Death to Good Graphics!

 Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 NEXT
 

Death to Good Graphics!

Shouldn't we all just get over the graphics thing, already?

Read Full Article

Thank you! It is taking too many programmers to create a game and bind them to making expansions for DLC. I know graphics has always been a driving force in the video game industry but some old dogs like myself think that it is enough. Can graphics be pushed to the point of a star trck holodeck? Sure! But at the same time the amount of work to create that look is getting where the other points of the video game is being lost.

In the end graphics should still be pursued to be improved but video games cannot be that lead runner if video games are going to maintain quality gameplay.

If it aint fun, it aint fun. Graphics do not MAKE games fun. They can only augment it, but graphics that augment fun usually are considered bad graphics.

I'm going to have to agree. Some games are still great and have great graphics.
But some games i feel like the put more time into the graphics rather than the gameplay
(Killzone 2, and Resident Evil 5) *They just happen to be shooters*
But i still play Starcraft.

I will say that good graphics *are* important. I believe games, after all, are a visual spectacle - at least in part.
But I do wholeheartedly agree with the article.
For a small step back visually, you could save millions of dollars to make the game longer, or more fun, or add some more features or simply more dev time to reduce bugs. Win!

I totally agree with you on everything there, especially the 2004 tech idea.

I have a PC which I tend to play older games on, and it could just about run Doom 3 at a decent graphics level, but really struggles with newer games, to the point where I now need to upgrade to be able to play things at higher detail levels.

There is one example of following your model, and thats Valve. They continued to use the Source engine to bring out a variety of games, to maximise the amounts of people who would be able to play, and therefore maximise the amount of money they can make.

Andy_Panthro:
I totally agree with you on everything there, especially the 2004 tech idea.

I have a PC which I tend to play older games on, and it could just about run Doom 3 at a decent graphics level, but really struggles with newer games, to the point where I now need to upgrade to be able to play things at higher detail levels.

There is one example of following your model, and thats Valve. They continued to use the Source engine to bring out a variety of games, to maximise the amounts of people who would be able to play, and therefore maximise the amount of money they can make.

As usual, Valve is pretty much the only game company that really understands how the games industry works and how it's going to evolve.

If developers push the boundaries of what we can do with graphics now maybe they will be able to accomplish the same thing they do now except make the game a smaller format allowing them to put more in or making a game look good with less time. If you stop developing its never going to get any better, and i mean videogames as a whole.

The first two games that came to mind while I was reading this were Metroid Prime (1 and 2) and Starcraft. They're all great games; Metroid Prime still looks aesthetically pleasing, and Starcraft is still my favorite game of all time.

I couldn't agree more. The games industry is growing stale as a result of pandering to the idiots with the same appreciation for games as a magpie has for bits of foil. Novel gameplay is a thing of the past and instead we get eye-candy. It's the equivalent of buying a Ferrari with a lawnmower engine.

I still hold Valve in high regard for the simple fact that HalfLife ran fine on my clapped out P200 when pretty much all other games released around that time required higher specs.

Good article! :)

My all time favourite games are interactive fiction, so yeah - graphics aren't everything. For what it's worth, it /does/ look like we've reached that impasse for now, what with us holding onto this generation of consoles for the forseeable future. If you're worried about the PC, just look at Crytek - they have the most powerful, graphically splendorous engine known to man, and yet even they are dedicating themselves to downgrading and optimising for current-gen consoles for the next installment of their engine.

And, of course, seeing as the best-selling games are on the Wii right now, with graphics barely ahead of PS2-level, I imagine more the idea must have crossed more than one person's mind.

That said, graphics can be important. There are games where graphics and art design are almost as much a part of the game or rather the game's experience as the gameplay and fun is. Because, we must remember that not all of playing a game is just all about the 'fun'. The 'fun' is part of the overall experience that we are looking for. In Call of Duty 4, one of the most memorable and breathtaking scenes was the nuclear explosion halfway through, followed by the death of one of the game's protagonists. Was it fun? About as fun as crawling out of a crashed chopper, while bleeding to death can generally be considered fun. Would the scene have worked a generation-older graphics, without the full-screen effects and the atmospheric intensity? Probably yes, but not quite as well.

