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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallForum IssuesArchived subforums (read only)CreativeIs it possible to make a good non-trivial game with little or no art?
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Author Topic: Is it possible to make a good non-trivial game with little or no art?  (Read 809 times)
tominko
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« on: December 19, 2015, 09:04:53 PM »

Hi All,

recently while looking again at the stuff available at http://game-icons.net/ (great site btw) I got this idea of making a game with the art based only on those icons and nothing else (think tile-based, turn-based tactical thingy). It got me thinking if it is possible to create a non-trivial game where the gameplay would overshadow, in a good sense, a repetitive and generic art (a finite number of similar assets like those icons). Just to clarify, games like Undertale do not fall into this category since their art varies a lot (though it may be considered generic or simplistic). A successful recent game that may fit the description is agar.io which basically has no art (well, just circles), but I'm not sure if it is non-trivial enough since the gameplay is driven by interaction between players and not game content per se  Wink

What do you guys think.
Do you think it is possible for a game to win your gamer heart despite repetitive and generic (not ugly!) art?
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Koobazaur
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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2015, 02:30:10 PM »

Mostly Yes, I always make a fully playable alpha prototype out of free resources before I go on to hiring artists.

HOWEVER, it does limit what you can do and what artstyle you can have, unless you opt for generic fantasy or scifi. It also makes consistency an issue. Do your research first and plan it out! For example I found out I can make my next title in 3D more easily than my desired 16bit isometric 2D style because there's more 3D resources matching what I wanted (so far I spent $20 on assets in Unity asset store).

Also, inevitably you WILL reach a point where you have some stuff you cant outsource, like the game logo for instance. But those are smaller things to fill in when the core of your game is done.
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MagnoliaFan
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« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2015, 06:46:29 AM »

Well the first thing that came to my mind was "thomas was alone"
I don't think you can get any simpler than a jumping cube. The Music Machine is another game a lot of people seem to like, and it's a 2-color game set in a very simple environment.

And there's also text adventures (although I've never played one myself). So I'd say you can do it, and it depends on how creative you can get. Koobazaur has a good point, when he says it limits the artstyle you can have, though, so you need to plan it out well.
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J-Snake
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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2015, 06:38:41 PM »

Do you think it is possible for a game to win your gamer heart despite repetitive and generic (not ugly!) art?
If there isn't an appealing aesthetic or a humorous catch it will be problematic, I guess. By own example:

Here is a game called "Trap Them" I created:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/375930/

It's a great game regarding mechanics and puzzles, that's the heart of the game. But the repeated critic I get is that the presentation, including visuals, is weak and hardly appealing. That seems to turn off many people, but I still cannot tell how well it would sell with great art and presentation since the game is beyond casual difficulty.

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tominko
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« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2015, 05:50:54 PM »

HOWEVER, it does limit what you can do and what artstyle you can have, unless you opt for generic fantasy or scifi. It also makes consistency an issue. Do your research first and plan it out!

Yeah, this is what worries me the most - art style limitation vs overall playability. The generic fantasy art style is what I will go for so hopefully it won't be a disaster. I think it would be a good idea to start a devlog and try to get a feedback as soon as possible.

So I'd say you can do it, and it depends on how creative you can get. Koobazaur has a good point, when he says it limits the artstyle you can have, though, so you need to plan it out well.

I reckon that the 'getting creative' is the most tricky part. In a game like this (repetitive generic art) the gameplay should be very much linked or somehow naturally connected to the art style. I am still polishing ideas in this department.

If there isn't an appealing aesthetic or a humorous catch it will be problematic, I guess. By own example:

Here is a game called "Trap Them" I created:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/375930/

It's a great game regarding mechanics and puzzles, that's the heart of the game. But the repeated critic I get is that the presentation, including visuals, is weak and hardly appealing. That seems to turn off many people, but I still cannot tell how well it would sell with great art and presentation since the game is beyond casual difficulty.

Your game art looks good enough considering a catchy gameplay. I understand what you are saying regarding people's comments - the trend for the last decade or more seems to be that a nicely looking but casual game is much more appealing that a challenging one but with a generic art style.


I take from all the feedback that making a game like that should be possible but very careful planning of the gameplay vs art style is essential.
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Asmodeusss
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« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2015, 04:38:36 AM »

The question is, what do you mean by non-trivial?
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tominko
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« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2015, 05:13:30 PM »

The question is, what do you mean by non-trivial?

