Sprites vs low-poly models

Good day!
In during last months I think a lot about graphics for my project. For now I use simple 3D models of objects. It enough for tests, but I want to start to make something for final result.
I like pixel art and stylization, because this is a nice way to call right player emotions. But I have some difficulties.

Pixel-art sprites was a my first idea, until I decided to use 3D scenes.
Idea is: world map is grid of locations with size about 1 on 1 kilometres. Every location have procedural generated scene, camera is in the center of that and character interact with objects and persons around. It will be like Google maps panorama photos.
And, when I started to use sprite objects, I looked ahead and thinked - how to make shades in this sprite world? Because I want to use 3D environment with light origins, sun, moon, stars maybe - for natural orientation in game world… So, is it good idea, use sprites for now and, in the next stages of game development, add some shaders that will depended of light sources? Or it will be difficult and ugly?

In this case low-poly 3D looks better, because i can use shadows from engine. But 3D models are more difficult to make procedural-generated scenes, its like to teach game how to play Lego with very strict rules…
And stylization of low-poly - it is very difficult task to, I draw pixel arts better and faster (Better <> VeryBeatiful, of course :smile: ). I tried Blender, it is a very interesting, but time is time…

So, questions. I will be happy to see you opinion based on tastes and game dev experience (or on something else, of course).

  1. What is more simple - to create beautiful shadows for sprite object in 3D environment or to make good low-poly*? But take into account that this sprites will be used it volumetric scene with light origins in the front- back- right- and left- positions.
  2. And a separate problem is scaling pixel art in real 3D, I’m not sure that this won’t ruin everything. What you think about it?
  3. Finally, you can show some examples of both approaches from games you know and/or like (This is not real question, but ok :upside_down_face:).
  • “Good low-poly” - it is graphics good enough for personally you.

Thanks for you attention and opinions!

Note: I will avoid the question whether to use pixel art sprites or low-poly 3D models :slight_smile: It is a choice of workflow, of what one can do graphically with good quality. Personally, I’m more Blender / 3D guy (I’m not an artist, but I can do something passable given enough time), but I cannot make a decent looking pixel art at all. But that’s me, for other people or teams → the inverse may be true :slight_smile:

But I want to point out that in CGE:

  • Everything can be 3D. That is, you can load a sprite sheet ( Sprite Sheets | Manual | Castle Game Engine ) to TCastleScene, and place it in 3D world with perspective, and use shadow maps ( Shadow Maps | Castle Game Engine ) to cast lights from it. Shadow maps can account for textures with transparency (unlike shadow volumes that cannot. While shadow maps are not comfortable to use right now (TODO: Roadmap | Manual | Castle Game Engine ), but they will be. Once we do this TODO, you will be able to use shadow maps easily in any 3D environment, and thus cast shadows from sprite sheets just like from any other object, flat or not.

    Note that sprite sheets shadows may still look pixelated, since they are underneath just a texture. But with right shadow maps settings this may not be a problem, i.e. maybe you can “blur them enough”.

  • Everything has a material, and this material can be “lit” (interact with lighting). While by default we set up TUnlitMaterialNode for sprite sheets (loaded to TCastleScene, per above ) but it is possible to change it.

    • Already you can change the TUnlitMaterialNode into TMaterialNode or TPhysicalMaterialNode by changing the X3D nodes graph in Scene.RootNode. This way you can make sprite sheets interact with lighting, they can have bump mapping, specular highlights, etc.

    • We plan soon to better components to tweak materials, see Roadmap | Manual | Castle Game Engine . So soon (before 7.0 release) you should be able to assign “lit” materials for sprite sheets easily, even from editor.

In summary, I’m not making your choice easier – I’m making your choice harder :), by pointing out that sprite sheets can be used in 3D, and can interact with lighting, and can cast shadows. And we plan to make it even easier to do so in the future. So both sprite sheets and low-poly 3D are a reasonable choice – depending on what look you want to eventually achieve, and what your gfx team (or you yourself) can do better.

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Thanks, it was a helpful answer.
So I will stop on the sprites for now. I will try pixels or, maybe, another stylization. If engine have enough possibilities for make spectacular sprites in 3D scene and will have only more in the future, that is my way.

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This sounds like you want something similar to OCTOPATH TRAVELER (https://youtu.be/0mapCpmMzjc)?

Sorry, I missed you answer…
Yes, I think graphics will be similar with some aspects.
Main problem Is scaling of pixel art sprites in 3D environment. Maybe I will use 2D arts without pixelization. For now I am in stage of experiments in this part of game.