The most exciting purchase I've made in many moons was the Ultimate Genesis Collection on 360, because I can play Shining Force again. I'd be perfectly happy parking the tech level for a while if it means gameplay gets deeper. It kind of feels like Bethesda and Bioware are the only ones even trying.
And Starcraft wasn't bad at all, but it'll always take a backseat to MOO2 for me. :)

About time someone in the media came round o this way of thinking, couldn't agree more!

You're absolutely correct.

PC games don't need great graphics. Take Valve's games for example. Now I'm being as nice as possible when I say this, but by today's standards, most Valve games look like shit. What makes up for it; the Modding community. What makes PC games unique is the fact that they are constantly tweaked by die hard fans.

Plus, if Crysis has taught us anything, having pretty graphics on a PC is expensive.

I mention stuff like this to my hardcore PC gaming friends and they always get rather indignant. These are the guys who spend $1000+ on their gaming rigs so they want that investment to be justified by kick-ass looking games.

But these guys represent what, five or ten percent of the PC market? I highly doubt it's more than that. That's just stupid. Why would you make a game for a platform that 90% of the users can't even run?

I like good graphics, but when investing in those graphics starts to take time, effort and money away from gameplay, story, game length and other fun features, then I'm no longer happy. Essentially, I agree with Shamus.

The power of graphics is not what's important, but I think style can really make a game great (see Okami and Madworld).

Thing is, I don't thin graphics are the reason originality is going out of the window. It's easier to get into the market with a generic game, then with something different e.g. Mirror's Edge, as there is more room to fail.
Plus, gfx really aren't hard to do. I've just picked up making stuff on 3DS Max again after a few years of knowing bugger all, and within a month of picking stuff up, I can make arms etc that wouldn't be out of place in this generations games, and I'm blatantly amateur. The programmes are designed for speed creation, which they succeed at (TurboSmoother hoorah)
With HDR lighting, we have reached photorealism, but I think there are probably far too many people in the industry lacking skill, so prices & time are hiked up through incompetence - just have a look at some peoples work over on CGareana - far beyond anything seen in games, and made for fun.
Though I'd play an original idea of gfx anyday, but no reason why they couldn't come together.

I agree with most of what you said. Soon developers will have to start doing what you said because no one will be able to afford to take advantage of bleeding edge technology, since the expense is compounding every software that takes advantage of the bleeding edge will lose money.

I was talking to a young guy who had recently spent a few thousand dollars upgrading his PC to play games. I asked him what he liked to play. He said "I mostly play games for the graphics. So, like, Crysis."

I just stared at him. All I could think was "You spent thousands of dollars... so the games you don't really care about would look a bit better?"

And here I was starting to whine that graphics are starting to look a little stale. I want my graphics to be the best possible not some agreed upon arbitrarily low setting, while I understand and agree somewhat with the view shared. I think another evolution of gaming is acceptable,and that would be having 3-5 "big" publishers putting out 5 "major" titles a year (provide these are great games technically)

I think that great graphics, good gameplay and long stories can go together (and be profitable) Mass Effect for example.

Agreed, games are too mediocre when graphics are spent on rather then game/level design. Take resistance 2 for eg.

also graphics are usually turned down on rts games, where the graphics usually lag online...better games not better pictures

Good article and a very valid point.

I wish that game developers would hold off on the graphical arms race. It's needless and unprofitable in this day and age. However, most of these graphically rich games are so shallow that I don't care if my PC can't run them; I wouldn't buy them anyway.

zoozilla:

Andy_Panthro:
I totally agree with you on everything there, especially the 2004 tech idea.

I have a PC which I tend to play older games on, and it could just about run Doom 3 at a decent graphics level, but really struggles with newer games, to the point where I now need to upgrade to be able to play things at higher detail levels.

There is one example of following your model, and thats Valve. They continued to use the Source engine to bring out a variety of games, to maximise the amounts of people who would be able to play, and therefore maximise the amount of money they can make.

As usual, Valve is pretty much the only game company that really understands how the games industry works and how it's going to evolve.

You took my thoughts exactly. They've been using the same engine since 2004, and it still looks great due to the small updates they continue to make - without increasing system requirements.

I love this guy so much. I have been trying to tell people for years that graphics don't matter. Here I am with my DS and Wii while my friends are drooling while they describe the newest lighting system in the new game for the PS3. Whats the name of the game? Who cares! It has really well rendered ferns!

