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Low Poly is the aesthetic of 3D models with a low amount of polygons. It is used for 3D art and video games, usually ones created by indie developers. Low poly was originally used to improve performance in games running on low powered consoles in the 1990s, but with technological advancements, it is now embraced by developers as an intentional stylistic choice.

The way modern low poly is utilized as an art form heavily connects to Modernism and its rejection of Realism. Low poly art embraces being unique and different from reality, opposing the many games focusing on having the most photorealistic graphics as possible.[1]

Visual[]

Blender viewport shading comparison

A comparison of smooth and flat shading

A key element of low poly is only having a small amount of polygons in the model, resulting in the model having a blocky and triangular shape. Flat shading is a method that is often used in low poly to emphasize the individual polygons, whereas otherwise smooth shading is used to give a more blended look.

Low Poly 4

Textured graphics vs Simple colors

Originally, games used textures tend to conceal the low polygon amount of the model and make the scene look more realistic. Although at the time people were blown away by the realism, this look tends to feel uncanny now because of the contrast between the attempt at realism and low quality graphics.

Modern low poly typically uses vibrant colors with very simplistic color palettes in order to emphasize the low poly look. The old techniques of textures are sometimes still used in aesthetics trying to recreate these old styles.

Retro[]

In addition to the modern form of low poly, there are also styles attempting to recreate the feeling of the original use of low poly in old games.

PSX[]

The PS1 or PSX aesthetic is a sub-aesthetic of low poly based on the low resolution textures and vertex lighting of the PlayStation One's graphics. The textures contrast with normal low poly, being pixelated, rough, and complex.

A PS1 demake refers to recreating a modern game in the PS1 style. They're usually just made as art for YouTube videos, but a few are actual playable games.

The PS1 aesthetic is often used for indie horror games. The low graphics obfuscate details and give an uncanny feeling to players.[2]

EmotionStation[]

The EmotionStation aesthetic is a sub-aesthetic of low poly based graphics of the PlayStation 2. The name was coined by designer Steves Peeps in 2023, who named it after the Emotion Engine, the central processing unit in the PlayStation 2. This style is notable for its anti-aliasing flaws as well as hyper dynamic weather effects. Its faux photo realism is also a prominent visual component of this style.

Sega Blue Sky[]

Sega Blue Sky is a low poly subaesthetic based around the Sega Dreamcast. The term Sega Blue Sky comes from the fact that vibrant blue skies were seen throughout many Dreamcast titles.[3] In contrast to PSX, the Dreamcast aesthetic is more smooth and vibrant. It still has a liminal feeling, but in a more dreamlike way.[4]

Gallery[]

Media[]

Video Games[]

  • I, Robot (1984)
  • Star Fox (1993)
  • Virtua Fighter (1993)
  • Geograph Seal (1994)
  • Tekken (1994)
  • Tempest 2000 (1994)
  • Club Drive (1994)
  • Air Combat/Ace Combat (1995)
  • FX Fighter (1995)
  • Jumping Flash! (1995)
  • Wipeout (1995)
  • Worlds.com (1995)
  • Active Worlds (1995)
  • Bubsy 3D (1996)
  • Super Mario 64 (1996)
  • Final Fantasy VII (1997)
  • Wipeout 2097/Wipeout XL (1996)/Wipeout 64 (1998)
  • Cyber Troopers Virtual-On (1996)
  • Crash Bandicoot 1-3 (1996-1998)
  • Spyro the Dragon 1-3 (1998-2000)
  • Sonic Jam (1997)
  • LSD: Dream Emulator (1998)
  • Driver (1999)
  • Silent Hill (1999)
  • Superhot (2016)
  • Yo! Noid 2: Enter the Void (2017)
  • Aka Manto (2018)
  • Dusk (2018)
  • Maximum Action (2018)
  • Nun Massacre/Night Of The Nun (2018)
  • Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (2019)
  • ULTRAKILL (2020)
  • NIGHT OF THE CONSUMERS (2020)
  • Cruelty Squad (2021)
  • Slid in the Woods (2021)
  • Bloodwash (2021)
  • Alisa (2021)
  • PsiloSybil (2021)
  • Lunistice (2022)
  • Super Kiwi 64 (2022)
  • Pseudoregalia (2023)
  • Corn Kidz 64 (2023)
  • Lunacid (2023)
  • Shipwrecked 64 (2024)

Film & Television[]

  • Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa (2002)
  • MechaNick (2003)

Playlists[]

References[]

  1. Tim Schneider @TFS3000 (September 15, 2014). A comprehensive history of low-poly art, Pt. 1. Kill Screen. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.
  2. Tim Schneider @TFS3000 (September 17, 2014). A comprehensive history of low-poly art, Pt. 3. Kill Screen. Retrieved June 9, 2023. Archived.
  3. UtterSpartan (November 7, 2022). What Are Sega Blue Skies?. YouTube. Retrieved November 5, 2023. Archived.
  4. Dreamcast Enjoyer (October 14, 2022). The Dreamcast Aesthetic. YouTube. Retrieved October 17, 2023. Archived.
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