> The hand-placement of the squares is precisely what makes this kind of art valuable. If anyone besides artists should appreciate that, it’s retro game enthusiasts. When even they are splintering on this issue, I think it’s time to face the chiptunes.
What the younger generations that didn't experience the heyday of ultra low-res CRT displays don't understand is that graphics wasn't perceived as blocky so much. The displays were usually so mushy that everything looked kind of smooth. It was more like an pointillistic painting observed from a far distance than what is known as pixel art today. Of course the LCD of the game-boy is a different story - and probably one source where this misconception comes from - but arcade and home computer era was not very pixely.
Sure, at home basically nobody had nice RGB monitors, but arcades did. If an arcade monitor was in good condition and well maintained, it delivered a clear, and quite pixelated, picture.
Today you can use CRT Emudriver or Soft-15kHz to do this on modern hardware.
Yes, in the eighties SCART was common, at least our family TV had a SCART connector back then. Still, from what I remember, most kids just used the cinch cable to connect the output of the integrated RF modulator to the antenna input of the TV. Why? Because that cable came with the home computer and you didn't have to bother your parents to buy you an extra cable. Another reason is that the coax cable was long and flexible compared to the SCART cables I have in mind.
At least that is what I remember from the era of 8-bit home computers - like Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC - way before the 80386.
It was also common for micro computers to have RGB monitors as well. In fact the Amstrad CPC example you give specifically shipped with either a green or colour monitor and the DIN cable you'd connect from the CPC is actually a pre-VGA RGB cable. The BBC Micro also used RGB as well (with the same DIN layout at the CPC -- though Amstrad were inspired by the BBC Micro so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise the connections are the same).
You're right that Commodore were often hooked up via RF but those computers did also support RGB albeit not every owner invested in a monitor. The only 8 bit micros I can think of which only supported RF was Sinclair machines (eg ZX Spectrum) but those were intentionally cheap devices aimed at the bottom of the market.
I used a very nice B&O CRT TV for my retro games for a long time, and there was a definite difference between composite, s-video and RGB. Composite is how I remember all games looking when I was a kid. RGB is a huge step up in quality, that most people didn't have, because all pack-in cables were composite only.
My rebuttal: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21912698
On my CRT in the 90s it was beautifully translucent with no hint of aliasing.
The Earthworm Jim level load screen is a good example, too.
Only in countries lacking a standardized high image quality connector like SCART.
I remember my old SNES with a SCART cable looking extremely sharp and clear on our 25" Philips CRT TV.
Also home computers have had RGB since the 8 bit era. Whether it's a BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC 464 (all released early 80s, all used RGB monitors and RGB cables) through to the IBM PCs with VGA cables. In fact anti-aliasing techniques for 3D games started out in the CRT era because even back then computer monitors were sharp enough to show a jagged line along the polygon edge.
I do agree that LCDs are sharper (and also worse for scaling) then CRTs and that RGB is sharper than composite; but it's still a fallacy to say the average 80s and 90s gamer didn't see pixels because they did.
Source: I used to write games on said machines as well as still being an avid retro gamer and collector (as it happens most of my consoles are still hooked up via composite to the same TVs that I've owned since the 90s. I'm more than happy to share photos if you want)
Pixels are absolutely visible when using a composite connection, however they are distinctly more fuzzy than if you use S-video or RGB or component video. The horizontal bleed is especially noticeable, which was deliberately used for transparency effects on consoles like the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, which couldn't do proper transparency in hardware.
I had several consoles hooked up to my composite/S-video/RGB capable CRT TV (in 240p, too), including a RetroPi hooked up via a HDMI->composite/S-video converter (before I got a proper SCART RGB module for my Pi3). The difference when switching the converter box from composite to S-video was profound, a very clear difference in sharpness and color quality. The difference from S-video to RGB was much smaller, but still noticeable.
These days I mostly play games on emulators on my PC, I don't really have room for a CRT TV anymore. I absolutely abhor all the pixel art scaling algorithms, I much prefer a gentle CRT-emulating fuzz (similar to a good RGB signal) and subtle scanlines, which seems to best replicate what the games look like on the actual CRT.
I was also there for the console boom from the C64 all the way up to the Xbox360, at which point I mostly lost interest. I have a background partially in electronics, including CRT TVs, and I used to work at a TV manufacturer during the CRT to LCD transition. So I'd like to think my credentials are in order.
I'm always looking for some subtle scanline filters, but most emulators seem to have way overdone scanlines for my liking.
