Posted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 11:48 pm Post subject: The pernicious price of pixels
Over in Konedima's Steam bargains thread, I couldn't help but whine about the decline of the art in the Heroes of Might and Magic series. It got me to thinking about why many games over the years have gone to higher resolutions despite the fact it made them look worse and why prerendered 3D supplanted 2D art even when engines remained 2D. I would guess that the reason higher-resolution games have looked worse than their low-res predecessors is principally that it's significantly harder and more time-consuming to make high-res 2D art.
Command and Conquer looked pretty good at 320x200. Command and Conquer Red Alert doubled the resolution and just kept all the art the same pixel size. The result looked sparse and fiddly. UFO: Enemy Unknown had vibrant, solid graphics at 320x200. XCOM: Apocalypse had bland and sparse graphics at 640x480. What happened? Did they commit to the higher resolution then find they didn't have time or manpower to make enough high-quality art? Would they have done it the same if they knew in advance how it would turn out? Are consumers more forgiving of rubbish art than of low-res art?
I'm guessing that all the pre-rendered stuff (e.g. refer to my Heroes of Might and Magic rant) is a reaction to higher resolutions - it's (presumably?) cheaper to make passable high-res art in a 3D modelling package than it is to make passable hand-drawn art. Am I right? Is pre-rendered 3D easier to do to a mediocre quality but harder to do brilliantly?
Or am I being too selective? Am I just comparing games with great art direction to sequels with lousy art direction?
Joined: 25 Oct 2003 Posts: 1068 Location: Sydney, Land of Censorship
Posted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 12:14 am Post subject:
My guess is that part of the problem is nostalgia - when you like something it almost never seems like it can be topped. Alas, I'm a bit too young to have played many of those older games (let alone at such low resolutions... as a guide the first computer I ever used was a Pentium 133MHz with 32mb of RAM running Windows 95).
Admittedly I do tend to prefer high quality 2D art to most 3D games (although some 3D games do look very impressive, both tehcnologically and artisically... try Assassin's Creed) the problem is probably marketability. A lot of people won't buy truly great games, just buying slightly changed versions of the same game year after year... or minigame compilation after minigame compilation on the Wii... but people not buying what deserves to be bought should be saved for another rant.
I did download the Heroes V demo, and while the graphics did look a bit dated (considering it's three years old, although there plenty of older games that still look great like HL2), I don't really know what I'm missing, not having played any of the older games. Generally I prefer gameplay to graphics, but good graphics do tend to suck you in to a world.
Pre Rendered graphics are the cancer that is killing 2d games. (yes I know the sprites in starscape are pre rendered 3d models.)
I dealt with this a lot when I used to be really into simutrans. There were two "Versions" of the game. A 64x64 tileset and a 126x128 tileset.
I was an ardent supporter of pak64 because although pack128 had more veriaty, Almost all the grafics were 2 dimensional sprites of pre-rendered 3d models.
They looked "Iky" compared to the pixel art ascetic of pak64. I would offten lament that nobody seemed to be interested in making things for pak64 and that when they did it was just resized 128 sprites.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum