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Author Topic: Vintage Game Art Style How???  (Read 1161 times)

Vintage Game Art Style How???
« on: 05 Nov 2017, 22:38 »
Hi! I am eager to start creating a game in AGS, however, the workflow of creating game art is rather difficult. I want to create a very specific graphics style, using a 16 bit color palette. Some have recommended using GrafX2, but that is an 8 bit bitmap editor. How can I achieve the desired effect below? Using what software?
Games like Indiana Jones Fate of Atlantis, Beneath a Steel Sky, Indiana Jones Last Crusade Game, Resonance,Quest for Glory Shadow of Darkness, etc...
These games have a very specific lighting effect that I can't seem to mimic. What software should I use?
Thank you.

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #1 on: 06 Nov 2017, 00:22 »
You could try Gimp, which is freeware. The exact effect will need some familiarity with the palette/lighting effects, though :)
You may need to partly posterize the image and then apply over-saturation or other effects. Gimp also allows for pixelizing images, at various settings.

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #2 on: 06 Nov 2017, 01:09 »
Hi! I am eager to start creating a game in AGS, however, the workflow of creating game art is rather difficult. I want to create a very specific graphics style, using a 16 bit color palette.

Are you sure about that? Of these games...

Quote
Indiana Jones Fate of Atlantis, Beneath a Steel Sky, Indiana Jones Last Crusade Game, Resonance,Quest for Glory Shadow of Darkness, etc...

... precisely none are 16-bit. (They're all 8-bit except Resonance, which is 32-bit.)

There are really no advantages to 16-bit. 8-bit can provide a certain retro look (since you need to do color reduction, leading to things like dithering), and enables palette effects. But 16-bit is just like 32-bit, only worse. I can't think of any good reason to make a game in 16-bit color today.

Quote
These games have a very specific lighting effect that I can't seem to mimic.

Could you give an example?

What software should I use?

To be honest I think your problem is more likely to be a matter of art technique than the software. People draw backgrounds in various art applications, and unless it's a matter of some particular dithering method, any modern tool should do.

You might want to check out these tutorials:

http://www.barnettcollege.com/2004/tutorial1.htm (Fate of Atlantis-style exterior, in Photoshop)
https://amberfisharts.com/files/foa2_deluxe_paint_tutorial.pdf (Fate of Atlantis-style interior, in DPaint2)
(Mark Ferrari - who did the Loom backgrounds - demonstrates his current technique, in Photoshop - he shows how to light a room at around 21 minutes in)

Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #3 on: 06 Nov 2017, 02:51 »
Thank you so much for responding, you have certainly given me much to think about. I am new to game art, and the manual for AGS says
"Colour choices
Now, at this stage we really need to decide whether we want to create a palette-based (8-bit, 256-colour) game, or a hi-color (16- or 32-bit) game. It's highly recommended that you go with 16-bit colour, or 32-bit if you want to use alpha transparency.
256-colour games are much more complicated to make due to having to deal with the palette, they are not supported by the Direct3D driver, and may not run well on some modern graphics cards. Although they can give you the authentic retro feel, unless you really need to use palette-cycling effects, it's recommended that you stay away from making new 256-colour games."
Can you perhaps explain why the above on 16 bit is wrong then?
I really want a vintage feel, but above it also says that 8 bit colour palette creates a few more difficulties with the palette?
Thank you.

Snarky

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #4 on: 06 Nov 2017, 08:01 »
That bit of the help was written probably more than 15 years ago, and is pretty outdated now.

32-bit is the standard for most image formats and monitors: it gives you access to all the colors that most computers can display (some high-end systems for artists use 64-bit). 16-bit is quite similar, except that it's lacking some of the colors. What this means in practice is that if you take an image made in 32-bits, it will degrade slightly (typically you'll see "banding" in gradients, and sometimes you'll notice that things that are supposed to be pure gray have a slight color tint). 16-bit also doesn't have support for semi-transparency. The most obvious use-case for that is for things that are meant to be transparent (e.g. if your characters can walk behind a pane of glass, or if one of your characters is a ghost), but even if you don't plan to use anything like that in your game, transparency can be useful e.g. for creating a fade-to-black effect.

