PDA

View Full Version : Do Game Artists read too many comics?



Binho
30-01-2012, 10:26 PM
This is partially motivated by the latest Kingdoms of Amalur trailer. For the sake of clarity, I'm going to quickly define the terminology I'm going to use. I realise these aren't the actual exact definitions of these words, but it is what I mean when I will use them here. If you are going to reply just to be pedantic about definitions, please don't.

Comic: Art style from comic books, anime, manga or TV cartoons where proportions and/or figures are idealised or made to look heroic. Ie. Characters are 8 heads plus tall, long limbs, smallish heads, idealised figure - like Bayonetta and pretty much all superheroes and Female manga characters.
Cartoon: Art style where features and/or proportions are exaggerated for effect. Ie. caricatures, old cartoons like the Flintstones, comic books like Tin Tin or Asterix and Obelix.

A lot of games and the concept art for them in recent times have been done in comic styles. This personally has turned me off many recent titles. Kingdoms of Amalur is one of the rafts of games with these idealised character designs - others include WoW, Rift, Guild Wars 1+2, SWTOR, Gears of War, all the recent Superhero games, and most games from Japan. On the other hand, I personally enjoy cartoon styles more, and wish devs would experiment with them more. There haven't been many big ones since Lucasarts stopped making adventure games (Double Fine being one of the few, TF2, though quite a few indies do too). I personally feel the strong link between mainstream games and comics in terms of art-style is one of the contributing factors for why games are still viewed as toys for teenage boys. At the same time, perhaps the cartoon stylings of Zynga and PopCap games may be one reason why they don't share the stigma, and have a much broader appeal?

My questions to you lot are: 1.) Do you think heavy use of an art style traditionally enjoyed by teenage boys is helping reinforce the image society has of mainstream gaming - namely toys for adolescent males? 2.) Are there any art styles you would like to see tried out in a game? I'd like to see something more water-coloury, or with softer shades - also more realistic colours and hues. Less garish oversaturated eye sores, or depressing grey-browns. Both Witchers have partially satisfied my cravings.

Of course, I don't want all games to stop using the comic style. I'm just wishing for more distinct, varied and personally appealing visual stylings.

Malawi Frontier Guard
30-01-2012, 10:31 PM
But videogames are toys for adolescent males.

Althea
30-01-2012, 10:37 PM
Amalur's art designer is Todd MacFarlane - of course it's going to be comic-y.

I don't think heavy use of comic/cartoon art styles is reinforcing anything to anyone, beyond hyper-sexualised women in the case of Japanese games, but also some western ones. This also comes from a massive love, in Western fantasy, of artists such as Frank Frazetta who often eschewed practicality for the sake of art. There's - talking from a female perspective - a very bizarre love of boob plate, too, which is impractical, unrealistic and potentially fatal, which is something I never understood.

As for art styles I'd like to see - no, I can't think of any. I'd like for developers to use art styles that fit with their game, though. I liked GTA IV's attempt at realism, but it came at the expense of the game's performance, but more importantly at the expense of the tone of the game. I will say I thought it worked... kind of well, but I understand why people don't think it did. San Andreas was perhaps the best mix of realism and stylised art.

Oh, and I'd also like game artists/designers TO STOP IMPLEMENTING GODDAMN BANDAGE ARMOUR AND/OR BOOB PLATE FOR WOMEN. IT'S STUPID.

Wizardry
30-01-2012, 11:00 PM
I don't think heavy use of comic/cartoon art styles is reinforcing anything to anyone, beyond hyper-sexualised women in the case of Japanese games, but also some western ones. This also comes from a massive love, in Western fantasy, of artists such as Frank Frazetta who often eschewed practicality for the sake of art. There's - talking from a female perspective - a very bizarre love of boob plate, too, which is impractical, unrealistic and potentially fatal, which is something I never understood.

