Primordia > General Discussions > Topic Details
xlynx Jul 28, 2013 @ 5:54pm
of retro graphic styling
I specifically wish to hear your opinion on the strengths, if any, of retro graphical styling for new gamers. This entirely eliminates from the discussion the already established benefits of nostalgic allure and lowered production cost.

I wonder, in the absence of nostalgia, if retro styling can evoke a specific mood which couldn't be conveyed as effectively by high res art. Mosaics and Impressionism both come to mind as styles which willingly bare their own technique to form something new. Maybe through what was once a technological limitation, we inadvertently struck a hidden and timeless chord? Or am I making an assumption that retro style and resolution are interwoven?

Secondly, I wonder if low res art encourages us to project ourselves into the protagonist; less prominent facial features freeing our imagination to fill in the blanks (if this is true, Primordia would encourage it especially due to the actual character design). Similarly, Valve designed Gordon Freeman without dialogue so the player could put themselves into him, but I didn't feel this worked for me personally. I've also heard people say they can't get into a game because the protagonist is their opposite sex, but I've personally never found this to be a barrier.
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Mark Yohalem Jul 28, 2013 @ 9:13pm 
It's one of those questions that I wouldn't know how to resolve -- for people of my age (33) whose formative experiences with games were NES, Genesis, then SNES, the nostalgia is probably overwhelming. When I played Cave Story, with its combination of chip tunes and pixelated graphics, it was like entering a fugue state and returning to childhood. But even for people who never grew up with those games, they're immersed in a culture of gamers who did, who keep saying that chunky pixelated art has more character and is awesome and so on, and they imbibe that -- like when I was growing up, I'd tell you that any movie my parents said was a classic was great, even though many of them weren't and only a few of them were actually enjoyable as a kid (The Sting is great as a kid and as an adult, incidentally).

So gamers who don't have their own nostalgia for chunky pixels and chip tunes have it drilled into them by gamer culture, and they, too, are incapable of an unbiased assessment.

The other possibility I might add is that audiences often enjoy seeing things done with apparently inadequate tools -- like claymation, or really good puppetry, or drumming on plastic tubs, or using a CGA palette. I know I react with not just "wow" but "wow, how they hell did they pull that off?!" I suspect that low res can sometimes trigger that factor.
.//slayer Jul 29, 2013 @ 4:01am 
I am a huge fan of retro-graphics, be it 8-bit, isometric or even ASCII-based games. However, while I used to enjoy a lot of classic titles in my childhood, nostalgia is not a factor for me. I don't ever feel nostalgic because retro-games are pretty much all I play (i.e. I play them so much that I have long since stopped doing it purely out of nostalgia and discovered hundreds of magnificent titles that I never knew of before). It's easy to launch many of the most prominent old games on modern computers thanks to DOSBox, ScummVM, Virtual PC and a ton of various emulators freely available on the net, thank god. So, nostalgic feeling is not something I consider when choosing retro-styled modern games.

What matters much more is the overall "feel" of graphics. Pixelated scenery is more enjoyable to my taste than smooth and glossy AAA-grade titles. I don't really know why, but most of all I hate 3D-perspective, be it from the eyes of a character or from behind, and the same goes for older games, too. Judging from these preferences, I can only guess that in my case it's really a matter of imagination - the less detailed picture I have in front of me, the more I can adapt it to my own tastes, since there are no boundaries set for me by game designers. Pure text-based adventures are one of my favourite genres, too, so that might add to the evidence :) And I truly believe that stylized 8-bit graphics can be just as impressive as anything you can see in more graphically "advanced" games of the time. So, thanks to the indie-scene for searching alternative ways of impressing their player-base, rather than just pumping resources into eye-candies.

Hm, guess this is why I never understood the appeal behind "Dear Esther". Experience aimed specifically at visually pleasing sceneries and aesthetics is worth nothing in my eyes, just like beautiful poetry without any underlying image.
Last edited by .//slayer; Jul 29, 2013 @ 4:08am
xlynx Jul 29, 2013 @ 1:12pm 
@Mark
I can relate in the way that if I find someone's taste to be extremely compatible with mine, I'm inclined to respect their recommendations enough that it will influence how I perceive that content myself. However, I'm not sure this is the whole picture, or at least I don't want it to be, because that sort of implies the style will wane (at a macro level) over time. The OP was very much my wanting to validate this style as something which could perpetuate on its own merit.

I have no doubt your second theory is true. It's an appreciation not just for the result, but for the effort that went into it through exposing the technique. I suppose that makes us relate to a work; being able to see the human hardship that's gone into it, rather than just having sleek products marketed to us by faceless companies.

At first I had thought "inadequate tool" factor was merely a novelty, but it's not. Mosaics are a perfect example of this, and they've have managed to retain mainstream existence for thousands of years.

Haven't seen The Sting but will check it out!
xlynx Jul 29, 2013 @ 1:12pm 
@.//slayer
I hadn't even considered the acclimatisation factor. I guess I can relate, but for me, low res graphics can sometimes be a mental barrier. Once I get over that hurdle, after a few minutes I'm in that world and I'm not even aware of the pixels. It's a bit like meeting someone with a strong accent and not being able to understand them well; after a few minutes I just tune in and it becomes fluent.

3D can be a negative for me too, but I know exactly why. I hold an unusual view that your typical point & click is a more natural experience, as when I want to move somewhere, I make the decision and the rest happens subconsciously. In a first person or over-the-shoulder game, I have to consciously navigate around obstacles in my path which can be tedious, and it requires a lot more kb/mouse inputs, demanding a less relaxing posture.

There's also an irony where the more realistic you try to make a game world, the more apparent its shortcomings and the faster it becomes outdated. I have absolutely no doubt that classic point & click adventures, platformers, even classic arcade games like Pong are more accessible to us today than the first incarnations of first person shooters which followed.

That said, I have no issue with 3D per se, The Raven for example is fully 3D but uses a standard point & click interface. I really like the interesting fixed camera perspectives this tech can lead to, and it can make conversations more interesting too.

Dear Esther actually had me taking screenshots like a photographer, finding the best composition using rule-of-thirds but that wasn't the memorable part.
For the most part I found Dear Esther dull and overpriced, but at a certain point it did strike a chord with me emotionally, which could have been done just as well by an audiobook I'll admit. It's one of those works that may be too sentimental unless you're in the right mood or can personally relate.

I had a similar experience with To The Moon. Actually this one has very little art which impresses me, unlike Primordia, so was much harder to get into. But that was all made up for by story, which again could be brushed off as sentimental but really worked for me. To The Moon is, by the way, far better than Dear Esther.
Last edited by xlynx; Jul 29, 2013 @ 1:32pm
BRO PELINI Aug 29, 2013 @ 9:27pm 
I think part of it is that the low res art leaves more to the imagination, because not every detail is resolved and whatnot. It's like a horror movie that never shows you the horror or explains it. I remember as a kid looking through Nintendo Power or something, and they featured a new game called Maniac Mansion. Looking through the screenshots, there were things going on in the background that I couldn't totally make out, and it added a creepy factor to it that got into my head and I just HAD to play it.

Needles to say, I'm very open to the retro art style, but it doesn't automatically make a game better. But certain types of games certainly do benefit from it, like Gemini Rue. It was gritty and the low res art left enough to the imagination to make it more compelling.
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