comment_box_33-1Some of you may have seen this week's What Do You Think? coming from a mile away, as it stems from a debate which took place in the comments section of our recent review of 868-HACK [$5.99] by Michael Brough. The debate centered around the use of pixel graphics, and more specifically the very simplistic retro-inspired kind.

On the one side, some people feel that using visuals like that is "lazy" and more or less is an easy way out of doing the visuals in a game. The thinking goes that, back in the day 20 or 30 years ago, graphics like that were a product of hardware constraints only. Developers did the best with what they had to work with at the time. So in this day and age of unimaginable computing power and a host of software that allows games to approach photorealism, why on Earth would somebody actually choose to use simple pixel art for their game?

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The folks on the other side of the fence argue that pixel art isn't easy to do–at least not east to do well–and in fact can be more difficult to pull off than just playing drawing graphics or using software to create what you need. I tend to agree, as with pixel art you're constrained by the size of the grid and pixels that you're using, and you have to create the look that you want within those constraints. It can definitely be tricky, and I think it's pretty easy to tell when someone has put a lot of care into their art and when someone has basically just phoned it in.

Recently, pixel graphics have become very en vogue, and not just in the world of gaming. There's a huge retro revival going on in popular culture. But in terms of iOS gaming I think there's another big reason for the resurgence.

On the App Store, literally anyone can make a video game. Traditionally, game development has been teams of people with specialized skills. Artists, designers and programmers all put their skills together to create one cohesive game. In iPhone development, it's entirely possible that just one person is the artist, programmer and designer all rolled into one. And, while not always true, that one person is most likely more gifted in one of those areas than the others. That same grid that confines pixel art can also be the guide that keeps someone who can't freeform draw worth a lick on track.

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However, beyond whether or not pixel graphics are or aren't the easy way to do things, it seems to be a very polarizing style for people. You either love it or you hate it, in most cases. I started gaming on the Atari 2600 and so have grown up with a deep appreciation for pixel graphics over the years. I think when I see them now, there's definitely some nostalgia at play for games I've loved in the past back when pixel graphics were practically all that were possible on the hardware of the time. Someone who grew up on the PlayStation or Xbox might not have that same kind of appreciation, and so are quick to write off pixel graphics as "lazy."

So that got me thinking, where do you all land on this matter? Do you see pixel art in a game and immediately think the developer is taking the easy way out? Or do you see it as an homage to the heritage of video games? Does gameplay trump everything else no matter what kind of art style a game uses? Or is it immediately ruined for you if the visuals aren't cutting edge, not matter how fun the game may be? Let us know in the comments below.

  • defunct32

    I love it, there's no laziness in 2D/pixel art and I'm certain it's not that easy doing pixel art either. I just adore old-school graphics.

    • defunct32

      Also, you can have cutting edge graphics and movie-like animations but if gameplay blows, forget it! 2D, pixel, 3D, etc I don't really care but it's a bonus if it's pixel art + great gameplay; Breath of Fire 3, FFV and FFVI to name a few.

  • Flynn Taggart

    I love pixel art. It's honestly the best way to get my attention on wednesdays. But it has to be done right snd it can't be sloppy. Everything has to be done in pixels. Nothing turns me off quicker than a pixel art game with a non pixelized status bar.

  • JBRUU

    I can see the draw some people have towards that style, but personally I'm not a huge fan of it.

  • InkyTheGhost

    Well said Jared.
    Personally, I feel that when people complain about a game having retro graphics, that's like complaining about a movie that doesn't use state of the art CGI special effects.

    • 61050

      i feel like using pixel graphics just because you can is more like hiring a 14yo to write the script and using and 8mm camcorder to shoot your movie. you know, because you can.

      frankly, if 1000's of people did use teenage scriptwriters and crappy home video recorders, im sure one or two of those movies might actually turn out pretty good anyway. same goes with games on ios. really good "retro" game are by far the exception and not the norm.

      • InkyTheGhost

        A 14 year old? I think your analogy is a bit silly.

        Seriously, 80's and 90's nostalgia is increasing in almost every facet of American culture, and retro video games are only one example. If you want to rail against pop culture in general, well, feel free.

        And remove "retro" from your last statement: really good games are the exception, not the norm. Retro has nothing to do with it. 90% of everything is crap.

  • Lostpop21

    IMO it all depends on the quality of the art itself. Star Command, for example, does a great job of visually expressing itself and the contrast between its High-Res background and detailed-yet-retro models give it a cool "space adventure" vibe.

  • joaolx

    Some games have showed to be pretty awesome in the way they use the pixelated graphics. Like sword & sworcery, terraria I can't imagine them in another graphical style.
    But it should only be a choice if the experience gets improved( sword & sworcery) or the concept of a game requires it to look this way(terraria) but still making it look awesome.
    Although a lot of games have been coming out with this kind of style for no reason, or they created a game because of the style instead of creating a game and adapting it to a style and that shouldn't happen in my opinion.

  • kbot1701

    I love pixel graphics! They allow such great creativity when done right. I always check out the games that look pixelated! It's retro-cool.

