Don't Keep It Real

Don't Keep It Real

Graphics that are cutting-edge today are antiquated tomorrow, making it tough for even brilliant games to stand the test of time. So why are we so obsessed with realism?

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A similar game in that vein is Zone of the Enders 2, which focused far more on a unique Cell Shaded style than on realism, and it looks fantastic, definately eclisping Metal Gear Solid 2 for timeliness.

Scott McCloud goes into this concept in his book "Understanding Comics" extensively. The more realistic you draw a character, the less people can relate to their image. That is, it's less familiar to them and thus they can relate less. Here's a clip:

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Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you! We need more articles like this.

Adam LaMosca:
Don't Keep It Real

Graphics that are cutting-edge today are antiquated tomorrow, making it tough for even brilliant games to stand the test of time. So why are we so obsessed with realism?

Read Full Article

I do not think antiquated graphics make it hard for a game to survive. If a game is truly good it will be around a while. I still go back and play Metroid or Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy. I play these because they are actually good games. The obsession for realism is I think more of a crack that game designers push. Kind of like clothing designers and keeping women in a size -3. I am a huge fan of Fallout 3, yet I do wish I could turn the graphic violence down. Don't get me wrong, I find the ragdoll physics engine to be hilarious. I have since Oblivion. But I really do not need the full body detonations. For me I think Team Fortress 2 has it right. You have your cartoon violence and yet it is very much unrealistic.

The funny thing is, it's not the graphics, it's the gameplay.

Super Mario Brothers, is still a fun game. It stands the test of time because even if you play it today, it plays just like it use too and the formula is still fun.

Goldeneye 64, was a fun game. It was by a lot people the best game ever on the Nintendo 64 but when you pop it in... well... It's not how you remember it is it? It kinda is but the controls, the interface, the game play and even the frame rate has been improved apon and beaten.

What makes a game stand the test of time? The user interface, the design, the dept, the game play and the innovation. Games that have good formulas but not perfect will become dated. Graphics have little to do with the game. I remembered trying to play an original Ultima game for the NES a year back and the graphics were not the reason I gave up, the slow battles and the horrible menus compared to the RPGs of today.

Oh btw, megaman 9 came out last year.

I agree, style is going to outlast realism.

I can't stand the current trend of realism that just results in blurry, gritty and brownish graphics that just get in the way of the gameplay. (I'm looking at you Gears of War), maybe I just have bad eyes but I can barely play anything on the 360 or PS3 that shot for realism without my eyes pleading for death.

The Wii doesn't have super amazing realistic graphics but usually the graphics are crisper and more vibrant. Easier to make out and follow, and they have a certain charm that all the grunting space marines can't eclipse.

As you approach realism in graphics they become easier to date. Old school nintendo games remain crisp because they are simple. Many of the artistic designs were simple and crisp to start. Such as Loco Roco, Patapon, and the like.

Style should come before Realism. Reality sucks anyway. Let's keep games firmly in the Realm of Awesome.

Personally, I think "realistic" graphics have a place in games. That said, if "realistic" means "fill the screen with various shades of brown" then I think it needs redefining. Crysis (still arguably the best looking game out at the moment) isn't brown. That said, if a game's main selling point is it's amazingly realistic graphics, it will not last long since graphics will always improve.
Games that last are the games that are good because of their gameplay (look at tetris... Deus Ex, too) or artistic style (Wind Waker, definitely; also Beyond Good and Evil) or story (Half-life 2, KotOR, Beyond Good and Evil again :P). I still play all of those games despite their varying degrees of graphical detail. I could add more games to those lists (Ocarina of Time, Starcraft, and more) but I think I've made my point.

SirSchmoopy:
I remembered trying to play an original Ultima game for the NES a year back and the graphics were not the reason I gave up, the slow battles and the horrible menus compared to the RPGs of today.

It wasn't just a time issue, though; back then, it was a general console vs. computer problem with that genre. The NES Ultima games were slow, horrible *ports* of a top-notch computer RPG series. You might find that playing them either with a DOS emulator or fan project like Ultima Lazarus or Exult will give you a different sense of how well they individually stand up over time.

I agree with Yahtzee: Graphics are about as good as they are going to get (or need to be,) so now it's time to focus on gameplay, story, and atmosphere, yes?

What I think 'Realism' ought to mean is realistic physics. So when I take out a dragon with my stinger missile launcher, it should leave a realistic mess in the urban sprawl below.

What the industry seems to think is that everything should look ugly and gritty and you should be limited to what you could do in real life.

The biggest problem is not with the technology of realistic graphics - it's the concept of how realism is portrayed by those tools. Since it's still a relatively new thing, we're getting way too much bloom and brown smears. Over time devs will refine their techniques and come up with something that actually looks realistic, and not just sun-drenched and slimy because it can finally be done.

I think Fable 2's landscapes were a good example of how to do realism realistically. Bright, clearly defined, and effectively textured, depending on light. Not just glowy and smeary.

As to why we're obsessed with it, that's fairly simple. Virtual mayhem is funnier the more realistic it is. I mean, what else?

Adam LaMosca:
Don't Keep It Real

Graphics that are cutting-edge today are antiquated tomorrow, making it tough for even brilliant games to stand the test of time. So why are we so obsessed with realism?

