Realistic Graphics Are Broken

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Realistic Graphics Are Broken

Realistic graphics may cause more of an issue than they solve.

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Reminds me of this old article from Shamus Young. That was way back in the long-before time of 2009. He was talking about PC games mainly, but I think it works for consoles as well. You'd think with this generation lasting so long developers would focus more on interesting gameplay mechanics than graphics, but sadly not considering many seem to be saying "we need good graphics for emotion and immersion!!" Which is saddening. And provably wrong. So far I haven't seen any next-gen game that might be doing anything interesting mechanics wise. Hopefully I'll be proven wrong, but I'm not holding my breath.

Also, while Uncharted 3 did point out Drake's obsession with treasure and gunning people down, it never did anything with it. It just went "oh yeah, that's a thing" and went right back to the slaughter. They could have done some really interesting things, but didn't. Which is a shame.

Robert Rath:
Realistic Graphics Are Broken

Realistic graphics may cause more of an issue than they solve.

Read Full Article

Bravo Mr. Rath, excellent article.

I have a few comments on Immersion and the ludonarrative dissonance. I believe that immersion is best achieved not by appearance but by content. A world could look as real as life itself but if the people, lore, and settings are not interesting, why would you want to live in it. Living in Skyrim is nice for a sightseeing tour but the people look so bland and act so lifeless. Compare that to Persona 4, It invokes a less realistic, more stylized world with people whose faces have less features but the characters have both funny and tragic moments which make me want to hang out with them and the world is so full of color that Yasoinaba looks exciting and habitable.

As for how to make mechanics better fit the realistic ideal, one method might be to have the inclusion of actual A.I. capable of replicating human speech and emotion. I know it's far off but the conversations would flow more smoothly with a clear understanding of colloquiums and accents and the conversation wheel would be completely absent. The ultimate end goal would be something like the fulldive in Sword Art Online: a method of fully transferring the human mind into the digital and making it so that we ourselves are the npc's, enemies, and companions that we rely and communicate to.

Something I've always wanted more of in games is moveable objects. In games like Halo, the high number of objects that can be moved around leads to all sorts of fun activities, but in the end it just makes the world feel more realistic. In Battlefield, there aren't as many such objects, but at least the world can be destroyed by explosions and such. Call of Duty, however, features almost nothing that can be affected by the player, and thus feels like a display in a museum; you can look, but you can't touch. I believe that with a new console generation, games can afford to invest more time and effort into making objects in the world that can be affected by the player, rather than making indestructible, unchanging photorealistic settings.

Daaaah Whoosh:
Something I've always wanted more of in games is moveable objects. In games like Halo, the high number of objects that can be moved around leads to all sorts of fun activities, but in the end it just makes the world feel more realistic. In Battlefield, there aren't as many such objects, but at least the world can be destroyed by explosions and such. Call of Duty, however, features almost nothing that can be affected by the player, and thus feels like a display in a museum; you can look, but you can't touch. I believe that with a new console generation, games can afford to invest more time and effort into making objects in the world that can be affected by the player, rather than making indestructible, unchanging photorealistic settings.

Good comment. Leigh Alexander compared BioShock: Infinite to Disney World in much the same way you're describing - beautiful but ultimately creepy because it's so obviously fake.

Personally, I think that was intended because Columbia IS fake, but I think it was the writing addressing a problem rather than a world specifically created to come off as phony and theme park-like.

Irridium:
Also, while Uncharted 3 did point out Drake's obsession with treasure and gunning people down, it never did anything with it. It just went "oh yeah, that's a thing" and went right back to the slaughter. They could have done some really interesting things, but didn't. Which is a shame.

I absolutely agree. But the fact that they addressed it at all shows that it's a problem the team's been thinking about. Overall, I think that this was an example of the "just acknowledge it and move on" tactic, which is perfectly valid in many ways.

Irridium:
Also, while Uncharted 3 did point out Drake's obsession with treasure and gunning people down, it never did anything with it. It just went "oh yeah, that's a thing" and went right back to the slaughter. They could have done some really interesting things, but didn't. Which is a shame.

