The pixel art revolution will be televised

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While artists love Final fantasyKazuko’s Kazuko Shibuya were tied to the technical constraints of 1980s game consoles, Neofotistou and Medeiros appreciate the puzzle-box nature of using an almost limitless set of tools to create art defined by boundaries set by themselves, not by technology. This discipline is what separates modern pixel art from its predecessor, explains Neofotistou. “What if, using NES restrictions, I could make the pixels on a screen look better than any NES artist at the time had the knowledge, skills, time, or budget?” “

Pixel art not only has creative implications, but it also opens new doors to the way games are created, says Medeiros colleague Maddy Thorson, who rose to prominence as a writer and designer of Celestial.

“The pixel art is so small in terms of file size, we could keep all the gameplay graphics for Celestial in system RAM, ”she explains. CelestialThe infamous difficulty of is built around the concept of trial and error, and the player will die so often during a game that the game has a cheeky death counter. Storing graphics in RAM allows the player to instantly reboot after death, reducing frustration and adding to “Ooh, I’ll have it next time!” feeling that makes the game so addicting.

It also allowed Thorson to edit and reload levels without having to restart the game, helping him create Celestialintricate level design and pixel perfect platform. “It’s so fast with pixel art.”

While Thorson says she prototyped 3D game ideas, pixel art remains the most comfortable medium for Extremely OK Games. “It’s about choosing our battles,” she said. “When do we stay in our comfort zone and when do we go out?” “

Keeping the pixel-art graphics for the next title from Extremely OK Games, a “2D explor-action” game called Earth blade, allows the team to focus their ambitions on things like level design, combat, and storytelling. Medeiros laughs as he remembers reading fan comments online about how Celestial could work on retro gaming hardware. This is not possible, although the game will run at a resolution similar to Game Boy Advance games. With a familiar visual foundation in place, Medeiros and Thorson bring their worlds to life in other ways, including tricks that weren’t there in the ’80s: graphical elements that shatter the game’s typical 8×8 grid layout. , realistic lighting, layered scrolling backgrounds, and awesome special effects.

There is a vocal part of the community that is dissatisfied with modern pixel art games like Celestial adding visual flares to the bases set decades ago, says Neofotistou. But for her, it is the sign of an evolving medium. And she sees an opportunity for more graphic styles to follow the paved road of pixel art. “It’s a reinvention of the AAA gaming wheel by indie guys, and it’s very exciting.”

Likewise, Medeiros expects an increase in games inspired by the * Tomb Raider– * style low polygon graphics of the PlayStation. Just as pixel art picked up new tricks and ditched janking, these 3D games will also be fine-tuned for a new audience. “It’s much more important to make games that look like you remember games that look like that time, not exact recreations, ”he says.

Pixel perfection

Once predominant and then abandoned, pixel art has been revitalized by artists like Neofotistou and Medeiros. Driven by the rising tide of indie game development, their work reveals a maturing medium that’s here to stay. Just as simple pixel art of the 80s gave way to more sophisticated techniques in the 90s, a similar evolution is occurring now as pixel art is rediscovered as a modern technique. The technological limitations are in tatters; the field of possibilities is infinitely wide for the future of the medium.

“Pixel art doesn’t need to be labeled as retro,” Neofotistou explains. “We are using the tools most appropriate to the vision we are trying to implement.”

Medeiros sees a future for pixel art that is full of experimentation and new techniques. Even though the current pixel art movement wears off when this end of the indie games boom ends, says Neofotistou, doing things using pixels cannot and will not go away. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what pixel art can offer as a creative medium.

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