There's also the issue that some computers nowadays aren't set up for 16-bit color, so your players might experience compatibility issues getting a 16-bit game to run. The only real benefit to 16-bit is that the graphics take up less space, so your game will be a little bit smaller. But it's definitely not worth it.

8-bit color (aka 256-color) is what the classic VGA games were made in, but the manual is correct that it makes life a lot harder. In particular, it's hard to get 256-color AGS games to run on many modern computers, and 8-bit mode is hardly maintained because practically nobody uses it. I'm not sure it's still true that it's not supported in Direct3D mode, but if so that means that quite a lot of players won't be able to run the game at all.

The other thing you should realize is that even though you can use any of a million different colors, doesn't mean you have to. You can make a 32-bit game that uses just 256 colors and looks exactly like an 8-bit game (OTOH, I believe 16-bit is actually incapable of displaying some of the colors you can choose in 8-bit mode). The only thing you can't do is something called "palette cycling", where you change how a particular color looks on the screen: this effect was used in 256-color games to do things like day-night cycles, running water animations, etc. These days, it's much easier to do those things by using tinting, pre-rendered animations, and semi-transparent overlays available in 32-bit. (Mark Ferrari was a master of palette cycling, and shows off many of his tricks in the video I linked – but even he doesn't use 8-bit any more.) The bottom line is that palette cycling (and designing 8-bit color palettes and graphics) takes skill and experience, and as a beginner it's not something you probably would want to start out with, even if it worked properly in AGS.

tl:dr: Use 32-bit mode.

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #5 on: 06 Nov 2017, 08:55 »
(Double-posting to keep points separate)

As for how to make your graphics look vintage, I'd say that there are three main elements that determine the look of your game. In decreasing order of importance:

1. Your art style and technique
2. The resolution
3. The color depth and dithering

1.
The most important thing is how you draw/paint. Two different games made in the same technical format can look completely different because of different artistic styles. There are loads of ways classic adventure games use color, contrast, composition, and other art concepts in specific ways, and to make your backgrounds look like them you'll have to study and learn their approach. Ben Chandler (who did the graphics for Blackwell Epiphany and other Wadjet Eye titles) has a series of articles on Adventure Gamers about various aspects of adventure game graphics, which is a great place to start.

There's also the matter of what technique you use. Graphics that are hand-pixeled will usually look quite different from graphics that are painted (though many games that look "hand-pixeled" use a combination of both techniques). You can also paint on paper and scan it in (many Sierra games used this method, as did Monkey Island 2), or in high-resolution on the computer and scale it down (for example Resonance did this, I'm almost positive). You can use 3D-rendering, vector graphics, or an art program that mimics a traditional medium like oil painting.

The most practical method that still looks "traditional" is to draw or paint the backgrounds in a modern 2D paint application, like Gimp, Photoshop or Paint.net. (There's no need to use a retro tool like DPaint2.) If you want a "clean" hand-pixeled look you should draw it in your target resolution using pencil, line and fill. If you want a painted look you can paint it (using brushes and other tools) either in your target resolution, or in e.g. double, triple or x4 the resolution and scale it down. Many people find this to be easier.

2.
The second most important thing is the resolution. VGA games were generally made in 320x200 resolution, and if you want to make an old-school-looking game that's a great choice. Simply by making your graphics low-res it'll look quite vintage.

3.
Color depth is the least important of these factors (as long as you don't go down to something even more restricted, like 16-color). You can perfectly well keep your graphics 32-bit and still have them look vintage. Most modern "retro" adventure games just use the full 32-bit range. If you really want to reduce the colors, you get into dithering (a way to represent colors you don't have by mixing pixels of different colors). There are two main ways to dither: pattern or noise. In the tutorials I linked earlier, you can see that the FOA interior tutorial uses noise dithering (in DPaint2, but it shows off the look), while Mark Ferrari shows some ways to do pattern dithering.

How to do the color reduction and dithering will vary depending on the painting app you use and the particular look you want. There are a lot of different tricks and tutorials (you can search the forums or google for it). Here's one example: http://danfessler.com/blog/hd-index-painting-in-photoshop

My general advice would be to not do color reduction or use dithering on backgrounds unless you want to make dithering a major part of the art style. To just take a painted background and add dithering as some kind of Photoshop filter usually just looks cheap, fake and like a superficial attempt to mimic old games (like how running an edge filter on a photo to make it "look like a comic" never really does, it just looks crap).

