Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

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illuminate001
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Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#1 Post by illuminate001 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:59 am

As a fellow creator, what is your opinion on the art style changing for a sequel to a VN you've played/loved? I've had instances where I'd done a sequel and the art had improved but it didn't actually switch styles.

Would that be a baffling thing, does it break brand or does it not even matter as long as the style change isn't too drastic?

Thoughts, opinions? This would be very helpful to me. Thanks! :P
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#2 Post by Aviala » Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:59 pm

I'd say it depends on the project, but in most cases a drastic change in art style would be really offputting. For example, if I was a fan of a dark and gritty fantasy game, and suddenly the sequel had moe anime girls in it (or the characters from the first game were drawn in a cutesy style) I'd be really baffled. I mean, it can work if "absurd" or "funny" is what you're going for, but usually that probably isn't a case.

Even subtler changes in style can be a bit dangerous because the players probably played the game because they liked how it looked and decided to pick it up. I guess if the style was of a similar "feel" it wouldn't be too bad (game 1 has dark and gritty art, game 2 has dark and gritty art by a different artist), especially if the artist for the second game was more skilled or experienced than the artist from the 1st game. I don't think it breaks the brand too much to hire a different lead artist for the sequel or change your own style slightly as long as the "feel" of the art stays similar. Also, it's important that the appearance of characters doesn't change too much between the games because I imagine that'd feel very jarring. After all, you're used to a character looking a certain way, so it'd feel weird if they looked really different in the sequel.

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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#3 Post by illuminate001 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 1:49 pm

Hi Aviala!

Thanks for the speedy reply. I'm going to revisit this post and write you back on some points but unfortunately, I gotta rush to work! Doh! You make some good points.

For now, I think I'll leave a visual example of what I'm talking about. So pretend you started off with a more painterly/semi-real style and then went for a more lineart/cellshaded and stylized one...jarring?

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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#4 Post by fleet » Thu Dec 07, 2017 1:54 pm

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Last edited by fleet on Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#5 Post by Scribbles » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:28 pm

The change from painterly to cartoony is pretty big, they are 2 very different art styles. I'm not sure how ppl would react though, it depends on how iconic the art was vs the characters. if people really focused on the art then it would be a bad move, but if people were more focused on the story/character it might not be a huge deal?
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#6 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:45 pm

Well, I can think of two instances where this happened:
Jack from Winterwolves changed the art style of his Planet Stronghold games from anime style in the first game to realistic painterly in the second game, and it didn't seem to go over so well with fans of the game. So much so that Jack released an update that added anime style art to the sequel.

Huniepot changed the style of artwork from anime in Huniepop, to something more cartoony in Huniecam Studio, and made a large portion of their fan base upset. They are going back to the anime style with their newest game.

Now, it could be that people just REALLY love anime style, but I suspect it also has to do with expectations and familiarity. Characters can seem like different people than the ones you came to know and love if they're presented in a different art style and that can be jarring or even upsetting to some people.

I think you should stick with one style per series of games - especially if one of the games has enjoyed popularity. It might work to switch styles between games in a series only if their are no returning characters or locations - no attachment has been formed, or expectations created.

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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#7 Post by illuminate001 » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:47 pm

@Aviala: Ok so I'm finally able to take a minute and respond. I think you may have nailed it when you said it'll probably work as long as the art "feels" the same between the original VN and it's sequel. The "feels" part is actually where it may get tricky. It's very subjective and what may feel right to me, may not feel/look right for others. IT would be tricky to find that line and balance between the familiar and the new.

@fleet: Mmmm, you didn't actually leave a response lol, although you quoted my last post. Perhaps you deleted your comment by accident?

