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How Much Detail Is Too Much For Games?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the i-don't-need-to-see-mario's-pores dept.

Graphics 201

jones_supa writes "Gamasutra editor Eric Schwarz gives thought to the constantly increasing amount of graphical detail in computer games. He notes how the cues leading the player can be hindered too much if they drown in the surroundings, making it harder for the game to hint whether the player is making progress. Consistent visual language helps to categorize various objects, making their meaning more obvious. Paths through the game world can be difficult to read simply due to dense vegetation. For some cases 'obfuscation through detail' can also actually work really well. Schwarz challenges us to ponder how the amount of detail makes a game either more or less enjoyable."

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201 comments

As ususal, the answer is... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848773)

...it depends.

Re:As ususal, the answer is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849993)

I thought the answer was supposed to be "no", now i'm confused ;-)

Re:As ususal, the answer is... (5, Insightful)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 2 years ago | (#40850679)

Precisely.

As Steve Hollasch famously noted, computer graphics is the only area of science where if it looks right, it is right. The correct amount of detail is whatever the tradeoff between artistry and gameplay demands. Your goal as a game designer is to have the audience say "what a great game", not "what great detail". Unfortunately, it's sometimes easier to optimise for high detail than it is to optimise for great gameplay.

It's not detail, it's contrast (4, Insightful)

narcc (412956) | about 2 years ago | (#40848783)

I tried to play that "New Super Mario Brothers" game not long ago. I couldn't see a damn thing.

Contrast, people. Contrast is important. The challenge should be playing the game, not seeing the game.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (3, Informative)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 2 years ago | (#40848995)

I'd prefer monitors that can work without a hugely contrasting image.

Take a game like Quake. It plays perfectly, in all its dark, murky, brown palette, on CRTs. Throw it on an LCD without boosting the game's brightness and it can be quite difficult to pick out the details. Reacting to this, mappers seemed to go between one of two paths

The first option, they'll make a game nearly fullbright, then add shadows in for contrast. Dark colors other than shadows are delegated for things you shouldn't be paying attention to -- mainly extraneous paths.

The second option is that the mapper significantly increases the brightness setting in the game, designing a level that is actually quite dark and very difficult to see at a normal brightness level on a calibrated monitor.

not a crt vs lcd thing (1, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#40849853)

A properly-calibrated LCD image is very close to a properly-calibrated CRT image. If you're seeing significant differences, one or the other is miscalibrated.

Re:not a crt vs lcd thing (5, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 2 years ago | (#40850581)

Consider this: early LCDs had horrible picture quality, and even now it takes a pretty high end LCD to compare to a good CRT.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#40849345)

Same with Need For Speed Undercover. Go look at some screenshots on google images. The entire game has a blue/cyan color scheem, including the fucking HUD. This means that even on a 1080p display, the map is damn near impossible to see at ALL. Contrast this with earlier games like Underground 2 where they not only got contrast right, but you could actually CUSTOMIZE the color of some of the HUD elements (mostly speedo) to make them even more visible.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#40849369)

The challenge should be playing the game, not seeing the game.

That's a good mantra, but it depends very much on what 'playing the game' is supposed to involve. To use the summaries dense jungle example, making it intentionally hard to find your way around can be part of the game. For a more mundane example Left 4 dead 2 has a corn field and a field to a gas station, both of which are intentionally there to disorient you.

Now in that case, of intentionally disorienting the player, you need to give them a way out so they can try again.

How subtle is too subtle in storytelling is a chronic question. Was it clear if dumbledore was gay? Was it even supposed to be (i.e. were there enough hints that you should have been able to pick that out)? These sorts of questions have kept literature teachers in business, and literature in students pulling out their hair for centuries, that we now expand that to real time rendered art isn't all that shocking.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849755)

"Subtlety is good, especially when you beat them over the head with it." - Billy Wilder

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (2)

butalearner (1235200) | about 2 years ago | (#40849427)

I've never had trouble with that, but I tried playing split-screen multiplayer Modern Warfare or one of its ilk at a party last year on a 55" Plasma. Now it's not exactly my bailiwick but back in the Halo 2 days I used to be a fairly decent console FPS player even with split-screen limitations. But with MW I seriously could barely see anything, and most often I died without ever seeing any of the people I was fighting. I even tried the old "watch the other guy's screen" cheat and it didn't help at all.

