Graphic art styles favor gameplay

By Josh Alfrey

The cel-shaded graphic style of the game “Cloudbuilt,” which will be released Thursday, exemplifies the variety of graphics in video games.

AAA titles, which are high-quality games with a large budget, emphasize graphic realism. Smaller titles have looked for a way to utilize graphics to strengthen the mechanics of storytelling. There has been a surge in 16-bit, voxel and cel-shaded games in today’s market, and each style carries incredible strengths within its own genre.


Raw voxel art has become increasingly popular with the growth of Mojang’s game “Minecraft.” The world is made of 3-D cubes from the mountains to the forests. Despite its childish looks, the art has invoked a retro feel for a modern world.

“Voxel’s graphics have become more popular because of the classic feel of games like ‘Terraria’ and ‘Fez,’” said sophomore business major Conner Kauffman. “Games like that can still be successful because the focus moves from the quality of the graphics to the gameplay.”


Much like voxel art, 16-bit games have made a comeback and have brought retro-style gaming to a new level.

Sixteen-bit game graphics are know for their use in fourth-generation consoles like Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is best characterized as having pixilated graphics and a colorful style.

People who have grown up on games like “Mega Man” and “Super Metroid” are becoming developers. Often these developers want to return to a time when gameplay and mechanical challenge was the greatest purpose of a video game.

“I like the 16-bit style the most because it is simple and has a lot of expression to it,” said Jim Niemiec, senior game development major at DePaul University. “You can get so much feeling through simple art. It also allows you to focus more on the game.”

Games like “Retro City Rampage” have brought players back to a more simple time in video games and scratched players’ nostalgia itch. The game’s chiptune soundtrack and 16-bit graphics was not only simplistic but show a lot of character. “Nidhogg” and “TowerFall” also show how optimized 16-bit graphics can be used to create incredibly unique games.

Cel shading

Many narrative-driven video games have found cel-shaded graphics to be the best way to present their story.

Cel-shaded graphics make 3-D computer graphics look flat. Some of the most popular ones have been adventure games like The Walking Dead series by Telltale Games.

“The major strengths of cel shading lie in the game’s ability to use color and shadow to make each part of the game feel like segments in a comic book or graphic novel,” said freshman geology major Dan Hebeisen. “It throws out any sense of realism in a game in exchange for getting the player completely absorbed in the world or story.”

“Borderlands 2” and “Ni No Kuni” have become popular due to their ability to draw their players into an imaginative and complete world. The detailed graphics lend themselves to being a part of the gaming experience.