Animation Styles: Stylization or Photorealism?


So I lied to you all! Sorry! :/  This week I will not start on the production phase of game development. Instead I want to discuss the different animation styles in video games.

Lets take a look at three video game trailers that have their own unique animation style. You don’t have to watch this whole video, just enough to get a feel of the animation style.

When viewing these trailers think about the difference in the details of the characters’ skin, gameplay environment, colors, sound effects and the soundtrack.

Mario & Sonic Olympic Winter Trailer

Mirror’s Edge 2 Trailer

Borderlands Trailer

The graphics in the Mario & Sonic trailer are stylized with a “cartoonish” feel. The user is aware they aren’t real and does not expect anything from the game to be realistic in these fantasy worlds. In Mirror’s Edge, the graphics are obviously more realistic. The movement of the characters, the sound effects, and the gameplay environment are all meant to make the user feel as if they are participating in a real world event. Borderlands can be seen as a mixture of the two. While the “look” of the graphics is stylized, the movement of the characters are more realistic than what you would see in Mario or Sonic.

Stylization vs. Photorealism?

When choosing an animation style, the designer has to the know the benefits and limits of each. While realism may look cooler and is more likely to make the user feel as if they are really there,   users are more forgiving with games that have stylized graphics.  With stylization, artists can focus more on art than imitation. In this fantasy world, users do not expect characters to have a realistic walk or run. They are more infatuated with the fantasy world the game developers have created. When imitating real life, users expect the opposite. The  characters and the gameplay environment need to as realistic as the world we live in or the users become more focused on the imperfections than the actual story line. Let’s go deeper into this:

What do you think about where game graphics are heading?


11 thoughts on “Animation Styles: Stylization or Photorealism?

  1. Wow! You bring an important point and now I am definitely noticing all the different styles of graphic component to the games. You know what would be really interesting… to explore the evolution of graphics for games over time. I remember Pac Man-ish minimal graphics to now so intricately designed graphics. Thanks for sharing.

  2. One thing not to forget is that with a more realistic animation comes more rendering! I bet these realistic trailers took tons of hours to create and render! I think we’re definitely headed to the more 3D, even 4D realm in gaming!

  3. It’ll be amazing to see a perfected or almost perfect photorealism style sometime in the future. Like books and movies, I like how there are many genres for people of all ages b

  4. I think game graphics are headed into a more photo realistic style, I bet rendering a game such as Borderlands would take way longer than rendering Mario. Borderlands has so much added detail to it: different textures (walls, ground, hair, clothing, etc..) and lighting effects (the lighting in Mario is the same in every scene).

  5. supermalula

    I think the style also has to do with the audience/consumer you are targeting to develop an specific game/product for. Mario for instance is more of a friendly type not realistic look and more cartoonish. The other two videos/styles more photo realistic and a bit more aggressive. I would think the targeted audience is older that 16-17. Thanks for sharing! Great comparison. 🙂

  6. Photo realism is becoming a common thing amongst the many noir type comic book movie adaptations it seems like, or at least some version of it. Its my preferred style when playing video games if I must choose

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