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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics (Gaming)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 13:25 (59 days ago)

I've been giving Celeste a try lately. I don't want to talk about whether the game is good or not (I think it leans towards not), but there is one huge glaring issue with the game.

The game is hideous. And I think it has to do with a fundamental misunderstanding that modern developers tend to have with regard to pixel art.

[image]

Celeste is Garish, gaudy, with startlingly low visual contrast for obstacles. Your character a tiny sprinkle of pixels across the screen. Compare this to say, Stardew valley.

[image]

And yet, Celeste is not the only modern pixel art game to look horrible. More often than not a modern Pixel Art game is simply revolting, with those that understand the art direction seeming to be the exception. Why is this so? Why are so many pixel art games bad looking?

To me, it seems as if there's a fundamental misunderstanding of aesthetic in regard to limitations. Older hardware had literal limitations for the number of colors you could display. Your palette was necessarily limited and so the graphics needed to be distinct, bold, and simple in terms of detail.

Compare the simplicity of Megaman 5:
[image]

To the horror that is Legend of Kage:

[image]

Do you see the difference? Do you see how the 'detail' of the tree and grass just ends up looking like ass? Whereas there is separation and clarity in Megaman?

But what about when we get more colors?

[image]

Notice there is still separation with distinct elements? Unfortunately though, that's not what the game actually looks like. The dithering is visible on a modern computer monitor under an emulator, but on a CRT it looks quite different. You'll have to trust me (you can't really "screenshot it") when I say that the imperfections of NTSC and the composite video standard tended to smooth out the colors, and that the dithering often resulted in a much nicer gradient when played. You can do down a ribbit hole here.

The bottom line, is that pixel art as we remember it was meant to be bold and distinct, and meant for CRT displays. Even PC games were eventually displayed on a CRT monitor.

The crisp pixelated look that is so fetishized now never existed in the first place for the 16 bit era. And for the NES era it was guided by principles of separation.

So look back at that screenshot from Celeste. The game utilizes the higher resolution rendering to add detail and complexity, but still opts for the limited flattened color palette while at the same time not utilizing black or shading to make things stand out. And so the result is far closer to Kage than Megaman. The game wants the colors of an NES game with the detail of a SNES game, and so you have two goals at odds with each other. The result is a game that's simply ugly.

I see this with so many pixel art games now. Tiny characters in a sea of indistinct pixels. And overall flatness instead of depth. Complexity without realizing how to make that work. It's the surface level detail without an understanding of how and why the best looking games of the 80s and 90s looked the way they did.

The ART in Pixel Art has been largely lost.

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some software filters try to emulate the look

by Robot Chickens, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 14:30 (59 days ago) @ Cody Miller

Old article about stuff you refer to.

Yeah, the pixel art craze has some cool stuff, but for the most part it represents something new and it cannot be mapped easily onto the aesthetics of the past. LCD rendering of those old games is the equivalent of thinking you've seen what HCE looked like when you switch modes in the MCC version.

Here's an example of a filter approximation:

[image]

[image]

The blurring and bleeding give the bottom image the appearance of a lot more detail. That's closer to what I remember seeing.

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some software filters try to emulate the look

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 15:32 (59 days ago) @ Robot Chickens

It's not just the difference in display tech.

The lacking in today's pixel art is mostly a design problem.

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some software filters try to emulate the look

by Robot Chickens, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 16:10 (59 days ago) @ Cody Miller
edited by Robot Chickens, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 16:17

It's not just the difference in display tech.

The lacking in today's pixel art is mostly a design problem.

Yeah, I was just pointing out that the way people experience the art of pixels from the previous generations gives them a distorted view of how they actually looked. Thus, it gives way to a weird attempt to look as blocky as possible, when that was never a goal of the original art in the first place.

Combine that with the fact that the art is badly designed and... well you showed us the results.

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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics

by cheapLEY @, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 19:04 (59 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I don’t fundamentally disagree with your point. But this:

The crisp pixelated look that is so fetishized now never existed in the first place for the 16 bit era. And for the NES era it was guided by principles of separation.

I don’t think that’s the right way to look at these games. Some of them are trying to evoke that classic style, sure. Many of them are not. They may be pixelated, but they are their own distinct style, doing things that could not have been done on the older tech. The best of them are not trying to emulate (or even necessarily evoke) those classic graphics.

