I’m spending time on learning doing pixel art. I actually have no plans to be a hardcore pixel artist and I’m willing to skip certain rules or guidelines if it helps make my stuff look nicer. For example, some guy said that image shouldn’t be scaled or that colors shouldn’t be changed using some program or automatic system.
Without taking stance on what is “real pixel art”, it is my plan to do stuff that looks good. The reason why I like pixel art is that it is helping me improve my own strengths. I have always liked drawing, but never got into painting or coloring stuff (especially with computer). I simply couldn’t get things to look how I wanted them to look when I tried smudging and whatnot.
With pixel art, it’s simpler… there’s only a few colors to work with.
Okay, that’s all cool and so on, but what about the practical aspect?
Yesterday I got so into doing this pixel stuff that I didn’t write a blog post. I did this arctic explorer instead:
Now, this is far from perfect and it didn’t quite turn out how I wanted (the snow on top was accidental, also the colors ended up being slightly different from what I planned and so on) but it’s one more piece of art done – and by doing pixel art one learns to do pixel art. And here’s the (quite) important part: how much time it took?
I suppose I could try count how much the actual time of drawing take time and come up with 1 or 2 hours or something like that, but in reality I think a more accurate estimate would be “yesterday evening”. Since that what it took. Okay, there was learning involved and things probably will get easier after I have more experience (bearing in mind this is like my 4th of 5th piece of pixel art), but it’s good to note that doing this art takes time.
So, if doing one frame takes like hour or two, and then 6 frames for one animation (that’s like half a day to day), 4-5 animations (week). And that’s one character. Add 50 objects, backgrounds, other characters… stuff. And you get the picture.
Point is: pixel art (like any art) takes time. If you are interested reading more about this aspect, check out Adam Saltsman’s excellent article on pixel art. It has several very good things.
So, what’s my opinion about this?
I like the retro (indie?) feeling pixel art gives you. I see it kind of like the very much opposite of nowadays AAA shader-whatnot screens. And I feel that’s a good thing. It’s like… totally opposite. I would expect some people to love it, and I somehow also feel that doing pixel art makes people think and expect something different.
For my personal situation, I’ve decided to try & learn this stuff. After I get to do some animation, some background stuff, and some objects… I will see if I’ve picked a too big cake to eat (bearing in mind that I want to submit something to IGF, which has deadline in October).
Pros & Cons
Advantages over pixel art, when I’m doing this myself:
- No money needed for art, I’m using my time instead
- I have 100% control over things and can communicate with the team artist now in pretty well (since I’m now the coder and the artist in my team)
- Retro (indie) feel in art, that’s a cool bonus
- It takes time to do, but with proper planning, not necessarily too much time
And the disadvantages (for me right now):
- My own time needed for art, instead of using money
- Might delay the project (not necessarily)
- Still need to learn quite a bit: animating, lights
I’m sure that pixel art works excellent for mobile devices. I’m sure it can work fine for indie games. Adam Saltsman mentions in his article that scaling pixel art is tricky – you gotta stick to a resolution. I feel this to be very true, although of course you can try scaling the art so that you have 4 pixel dots instead of 1 pixel dots (true scaling, simply making things bigger without losing any details). It makes art more blocky, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. It depends.
Is this now too blocky? Imagine this animated…
I very much recommend checking out Adam’s article – it has tons of pros & cons explained in much greater detail on a general level. I’m focusing quite a bit on my current situation.
So, how to make the decision?
Or: what helped me decide
One most important thing is that I’m doing pixel art because it feels fun to do. In fact, I’ve “waited” years to get to draw something but I never quite got (took) the time to draw anything. Now I have purpose (my game project) so I’ve got my drawing pens back and sketching things now, and they come for a purpose. And it’s fun. Cool.
I’m very much keen to see some donuts after I get this game thing done, and right now I’m focusing on what is fun to do? With Dead Wake I was doing the project perhaps relying more on the rational side of my mind, but with my current project I’m perhaps trying to relax a bit more and go with the irrational side of things.
For example, when I’m thinking “should I do this pixel art for my game? What if it delays the project a lot?”
I have a simple answer: “So what? It’s fun to do”
I mean, the outcome of the project isn’t necessarily so important. It’s also the journey. And if I enjoy the journey, won’t the outcome also be enjoyable?
If I don’t enjoy the journey, won’t that mean that the results will most likely too be somewhat unpleasant?
Famous bottom line
So, I’m learning coloring and doing pixel art. I can see that this has impact on time needed for the project, but since this is fun – I’m fine with it. And of course I can always seek middle ground: I might outsource some art (just gotta make sure the artist can make stuff that fits in). And for IGF, it’s not important to have all the art assets done.
I would say many indie games can do just fine with pixel art. Also, doing the art on my own is cool since I do have some artistic skills and enjoy doing the stuff. Since it’s fun, there’s no really no reason not to do this.