Actually, they kind of did. In the end of the game you've got them hauling up the latest ancient macguffin. In either of the two previous games, Drake almost certainly would have wanted to know what was inside it. In 3 though, he finally realizes it isn't worth it and is content to let it sink back to the bottom and make it out alive with his friends and rekindle his relationship with Elena. I think some people tend to miss it because Drake's development over that game is much more subtle than the gameplay is, or even the other games are. By the end of the game, Drake is not the same person he was in the beginning. That they don't completely beat you over the head with it makes it all the more well done.

As to the topic and the article. Very well done, and I pretty much agree. I was having a chat with a friend a few years ago where I said the constant use of this word immersion is a complete and utter lie and an unattainable goal. Even if you could have a completely photo-realistic world, are you ever going to be fooled into thinking that you're the character and not a guy sitting on their couch, controller in hand, staring at the TV? Not a chance. What people should be looking to do is engross the player. Make them get caught up in the world, the characters, and the gameplay. Granted, engrossing the player isn't an easy goal either, but it's at least an attainable one.

Why can't the weapons publishers fight with be...you know, good games? Remember 2005? The fight wasn't "my graphics are better than yours!". Instead it was basically
"Oh, you released Resident Evil 4 did you? Well I'll just release God of War!"
"I'll see your God of War with KOTOR 2!"
"Muwahaha! I'll just release World of Warcraft!"
It was a good year, with great games! It wasn't about the graphics!

There was a part in the Godfather game for the first Xbox, where you have to take Michael Corleone to his meeting with Sollozzo in the diner. The cutscene reworks the movie scene where Michael excuses himself during the meal, goes to the bathroom and takes the gun that the player character stashed behind the toilet flush tank. He sits down again at the table and moments later hurriedly shoots Sollozzo and his bodyguard, drops the gun and marches out the diner, shaken and distraught.
The scene works so well for a number of reasons. Most prominently, the Corleones agree to use Michael to meet with Sollozzo as Michael has no previous involvement with gang violence, assassination etc, and would not arouse suspicion if used as an envoy. Michael has specifically avoided the violence of his family's criminal enterprise, so to assassinate a man in public, thus entering the criminal world he tried to avoid for so long, is a traumatic moment for him.
After he leaves the diner, the player character has to drive him to the docks so he can escape to Sicily, while being chased by Sollozzo's men and the police. What does the game have Michael do? You might expect, given the story, Michael's character, his reluctance to use violence and the tone of the scene, he would be shaken in the back seat, praying for his life. Instead, the game has him leaning out of a window spraying pursuing cars with a tommy gun.
Yeah.

I guess to a point I agree- I'd prefer it if the focus wasn't so much on graphics and that 'realistic' graphics cropped up more rarely and weren't the default aesthetics. Still, I do want to see where the graphics will go, eventually, however slowly they'll get more realistic and that's really exciting.

Silentpony:
Why can't the weapons publishers fight with be...you know, good games? Remember 2005? The fight wasn't "my graphics are better than yours!". Instead it was basically
"Oh, you released Resident Evil 4 did you? Well I'll just release God of War!"
"I'll see your God of War with KOTOR 2!"
"Muwahaha! I'll just release World of Warcraft!"
It was a good year, with great games! It wasn't about the graphics!

2005 was the year Oblivion was released, and that was heavily touted for it's graphics (although it dated very quickly). I think it's a fallacy to claim that the focus on graphics is a recent thing, devs have always been pushing and promoting their graphics, it's just much more advanced and costly these days so smaller improvements are touted more heavily.

I mean, this entire debate that was mentioned in the article- how we justify slaughtering hundreds of people, how game mechanics rather than graphics reflect reality- definitely seems (to me at least) to be hotting up a lot recently, with games like Tomb Raider. Bioshock: Infinite and Dishonoured were both touted for their designs, world and stories rather than their graphical quality (remember some Bs:I screenshots with some terrible looking piles of apples). Bear in mind that Call of Duty's graphics have barely changed for years; it's main attraction is the smooth gameplay.

That brings to mind a lot of things I used to think as a teenager. I always felt something was lacking in a lot of games. And while it had to do with realism, this article reminds me that, looking back on it, what I was missing most of the time was not graphical realism, but behavioural realism.

