Discussion: Why retro?

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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:26 pm

I was wondering recently why retro, low-res games are so popular in the indie gaming community and was hoping some of you could offer your opinions.

If you look around, an awful lot of games are deliberately pixellated, use tinny square sound effects like early consoles, and have similarly simple gameplay (ie not too many objects, as if the game were even designed for NES style hardware with limited processing). I understand that many people see NES/Megadrive/retro games as the 'glory' days of gaming when gameplay, not graphics, mattered (and disillusion of modern commercial titles) - but it seems disproportional. Why do so many people, the majority of indie game makers it seems, ignore the new creative possibilities modern technology allows for? For example, you can trivially create a thousand objects and barely see an FPS hit. Or you can mix a hundred sounds playing simultaneously and it has almost no impact on performance (none if your audio mixes on another core, which XAudio2 does). Or you can run several advanced layer effects and a modern graphics card won't even get lukewarm. This just makes me think of all the cool things I could do to make games more interesting.

I can think of a few reasons people stay retro. Low-res artwork is probably easier to do, as for the sound. Some people still use really crap computers, and you know your game can run on that as well. Maybe some other tools like Game Maker really start to creak under their own inefficiency if you try to get that far. Or just to try and reach in to the previously mentioned 'retro glory'. But of course the fact a game is retro doesn't necessarily mean it is good.

What do you think? If you still make retro style games, what is it that makes you want to keep to that style? What are the main detractors to hi-res gaming?
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:58 pm

We are the illegitimate children of Luigi, and Princess Peach.

Well in my case more like Pong's evil spawn, anyway I believe a great deal of this lies in our childhood.
We all grew up playing those games, spending untold amounts of quarters, and hours, then receiving very little, save the unconditional love of a tamagotchi.

Once more it is in our very nature to want to improve those games, if not relive the emotionless grindfest that culminated in the anticlimactic end of saving the princess.

It is our addiction, and we are looking for that "cherry high".
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:00 pm

I don't think the retro/indie community is that large, in fact it represents a minority. The most successful indie games all use polished graphics, not pixels; take a look at Mount&Blade, for example.

Most retro developers go for pixels because of ease and familiarity, I guess, while most players nowadays - including myself - would prefer the polished graphics were we given a choice. Then again that depends on the quality of game itself.

Most developers and would-be-developers I meet aren't exactly skilled with graphics, they can barely draw a stick figure, let alone a cute and smooth sprite with rich animations. Good artists always are in short supply.

Why retro? Perhaps because the games back had high gameplay value. Games nowadays are 90% graphics and bloat and 10% gameplay, and the last number keeps shrinking.
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:46 pm

[quote="Mipey":23yv5mxh]I don't think the retro/indie community is that large[/quote:23yv5mxh]

Then you would be very wrong. Sure, salable indie games generally are higher res or even 3D, but the vast majority of indie games are freeware, low-res, and 2D.

[quote="Mipey":23yv5mxh]Why retro? Perhaps because the games back had high gameplay value. Games nowadays are 90% graphics and bloat and 10% gameplay, and the last number keeps shrinking.[/quote:23yv5mxh]

This, however, is correct. At least for some. Many developers (and I'm one of them) believe gameplay is much more important than visuals, and so concentrate on that. Nice graphics are a luxury. They're the seasoning on the steak.

I also like retro games for nostalgia. They remind me of the golden age of console gaming, when NES was king. When I was a kid, those games were inspiring to me, and I wanted to make them. Which leads me to the third reason...

Commercial companies don't make retro styled games any more, and indie developers are filling the void. There's still a big demand for them... mainly from people like me, who were so inspired by that style to begin with.

