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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    Stylistic Mutability in Games

    I know some people around here have a problem with anime-style visuals, and that's ok, you don't need to like them to participate in this. I don't really want to talk about anime style in itself; I want to talk about the misconception that there is an anime style. Anime has a lot of stylistic breadth, and I'm not talking about differences between artists. Anime often feels free to change its style to suit whatever the current tone of the story is. It might be hyper-stylised in a comedic scene, and then shift to something more (relatively) realistic for a serious scene, and it can use the contrast between the two to underscore sudden tonal shifts.

    (I can't really think of any other visual examples, but if you don't like anime, then perhaps think of Tolkien, and how his writing style becomes a lot less friendly and convivial, and a lot more austere and overwrought the farther Frodo gets from the Shire, then think about portraying that change in style visually.)

    So, I'm not necessarily talking about making games look like anime (although I am a little bit). What I'm really interested in is how games could handle this mutability of style: how games could use style to complement not the overall tone of the game (which games like DX:HR already do very well), but the current position in the game's tonal range. It seems like something that would be technically difficult, short of having different models and textures for each tone you want to express. But maybe there are other solutions.

    As always, examples of any games that already do this would be welcome. (I'd say FF7, but really, its stylistic changes are just inconsistent, not really complementing the shifts in tone. And pretty much limited to cutscenes. And there was no agency in how the tone shifted, which swept under the rug the challenge of a systematic way of doing this.)

    Unlike the Unreliable Stats thread, I'm not really interested in whether this is a good idea so much as I'm interested in the brain-exercise of how it could be done.

  2. #2
    Obscure Node boats's Avatar
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    I know nothing about anime, but I think The Land of the Living section of Grim Fandango does what you are speaking of.
    Check out this video at the 1:29 mark. Is that what you meant?

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Smashbox's Avatar
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    Silent Hill comes to mind, but honestly, I think I'd file that under environmental design rather than style-change (and tons of games use environmental design to create a tone or feeling).

    I am racking my brain trying to come up with a good example, but I can't think of any.

    I think one way to do this economically would be through changing shaders in 3D games to make the look reflect whatever tone you're going for. It would be more expensive and less feasible to actually change or distort models, as character proportions or perspectives or relative sizes might change in animation.

    EDIT: @boats good example.

  4. #4
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    Didn't the new Saboteur use a change of graphical style to represent the areas of Paris that were liberated from the Nazis?

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Voon's Avatar
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    There's a little game called Eversion that had a drastic change in tone and mood as you lead the little orange thing farther into the game. It's the stuff that would drive some people mad, from how cheery and fun the game looks at the start to how incredibly dreadful the last levels of the game look.

    Amnesia too, I think. There's barely anything at the upper floors in the castle but as you descend farther into the depths...
    Last edited by Voon; 30-04-2012 at 04:36 PM.
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  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus pakoito's Avatar
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    Graphic example, you're welcome.


  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Cooper's Avatar
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    Psychonauts is a great example of adapting artwork; each level being the psyche of a different individual; changing not only the artwork but the actual gameplay.

    But I think Psychonauts, Silent Hill and Fandango might not be what the OP asks about: All these utilise stark visual changes in order to narrate gamespaces differently. More akin to the black & white / colour change of the Wizard of Oz (A stylistic choice, not a function of cash or film technology development as is often suggested) than Tolkien's slip away from congeniality to cold adjetival description.

    OP is right about the early 3D Final Fantasy games: Partly as a result of technical limitations, battle scenes, world areas and interactive cinematics (think FF8) all had different visual styles. This was less about different visual styles as it related to narrative or 'levels' but more about the kind of stylistic movements in the OP:

    Defcon kinda did this: Very subtle music and visual effects changed as more and more bombs were dropped...
    Quote Originally Posted by CROCONOUGHTKEY
    KING GEORGE IS A FROG
    le BANG~__-MICHEAL FUCK OFF~~__-INTERPOL KNOW YOU WELLBIENG~—
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  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bobtree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BDH View Post
    Didn't the new Saboteur use a change of graphical style to represent the areas of Paris that were liberated from the Nazis?
    I kind of hated that after a while because it looked so good in black & white. The safehouses should have been in color, but not great swathes of french landscape. Good game though. I blew up every last bit of nazi gear on the map too. RIP Pandemic.