And the vast majority of people hooked up the console with the included cables and never gave it any more thought. You're looking at the past through rose-colored console nerd glasses. And not all TVs with SCART were RGB capable.
Of course modern, pure digital LCD screens show a rather cruel sharpness and in general are much larger than the typical CRT (desktop screens were 12-15" back then, TVs less than 30").
That is why the best emulators try to strike a middle ground, where pixels are just blurred to the extend to which good CRTs would doo.
One of my favorite games of all time is Fire Emblem for GBA. It had custom, unique class animations that would play anytime a character got a critical. They were just rare enough that I would get a hit of dopamine as soon as I saw the normal attack animation deviate to the critical animation.
With these fond childhood memories I gifted my son Fire Emblem for 3DS which was highly rated. The critical animations were all procedural garbage (all classes just have a flash of light + anime face close up + particles + sound byte)! But it has 3d graphics, so I guess that's something.
It's just like the Street Fighter example given in the article. My kids probably can't tell the difference, but for me it was like night and day.
Fire Emblem: The Blinding Blade FE6
Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword FE7
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones FE8
Edit: it was FE7
Check out dorcas emblem.
The new FE is pretty good on its flair too. The animations are dynamic with circumstance had how much damage you have which is nifty
The concepts are well known and software packages make the process learnable by anyone. It’s discovered. It doesn’t tickle feudal traders fancy but the idea and technology haven’t vanished.
I guess I don’t see the problem. The idea was discovered and refined and society at large it seems doesn’t want to satisfy your emotional preference, but it has provided cheap/easy ways for you to do so to your heart’s content though.
“Kids these days aren’t nostalgic for the childhood experiences kids had last generation.” is just ... yep that’s how it has always worked.
With so much effort spent individually on the characters it’s confusing why the end product looks that bad. My first instinct is that it feels like a case of having an amazing artist on the characters and a new inexperienced artist in the interface and board, with no intercommunication and an inexperienced manager overseeing both just going “the interface with nothing in it looks ok” “The characters on a blank background look ok” “let’s ship”.
It’s not enough that individual parts look good when you focus on them. You need the sum-product to look great and that means the visual styles and elements need to fit together. That just does not seem to be the case for Auro. With the great focus on character art and animation by the author In the article it makes you wonder if the interface was just an afterthought to them.
For example, Kitty Horrorshow and Puppet Combo are are responsible for a lot of art-house (typically horror) games that emulate the PS1 era of 3D graphics.
It's an art-form now. My favourite 2D, pixel-based one is The Last Door. It's basic as all hell. And still you have more games taking retro to the next level, like Faith.
I think we're in an amazing place where new technology can give us old experiences.
Watch this talk from Mark Ferrari, for example:
Check out what he did with color cycling in this demo: it's amazing. I recommend looking at "May - Jungle Waterfall - Rain" to see how amazing this is.
That's not a gif, it's a single image, just rotating the colors. That was to deal with storage constraints. Can you imagine?
The techniques of early PC and applications are worth saving, too.
The art shown in that tweet is amazing, too, but it's not the same thing! It's an entirely different thing, with entirely different constraints.
Seems like a misapplication of the technique, to me. In the article he explains how classic pixel art conjures an illusion by _implying_ shapes and textures... Does Auro even attempt that sort of magic? It seems like Auro's implications are explicitly drawn.
On a phone screen it probably just looks like it should be smooth art but it's running at the wrong resolution. Implying something is wrong with the game.
Look at Stardew Valley for an example of a very popular game that's all pixel art. I don't see any reviews of that saying that it looks "pixelated" or "not getting" the art style. And it's not like Stardew even has amazing pixel art, it's just decent enough.
2019: Here's a concept painting for our next game. [image of some simple flat-color work] (http://www.dinofarmgames.com/alakaram-first-details/)
There is a resolution threshold where fiddling with every pixel on the screen by hand becomes a terrible, counter-productive idea and that title screen for Auro at the top of the "renouncing pixel art" blog post is pretty close to that threshold.
The guy has all that classical goodness in his skill but what they chose to make with it is very questionable. I'd suggest Auro was more about a transition for the artist than it was about making a salable game.
One of the main benefits of pixel art (as I see it; I'm not an expert) is that proper use of outlines can call your attention to important elements in the scene. There's none of this in Auro, partially because the resolution is so high, but even UI elements like text and buttons lack weight and outline. The splash image at the top has no focal point and lacks contrast, as do the character designs (especially the blob and gray thing at the bottom).
