Pixels (Picture element), trying to get rid of them since computer screens existed.
All images we see on our computers, phones, televisions and anything else with an electronic display are built up by pixels, yet programmers and developers try their hardest not to let you actually see them.
Isn’t it a shame to hide them though, while they can produce such beautiful images and games using the pixel design style called ‘pixel-art’.
Personally, I can really enjoy a good pixel-art picture, but also enjoy the realistic graphics we find on most modern console games. Let’s first talk about what game developers do to get game graphics smooth and free of jagged edges.
- Anti-aliasing: In the old days almost everything we saw on our computer screens was made out of rectangles and squares. Trying to make diagonal objects just didn’t look right until anti-aliasing was ‘invented’. In short, anti-aliasing makes curved and diagonal lines appear to be smooth by filling in the jagged edges with shading.
- Resolution: What also helped was upgrading our screen resolution. Your resolution is the amount of pixels that are crammed in your monitor. Imagine having a 21” monitor with a resolution of 1600 x 1200, this means you’ve got 1.920.000 pixels displaying on that monitor. The rule with this generally is the more, the better.
- Vector Graphics: A better display of images on higher resolution devices could be ensured by using vector graphics. While images built up with pixels (bit maps) are harder to handle, vector images are very easily modified in size. The bigger you blow up a bit map image, the more pixels the graphics system will have to come up with to try and make the image look smooth. With vector graphics you can blow up an image without limitations and there will never be any jagged edges.
Do note that all vector images are in the end translated in to a bit map image when output from the graphics system, and put in to work. This only happens at the very end of the process though, which allows the image to keep its clean edges on any resolution, in any size.
We just can’t say goodbye.
With all these new techniques game developers use to create beautiful designed games, improve their game engines and being able to make the game worlds look more and more like the real world, why do we still love pixel art games so much? Isn’t this way of designing our games very out-dated?
This is a question that could be aimed at us Kairosoft fans. All their games are made with pixel art and we love it. I’ve even seen complaints about the pixel art being too blurred out in some occasions, and I´d have to agree; blurred pixel art is just wrong. While Kairosofts pixel art can be considered to be of high standard, there are games out there with much higher quality pixel art. Of course Kairosoft is going for a cartoonish theme, though the buildings and surroundings are still pretty detailed. There are other games out there where developers have chosen for a more detailed design overall, generally using more pixels per inch (higher resolution) and a wider color range. No matter how beautiful, lush and detailed though, pixel art will never really look realistic.
We could blame our love for pixels to the Nostalgia Effect as DaveNg88 likes to call it. Most of us grew up knowing none other than games designed using pixel art. There just was no other way to do it back then. I remember Mario from way back looking like a collection of blocks, stacked up to form a tiny Italian plumber on my first Game Boy, looking nothing like he looks in the Mario games today. Playing Robocop and Dragonball Z on my SNES and a lot of pixel art games like Pokemon on my Game-boy, how can we not grow to love them?
Mario, from block to person.
That being said, among us are a lot of pixel lovers who aren’t from the old days when pixel art was all we could get, they just love it for how it looks. Maybe it’s because pixel art looks cute. The way characters are often made to look very cute with their small bodies, big heads and big eyes just appeals to a lot of people. That combined with the rich colors in most pixel art makes the whole thing just look happy, vibrant and easy for the eyes.
While technology today enables us to play games with graphics of such high quality, we can’t tell the difference from animation or photography, we are still restricted to our consoles’ specifications. High-end consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 can display beautiful graphics on our televisions. Especially with televisions being able to output High Definition (HD) quality images, there isn’t a lot more we could wish for. Not to forget PC games being able to display the same quality on our monitors. Though these game platforms do not have a lot of restrictions, most handhelds do. With us being Kairosoft fans I’m going to narrow it down to the platforms we all play their games on.
Smartphones, whether you own an iPhone or an Android device, most of them are able to display beautiful graphics. While a phone’s sole purpose is for contacting family, friends or anyone business related, these days phones can also be seen as a gaming console. Almost everyone is playing social games like Wordfeud and Draw Something, but we also like to go solo playing RPG’s, arcade, adventure and puzzle games. Some of these games have simple yet stylish designs and others have beautiful realistic designs. Games like Angry Birds have a high quality, yet simple vector design, while Infinity Blade looks realistic and can actually be compared to a console game, graphics-wise. These types of design can both be considered to be of high quality design, being able to show HD quality graphics, yet there are still a whole lot of pixel art games out there! This is of course due to the love for pixel art, as I talked about earlier, but I think there’s a little bit more to it than just that. I’ve seen a lot of “3-D” games on my iPhone which, when downloaded, just really looked bad. No pixels but strangely shapes cars for example. The reason for this is the use of Polygons. With polygons they create 3-D models of objects which is a good technique for a console, but usually not a handheld device. Games on a DS often use this method of design too, but to me this really just doesn’t look good. Balls become octagons and faces look pointy and square like Pocahontas.
This just looks horrible
Sometimes developers want to make that awesome PS3, Xbox or PC game available for us on our handhelds too, but I say no thanks! Battlefield 3 on my phone? Nope. Assassins Creed on my DS? Nope! They want to make these games just as beautiful as the console/PC games but in my opinion, it’s just impossible. (At least until there was a PS Vita…)
Mmmmm, Pixels. . .
Personally, I love pixel-art for the way it can produce images more lush, colorful and vibrant than other modern designing techniques. Colors can really blast out of your screen with pixel-art. Details are just amazing, to create a pixel-art picture takes a lot of work, so every line, object and shade is placed well thought trough. You don’t want to waste precious time creating something you don’t want to keep in the final version of the picture. Pixel-art can be so full of colors and different little objects. Some artists create pictures we can look at forever it seems. Artists can make so many different things happen in a picture it doesn’t ever seem to get boring looking at it. Characters, and I’m not scared to say this being a man, they just look cute like said earlier, the big heads and small bodies can look really funny and just appeal to me. For a good example of good pixel-art pictures, you can click the below example image, created by the design firm “eBoy”. Their pictures mostly have everything I love about pixel-art in them so look at their gallery and enjoy.
An amazing piece by eBoy
So with everything being said above, I think we can sum it up in a few important reasons why we still love pixels-art.
- We reminisce about the old days, when all games had pixel art graphics, and think about how much we enjoyed those back then.
- The graphics mostly just look cute, lush, colorful and vibrant even though it doesn’t look photo realistic.
- Finally, sometimes, due to certain restrictions, pixel art is still the most user/platform friendly way to go on most handheld devices.
Pixels, their designs might look simple, but the contrary is true when using them to design whole worlds. Let’s not underestimate the work that goes in to creating games using pixel art, like the Kairosoft games we all love so much. Enjoy these games and think about all the work that went in to creating it. Doing this all of us might even be able to understand why Kairosoft can’t release a game every month.