Buffers Overflowing with Pixels
December 12, 2016 6:38 PM   Subscribe

The Hi-Bit Era (D-Pad Studios) While these games may be paying homage to the 16-bit era that started with the Super Nintendo (1990) and Sega Mega Drive (1988, a.k.a. Genesis), they're working beyond the limitations of the tech in the 90s. It's got me thinking, that pixel art games have entered a new era.
posted by CrystalDave (19 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pretty good write-up! Many of my favorite games of the past 5 years or so have been pixel art games. Pixel art, apart from graphics and aesthetic, also gives you access to certain mechanics that 3D game design doesn't (and vice versa). You can do a platformer in 3D, obviously, but the movement just feels different to me compared to sprite sheets and 2D engines.
posted by codacorolla at 6:56 PM on December 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


There's also the other side of the coin where they're remaking 16-bit games and realizing the style of game they wanted to make without the limits of the technology. There's the gorgeous remake of Wonder Boy 3 and the spiritual successor of a hybrid of Wonder Boy 3 and Wonder Boy in Monster World.
posted by Talez at 7:14 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't believe there are too many 3d platformers with fixed cameras? I know what you're talking about, and I think a large part of it, for me at least, comes from having to control two entities to navigate 3d space in those instances as opposed to just controlling your avatar in 2d space.
posted by Lykosidae at 7:15 PM on December 12, 2016


Japan never stopped making these games. Arc System Works and Vanillaware do some amazing work.

The Ubiart games are also gorgeous, although that is a vector based approach and it doesn't look quite the same as these games.

I don't mind the Hi-Bit neologism but perhaps it could replace "pixel art" which gives me a headache. Unless you made a Vectrix game it's probably pixel art. (Yes I know some crazy nuts are actually making a Vectrix game)

I don't believe there are too many 3d platformers with fixed cameras?

Viewtiful Joe? There are others. They frequently do have camera zooms for effect, but then so did some old school games.
posted by selfnoise at 7:31 PM on December 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


Erm... accidentally posted my first comment before I had a chance to fully write it. Still: Great article!

My boyfriend and most of my friends are avid gamers, but I slowly started to check out towards the end of the 360/PS3 cycles after being a lifelong committed gamer. I have a PS4, but it's probably pretty telling that Hyper Light Drifter and a remake of Capcom's Strider are the two games I played the most this year. I'm glad to see the former get some recognition in the article; it's a really special game to me. Kind of a cross between Legend of Zelda and Out of this World. It's an easy game to get lost in.

My favorite pixel art games balance executing the aesthetic and bringing in new elements and ideas that wouldn't have been possible on the platforms they were inspired by, but I'd imagine this won't be of much import to newer generations of gamers. Either way, it's fun to see this style continue to be invoked, even just as artifice, and I hope it sticks around for a while.
posted by kryptondog at 8:17 PM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


perhaps it could replace "pixel art" which gives me a headache
please don't screw this up for us by letting the perfect be the enemy of the good

it's at least a step away from everyone just calling everything "8-bit"

please
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:37 PM on December 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


Man, what do y'all think the odds are of "The Last Night" making it out of development? I guess it's promising that it's the elaboration of an existing short flash game, but its description reads like so many Kickstarter indies that never make the light of day. I want to play it so badly.
posted by invitapriore at 9:13 PM on December 12, 2016


This is the interesting thing about Pico-8. The graphics and sound are fairly strictly confined to an 8-bit aesthetic - but there's no 4mhz Z80 processor confining you on the back end, so the aesthetic is totally different.
posted by Jimbob at 11:01 PM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


And can highly recommend Owlboy!
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:09 PM on December 12, 2016


Nice PixelBlue piece, the gallery of images at the bottom plus the widescreen observations made it worthwhile though.

