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Digitized Sprites

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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.


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    Adventure Games 

    Fighting Games 
  • Dino Rex has digitized dinosaur models.
  • 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.
  • Certain M.U.G.E.N characters are like this. A good example of a MUGEN-exclusive character with these would be Dragon Claw.
  • Done for the character sprites for Persona 4: Arena, according to an interview.
  • 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.

    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 also used detailed models for all the monsters. More info about the work process can be found here.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Toy Story had sprites based on the CG models used in the film.
  • Many of Disney's video games video games throughout the 90's 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.

    Racing Games 

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Age of Empires 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 most part uses pixel art, but some ships are 3D models converted into sprites.

    Shoot Em Up 
  • 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.

  • 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,resulting in Digitized Sprites (mostly to allow the player's customized President, converting their normal 3D model). 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


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