Environments in games just never behaved right. No matter how good they might look, they always seemed kind of limiting.

A few years back I said to someone how little actual physics interaction games contained.
Their reply was to point at half-life 2...

Now, looking at it, yes, you can pick up random junk, and throw it around... But it's very limited, and quite clunky. As fun as the gravity gun is, it's not exactly that impressive as a means of interacting with the environment, when you really think about it.

And that's to say nothing of the much more complex task of dealing with social interactions. - Which half-life 2 fails at quite badly.
Sure, it's well-presented, but in the end it's like being a mute that people talk at, rather than to, and largely ignore.
Nothing except the enemies really react in any way to what you do...

It's one of those things... Games... Ironically, for me, lack interaction. And that's what I always tend to miss. Much more so than the graphics.

Every button that doesn't work. Door that won't open. things that won't break, even though they probably would if they were real... The person walking around that behaves as if I barely exist... These things have always bothered me. Yes, I can learn to ignore them if the game is otherwise interesting... But it's still a sort of... Thorn in the back of my mind...

Robert Rath:

Irridium:
Also, while Uncharted 3 did point out Drake's obsession with treasure and gunning people down, it never did anything with it. It just went "oh yeah, that's a thing" and went right back to the slaughter. They could have done some really interesting things, but didn't. Which is a shame.

I absolutely agree. But the fact that they addressed it at all shows that it's a problem the team's been thinking about. Overall, I think that this was an example of the "just acknowledge it and move on" tactic, which is perfectly valid in many ways.

True. But in this game it didn't work for me since in addition to that, there was the whole thing with

They teased quite a bit, but never explored it all in depth, which is a shame.

Vivi22:

Irridium:
Also, while Uncharted 3 did point out Drake's obsession with treasure and gunning people down, it never did anything with it. It just went "oh yeah, that's a thing" and went right back to the slaughter. They could have done some really interesting things, but didn't. Which is a shame.

Actually, they kind of did. In the end of the game you've got them hauling up the latest ancient macguffin. In either of the two previous games, Drake almost certainly would have wanted to know what was inside it. In 3 though, he finally realizes it isn't worth it and is content to let it sink back to the bottom and make it out alive with his friends and rekindle his relationship with Elena. I think some people tend to miss it because Drake's development over that game is much more subtle than the gameplay is, or even the other games are. By the end of the game, Drake is not the same person he was in the beginning. That they don't completely beat you over the head with it makes it all the more well done.

That is true. I guess what I was mainly referring to was when Drake got "captured" by the big bad. That whole thread was never explored, which really disappointed me. They could have done some interesting things with it.

Frankly, you can blabber on about the uncanny valley for as long as you wish, but we're not even close to it yet and the thus I feel the point of this article is voided. Stylised visuals in games are not used to avoid the uncanny valley, but simply to masks the imperfections of the technology they used. if this were true, all games would be doing this, and yet the majority of AAA games push for photorealism.

The uncanny valley is not something that should be avoided, or treated as an impassible chasm. The next generation consoles are continents away from the uncanny valley, and when we finally reach the cragged edge, only by pressing onwards will we ever reach the other side. Carpe Diem.

TheRightToArmBears:
I guess to a point I agree- I'd prefer it if the focus wasn't so much on graphics and that 'realistic' graphics cropped up more rarely and weren't the default aesthetics. Still, I do want to see where the graphics will go, eventually, however slowly they'll get more realistic and that's really exciting.

Silentpony:
Why can't the weapons publishers fight with be...you know, good games? Remember 2005? The fight wasn't "my graphics are better than yours!". Instead it was basically
"Oh, you released Resident Evil 4 did you? Well I'll just release God of War!"
"I'll see your God of War with KOTOR 2!"
"Muwahaha! I'll just release World of Warcraft!"
It was a good year, with great games! It wasn't about the graphics!

2005 was the year Oblivion was released, and that was heavily touted for it's graphics (although it dated very quickly). I think it's a fallacy to claim that the focus on graphics is a recent thing, devs have always been pushing and promoting their graphics, it's just much more advanced and costly these days so smaller improvements are touted more heavily.

