8-bit graphics: From past to present

Nowadays, computer technology has advanced a lot. From the 2-Dimension rough pixels with limited colors to blocky polygons, we now have high-quality graphics that almost look like real life. Our powerful computers and video game consoles came a long way. Still, even with all this visual evolution, the 8-bit graphic technology is still being used in retro arts, retro games, and gifs. That’s why in this article, we are going to provide you some information about 8-bit graphics.

What are 8-bit graphics?

8bit graphics were first developed in the 70s and started to be widely used in the 80s and the early 90s. Computer hardware of that era was still not capable of integrating larger image data and was only able to process 8 bits per data block.

An 8-bit graphic was created by storing 8 bits of image information in the computer’s memory or an image file. Computers with 8-bit graphics could only display 256 numbers of colors on the screen. Now if we compare 16-bit graphics, those could display 65,536 colors, and 32-bit graphics could display 16,777,215 colors. And not only that but 8-bit graphics are also restricted in their resolution as well, which is why 32-bit and 64-bit processors today can easily be used to develop 8-bit art and go beyond the resolution and number of color limitations that were imposed in the past.

What’s 8-bit art?

8-bit art, which is also known as pixel art, got its name from the way it’s altering an image pixel by pixel. The term pixel, which stemmed from the words picture and element, is the smallest unit of a digital image that can be seen on a digital display device. Any digital image, video, or text that we see on any digital display device, is formed by combining pixels of different colors. Pixelated art can trace its roots to things like cross-stitch and embroidery.

Games made with pixel arts are still loved and being played by many gamers around the world. The main reason why the 8-bit style is still popular and used by 8bit game artists is due to the fact that this style represents the beginning of the “golden” age of gaming. With blocky, simple graphics and minimal details, 8-bit art brings back player’s nostalgia with its retro vibe instead of pushing people away from it, and inspires artists to create this style of art to capture that feeling again.

8-bit images can be created by many computer programs. Even basic art programs like Paint can be used to create this type of drawing, but if you want to use a more professional program for pixel art, you might need a more capable program such as Adobe Illustrator.

8-bit graphics in the present-day gaming industry

Some games were developed using 8-bit graphics and are still played nowadays across computers and video-game consoles, such as Super Mario, Contra, Pac-Man, or Tetris. The reason why these retro games with 8-bit graphics are still very popular is that the game developers still try to appeal to player’s nostalgia. With its unique beauty, 8-bit gaming has become a new trend in the gaming industry and added a retro flavor to game art by choosing a limited number of pixels in order to emphasize the individual squares. It’s also literally a cheap and quick solution for most 2D games. From its conception to its execution, many game indie developers choose the retro path for their games to attract fans of pixel video games and perhaps advance their business model. And with mobile gaming and handheld consoles such as the Nintendo Switch becoming more popular by the minute, pixel art makes it easier to optimize graphics for such devices.

In the end, what makes a good video game?

All that said, are 8bit video games really fun? A game isn’t always a good game because of its high-resolution graphics. 8-bit style game developers can use pixel art to reinforce the game’s visual identity and add a unified aesthetic to it. Indeed, they focus on good gameplay, game design, and interaction with the environment which play a big role in bringing pixel games to life.

Some examples of popular games that utilize the pixel art style are; Stardew Valley, Terraria, Undertale, and even Minecraft to an extent. It’s important to note that while these games use this retro art style from a past era, they are usually not made in an 8-bit program. Some indie devs will try to push the limits by imposing artificial limitations on themselves, but the current programs that we have at our disposal such as Unity, Unreal, Gamemaker, etc., are all capable of outputting great 8bit glorious games.

With our advanced technology, pixel artists and 8-bit game concept designers have endless possibilities to produce sharp and crisp art on screen for video games of the future and keep gamers enthralled. So, no matter how advanced computer design software becomes, there will always be a place for pixel art in our hearts.

Carry F.

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