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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 21:37 (59 days ago) @ cheapLEY
edited by Cody Miller, Sunday, August 23, 2020, 21:42

I don’t think that’s the right way to look at these games. Some of them are trying to evoke that classic style, sure. Many of them are not. They may be pixelated, but they are their own distinct style, doing things that could not have been done on the older tech. The best of them are not trying to emulate (or even necessarily evoke) those classic graphics.

Yes exactly. But the style a lot of modern games go for is bad. We forget that pixel art at the time was done at the highest level the hardware would allow. So the modern take is not only a regression of style, but of technical ambition.

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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics

by MacAddictXIV @, Seattle WA, Monday, August 24, 2020, 09:09 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I don’t think that’s the right way to look at these games. Some of them are trying to evoke that classic style, sure. Many of them are not. They may be pixelated, but they are their own distinct style, doing things that could not have been done on the older tech. The best of them are not trying to emulate (or even necessarily evoke) those classic graphics.


Yes exactly. But the style a lot of modern games go for is bad.

I really need to add this... TO YOU
It's not technically bad, it's artistically bad in your opinion.

We forget that pixel art at the time was done at the highest level the hardware would allow. So the modern take is not only a regression of style, but of technical ambition.

How do you know it was even pixel art at the time? Pixel art is a modern concept. Also, how do you even know it was trying to be art? Most of the games could very well have been just considered graphics that got the game perspective across.

What I'm trying to say, is just because games were pixelated doesn't mean you can assume they were all considered "Pixel Art" at the time.

I really want you to dig in on this because I'm confused as to what point you are trying to make when it comes to the failure of present day artists.

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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Monday, August 24, 2020, 09:55 (58 days ago) @ MacAddictXIV

I really want you to dig in on this because I'm confused as to what point you are trying to make when it comes to the failure of present day artists.

I'll put it as simply as I can:

The vast majority of 'pixel art' games today look terrible.

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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics

by MacAddictXIV @, Seattle WA, Monday, August 24, 2020, 10:01 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I really want you to dig in on this because I'm confused as to what point you are trying to make when it comes to the failure of present day artists.


I'll put it as simply as I can:

The vast majority of 'pixel art' games today look terrible.

And I'll put it as simply as I can:

Your opinion is noted, but I disagree.

Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by EffortlessFury @, Monday, August 24, 2020, 05:56 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I literally don't care about any of the things you said. None of your preferences make their art style bad. The game is also great.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Monday, August 24, 2020, 15:01 (58 days ago) @ EffortlessFury

I literally don't care about any of the things you said. None of your preferences make their art style bad. The game is also great.

It's basically a battle of attrition lol.

[image]

Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by EffortlessFury @, Monday, August 24, 2020, 17:08 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

Intentionally so. It's meant to parallel the narrative journey of struggle and challenge and growth. The game provides many accessibility options for you to fine tune your experience. The devs want you to experience the game at whatever challenge level you deem appropriate.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 05:43 (57 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I literally don't care about any of the things you said. None of your preferences make their art style bad. The game is also great.


It's basically a battle of attrition lol.

[image]

That is such a bizarre interpretation as you aren't wearing the game down, you're actually getting better.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 11:11 (57 days ago) @ kidtsunami

That is such a bizarre interpretation as you aren't wearing the game down, you're actually getting better.

The challenges are bite sized though… single screen affairs with no real penalty for failure. You must only conquer one thing at a time and then get a checkpoint instead of the whole thing in a stretch of skillful play.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by cheapLEY @, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 11:31 (57 days ago) @ Cody Miller

You don’t think that’s intentional? Maybe mirrors the message of the game? You don’t climb a mountain in one go, you do it a step at a time. That’s how you accomplish anything in life—focus on the thing in front of you, find joy in doing so, then move on to the next thing.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 11:41 (57 days ago) @ cheapLEY
edited by Cody Miller, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 11:47

You don’t think that’s intentional? Maybe mirrors the message of the game? You don’t climb a mountain in one go, you do it a step at a time. That’s how you accomplish anything in life—focus on the thing in front of you, find joy in doing so, then move on to the next thing.

Except that's not how it works… you train in a wholistic way before you even attempt to climb a mountain. You don't go in there knowing nothing and learn step by step as you go… in part because failure can kill you. Really kill you.

To succeed in climbing a tough mountain you must already be a master when you step foot at the base.