Oblivion came out in 2006. And while the graphics were nice, they ended up not mattering since the art-direction was so bland it just looked boring. Also in addition to the graphics, it also touted its "fully voiced NPC's"

Yeah, fully voiced. Only one line of unique dialog between them and all the rest is shared. This isn't even mentioning the ELEVEN voice actors for their world of "100+ NPC's"

Great article, though it is very sad that the topic still got not through to most game devs and execs in 'the industry' and is still, well a topic.

If a game character _behaves_ realitically (within the gameworld's premise) it doen not matter if it _looks_ realistic.

It's like a long dead horse hanging in the room but no one cares about burrying it.

TheRightToArmBears:
I guess to a point I agree- I'd prefer it if the focus wasn't so much on graphics and that 'realistic' graphics cropped up more rarely and weren't the default aesthetics. Still, I do want to see where the graphics will go, eventually, however slowly they'll get more realistic and that's really exciting.

Silentpony:
Why can't the weapons publishers fight with be...you know, good games? Remember 2005? The fight wasn't "my graphics are better than yours!". Instead it was basically
"Oh, you released Resident Evil 4 did you? Well I'll just release God of War!"
"I'll see your God of War with KOTOR 2!"
"Muwahaha! I'll just release World of Warcraft!"
It was a good year, with great games! It wasn't about the graphics!

2005 was the year Oblivion was released, and that was heavily touted for it's graphics (although it dated very quickly). I think it's a fallacy to claim that the focus on graphics is a recent thing, devs have always been pushing and promoting their graphics, it's just much more advanced and costly these days so smaller improvements are touted more heavily.

I mean, this entire debate that was mentioned in the article- how we justify slaughtering hundreds of people, how game mechanics rather than graphics reflect reality- definitely seems (to me at least) to be hotting up a lot recently, with games like Tomb Raider. Bioshock: Infinite and Dishonoured were both touted for their designs, world and stories rather than their graphical quality (remember some Bs:I screenshots with some terrible looking piles of apples). Bear in mind that Call of Duty's graphics have barely changed for years; it's main attraction is the smooth gameplay.

You know thats probably true. I just feel like there was a time when the graphics upgrade from one generation to another was taken as read, and not a major selling point. Like when they first showed the incredible graphics for the PS3 and 360, I was somewhat indifferent. I had assumed there would be better graphics. I was looking for better games. Seems like developers are taking the George Lucas approached to new things. That new graphics = better movies/games. The last few E3s have been all about showing off the new hardware and graphics for this game or that game, and not the games themselves. Granted graphics are a large part of games, but developers are making the mistake that its the only part in games. Look at Bioshock: Infinite. The graphics are good but not top-of-the-line. My subpar laptop can play the game, no problem. And its a great game!
Compare that to the PS3 launch-title KillZone whatever. It was billed as having the single greatest graphics in the entire history of games and that was supposed to be enough. And the game bombed.
Over and over again the market(gamers) are proving that good graphics should be part of the package, not just the entire package. Hell, I'm addicted to Gratuitous Space Battles and that game has Gameboy Advanced era graphics and I'll take it over Modern Warfare any day.

Yeah, I disagree. Pretty much completely (though not with the idea we need to focus less on increasing graphical fidelity, but that is about it). Most people can separate fiction from reality. It is the reason many people can still enjoy films like The Raid: Redemption. The film looks fairly real, but includes almost constant scenes of horrific violence. And it has a huge cult following, so much so it is getting an American remake. When I play Tomb Raider (2013), I don't think of it as something that is "real". When I play COD, I don't think of it as something that is "real". Uncanny valley is a thing, I just don't think it applies to mechanics in the way you think it does.

I noticed LA Noire was quickly glossed over in the article. I'm not a huge fan of the game, but the interview sequences were a good use of realistic graphics. I was terrible at them but I can only blame my inability to read faces for that. I know a lot of people found them too easy but that's okay too. They were a use of photorealistic graphics for purposes other than monotonous killing sprees.

Robert Rath:
Realistic Graphics Are Broken

Realistic graphics may cause more of an issue than they solve.

Read Full Article

This is something I'm also quite passionate about. It's why I go back to games like The Wind Waker -- sure, my character looks cartoony, but so does the world he's in, so he always seems integrated into it. I'm in that world, regardless of how realistic it does or doesn't look.

