Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

27 January, 2007

Weekend Design Challenge: Art styles
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:50 AM

This design challenge, we’re going to go into an area I’m not an expert at: art.

This week’s challenge: Describe different types of art styles you could use in a game. A few of my thoughts after the break.

For this challenge, give the art style a name and give a one-sentence description.

Let me take the most obvious type: Photorealism – Trying to duplicate the appearance of physical reality as much as possible given technical limitations.

Another type is Cartoonish: Similar to photorealism, but with certain aspects overemphasized like a caricature, also called “stylized”. This is WoW’s art style.

So, what other styles of art could you have? There’s about three more I can think of easily, but I don’t want to prevent other people from contributing. ;)

Next Post: »


  1. Artsy: Utilizing a style which emulates a traditional art style. Okami, for example emulated a Japanese ink and watercolor, albeit in a Cartoonish fashion.

    Comment by Corvus — 27 January, 2007 @ 5:53 AM

  2. Film Noir: lots of shadows; dulled colors, if not all greys, sometimes with blood red accents…

    Anime: bright colors, lots of movement, “big eyes, small mouth”…

    Comment by Craig Huber — 27 January, 2007 @ 7:23 AM

  3. How about:

    Hand-drawn: Rough pencil-sketched appearance with simple shading and a ‘cut-out’ feel.

    Photomontage Manipulated photographs of real objects form rich backgrounds and in-game objects.

    Comment by Jpoku — 27 January, 2007 @ 8:45 AM

  4. Art Deco All level design/architecture to have a very 1930s futuristic feel. As regards graphics strong colours and sharp lines.

    Comment by Colm Mac — 27 January, 2007 @ 11:43 AM

  5. I think ‘Cartoonish’ is too broad. Within that style you’ve got multiple other styles, like
    * Anime (someone mentioned that already) and
    * Super Deformed (lots of cross-over with Anime here)

    Other styles I can think of:
    * Cel-shaded
    * Rotoscoped, though I’m not sure if that’s even feasible in a video game.
    * “Comics”-style. I’m not sure what this would be called by artists, but CoH, for instance, is neither what I’d call photo-realistic nor cartoony.
    * “Old-school video gamey”. No idea what this style should be called, but think of the old low-res Mario games and whatnot. Some games seek to emulate this specific look for nostalgic reasons.

    I’m sure we’re missing a ton.


    Comment by Matt Mihaly — 27 January, 2007 @ 12:53 PM

  6. @Matt, Someone told me that the adventure game The Last Express used rotoscoping for the character’s. (Quick wikipedia search confirmed it)

    Comment by Jpoku — 27 January, 2007 @ 1:12 PM

  7. Non-photorealistic effects… such as painterly, sketch, etc.

    Comment by Mike Rozak — 27 January, 2007 @ 2:04 PM

  8. Have to throw in ASCII art

    I am not sure how good it would work for a full game, but a mini-game or spell effect would be interesting.

    Comment by Neumann — 27 January, 2007 @ 3:15 PM

  9. Art is one of those things that’s absolutley vital to a game, but I’m kind of finding it hard to respond to this design challenge because it’s so vague. The art style a game should chase is really dependent on what the game is trying to achieve, but generally speaking the most important part of in-game art is consistancy.

    Comment by Dan C — 29 January, 2007 @ 7:30 PM

  10. …I’m kind of finding it hard to respond to this design challenge because it’s so vague.

    This is intentionally vague, because it is a challenge to think of different art styles. The goal here is to get people discussing the issue and thinking about it. We’re not quite to the point of picking an art style for a specific game yet.

    You are right, the most important issue is consistency. The way this is usually accomplished is to pick an art style as we are discussing here.

    Have fun,

    Comment by Psychochild — 30 January, 2007 @ 3:27 AM

  11. I prefer my dunce-cap wearing corner rants, thank you very much.

    I’m suprised no one has mentioned surrealism. It’s a neat way to force a gamer to observe contrast. Two games that kind of nailed surrealism where fallout and, a personal favorite, rise of the dragon.

    Comment by Dan C — 31 January, 2007 @ 2:06 AM

  12. Do you feel like picking my old comment here out of the spam bin? Or is it already gone?

    Comment by axcho — 4 June, 2007 @ 11:08 PM

  13. Sorry, it’s gone to the great spam bin in the sky. :/

    I get roughly 1400 or so spam posts per day. So, unfortunately, there are some false positives that get caught erroneously. The spam system I use discards old messages after 15 days, too. You can get some serious database performance issues if you let the old messages hang around too long.

    Have fun,

    Comment by Psychochild — 5 June, 2007 @ 12:58 AM

  14. Would it be worth posting again? I discovered that I still have a copy of it saved on my computer.

    Comment by axcho — 5 June, 2007 @ 9:25 PM

  15. Sure! As you can see, I still check older threads. That’s why I have the “Recent Comments” bit on the left column. :)

    Have fun,

    Comment by Psychochild — 6 June, 2007 @ 12:53 AM

  16. In my experience as a gamer, it seems I’m less likely to notice flaws with more rounded, smooth art styles (like Pixar films) than with harder-edged, grainy styles (like in the Resident Evil games).

    A broad color palette, like in WoW, is usually more engaging than a smaller one; though I think a smaller palette should be used for particular settings within a game.

    Also, it’s tricky to work into gameplay, but sometimes an off-center camera or shift in camera distance could be compelling. This painting’s an example of what I mean:

    Comment by Aaron — 6 June, 2007 @ 11:43 AM

  17. Pixel art – A 2D style that embraces the pixel as a design element rather than anti-aliasing it away. Some good examples include Knytt, Cave Story, and of course most games on old low-res systems would qualify.

    Vector art – A mostly 2D style where the image is composed of mathematically defined shapes filled with a solid color, or a simple gradient or texture. Many Flash games use this style, including the well known N. The art piece White Matrix is a nice example of this style, as is the really cool color script for The Incredibles, which you can see in the book The Art of The Incredibles and also somewhat in the end credits of the movie.

    Stick – A mostly 2D style emphasizing form and motion over realistic detail, where people and objects are represented by a few simple lines. This is also a popular style for Flash animations and games, including wpnFire, Unbalanced, and Move-It.

    Digital speedpainting – a 3D style emphasizing color and atmosphere, composed of overlapping strokes usually of a constant width and color but varying in opacity, hinting at detail rather than actually creating it. This style is often used in concept art for games, but sadly never seems to make it into the finished product. There are many great examples around, and here are just a few: smell the lights, snow structure, The Iceberg Cave, and The YellowGreenBlue situation.

    Comment by axcho — 7 June, 2007 @ 9:09 PM

Leave a comment

I value your comment and think the discussions are the best part of this blog. However, there's this scourge called comment spam, so I choose to moderate comments rather than giving filthy spammers any advantage.

If this is your first comment, it will be held for moderation and therefore will not show up immediately. I will approve your comment when I can, usually within a day. Comments should eventually be approved if not spam. If your comment doesn't show up and it wasn't spam, send me an email as the spam catchers might have caught it by accident.

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Email Subscription

Get posts by email:

Recent Comments


Search the Blog


July 2020
« Aug    



Standard Disclaimer

I speak only for myself, not for any company.

My Book


Around the Internet

Game and Online Developers

Game News Sites

Game Ranters and Discussion

Help for Businesses

Other Fun Stuff

Quiet (aka Dead) Sites

Posts Copyright Brian Green, aka Psychochild. Comments belong to their authors.

Support me and my work on