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Old 06-05-2007, 11:10 PM   #1
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Default minimalist art - a viable style?

I posted this over on indiegamers. Sorry about the cross post, but I while they have a good grasp of general business and marketing issues, they don't know adventure games.

Is it realistic to make a story driven game with an ultra-minimalist art style? Something like the style used in the Good New Bible? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3501430.stm

For reasons that I won't bore you with, I'm considering replacing all my game art with this style. I can see a number of major advantages for my game in particular:

1. My game is very large, and is based on stories. This art style is easy to create. It's extremely practical for my needs.
2. My game is based on writing, and deals with abstract concepts and ambiguity. This style suits it.
3. My game at present has inconsistent art styles. I am guessing that even if "minimalist" isn't popular, it's much better than "Inconsistent"?
4. This style will make my game instantly recognizable, memorable, and will be a talking point.

Could it work? The nearest thing I can think of is ASCII Star Wars. http://www.asciimation.co.nz/ though my game would have smoother flowing lines.
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Old 06-05-2007, 11:20 PM   #2
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I think it has the potential to work and have a powerful impact if done right. I take it that this minimalist art is going to be fully animated. Is that right?

There are some people who I think will be put off by this alone. In the same way that there are people spurn text interfaces because they think point-and-click is an improvement, some will spurn a game because they think pretty graphics are better. Not a reason not to do it. Just something to be aware of.

It is important that the style fits the game itself but you seem to be confident that is the case. A different visual style can definitely make people feel differently. As I mentioned in another thread recently, the film La Haine is entirely black and white despite being filmed in colour. This makes the whole thing feel darker which perfectlly suits the tone of the action.

If minimalist art will do the same for your game then I think you should go for it.
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:04 AM   #3
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I myself am getting a bit tired of all those 'stunning graphics' that look so much alike. But maybe that's just my taste in games Anyway, a new style like you propose certainly is refreshing. The only thing that I miss is colour, and that is hard to implement in the style you propose. I know the style well BTW; I practically grew up with the Good News Bible.
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:34 AM   #4
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Quote:
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there are people spurn text interfaces because they think point-and-click is an improvement
It's funny you mention that. Text adventures are a great temptation to me, because I'm loking for the most efficient possible way to tell a story. Saying "you are in a cave" is quicker than drawing or rendering a cave, and it conjures up more powerful images in the mind. However, text has some disadvantages, because sometimes a simple thing takes a long time to describe, and (for the user) typing is slower than clicking. I'm slowly coming round to the idea that minimalist art may be the sweet spot, the optimal compromise for efficient story telling. For certain kinds of story at least.
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I take it that this minimalist art is going to be fully animated. Is that right?
Yes, that's one of the (secondary) reasons for doing it. At present I'm using a style that's based on photos, and animating this takes FOREVER, yet the results look nothing special. It's really frustrating to take a whole week on something simple like "he climbs up, walks over, bends down, picks up, turns round..." I wish I could just think "it would be nice if a whole crowd ran toward the camera" then animate it in five minutes. Well with minimalist art maybe I can!
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Old 06-06-2007, 12:43 AM   #5
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The only thing that I miss is colour
That's something I'm still thinking about. Very occasional color could be very effective (as in the Wizard of Oz). But the big question is how to handle outer space and underwater scenes. For most scenes, black lines on white space make the most sense. But the opposite is true in outer space. Maybe it would be too much of a jolt to change styles. Or maybe it will be entirely appropriate. But that's a minor issue that I can worry about later.

Just to put all this in perspective, I have spent literally years (developing part time) on the graphics of my game so far, and a minimalist approach would mean dumping all that work. It would be a major, major step. But the benefits are potentially enormous, both from a development viewpoint and a marketing viewpoint. So I very much appreciate everyone's opinions.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:09 AM   #6
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To me, as a fairly new adventure gamer I've become less dependant on pretty graphics than I was in the beginning of my gaming career. A few years ago I wouldn't have considered a game in minimalistic art style, but today I'd look into it if other aspects as the story and price were to my liking.

Smooth, flowing lines and occasional colour sounds interesting.
What about using different colours of the background for different locations?
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:16 AM   #7
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A few years ago I wouldn't have considered a game in minimalistic art style, but today I'd look into it if other aspects as the story and price were to my liking.
Yes, that's the risk, that new users would be put off. But I think the game would look better than the current, inconsistent and rough look.
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What about using different colours of the background for different locations?
That's a possibility. Deep colors would cause problems with antialiasing, but if the color was very pale then that would work. I'll have to experiment!
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:16 AM   #8
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Maybe you can show us some of the drawings you made yourself?
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:28 AM   #9
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Maybe you can show us some of the drawings you made yourself?
Existing screenshots (the ones I'm thinking of dumping) are here and here. Those pages focus on the Les Misereables scenes, but the wider game has a broad range of styles. I tried to make the inconsistent, sketchy art into part of the story (where the main character can slip between real and imaginery worlds), but I don't think it's working.

As for the possible new look, I haven't experimented yet with minimalism, but I'm fairly sure that using Xara it should be possible to do something interesting. I'll be aiming for something like an animated Good News Bible style. Less is more.
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Old 06-06-2007, 02:04 AM   #10
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I thought the great variety of graphical styles you were going for earlier (mathematically drawn images, child's drawings, photographs, etc.) had terrific potential. That variety would have reflected the landscape of the imagination, which is, after all, a messy place. And all the more interesting for that.

