Design Art Style Feedback

DarthTenebris

Definitely not a Sith Lord
Hello everybody,

The time has come where I can enjoy making games again. For now at least. Anyway, I'm looking to recreate the Undertale "feel" in my game (Undertale turned out to be very deep, I only watched a speedrun before starting my project). How did I do, and what can I do to improve?
upload_2019-12-13_10-41-12.png upload_2019-12-13_10-42-26.png upload_2019-12-13_10-44-30.png
upload_2019-12-13_10-45-59.png
upload_2019-12-13_10-47-34.png

Please do let me know how I did.
Thank you for your time.
 

Zizka

Member
I like the mininalistic approach.

I believe you have a perspective issue here however. The bed, the chest and the bookcase are seen from different view points which makes it confusing to me.

I wouldn't recommend black outlines for shapes inside an object personally. I think black outlines are necessary to distinguish objects from the background but that's about it.

Have you considered going for texture for the floor?


Notice that the floor here has a bit of texture as opposed to a single, plain color. Zelda does the same.

Hope this helps.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Your trollface avatar combined with the incredibly basic pixelart makes it hard for me to tell if this is a serious topic or not. Extra compounded by how all the screenshots show the exact same scene (with the guy just being in different parts of the room) so they're not really adding anything to the discussion.

Anyway, here's some half-hearted feedback.
  • Your art is at such a low resolution, the outlines just eats into it. Either have a different outline style (have dark edges on everything but not black, and make outlines part of the shape itself) or make art at 32x32 resolution instead. Example of outline style I'm talking of: *draws thing in like 30 seconds in GIMP*
  • upload_2019-12-13_20-51-5.png
  • Add texture to everything. Big swathes of the same color doesn't look stylish, it looks lazy. Note how Undertale has decorative details everywhere, even what's supposed to be completely blank snow:
  • upload_2019-12-13_20-51-59.png
  • This goes for the ground, bedsheets, characters... notice how Undertale's protagonist has a striped shirt just to get more detail?
  • Also, don't use the rectangle tool for everything. Make irregular shapes, those have more character. Most Undertale characters don't even have left/right symmetry!
  • Give characters more character. John Doorknob here has no defining features other than his weird head shape and being slightly obese. No facial expression, no funny hairstyle, nothing memorable. The super-low resolution doesn't help here, either. Do something interesting with your characters' designs, or you might as well just use cubes with eyes to speed up asset creation.
    upload_2019-12-13_20-53-52.png
  • Here's an improved version:
  • upload_2019-12-13_20-58-53.png
  • 32x32 resolution (upscaled to 4x that for forum visibility). Exaggerated the face shape and gave him a goofy expression to make him have more of a personality. Gave him a blue hoodie because that's popular with Undertale people (because fan favorite Sans wears one, if you didn't know). Added some shading to help the body shape look less flat. Took like 30 seconds, adds a lot of personality.
 

Toque

Member
Yeah decide what perspective you want first then all your sprites should follow it.


Are there games you like the look of? (Besides undertale)


it’s a good start. Figure out what look and perspective. Then pick up a colour palette. There are many to choose from if you google it.

keeping things simple is a good start
 

DarthTenebris

Definitely not a Sith Lord
I believe you have a perspective issue here however. The bed, the chest and the bookcase are seen from different view points which makes it confusing to me.
Any suggestions on how I can have a singular perspective? I simply tried to mimic the way Undertale handles the somewhat 3D view. Didn't work I guess.

Thank you for your advice :)

Your trollface avatar combined with the incredibly basic pixelart makes it hard for me to tell if this is a serious topic or not.
Ah sorry. Remnants of my past, I'll have to get that changed soon. It is indeed a serious topic, and most of the sprites are 16x16 but scaled to look large on a 960x540 screen.
Extra compounded by how all the screenshots show the exact same scene (with the guy just being in different parts of the room) so they're not really adding anything to the discussion.
I've only done the layout of that room (intended to be the spawn room). Different positions to show the character against different objects. In hindsight I probably should've just made a video, that should make it easier to see how the character looks like when he collides with the objects.

Thank you for your advice :)

Are there games you like the look of? (Besides undertale)
Deltarune I guess, considering it's Undertale's successor with a similar art style.

Thank you for your advice :)
 

Toque

Member
Well you have 4 objects and they all seem to have different perspectives. They should show the same proportion of top and front.

I like the 3/4 top and 1/4 front view. Like the box cabinet thing. You just have to pick one view and stick with it. 50-50 works to. You can fudge a bit too for different objects but keep it closer.

https://images.app.goo.gl/ABYdnFDpvFfRdBZ1A

See how everything is in this page???
 