  • RoundPiplup

    Pixel art are nice. I just hope there were more of those pixel art in the App Store.

  • Gamer1st

    I started gaming in the late 70s and I'm over pixel graphics. They bore me now. A few games here and there was ok but it's being done to death now.

    • D-Vader

      this ^

  • laxking97

    It's just like any art. There are times when you can tell that they put tons of work into it, and it looks beautiful, and there are times where you can tell they obviously didn't put a lot of work into it. I'm one of those kids who grew up on 'Playstation and Xbox' but I can still tell good pixel art from bad pixel art, and good 3D graphics from bad 3D graphics.

  • lanights

    I believe that it depends on the developer. Some are very passionate and nostalgic over pixel art, whereas others are simply taking the easy road. Personally, I'm a fan of evolving with the times and pushing the limits of our capabilities.

  • Jean-Denis Haas

    I love it, but I did grow up with Pong, Intellivision, NES, etc. so the moment I see pixel art, I'm interested. But gameplay does trump everything. If the game is not fun, the style doesn't matter.
    I can see how people think it's lazy, but that's because they don't know the process. When 3D animation was getting bigger, they used to say "the computer does it all". Nope, it's a lot of hard work if you want it to look good. 3D, pixel art, etc.

  • Brazilian_Baboon

    Idk what makes it so intresting but i just love it... I just love the style of the picture

  • https://www.facebook.com/DigitalDistillery Scot D

    I personally believe it can be fantastic. That brings me to another thought. I believe that sometimes, games can get a little too fancy on themselves and forget to make sure the UI and controls are seamless and easy. Generally, a simplified UI can still be complex enough to feel rewarding. Instead of having the user worry about keeping a good camera angle in a game, perhaps work on other things to make the game more intuitive.

    I believe you can create a beautiful presentation with limited pixels while keeping game play mechanics purposeful and efficient which to me is the ultimate preferred method on the mobile platform.

    • lepke

      Despite our previous discussion on 1 game I do agree with you and I feel the same.

  • Smaug

    There was an argument in that review with a certain person who kept claiming the art style was lazy.

  • runliketurtles

    Pixel art, retro graphics, ect. isn't easy to do. At least do it well. Which is why only a small percent actually pull it off. Like Sword & Sworcery, or Hotline Miami on PC which are both better off for their respective art styles.

    The vast majority of the times though, it is laziness or lack of talent.

    • lepke

      Hotline Miami does is a great example of something done well.

  • CalinR

    I remember playing Warcarft 1 back in the day, on my 486, and thinking it had the coolest graphics in the world. The problem today, is that certain developers use the word "retro graphics" to make an appeal to pathos.

    While "retro graphics" are nice and nostalgic and all, they're too often used as a marketing gimmick which hides shallow gameplay. Both have their pros and cons. More photorealistic graphics? Game's gonna look better but take up more space on w.e. device (or disc, which is a whole 'nother issue) it's on.
    Less photorealistic graphics? There's a chance the dev is either trying to pull one over on the consumer, and release a shallow game, or is making a legitimate attempt at nostalgia. But is there a game that uses pixel graphics and would be hampered by photorealistic ones? I doubt it...

  • hourglass

    I absolutely love Kairosoft, which makes excellent pixelated games, and I'm also a fan of Star Command, which is pixelated.

  • mirrorme

    I think its lame to have "old school" stuff lurking around in evry corner in the app sotre when we can get better stuff, not only because they seem old but because of the power that we have in the divices we use?!?

  • QWERTYthebold

    I like pixel art when it's not trying to look like a throwback to old games. I like my pixel art "modern".

    • Dr. Woodenstein

      Pray tell, how does pixel art not look like a throwback to old games and how do you make it modern?

      • Jef Crisis

        lighting effects. particle effects. higher resolution and larger palette.

        have a look at the original Street fighter 2 sprites and the HD remix sprites.

        still hand drawn pixel art but 'modern'.

      • lepke

        Exactly, when you embrace retro yet can tell that apart from say 30 years ago. Also helps if gameplay is not as old as pong itself.

  • Xissoric

    If its done right it can look great, but there are some that are really lazy in the pixel art so the game looks cheap.

  • Jerutix

    I really disliked Pixel art back in 2009 when I got my first iPhone, but it has grown on me a lot since then. It seemed lazy at first glance, but games like Sword and Sworcery really proved it is a viable artistic medium.

    Not to mention that it does seem like an easier out for a one-person dev team. A lot of great games (10000000, for example) may never have happened without pixel art.

    These days, I've grown to love it, and I actually find myself really drawn to pixel art games over more cinematic or photorealistic games. Maybe because they take up less space, or maybe because they seem to care more about gameplay than looking gorgeous.

    • Adams Immersive

      I never hated it but I didn't care as much as I do now--I didn't love it! But it won me over...

  • {SQUEEK}

    As long as its fun idc about the graphics. "Old school" hate is pretty much like saying "I would never watch a B&W movie because we have color".

    If you are not open to things you will miss out on allot.

