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knytt stories
games Posted 2008-02-28 19:31:37 by Jim Crawford
Knytt Stories, by Nifflas, is clearly inspired by Seiklus. This is evident in the minimal and minimally-hazardous world design, and the focus on exploring sparsely beautiful environments rather than overcoming obstacles. It works really well; Knytt Stories is one of the most beautiful works of art I've experienced, with wonderfully evocative visuals and gorgeous ambient music that, paradoxically, you notice, due to the world design being paced to allow the mood to soak in.

But one thing Nifflas doesn't get about Seiklus, or chooses not to duplicate, is the lack of text. Seiklus took a cue from Ico here, and possibly Another World. Ico seems to have stumbled on that aspect of the aesthetic accidentally, since some versions of Ico provide subtitles for the made-up language the characters speak -- though just now, I see that Fumito Ueda cites Another World as one of his inspirations for Ico. That's interesting.

Nifflas, unfortunately, bookends his games with heavy-handed, poorly-written stories about saving the world, seeming not to realize that they'd be much stronger without text, or even without any context at all. The game flow and visuals and music provide a complete narrative experience already.

I wish the writing were better, not just because I like good writing, but so I could say whether even a well-written story could have the austere, childlike beauty that Seiklus and Ico have, and that Knytt Stories would have if you closed your eyes while clicking through the opening and closing cut-scenes. But I think that language is, itself, too sophisticated.
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art style
Posted by Anonymous (Craig Timpany) on 2008-03-09 04:12:13
I tried to draw tile graphics for a while. I could make a tile look OK in isolation, but when tessellated they looked awful.

Seeing the lush artwork of the 16bit era (Secret of Mana and so forth), I imagined that if I could only draw enough tiles to get enough variety and disguise the repeats cleverly enough, then my tilesets would stop being ugly.

The art style in Knytt Stories is fascinating because it's proud to be tile graphics. Where I would've disguised a right angle with roughed-up edges, Nifflas has outlined it in crisp black. Where I would've drawn an underground tile as a mess of rocks and dirt to confuse the eye and so I could hide the tiling, Nifflas uses simple, clean pin-stripes. Knytt Stories' lesson is that I never should've been focusing on the tile, I should've been focusing on the composition.

Knytt Stories isn't a scrolling game. My theory is that this was a deliberate design choice so Nifflas could have complete control over the framing and composition. Each screen is a complete, independent picture with a generous black frame.

Speaking of unique art styles, have you seen this?
re: art style
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2008-03-10 17:31:02
Damn it, the linkify regexp is still broken? It seems like I must've fixed that code four or five times now. Can you repost that link?
Posted by Anonymous (Craig Timpany) on 2008-03-11 05:47:46
Timothy Farrar's ATOM:

He's got some videos of it in motion at:
re: atom
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2008-03-14 22:51:16
Oh, and in response to your content! There's actually a lot of unique art in the Knytt games. A lot of the visual appeal probably is composition, and the simplification of the tiles helps them keep out of the way, but much or most of it comes from the pixelwork of the objects in the background, I think.

Atom looks pretty amazing. I'm looking his blog posts about what's going on, and it reads like 3D jargon mad-libs. G-buffers? Alpha-blending of normals? L-systems? But presumably Human Head didn't hire the guy to do comedy writing. I think it's just weird to me that he's talking about a field I used to follow pretty closely, and using terms I've never even heard of.
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