And like, ok the game isn't REALLY about climbing a mountain, but rather overcoming anxiety/depression/whatever… but the way that's manifested in the mechanics isn't that satisfying to me. Maybe the mountain metaphor the game was using just wasn't a good one in the first place.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Robot Chickens, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 08:59 (56 days ago) @ Cody Miller

You don’t think that’s intentional? Maybe mirrors the message of the game? You don’t climb a mountain in one go, you do it a step at a time. That’s how you accomplish anything in life—focus on the thing in front of you, find joy in doing so, then move on to the next thing.


Except that's not how it works… you train in a wholistic way before you even attempt to climb a mountain. You don't go in there knowing nothing and learn step by step as you go… in part because failure can kill you. Really kill you.

To succeed in climbing a tough mountain you must already be a master when you step foot at the base.

And like, ok the game isn't REALLY about climbing a mountain, but rather overcoming anxiety/depression/whatever… but the way that's manifested in the mechanics isn't that satisfying to me. Maybe the mountain metaphor the game was using just wasn't a good one in the first place.

Wait what? You're saying that the game mechanics aren't punishing enough to live up to the stakes of metaphor they're using? Almost no game's challenge level matches the stakes of the metaphors they evoke -- even really hard games. That seems like a crazy arbitrary burden/metric to put on a game.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 09:34 (56 days ago) @ Robot Chickens
edited by Cody Miller, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 09:56

You don’t think that’s intentional? Maybe mirrors the message of the game? You don’t climb a mountain in one go, you do it a step at a time. That’s how you accomplish anything in life—focus on the thing in front of you, find joy in doing so, then move on to the next thing.


Except that's not how it works… you train in a wholistic way before you even attempt to climb a mountain. You don't go in there knowing nothing and learn step by step as you go… in part because failure can kill you. Really kill you.

To succeed in climbing a tough mountain you must already be a master when you step foot at the base.

And like, ok the game isn't REALLY about climbing a mountain, but rather overcoming anxiety/depression/whatever… but the way that's manifested in the mechanics isn't that satisfying to me. Maybe the mountain metaphor the game was using just wasn't a good one in the first place.


Wait what? You're saying that the game mechanics aren't punishing enough to live up to the stakes of metaphor they're using? Almost no game's challenge level matches the stakes of the metaphors they evoke -- even really hard games. That seems like a crazy arbitrary burden/metric to put on a game.

That's not what I'm saying.

In a more typical game, without checkpoints every 2 seconds, you have to develop a wholistic mastery in order to conquer all the challenges at once. You must be good enough at the game that you can play for long stretches surviving, learning what you have. Celeste is not like that. You can progress by merely trying again and again until you happen to get to the next checkpoint through sheer number of attempts, not necessarily having mastered it.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 11:12 (56 days ago) @ Cody Miller

You make it sound like getting through a checkpoint is a game of chance...

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 14:35 (56 days ago) @ ZackDark
edited by Cody Miller, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 14:38

You make it sound like getting through a checkpoint is a game of chance...

To some extent it can be. The movements and timings can be so precise, that getting through could be mere luck. I probably wouldn't be able to immediately do a bunch of the sections a second time.

And yeah, you can play them again and again and eventually get good enough to do them all in one go with minimal deaths… but this is not required to beat the game, nor is even half that level of mastery.

Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by EffortlessFury @, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 17:19 (56 days ago) @ Cody Miller

The movements and timings can be so precise
that getting through could be mere luck.

ಠ_ಠ

What? That's not how probability works.

And yeah, you can play them again and again and eventually get good enough to do them all in one go with minimal deaths… but this is not required to beat the game, nor is even half that level of mastery.

You could always restart the level if you die? This game is championed as an example for game accessibility. They made a game that you can scale to your challenge level. That's a good thing.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 18:36 (56 days ago) @ EffortlessFury

You could always restart the level if you die?

Because the challenges are so precise, so intricate, playing the game that way would be insane.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by cheapLEY @, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 19:10 (56 days ago) @ Cody Miller

So the frequent checkpoints you were just complaining about as undermining skill mastery are actually a good thing?

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 19:19 (56 days ago) @ cheapLEY
edited by Cody Miller, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 19:25

So the frequent checkpoints you were just complaining about as undermining skill mastery are actually a good thing?

No.