Oh, and I'd also like game artists/designers TO STOP IMPLEMENTING GODDAMN BANDAGE ARMOUR AND/OR BOOB PLATE FOR WOMEN. IT'S STUPID.
Thread ruined in two posts. Well done.

vecordae
30-01-2012, 11:31 PM
1.) I think that the best answer to this question is that what you're viewpoint on this isn't taking into consideration what games sell the most. Mainstream gaming doesn't look like Kingdoms of Amalur. It looks like The Sims, Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, and Call of Battlefield Number: Subtitle. Stylized and idealized character design is common in video games, sure, and comics books, too. It's also very common in Hollywood films, novels, and on television. Even the actors and actresses in live-action media tend to be closer to those ideals than the average human being. Still, I don't look at "stylized/idealized" and automatically equate it to "juvenile, male". I know some people do, but I think that's pretty much a an individual sort of thing and, if I am to be honest, strikes me as being an increasingly antiquated association.

2) While there is still plenty of room for unique aethetics, almost every general type of artistic visual presentation has been tried so far. I don't actually care about the stylization as much as I do about how the characterization anyway. As long as the artistic style and aesthetic works for the game, I am satisfied.

DigitalSignalX
31-01-2012, 03:59 AM
Wiz said it, come on unRav, you can't lay out Boob armor in a art design thread! :P But the point about Todd MacFarlane is a totally legit no-brainer in terms of Amalur. I personally don't care for it (Armalur I mean, Spawn is awesome) and catagorize it as "WoWish" in nature. My favorite would be something along the lines of Oni, which I'm not qualified to describe except to say that it's a "blend of realism and sci-fi anime."

http://www.cdaccess.com/gifs/screen/oni3.jpg

This style doesn't have to have bizarrely proportioned bodies, but still can be uniquely "non real" in other ways like how skills or weapons are used with animations etc.

One thing I like about a "cartoon" based character system of any form over the hyper-real man-shooter is adding one more layer of dissonance between committing violence on real people. Not that I'm saying BF3 makes kids into the next school shooter, but the extra bit of "this isn't real" can only help when your glaring in anger at that twat spawn camping you.

soldant
31-01-2012, 04:26 AM
...but the extra bit of "this isn't real" can only help when your glaring in anger at that twat spawn camping you.
Doesn't help for me, I still know it's a reason person deliberately being a tool behind the smiling Demoman.

Personally I don't like comics. I never have. I don't like "graphic novels" either. They just don't particularly interest me. Part of that is probably the art style which has to convey action in a static form, so I think they're often far too busy for my liking. I have no real opinion on question 2 so I'll just answer the first one.

I think it's hard to say whether it "holds gaming back" in terms of being seen as a mature section of the industry. In part I think it might because it might lead some people to presume that the "cartoony" graphics are more for children, but by the same token the dark-brown gritty metal angry man pallets also fall into the category of "appeals to adolescent boys", so whichever way you look people are going to presume that games are mostly for children. That kind of preconception isn't likely to go away for a while yet, no matter what art style you decide to push.

I will say though that I'm finding the overuse of the cartoon style to be a bit annoying lately. TF2's visual style, on first release, was nice and clean and the cartoon graphics helped make it easy to distinguish gameplay elements which works for the chaotic gameplay, unlike BF3 where everything is brown and indistinct, which works for military shooter game it is. But TF2's art style has become ridiculously polluted with all sorts of crazy crap these days, and it's far too busy in terms of visuals. And it's not just the hats and ridiculous number of weapons, but also the particle effects and paint. Lots of games seem to be taking that path, using the comic-book look to create a very clear distinction between two characters or factions. The problem is that it's starting to get tired and out of place. They seem to be doing it "just because" they can, rather than for a good reason.

