Defining Awesome — Why simple visuals will always win
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  • Why simple visuals will always win

    Written by . Posted at 3:47 pm on September 16th, 2011
    “If you please–draw me a sheep . . .”
    When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me, a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain-pen. But then I remembered how my studies had been concentrated on geography, history, arithmetic and grammar, and I told the little chap (a little crossly, too) that I did not know how to draw. He answered me:
    “That doesn’t matter. Draw me a sheep . . .”
    But I had never drawn a sheep. So I drew for him one of the two pictures I had drawn so often. It was that of the boa constrictor from the outside. And I was astounded to hear the little fellow greet it with,
    “No, no, no! I do not want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is a very dangerous creature, and an elephant is very cumbersome. Where I live, everything is very small. What I need is a sheep. Draw me a sheep.”
    So then I made a drawing.
    sickly sheepHe looked at it carefully, then he said:
    “No. This sheep is already very sickly. Make me another.”
    So I made another drawing.
    ramMy friend smiled gently and indulgently.
    “You see yourself,” he said, “that this is not a sheep. This is a ram. It has horns.”
    So then I did my drawing over once more.
    old sheepBut it was rejected too, just like the others.
    “This one is too old. I want a sheep that will live a long time.”
    By this time my patience was exhausted, because I was in a hurry to start taking my engine apart. So I tossed off this drawing.
    boxAnd I threw out an explanation with it.
    “This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”
    I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge:
    “That is exactly the way I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep will have to have a great deal of grass?”


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    1. my sleep for sheeps

    2. whut ?

    3. Reactorcore

      So basically you’re saying is “give a simple representation for something and let the viewer fill in the details using his imagination”?

      Yeah, im ok with that.

    4. Reactorcore: exactly. Everyone is happy that way.

    5. When you can’t draw a sheep, using your viewer’s imagination is better than a crude drawing of a sheep. But a superior drawing of a sheep will be better than a box – if only because some people may have a very poor imagination and others may imagine a bobcat instead.

      Let’s take DF. I know you play that game since you referenced it somewhere. It’s cool the way it is, being free and all. But I think you’ll agree that simple, functional graphics would only benefit that game.

      That said KAG doesn’t have weak graphics. It has perfectly adequate graphics. I think the important part is to differentiate functional graphics from eye-candy. Functional graphics serve to convey information about the gamestate or to define gameplay. A realistic red-dot scope with the red dot being actually colimated is functional. Fog or dust is functional as long as it actually obscures enemies or otherwise has an effect on gameplay.

      Eye-candy serves mostly to market a game because it looks nice on trailers. After a while people don’t even register the eye-candy or even turn it off.

      Michał you always seem to have a good point and then take IT TO THE EXTREME END+1. Or at least that’s the way you present them.

    6. Yeah, “The Little Prince” is great! :)

    7. Michal, I’ll have something to show you soon that I think you’ll really like. Great article. I’m glad that you’re starting to really realize this. It’s the only way I will ever make games.

      At first I thought I was lazy by not doing more intricate artwork and making it look nice. I’ve seen so many indie games get the review: “Well it looks like an awesome game, looks fun, but the graphics need major improvement.. not enough detail.” Personally I hate that. In my opinion it’s very rare for eye candy to work well with a game. For instance, 4 of the greatest rpgs on the SNES: FF3, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and Zelda: Link to the Past have beautiful artwork that worked well for the games. It really helped set the atmosphere which helped tell the story. The graphics were also functional somewhat. Lastly, of course even back then developers wanted top artwork in their games, but due to the systems limitation, the artists had to be creative.. you only had so many pixels to make a piece of wood look like a piece of wood.

      However, I’m still drawn back to simplistic and minimalistic graphics. I still play Adventure for the Atari 2600 for hours at a time. I even have it on my DS via StellaDS, I can never get enough, and… your hero is just a square.

      I guess I call it functional minimalism.

    8. The little prince is a charming way to demonstrate the low resolution effect. Simplistic pixelart can always compete with detailed graphics.

      However it’s hard to prove if it’s a matter of taste or willingness to use our imagination. New generation gamers aren’t much into that, while stylish retro art is what I’m looking for. But I’m an old school gamer.

      KAG’s artist is doing an amazing job btw.

    9. Leonard: It’s getting pretty late, how come you’re still up?

      Sheldon: I’ve found an emulator online that lets you play classic text based computer games from the 1980s.

      Leonard: That’s pretty cool.

      Sheldon: Oh yes. It runs on the world’s most powerful graphics chip, imagination.

      p.s. Le Petit Prince rocks!

    10. @archont By that logic, you might as well create a game with no background. The background doesn’t have any function. It is “eye candy”, right?

      No, almost every graphic (when used effectively) can help create a masterpiece. The “eye candy” you refer to can help the player get engrossed into the experience and even storyline.

      “Eye candy” is not what MM was talking about here.

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