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Quality Comparison of Maxwell Short

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For a while now it should be very apparent that the shorts have major differences in presentation from the shorts done before. The changes in the previous ones and the content displayed didn't really have enough common ground for me to be able to contrast them properly or pinpoint anything in particular to make comprehensive points. However the most recent one has enough to contrast with a couple of the previous ones  so I think I might be able to competently discuss them and how, and honestly, the previous ones turned out much better by comparison. For the new ones, these choices are very distinct and I believe if appropriate changes are to be applied in the future shorts the... old Don't Starve vibes as it were, could very well be recaptured. For now I think there's some way to go for that however.


Animation and Art

There was a brief second of a previous short from about a decade ago now, The Final Act, which is probably the best to compare to. This short was very much on par with the Forbidden Knowledge Cinematic Trailer as they were made around the same time period, and I presume by the same animators, in addition to also having the same sound designer/developer(s) and so on.

The Final Act Short


Forbidden Knowledge Cinematic Trailer


Now contrast that to the current Maxwell Short. There are some significant differences however I will discuss further on.

Maxwell Short


Incidentally, only 5 years ago, there was a stream of Klei's animation process showcased here. It appears as though that is very much on the spot for getting either of the outcomes (Maxwell Short and Forbidden Knowledge as examples) .


So what changed? The most prominent one appears to be that the linework and coloring is, in a way, too clean, particularly the coloring. You can see this if you for example contrast how Maxwell's clothing or Wilson's hair are colored between The Final Act + Forbidden Knowledge and the Maxwell Short. In addition, these older shorts/trailers, and also update trailers, had the old camera graininess on top of them, though it is barely present in the Forbidden Knowledge trailer so I don't necessarily think that changes too much if not present (Though imagine how cool it would be to have this effect in the game by default or as a setting at least).

The framerate also appears to be much higher, and while you might think that a good thing by default, it changes the way the animation is displayed completely, and I can honestly say that the lower framerate looked overall better for capturing the right visual effect. Looking at different shots, the animation approach here may also be of vector graphics one, as opposed to drawn frames? Though it is tough to tell for sure, but the final result looks better in Forbidden Knowledge and The Final Act trailers for sure.

Also looking back, there was the Winter's Feast short, also 5 years ago, which from an animation and art perspective alone does look more like it achieved a little more of the old approach (you may need to mute the video to focus in on that, the uncanny valley of characters actually speaking still strikes me every time). Though the quality is a little too rough around the edges, as you can see when contrasting how Wilson looks in this short vs the Forbidden Knowledge trailer. Both the Maxwell Short and the Forbidden Knowledge/The Final Act trailers are much better quality than this overall in that respect. Also from 0:02 till 0:08 Wilson looks like he's sliding instead of walking... you can't unsee that.

Winter's Feast Short 



This is a huge one. One thing that was fairly well captured in The Final Act trailer and really well captured in the Forbidden Knowledge trailer was the use of music to accompany what is shown with the animation to the tee. I can't say that is true for the new Maxwell Short and it certainly has not been the case for many other shorts recently. It always sounds off, as if the music is doing its own thing and going off the rails to a completely different tone than what is portrayed and it just doesn't work.

The muffle effect is not present at all in Maxwell's Short, or any of the shorts from the past few years really. From an audio-visual standpoint however, that is also just as crucial to portray an effect much like in Forbidden Knowledge and The Final Act.


Shot Composition and Story Boarding

Just from the introduction alone, it does appear that the shot composition is in some ways off, at least more so when you see Maxwell in the constant. I can see how some sense of where we are and what's going on and why can get a little confusing without a broader context. Sure, this is a continuation of an on-going story, but for example the Rook, while in some way it makes sense, it's a little odd how that of all things is the driving force for what follows next. The Forbidden Knowledge trailer very clearly demonstrated to you what was happening and why, at least by the end, so you could understand where it was going (honestly it's so good and useful as a context tool, you could have this trailer play at the beginning of the single player Don't Starve as an introduction before you first start the game after it generates the world, and maybe have The Final Act trailer play after you unlock Maxwell).


Overall I would really like if Klei took some notes from this and if there's more to discuss about this, maybe stuff I didn't really go too in-depth aside from just contrasting, maybe that can be pointed out by others here. I thought about posting something like this for a while now but could never really find the words or the reasons for how off the shorts feel now, and even if some of the old essence is captured, there are still some things to iron out. The animation process alone appears to be fine for the most part, but the final result both on that front as well as the audio side of things and the shot composition doesn't exactly work out as well as it did before and I hope I made this comprehensive enough for some retrospective.

