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How do you guys deal with cell shading?


Derrik Draven
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The new Xbox game XIII is really the 1st cell game that has me interested. From the movies I've seen, it looks pretty cool and since Ubi has really been on a roll, I'm going to guess that it IS, in fact, going to be cool.

 

But...the cell games just seem so much to be like playing a cartoon, or a comic book. Kind of pulls me out of the game, even if I don't want it too.

 

I realize that the comic book look is exactly what Ubi is shooting for but, what do you guys do that really like the realistic look? Just skip over cell games? Hate to think that I might be missing out on a good story/game just because of the little black lines.

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Unless you only play photorealistic games (and I mean perfectly photorealistic) every visual presentation of a game you've seen is merely an artistic representation of what it's supposed to be. Cell shading is no different - it's an artistic style. I really have no problem with it, as far as being "pulled out of the game" goes. I don't really see a detraction from a game's immersiveness, provided it looks good and isn't distracting.

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Have you ever watched a movie that was shot through a color filter? Or used camera trickery? Or elaborate special effects?

 

Not very realistic, but usually necessary to tell the intended story and part of the artistic vision.

 

Cel-shading's the same thing, just on a console. Sam makes a good point. I'd further argue that if I was concerned with realism or photorealism, I would turn the console off and play paintball. I don't want to sound snotty, but really no game has super-hyper-realistic graphics that even remotely look human. They look computer human and that's as good as it gets.

 

It's just a tool, to me, that can be used to add color to a story. In Zelda, for instance, I think it perfectly captures the fantasy style that they're going for and looks quite good to boot. I mean, XIII is going to look better than Deus Ex I bet, and that game was aiming for 'realistic' graphics.

 

Just some of my argument as to why I personally don't mind cel-shading :).

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Originally posted by kfredericks@Sep 23 2003, 09:12 PM

I too am turned off my cell shading. Screenshots look unappealing. Perhaps in motion it looks a lot better. For me, the photorealistic graphics look much better in screenshots. I did like Zelda's style very much though.

Cell-shading tends to give a very different impression once its in motion. Just wait and see. ;)

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Well, the term itself comes from traditional animation, and I think that kind of animation can look spectacular, so I have nothing against the look itself.

 

It certainly shouldn't be used in every game, or even most games...much like you wouldn't want every movie to be cel shaded.

 

But for the right game with the right creative spark, I think it's great. I was all for Auto Modellista, until I found out the game sucked, but the look was nice. I haven't played Wind Waker beyond the in-store demo, but that too looked cool.

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I'm perfectly all right with cel-shaded games. In fact, I would even say that I'm drawn towards them (or any game with a "cartoony" look). When I play a videogame, I don't expect an experience that imitates real life. At the same time, I don't find it difficult to be completely drawn into the experience of a cel-shaded title. The visual surface should not draw you into it; the gameplay should regardless of the visual style.

 

One thing I love about these new consoles is that it has opened up doors for developers to do what they want visually. It used to be that games could only produce cartoon-like graphics, but now they can do both cartoony games and ones with a more realistic look. While I appreciate the visual splendor of a game like Splinter Cell, I don't believe that every game should follow suit, simply because it can be done. To make every game look realistic would impose limitations every bit as bad as when we could only get the cartoon visual style.

 

Originally posted by Derrik Draven:

But...the cell games just seem so much to be like playing a cartoon, or a comic book. Kind of pulls me out of the game, even if I don't want it too.

 

May I ask exactly what it is about cel-shading that pulls you out of the game? I'm curious. Do you feel the same way about watching cel-animated movies or TV shows?

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I'm with J.Fo there. I love the look of cell shaded games, and games that look like a cartoon or comic book. It's all a preference of course, but to me a game like Wind Waker, XIII, Rayman, or JSRF is much more visually stunning and artistic and the quasi realistic games like GTA or Splinter Cell.