  • Mannimal

    I've been playing a lot of Deep Dungeons of Doom and Knights of Pen & Paper recently which are both beautiful examples of pixel art. But on the other hand I've also been digging Asphalt 8 which is super slick. I think it all comes down to gameplay, looks are secondary to addictive mechanic that keeps you coming back for more. As ios gamers we're not lacking for choice and if the gameplay isn't up to scratch it's easy enough to just delete and move on.

  • the fish

    I love it! But I also think it's a good way for small developers or even single persons to bring their ideas to life. I believe with enough time, money and manpower most games could be done with "up to date" graphics, but most people don't have either. So they focus on gameplay and often innovation.
    Sure I want to play big games with great graphics too, but what I always come back for is gameplay. And that's why I still have an iPhone...because its an awesome gaming device.

  • H4nd0fg0d

    Def not a fan. Lame and archaic.

  • Tikicobra

    I like it when it's used in service of the game. For example, Nimble Quest has really cute pixel graphics that fit the simple gameplay really well. And of course Superbrothers is gorgeous. But sometimes, when it's really bland pixel art, it just feels like a bit of a cop-out.

  • JJE McManus

    I tend to be suspicious of so-called retro graphics. Too often in the App Store a sixteen-bit look is accompanied with lackluster gameplay, poor mechanics and intrusive IAP.
    To be sure, when there is solid vision behind the design, when the gameplay is so sharp it could cut paper, simpler graphics can complement the entire experience. You can see it in such games as MineCraft, S&S, and most recently rymdkapsel.
    But on average, no, I'm not initially drawn to games that harken back to the original Zelda or Super Mario. Most times they are not ironic nor a fond homage. They're just lazy.
    OFAP

  • Earth Vs. Me

    I'm noticing a pattern on the app store: indie devs that have money license the Unreal engine, while those that don't panhandle on Kickstarter and rely on "charming" retro graphics.

  • bernanke

    I love pixel graphics!

  • iLLcAtTiViSsiMo

    I 100 percent think it depends on the gamers age. Most "newer" gamers won't give a pixel art style game a chance, plain and simple. Not solely because they were born into the AAA graphics era, but because they haven't been gaming long enough to have learned or realized a crucial lesson in gaming, that it's the gameplay or core mechanics that make the games they love so great, not the graphics. Only years of refined gaming experience can teach that. I've been gaming since the NES days and have learned this lesson all too well.

    Throughout the years, most of us "older" gamers have played games with amazing graphics, but were terrible in every other respect and vice versa. It also goes without saying we have more incentive to try out pixel art games because of the nostalgia factor. And of course low graphics/memory games are much kinder to our device batteries and allow for longer game sessions when we can't plant ourselves near a wall outlet. They also only take up a fraction of our precious hard drive space, allowing for a MUCH larger library of games.

    Hopefully games like Terraria are teaching the latest gamers "it's not all about the graphics" at an earlier age. There's some crazy good stuff out there that gamers of all ages would absolutely get hooked on if they just gave it a chance. Until one realizes the "lesson" mentioned earlier, he/she does not have a reason to invest time in a game with "crappy" graphics, or at least doesn't realize they have a reason just yet.

    An important question to ask is whether or not pixel style games will still exist when developers are replaced by todays youth. Remember, most of our current game developers grew up with pixel graphics. So will the pixel art form slowly dissolve as developers are replaced over the years? Or will it continue to flourish as an art form when it's lost that special nostalgic trait? Of course it's currently a low budget way to create games, but I'm certain "low budget" will mean something different entirely in twenty years, when current tech is obsolete and current gen graphics become the new nostalgic gaming standard in the process.

    • Wedge598

      I agree. What I find funny about the industry today is that trend toward pixel art is really booming. And yet we're about to see a new generation of consoles hit the market whose primary improvement over the last generation is simply better graphics. Will this pixel art trend render (pun intended) the graphics capabilities of the new consoles moot?

    • lepke

      I agree but as someone born in the 80's who grew up with both NES, Amiga and other stuff I appreciate both when done right. I also think many great games in pixel art wouldn't hurt if they looked better.

      I can critique something saying that the gameplay was lacking but it was beautiful and of course the opposite.

      ie I love Nintendo even the Wii but I doubt anyone could argue with a straight face that they would mind better hardware and technology to be used for it.

      I really do not believe this is a generational thing because of my age but maybe I am wrong?

  • Gustav

    Pixels have to be sharp. A pixel game with blurry pixels is no feast for the eyes.

    • Adams Immersive

      I agree. Unless it's a well-done fake-CRT look, which can be interesting (like Death Ray Manta and some Jeff Minter stuff). Straight-up solid-color pixels, though, should be sharp! Which is interesting since retro games never had sharp displays--but sharp pixels are a new thing we can do, and I like it!

    • Inaba-kun

      Look at real pixel art on an 8 or 16 bit console plugged into an authentic CRT display. You won't see any pixels, you'll just see lots of blur, scanlines, and CRT bloom.

      Modern "pixel art" looks nothing like real pixel art did, back in the day.