...the 16-bit era that started with the Super Nintendo (1990) and Sega Mega Drive (1988, a.k.a. Genesis)
Popular 16-bit gaming started in '85 or '87 with the Atari ST and Amiga 500 respectively, flipping article! Thousands of games were released for them in the late '80s. Someone in the playground was always telling you how much better the 16-bit Batman: The Movie was than your monochrome 8-bit Spectrum version, etc, etc.
posted by comealongpole at 5:15 AM on December 13, 2016


Oh god look at all of the games I suddenly need and will never ever have enough time to play.

:'(
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:50 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Popular 16-bit gaming started in '85 or '87 with the Atari ST and Amiga 500 respectively, flipping article!

You left out the Apple IIGS which was of the same vintage. However none of those were consoles, and PC gaming often gets left out of discussions of video gaming history. In defense of this oversight, the SNES sold about ten times as many units as those three put together, and a not insignificant portion of the sales of those Atari, Amiga and Apple sales went to customers who did no gaming whatsoever.

So while yes, 16-bit gaming did exist prior to consoles, it was very much a niche endeavor in comparison. I say let them dominate the history discussion and feel that they're participating in something popular because of their sales figures, because they'll never have the comfort of a platform that's years ahead of the curve in terms of power.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:06 AM on December 13, 2016


Given the length of The List, Games Edition, I can't really think about adding any more there now. So my main takeaways from this article are that I need to a) Get on putting that pixel art gallery online somewhere, and b) Get back to doing pixel art, for that matter.

But, she asked with sincere curiosity, what's wrong with the term "pixel art"? We talk about watercolors or acrylics...
posted by seyirci at 9:25 AM on December 13, 2016


what's wrong with the term "pixel art"?

Basically any art on a computer screen is "pixel art" in that it's displayed via the pixels of screen. The art with "visible pixels" has each individual "pixel" actually comprised of multiple screen pixels on modern monitors. So it just rubs some people the wrong way because it's using a technical term in exactly the wrong way.
posted by explosion at 10:24 AM on December 13, 2016


Basically any art on a computer screen is "pixel art" in that it's displayed via the pixels of screen. The art with "visible pixels" has each individual "pixel" actually comprised of multiple screen pixels on modern monitors. So it just rubs some people the wrong way because it's using a technical term in exactly the wrong way.

Not really. "Pixel" can refer to a logical pixel just as easily as a physical pixel, so there's no contradiction in the fact that the logical pixels in a piece of pixel art correspond to multiple physical pixels. Also, it's called "pixel art" because the pixels are an active element, so...seems fine in pretty much every respect to me!
posted by invitapriore at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I get the point, but at the same time, calling lane makers on the street "lines" even though lines are what illustrators use is not beyond the pale. Pixels on the screen are pixels, but they aren't art until someone does something with them.
posted by rhizome at 11:16 AM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hmmm. I guess I understand the objection, but though I happen to make both kinds of pixels (OK, so I make sensor pixels, not display pixels, but) it's never bothered me. Possibly one reason it hasn't is that my pixel art, and that of the people I learned from (read: online tutorials) are actually intended to be displayed at the one-pixel-per-pixel scale. There are shading and dithering techniques people use for maximum effectiveness at that scale, which actually become obvious if you scale the end piece up.

I've seen the term "digital painting" or "digital art" used for art that's solely created with painting software. I always understood pixel art to be a subset.

(Of course, when we're drawing we have to zoom in, and the pixel or pencil tool is actually filling a square of, say, 20x20 pixels at a time. )
posted by seyirci at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2016


I mean, one-pixel-per-pixel is fine too. That's how it was Back In The Day, and even in the modern era I'd consider, say, King of Fighters XIII to be "pixel art." It needn't be deliberately chunky-looking.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2016


it's at least a step away from everyone just calling everything "8-bit"

Ha, I was seeing some promo about people wanting to bring back the SNES/Mega Drive (Genesis) feel and they styled themselves as 8bit something. Of course the two systems are rather different beasts to my eye, but oh well.

I'm pleased as pie that 2d games have come back if only for being able to play Axiom Verge.
posted by ersatz at 6:16 AM on December 17, 2016


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