I just worry that if you lock yourself into a single art style now, you may eventually come to see it as more of a restraint on than an aid for creativity. What has most excited me about Les miserables is that it seemed willing to really break free of all the shackles of convention that set such limits to creativity in mainstream adventure games.

From that viewpoint, staying with a single art style strikes me as a big step backward. Though I certainly appreciate your reasons, and certainly both approaches have their good and bad points. But darn it, those screenshots in multiple styles look so good together! Still, whichever you choose, I very much look forward to the game.

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Old 06-06-2007, 02:50 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simo Sakari Aaltonen View Post
I thought the great variety of graphical styles you were going for earlier (mathematically drawn images, child's drawings, photographs, etc.) had terrific potential. That variety would have reflected the landscape of the imagination, which is, after all, a messy place. And all the more interesting for that.
I agree! That's exactly how I feel. The whole point of the game is to explore alternative ideas, variations on ideas, worlds within worlds, different points of view. But until this moment I thought I was the only one who saw it that way. Everyone who sees the game (so far) says they want consistency and polish. I don't want to scare away nine tenths of potential players.

I look forward to others' opinions.
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Old 06-06-2007, 03:50 AM   #12
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Judging from the screenshots you made public: I wouldn't dump your current, 'inconsistent' art style neither for a minimalistic art nor for a consistent, 'polished' one. In fact, your current work looks very interesting, if you indeed manage to bring this seemingly endless variety of locations, worlds and art styles in your game to life.

Minimalistic art, however, doesn't seem like a good idea to stick with (to me at least). Pretty pictures do back a good story, after all, and I imagine it'd be much harder to make a game stay interesting if it looked like my miserable attempts to paint. Then, one could say text adventures look like text on paper (a point hard to argue) and still can tell an amazing story, but how popular are those games now? If you are afraid you would scare off a good percentage of potential target audience - how many do you think will play a text adventure (or one with graphics similar to prehistoric paintings on walls) as long as you plan Les Misťrables to be?
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Old 06-06-2007, 04:19 AM   #13
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At present I'm using a style that's based on photos, and animating this takes FOREVER, yet the results look nothing special.
I do not agree. Each and every style I've seen on the links you provided look appealing.

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I thought the great variety of graphical styles you were going for earlier (mathematically drawn images, child's drawings, photographs, etc.) had terrific potential.
Agrees!

Still, it would be a lot easier to give an opinion on which art style I prefer if I had some sceenshot examples in minimalistic style as well.
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Old 06-06-2007, 08:38 AM   #14
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As much as I think a game using a minimalistic style would be very intriguing to play, I think the current "inconsistent" style is quite awesome as it is, and that you should stick with it, particularly since it seems to fit better with the theme of the game as you've described it.
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Old 06-06-2007, 08:58 AM   #15
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I agree with Squinky.

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Old 06-06-2007, 10:59 AM   #16
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I didn't realise you'd put a lot of effort into art already. An inconsistent style can work in a game if the setting is suitable for it. (i.e. lots of disparate locations) Any game set in a particular locale (say a city) needs to maintain a regular look for that locale (even in comparing rough locales to the areas of high society the art needs to look similar)

For a game that uses a wide variety of art styles and gets away with it you should check out The Museum of Broken Memories This exhibits a high details style for the central area but a variety of different approaches for each of the room's puzzle areas. Might make you reconsider chucking a load of work if the same basic approach would work for your idea.
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Old 06-06-2007, 01:58 PM   #17
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Quote:
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For a game that uses a wide variety of art styles and gets away with it you should check out The Museum of Broken Memories
Yes, that's the kind of thing! But could it have worked as a commercial game?

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it would be a lot easier to give an opinion on which art style I prefer if I had some sceenshot examples in minimalistic style as well.
This link is the first of 23 pages of Annie Vallotton art, so you'll soon get the general idea.
http://www.biblical-art.com/artist_a...lt=2&pagenum=1
Please note that if I did move over to that style, then the number of scenes in the game would greatly increase. What you lost in detail you would gain in freedom to explore. Or that's the theory.

Quote:
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Each and every style I've seen on the links you provided look appealing.
So far the majority of people who have seen the screenshots say "stick with them," and the majority of the (very few) people who have seen early builds of the game say "change them." Maybe the solution is to show more people an early build of the game.


Edit: I was going to give a URL for you to download the game as-it-is but I'm going to upload a video of the game instead. Watch this space!

Last edited by Enter the Story; 06-06-2007 at 02:49 PM. Reason: merged
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Old 06-06-2007, 02:04 PM   #18
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You could make a short video of the game (maybe even with your own commentary? I'd love that) instead of giving an early build away. In fact, I'd actually prefer a trailer of some sort. Or am I blind and you are already offering one?
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Old 06-06-2007, 02:14 PM   #19
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Quote:
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You could make a short video of the game (maybe even with your own commentary? I'd love that) instead of giving an early build away.
Done! I think. It's my first time on YouTube, so I've no idea if this will work, but it should eventually appear here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0hTnFF97po

I ae no idea how long these things take to process. I can't see it yet.

Last edited by Enter the Story; 06-06-2007 at 04:07 PM. Reason: made the video!
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Old 06-06-2007, 08:38 PM   #20
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Wow. It looks very good! It would be such a pity if you threw all of that away. Or even part of it. I like the different styles very much.
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