Overall it comes across as very dreary, not at all relaxing or fun to look at. Contrast this with the Pokemon environment from elsewhere in this thread (https://twitter.com/zaebucca/status/1057312889160286215) which is gorgeous and fun. It perfectly draws your attention to the key elements of the scene.
The good news is the guy has the skill which can succeed on it's own, given it's channeling a positive story. Drawing that well and constructing scenes that well is a fine art that takes a lot of time and effort.
The high fantasy tree-man fighting with a staff on the ground was not the king in 2015, it was the outlaw. Had he committed to an outlaw version of Gandalf or Link from Zelda, he would have had a story that fit the times and likely how he felt as an artist. This depressed faded king surrounded by water and off-beat monsters is an unsolvable conflict that benefits no-one.
Unfortunately, a good looking pixel game needs more than artisan dithering. All I've seen from Auro looks like an incomprehensible, bland mess of individually excellent sprite work.
Discussed at the time: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9533678
Is it the artists responsibility to make art for his audience? Or is it the audience's responsibility to try and understand the artist and his motivations?
I think these questions explain a lot about the art world that regular folks simply don't understand, like the kind of abstract, "modern" art that is often derided for appearing low-effort. Indeed I have been to galleries and exhibitions filled with what appears to be genuinely low-effort cash-ins and been chided for disliking it because it appeared to lack quality. It is very difficult to differentiate between the Pollocks/Warhols and said low-effort cash-ins, and articulating what separates them from the rest is something I struggle with. All I can really say to that effect is that the je ne sais quoi has something to do with the feeling of zen that only comes from a mature and developed sense of composition -- in that Pollock chose his "sloppy" aesthetic when he could have chosen to follow the precient style -- that many amateurs and pretenders simply lack.
The problem is, we're not talking about pure art here. Dinofarm Games employs artists, but at the end of the day it is a company that needs to make a profit. I'm sure they would love to be able to make art all day and not care about the audience, but they need to sell copies to pay for a roof over their heads.
Modern art is about ideas, purity and form. Pollock chose to create a new form in plastic space that creates a sense of depth without traditional perspective tools. Is that the whole je ne sais quo? No, but I want to mirror that bit of your experience back to you.
Gallery art is its own thing, greatly divorced from "getting good at drawing" and "making art that speaks to a lot of people". Making art that you have to be a rarified aesthete to understand what simply doesn't appeal to all those peons is a route to making work that stupidly rich assholes can be persuaded makes them look like Important People Of Taste to own, especially when everyone knows that your last piece went for a very large number; it's investment games, status games, and probably no small amount of money-laundering.
In the case of commercial or commissioned art the answer is pretty clear. It's easy to think all the famous paintings and such in art history were created for the artist by the artist, but this is not always the case -- most of the famous artists of the past were beholden to the patronage system, and much of their prized work was created for their patrons. I've always desired to create art only for me, and so this realization paints a bleak picture of reality that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.
I don't have a better metaphor, but the artist is a sheepdog. The audience are sheep. The artist's ideas are the pen. Even if going to the pen is great, the artist still needs to connect with the audience to get them there. He can't just stand next to the pen and think wow, I'm so clever.
Which sheep and how many does the sheepdog want? The art literati? To have prints of their work in every home? Investors who will give them a storied name and convince people that the work has a je ne se quoi?
This statement is not limited to pixel graphics. In the mid 90's writing a 3D game the artist would come to me with a tank using 300 or so vertices. I did the math. "No" I responded "it needs to be as few as possible, maybe 100, but preferably less". And then I'd show them their art in the game and they'd understand, gnash their teeth and optimise. We had interesting conversations when using Level Of Detail (LOD) and I'd limit him to 6, a cube. (Because it was maybe 2 pixels in size after rasterisation). I think he ended up giving me one using 5 vertices: after the texture was applied it looked good.
Everytime, challenge accepted and passed. Graphics guys can be awesome (& and awesomely challenging)
This is an aside, but that is not technology's role. Tech is supposed to empower us, and act as mind-amplification devices, to make us smarter, faster, and better. The above statement underscores everything that is wrong with tech and how we (edit- as consumers) are on track to completely squander its potential.
These days video game criticism is all about driving page views; and negativity draws eyes better than the alternative.
The problem with embracing limitations on modern machines is that there increasingly aren’t many to embrace. Sure, modern AAA games will gladly grow to use all available resources, but if you are being relatively efficient you really have to work to monopolize a modern computer.