Before this article I couldn't put my finger on it, but I think this was exactly the problem. There may have been plenty of detail, but I couldn't make out the actual enemies. I guess the other players were just used to it.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849701)

The funny thing is that there was a study a while back that got posted on /. about how playing CoD trained people to be better at detecting subtle changes in contrast. So having poor contrast can actually be a useful thing and part of what makes a game challenging. Not sure it should be for NSMB but I don't recall contrast being an issue in that game

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40849715)

Really? I've found that less realistic games tend to have much better contrast than "ultra-realistic" games, NSMB has posed no problem, on the other hand, I've played several FPS and even first adventure games that were nearly impossible to see due to the color selection only being steel grey, gun grey, dirt grey, camo grey, and muzzle flash orange.

Call of Duty has always been the worst offender for me.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849763)

I agree! I tried Epic Mickey recently and it also had this problem - it was so detailed that it was hard to see what you could interact with. The "beautiful" landscape was actually quite annoying.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849987)

Epic Mickey had more serious problems than detail, the control scheme was easily the worst I've ever encountered in over 2 decades of gaming. Fortunately, it was a rental so I was spared having to convince somebody else to buy that turd. I never did make it out of that first room even after spending a large amount of time on that one particularly nasty jump where the controller wouldn't properly work.

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849907)

He's on to something here. I've found myself revisiting 8 & 16 bit console and DOS games in the last few years and have found that I am enjoying them more the second time around than a first go at many new titles. I don't know if it is really my own sentiment or just better games but the "fun factor" seems much higher on many older titles of the same genres. (There are stinkers, too,)

Re:It's not detail, it's contrast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850649)

Battlefield: Bad Company was really bad for a lack of contrast between enemies and their surroundings.

Yawn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848793)

First wrote about this a decade ago on the 3DR forums.

Keep up, bitches.

-- CultureShock

Depends on the Game (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848811)

For FPS, most benefit from the additional graphics making the game look more 'real' vs. in the past when the levels could be memorized effectively (SOCOM comes to mind) and people instantly killed for stepping out into the open. For games like Raiden Project or DYAD, graphics are designed to overwhelm the player, hiding enemies or incoming fire. Limbo takes the other end of the spectrum, where graphics are nearly nonexistent, but places more emphasis on what is there. It just depends on what the designers decide to emphasize.

Re:Depends on the Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849359)

a FOSS game like sauerbraten [sauerbraten.org] has the /texreduce option that let you play with blurred textures, down to monochrome textures. The game looks bad that way but your score gets better. Same when disabling motion blur. Less info for the eye to pick and the brain to filter, more reflexes.

OTOH more and more games are not about reflex and aim anymore, those are better off with more effects.

Knowing which particulars to emphasize and blurring the background is a serious issue with 3d animation, notably with tv cartoon shows.

uncanny valley? (2)

technosaurus (1704630) | about 2 years ago | (#40848815)

Similar to robots, I would assume. Anything more than the necessary data and you get diminishing or negative returns up until it begins to be indistinguishable from reality.

Re:uncanny valley? (5, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | about 2 years ago | (#40849929)

The problem isn't in the looks, but in the interaction. In highly detailed games you often have tons of stuff that looks like you should be able to interact with it, but you cannot. So while the graphics have gotten more detailed, the interactivity has not. It drives me nuts when I run into doors I can not open, "walls" I can not jump over, holes I can not duck through, items I cannot pickup and all that stuff. With simpler graphics there was a much clearer communication as what is interactive and was is not, as there simply wasn't the computing power available to little the rooms with tons of uninteractive decal.

Re:uncanny valley? (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 2 years ago | (#40850427)

"It drives me nuts when I run into doors I can not open, "walls" I can not jump over, holes I can not duck through, items I cannot pickup and all that stuff."

