Game Aesthetics

Game Aesthetics

These aspects reflect your aesthetic style in ways that can be hard to objectively measure!

  • Your personal mapping style; Do you like trees in straight rows, or staggared? Are you the type to place small decorative tiles everywhere, or keep things simple?
  • Overall UI design; is there a certain color in every UI? Is it going for a modern look, or a certain pattern or texture?
  • Screen size; can be more rectangular, a square, or imitate a dual screen.
  • Anything regarding speech bubbles; using colored text to your advantage, having them scroll or align differently for reading signs versus talking to characters, or choosing to add something like transparency or little speech tails to them.

Some things to think about are how much emphasis each object needs. Typically, something stands out more if it's outlined at all, and will really stand out if that outline is in black. Knowing this, you can try styles like these:

  • Tilesets that are completely lineless. These really make lined characters stand out, but can also look disconnected from the characters for the same reason.
  • Mixed styles for different tiles. For example colored outlines on nature tiles like trees, but black outlines on buildings/other man-made objects.
  • Any mixed style can make for an easy way to show players what can and can't be interacted with. Like in traditional animation when you can tell an object is going to be interacted with by the way it's drawn.
  • Mixed styles for human characters, pokemon in the overworld, and objects in the overworld. All these are different, so why not highlight that difference a bit?
  • Using a more uniform style on everything will put less emphasis on specific objects and instead put everything on an even field for the player's attention. When using this style, it can make it even more rewarding for players to discover what objects you've made interact-able.
  • You can change up styles between indoor and outdoor maps, since those tiles won't normally be seen together. (Probably should at least keep the palettes though)

Example pic:

For events you have the option of using a script to create shadows, but what about in your tilesets?

  • Having solid colored shadows is an option, but if they're a light gray then they're not going to look like very good shadows.
  • Just having light colored shadows in general isn't a great design decision for most. Adding a slight gray tone over grass tiles or whatever doesn't exactly look like a shadow being cast.
  • You can change up styles between indoor and outdoor maps, since those tiles won't normally be seen together. (Probably should at least keep the palettes though)
  • You'll want to coordinate shadows with shading; if an object's shadow is indicating a light source on the left, make sure the shading is saying the same.

Example pic:

Shading applies to both characters and objects, so if you don't have a plan ahead of time you might end up with different levels of shading on each!

  • More complex shading takes more time to edit properly.
  • You might notice some rips gen 5 have gradient shading; the entire object is shaded, and it doesn't allways make sense for a light source. It's mostly person preference if you like having more colors or think it's muddy compared to more pixelized styles.
    Simpler shading ususally lends to a more cartoony look. More complex styles try to imitate a more realistic look.
  • A lot of lineless styles go for more complex shading, and these things combined might be described as a more realistic look. When lineless styles have simple shading, they can sometimes look too flat.
  • You'll want to coordinate shading with shadows; if an object is shaded with the light source on the left, make sure the shadows do the same.

Example pic:

My number one tip is to compare your playable character to a door. Do they reasonably fit together? If they don't fit together at all, then you have a problem, but in this example you can also see that there's some wiggle room on what works.

  • Of course not every character needs to be the same height, variety is great! But there still need to be some standards.
  • Head size is usually a constant. Just putting a head on a smaller body can make a character more childlike.
  • If a building has multiple storeys, they don't need to all be the same size as the ground floor, especially if the ground floor is a size for the player to enter the building; you can cheat the upper storeys much smaller.
  • Because the door is where a player interacts with a building, it's a good reference point for designing the rest of the building.
  • For the above reason, comparing door sizes is usually an easy way to tell if two buildings are the same scale.
Example pic:

The building on the left is from Essentials, the center one is here, and the one the right is from here

I'm personally very bad at this, so I'll try not to preach much here.

  • Mostly this is something you need to get a feel for yourself; there are calculable reasons why certain colors/hues/shades go well together, but there are many different ways to go about making a palette.
  • A palette can be a very distinguishing feature for any artstyle, and if you're making graphics yourself it's usually best to start here and decide the other aspects after.

Forgive me, I know it's considered a sin to not abide by gen 2's color limitations, but here's an example pic:

Here is the source tileset, go look at it until you feel better

Doing this well really adds a beautiful polish to your game.

  • I personally am a great fan of using fogs. These are a popular choice for making your forest darker, but can be used for other things
  • Even if you don't want to use fogs, just take a look at things like different tones and think about what would work best for your project.
  • As for music, most people already know that it can set a mood on its' own. I just didn't want to skip over it when talking about aesthetics.
  • Think about a scene of the player walking up the staircase to the champion battle for the first time. With that same scene, music can make the player feel brave and adventurous, or instead tense and reflective. Will the champion's battle music make it a ceremonial battle between a champion and challenger, or will it be a high energy clash between rivaling skills?
  • Special note: I think something often overlooked in fangames is having a special musical intro play when the player has been spotted by a trainer. With all the nonsensical things a trainer can say before battle, it's just a nice cue to the player that a battle is about to start. (this thing I'm talking about is mentioned briefly in the Structure of Trainer Events, please do check it out.)

Quick! Which is more eye-catching?​

The only difference here is that one screen has some characters with stop motion ON.​

  • Movement draws the eye and makes things seem more lively.
    This isn't just a trick .GIF for promoting your game either, adding a little liveliness in-game is a beautiful thing
  • Adding movement to pokemon characters- inside battle or in the overworld- can really add personality to them.
  • Water is commonly animated, but I'd say that you don't have to animate pond water. Ocean water, or using a water tile that clearly has waves? That stuff is kinda weird if it's not animated, so it might actually detract from the player's experience if it's distracting enough.

Alright here's the part where I get wordy

I recommend making a set of rules that define your aesthetic. Specific ones. Now you don't ever have to write them down or tell anyone (unless they're making something for you, then please tell that person), but keep them in mind when making or editing resources. What do I mean by rules? Well here's a set as an example:
  • Overworlds are 5th gen style.
  • Palettes are taken from HGSS.
  • Buildings and other objects get colored outlines, but flat things like grass and water are lineless.
  • Shadows are pure black, and go to the bottom and right of their object.

Following those rules is how I made this screenshot:

The point of having rules is to just be aware in case any style mixing happens; otherwise you end up with a pile of objects that don't match each other all on the same screen. Even if formally making rules isn't your style, please just keep the qualities I listed in mind.

As allways, please point out if I've missed anything, I'll want to add it in!​
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