      • Protoman

        That's the reason I have trouble playing Final Fantasy VII. I played it as a kid on a mono TV with dials, so my memory of it made the graphics seem better. Now when I play it the game looks like shit. I never realized how the blur from that old tv was a sort of anti-aliasing. Now FFVII looks stupidly jaggy.

        As for pixel art...I like it. As emulators have taught me, pixels scale up nicely, polygons not so much. Also take a look at the final boss sequence in Final Fantasy VI and tell me pixel art is easy. Ha

  • tzuptzop

    i'm all into old school games
    oldies but goodies

  • worldcitizen1919

    No way now that we have way better. That's an eye sore that's better left dead and buried. But it contributed to the gaming evolution when hardware was so weak. Historically it was the first dawn of the modern gaming era but now is best for the museum.

  • tzuptzop

    would you preffer lady gaga? yuck
    or the king of pop MJ? yeah

  • bemusedbear

    Lets compare video game art with poetry:

    Modern graphics are like modern poetry - you can push the limits to whatever you can conceive.

    Pixel art is a sonnet or haiku - you work to convey a message or image within strict self composed constraints.

    Both have their merits and advantages and achieve something unique.

    At the end if the day, the decision should be what best serves the gameplay or artistic vision of the game.

    • Adams Immersive

      Great analogy!

  • AsherPhoenix

    I really think it just depends on the game itself. You can tell almost immediately whether or not the developers intended for that game to have pixel graphics from the beginning, and whether or not they suit the gameplay and style. For example, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery is one of my favorite games of all time, and in no small part because it absolutely nailed pixel graphics and used them to create beautiful environments. However, there are definitely games that use this style out of sheer lack of effort or artistic skill, and in these cases I do not approve of the use of this style. Overall, pixel graphics can be fantastic when used well and when used for a good purpose.

  • jar0d

    Love it. Rocketcat Games are the (uncrowned?) king of this genre!

  • http://twitter.com/zwei zwei

    Retro is overdone. I have nothing against the look, but lately it just seems like devs consider it a selling point. It's not. Gameplay is the selling point, not a character that happens to look like the ones I grew up with.

    • Adams Immersive

      For me it's a selling point--IF it's good pixel art. (My tastes: I prefer a new and unique pixel look to same-old-retro-style pixels; but it's not a deal-breaker. Examples of new/unique looks for pixel art would be Zaga-33 with it's shifted color palette, Pix'n Love Rush, and of course Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery.)

      Really, everything about a game is a selling point, to the people who will like that game. Pixel art isn't a selling point to someone who hates pixel art, just as strategy isn't a selling point to someone who hates strategy.

  • Scary Guns

    If I even see screen shots of even free games that are retro graphics I don't give it a second look no matter how popular it may have been in the past.

  • Mr.Critic

    Looks like my prediction did come true. Ok, lets get started.

    I definitely don't mind them, (unless you can't even recognize what they are trying to depict) and in some cases I love them (kairosoft games, super brothers, star command, 10 million etc.). My reasoning is based on four topics which will be discussed in detail below......

    1. It allows more people to develop games that that might not otherwise. Not all people have the natural(or developed) ability to draw beautifully and wonderfully, so this means that it would be impossible for these people to make, life like, realistic graphics without paying (what little money they make/have in the first place) an artist to do so. Without "pixel art", a lot of indie developers wouldn't be in business and therefore we have a lot less innovative and great games (so many, that it is difficult to just name a few). Therefore without it, a large part of "indie" developers would not have even started making games, so we would be stuck with AAA games from large companies with little to no innovations in their games...

    2. The visuals in games have improved so much in the last couple decades, it is incredible, but with this comes a realization in my eyes. Developers can now make completely life like games, but now that they can, the visuals appeal has slightly worn off for me.I have seen these truly spectacular graphics, and now that I know they can't go much further, I focus much more on gameplay.once something has reached its peak, what else is there to do?

    3. Pixel art also suits certain types of games, for example, it can be used by games that dont want to be considered too serious, and several other genres as well.

    4. As most of you probably know, more and more people are considering video games as an art form, and if you follow art in any way form or fashion, you know that art can be very simple and still be a deep and moving piece. So just because something looks simple doesnt necessarily mean it is lazy and terrible.

    Cheers,
    Mr. C

  • gmattergames

    Let's not kid ourselves, pixel art, while requiring both talent and skill to master, is far more approachable from a design perspective than state-of-the-art, rendered assets. Good thing too, otherwise, we wouldn't have the awesome indie scene that is thriving today.

    The thing is, the best pixel art, does not strive for realism, but instead, stylistically tickles the imagination, which can lead to a far more immersive experience than the most realistic big-budget game art.

  • Adams Immersive

    It's a style--or rather a whole category of styles.

    There's no category of styles I always like, but I very often love pixel art! Tastes vary; others won't like it as much.

    I personally hate the "Flash look," or "comic look," with solid colors outlined in black, like Angry Birds. Others love that look I'm sure.

    But I'll play a game (like Angry Birds) and have fun, even if I hate the look. The game play matters to me most. Others may not be so tolerant of what they consider an ugly game, and that's OK too. Looks certainly matter, they're just not everything to me.