I don't give a shit about graphics. I want a game that runs smooth and is fun. I don't care if it's 8-bit. If it's entertaining and bug free I'm good to go.

Not to mention that as games get progressively more realistic (read: gray/brown and blurry) I find it harder and harder to play them because I have bad eyesight and can't tell what the fuck is going on.

I played Gears of War for a grand total of 10 minutes before I finally tossed it simply because I couldn't tell where the fuck I am, where the fuck the enemy is, or where the fuck I am supposed to go.

Fuck graphics.

Graphics never ever make the game, they only make it look nicer. That's not an excuse to deliberately cut back on it though.

I fully agree with the article (and i'm a graphics programmer myself, i have worked in a games company and i've made a bunch of "indie" games).

However it isn't the technology that is the problem. Really. If you think about it, making an engine doesn't take much time. What it *does* take time is using the engine. This includes using the tools to create content. And with "tools" i mean both the engine-specific tools (such as the world editor) and the generic tools such as the 3D modelling program and the 2D content creation program (Max, Maya, Blender, Photoshop, etc).

In the company i worked at we had some great art. Technically our engine wasn't anything spectacular, edge-pushing, etc. In fact most of the art worked with your standard diffuse + normal + specular + lightmap rendering, plus some shadows, particles and other "common" effects. Yet the results we had (back then) were amazing.

Why? But because we had about five times more artists than programmers.

Content creation is the bottleneck in game development and this isn't always tied to technology. Sure, in Wolf3D era one could make a good level in a single afternoon. Doom expanded this to a week, Quake... well some people over at func_msgboard need at least a month to create a good looking level. And if you notice, every single one of these games removed some limitation. As we get less and less limitations, we reach more "life like" results for our virtual worlds and these virtual words become more real.

The problem is, the real world took millions of years to become what it is today.

I believe today we have enough technology to display a very convincing imitation of a real world. But to display something, we first have to create it. And our technology on this aspect is far from ideal. For the last 20 years (and more) we use the same principles developed by SGI to create the world content. Triangles. 3D mesh models. Our 3D modelling tools are just extensions to the same tools people used in old SGI workstations. The Quake 1 models were made the same way the Crysis models were made: pushing triangles around. Sure we now have ZBrush and similar tools, but these are just extensions to the basic idea of texture mapped triangles.

Currently the industry tries to solve the problem in a "brute-force" manner: spending more money for more detailed content. I believe this is a short-term solution which already has started showing its drawbacks. The solution lies more on creating new technology which is designed to allow faster content creation than pushing more detail. Currently the goal is to push more detail on the screen without much thought on the content creation speed. I believe this must be reversed and the goal shoul be to create content faster with the detail to be a secondary goal. If we solve the fast content creation issue, adding detail will be a natural evolution of this.

The graphics curve has reached its plateau. There's a big difference between W3D and Quake; Quake/Quake II; Warcraft I/II/III. How big of a difference is there between the latest and newest nearly photo-accurate shooters? Very little.

An interesting graphics style is far more effective than pushing around even more polygons and bloom effects (and I hate bloom effects--even more than I hate that ridiculous lens flare). I still consider Okami to be one of the most beautiful games ever created--I simply can't tire of that graphical style. Is it realistic? Hell no, but it's interesting, pleasant to look at, and will catch a passerby's attention far more effectively than the latest gunmetal gray/apocalypse brown shooter.

The first time I saw Okami in action, I was instantly captivated and couldn't tear my eyes away. It wasn't because what was happening on screen was especially interesting--Okami Amaterasu was just running around in Izanagi Cave (the first area) while the player was explaining the graphics style--but I was entranced.

Also, compulsively taking advantage of the latest and greatest hardware limits the size of the developer's possible audience. Insert Sins of a Solar Empire reference here: one of my friends has told me that his father's computer, a hunk of junk that doesn't meet the System Requirements, runs that game just fine on the lower settings. In my experience with most games, if your system doesn't at least come close to meeting the System Recommendations, your computer will probably have a nervous breakdown and commit the electronic equivalent of suicide at seeing the herculean challenge of running the new game you've just installed.

Mazty:
Thing is, I don't thin graphics are the reason originality is going out of the window. It's easier to get into the market with a generic game, then with something different e.g. Mirror's Edge, as there is more room to fail.

