In 2D we have made several commercial, advergaming and educational games, this already gives us an experience, however, I consider myself an apprentice of Pixel Art, as it is an almost infinite art due to its possibilities and quantity of styles. In our previous projects I participated as Creative Director, I had not participated as a 2D artist, until now with Verne: The Shape of Fantasy, becoming somewhat the main person in charge of the art of the game. 

"When in doubt, do what Flashback did", I must admit I have this one ace up my sleeve, it solves all my issues.

Delphine Software created ‘Flashback: The Quest for Identity’ over at 1992, a video game that marked my youth. It's a futuristic video game with incredible art and a surprising story for its time, it has also remained very current to date. I've seen other jewels like Another World or Prince of Persia but they seem to have become old. I recently played Flashback again on PS4 and I would say that it could very well be a current indie, it is a marvelous game. As for many other developers, the influence of Flashback in my work has been enormous.

Flashback video game 1992

Flashback, Delphine Software (1992)

Perspective is one of the aspects that has given me the most work. Mainly, because of the doubt of which one to choose, which one suited the game better and which one would I be able to draw, as I said before, I consider myself a Pixel Art learner, for a project as complex as Verne I've been looking for ways to simplify the workload.

I'm going to comment on some aspects of 2D perspective and how Flashback has inspired me to create Verne's art. I am a novice at this, but with great humility I'd like to share with you the things I have learned on this journey.


A world in 2D

Working with a plane and elevations is much easier because we can forget about the third dimension, which only gives us headaches :-) In the beginnings of video games, this allowed us to simplify calculations with the limited hardware we had on those times.

Donkey Kong 1981

Donkey Kong (1981) is a great example of a 'totally flat' 2D perspective.

Games like Castlevania created more complex environments to simulate a 3D world. Details such as the doors, that allowed access to a fictitious third dimension, offered more immersion in the game.

Castlevania II: Simon?s Quest, Konami

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Konami, 1987

By having only 2 dimensions, volumes are simplified. The boxes are rectangles, the spheres are circles ... You have to play with the shading to make things look circular or with volumes, like the barrels and pipes in the classic ‘Batman: The Movie’ created by Ocean Software in 1989, which I played many times on my ZX Spectrum. I remember standing on the stage thinking: "it was like the movie", I’ve never seen such a level of detail :-)

Batman: The Movie (1989)

Batman: The Movie (1989)

Perspectives in 2D worlds

And which perspective did I use? We can have 2D games hiding one dimension and slightly rotating the scene to give a sense of depth, this is what we call a dihedral system. We can also have axonometric projections, showing the depth of the elements when looking at the scene from an angle.

The first one is easier to draw and that’s the one I chose :-) The video game Gods (1991) is an example of a dihedral system.


Gods, The Bitmap Brothers

Gods, The Bitmap Brothers (1991).

Another more complex example is Prince of Persia, with more perspective, because we can also see the depth of the ground.

Prince of Persia classic game

Prince of Persia, Jordan Mechner (1989).

Flashback uses a dihedral system, stage elements have a lot of depth, but we cannot see the ground, Camera only has been slightly horizontally rotated.

Flashback game perspective

Perspective in Flashback.

Depth in 2D games

To recreate the feeling of depth, we put things that are closest to the front, such as the character, ahead of the rest of the stage. The problem when a dimension is missing is that objects touch each other so it’s more obvious that we are in a flat world.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Nintendo (1987)

Flashback teaches us the way, especially to me, to create depth, by putting some elements of the scene in front of the character, such as doors.

Flashback example of front elements

Depth in Flashback

Atmospheric depth in 2D games

Another element that would help us to create a sense of depth is to fade out a little bit some elements that are far away. This way the player can distinguish background from foreground.

Further we are, more air (atmosphere) between the player and the object. We can represent that by blending the object into the sky base color. We use this technique not only in the backgrounds, but also with closer elements, when we need to represent depth, as in the handrail of this Flashback image, where the ones that are farder are represented with another darker color.


Flashback game

Flashback atmospheric depth detail.

Creating depth with light

Something that Flashback uses, and that has become very popular in modern games, is to darken the internal parts of the architecture, since they would not receive any light. Also, items closer to the camera are dark.

Flashback Bar

Ejemplo de Flashback, Delphine Software (1992)

Deadcells videogame pixel art

Example of the same technique in Dead Cells, Motion Twin (2017)

Finally, here you have this image of Verne: The Shape of Fantasy.

Verne: The Shape of Fantasy

So, you know… Flashback Rules!?

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Daniel González

Daniel González

Creative director of Gametopia.

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