    So I can accept people saying that pixel art is ugly in their eyes, and I can accept people saying that good game play isn't enough to make them play an ugly game.

    I can't, however, accept when people say there's less "art" in pixel art, or that's it's easy, or lazy, or wrong. The challenges are different, and maybe not obvious to some people on the outside, but it's a highly skilled and highly artistic realm. Someone people can make 3D art just as quickly as others can make pixel art--or just as slowly and painstakingly--but what we want is GOOD art, of whatever style category. I don't want bad pixel art--nor bad 3D art full of OpenGL effects.

    Lastly, there are times when the retro style is simply the best fit for the game's theme. When I see the wrong game done in shaded 3D because the creator only knows how to do that, I don't call them lazy, but I do wish they'd been able to do some great pixel art instead!

  • TheHappyPyro

    honestly I grew up on Starcraft 1 and ps2. I like either art style, but my favorite kind is old lowres 3d models. They just tickle me in a special spot

  • epik5

    knights of pen and paper, that game has pixelated graphics

  • Nycteris

    Anything I could say on this topic has already been said in the previous comments.

  • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

    In my opinion they can look really awesome in unique way. Something that 3d graphics or other more modern game art can't mimic. It goes beyond the nostalgia factor too--although that doesn't hurt. Really well done pixel art just looks beautiful in of itself.

    I recently played Contra 3 on SNES. To my eternal anguish I never had a SNES growing up--for some reason we got a Genesis instead. So anyways, this was my first time playing through Contra 3. And I must say some of the pixel-art in that game is outstanding. Like jaw-dropping to this day. Since I never played the game in my youth there wasn't so much of a nostalgia factor--just shear appreciation of the beauty on the screen before me. Specifically some of the bosses--they just look incredible and totally stand up against modern games, just in their own way.

    To me its just another art style. Its not for everyone and some people like it better than others--just like any style of anything. It definitely has pros and cons and can be done really well or done really poorly. But I think a hundred years from now--after all the gamers who grew up with 8 bit and 16 bit eras are long dead and gone--there will still be pixel art graphics in games. And there will still be tons of people who love and appreciate how gorgeous it can be.

  • Mauiwoweee

    Well pixel art kind of games is fun but now days people like to see a game that has a cool look to it. It makes gaming more fun to play and experience the feeling of enjoyment. I mean i dont want to play god of war in pixel images. What im trying to say is that looks is something that shows or describes things. Without the beauty there is no awww inspiring feeling. Looks means a lot. You want to see the cool effects, the beautiful colors, the great quality, and the wonderful feeling. Looks shows feelings and feelings shows how you feel about an object or thing.If you see beauty? Youll feel happiness, enjoyment, and fun. If you see uglyness! Youll feel disgusted with an urge of wanting to get rid or dont want. Well it goes the same for games. Beauty means awsome and ugly means boring and dont want it. The game maybe fun but it doesnt give you the feel or urge of wanting more out of it. So you get tired of it fast or end up getting rid of. Boring!!!!!!!!!!

  • anabolicMike

    Gameplay over graphics any day. I love pixel art btw. Anything pixel grabs my immediate attention. It doesn't show lazyness, some of that pixel art is amazing! I, of course, am a huge roguelike fan. ASCII graphics also grab my attention haha. It's not the graphics, it's never the graphics for me. It's the gameplay and the complexity. Dcss, angband and of course old MUDs. I love em. The only place I cheat on graphics is Minecraft because sometimes the view you get is just staggering lol. Geeks forever!

  • bhornburg

    Pixel art is just another art style. People prefer different art styles, so I'm guessing there will always be some people that simply dislike pixel art AS a style.

    I personally love well done pixel art, as in Deep Dungeons of Doom, Super Sword & Sorcery or Pixel Tower/Planes. However, tons of games have middling or poor pixel art, which might be what people equate in their mind as "pixel art".

    The art style I hate the most in the App Store is the "untrained artist" look, games that look like they are made of fan art or doodles. The whole "doodle" style of art in many games is lazy to me. It isn't a style, it's art created by non-artists. To others, maybe these games are endearing to people the same way pixel art is to me.

    I'm just glad that people constantly push the boundaries of what game art can be, which the App Store has been a fantastic breeding ground for. Giving your game a distinct art style is sometimes the only way to shine through the mountains of games that gamers try to wade through to find those few gems.

  • diaskeaus

    Pixel art isn't easy; however, when I see a big development house using pixel graphics when they could be putting out a higher-res product, I am a bit miffed. Unless of course, the pixel art is doing something new.

    Pixel art is a bit like the JRPG. Many companies or development houses put out a JRPG without trying to innovate the genre or rock the boat too much. Because of the established notions regarding the JRPG, certain things always remain --- the Inn, the Weapon Shop, the Armor Shop, and the Item Shop. They also typically contain a big baddie who is trying to destroy the world, and a bunch of identical dungeons with a final boss. The iterations are all there.