@Scribbles + LateWhiteRabbit: I gotta get back to work lol. I'll reply to you both tonight-ish
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#8 Post by Jackkel Dragon » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:33 am

Personally, I think I mostly judge on a case-by-case basis. To give an example, I like the art styles of Dragon Age II and Dragon Age Inquisition better than Dragon Age Origins (though those are 3D RPGs, not VNs, I feel the same premise can apply). But in the case of Dragon Age, there was so much of a backlash to DA2's artstyle shift that DAI is actually a blending of the styles of both previous games. It ends up looking enough like both games that I suspect it went over rather well, though I had long since abandoned the toxic community around those games and thus can't cite evidence.

To bring this to your topic, I suspect it's tricky to tell how much of a change is too much. If it's an artist change, maybe you can get away with it without too many people even noticing (depending on the artist). If it's a change from cartoonish art to photorealistic or vice-versa, you'll have a lot of suddenly disinterested players. As mentioned by the others, I think Planet Stronghold hit this problem.

I'm curious to see other opinions, though. I actually have a sequel idea for one of my projects where I might have to recruit a different artist than the original game, so I worry that the new artist will have to have a very similar style to the original game to fit things in, which may make recruiting difficult. (It also doesn't help that one of the returning characters will also have a design shift, so it's not like my Dragon Age examples where at least the characters have the same basic traits, just done in a new style.)
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#9 Post by mikolajspy » Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:04 am

I think that with sequel/series a small change, more like an upgrade is alright.
But changing style differently...
Well, if your game is about some weird dimension-hopping, reality-shifting etc. it might pass.
But if you just decide to go from photorealism to cartoony or the other way in the middle of the series without a reason, I think it would feel like two completely different games and might highly confuse players.
I can imagine a game where the style goes more and more 'darker', but still within the same overall style. In example of anime, it might start with cute moe and end up with horror-ish, but characters should still be easily recognizable and not too far in 'realistic' way from starting point.

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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#10 Post by illuminate001 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:54 pm

In general, it seems that changing the art style for a sequel may be a good thing but nevertheless it is a huge risk, despite whatever intentions the creator may have.

For instance, omg that whole Planet Stronghold thing, I remember seeing that unfold and how unsavory it got. The thing is, it's sequel didn't have a bad art style although the execution was alittle stiff (so that could def be a factor in why it wasn't received well), but I think the fans from the original had an expectation and anime at least, is such a distinct look, that the new look alienated many of the original's fans.

Where it's successful for me (I see Jackkel Dragon mentioned DAI for example) was the visual jump for Final Fantasy X -> Final Fantasy X-2. Their character/costume designs got alot more contemporary and uh...skimpier lol. Which I LOVED! But they still felt like Yuna, Rikku etc. However I think that worked because although the fashion changed, the overall design sense did not...like they still felt like they were from the original world of FFX. And that small change was refreshing enough without being jarring...so imagine an actual whole art style shift?!

I'm leaning towards changing art styles for sequels is usually a risky pursuit with very little chance at success.

There is still always that line that can be straddled (if you want to risk it)...for example, I agree with Mikolajspy where the style could get "darker" and still work. For example, @Scribbles: If Pinewood Island had a sequel I could see something like this working:

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Still using the same cartoony style and look in terms of the way the characters are drawn, but maybe the shading/shadows get alot darker like pure comic book black. Maybe more texture and grit/splotches are added to the final rendering of each character. But is this enough to be considered a "style change"? I dunno...lol. It's very confusing.
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#11 Post by Scribbles » Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:05 pm

illuminate001 wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:54 pm
In general, it seems that changing the art style for a sequel may be a good thing but nevertheless it is a huge risk, despite whatever intentions the creator may have.

For instance, omg that whole Planet Stronghold thing, I remember seeing that unfold and how unsavory it got. The thing is, it's sequel didn't have a bad art style although the execution was alittle stiff (so that could def be a factor in why it wasn't received well), but I think the fans from the original had an expectation and anime at least, is such a distinct look, that the new look alienated many of the original's fans.