Last edited:

Zizka

Member
I would suggest taking some time to really observe how other games do it. I started learning by studying Earthbound's graphics. They are simple enough to do and look good. With time you'll just learn to eyeball it, it'll become a second nature.

 

dannyjenn

Member
If you're going for the Undertale look, you're way off. Undertale uses an SNES style (probably based on Earthbound), whereas your graphics are closer to the NES or GBC. And while I have nothing against NES and GBC per se, yours just seem poorly drawn (no offense).

If you're new to pixel art, you should start by learning the basic techniques, such as shading, anti-aliasing, avoiding "jaggies", etc. Maybe watch some tutorial videos or something.
Perspective can be tricky at such a small scale. But as Toque said, you need to make sure that everything is at the same angle (or at least close to it). Right now your player sprite has a very low angle, your bookcase is a little higher, your chest is even higher, and your bed has a very high angle. They should all be the same. (Frankly, Undertale had this same problem too but to a lesser extent: the character sprites are drawn at a lower angle than the backgrounds. I have no idea whether Undertale's artist intended this or not, but I don't like it. Looks amateurish.)

And I second what Zizka said... if you want to imitate a particular game's graphical style, you need to examine the actual game's graphics and see how they did it.

You'll also improve with practice, as long as you first know what you're doing.

Your colors also seem too bright and too saturated, though they might work. Looks kind of ugly though, especially the colors on that bookcase.
 

Zizka

Member
If I can chime in, I honestly don't think Undertale's graphics should be used as a reference as I too have spotted inconsistencies.


The background elements look much better than the actual sprite work of the characters. This is likely due to having one person doing the whole game as opposed to using experienced artists. I don't think that yellow main character should be used as a reference for anything. In my opinion it looks pretty bad compared to the house or the trees. I'm honestly puzzled as to why he stuck with that version.

Earthbound has the advantage of having artists to deal with anything visual which means everything is top quality and can be used as a reference.
 

Toque

Member
Looking at other games is great for references. Find a way to make it your own.

unique characters? Story? Unique colours? Unique style?
 

FrostyCat

Member
I agree with Yal's assessment, developing a personal style is pointless when you don't even have your basics down. Learn things common to all styles like shading, texture, proportion and perspective first, then you can start thinking about style. And if this isn't something you want to invest time in learning, hire someone who has it all down.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
This is likely due to having one person doing the whole game as opposed to using experienced artists. I don't think that yellow main character should be used as a reference for anything. In my opinion it looks pretty bad compared to the house or the trees. I'm honestly puzzled as to why he stuck with that version.
Correction: Toby Fox didn't do everything, several other artists are credited (most notably Temmie Chang, who is educated in traditional animation). I think the art style being intentionally bad in places (especially in the beginning of the game) is an artistic choice, though - trying to be kinda mediocre to lull the player into a false sense of security, before they get berated for killing unique individuals they thought just were stock enemies, and a megalomaniac flower attacks both the game and their savefile directly trying to steal their soul. I mean, Photoshop Flowey even breaks both the game's artstyle and the screen layout completely... every expectation you have about how the game works until that point is shattered at an atomic level.

(The "play with expectations to gut-punch the player emotionally later" thing also kinda aligns with the final boss' monologue in Toby's previous project The Halloween Hack, where the boss lectures you for thinking you are a hero, going through the entire adventure when a good guy would've stopped much earlier, once they realized what sorts of atrocities they were doing - once again, playing with the player's expectations of what they're playing. This is why I think the artstyle is bad on purpose)
 

Zizka

Member
I stand corrected, I could've sworn I'd read that he had done the whole thing on his own. As for doing mediocre art on purpose, I doubt it but I'd rather not sidetrack the thread further.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Let's go back to Mother art. Notice how the logs are literally just mirror images of each other? This is a good way to add detail quickly. As long as you don't put the mirror images right next to each other, the naked eye won't really spot this unless you actively look for it.
upload_2019-12-16_0-46-56.png

Also, the Undertale Christmas tree is just a normal tree with some lights and baubles drawn on. Basically, they reused the asset and added more details. It fits in the environment, and it takes less work than redoing the tree from scratch.
upload_2019-12-16_0-48-19.png


An important part of making high-quality art is reusing assets in smart (and non-obvious) ways, so you can get the most mileage out of the ones you have. This of course requires that you make assets that are easily re-used in smart ways. There's a really amazing video about the Beteshda art pipeline that's worth watching in full (it's like 45 minutes long - the viewer question bit isn't super important):

Some of the
 

NeutronCat

Member
I'm not an artist, so I can't provide additional suggestions.
But it's always interesting to draw something.
out.PNG
But I'm also too lazy to draw the rest.