I understand but that has always been there because having absolute open levels DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. Now for items I can understand. One of the things GTA and other open world games got wrong is that you screw up the pacing of the game when you give the player too much freedom and players end up getting seriously bored because the space between activities is long and usually tedious. Even Saints row the third despite it being a fun game has serious issues with travel time. There is enormous amounts of 'dead time' in modern games that shouldn't be there and ways to avoid that is to constrain the player to get a move on.

Re:uncanny valley? (2)

Haoie (1277294) | about 2 years ago | (#40850689)

If I see a toilet, I should be able to use it!

Now that's interaction!

Re:uncanny valley? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850873)

If I see a toilet, I should be able to use it!

Now that's interaction!

"Ahhhh, much better!"

(That better not be obscure around here!)

Betteridge's Law of Headlines (0, Offtopic)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#40848831)

No. [wikipedia.org]

Wait, shit.

Worserridge's Law of Headlines (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 2 years ago | (#40848963)

The more the Betteridge meme spreads, the more effort headline authors will make to confound it.

Re:Worserridge's Law of Headlines (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#40849077)

So they'll stop trying to pass off speculation as news? Or they'll start actually asking pertinent questions, such as in TFA above? The horror!

Betteridge's Law (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848837)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines
Does this apply here? :)

Re:Betteridge's Law (1)

oakgrove (845019) | about 2 years ago | (#40848847)

No.

Re:Betteridge's Law (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#40848933)

Only for questions with binary answers.

Re:Betteridge's Law (2)

i_ate_god (899684) | about 2 years ago | (#40848949)

No, the point is to spark discussion, not make a point.

I agree (4, Interesting)

oakgrove (845019) | about 2 years ago | (#40848839)

I used to play a lot of games when I was younger and cut my teeth on titles like Doom, Quake, Half-Life, on up to Far Cry and Half-Life 2 where I kind of got away from the whole thing. Recently I made a Windows install and decided to see what state the industry was in these days. My God was I blown away by the lighting and effects in Crysis Warhead. But equally I came away puzzled that it just didn't seem like I could "see" anything. It all just looked the same to me. Enemies blended into the background and everything just seemed to be running together. I thought maybe I was getting old so its nice to see somebody else agrees with my sentiments.

Re:I agree (5, Interesting)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#40849035)

Modern games, especially when camouflaging of some form is involved (which usually is in shooters) it's motion that will give them away, if your eyes are not adapted to spotting things.

So:
1. Pattern and antipattern detection/recognition (hey that grass looks diff... oh that's an enemy!)
2. Fine motion detection/recognition (something just moved in those trees)

These very same "skills" are trainable - the more you play, the better you get. [rochester.edu] This has actual real-world impact, especially in the realm of soldiers, hunters etc. Likewise if you've done a lot of that kind of thing, you'll find you pick up these games a bit easier since there's something to build on.

Here's another study [digitaltrends.com] , though this one's some news report with no links.

Can make for more fun games too (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 2 years ago | (#40849745)

A problem in games has always been one of stealth. When you talk low rez stuff, characters stand out from the environment real well. So stealth is always done through artificial means. Characters become invisible or the like.

Well, with detailed graphics that isn't necessary. Battlefield 3 does a great job of using visual camouflage. There's no "invisible button", no way to make your character magically disappear. However you can hide in shadows, crawl through the foliage, cove in debris. You can visually hide yourself from your opponents, because the engine has sufficient detail to make that a realistic possibility.

Now I'm not saying that is the only way to do things. I don't mind games that want to go for bright cartoony graphics (I loved TF2). However it is a cool thing that we can achieve now with better graphics. We can have a setting where you can hide in ways we do in real life.

Re:Can make for more fun games too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850869)

Can you turn the settings off though? The age old trick of disabling grass so you could spot people crawling through it still works in some games.

Re:I agree (3, Informative)

Cederic (9623) | about 2 years ago | (#40850709)

Millitary training in the 80s taught me that static camouflage is hard to see, but movement leaps out at you.

It _should_ be hard to see the stationary sniper.

Re:I agree (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | about 2 years ago | (#40849407)

I've always felt a little guilty in a lot of those older FPSs where the only things moving were enemies (or other interesting things).

