Realistic vs Stylistic: An Exploration of the Expressive Abilities of Stylisation in 3D Art

Angus McMeekin and Reza Ryan Part of CW18

Video game art styles have a great impact not only on how a game is initially perceived by an audience but also on how it is experienced. Through an understanding of the capabilities of each art style, developers can better design experiences that utilise their chosen art style to enhance gameplay, themes and emotions. However, these capabilities have not been fully explored, particularly within video games. For example, a small amount research in visual media outside video games, suggests that non-photorealistic art styles typically contain more expressive qualities.

This study aims to further explore this art trend through an expressive analysis of the stylised art style compared to the realistic art style, fill the gap in knowledge and as a result, provide a better understanding of the expressive qualities of the stylised video game art style. This research first explores what expressive qualities stylised art contains and collaborates them into a framework that can be used for the development of expressive stylised art. This framework is then applied to a stylised recreation of a AAA quality realistic environment. Both environments are then comparatively evaluated using participant testing consisting of playtesting followed by questionnaires. These questionnaires survey the participants on whether they felt either environment effectively expressed a mood, which moods they were able to identify and whether either environment displayed ‘artistic qualities’.

The data gathered from these questionnaires will then be analysed to provide a conclusion on which art style displayed more expressive qualities. It is expected from this data that the stylised art style will be received more favourably for its expressive abilities while the realistic will be perceived as more artistic. The conclusion drawn from this study can then be utilised by developers and artists to better guide the design process, providing a deeper insight into the abilities of each art style and how they may impact their games.