    The same can be said of many games that use pixel art. Games like Sword and Sworcery turn the tide a bit, but most companies aren't willing to put that kind of effort into their art. Therefore, it just becomes an easy road out to producing a lower-cost product quicker, rather than really trying to branch out in new directions.

  • Cpt.Badger

    I absolutely ADORE pixel art. It is an art form indeed.

  • FuZion

    I have no problem with pixel graphics, but I do get annoyed when some pixel graphics are called 8-bit, when they are clearly 16-bit influenced.

  • http://lazylizzard.wordpress.com/ Lazy Lizzard

    I'm an indie developer who clearly fits the mould being cast in the article. I'm the developer, the graphic artist, the sound engineer, the tester all in one. I've been working on a title for some time now, and I've kept track of my time allocations. As a result I can safely say I've spent about 60% of my time on graphics and graphics related work. The 40% of the time that remains was spent about 50/50 on development and overcoming obstacles, which turned out to be a huge hassle for me.

    That sounds like I've hardly spent any time on development but that's not true, I have. You should rather see it as a scale which indicates that I've spent a bucketload of time on graphics. I could have purchased 3D artwork, but then I'd need more licenses for software, more skills to refine the artwork and make it all fit together plus, everything wouldn't be of the same 'style'. So having a game with lots of advanced graphics that don't seem to fit together doesn't help either.

    As a result I drew all my graphics by hand. That sounds like a rough process and it is, but it gives me the control to do what I want and fitting it all as a collective. BUT, as designer, my graphics skills (or lack thereof) hold me back and keeps me constrained, because I can't draw everything and anything I want. Similarly, because I don't have the support that even some small indie groups have, I can't spend as much time testing and refining my work. In total, I've drawn 2,326 sprite images. The sad part is a good few of them won't even make it into my final product!

    Does this mean I should have ugly, blocky graphics that I could have made better? I don't think it does, but I'm doing the best I can, which I suppose is the point the article is trying to make. It does mean that my overall product can't be fairly compared to say, an EA or Gameloft et al and I'll probably have to settle and launch what I can do given a reasonable time frame rather than what my vision is. That's the beauty and the spirit of being an Indie, I can change my game as I get user feedback, I don't have to get a stamp of approval from management or provide sponsor packs to shareholders.

    I'll attach a few sample images so you can judge for yourself.

  • Morgan01

    I like pixel art to some degree, but having grown up with it, I prefer much richer detail that are visually stimulating. I've always been into high end graphics and pixel art bores me quickly.

  • Illuminerdy

    People who complain about pixel graphics being lazy are fucking un-nuanced troglodytes not worth talking to. That is what I sincerely think.

    • Protoman

      Well spoken.

    • lepke

      I bet 10000 "retro" style games were made this year, I bet that number is far superior to that of 3d graphics and I believe a huge chunk of the devs choose that style due to time and money concerns and not because it fit with their artistic vision.

  • Birth1118

    Hate them. Jose games could've been so much more. Yet the developers just stopped there

  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    Pixel art is just like any other art: you'll appreciate it depending on how well you understand the struggle of its creation. :)

  • Dr. Woodenstein

    I love pixel art as well as the old school games. I happen to be a member of the Playstation and Xbox era (I'm 18) and yet I actively collect Sega Genesis and Game Gear games. I really feel that in many ways the retro graphics improve the gameplay, reason being that pixel art nostalgia wears off very fast if the gameplay sucks. Therefore, developers have to really put their time and effort into making the gameplay great. Plus lets face it, there's just so many great pixel art classics both new and old. Final Fantasy I-VI, Sonic, Knights of Pen and Paper, and Terraria just to name a few.
    Oh and for those of you that don't like pixel art, get over it. You're spoilt by the new graphics and have no appreciation for where video games come from.

  • Inaba-kun

    It was amusing for a while, as a bit of nostalgia, although of course, pixel graphics weren't blocky back in the day as TVs had scanlines and were very blurry.

    Now they just seem lazy and done to death. Certainly you can draw a low res sprite in a tiny amount of time - vastly less than drawing something in high-res. So few pixels also hides lack of talent, which is something a lot of 'artists' on iOS suffer from.

    I think it's time to move on. When I see things like the recent high-res, beautiful 2D artwork in Rayman Legends, it's clear that there's no reason to make things look ugly.

  • brent.mcclain

    I feel like it has to fit the game. I also started playing games on the 2600 but I feel like, some times, people use it to be en vogue. If the game is a classic genre (shoot 'em up, for example), pixel graphics work very well, but there are others (like first person shooter) that if I want to play with pixel graphics, I'll play Doom.

    Of course, I still love to see a beautiful shoot 'em up!

  • Ingwersen

    It might not be on iOS (yet) - but I should only have to say "Fez" to make the majority of people see that pixel-art is both extremely beautifull and complex, yet offers a simplistic and clean look. It's almost like reading between the lines of some great authors best work...
    Btw, "Fez" took freaking 5 (!) years to design and draw... Nothing lazy about that ;-)

    • lepke

      I actually think fez is terrible. Most people that played or at least tried it out will tell you the game was absolute garbage and I have also played better games that even looked far better in graphics n style made in far shorter time some of which were even free of charge.