That said, I also want to implicate indie devs in this one too, but less with the comic-book style and more with 8/16-bit retro graphics. I totally get that a comic-book or retro style is a lot cheaper and easier to produce because it doesn't require 16 different shaders to get the metallic sheen and bumpmapping right, but I think far too many indie games rely on this "retro look" angle to make up for their tired gameplay mechanics, with indie platformers being some of the worst of the lot. I think a lot of indie devs, like larger devs, are starting to rely on "a unique visual look" to make their game stand out. The problem is that it isn't unique if you just do what everybody else does.

Wizardry
31-01-2012, 05:41 AM
There was this pretty crappy 1989/1990 adventure game called B.A.T. It had a pretty cool comic/graphic novel art style thing going on.

http://i43.tinypic.com/6r1y4y.jpg
http://i44.tinypic.com/fc1ekj.jpg
http://i40.tinypic.com/v75fgm.jpg
http://i42.tinypic.com/2uh1js8.jpg

Looks pretty good eh?

ado
31-01-2012, 08:17 AM
I see no problem when it comes to borrowing (or even outright stealing) ideas or concepts from other formats like movies and comics. It's actually very common amongst art forms to do so.

DigitalSignalX
31-01-2012, 08:25 AM
Nice pic - but it needed some random captions.

http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/3020/51742111m.jpg

Nalano
31-01-2012, 08:33 AM
Do game artists read too many comics?

http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2001/pc/act/maxpayne/maxpayne_screen003.jpg

No, no they do not.

soldant
31-01-2012, 10:29 AM
Nice pic - but it needed some random captions.
DigitalSignalX's untitled work explores the human condition in a depraved, dystopian future with startling realism, exposing the dark side of humanity. Filled with depravity and tales of drivers gone wrong, DSX's work seems to suggest that the key to advancement of humanity is to reject the false pleasures of drivers and the inevitable underground arcade scene, lest we become trapped in our own minds, forever clinging to lost ideals and rejecting all that is good around us. His work seems to suggest that the more we linger in the dark depths of familiarity, the less we know and the less relevant we become to our world at large. It decays around us, neglected and shunned, leaving us broken individuals lost in our own dreamscapes turned nightmares.

Truly a landmark work. Five stars.


(TL;DR - Seriously, well done.)

sabrage
31-01-2012, 11:56 AM
I want a game that looks like Aeon Flux.

Japanese games get all their art from anime/manga, so they're both cartoon and comic.

buemba
31-01-2012, 12:17 PM
I see no problem when it comes to borrowing (or even outright stealing) ideas or concepts from other formats like movies and comics. It's actually very common amongst art forms to do so.

I don't have a problem with that either, but I do hate how so many game developers drink from the same few sources. When looking for a visual style developers need to realize there's more out there than just Aliens, Black Hawk Down, Lord of the Rings and Blade Runner.

Tikey
31-01-2012, 12:46 PM
I want a neoplasticist game.

Bhazor
31-01-2012, 12:54 PM
I really want games to go backwards into the saturday morning cartoon region. Going cartoony frees the designers up so much as they no longer have to be so boringly realistic. A bear that can fly? How? I know! Lets give him a back pack with a giant flamingo thing in it! Lets have them argue!

Instead we have everyone trying to make their game into a Liefeld comic book. The horror.
http://www.progressiveboink.com/archive/robliefeld.html

Zephro
31-01-2012, 02:09 PM
I don't have a problem with that either, but I do hate how so many game developers drink from the same few sources. When looking for a visual style developers need to realize there's more out there than just Aliens, Black Hawk Down, Lord of the Rings and Blade Runner.

THIS. Though I don't think enough use Blade Runner, the only game to give me a Blade Runner/Neuromancer vibe lately was Deus Ex...

While I agree that most games use heroic proportions, I think it's already been pointed out that comics themselves lifted these proportions. The heroic and ideal proportions date back to Greek art and have been used since to represent heroes or characters on the front of bad fantasy novels from the 70s or the front of metal albums!

I'd hazard a guess that they were also used in Western cartoons like GI Joe. I wouldn't really point at comics, just centuries of western art tradition.