What you're talking about really ties back into the problem with a lot of gimmicks. In fact, the very nature of gimmicks (and what separates them from true innovations). To me, something is a "gimmick" when it takes something that should be a massive leap forward, and only goes halfway with it... and then calls that a leap forward.

Motion controls. 3D. Photorealistic graphics. These all share a common goal: they are tricks designed to fool our senses into believing an illusion. But they all share a common shortcoming: they each target a single aspect of a single sense.

There's a reason we have more than one sense. It makes it harder to fool us. I don't believe the person in the mirror is a separate person just because he looks perfectly realistic. Other senses and knowledge fill in the gaps, keeping me from being fooled like a goldfish or parakeet. So, when one stimulus sends my brain some illusionary information, but all of my other senses receive information that disagrees, my brain counts up the votes and decides not to buy the illusion.

Motion controls lack force feedback. I'm pantomiming the swing of a tennis racket, but I don't feel the weight, resistance, momentum, or any other aspect of the act. 3D tells me this flat image has depth... but plain old stereo sound (and the rest of my field of view) tells me that's not right. Photorealistic graphics tell me I'm looking at something real, but invisible walls, awkward animations, and a shallow experience tell me I should know better.

You'd think after a while, people would get the whole "gameplay over graphics" thing, but clearly, there are those in the industry who are dead-set on the opposite, even more so than before.

I appreciate great style in graphics (Odin Sphere, for example), but I couldn't care less about whether or not the game is photo-realistic. I play games for the game, not to stare at hair on a man's arm.

"I want to talk to the demons!"
"No Sheamus, you are the demons..."

My deepest apologies, but that was all I could think at the end of the article

There's already a game series centered on talking to demons, it's called Shin Megami Tensei and it's even older than Doom (Strange Journey might be even uglier than Doom, but I absolutely love that game).

But nitpicking aside, I kinda get your point and to a certain extent, I agree, I like good aesthetics more than pretty technology with orgasmic physics systems. Although it never hurts to couple them both (try not to picture that in your head), but relying on technology just for the sake of it, is when things get lazy and generic.

Irridium:

Oblivion came out in 2006. And while the graphics were nice, they ended up not mattering since the art-direction was so bland it just looked boring. Also in addition to the graphics, it also touted its "fully voiced NPC's"

Yeah, fully voiced. Only one line of unique dialog between them and all the rest is shared. This isn't even mentioning the ELEVEN voice actors for their world of "100+ NPC's"

Welp, you're right about the year it was released. Still, if anything, surely the art direction helps to prove my point? The focus was more on graphics than design, which Silentpony was claiming was a more recent thing.

Touting graphics is a foolish strategy? That and quality games are practically the only strategies consoles have. The ability to have fantastic graphics means that the system is powerful and will be able to play amazing games in the future. There's no downside to that.

I've got a few complaints here but I want to preface this by saying I do agree with several things you're saying. I especially like the recommendations towards the end of the article. But generally this is not graphics being broken, that's the improper use of graphics being broken. My complaints are all mainly with your article title and the first seven or so paragraphs. Just before you get into ludonarrative dissonance (something I consider to be lazy game mechanic brainstorming). Anyways, here I go:

Complaint 1
Saying, "The uncanny valley" isnt a reason to throw out the pursuit of crossing it. The point of it being a valley and not an asymptotic wall is that there's another side. It IS being crossed and this next step in advancement should be enough to get us more firmly on the other side. We've already been managing to produce truly beautiful human forms in the current generation and this will end with a much better platter for us. You can't look at games like L.A. Noire that convey realistic human facial expression and think, "Well, we'd better just give up because, well, Uncanny valley!" No, we started hitting the uncanny valley in much earlier consoles and have been working through that valley since then. Now we have the ability to develop realistic humans that are at least on the attractive side of the equation. We got darn close to crossing it in the current generation and honestly may have in some games. The more powerful machines will allow for better AI. Those wifes who didn't behave like wives? That's AI processing, not graphics and both are made better by this.

