Follow TV Tropes


Digitized Sprites

Go To

When the sprite graphics in a Video Game are made by conversion of an image created externally (such as a photograph, CGI render, hand-drawn artwork, video feed, etc.) into a sprite, as opposed to the Pixel Art methods typically associated with the creation of videogame sprites. This can actually save a lot of time and effort in the production cycle, but the results are often not as pleasing (particularly when photography is used).

This was popular in the The '90s (The 16 Bit Era Of Console Video Games) before processing power and tech prices could make Polygonal Graphics practical for home computers and video game consoles. The process could actually make more detailed graphics than many of the early polygon-capable game systems since it was taking more advanced CGI and converting it to 2D images.

Also, if a photo is used, it could be anything from Real Life pictures, to actors, to Stop Motion (e.g. Claymation models).

Compare Sprite/Polygon Mix (and can overlap if the sprites or bitmaps are also digitized). Also compare Pre-Rendered Graphics.


    open/close all folders 

    Adventure Games 

    Beat 'em Up 

    Fighting Games 
  • Battle Monsters is another Japanese Mortal Kombat Klone from the same makers of Survival Arts and likewise they digitize live-action performers.
  • ClayFighter used actual clay models, ones that in the first and third games were made and animated by Danger Productions. This was part of the reason the decision to make it a fighting game was made, feeling the genre's large characters were well-suited to the medium.
  • Taito's Dino Rex has digitized dinosaur models.
  • Killer Instinct was made using digitized sprites from pre-rendered models and motion capture of character designer Kevin Bayless who modelled some of the moves.
  • The Mortal Kombat series started out this way, with sprites and animations based on filming live actor performances. Most of the more "monstrous" fighters, such as the Shokan, were made with clay models.
  • Street Fighter: The Movie uses sprites made from live-action actors with the game's attract mode going as far as to promote the cast.
  • Streets of Fury uses high-definition sprites of live-action characters, sometimes with a color filter for enemy variants.
  • Survival Arts is a Japanese Mortal Kombat Klone and similarly used digitized sprites from filming live actors. There are no clone fighters such as Subzero/Scorpion, but the budget was crap so the costumes were often worse than the first Mortal Kombat.
  • Tattoo Assassins used sprites and animations based on filming live actor performances
  • Twin Goddesses: Three of the eight fighters are rendered this way. Those being the co-protagonists Nina and Syllin as well as the main antagonist Carmilla. All other fighters are made in a 2D hand-drawn art style.
  • Way of the Warrior used sprites and animations based on filming live actor performances
  • Some of the late-90's WWF arcade games such as In Your House featured sprites of the actual wrestlers like Bret Hart and The Undertaker.
  • The Untouchable, an obscure Mac game which, much like Mortal Kombat, filmed its actors and digitized them in the game.

    First Person Shooters 
  • Some of the monsters from DOOM and DOOM 2 were first created as clay, 3D, or latex models which were photographed and then rendered into sprites. In mods, it's common to see weapons from modern 3D games imported into Doom via the same technique.
  • Rise of the Triad used the Apogee staff in costumes to create the enemies. Tom Hall played the final boss.
  • Blood (1997) also used detailed models for all the monsters. More info about the work process can be found here.
  • PowerSlave used model puppets for monsters in a similar way to Blood.
  • The first Dark Forces game was populated using these. It's easy to tell what's rotoscoped, what's hand-drawn, and what's a digitized render by the light levels of the sprites. Sprites with minimal lighting like those of the Dianoga and Gammorean Guard are drawn, moderately shaded human enemy sprites are rotoscoped, and the highly shiny droid enemy sprites are taken from renders.
  • Brazilian FPS Hades 2 used actors and costumes for the majority of its sprites, The rest being renders.
  • Harmony, A standalone Zdoom engine game that uses painted clay figures and models for all of its graphics.
  • System Shock features sprites for several enemies made from pre-rendered 3D models.

    Light Gun Games 
  • Area 51 used actors for the human enemies/allies and stop motion animation for the alien enemies.
  • Lethal Enforcers and its sequel, Lethal Enforcers 2: The Gunfighters. Lethal Enforcers 3, released in 2005, would switch to polygonal graphics.
  • Operation Wolf 3
  • Revolution X