 

But is it the actual Cell Shading technique, or just the fact that it's not realisitic looking? Games like the upcoming Prince or Persia, Psychonaughts (where the hell is it?!?!) or Beyond Good and Evil are not exactly realistic, but they aren't cell shaded in the way that XIII and Wind Waker are. To me POP and and BGAE are some of the best looking games in the pipeline (along with Half Life 2)

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I'm a big fan of cel-shading. I love the racing games Wacky Races and Looney Tunes Space Race, and I just got Cel Damage. Auto Modellista was disappointing in its controls (hopefully they'll improve this in the Xbox version, though they apparently didn't in the GC port), but looked amazing. I think the style was perfect for Zelda:WW and Sly Cooper. Jet Grind Radio and JSRF are great-looking and innovative games. I like the concept of XIII, particularly the comic book panel killshots. I don't find it any more distracting than any other videogame graphical technique and, when done well, is an appreciable asset.

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Originally posted by Sam P:

Basically, you like it or you don't (with qualifiers, of course).

 

True, but I still find it interesting that cel shading invokes such dislike among so many gamers. Why is it that no one ever complains about games looking too realisitic? Because realistic games are "cooler?" If that's the case, does the dislike of cel shading simply come down to the notion that such a graphical style is for "kiddie" games?

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I like the concept of XIII, particularly the comic book panel killshots.

 

Me too. Don't forget that XIII is based on a French comic book, so the comic book panels and cell shading really lend themselves to the source material.

 

When done well, I really love the look and aesthetic of cell shading. JSRF, Zelda:WW, Sly Cooper and the upcoming XIII are good examples, IMO.

 

Why is it that no one ever complains about games looking too realisitic? Because realistic games are "cooler?" If that's the case, does the dislike of cel shading simply come down to the notion that such a graphical style is for "kiddie" games?

 

Good question. I think they are seen as "kiddie" games because they look like cartoons. Animation and comics have been struggling to break away from their kiddie perception for years and years. Maybe the perception of cell shading being "kiddie" will start to change when people see how mature (and violent) XIII is.

 

Or maybe not. When Neil Gaiman won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story for his comic "Sandman", the award was later amended to exclude the "kiddie comic books" to make sure something that horrible would never happen again. Some people may never want to give comics or cell shading a chance.

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I was on the "band wagon" if you will of hating cell animation too.

 

Then a wise man, we will call him.....J.Fo, Convinced me otherwise.

 

Here?s kinda how it happened,

I was over at his house one night doing the regular guy thing, you know bealching scratching our nutz , and smacking the carp out of each other in DOA3 and watching the jiggling effects. We some how had got on the subject of the new Zelda game. I had stated that I was really pissed that they were going the direction they went with the game, I thought it made Link look like a pansy not the bad ass I was used to controlling.

He was a bit shocked and asked "whys that"

"It looks like a flipin cartoon"

"What have you seen of the game?" he asked

"not to much just some screen shots"

He then showed me some actual movies of the game and I was shocked.... I couldn?t believe what I was seeing, the pics I had seen did this game no justice. I could not believe how incredible this game looked the fluidness of the animation the facial expressions I felt like I was watching a Saturday morning cartoon in a good way. I then I asked "yea but these are just cut scenes aren't they?"

When J.fo said no my eyes about bulged outa there sockets.

We went to a Cube Club shortly there after were I got to play it hands on and fell in love with it.

 

So that?s the story of How my opion changed.

 

There is a cell game that I do think is crap and that game is Jet Set Radio Futue or what ever the F..... it's called

 

I do think that XIII looks kick ass.

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I personally like the cel-shading process a lot, providing it is put to good use and not just there because it's quite the in thing to do. I've just been watching some videos of the new Ninja Turtles game at IGN, and frankly I think it looks marvelous.

 

I never kicked up a fuss when Zelda took the cel-shaded approach either as the job was astoundingly well done, and most important of all, I never doubted the gameplay. It's an absolutely beautiful game. The Jet Set Radio games too, I think of the many cel-shaded games out there, the JSR ones would be lesser titles had they not had that look to them. The look, the music, it was a winning combination for a couple of brilliant games.

