Remember when I did this:
Well, try this one out.
From a business standpoint, HD art is way better than pixel art. No doubt. Customers love it more. Half the reviews you’ll get on a pixel art game boil down to “It’s not 1980 anymore, loser.”
It’s not entirely one-sided. If you are selling yourself as a retro revival, and leaning on the nostalgia button, pixel art can be a plus.
And it is more economical to produce. So, if your goal is to make a lot of games fast, or you are an indie studio, or you don’t care about sales, or you just don’t have the time or budget to do more for whatever reason, HD art may be the best corner to cut.
And this is the source of the “It’s not 1980 anymore” reviews. Gamers perceiving that they’ve gotten the budget option when they were owed the name brand.
From a personal standpoint, HD and pixel art are two different art forms, and I love them both. I want to make a hand drawn game, but I also want to make games where the hand-drawn-ness of the art doesn’t actually matter.
I mean, it matters for my bottom line. I just got an interview for a part time retail position, and I’m going to go to that interview in part because nobody buys my stuff.
But let’s eliminate the profit calculation from the equation. Profit doesn’t strongly motivate me. It would, perhaps, be better if it did. My family would be much better off. But I have tried to change this, and it will not change.
If I do not stick with it, there is no game, and if my primary calculus is profit, I will not stick with it. What then of pixel art?
Well, to me, pixel art has a drastically different connotation than HD art. HD Art is bespoke. High effort. And that means the dev team diverted resources that could have gone into making more of the game.
Pixel art says freedom, depth, and breadth to me. Breadth because you can build a bigger world out of legoes than you can simply assembling each space by hand. Depth because the game developer is more likely to let me burrow into a tile, or throw it, or set it on fire, than a pen drawing or a 3D model.
Many of my favorite franchises became hollow when they switched to HD. Once upon a time in Pokemon, you walked into a town and it had only five buildings, but each of those buildings was something. Now, in Pokemon, you walk into a town and its practically festering with architecture, but each of those structures is just a hollow plastic shell.
And because the age where pixel art is required has ended, pixel art made now has a timeless quality to it. It’s not going to be more invalidated when displays switch from 4K to 32K.
Finally, I love pixel art for the same reason I love drawing cartoons instead of drawing realistically. It speaks. It gets in, says what needs to be said with no more elaboration than is absolutely necessary. It is laconic art, therefore it is witty.
At least, such is the stuff I tend to appreciate.