Let's put it this way: If Celeste were an arcade game nobody would play it because it would be the most insane quarter sucker ever. You need an appropriate challenge level when your game isn't meant to be played in single screen sized chunks. Because checkpoints are so frequent, the difficulty needs to ratchet WAY up or else the game would be breezed through. The go hand in hand. Frequent checkpoints alone would kill a game. Super High difficulty where you die in seconds would alone kill a game. Together they sort of work, but since you are only asked to perform for 10-15 seconds at a time, you never really have to develop anything resembling a wholistic set of skills to finish the game the first time.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by cheapLEY @, Wednesday, August 26, 2020, 20:37 (56 days ago) @ Cody Miller

That’s silly.

The game escalates such that the things you learned on the previous screen carry forward to the next. Performing in short bursts doesn’t lessen the skill required to accomplish the task.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 06:16 (55 days ago) @ Cody Miller

So the frequent checkpoints you were just complaining about as undermining skill mastery are actually a good thing?


No.

Let's put it this way: If Celeste were an arcade game nobody would play it because it would be the most insane quarter sucker ever. You need an appropriate challenge level when your game isn't meant to be played in single screen sized chunks. Because checkpoints are so frequent, the difficulty needs to ratchet WAY up or else the game would be breezed through. The go hand in hand. Frequent checkpoints alone would kill a game. Super High difficulty where you die in seconds would alone kill a game. Together they sort of work, but since you are only asked to perform for 10-15 seconds at a time, you never really have to develop anything resembling a wholistic set of skills to finish the game the first time.

That makes absolutely no sense. I have beaten the game and gone back to earlier levels to gather more strawberries and I ABSOLUTELY have developed a wholistic set of skills that made once nearly impossible screens a breeze.

This game has been one of the most satisfying games to master specifically BECAUSE I felt like I was developing a set of skills. That you would say that is befuddling to the point that I think you're just taking the piss.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 08:34 (55 days ago) @ kidtsunami
edited by Cody Miller, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 08:43

This game has been one of the most satisfying games to master specifically BECAUSE I felt like I was developing a set of skills. That you would say that is befuddling to the point that I think you're just taking the piss.

The game is over though. I've already climbed the mountain. The strawberries don't even confer you and tangible advantage in game. They aren't extra lives or powerups. They are just pointless trinkets to collect. I see no reason to go back at all.

The frequent checkpoints negate any tension. That's the fundamental push and pull of skill building in the first place… penalty for failure is a force pushing you to improve. Of course you're better at the game after you play it for a while. That's so obvious. But that getting better is not required nor leveraged to complete the main game, nor does fear of failure drive any tension. And tension means release when you succeed.

The core is locked and I need two more hearts. But I honestly can't even be bothered to go back and find more tapes to do. Even the tapes I've done… why would I go back and do them again?

The game fetishizes mechanics to the point where is completely neglects to give you a compelling reason to return or improve.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 09:14 (55 days ago) @ Cody Miller

This game has been one of the most satisfying games to master specifically BECAUSE I felt like I was developing a set of skills. That you would say that is befuddling to the point that I think you're just taking the piss.


The game is over though. I've already climbed the mountain. The strawberries don't even confer you and tangible advantage in game. They aren't extra lives or powerups. They are just pointless trinkets to collect. I see no reason to go back at all.

The frequent checkpoints negate any tension. That's the fundamental push and pull of skill building in the first place… penalty for failure is a force pushing you to improve. Of course you're better at the game after you play it for a while. That's so obvious. But that getting better is not required nor leveraged to complete the main game, nor does fear of failure drive any tension. And tension means release when you succeed.

The core is locked and I need two more hearts. But I honestly can't even be bothered to go back and find more tapes to do. Even the tapes I've done… why would I go back and do them again?

The game fetishizes mechanics to the point where is completely neglects to give you a compelling reason to return or improve.

Of all people... you routinely fetishize mechanics and challenge abhorring extrinsic motivation to the point that you abstain from playing the very game this forum is dedicated to; I'm just so absolutely confused to why that's a negative thing now.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 09:27 (55 days ago) @ kidtsunami

The game fetishizes mechanics to the point where is completely neglects to give you a compelling reason to return or improve.


Of all people... you routinely fetishize mechanics and challenge abhorring extrinsic motivation to the point that you abstain from playing the very game this forum is dedicated to; I'm just so absolutely confused to why that's a negative thing now.

I just explained how there is in fact no intrinsic motivation. Mechanics and challenge are not in a vacuum; they never were. The world is not one I enjoy being in. There is never any tension. I hope this explains the problem.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by ZackDark @, Not behind you. NO! Don't look., Thursday, August 27, 2020, 10:49 (55 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I just explained how there is in fact no intrinsic motivation. Mechanics and challenge are not in a vacuum; they never were.

