, 2014 -- Simple Scene -- Image
Shading and shadow were done manually with placing voxels and picking colour.
The DB32 colour palette was used.