And yes, retro art is easier to make, once you get into it. Sure, it's more restrictive, but in other ways it's more forgiving.
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:19 pm

Cause its fun!

i myself dont stick to retro in a hardcore way, i make my graphics pixelly sometimes, but ill use rotations, tons of objects, scaling, and shader effects. i just like the way snes style graphics feel, digitally painted graphics tend to look to blurry, and dont get that crisp feel like you do from pixel art as easily.

retro doesnt mean it has to run on a nes or wtv, it can look retro but play out in a way only modern hardware could support.
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:58 pm

I really love "retro" style. But specially those that use actual hardware to add cool effects: Geometry Wars, Rez HD, Darwinia, N+, Flow... Tron-ish style in general. Thing like this:
[url:1xkrr7cq]http://www.indiegames.com/blog/downloads/virtanen/The_Manipulator.zip[/url:1xkrr7cq]
NES style, isometrix pixelated games... When we are in those "ages", those look are hardware limitations, but now that limitation becomes in art style, Pixel Art, like many other thindg.
The same happened with first 3d games. We got "Polygonal Art". We can see those used in films, and TV spots, when they are speaking or representing videogames.
In general: it is cool, fast, cheap, and good looking, and has many fans... very good for indie game developer people :D
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:47 pm

Retro's become popular because people are looking back at the classics more than ever before. People are starting to see how complicated modern games are and want to get back to how it used to be, when everything was simple and fun. (Believe me, people have more fun with old games-- I've been a part of some brief video game get-togethers after school once a week. We did Guitar Hero a few times, but last week I brought in a Sega Genesis and a few games and everyone seemed to be having way more fun)

I personally like a retro hybrid kind of design. I use normal old pixel graphics to start (mostly because when I jump to higher resolutions it becomes even more impossible for me to animate anything. I already suffer on even 16x16 sprites) but I don't limit myself to a color palette and I will liberally apply effects, rotation, physics, whatever is needed to make my game play how I want it to. I've never really liked how many modern 2D games use huge smooth graphics, because for some reason my mind says it looks less professional. I guess there's something about the pixels that makes it look like the artist has more ability than if he'd just drawn and colored the same thing in Flash then exported it into a game.
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:14 pm

I like ald games becouse they where fun. Fast gameplay, chealanging, simple controles. Developers had more creative ( but not hardware ) freedom. Becouse they where working in small teams they could comunicate more efectivly with each other.
Anyway, even if it`s is not that easy to make decent pixelart, it`s obviesly easier to make it looking good then hi-res picture. Just look at the RPG Maker Comunity. The amount of custom gfx for rm they making is just massive.
What i would like to see, are games with good hi-res gfx, that have the fill of the old ones. SotC and ICO are such a games. I loved metroid prime hunters when i played it for the first time couse it reminded me of quake 2 fast piced gameplay. Of course it doesn't have to be 3d game but i agree that modern harware alowes creators to do gfx better than ever before, and in this the direction they should go altho remebering that the base of every game they are making should be gameplay.

edit: btw. CHECK THIS OUT -> Pole's Big Adventure - Japanese Trailer 2 - new original game for wiiware by SEGA. After seing this i rapidly started looking for any information how to get a wii development kit and thats what i find out Apply to be nintendo dev rules. In my opinion it`s outrages - companies like sage can aford it , and sell crap they made for $5 per user.
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:08 pm

[quote="megatronx":lwh29otr]edit: btw. CHECK THIS OUT -> Pole's Big Adventure - Japanese Trailer 2 - new original game for wiiware by SEGA. [/quote:lwh29otr]
wow that looks awful... looks like a mario ripoff released 20 years ago that nobody, even then, would want to buy.
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Post » Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:19 pm

[quote="dfyb":102jd6io][quote="megatronx":102jd6io]edit: btw. CHECK THIS OUT -> Pole's Big Adventure - Japanese Trailer 2 - new original game for wiiware by SEGA. [/quote:102jd6io]
wow that looks awful... looks like a mario ripoff released 20 years ago that nobody, even then, would want to buy.[/quote:102jd6io]

well thats mario, zelda2, and few other nintendo games spoof. it did make me smile. it would be good as a free demo game and not as a commertial project. i`wouldn't ever buy game like that.
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