Lilliput King
31-01-2012, 10:08 PM
Though I don't think enough use Blade Runner, the only game to give me a Blade Runner/Neuromancer vibe lately was Deus Ex...

Yeah I'd like to see the cyberpunk aesthetic a little more often myself, particularly with blade runner's/neuromancer's dystopian feel to it.

Snargelfargen
31-01-2012, 11:55 PM
I would like to see more games that featured sparse environments and bright colours. Mirror's edge is a great example, and it still looks pretty realistic. Zeno Clash and Ico are two other good examples.

I hate to see comics take a bad rap for unimaginative art, when most of what you are talking about was played out after the 90's. Spikes, pouches and enormous shoulder pads are part of a certain style now, and certainly aren't present in most comics, even the mainstream super hero stuff. You can find all sorts of styles from the minimalist: http://i.imgur.com/ANqpa.jpg
to the expressive
:http://i.imgur.com/CPqmw.jpg
Cartoon style:
http://i.imgur.com/e3HLy.jpg
And what you get in videogames:
http://i.imgur.com/QXyE1.jpg
/end comic nerd rant


Nice pic - but it needed some random captions.

Haha, this is great!

cjlr
01-02-2012, 04:23 AM
Gut reaction to title: I don't think they read enough of anything. Impressions to follow.

EDIT:

Right, I read that wrong (OH THE IRONY). For the visual style to be informed by (modern, stylized, power-and-sexual-fantasy comics art) is not quite a bad thing in an of itself, though it can get excessive real fast.

The deformed, 'cartoon' style is somewhat a reaction to the limitations of technology - if you can't do photorealism you can at least do something stylized and aesthetically consistent. Not as much of an issue, these days, and so I guess chosen less often.

Binho
01-02-2012, 10:11 PM
I'd like to point out I never said stylized art was bad, or that using comics as an inspiration is bad. Many comics and graphic novels have interesting and different art styles, as in the examples Snarglefargen posted.

I was speaking out about my dislike for the hyper-idealsed proportions and figures prevelant in many comic books, which so many games seem to be using as inspiration - and which I feel may also be considered juvenile and could be setting games back. Althea, if you disagree with my statement, could you please at least provide your reasoning as to why? You basically just said "you're wrong" without further explanation. I may be wrong, but I won't know why unless you elaborate!

As for mainstream, I meant AAA games for "gamers", not the biggest selling titles for all audiences. Vecordae, you are right Hollywood and the fashion industry also push unrealistically ideal body shapes at us, and it's true as Zephro pointed out this has been a tradition in western art for a long while - just that games and a lot of comics take it much farther, the Rob Liefield example being a good one. Think of Marcus Fenix in GOW, and just about every female in gaming.

Also I don't feel that comics have become much more mainstream or accepted. I think they, and people who read them are tolerated more -yet it is still adolescent boys or quite a niche subculture that tends to enjoy them. I feel the recent spate of Hollywood comic movies tie in more with a nostalgia factor for the teenage years, or are seen more as popcorn action flicks, than as being true acceptance of comics. Comic book stores still seem to cater to a specific more than a general audience. Although it does seem that sci-fi and fantasy have become much more accepted as genres.

pakoito
01-02-2012, 10:19 PM
No, they just try to emulate them because they are told that is their target demographics.

Vivan los 90!

http://megasad.com/comics/covers/large/gen13bootleg-grungethemovie.jpg

Althea
01-02-2012, 10:49 PM
Althea, if you disagree with my statement, could you please at least provide your reasoning as to why? You basically just said "you're wrong" without further explanation. I may be wrong, but I won't know why unless you elaborate!
Alright, let's put it this way:

You're not wrong. You're not right, either.

Taking inspiration from comics isn't bad, nor is hyper-realism. It's only bad if it's done wrongly. Champions Online, for example, does its art style wrong. It's based on comics, yet it looks incredibly unnatural and rather piss-poor. This also extends to the more realistic Star Trek Online game (same developer) which looks better but still with a lack of natural aesthetics.