The game itself is not in a vacuum. Your own motivations figure in too, man. Games don't give reasons for people to glitch-speedrun them, but people still do. It's still fun to them.

The world is not one I enjoy being in.

That's cool. You don't like it. I didn't either. There doesn't need to be a technical explanation to why you didn't like it, but it's ok to try and find one. What is weird here is that it is almost antithetical to everything you used to defend back in the day.

There is never any tension. I hope this explains the problem.

Weird. I didn't like it exactly because it made me too tense. Kind of like the first Ori game (which I didn't drop).

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 10:55 (55 days ago) @ ZackDark

I just explained how there is in fact no intrinsic motivation. Mechanics and challenge are not in a vacuum; they never were.


The game itself is not in a vacuum. Your own motivations figure in too, man. Games don't give reasons for people to glitch-speedrun them, but people still do. It's still fun to them.

The world is not one I enjoy being in.


That's cool. You don't like it. I didn't either. There doesn't need to be a technical explanation to why you didn't like it, but it's ok to try and find one. What is weird here is that it is almost antithetical to everything you used to defend back in the day.

There is never any tension. I hope this explains the problem.


Weird. I didn't like it exactly because it made me too tense. Kind of like the first Ori game (which I didn't drop).

[image]

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 10:53 (55 days ago) @ Cody Miller

The game fetishizes mechanics to the point where is completely neglects to give you a compelling reason to return or improve.


Of all people... you routinely fetishize mechanics and challenge abhorring extrinsic motivation to the point that you abstain from playing the very game this forum is dedicated to; I'm just so absolutely confused to why that's a negative thing now.


I just explained how there is in fact no intrinsic motivation. Mechanics and challenge are not in a vacuum; they never were. The world is not one I enjoy being in. There is never any tension. I hope this explains the problem.

Yeah I just think that your definition of intrinsic motivation differs from mine. Considering that there is little to no external motivation to play the game beyond to get better at it/beat it makes it inherently all about intrinsic motivation. That it fails to inspire you to play for the sake of playing is just a preference on your part, and I'm good with that. You dislike the art, don't like being in the world, fine.

Saying "how there is in fact no intrinsic motivation" is just wrong without some softening clause in your language.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 13:05 (55 days ago) @ kidtsunami

Yeah I just think that your definition of intrinsic motivation differs from mine. Considering that there is little to no external motivation to play the game beyond to get better at it/beat it makes it inherently all about intrinsic motivation.

Perhaps that's enough intrinsic motivation for you personally. Plenty of games are insanely hard and require lots of play to get better. But for me, it also has to have a world worth inhabiting. If Dark Souls did not have the atmosphere and lore that it did, I don't think it would have been worth getting better at!

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by cheapLEY @, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 13:18 (55 days ago) @ Cody Miller

Bloodborne proves that out. The Chalice Dungeons are great from a gameplay perspective, but the way they’re disconnected from the rest of that world from an environmental storytelling perspective make them inherently less interesting and fun than they otherwise would be.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Thursday, August 27, 2020, 13:31 (55 days ago) @ Cody Miller

Yeah I just think that your definition of intrinsic motivation differs from mine. Considering that there is little to no external motivation to play the game beyond to get better at it/beat it makes it inherently all about intrinsic motivation.


Perhaps that's enough intrinsic motivation for you personally. Plenty of games are insanely hard and require lots of play to get better. But for me, it also has to have a world worth inhabiting. If Dark Souls did not have the atmosphere and lore that it did, I don't think it would have been worth getting better at!

That jives.

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 11:31 (57 days ago) @ Cody Miller

That is such a bizarre interpretation as you aren't wearing the game down, you're actually getting better.


The challenges are bite sized though… single screen affairs with no real penalty for failure. You must only conquer one thing at a time and then get a checkpoint instead of the whole thing in a stretch of skillful play.

I'm just... blinking at this right now. How far are you?

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Counterpoint: Celeste is a great game with great art

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 11:40 (57 days ago) @ kidtsunami

That is such a bizarre interpretation as you aren't wearing the game down, you're actually getting better.


The challenges are bite sized though… single screen affairs with no real penalty for failure. You must only conquer one thing at a time and then get a checkpoint instead of the whole thing in a stretch of skillful play.