With some of the games now, it's a lot more realistic with a lot of detail and a lot of motion and the enemies blend into the background, as you point out. I just see it as an improvement rather than a problem.

Re:I agree (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40849511)

Not all games are like that, hide and seek shooters are their own genre. It's not even a new thing, CoD2 also played like that.

Re:I agree (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 2 years ago | (#40850729)

It's not even a new thing, CoD2 also played like that.

In what tangential universe is CoD2 not a new thing?

Fucking kids, get off my internet :(

Re:I agree (4, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40849577)

Crysis does that deliberately, trying to make camouflage an important gameplay element. It somewhat succeeds - the AI gets confused by camouflage sometimes, and that's not including your magic invisibility thing. So if you play it right, you can turn it into a weapon for you, instead of against you.

Other games do it simply to look "cinematic". Doesn't work well.

If you read some of the developer's papers on Team Fortress 2, you'll note that they were obsessed with visual identification. Every class was identifiable by silhouette alone, they used special lighting algorithms to emphasis object edges, and they maintained consistent color schemes, with players and important items being both high-saturation and high-contrast compared to backgrounds.

That all went out the window somewhere around the time the first promo items were released, but it's still something more developers should learn from.

Re:I agree (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#40849767)

Yep, Team Fortress 2 is a good benchmark for detail. While it is an older title and therefore has less detail than a game released yesterday, it has enough detail to prevent it from being bland, but has great contrast and lighting to where you can actually see what's happening. There are too many FPS games today that you can't see what's happening.

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850341)

If you read some of the developer's papers on Team Fortress 2, you'll note that they were obsessed with visual identification.

It's too bad they weren't obsessed with making a fun game. Or even mildly interested.

Re:I agree (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40850903)

Did you ever play it at launch? Or perhaps after the initial patches?

Up to the Sniper vs Spy Update, it was amazing. It started going downhill after that (I quit after the War! Update, and never returned). And all the things I see from a now-outsider's perspective only reinforce that decision.

If I ever run out of games to play, I might go back to it, see if there's mods to bring it back to the way it was back in '09.

Not sure Graphical Detail is the Problem exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848841)

I think scripted activity is more of a problem than graphical detail it just happens that games with more stuff to look at usually tend to guide you through the happy path so things keep looking amazing.

The trouble is there is sometimes some dissonance between where the happy path is and where I want to go to get things done.

This has been an issue for a long time in video games, I mean was it even possible to guess what you were supposed to do in Simon's Quest to proceed? What would people have done without Nintendo Power?

Haven't reached that point yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848857)

Haven't reached that point yet. Until I actually feel gore and blood splashing all over me when I'm playing a FPS, I really can't say I have enough details.

Although I would probably appreciate it if I could turn off smell, just like I can turn off sounds in today's games.

Re:Haven't reached that point yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850067)

It will be great when we can finally fire a real bullet and kill over tcp/ip

can't tell where I am (3, Funny)

themushroom (197365) | about 2 years ago | (#40848865)

I used to play this adventure game by Scott Adams on a VIC=20. All text, no detail, and I could never tell if I was making progress either.

obviously!!! (and also no) (1)

zlives (2009072) | about 2 years ago | (#40848873)

like really detailed character and npc backgrounds as well as a thoroughly detailed detailed setting... so no detail is enough
PS since all games are now ports of content originally designed for 3-5inch screen... can i get my pong back

Skyrim (1, Funny)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | about 2 years ago | (#40848875)

Is there more detail than "reality"?

-AI

Re:Skyrim (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40848977)

Is there more detail than "reality"?

-AI

I was thinking that, too...




That is, until I took an arrow to the knee...


*ducks*

Re:Skyrim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849285)

That is, until I took an arrow to the knee...

*ducks*

BOOM! HEADSHOT!