I suspect thats tied in with the cost of the games, tied in with the cost of graphics; after all, with generic shoot 5, you know what your getting for you 35 ($60), whereas with Random Quirky game 2 you've no idea what you're risking your hard cash on.

Add to that, gaming has been turning bland for so long, the console kids aren't used to it. Also, Mirrors Edge was abit crap - innovantion is good and all, but 35 for a game is still 35.

Chadling:
The graphics curve has reached its plateau. There's a big difference between W3D and Quake; Quake/Quake II; Warcraft I/II/III. How big of a difference is there between the latest and newest nearly photo-accurate shooters? Very little.

An interesting graphics style is far more effective than pushing around even more polygons and bloom effects (and I hate bloom effects--even more than I hate that ridiculous lens flare). I still consider Okami to be one of the most beautiful games ever created--I simply can't tire of that graphical style. Is it realistic? Hell no, but it's interesting, pleasant to look at, and will catch a passerby's attention far more effectively than the latest gunmetal gray/apocalypse brown shooter.

The first time I saw Okami in action, I was instantly captivated and couldn't tear my eyes away. It wasn't because what was happening on screen was especially interesting--Okami Amaterasu was just running around in Izanagi Cave (the first area) while the player was explaining the graphics style--but I was entranced.

Also, compulsively taking advantage of the latest and greatest hardware limits the size of the developer's possible audience. Insert Sins of a Solar Empire reference here: one of my friends has told me that his father's computer, a hunk of junk that doesn't meet the System Requirements, runs that game just fine on the lower settings. In my experience with most games, if your system doesn't at least come close to meeting the System Recommendations, your computer will probably have a nervous breakdown and commit the electronic equivalent of suicide at seeing the herculean challenge of running the new game you've just installed.

QFT!

Stardock/Ironclad have a policy of looking at what MOST gamers can run, not like Crysis, which looked to what the best gaming rigs can run. Result: SoaE has a massive potential market, Crysis a very restricted one.

Also, look at Valve - the source engine is pretty old right now, but they keep working with it, adding new graphical touches and styles to it - and it looks great still! And can support both Half Life 2 through to Team Fortress 2.

TaborMallory:
The first two games that came to mind while I was reading this were Metroid Prime (1 and 2) and Starcraft. They're all great games; Metroid Prime still looks aesthetically pleasing, and Starcraft is still my favorite game of all time.

You know, I actually bought Metroid Prime for the first time a month or two ago (for I deliberately run anywhere from one to ten years behind the cutting edge in gaming, so that I'm not being persuaded by hype and the like, and I can focus on simply buying games that I'll like minus the frantic rush for new games, consoles, etc.; this is also cheaper and really pays off when it comes to running PC games!), and the first time I put it in, I was really impressed with the graphics. I'd gone and played a friend's Halo 3 for hours before and found its graphics and environments to be dull and yawned through them, but the art direction in Metroid Prime is great.

Starcraft shows the same principle, which I would sum up by saying this: art direction is far more important than graphics. Whether a game looks nice or not depends upon graphics to an extent, but much more to art. It's more important for a game to get good concept artists than good graphics programmers.

They're also much cheaper, which comes to Shamus' point about content and gameplay length. For example, Mass Effect is about a ten hour game or so, maybe bump it up to fifteen or twenty if you run around doing every sidequest. Baldur's Gate II, almost ten years old, has far inferior graphics (though I'll say that on a purely visual level I like BGII more, as almost every environment is unique and the artists were able to do much more), but is many times longer, and it remains true that I've gotten far more enjoyment out of BGII than ME. While it was cheaper to produce and its graphics are far inferior, it contains much more content, and aesthetically I find it more pleasing because of the range of detailed environments that the later game lacks. The later game repeats most of its environments because simply making one of them represents a huge investment. In the earlier one, we're talking about slapping a different texture on the floor or walls and that's it. That means we got a lot of these environments. There was time to make and implement them all, and so we got a game that appeals to be considerably more. The graphics are far inferior, but playing these games, Athkatla feels much more like a real city than, say, Neverwinter in NWN, and to me it looks prettier. It's all flat backgrounds and 2D sprites, but again this comes down to art direction, and with the lesser expense you have room to be considerably more creative.