I think there is beauty in embracing limitations and there is increasingly not very many of them on modern computers... but I still love chiptunes and pixel art, and I think there’s a sizable population of people who do, even if they maybe do not understand why they do. I suspect that the number of people who appreciate these arts are growing rather than shrinking and what we’re really seeing is growing pains of the aesthetic going very mainstream.
The comments about the critics "not getting it" are as old as the "art critic" profession itself. Different critics are at different levels of understanding, including none-at-all.
I wonder if that auro game would have the same affect if it had high resolution graphics instead? Probably not. Different aesthetic, different audience. Dwarf fortress versus Starcraft.
His art isn’t “pixel art;” it’s just low res art without aliasing. The characters’ resolution don’t even seem to match the background’s resolution.
He may be able to tell good animation from bad animation, but I can’t say he’s a very good artist.
Does anyone know good books for learning mosaic art?
At the opposite end of the abstraction spectrum from "Pixel Art" is Bert Monroy's amazing hyper-resolution photo-realistic art. He combines Illustrator together with Photoshop, ping-ponging back and forth between both tools. He's taught many classes and produced lots of videos showing how he works and teaching the tools he uses.
Times Square – On display at the Make Software Change the World Exhibit at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA:
This is the largest image I have ever created, pushing the boundaries of the software and hardware as far as they can go. It was unveiled at the Photo Plus Expo in New York on October 28, 2010 as a work in progress. A 25 foot light box was constructed to display the piece that has been printed on a new material being introduced by Epson.
• The image size is 60 inches by 300 inches.
• The flattened file weighs in at 6.52 Gigabytes.
• It took four years to create.
• The painting is comprised of almost fifteen thousand individual Photoshop and Illustrator files.
• Taking a cumulative total of all the files, the overall image contains over 700,000 layers.
Bert Monroy, Photoshop Artist
Photoshop Hall of Famer Bert Monroy talks about creating his largest piece to date “Times Square.” At 6.52 gigapixels, “Times Square” contains over 750,000 layers and depicts dozens of digital imaging artists and pioneers, as well as Monroy’s family and friends. This clip is from a full-length interview, conducted for CHM's upcoming exhibition, “Make Software: Change the World!,” opening January 28, 2017. Don’t miss your chance to see “Times Square” on display in “Make Software.”
Amsterdam Mist (2014):
My Amsterdam Mist is the culmination of twenty-two months of work. Every element in the image was meticulously created pixel-by-pixel using Adobe® Photoshop® and Adobe® Illustrator®. It is the first piece to be inspired by the shot rather than the scene itself.
I have no words that could describe my disgust for this characterization and stay in hn guidelines. If they dare to call that art “quite good”, they deserve no art ever.
What can be done with the original UFO:EU/XCOM:UD palette is just unbelievable. And that's just 14 colors in 16 shades, and very much fixed at that.
I'm a big fan of the pixel art look and I thought this was an interesting story, but this quote revealed fundamental misunderstanding about anti-aliasing.
AA is not just smoothing. Sometimes high quality AA will actually yield a sharper result.
Even the example image near the quote shows the result of the algorithms is clearly sharper (contains higher frequency features) than the original. Magnified-pixel edges really should not be considered a form of sharpness.
The first mistake is selling art to non-artists. The general population buys games for entertainment, and similar to any art (music, movies, paintings) for entertainment, it is rarely the most artistic that is selected.
> The shoddy SFIV received a higher art score than one of the best looking games to date, and I believe it’s all due to a pixel tax.
The second mistake is believing IGN, or the general consumer, is evaluating the art when they explicitly state “graphics”.
There’s a place for pixel art - even for ascii art (<3 df), but you have to be ready to not be loved by people that aren’t interested in “art,” but entertainment.
This is artistism. Please be ashamed of partaking in this vile trend.
If I’m enjoying something as art, that puts me into a different category, but when purchasing a game for fun, or music as background noise, or a decorative painting I am in a totally different mindset than when I am engaging with those same things with a mind towards their artistic qualities.
The intentionality of the viewer matters, and the author, IMO, fails to recognize that a lot of people, myself included, often come to games with the intentionality of playing a game, not necessarily judging its artistic qualities. We sometimes do, but I think it would be bad faith to argue that we all are always appreciating every “artistic quality” of a work all the time - I know I’ve enjoyed a bad game, movie, show, or song more than once.