But without seeing your art (or even examples of the particular effect/look you want to recreate – you list a bunch of games with quite different art styles), it's very difficult to give good recommendations.

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #6 on: 06 Nov 2017, 09:45 »
The short answer is that the tool or bit depth doesn't really matter. The art in the games you listed was created by professional artists, you aren't a professional artist. It's that simple.
You wouldn't expect to be able to paint the Mona Lisa just because you somehow acquired Da Vinci's brushes and paints, right?

I don't mean to be rude, I'm merely stating a fact that has already been pointed out to the hundreds of would-be game creators who are looking for a magic art tool (that doesn't exist) that came before you.

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #7 on: 06 Nov 2017, 10:43 »
That's true, of course, but one of the benefits of retro-style graphics is that it can look decent even if you're not at a professional level as an artist. Some AGSers are (or could be) professionals, but a lot just do the best we can, and it still comes out more or less all right.

Take Draculator II: Byte of the Draculator that a bunch of people did more or less as a lark. I don't think anyone who did graphics for the game would claim to be the next Mark Ferrari or Steve Purcell or Peter Chan, but still, it looks... fine.



And practice makes all the difference. Here's a screen from Grundislav's original Ben Jordan 1 (later remade with better art):



And here's a screen from Lamplight City, his upcoming game:



Funny thing is, as different as the two pictures are in skill level, I still think the style is recognizably that of the same artist. And even the first one is perfectly serviceable! Loads of people played and enjoyed Ben Jordan Case 1, and that's what ultimately made Lamplight City possible.

So no, you probably won't make something that looks as good as the games you're imitating, at least not straight away, but that's not a reason not to aim for it. Just don't get discouraged when you can't quite live up to your own expectations. It doesn't have to look like it could have been a LucasArts game to be good enough for release.

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #8 on: 10 Nov 2017, 13:19 »
Snarky is right. In a nutshell :
1) you're confusing 8-bit consoles with 8-bit graphics : what you're aiming at is 8-bit graphics (the games you named are evidence of that). In other words: about 256 colors on screen.
2) You don't need "real" 8-bit graphics unless you want to achieve the one effect that only 8-bit can do: palette scrolling. If you don't know what that is then you don't need 8-bit graphics.
3) Conclusion: Go for 32-bits graphics but then limit yourself to 256 colors or slightly more and you game will look 8-bit.

Easy!
 

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #9 on: 23 Nov 2017, 18:50 »
What has been said here already is spot on.
My advice is practice,practice, practice.
It's hard to emulate the styles of those fantastic artists believe me I have been trying for years on and off now.
Find an art package that suits you and more importantly stick with it do not change! . I got Aesprite as it's great for pixel art and animation.

Here's an example of my style (After using Kyrandia as a point of resource)

Thanks for the input.

That's no dragon, that's just poor pixeling. :)
As for the bush, its now not as lonely. I've also added more rocks and roots and given the sand more texture.


I've not got any other project links atm. I am working on something but I'm going to keep it on the down low until I have a substantial amount done. :)

Any more suggestions :-D

pic=53575.msg636536155#msg636536155 date=1464034543]
« Last Edit: 23 Nov 2017, 18:52 by SinSin »

Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #10 on: 27 Dec 2017, 02:16 »
That's some incredible pixel art! I bought Aseprite recently as well, and am trying to perfect my own style. However, the topic of resolution has come up again and again. How do I choose the height and width to suit my games' needs? Can each game scene vary in terms of resolution?

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Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #11 on: 27 Dec 2017, 03:39 »
Can each game scene vary in terms of resolution?
I doubt it. What you could do is have rooms, actual insides of houses, surrounded by a lot of black, for purpose of being the same size as the building from outside.

Re: Vintage Game Art Style How???
« Reply #12 on: 27 Dec 2017, 11:23 »
Right. You don't have to always fill the whole screen. On the other hand, if you have a large scene that you don't want to split into different rooms, you can make a scrollable room.