Neo Retro introduction

July 24, 2015


Videogaming is bearing witness to a (positive) insular phenomenon no we’ve almost reached the cusp of photorealism.

   shoevl knight

Colour limitations can enforce some creative design decisions onto artists.

We are nearly at the peak of visual fidelity with our 9th generation of hardware and cloud gaming is on the rise, so it’s inevitable that other visual styles than ‘realistic’ will make resurgences.

Retro-themed visuals have always been prevalent in many unique titles, usually as a throwback, or – in rare cases – as a genuine evolution of a style developers were all too quick to abandon during the 90’s race to perfect 3D graphics.

However, once in a while, there are some rare examples of games which have not only had their visuals and gameplay designed specifically as a throwback to the Retro era of the 2D golden age, but also manage to improve and innovate on these time-tested themes in ways never thought possible thanks to the utilization of more powerful hardware.

bit trip beat

Bit trip beat is basically pong, if it never stopped improving since its inception.

This fusion of the old and new is perfectly timed for a lot of reasons; with photorealism fast approaching, people will begin to look at other visual styles for diversity and also to save development costs.

Retro graphics are inexpensive to develop for, they’re well suited for online store-fronts thanks to their small file size and they have an iconic look which is unique to our industry. Small games development is becoming less expensive thanks to the rise in indie gaming popularity from prevalent online venues such as Steam, the IOS store and indie bundles.

Big-budget games, by comparison, seem to be gaining contempt from many gamers. Call of Duty has long been the definitive game for people to chastise for being too big, brash and popular. Which opens up an interesting gap in the market.


The vitriol against call of duty is unfair. I feel it stems from the rest of the industry following blindly in its footsteps.

Interesting note. The previous segment was written nearly 4 years ago, and it’s still shockingly relevant today.

(except that part about cloud gaming. It hasn’t really taken off in the way I expected)

So with the stage set, there’s one very specific element I wish to research and create a series of articles on. A phenomenon that I dub “Neo-Retroism” which is the fusion of the retro style seen in 2D videogames utilized with more modern technology to create effects and gameplay mechanics not possible back in their heyday.

My honors project in university was on this very subject and I wish to continue work on it. I’ll be supplying a steady slew of articles for crispysinger as in the years following my time at university many of the titles I  preemptively looked at have released and many more have come out that give a lot of interesting talking points on the subject.

If you would like a little warm up, my dissertation can be located here:

And all my blog posts on the subject:

bit cops

screenshot from one of my neo-retro projects.

I realize this first piece was a little vague about the specifics. Temper your hype. You’ll be hearing about dozens and dozens of actual examples soon enough.

The term itself “Neo-Retroism” is something of a misnomer. It makes about as much sense as “post-modernism” but as this series continues my intent of the phrase will become more clear.


First up is a piece on the 12-bit platformer from renegade kid. Mutant mudds. See you next time.



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