Complaint 2
As for production costs, those only increase if the production companies allow them to increase. Let me explain how budgeting is supposed to work in a major company:

1. How much can we anticipate to make in revenue (total money taken in) if we make this game? (this is called forecasting)
2. How much do we want to make in profit (revenue - expenses) out of the anticipated revenue?
3. Revenue - profit = expense (how much is spent in development, marketing and everything else that creates the games and gets it into the hands of the gamer).
4. Of the anticipated expense for the game, where to we allocate the money? (This is called budgeting)
5. Sticking to the budget.

Companies mess up either in 1 or 5, usually. There's room to mess up in any of them but 1 or 5 will end in those spectacular failures. If they anticipate making X in revenue and production of a Ultra High graphic game costs X+1. Then a bad company goes ahead with it (these are the companies that make an RPG and forecast their game as making COD money). A good company either says no or scales back the cost to produce a solid game that may not be ULTRA high quality.

Additionally, and this may have been missed, but developers have been struggling with fitting ever better graphics into archaic machines for a few years now. Skyrim pretty much scraped the bottom of the PS3's barrel thanks to its ridiculous asset categories getting bloated by the game's assets. Having a platform that can handle more graphics will allow them to loosen up and not have to SUPER fine tune certain assets. That cuts costs. The systems have gone to x86 environments and so are MUCH easier to develop for than this past generation. You're talking about even larger savings. Hypothetically, this move may have saved them a ton of money.

Also, we should expect to see engines being made that other developers will be able to utilize. Just like the Unreal Engines or Source. Engines can be a real driving source to technology that is built incrementally in such a way that sidesteps the cost of having to make lavish advances in technology every time a new title is being made.

So "costs" is a cop out. Anyone who spends more on something than they can make on it deserves to not succeed there. Hopefully someone else will pick up the IP and treat it right.

Complaint 3
Graphical quality doesn't just play into character realism. You get more vibrant and realistic environments. Water behaves more accurately and lighting is more realistic. I anticipate that we may see a sort of digital exploration market (like Myst or Zork) crop up again if something like the Occulus Rift catches on. Processing may be extremely necessary for this stuff. I strongly recommend looking into the kind of tech we're beginning to see, it's remarkable.

Pretty cool

Want to explore Pandora? Sure, why not? To render it in real time you need these advances.

Discussion
I believe this discussion (again, down to around paragraph 7 in the article) to be about something other than good graphics. I think there's a lot of disatisfaction with publishers failing to put the story first. That isn't graphics or technology's fault. That's the publisher's fault. These indie developers aren't showing that graphics can't enhance games. They're showing that even simplicity can be better than a graphically superior game that sucks as a story.

Small, simple games like Angry Birds also expanded the market in a way AAA games can't. Not because AAA games aren't as good, but because it's the difference of reading a novel vs. reading a magazine. One is a long term project while the other is something you can just jump into and out of at will. But that doesn't make the magazine articles any less engrossing. I just got done playing Thomas was Alone. Holy heck if it isn't simple but AMAZING.

When people argue about better graphics. It just seems to me like they're angry about there being a more capable platform even though it doesn't have anything to do with how developers use that. The ps4 and the xbone, those are machines whose sole purpose is to provide a blank canvas. This is just a bigger canvas allowing for more detail. You can still hand paint on it. It'll be the publisher's job to decide what works for them. At that point their decision will be on their shoulders, not the consoles'.

In any event, if graphics are Pandora's box, they've already been opened. Sticking at today's graphics aren't going to make bad publishers stop doing business the way they're doing it. This is a step in the right direction and it serves to benefit no one to stick around. I hope for a day where graphics can't get much better and everyone has a free game engine that allows them to make what they want and have it look as realistic or artistic as they want. On that day, good graphics won't sell a game because everyone can have good graphics, but only good stories will survive. That's the day we've arrived.

Right now I am replaying Icewind Dale thanks to GOG and I am completely immersed. Graphics in my mind does not equal immersion at all. Story, environment, music and intuitive gameplay create immersion. The most immersed I have been in a modern title was in Farcry 3, which I was very impressed with, but that was an exception rather than the norm. The push for hyper-realistic graphics have most definitely damaged games and the real kicker? Recent booming success of the independent game scene proves that we, the consumer, are not quite chomping at the bit for the 5 billionth lip-pixel. Just make good games and everybody's happy.

