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8-Bit/Low-Bit is not a fashion statement, or it shouldn't be.

Slade Villena, Blogger

July 20, 2010

3 Min Read


This is a programmer ranting about aesthetics and art.  

You have been warned.

Young children ( and possibly IGF nominees ) should take caution reading this post.

8 bits of precision, a lack of screen resolution, hell, a lack of a "game engine", are all technological limitations.  They are boundaries from the phenomenal world, limiting what can and cannot be processed in a game.

Game developers of the old glorious times overcame these limitations and produced a unique experience.

...and than I see this;

[ scroll warning, may hurt eyes ]

















Exhibit A, VICTIM.



Now, I'm not gonna lie, I had terrible fashion sense when I was in middle school.  I hope the dude in the above IS in middle school.....or it's worse than I thought.  

He looks like he was dragged away from his DDR marathon by his parents, and forced to take family photos.  (The flash-like pastel was the best the photo-mall people could do)

I'd have that bummed out look for sure.

There seems to be an uncontrollable virus spreading around, by adding sprinkles of 8 bit pixels to the mix.  It's like the Bunny-Ears aesthetic in FFXII, where everything had bunny ears, including the buildings.

I hope, and do solemnly hope that 8Bit doesn't devolve into a fad.  Like the Spice Girls.  I like 8bit games, when 8bits of precision, from computation to visuals, are all it takes to express the full context of your game.  But PLEASE, don't insult graphics libraries like OpenGL, and make those scene graphs consume nothing but 8Bit art when it can do more.

It's a snide to the masters of yore, bound by their tools and the technology of the time, pushing them to express as much of their vision as possible.  And us so easily reverting back to 8bits just to make it "look retro"; feels like a wet blanket.

Here's another challenge; 8bit games were meant for low power devices.  If you are an "8bit game" consuming as much processor space as any off the shelf RTS, than you fail it.  How about going 8bit, down to your raw assembler?

That is actually a proper method of expression, if you're gonna "go retro"; go all the freakin' way.  Get rid of your 3DSMax/Maya/PShop tools, get MS Paint.  Compiler?  How about coding in raw x86?  Make a game using nothing but old ass tools.  

Now THAT is a feat worthy of respect, and fear. 

In fact, let's use this time machine, and bring back some of the common tools we have now. Let's take our open source/freeware engines, IDE's, hell, "Game Kits".  Some of the Old Gals/Guys probably envy what we have now, and I find it disparaging that we treat their "limitations" as fashion statements. 

Don't get me wrong, I find the whole 8-bit intrigue fascinating and I actually like mainstream folks taking notice of this as a cultural milestone.

But PLEASE, don't make this any freakin' worse.  It's an insult to our gamer heritage.

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