Pixel art is surely charming, especially for the nostalgic effect. However, new techniques and tools have also helped to cause a new blossom of gorgeous sprite-based games during the last years, as I showed you a couple of days ago with The King of Fighters XII.
Another fine example is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (2010), based on the Scott Pilgrim comic books and developed to tie in with the release of the film of the same name.
Paul Robertson and Jonathan Kim, 2 of the skilled animators behind the game’s appealing visuals, have put together a list of 5 tips for making great 2D animations.
1. Push it to the limit.
I always imagine other people’s reaction when they look at something I’ve done, and if it seems underwhelming I’ll push it further or add more to it till I think it’s good enough. Actually this works for any art, not just pixels. (Robertson)
2. Make everything bouncy and feel alive.
You have to animate] things like hair and clothes blowing in the wind or swaying around while they move, giving them exaggerated facial expressions, cute or funny idle animations, anything that makes them feel like they have a personality. (Robertson)
3. Create strong key frames and silhouettes.
You have to be careful about the negative space. Make sure everything reads from just looking at it against a white background. You don’t want an arm to be inside the torso area, and you can’t tell what’s going on. (Kim)
4. Try to limit your frames.
The first purpose it has to serve is for gameplay, and then afterwards to make it as good-looking as possible. (Kim)
5. Don’t fret too much over the craft.
People can be all like, ‘Hey, that’s too many colors for what kind of effect you’re trying to do.’ And it’s like, ‘No, you guys are caring too much about particular details instead of looking at the whole picture or what the image is trying to represent. (Kim)
You can find the full article, as well as some tips and advices from Robertson and Kim, here.