You know, as a challenge, I'd like to see Epic demonstrate UE4 using a very "unrealistic" cel-shaded style that's colorful and somewhat neon-tinted. None of that dirty grungy stuff we're always seeing - Just pastels and solid colors, maybe a little texturing, just to give it some sort of material look, and then use characters that just aren't proportionally realistic and give them qualities that make them stand out.

I'm agog. This was a truly excellent article. Keep up the great work, CI!!!

Now to E3, where the two major players will go "THANKS TO PC GRAPHICS CARDS, OUR GAMES WILL BE SHINIER THAN THEY'VE EVER BEEN!"

SecretImbecile:
Frankly, you can blabber on about the uncanny valley for as long as you wish, but we're not even close to it yet and the thus I feel the point of this article is voided. Stylised visuals in games are not used to avoid the uncanny valley, but simply to masks the imperfections of the technology they used. if this were true, all games would be doing this, and yet the majority of AAA games push for photorealism.

The uncanny valley is not something that should be avoided, or treated as an impassible chasm. The next generation consoles are continents away from the uncanny valley, and when we finally reach the cragged edge, only by pressing onwards will we ever reach the other side. Carpe Diem.

I think you've missed his point. It's not that no one should ever try to pass the uncanny valley, but that the production cost to do so, particularly with present-day technology is crippling to a game. It's all well and good to make the in-game characters look lifelike, but all it takes is one moment where they start moonwalking against an invisible wall because the AI routine has hit its limits, and all suspension of disbelief disappears.

When you're playing a game, or indeed witnessing any kind of art form, your brain is subjecting it to a lot of scrutiny. The cortex subjects it to rational analysis while the amygdala forms emotional responses. Now, the emotional responses come faster, but they can be overriden by the cortex if it comes up with a more rational interpretation. This is basically an evolutionary principle designed to save our asses by encouraging swift reaction unless the slower rational processing can come up with something.

The key issue as it relates to game production is that the less realistic and more stylised the graphics are, the less likely the cognitive response is going to break the immersion by highlighting an inconsistency within what you're perceiving - because it's not subjecting it to the same scrutiny as it would a real -life image. The cortex knows what a human behaves like, so the moment one starts walking upside down Fallout New Vegas style, it concludes it's not real, and any emotional responses currently being maintained because you have been 'tricked' into thinking it's a survival situation disappear. As Robert points out, the more the graphics go up, the more the programmers have to keep up to make sure everything within that world behaves consistently. Hence, 8bit games like Minecraft can vividly simulate an entire world, while a graphics heavy game like Call of Duty can only simulate a series of corridors and reasonably expect people to accept the experience as real.

So while it's relatively accepted (although sometimes debated as to whether it should be reprogrammed) that dirt blocks don't obey gravity in Minecraft, when it happens in a game like Call of Duty you get this kind of reaction from people:

OT: Really well-written article, I fully agree.

Realistic Graphics aren't broken, the games that rely on them are.

DVS BSTrD:
Realistic Graphics aren't broken, the games that rely on them are.

Very nicely put. It's always nice to look at something that's aesthetically pleasing, but that doesn't directly translate as these new uber-realistic graphics; look at the success of the Wii and more widely Nintendo games. Moreover, the fact of the matter is that I already spend far too long customising the look of a character whom I'm going to see mostly from the back or wearing a helmet, so having even more customisation over the really small details like the number of nose hairs he has really isn't what I'm looking for.

Just watched a video review (by one of your rivals) of 'The Last of Us'. They say a big problem with the game is the way your AI compatriots react sometimes, and how the realistic setting makes this all the more jarring. They specifically mention how, when your character is trying to sneak by enemies, if your sidekick wanders into their field of view, it doesn;t alert them the way you would. So, kudos.

I don't know why people are so hell bent on believing this next gen is going to be defined by graphics. Between a mediocre at best GPU and a noticeable similarity between current and next gen graphics, they're hardly the focus of the competition now. Now it's the utilization of engines and technology, with better lighting, better particle effects, better physics, etc., as well as more robust mechanics ranging from deeper "morality systems" to greater consequences for our actions and more dynamic worlds. These are things that have me and developers excited, whether a developer decides to add hyper realistic graphics on top of that simply sweetens the deal.