Read Full Article

I agree with this, and not just graphic-wise, some games these days have a very odd concept of "realistic gameplay". GTAIV being the best example in this area, the slippery cars, which i seriously can't see how this is suppose to be realistic, are just not fun to drive. Sometimes being "realistic" is hardly the best choice for a game, you can have a very fun gameplay while toying around with the game physics in very diverse ways. In this sense there's nothing written on stone, Katamari Damacy is one of the most fun games i have played in years, this being a game where you roll a big ball over things over and over with funky music in the background. It's a simple concept, but done with creativity and a lot of style.

PedroSteckecilo:
A similar game in that vein is Zone of the Enders 2, which focused far more on a unique Cell Shaded style than on realism, and it looks fantastic, definately eclisping Metal Gear Solid 2 for timeliness.

this is true

I can't say I'm impressed by realism but maybe that's because I haven't seen it.
They've been trying to make game characters look real since Mortal Kombat (actually PitFighter, it came out a little before MK but was the same kind of thing) and I've only seen them now start to succeed in getting the characters to be as realistic as a Disneyland automatron. It doesn't make it a bad game.
Many of my favorite games have that (try too hard to look) realistic look weather it was last gen (with San Andreas' mitten-hands) or this gen(Oblivion/Fallout 3's blank staring automatrons from Epcot) but my appreciation doesn't stem from the graphics.

The best looking games (IMO) are the ones that don't try and look real but rather they try to look cool or beautiful: Okami, Valkyria Chronicles, or even No More Heroes (which was otherwise a totally crappy game, it just had a cool style & no substance).

World of Warcraft typifies the wonders you can accomplish when you don't tether yourself to trying to look too realistic. Rather than fool the eye, you give the viewer an obviously fantastic environment, but one that is consistent, colorful and engaging.

Over the years, so much popular animation has contained highly stylized characters, environment and backgrounds. It's a little surprising that more game designers don't embrace this over the hyper-realism that more often than not looks sterile, creepy and plain.

While I would agree that stylized games tend to stand the test of time more than realistic games, I think the key to this is good art. A game can be stylized, but still be crap artistically. You can also have a realistic looking game that is artistically successful; a game that understands the limitations of the platform it's on and does not try to do things that will end up pushing it out of the realm of believability, those games can also stand the test of time. Examples would be any of the Metal Gear games.

As someone who actually creates art for games, I totally disagree that the tech is "good enough" at this point. There are things that are most definitely not possible with current technology, even when you're not trying to be realistic. There are things that current tech will not allow for even when it comes to gameplay. Also, while certain things are achievable now, they could be a lot easier to do with more memory, better fill rate, faster processors, etc...

Also, as an artist, what if my artistic vision is to be realistic? The current crop of consoles still do not have enough memory to really go nuts with textures that keep up with the (now fairly insane) polygon counts. Why do you think so many so called "HD" games have instances of blurry textures when you get close? Rendering is only now starting to make some serious leaps in games, GTA4 is a great example. However, real-time shadows still end up being very low-resolution, pop-in can still rear it's head, and draw distance could always go further. What about an open-world game like Assassin's Creed where you can go into every building? Sure it would be expensive, and take forever to make, but there will always be companies with the ambition, and tools are always getting better, which makes it faster to create this stuff with satisfactory results.

Anyways, all that said, I think the tech is really good right now, and still has room for growth. I am glad we are seeing so many more games that push visual styles into new and unexpected directions then we did in the last gen.

While it is true that Games with a distinct style (or good 2D Graphics) are standing the test of time, the idea of trying to go for more unique instead of a realistic look cannot always work.

Some Games are based around "realistic escapism" like Racing Sims or Games like Rainbow Six and SWAT, and as such, they pretty much need realistic instead of stylized graphics. And i don't think everyone would aprecciate a shooter with unique graphics.

A clever art style is not a universal solution, even if it helps making your game more timeless.

(Also, i think "realistic" Games from today will fare better than those of previous generations. I just looked at screens of Deus Ex 2 and the latest Thief Game the other day and they certainly did not look anything as ugly as i expected. Aged, sure, but not unplayably bad)

Look at Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. It will *never* look dated.

I'd rather have Team Fortress 2 with it's simple, yet awesome graphics, than Crysis with it's cutting edge graphics... And only one character I could relate to - Psycho. And that's only in the first game, because Warhead made him into a silent emo rather than psychotic maniac with a lot of guns.

WE MUST PUSH THE TINY CART

TheBluesader:
The biggest problem is not with the technology of realistic graphics - it's the concept of how realism is portrayed by those tools. Since it's still a relatively new thing, we're getting way too much bloom and brown smears. Over time devs will refine their techniques and come up with something that actually looks realistic, and not just sun-drenched and slimy because it can finally be done.

Sadly, it can already be done. The problem is that if they do it, too many "hardcore" gamers will whine that it doesn't look realistic enough, even though it would look more realistic than any of the grayish-brown shitstorms.

Sylocat:
Sadly, it can already be done. The problem is that if they do it, too many "hardcore" gamers will whine that it doesn't look realistic enough, even though it would look more realistic than any of the grayish-brown shitstorms.

I didn't even think of that. Very astute observation. Of course, you are talking about hardcore gamers here. And from what I've seen, devs try to make games for the most people, not the people who think they're the most.

From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep: we're surrounded by real.
We see real things all the time and that is why a realistic looking game will never satisfy gamers.

Every time someone looks in the mirror, they see a real face. We enjoy a more "stylized "look in our game characters, as opposed to a more high definition model because of the fact that it is easier to identify with; as a more realistic model causes us to point out the flaws instead of enjoying the game.

 

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