I'm just... blinking at this right now. How far are you?

I got to the summit, got sent to the core, only to realize to actually get into the core I have to collect hearts. I have one.

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Celeste and the failure of modern pixel art aethetics

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Monday, August 24, 2020, 06:22 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I've been giving Celeste a try lately. I don't want to talk about whether the game is good or not (I think it leans towards not), but there is one huge glaring issue with the game.

The game is hideous. And I think it has to do with a fundamental misunderstanding that modern developers tend to have with regard to pixel art.

[image]

Celeste is Garish, gaudy, with startlingly low visual contrast for obstacles. Your character a tiny sprinkle of pixels across the screen. Compare this to say, Stardew valley.

[image]

And yet, Celeste is not the only modern pixel art game to look horrible. More often than not a modern Pixel Art game is simply revolting, with those that understand the art direction seeming to be the exception. Why is this so? Why are so many pixel art games bad looking?

To me, it seems as if there's a fundamental misunderstanding of aesthetic in regard to limitations. Older hardware had literal limitations for the number of colors you could display. Your palette was necessarily limited and so the graphics needed to be distinct, bold, and simple in terms of detail.

Compare the simplicity of Megaman 5:
[image]

To the horror that is Legend of Kage:

[image]

Do you see the difference? Do you see how the 'detail' of the tree and grass just ends up looking like ass? Whereas there is separation and clarity in Megaman?

But what about when we get more colors?

[image]

Notice there is still separation with distinct elements? Unfortunately though, that's not what the game actually looks like. The dithering is visible on a modern computer monitor under an emulator, but on a CRT it looks quite different. You'll have to trust me (you can't really "screenshot it") when I say that the imperfections of NTSC and the composite video standard tended to smooth out the colors, and that the dithering often resulted in a much nicer gradient when played. You can do down a ribbit hole here.

The bottom line, is that pixel art as we remember it was meant to be bold and distinct, and meant for CRT displays. Even PC games were eventually displayed on a CRT monitor.

The crisp pixelated look that is so fetishized now never existed in the first place for the 16 bit era. And for the NES era it was guided by principles of separation.

So look back at that screenshot from Celeste. The game utilizes the higher resolution rendering to add detail and complexity, but still opts for the limited flattened color palette while at the same time not utilizing black or shading to make things stand out. And so the result is far closer to Kage than Megaman. The game wants the colors of an NES game with the detail of a SNES game, and so you have two goals at odds with each other. The result is a game that's simply ugly.

I see this with so many pixel art games now. Tiny characters in a sea of indistinct pixels. And overall flatness instead of depth. Complexity without realizing how to make that work. It's the surface level detail without an understanding of how and why the best looking games of the 80s and 90s looked the way they did.

The ART in Pixel Art has been largely lost.

You just rambled about a SUPER subjective thing. I think Celeste's art is pretty amazing looking.

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Oh and Miniboss has interesting pixel art tutorials

by kidtsunami @, Atlanta, GA, Monday, August 24, 2020, 06:29 (58 days ago) @ kidtsunami

on their blog

for example:
[image]

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Oh and Miniboss has interesting pixel art tutorials

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Monday, August 24, 2020, 09:57 (58 days ago) @ kidtsunami

I see individual character sprites (which also lack defining features!). You need to take into account the totality of it all, including the background, foreground, enemies, HUD, as well as the character sprites. On their own those look fine. But Celeste as a whole is quite ugly.

As usual, you're in the minority on that one.

by EffortlessFury @, Monday, August 24, 2020, 12:29 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

- No text -

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Semi Relevant — Orange Island

by Vortech @, A Fourth Wheel, Monday, August 24, 2020, 13:34 (58 days ago) @ Cody Miller

I backed this game on Kickstarter a while back (a pretty long while back, come to think of it) kinda because it seemed like it was a modern game made by people that really love the 8-bit style. Not an homage or pastiche, but really lust an actual 8 Bit game both technically and in actual design. I'm still looking forward to it.

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Semi Relevant — Orange Island

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Tuesday, August 25, 2020, 10:36 (57 days ago) @ Vortech

I backed this game on Kickstarter a while back (a pretty long while back, come to think of it) kinda because it seemed like it was a modern game made by people that really love the 8-bit style. Not an homage or pastiche, but really lust an actual 8 Bit game both technically and in actual design. I'm still looking forward to it.

For what that appears to be doing, it looks great.

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