Mimsofthedawg:
I don't know why people are so hell bent on believing this next gen is going to be defined by graphics. Between a mediocre at best GPU and a noticeable similarity between current and next gen graphics, they're hardly the focus of the competition now. Now it's the utilization of engines and technology, with better lighting, better particle effects, better physics, etc., as well as more robust mechanics ranging from deeper "morality systems" to greater consequences for our actions and more dynamic worlds. These are things that have me and developers excited, whether a developer decides to add hyper realistic graphics on top of that simply sweetens the deal.

That's all subsequent generations are defined by, increases in average gaming computing technology means that the gaming tech increases. The ability to create stories existed before computers were capable of helping us tell them. One generation to the next is generally the incremental improvement in hardware that provides a better platform for the story.

Graphics is just one of many features that more advanced computing power allows. You may scoff at the ps4 having 8GB of GDDR5 but not only is that fancier RAM than DDR3 RAM, but it's also 16 times what's in the ps3 and the ps3 is capable of playing an easily recognizable (albeit scaled down) version of Skyrim. The CPU/GPU and everything is is many more years advanced and believe me when I tell you that the ps3/360 have been holding the market back technologically.

What more advanced computing means is more dynamic AI, more realistic lighting and water effects, more realistic landscapes. But then again, maybe not, maybe the developer doesn't want realistic so much as robust/dynamic environments. That's what this allows for. There is so much more you can do with more under the hood than just graphics. Those complaints in Skyrim about AI pathing and the wife not behaving as a wife. More processing can help achieve the level of detail and processing required to change that. As far as I'm concerned, complaining about graphics might as well be complaining about processing because that's all that allows the graphics to be rendered better or worse.

But again, we are marching forward towards a day where the hardware can render pretty much whatever you want and where even indie developers have game engines that allow them to develop games that look like top notch AAA titles. On that day, games cannot succeed by being eye candy. Eye candy will be normal. The only thing they can get by on is a meaningful story that draws people to it. It's a tech race with a finish line and we need to encourage that. We'll still have games that don't rely on fantastic graphics to tell meaningful stories. All this does is allow developers that want to produce eye candy to be able to do so and that's not something to be afraid of. That's what some people want to have.

But this is silly. Publishers that don't understand the importance of a good story aren't being held hostage to graphics. They're just bad publishers. People here are essentially being a crowd of people blaming the carpenter's tools for the problem when it's really just the carpenter. Better tools may help them create something they weren't able to before, but the quality of it still comes down to the knowledge of his trade. Stop scapegoating advancing tech and start blaming publishers for not understanding where to put the budget.

DVS BSTrD:
Realistic Graphics aren't broken, the games that rely on them are.

Exactly right. It's like complaining about a very powerful car being responsible for a driver who misunderstood that just going really really fast doesn't compensate for not steering the car. *grumble grumble* "Fast cars are broken!" No, that kind of driver is. Fast cars do cool things in the right hands.

Maybe it's not as tough as you think it is. Creating more immersive controls for a player is less about actually putting in the work to make the game smarter, and more about tricking the player into thinking it is. For example, playing Zork (and other text-based adventure games) is an immersive experience for me because it feels like I have more fine-grained control over the flow of the game. This is because it gives me, the player, an actual voice via the text system. When you look deeply at the system, the system isn't much better than other, more conventional control schemes, but it feels better. So, maybe, we should be optimizing not for better control systems (the technnology is still far off), but for more deceptive ones.

I'd rather see more work put into sound. Ever since I got 5.1 headphones, I'm dying for the "immersion" that could be offered by truly dynamic sound effects, and the illusion of real positional awareness. Maybe change the sounds for "walking" or other actions based on where you're stepping better than we do right now. Oh, and music. Not enough games these days have memorable music. Everyone knows the Mario music for everything, the Zelda theme, and the "ahh"s of the Halo intro and it brings floods of memories. I can really only point to God of War off the top of my head as a song that floods me with memories of that particular game in this gen (and it's really a PS2 gen thing).

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