Re:Skyrim (1)

zlives (2009072) | about 2 years ago | (#40849527)

+1 funny lol

NES vs. Sega Genesis (5, Funny)

bigjarom (950328) | about 2 years ago | (#40848877)

I used to use this exact same argument to tell my friend why his 16-bit Sega Genesis was worse than my 8-bit NES. Really I was just jealous.

the logic is... (1)

zlives (2009072) | about 2 years ago | (#40849575)

until the shiny new xbit X-Station comes out and PC's are already way ahead again.... and the publisher wants to establish one development platform (to rule them all) for your cell to PC... and justify it by saying
hey look this turd doesn't need any more polish.... also windows 8

sorry for this one (1)

santax (1541065) | about 2 years ago | (#40848885)

But 640 details ought to be enough for everyone.

Re:sorry for this one (1)

zlives (2009072) | about 2 years ago | (#40849595)

well its better than
there can be only one... detail

More! (1)

iONiUM (530420) | about 2 years ago | (#40848921)

I play a lot of battlefield 3, on PC, and the graphics are some of the best I've seen in-game. Things like this:

screen shot 1 [gamersciz.com]

screen shot 2 [gamersciz.com]

I don't have a problem distinguishing enemies, so far, though sometimes the lens flairs and such do get in the way. Still, I'll take this level of detail any day. Going back to World of Warcraft after is actually kind of a sick joke....

Re:More! (1)

chriso11 (254041) | about 2 years ago | (#40849287)

Lens Flare is such a stupid gimick. It is something 'cool' the game designers can introduce but it destroys the immersion.

Re:More! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849773)

I don't see any lens flare in either of those images. There's some water on the "lens" in the first image, but that's consistent with wearing goggles or glasses in real life, and soldiers in combat probably have some kind of eye protection.

Re:More! (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 2 years ago | (#40850601)

Water doesn't line up in perfectly straight lines like that. It is lens flare, which is consistent with wearing goggles or glasses in real life as well.

Re:More! (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 2 years ago | (#40850753)

You need new glasses. I don't get lens flare in mine.

I particularly don't get lens flare in a multi-aperture-blade shaped bokeh, as in one of those screenshots.

Re:More! (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#40850715)

If you're impressed by that you should go play Skyrim, with a few texture mods.

cursory analysis (2)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40848929)

Heh, reminds me of playing tomb raider back in 1997 on a voodoo/3dfx and not being able to find all the secrets because the texture maps all looked the same.

I didn't find enough depth in the article to really understand his point. Sounds like he's saying: the more detail in-game, the more hand-holding for the player to make the game 'fun'. Sure, color palettes, collaterals, space, and the actual path to follow vary, but I expected him to go back at least more than 5 years to talk about level design.

Personally, I LOVE all the eye candy on high end games: shadows, grass blades, dust, wind, lots of material shaders, cloth physics, but I think too much of the budget goes into collaterals and shaders, and not enough goes into actual plot and motivation. BioShock looked effing gorgeous, but holy cats did I find it boring.

I haven't really played a game yet where the detail was too distracting, but I have played many games where it was so boring and repetitive I just didn't care enough to finish, regardless of how pretty it was.

Anyone who's ever planed Monkey Island or Grim Fandango and then plays any of the modern first-person games knows what I mean about opportunity cost and reward for working hard at solving a game.

Heh, and I didn't mention Infocom once. /pats self on back/

Why am I playing the game? (1)

Narrowband (2602733) | about 2 years ago | (#40848945)

Type of game makes a big difference. Is it a strategy/tactics game where I need to be able to discern the overall situation from the screen, and see past the individual pixels? Or is it an eye candy RPG where part of the fun is reveling in the cinematography? Or a casual game like Angry Birds where the visuals reinforce some basic fun/humor element?

It's up to a game developer to figure out what the customers will care about and build appropriately; part of the trick to a blockbuster game is making those decisions correctly.

Old Adage (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40848953)

"It is a poor craftsman, who blames his tools."

There's a reason... (3, Insightful)

julesh (229690) | about 2 years ago | (#40848973)

...why there's a trend to retro gaming. Indie developers are putting out more and more titles with retro-styled graphics, and games such as Fantasy Online (an orthographic projection 16x16 tile-based MMORPG with graphics that would have looked old-hat in 1990) draw in millions of players.

Re:There's a reason... (1)

burnttoy (754394) | about 2 years ago | (#40849129)

Much cheaper to make too...