Mirror's Edge is the perfect franchise for this discussion, I think. It has three art styles - in-game, in-game animation and comic. The game is realistic, the in-game animation is cartoon-like and the comic is realistic comic art (sort of). The two styles in-game clashed quite poorly due to DICE's shaky implementation of them, but it was better than looking at 3D models trying to have a conversation and look "natural".

See, this is the thing. It doesn't matter where the inspiration comes from, it's the implementation. Games like Gray Matter used comic-like artwork (we're talking comics more like Fables, I'd guess) to tell the story during parts of the game that the 3D models just can't do justice to. 3D always looks unnatural and fake, whether it's Bulletstorm, Space Marine or Mass Effect. It comes with strange poses, strange movements and weird expressions that look... fake. L.A. Noire is a great game to show off that difference. The faces are more akin to touched-up film (from what I understand) than the rest of the game, so you have these brilliant facial expressions combined with awkward animation.

So no, I don't think artists read too many comics. I think art styles are influenced more by the current technologies than what the team reads. Now that computers, including consoles, are better able to create realistic lighting, shadows and so forth, we're seeing a shift towards realism. Five, ten, fifteen years ago - this wasn't as possible, nor were the techniques as refined. Even the more comic-like styles we're seeing (say, Amalur) aren't particularly over the top in the way a Pixar film would be.

It's a combination of so many factors that I think it's not possible to say. That said, I still find the concept of reading too many comics to be bizarre.

SirKicksalot
01-02-2012, 10:57 PM
Still waiting for a XIII sequel...


This also comes from a massive love, in Western fantasy, of artists such as Frank Frazetta who often eschewed practicality for the sake of art.

Few get that look right IMO.

Snargelfargen
01-02-2012, 11:27 PM
It's a combination of so many factors that I think it's not possible to say. That said, I still find the concept of reading too many comics to be bizarre.

Amen!

Most AAA titles these days suffer from a severe case of the "uncanny valley". Developers spend tremendous amounts of time texturing the pores in a characters face, modelling individual butt cheeks and animating idle movements such as shrugging one's shoulders. Put them all together, and instead of realism, you end up getting a creepy facsimile of a human being. The same artists and developers also tend to fall back on the lazy cliches of bull-necked muscle bound men and impossibly proportioned stick-women.
In that sense, "cartoon" style game characters look great. They don't even try to resemble realistic versions of humans and they are better for it. I actually don't mind a lot of MMO art, because it still retains some of that cartoonish vibe. WoW is certainly guilty of exaggerated physiques, but the art is rudimentary enough that it works within the game's context. You could definitely argue that WoW's extreme sexual dimorphism (huge, muscly guys, tiny women with giant knockers) promotes negative stereotypes though.

This problem goes both ways. The comic industry is plagued by terrible video-game spin off comics. Gears of War, F.E.A.R., I think there was even a Call of Duty comic at one point.

Althea
02-02-2012, 08:31 AM
You could definitely argue that WoW's extreme sexual dimorphism (huge, muscly guys, tiny women with giant knockers) promotes negative stereotypes though.
You have seen the female orcs, yes? ;)

Nalano
02-02-2012, 08:40 AM
You have seen the female orcs, yes? ;)

Or the nelfs' man-hands.

Oof
30-03-2012, 01:28 PM
My favorite would be something along the lines of Oni, which I'm not qualified to describe except to say that it's a "blend of realism and sci-fi anime."

http://www.cdaccess.com/gifs/screen/oni3.jpg

This style doesn't have to have bizarrely proportioned bodies, but still can be uniquely "non real" in other ways like how skills or weapons are used with animations etc.


OMG ONI IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE GAMES OF ALL TIME, in style, story, characterisation, gameplay, world, lore, EVERYTHING. I'VE FOUND A SOUL MATE. I feel comfortable (although he may not) letting DigitalSignalX speak for me in this thread, henceforth.