Edit:
Personally I don't like "exotic colors", so I would choose a normal color for the bed.
Make objects more compact so less space left.
 
Last edited:

Zizka

Member
Don't put yourself down, I think your edit looks great personally!

To the OP, could you show us what you've worked on/the modifications you've made?
If you haven't done anything yet, I could recommend drastically reducing the room size, possibly in half. There's a lot of empty space which serves no purpose and isn't realistic. Unless the character is moving but even then the bedroom is awfully big I think.


I think FF6 has some great room designs. Everything has been carefully placed to look just right.
 

DarthTenebris

Definitely not a Sith Lord
To everyone who replied: Thank you! Your inputs are noted do help me go in the right direction.
To the OP, could you show us what you've worked on/the modifications you've made?
I've been working on the game logic, but I tried to start redoing the art. Here's the player facing forward, 32x32, with lines removed:
sprite22_strip4.png
Here's the box, also 32x32 with lines removed:
spr_chest_iron.png
And here's the bookshelf, 32x64 with lines removed:
spr_bookshelf.png

I am indeed new to pixel art, I've never really focused on the graphics of my games before, only the game logic. New learning experience for me I guess.
 
Last edited:

Zizka

Member
Good, keep on practicing! It really is the only way to get better.

I think I might've been unclear. I mentioned removing the outline inside the sprite, not outside. A black outline helps to distinguish a character from the background. Look at how Mario & Luigi did it:

So you might want to keep it for the character. (come to think of it, they keep black outlines inside the character as well but I'm personally not a fan).

As for the character, the smile has jaggies. You'll need to practice with AA (anti-aliasing) in order to get smoother curve.


An issue with the character's face is the readability. Basically, if you have low contrast, it's hard to distinguish what's being portrayed. There's little contrast between the eyes and the color of the face which is why they are hard to see (same goes for the teeth).

Here's an example:

Notice how the picture on the right is more "readable"? It's because there's more constrast between the constituting elements.

Also, perspectively speaking, the character is seen from the ground level while the rest of your stuff has a different perspective. I know a lot of games do that but I find it disturbing. From my understanding, it's usually a stylistic choice, because seeing too much of the character's head top wouldn't be very appealing.


In my opinion, Travis looks the best because you can see more of the top of the head (slightly more). I think Zelda accomplishes the right perspective quite well:

(even though the perspective of the walls inside buildings doesn't make sense).
 

DarthTenebris

Definitely not a Sith Lord
Here's the room with everything redrawn, except the walls and floor:
upload_2019-12-17_21-8-55.png
What can I do about the walls and floor? The perspective feels a bit off, but I'm not sure how to fix it. Also, what can I do to recreate depth=-y for asset layers? The bookshelf looks weird either way so I made the hitbox smaller to allow the player to walk behind it since that's what it looks like should happen, but the depth is screwed since I can't make it run depth=-y like an object can.

Thank you for your time.
 

Toque

Member
Do you want him to walk behind shelf?

most shelves are against the wall and can’t walk behind.

Decrease y position of shelf. Add a bit of wall. If you don’t want him behind shelf.


Lift the bed up a little.

that’s a big bedroom.
 

Zizka

Member
This is definitely a step in the right direction, congrats!

The issue here is the floor. I would recommend not guessing how to do texture but rather to look at references. It's very busy right now and doesn't really convey anything.

Regarding the character, I don't see any issue with having unrealistic proportions, most games do it. Have you considered shaping the face a tad more realistically however?

The smile still has jaggies (I'll draw you an example when I get home), the mouth is very high up in the face and the character has no forehead.

Even cartoon characters have *some* sense of proportions even if features are greatly exaggerated:


Keep it up, you're improving!
 

Rayek

Member
The room's height will not fit the book case or even 'Timmy' himself. That's one simple reason for the odd feel: the ceiling is much too low.

The furniture is too small drawn relative to Timmy. Or Timmy too big. At any rate, the furniture feels too small in relation to the overall room space. Draw a flat footprint top view to decide on the size of elements first.

The room is also too bare of objects and small details.

Check out Neutroncat's version, which gets all these things right.
 

Zizka

Member
This is what I meant regarding AA:


You basically "fill up" the empty notches with an variant of your base color. This will give the illusion of a curve. I think practicing will give you a better idea.
 
Before finalising the look you may need to see the reference of how real-life bedroom / living room looked like, try to compare the size of bed and sofa to understand the basic. Also, I suggest you to improve the overall look of the room, add more colours and such.
 
Top