Where it's successful for me (I see Jackkel Dragon mentioned DAI for example) was the visual jump for Final Fantasy X -> Final Fantasy X-2. Their character/costume designs got alot more contemporary and uh...skimpier lol. Which I LOVED! But they still felt like Yuna, Rikku etc. However I think that worked because although the fashion changed, the overall design sense did not...like they still felt like they were from the original world of FFX. And that small change was refreshing enough without being jarring...so imagine an actual whole art style shift?!

I'm leaning towards changing art styles for sequels is usually a risky pursuit with very little chance at success.

There is still always that line that can be straddled (if you want to risk it)...for example, I agree with Mikolajspy where the style could get "darker" and still work. For example, @Scribbles: If Pinewood Island had a sequel I could see something like this working:

Image

Still using the same cartoony style and look in terms of the way the characters are drawn, but maybe the shading/shadows get alot darker like pure comic book black. Maybe more texture and grit/splotches are added to the final rendering of each character. But is this enough to be considered a "style change"? I dunno...lol. It's very confusing.
ooooh that would be an interesting shift!

Personally I think you should do what makes you happy, because at the end of the day it's your project and you're the one who has to live with it. Probably not a great business model if you're trying to make tons of money or something, but it's better to try and fail then never try at all.(at least imo)
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#12 Post by runeraccoon » Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:49 pm

Further exploring Aviala's comment above, I think that style change from semi-realism to cartoony could work, if the tone of the game changes as well. The case that I think work for this is Hakuouki's serious historical fantasy VN vs. its chibi spinoff. (Note that I don't play the game, so my knowledge is rather superficial.)
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They do look more like a comedic spin off than sequel, though. I think as long as you're clear with the objectives of the sequel, it should somehow work. With that kind of style change, I'll expect something more like bonus scenes and exploration rather than the continuation of the plot.

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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#13 Post by Goddiga » Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:37 am

IMO I would expect the same art style for the sequel. Especially if it's the same game with a continuation of the story or chronologically related to the previous game. The drastic change in art style usually occur with a remake or sometimes a spin-off and a spiritual successor, though.
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#14 Post by TheJerminator15 » Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:49 pm

I think something to keep in mind is that VNs are just as focused on the visuals as the story in most cases. It's one thing for a returning artist to further evolve their artstyle between games or releases in a series. But, to completely change the artstyle, direction and even artist in between two connected games is definitely going to create a big dissonance, purely because one of the biggest defining traits of the established series has been replaced. The newer artstyle could fit the tone and the series far better than the previous one, but it will always cause an issue.

Now, if the next game was say a spin off, it could work. For example if your original game was gritty and very dark, but the spin off was a lighthearted parody of the entire previous game, a different art style would actually help and likely wouldn't be as disliked.
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Re: Changing Art Styles in a Sequel

#15 Post by illuminate001 » Sun Dec 10, 2017 8:03 pm

I think this thread is turning out to be a really good valid discussion and although it originally was to help me make up my mind about something, it's going to be a really good resource (with sources and even evidence) to help anyone else wondering the same thing.

So RuneRaccoon, Goddiga and Jerminator all bring up a new element and have a unified front. I also agree that spinoff games with a completely different tone can have a very different art style, and would probably not affect the fanbase. They know it's not meant to be in canon or even directly tied to the VN they loved.

However, now Scribbs has gone and laid the hammer down and I must agree with her point wholeheartedly in that WE are the ones who will have to live with our creation at the end of the day. I guess it depends on your objective. If your goal is to patronize a set audience, your sequel comes out and you want it to do well and not alienate its fanbase, or maybe at the end of the day, it's all dollar signs for you and that's your motivator...then YES absolutely, stick to the same style as before...that's your best bet.

I can't say I got into developing VN's for the $$$...definitely not. Or else I'd have at least attempted a Kickstarter lol. At the end of the day, what I like about being a creator of VN's is just that...creating. So if I want to change the style...then too bad for everyone who hates on it. If it felt right for me artistically, I'd stick by it, even if the "numbers" proved me wrong. :)
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