  9. #9
    Obscure Node boats's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cooper View Post
    Defcon kinda did this: Very subtle music and visual effects changed as more and more bombs were dropped...
    Interactive music sounds like something that fits the bill. Muting and unmuting the music tracks and performing other modulations based on what is currently happening in the game. The earliest example I can think of is Diddy Kong Racing which would layer on more intense tracks to the song as things intensified. Many games use this technique. I'm also reminded of Portal 2 and how the music would change depending on the type of thing you are interacting with. Bouncing on the blue gel would add that really floaty melody. The excursion tunnels would trigger a womb-like music event when you were inside them.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Smashbox's Avatar
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    Well, even Super Mario World did the music layers thing (to great effect, I might add). Drums join in when you jump on Yoshi, etc.

  11. #11
    Obscure Node boats's Avatar
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    Looks like there's two different types, according to Wikipedia.

    Horizontal re-sequencing is the method by which pre-composed segments of music can be re-shuffled according to a player’s choice of where they go in a storyline or environment. Vertical re-orchestration is the technique of changing the mix of separate parts of an ongoing loop of music in relation to a player’s movement within the narrative of a game. Recent games such asHalo 2 employ a mixture of these techniques in the creation of their soundtracks. Street Fighter II is an example of a game which changes the music's tempo under certain circumstances.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Alice: Madness Returns. Goes from drab 3D platformer in London to colorful 3D platformer in Wonderland to this:

    Last edited by Nalano; 30-04-2012 at 05:39 PM.
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  13. #13
    Obscure Node boats's Avatar
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    I've been thinking (there's my first problem), does anime really have much stylistic mutability? It's expected that the characters will have that rushing epileptic background when there's a moment of intensity. The sweat drop is another example. It's all about visual hyperbole (don't know if that's a real term). It's a visual tradition in that medium to do that, so it's not really changing to a new style when that happens is it? That is the style. No? Yes? I dunno. Think I'll make fajitas tonight.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Smashbox's Avatar
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    Well, I think framing the discussion around anime might be limiting. It's really a hallmark (and freedom of) of animation as a medium.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Voon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smashbox View Post
    Well, even Super Mario World did the music layers thing (to great effect, I might add). Drums join in when you jump on Yoshi, etc.
    Or in that new Pokemon game when you start running
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  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boats View Post
    I've been thinking (there's my first problem), does anime really have much stylistic mutability? It's expected that the characters will have that rushing epileptic background when there's a moment of intensity. The sweat drop is another example. It's all about visual hyperbole (don't know if that's a real term). It's a visual tradition in that medium to do that, so it's not really changing to a new style when that happens is it? That is the style. No? Yes? I dunno. Think I'll make fajitas tonight.
    Anime itself isn't that narrow; your understanding of it, however, is.

    To pick three animes at random, the differences are quite palpable.
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  17. #17
    Lesser Hivemind Node Feldspar's Avatar
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    I'd argue that stylistically those 3 clips were pretty similar, different in mood, but not artistic style, but I do agree with your point.

    Back on the main topic, I would suggest that due to the shear effort that goes into the art of a modern mainstream game, having something change completely in style would mean double the amount of art, and that's just expensive. Changing music, shaders, colours, pacing and graphical motifs are all much easier than a complete change in style.

    If you want to see a change of style in an animation, I suggest Watership Down, the dream and myth sequences used a completely different style to differentiate them.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    I'd argue that stylistically those 3 clips were pretty similar, different in mood, but not artistic style, but I do agree with your point.
    I chose those three because they were all musical interludes meant to highlight dystopian cyberpunk urban settings. The mood was similar. However, the animation style was quite different in all of them.
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  19. #19
    Obscure Node boats's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    your understanding of it, however, is.
    That's why I said as much earlier.

    I've seen Akira but I haven't watched the movies that the other two clips belong to. In the case of the Akira sequence, I don't see how it deviates stylistically from the rest of the film. Not to mention three random selections resulted in cyberpunk films that look similar.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Your question was, and I quote,

    Quote Originally Posted by boats View Post
    I've been thinking (there's my first problem), does anime really have much stylistic mutability?
    And the answer I gave was "yes; yes it does." Anime is quite diverse. The "overacting" silliness you mentioned is one facet that is muted or absent in what I showed.

    For your current question,

    Quote Originally Posted by boats View Post
    In the case of the Akira sequence, I don't see how it deviates stylistically from the rest of the film.
    For anime examples of switching gears mid-stream, there's always ultra-chibi interludes between more traditional passages, as evinced by a plethora of TV shows.
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