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The art style clearly changed a lot, but I don't think it became worse, I actually prefer the cleaner style more. And I think the music was really on spot in the Maxwell short, especially when Charlie appeared and it became soft and sad for a moment to show Maxwell's remorse, then suddenly sinister again when he made the choice to change sides. I also don't see a lot of difference in composition, if anything it became better because the events are now shown in context - Maxwell doesn't just get a lot of flashbacks and make a deal with Charlie, there is a logical wind up to it and an ending, as well as some nice details that can tell you more, like the glass moon meaning that this happens after celestial champion is defeated. Compare it to Final Act, where it's just the act itself. I guess that's justified because that video was part of the puzzle, so the rest of the story was already told in the pictures.

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There's just a lot more budget to do cartoony styled shorts compared to when there were barely any shorts at all.

The comparison to when DS singleplayer was a thing, the story was more of a grim tale with a mysterious dapper figure that kidnapped survivors for unknown or mysterious reason. Everything was much more serious and mystery grew more and more till we figure out that the tall dark figure was nothing but a stage magician that fell for the trap to the power he tried to harness to himself from an entity that was beyond of his control.

The tale was grim and dark and there was no hope for survivors to escape.

DST on the other hand is a sequel of sorts, that's more lighthearted while grim, survivors coping with them being trapped and making the Constant as their new home. They're finding ways to help one another, fight giant beasts and monster while solving mysteries of the Constant while Charlie entertains them with new challenges or small goodies like cosmetics for dressup or yearly events to be allowed into the Constant. Telling their backstories and life before it all and creating traditions and celebrations part of their lives.

The new shorts represents the game and survivor lives in a more lighthearted tone while still keeping the whole mystery drama action things in it. The shorts are all very well made for the era the game reached and that's my argument.

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I think the general idea klei was doing was finding out a way to perfectly make shorts so they're easier and not as time consuming as they once were, especially considering how many they make in such a short time span between the next after the next. a lot of the past DST trailers have different styles varying between scenes, more importantly you can see from the first refresh shorts they were sticking to the more original sketch'ier look but you can also tell they were doing new techniques. 

While i love the old original cinematics near and dear, their quality was in fact "worse", it was frame by frame anim and klei wasn't as big of a company as they are now, they had more time on DS than they have now, between DS and invisible inc. that's all they were doing back then. Now they have so many games, they make cinematics almost every month that's DST related and that's just DST compared to their other projects.
If we take wilsons' cinematic as an example it really was only around in his attic with not a whole lot of space, just a 3d square with 2d effects and 2d props. Now we have so much going on in almost every single cinematic. Extra background characters, more scenery, more fluid anim and no as frame'y, even 3D models. They're doing a lot with em now and when you need to make so many it's no doubt they had to change how they look and so it's easier for the animators. And i think it's pretty clear they have finally figured what style they want the cinematics to be. With how inconsistent the styles mashed together with the RoT and Refresh cinematics after a while, between RoT's development they figured it out. 

I think it's better to think what's best for klei than rely on pure nostalgia from the old cinematics as well as the new style they're going for DST.

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Opinions are opinions, but I feel like it's just nostalgia speaking if you think the old style is better in quality than the new one. Not only is the new style clean, crisp and satisfying to look at, it also has more dynamic shots and consistent designs of the characters - while the old one was comparatively flat and clearly made with a smaller budget.

Imagine for a second if Klei actually got the chance to make a full Netflix show of DST - just in that context I think the old style, though initially more unique and weird, would feel amateurish, dull and grating to me after a bit, constantly desaturated and sketchy. The new style just has much more charm and dynamism.

On a quick tangent, my favorite frame from the new short is probably when Maxwell gets polished up by Charlie. The way the shadow spikes up from below and cleanly wraps around Maxwell is just so satisfying.


Thank you for your hard work, animators! There's always gonna be people that compare and like old styles more, but know there's just as many loving how the style has evolved!


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this short, compared to other trailers, like the nintendo seitch trailer or the terraria collab trailer, is great

i know everyone sounds like an old bat when they say that before was better and now its worse but i just cant like how the new shorts look, they just arent pleasing to look at, the movements of the characters are so static, its like they are not moving, they just go from pose to pose, and i dont understand how maxwell can look so awful in the shorts, this is more evident in the forgotten knowledge trailer atleast here there is a slight improvement

i did like in this trailer that they showed way more shadow creatures which i love, and not just the generic terrorpeak and maybe crawling horror

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No I don't think nostalgia has anything to do with my assessment. I have nostalgia for a lot more other things, and looking back, the quality in various part of those things are definitely not that great. Nostalgia, even if it might skew perception, doesn't have anything inherently to do with quality assessment. I gave examples of exactly how the previous shorts (The Forbidden Knowledge trailer and The Final Act short) have done various aspects better, even with some observation on how they also achieved just as good quality in animation side of things in the Winter's Feast short, even if the art style was unpolished. Just like @Capybara007 I would not like, maybe even cringe at, watching some of the new shorts now whereas I love rewatching some of the old trailers, and the cinematic one in particular too because they are so well presented in what they tried to achieve.