 

Best when it?s justified then, but even if it?s not and the game still plays well, I find no cause for complaint.

 

Daniel

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I'm not slamming the cell fans. Not at all. I'm going to pick up XIII and I hope that the story and gameplay are good enough to make me not mind the cell shading look.

 

Now I know that we aren't quite "there" yet when it comes to being truly photorealistic; maybe Xbox 3? ;), but...a game like Full Spectrum Warrior is very realistic looking. Not photorealistic but, trying to portray realism. Know what I mean?

 

When you go cell, it's definitely not trying to convey a realistic look. It's going for an artistic, comic book look. Which, as some have pointed out, myself included, XIII IS from a comic book. Kind of makes sense then that this game should be a cell game.

 

Perhaps in this particular instance, it's a cell fps. Maybe that's what's buggin me about it since, TO ME, fps is all about immersion. There really isn't any other way, imho, to truly be immersed in the world the designers are trying to convey other than experiencing it from your own eyes perspective. So, it seems...again, to me, that putting you in an fps, then adding the cell shading look, is sort of counter productive.

 

Perhaps they're trying to allow you to be immersed in a moving, living, comic book? Kinda unique. Not bad...just unique.

 

Anyhoo...I'm going to pick up XIII. After I play for awhile, I'll certainly know how I feel about it quite a bit better than guessing at this point.

 

It doesn't really matter which side of the cell shaded fence we sit on. I'm just more of a "realistic" artistic portrayal.

 

Now that I think of it, when it comes to paintings...I really don't care much for the abstract stuff. The extreme detail and the highly realistic paintings have always been more impressive to me.

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Originally posted by Derrik Draven@Sep 24 2003, 02:43 PM

Perhaps in this particular instance, it's a cell fps. Maybe that's what's buggin me about it since, TO ME, fps is all about immersion. There really isn't any other way, imho, to truly be immersed in the world the designers are trying to convey other than experiencing it from your own eyes perspective. So, it seems...again, to me, that putting you in an fps, then adding the cell shading look, is sort of counter productive.

Interesting thoughts here, all around.

 

As to the immersion question, do you read comics, Derrik? The reason I ask is that I have been fully immersed in books like Powers (a very stylized, cartoony look similar to Bruce Timm's Batman) or books featuring the incendiery (and far from photo realistic) art style of Bill Sienkiwicz.

 

It seems to me that looking like real life is not prerequisite to immersion. To exapnd the field, how about black and white movies? Do you feel less immersion watching Schindler's List?

 

While I think it's fair to have a personal preference against cel shading, I suspect many of those preferences arise more out of lack of exposure. Just like black and white movies or comic books. Nothing wrong with stating that preference, but keep in mind that your view of cel shading might change with exposure.

 

-j

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Do you feel less immersion watching Schindler's List?

 

That's a good example you brought up, Robo.

 

It's been a while since I last saw it, but until you mentioned it I had completely forgotten Schindler's List was B & W. The only things that came to mind were along the lines of "superb, moving movie". I also remember being completely captivated (i.e. immersed) in the film the first time I saw it.

 

Which further pushes the point that it's not so much the medium as the content that creates immersiveness.

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I get the feeling I might change my tune if XIII turns out to be a good time.

 

Schindlers List is a good point as well. Loved the movie. Actually, the grainy b/w pulled me in since it seemed more like a WWII movie reel than a movie. Even the violence was more graphic, if you ask me, with less gore. Less is more, in that case.

 

...when is XIII's tentative release date?

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I'm definetely a fan off cel-shading. I like being able to control onscreen characters that look and move as good, if not better, than the Saturday morning cartoons I use to watch.

 

One thing is for sure, screen shots of cel-shaded games do them no justice. They must be seen in motion to be fully appreciated.

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