      I am sure there are people still defending the game but you kid yourself if you wanna use that as proof of anything.

      It might not have been as a result of being lazy but more due to incompetence however.

  • Adan Santos

    This debate again? YAWN...

    Pixels belong in the 90s and earlier, simple as. Move on. Everyone else has.

    • Royce

      Have you read the other comments here? If it even qualifies as a debate, it's an incredibly lopsided one, and you're on the minority side. So I'm not sure where you get "Everyone else has" from...

      • Adan Santos

        Double YAWN

  • jin choung

    i like it if it's well done.

    to me, mediocre art work looks better when there's less pixels. whereas very high res graphics without the attendant masterful art just makes it look like you're really wasting a lot of resources.

    in particular, vectorized, "flash" graphics can look really cheap, unskilled and bland.

    for me, the epitome of achievement lies in doing the most with what you have. but this has a converse too - the more you have, the more that is demanded of you. and if you can't deliver, it's better that you aim lower until your writing checks your ass can cash.

  • wigzisonfire

    You summed it up perfectly for me in the article. Those of us that love it grew up on old consoles. I was born and raised on nes, snes, gameboy and mega drive. Yes I love modern graphics but nostalgia is definitely at play when I see good pixel graphics.
    Although I do think its getting ridiculous how many games try using pixel graphics to tap into the nostalgic pixel appreciating 30yr olds!
    But now I can quickly see through the junk games and the well done games.

  • eugenemcardle

    I think that text should be made easier to read, as for cutting edge graphics, game play and story if applicable are far more important for me

  • kiyde

    Graphics are nice, but the gameplay is what counts the most. Take fable 3 for example..... Amazing graphics, like truly amazing, one of the best, but there are a ton of negative reviews, and videos like "20 reasons why fable 3 sucks" etc. why? Because the gameplay was half assed. Not even half assed, quarter assed. So like I was saying.... Graphics are nice to have, but what makes a great game is the gameplay. Graphics can come after.

  • Sven Van de Perre

    You can't really call Swords & Sworcery 'simplistic' pixel art. that game is a work of art. Same goes for Fez, which is probably the game that grabbed me the most these past few years.
    Aren't graphics just a means to an end? Pretty graphics are often used to cover up gameplay shortcomings, but great gameplay just needs OK to get me going. Stuff like Mikey Hooks is just gfx that do the job and, well borrow some stuff from the SNES days. But man, that game is awesome, because it plays great and the guy who did the levels knows his stuff.

  • shadowmatt

    I recently purchased a Neo Geo MVS arcade board and I am now buying the arcade boards to play the different games. These games were pixel art at its best. They had way more going on than a SNES or Mega Drive and I am still impressed how much art they fit into a game.

    The Metal Slug games are a case in point. The backgrounds are sprites rather than a background layer so instead of repeating patterns it is one long drawn out level and it looks amazing.

    Luckily a lot of those games were also great to play.

    • Inaba-kun

      There's plenty of repetition in MS backgrounds, but much less so than on other 16-bit systems as the Neo Geo had far more storage.

      The art behind those backgrounds is good, which is why they still look nice despite being so low-res. Imagine the same art, but drawn in crisp 1080p. It would like going from VHS to blu-ray.

      Rayman Legends shows how good modern 2D art can look. And it's 1080p. It's amazing what you do when you have talent.

      • shadowmatt

        If you get a consolised MVS ( Neo Geo Arcade Board ) like from analogue interactive and then run it through rgb scart to an XRGB-Mini it up samples the screen to 1080p and it will even add in scan lines. Looks amazing.

        Screen shot from my 40" Samsung.

      • shadowmatt

        Another shot.

  • Dr.Pat

    Not very Good ;)

  • Jeremicci

    On my ipad Id rather play a 10 Mb game with pixel graphics that runs smoothly than a 2GB graphic powerhouse that doesn't perform.

    There's a time and place for amazing graphics - in my living room on my 60" with my 360.
    When I'm using my iPad I prefer a more casual experience.

    • Inaba-kun

      And yet your iPad has a much higher pixel density than your HDTV, but is being fed visuals so low-resolution they would look at home on an Atari 2600.

      Pixel art exists on mobile platforms for 3 reasons:

      1 - It's very quick to create
      2 - It masks a lack of artistic talent
      3 - It's currently fashionable with indie devs (although that trend is changing)

      It has precious little to do with nostalgia, as pixel art back in the day on a CRT looked NOTHING like razor sharp blocky visuals on an iPad screen.

      • Sven Van de Perre

        I don't really agree with 1 and 2. 3D art is as easy to create, because the web is full of building blocks for 3D gfx. And it certainly isn't easy to do. As I think most of the pixel art doesn't look all that good. It is as hard to do a pixel art game that breathes style, than it is to do one in 3D. Good point about them looking cr@p on CRT though. That is certainly true.

        I started getting into pixel art because of the overkill in "realistic art" we got in the last console generation. Stuff like Battlefield and Uncharted looked mindblowing good, but when you get used to that, there's no where else to go. The detail the PS4 and Xbone will now add, is just not a big step up anymore. I mean, it is, but it doesn't feel like it.