    Platform Games 
  • The Sega Genesis and Game Gear game Bugs Bunny in Double Trouble features these.
  • All graphics elements (sprites and backgrounds alike) from the first three Donkey Kong Country games were created from renders of 3D models created and animated on expensive SGI workstations.note 
  • Vectorman: The title character and nearly everything is made of polygon graphics turned into sprites.
  • Gargoyles on the Genesis used this to contrast the futuristic machine enemies with the hand-drawn sprites of enemies from Goliath's original time.
  • Iji's sprites are 3D models from Blender, rendered with flat-shading.
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island used the technique for the opposite effect, with the artists scanning hand-drawn sketches and manually drawing sprites over those to get the look of a storybook. The opening cutscene does use the more traditional CGI application popularized by Donkey Kong Country.
  • Kirby's Dream Land 3 also used the Yoshi's Island technique, where its sprites were drawn in pastels first before they were digitally scanned to be inserted into the game. The style is so thorough that the whole game looks like a chalk drawing, even the menu screens. Some of the original drawings were showcased in the booklet included with Kirby's Dream Collection.
  • Toy Story had sprites based on the CG models used in the film.
  • Many of Disney's video games throughout the '90s such as Aladdin and The Lion King used cels drawn by Disney's film animation team drawn specifically for the game.
  • Sprites in Wario Land: Shake It! used hand-drawn animated cells.
  • Mischief Makers does this along with Sprite/Polygon Mix.
  • Castle of Magic actually gives this ability to the player. They can take photos of real-world objects and turn them into sprites in the game, for everything from the basic gem pickups to the bosses' heads.
  • Penguin Brothers: Many enemy sprites are obviously digitized 3D models, as are the zoomed-out versions of the player characters.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog::
    • The Mega Drive-era games tended to use prerendered 3d models for pseudo-3d bonus levels. Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles also used prerenders of Sonic and Knuckles for the title screens.
    • Sonic 3D Blast, having isometric gameplay, used the technique for the entirety of its graphics.
    • Sonic Blast, being released around the same time as 3D Blast and near the end of the Game Gear's lifespan, is a 2D side-scroller that experiments with pre-rendered graphics, with limited success given the reduced horsepower behind the system.
    • Sonic Xtreme was going to have polygonal levels, but it would have used prerendered sprites for player characters and enemies. After its cancellation, Sonic's Schoolhouse recycled Sonic's sprites, in addition to using prerendered graphics for other characters.

    Puzzle Games 

    Racing Games 

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Age of Empires I and Age of Empires II used CGI Renderings for trees, animals, buildings, and units alike.
  • The first two games of the Total War series, Shogun and Medieval, used CGI Renderings for every unit.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Fallout used 3D models converted into sprites for all of its graphics. The sole exception were talking heads, created from clay models painstakingly digitized into 3D and then saved as sprites.
  • The Golden Sun games on the Game Boy Advance digitized most of their sprites.
  • A modern example: Project Zomboid uses this as a Retraux.
  • The Enhanced Remake of Quest For Glory 1 used clay models for its in-battle monster graphics.
  • Super Mario RPG, much like Donkey Kong Country, derived its sprite and environment graphics from pre-rendered CGI models.
  • Early installments of the Final Fantasy series feature monster graphics generated by directly scanning the artwork into the game.
  • Cosmic Star Heroine for the most part uses pixel art, but some ships are 3D models converted into sprites.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • Most CAVE shmups starting with Espgaluda II feature 3D models that are digitized as sprites. When these games got ported to home consoles, these ports added console-exclusive modes with higher-resolution sprites to take advantage of HD displays, although most of these ports still feature "Arcade" modes that recreate the lower resolution of the arcade originals.
  • Cho Aniki: Kyuukyoku Muteki Ginga Saikyou Otoko. There is a short video in the main menu showing how the digitizing were created.
  • Ginga Fukei Densetsu Sapphire has many enemies, particularly bosses, made of prerendered polygonal models.
  • Silpheed for the Sega CD FM Vs with prerendered 3d objects for the backgrounds, while the player character and enemies were polygons rendered in real time.
  • Platypus features everything from ships to scenery being made from clay figures.

  • In several of the Forza Motorsport games the crowds are flat sprites with copypasted photos of the developers.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Saints Row IV has the mission Saints of Rage, where The President goes into a 16-bit side-scroller to rescue Johnny Gat. However this is actually an Inverted Trope, as technically the game is still in 3D (and given massive filter to make it look blurry, choppy, and low quality) as your customized protagonist appeared with your currently equipped outfit in the mission, just having a large Genre Shift just for the one mission alone. It's all, naturally, Lampshaded, and comes complete with choppy sound bites and nonsensical food healing items.

  • American Girls Premiere and its predecessor, Opening Night, used chroma-keyed footage from live actors and props, with the former using the American Girl catalog along with actors dressed as characters from the franchise, and the latter using generic characters, sets, and props. It wasn't as refined as Mortal Kombat's though, as the characters were poorly chroma-keyed, and was grainier due to the dithered 256-colour palette.
  • Sociolotron sprites are still renders of 3D models at various animation frames. The independent developer didn't have the artistry to illustrate the full graphic set needed to animate the characters, and at the time most systems and internet connections didn't have the speed to render huge communities of 3D animated models. It was a necessary compromise that has lingered while the developer focuses on game mechanics and setting instead.

Alternative Title(s): Digitised Sprites