I've been saying this for years. The current console generation is crap. The only one that has it right is the Wii, and crap developers are making it crap anyways. From the moment I saw the $60 price tag on the 360 games, I knew that we were in for trouble. There just isn't anything to justify the $10 increase if the game isn't any more fun. As time has gone on, I see that games are now even LESS fun. It's driven be back to decade-old games because they just were a lot more fun then.

Edit:

Irandrura:

TaborMallory:
The first two games that came to mind while I was reading this were Metroid Prime (1 and 2) and Starcraft. They're all great games; Metroid Prime still looks aesthetically pleasing, and Starcraft is still my favorite game of all time.

You know, I actually bought Metroid Prime for the first time a month or two ago (for I deliberately run anywhere from one to ten years behind the cutting edge in gaming, so that I'm not being persuaded by hype and the like, and I can focus on simply buying games that I'll like minus the frantic rush for new games, consoles, etc.; this is also cheaper and really pays off when it comes to running PC games!), and the first time I put it in, I was really impressed with the graphics. I'd gone and played a friend's Halo 3 for hours before and found its graphics and environments to be dull and yawned through them, but the art direction in Metroid Prime is great.

It took me about 4 years to finish MP1 (yes, it sat on my shelf that long). Once I finally got into playing it, I literally would say to myself when the game booted and Samus would step out of the save point, "Why the fuck would I need better graphics than this?!" I'm still working on MP2 off and on so I can get on with MP3. It still stands though that the extra $10 on each game is not justified.

I'm really enjoying the exaggerated PC price numbers here. "Thousands of dollars." On what? Alienware? Yeah, no crap. That's no different than anything else out there. I can spend thousands of dollars on a Gibson or $500 on an Epiphone and have it play, sound, and look identical.

Anyone that does that is stupid. Further, you don't need to spend tons of money to be able to play high end games on the highest settings. I've got a 3 year old computer that plays Crysis full tilt at 1680X1050 minus AA (I can't stand how it makes games look, so why have it on?) that I spent about $800 on, monitor, case, keyboard, and mouse included, and it's just fine.

People who don't know the hobby will waste tons of money. PC gaming has almost reached audiophile stupidity levels.

However, graphics don't make games fun UNLESS the game is about exploration or is based around the idea even if the path you take is linear. An example would be Uncharted. The graphics in that game truly made the game enjoyable. It was a visual pleasure. What makes me come back to it is the game play.

However, I would like to make a correction on what Doug said. It's Half-Life 2 through Left 4 Dead as L4D is also on the same engine.

Extravaganza:
But i still play Starcraft.

And yet it is still the clear leader in RTS awesomeness. I haven't played an RTS since SC that I could even put on par with it. We'll have to see how well SC2 plays out.

Fraser.J.A:
I was talking to a young guy who had recently spent a few thousand dollars upgrading his PC to play games. I asked him what he liked to play. He said "I mostly play games for the graphics. So, like, Crysis."

I just stared at him. All I could think was "You spent thousands of dollars... so the games you don't really care about would look a bit better?"

Crysis is just an expensive interactive 3D benchmarking program.

Signa:
I've been saying this for years. The current console generation is crap. The only one that has it right is the Wii, and crap developers are making it crap anyways. From the moment I saw the $60 price tag on the 360 games, I knew that we were in for trouble. There just isn't anything to justify the $10 increase if the game isn't any more fun. As time has gone on, I see that games are now even LESS fun. It's driven be back to decade-old games because they just were a lot more fun then.

That's exactly what I've been doing as well. I've been playing older games more than newer games with some rare exceptions (Neverwinter Nights 2 and CoD:WaW... but one is simply an old-school game with tons of content with updated graphics and I'm a WW2 shooter nut). There are a few games this gen where I could easily justify $60 on it, but that is simply because they were truly incredible games.

The games industry is currently suffering from the same problems that the music industry is with a few exceptions. For example, we have $60 for consoles where CD's are $15. Are you really going to suggest that this band I've never heard of with songs I've never heard of is worth the same as a new Eric Clapton CD?

Some game companies are starting to get it. Stardock is one and Valve is another, although L4D was a pretty meh deal compared to the Orange Box in regards to value.

I've found I've gravitated more towards PSN games and Wiiware games this gen more than anything else. They have simple, yet fun games that don't miss the point ~ the game play.

 Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here