        The re-emergence of these low-cost art styles are similar to the rebirth of arthouse movies in the '90. We where just fed up with hollywood action flicks blowing stuff to pieces. Lots of indie games just reminded us that is is about gameplay, not about looks.

  • curtisrshideler

    I do enjoy pixel art because it reminds me of my video game roots in the early 80's. But there are cute pixely games like Pocket Planes or Knights of Pen & Paper or Dragon Fantasy... and then there are beautiful masterpieces like Superbrothers S&S. I would love to see more teams blow our minds with brilliant pixels like they did. However, that doesn't mean I play the cuter ones any less. I love pixels.

  • awrobinson

    I too grew up with Atari and NES, so pixel art is very nostalgic. For me, though, it's entirely secondary to the gameplay. I can recall (and still own) many BAD games for those systems that had pixel art. Same goes for current games. Art itself is so taste-driven that it's really hard to please everyone. As for your question, I would rather have labors of love with simplistic graphics than the prettiest yet rushed mediocre game.

    In a nutshell, good gameplay first, visuals second.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004773092030 Dai Lion

    I prefer pixel art, Compare:

  • islesfan

    Hate, hate, hate it! It's not 1979 anymore. I put up with it back then, but no more. The only ones I have are Star Command, which is good enough to overcome crap graphics, and the actual original Atari games. If you're making a game like that now, you're gonna have to work a little harder to get my money!

  • AeonGrey

    My first reaction to this (not to disrespect the topic or author) is "Who cares?". I mean all it boils down to for me is that there are devs out there who have some gameplay ideas that they really really want to implement, and they either want to or have to use a certain art style, in this case pixel art. The devs make said games, show them to the public and people buy them. As a trend I don't think it makes sense to say it is terrible or the best thing ever. If you don't like pixel art games, don't get them. On a personal level I enjoy the trend. I am glad that people like n0tch spent time on gameplay and elements other than the graphics in minecraft, for example. Oddly enough I have grown to find minecraft beautiful in its way. Coming up over a hill and seeing a vista of randomly generated terrain you've never seen before is an experience I enjoy. I also love the pixel art in Sword and Sworcery. I sort of liken it to impressionistic painting like the famous Water Lillies painting by Monet. Up close and under intense scrutiny, yes, you could use disparaging terms like low resolution, blocky, etc etc, but if you relax and let yourself take it in as a whole, it is quite gorgeous and unique.

  • ajseabrook

    i love it! i would actually say i prefer it to these long-time-coming mega-games that is fully concentrated on graphics. when a game is in pixel form, it tells me it has a lot of depth. PIXEL RPG's RULE.

  • bilboad

    I find pixel graphics unappealing in general, but not because I think it means the developers are lazy. I understand it takes talent to create good pixel graphics, and as long as there are game buyers who like it, go right ahead.
    For me personally, even though I'm old enough that these were state-of-the-art graphics when I was a kid, for some reason I feel very little nostalgia for old school graphics. Not sure why, since I do get a kick out of other aspects of old games, and I do enjoy playing the actual games from back then, like old Atari games. For new games though, generally I want my games to take full advantage of modern graphics hardware.

  • 61050

    its like buying a ds and getting excited about those old tiger electronic lcd games. if the built in compass app on your phone is graphically superior to your recently developed video game, youre doing it wrong.

  • ChubbyPig

    Love pixel art, I am generally quite a nostalgic person and love the old style of games. If anything I find the higher graphics in certain cases destroy the franchise of games. I feel the old pokemon and sonic the hedgehog games are a good example of this, I simply cannot play these games with 3D graphics, it needs to be simple, 2D and original. It tends that the games that use pixel art and retro gaming in general have much greater concepts for the games, the music is better, the gameplay is better and they tend to be more addictive in nature.

  • mallouk

    I grew up playing games before even the Atari was made... Using my commodore 64 and cassettes waiting 5-10 minutes to play a game...

    Still I have no nostalgia for playing "NEW" games that are pixelated I only have nostalgia when I am playing a remakes of old games...

    I don't even try these new games! Pixel art? Well I am supposed to play a game and enjoy not see how good they are in creating pixel games! The same game could be made with high end graphics so why make it pixelated?

    It may not be lazy... But it is for sure not for me at all

  • rewyan

    I like it for simple, slow games, not games with lots of action. I liked tiny tower, growtopia, junk jack, and the like.

    It just has to fit the game.

  • makaGeorge

    Pixel art is a way of expressing something just as any other art style. Take Picasso. Was he lazy because he didn't do photo realistic paintings? Is abstract art lazy?

    Just as painting evolved in other directions when it couldn't get more photo realistic, I think pixel art and other styles of non realistic art give developers more choices to express their ideas.

    And just like any art form some will like it, some will hate it. Sometimes it will be better, or worse. But that's true of any art form and style.

    I personally like it unless it's really bad but as many have said: gameplay first. I can play a good game with bad graphics but a bad game can have the best graphics ever and I won't care one bit.