And I particularly stand by the audio-visual presentation being done way better before, in the cinematic trailer especially, because the music, not only flows as a piece in and of itself, but does so while working in tandem with the scenes shown. Listen to the music and pay attention to it while viewing scenes and what they portray, they are sectioned in a very particular way, from introduction to the end. It even has its peaks where the music briefly spikes up, like the moment when Wilson's experiment explodes, which all works with the overarching flow of the soundtrack. The sound effects are much better and also used sparingly where necessary, cartoonish at times, but still fairly serious and grim in tone. In addition to that, the framing  of the scenes are also done masterfully, cuts and transitions are put and sectioned in just the right way to give you a great perspective and set the tone correctly to give the viewer of what is going on, no prior context to the trailer needed either to understand what is happening, even if you're not quite sure why.

In the new short they are a little all over the place and like there is no real distinction between points of rest and build-up. Not visually, not auditorily. And it ends on an oddly cheerful melody too afterwards, destroying any tone it might have built up from what was just shown just seconds before, like what the heck? Another short I could point to that, while the animation and storyline was fairly good overall, the music just did not match anything that was happening at all in the same vein.


20 hours ago, dois raios said:




Even with the best quality works, pausing at certain sections can definitely seem off. Looking throughout The Final Act short, I didn't even catch a glimpse of this. This frame could certainly have been fixed by moving his mouth down a bit, more or less. Case in point, here is a VERY rough edit of that cropped image I did in 2 minutes, adjusted the chin a little too. Doesn't look too bad now, does it?



In the new Maxwell Short, he looks about as you'd expect too, aside from having a smaller chin than previously throughout. The rest of the height proportions in relation to other characters of course are skewed because of inconsistency between in-game character and NPC visuals we see from him in particular, probably as a result from having him shown as really tall while as an NPC controlling the constant and on the throne, and then having to adapt his characteristics to a typical character model without having to do additional animations and making it look even weirder when making him into a playable character in the first place.

The art style hasn't really changed too much by the way. Before, maybe it did, but it seems to have come a little more back to its roots with this trailer, though it might be partially because it depicts content that fits more in style with the old gameplay and story theme much more. It's really the coloring method that's the biggest difference here, where you would previously have Wilson's hair and other black and grey sections for example being colored in with sketchy, yet clean stripes, now it's also paint-bucketed in as well or just fully colored in (also what the heck is wrong with Wilson's collar/neck in the new short one).


Of course, proportions and placement of characteristics are also completely different in the new trailers, though it seems the old promotional art also had the characteristics all over the place, even if the style was much more consistent with Wilson as seen in the Forbidden Knowledge trailer.


The Maxwell Short appears to have used primarily only 2D imaging with no addition, while the Forbidden Knowledge trailer appears to have had the backgrounds in 3D environment with 2D textures (much like in the actual game in fact) while character and animated objects drawn on a white background, then cut around, leaving bits of white space. Maybe that's a dip in the quality, maybe that's even better actually for aesthetic purposes, overall kind of neutral on that one unless a proper edit were to be done for a 1 to 1 comparison of sorts, yet it still looks better overall and it really has to do with the way the rest of the character is colored in more than anything. Also have to say the proportions and positioning of characteristics are also better done in that than the new Maxwell Short. Also, also... sepia tone overlay works really well for Don't Starve, so that's another plus for the Forbidden Knowledge trailer here.

Maybe I or someone else could try drawing this shot of Wilson in the Maxwell Short but done in the Forbidden Knowledge approach, proportions etc, based on what I mentioned before (maybe the background could be darker blue or grey as opposed to a deep blue like that as well?) just to see how well it would then look, even though the shot itself in the short I don't was all that well framed and the story here may have been told a bit better from a slightly different context setup. I would do it myself now, but that picture might take a couple hours and I don't have the time to do that right now, especially since this very post is taking a fair bit of my time to communicate well anyway.

But overall, again, it's more so the audio-visual disconnect and bad shot composition and story telling which I think have dipped in quality in shorts for aforementioned reasons. And I don't think you can really deny any of those reasons.

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i personally dont think polished = more complex/beatiful

just imo

a good example of where something more polished becomes better is the waves in dst compared to the waves of shipwrecked, those look nice in their polished version

the same i cant say about stuff like new polished monkeys compardd to old cave monkeys

i kinda went off topic since this discussion is about the animation in animated shorts, but it does kinda speak with the modern era of animation in dst

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