I mean that there is a game content to go through and experience (like big zones, side areas, items, character progression, etc.). Using again the example of agar.io - the art is generic but there is no real content (it all comes down to interaction between blobs). A different example would be Binding of Isaac which has almost infinite content but the art is well polished and too diverse to consider it being simple/generic. By simple/generic I mean something like assets at http://game-icons.net/
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b∀ kkusa
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« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2015, 05:29:29 PM »

You should precise if the game is going to be free or not.

If it isn't free i'd say it's almost impossible unless you're already having a huge following fanbase.
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tominko
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2015, 05:25:14 PM »

You should precise if the game is going to be free or not.

If it isn't free i'd say it's almost impossible unless you're already having a huge following fanbase.

Considering this will be my third game and my following fanbase is non-existent, it will be definitely a free game.
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Richard Kain
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2015, 09:17:18 AM »

You are mistaking "art" with "illustration." Even a game that relies on "programmer art" still contains art. A sense of style, proper framing and composition, and color balance are all necessary, and are all essential fundamentals of art. But none of those elements require complex or sophisticated illustration. In art school, it is common for students to practice these elements using cut-outs of construction paper, utilizing simple geometric primitives. A similar exercise using basic programming or 3D modeling should be relatively easy for anyone familiar with 3D modeling or a modern 3D engine.

So, no. A good game will have some degree of artistry incorporated into it. That artistry simply doesn't have to be advanced or complicated art. It can be very simple art using basic artistic fundamentals, and it is entirely possible for people who don't consider themselves artists to learn and practice those fundamentals. Learning to recognize and follow those guidelines for art can imbue your game with all the general visual appeal you require, even if the specific visual elements are nothing more complex than simple squares or other geometric shapes.
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tominko
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2015, 05:20:27 PM »

That was very informative answer, thank you very much! By "little or no art" I indeed meant complex illustration but failed to describe it right.

The conclusion seems to be that it is possible to do a good game without complex illustrations which is actually very encouraging Smiley
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UnfoldGames
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2015, 07:01:06 PM »

I think it's possible, if the decision to have no art results from a specific gameplay idea (not from the lack of funds to hire an artist). I think having good looking art is extremely helpful though, especially when attracting the attention of press. First thing press & potential buyers will look at is screenshots & trailer. Having those visually attractive will help a big deal - still, I don't think it's crucial if you have a killer idea for your game.
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Muz
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2015, 10:23:02 PM »

I would say it's almost necessary, as your prototype should be fun well before the art is there.

Unless the art is the selling point.

It should still be clean and easy to understand though. And pleasant on the eyes.

There are games like Kittens and a Dark Room which are perfectly fine with no art.

And something like Dwarf Fortress, which is extremely non-trivial, but everyone knows that the lack of art gets in the way. Their ASCII art doesn't really count for art and makes the game world itself unpleasant to use and look at. There are so many DF clones whose selling point is simply "has graphics", so this appears to be an important difference.
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Photon
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« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2015, 07:07:57 PM »

Do VVVVVV and Mini Metro count as non-trivial games to you? They came to mind as examples you could look at as well.
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tominko
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« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2015, 02:25:02 AM »

Do VVVVVV and Mini Metro count as non-trivial games to you? They came to mind as examples you could look at as well.

Thanks for the examples. The games look definitely non-trivial and at the same time the illustrations used are not complex. Making a good game like those two may actually be possible  Grin
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moomat
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« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2016, 01:21:34 AM »

A "game" is really, at its core, a concept, or a set of rules, or a document describing how the "world" of the game works.

Mario Bros., for example, as a game is not the finally released product you can buy a cartridge of and stick into an NES. Mario is a side-scrolling platformer, in which you play a character that jumps and runs in order to rescue a princess. The art assets of Mario Bros. help illustrate the concepts to the player, but the fundamental game itself is merely a concept.

Think of the game "checkers." Technical you could play checkers without a checkered board and two-colored pieces. You and another person could simply keep track of the game in your heads, or on paper perhaps. The physical manifestation of the game -- the checker board, the checker pieces -- are simply a convenient way of keeping track of what's happening in the virtual, imagined world of the game.

So the answer to the OPs question is "sure." How about D&D as an even better example? The "art" of the game exists mostly in players' minds. The only limitation to the depth and intrigue of your game is your own imagination -- not the artwork required.

But in terms of the context of modern video games, the answer to your question is "Depends on the concept of the game you come up with!"
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