Re:There's a reason... (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40849553)

They have their own reasons. Indie developers can't hire enough artists for more detailed graphics, and MMO games have to be able to run on cheap old computers if they want to get into the Asian market.

Re:There's a reason... (1)

zlives (2009072) | about 2 years ago | (#40849625)

a well made game gets the draw, good graphics add to it. bad graphics can be had on a super bad game as well.

Re:There's a reason... (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 2 years ago | (#40849655)

I suspect that another reason is people who were kids back in the day now have the ability to buy such games again. Same reason things like Transformers and My Little Pony are popular again.

Re:There's a reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850281)

The reason is to be lazy and cash in on nostalgia at the same time.

The intelligent ones (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about 2 years ago | (#40848985)

want a thinking game, everyone else wants pretty pictures. I want a thinking game with pretty pictures!

Visual details vs. "other" details... (1)

Elminster Aumar (2668365) | about 2 years ago | (#40848989)

I'm not so sure you can have a limit with detail right now, however, it seems as if the other details surrounding game design have been overshadowed by these visual intricacies. After all, if you come to a point where you begin to question the level of visual details, you will likely come to the conclusion that it's probably because you can't select certain things in the world due to poorly designed selection vectors or because the game is using antiquated controllers, etc. For example, there have been many times in Skyrim where you'll come to a point of trying to pick something up only to realize that you need to position the mouse or pointer in a specific spot just to be ensured of clicking on the right thing (i.e. - a bunch of weapons on some table but having a hard time picking up the one you really want; it's not the graphics' fault, right?) I think we're coming close to reaching a point in all this where the keyboards, mice, and various controllers just won't cut it anymore. We need VR headsets and some gloves! I'd never gripe about Skyrim's graphics. They're beautiful. The thing that's missing is full immersion and you just can't get that with the controllers we have now...

level design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40848991)

thats all hes talking about.

too much shit everywhere? poor level design. graphics affect gameplay; gameplay affects the reception of graphics

stuck with poor level design and shit looks cluttered? grab a better monitor. seriously. a higher resolution makes it much easier to differentiate fine(er) objects, and a mild familiarity with the game coupled with a very high resolution allows the user to readily pick out important game world objects.

If More Detail = More Difficulty (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#40849001)

Then Eric Schwarz must find reality damn-near impossible to navigate.

Re:If More Detail = More Difficulty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849283)

Except he has a lot more experience in reality, and presumably things aren't trying to kill him anywhere near as often. Also, he experiences reality directly, has more senses available to him, and has better controls in reality.

Re:If More Detail = More Difficulty (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 2 years ago | (#40849469)

It's not just more detail, but 'noisy' detail with little contrast and ugly colour schemes. Modern games tend to have this 'bitty' noisy look which I think not only detracts from the gameplay as Eric points out, but also makes the graphics look *worse*.

I've sometimes moaned how textures are 'planted' on polygons. It's always looked like a hack, as you get this high level shape which is flat, and this grainy mess pasted on top (yes even bump mapping is hack). In a big way, I'd rather have more polygons and no textures, or at least textures which are more subtle. This is compounded by the lack of global illumination / raytracing which makes current games feel a bit cheap.

What about the details presented w/o graphics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849053)

In an Austin Powers-knockoff, another secret agent makes passionate virtual love to a virtual femme fatale, then brags to you about it in excruciating detail.

Unless it's a porn game, I'd call that too much information.

CAPTCHA: mandates, or is that man dates, I'm not sure which

Can't have enough detail (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about 2 years ago | (#40849069)

I'm an immersive gamer and like good graphics. For me, there cannot be enough graphical detail and variation -- but it has to look realistic. Unfortunately, practically no game nowadays fullfils the last criterion, except perhaps Arma 2 at extremely high graphics settings. If it's just console-style graphics with lots of effects, colored clouds and wrong exaggerated colors in general, or "ray of good" sunrays, then I don't give the slightest damn about detail.

Oh yeah, and don't bother with detail or realism if you afterward smear over it with crappy postprocessing effects like "depth of field" or "motion blur."

Re:Can't have enough detail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849909)

Arma II really doesn't look that great [youtube.com] . Having played Crysis 2 (and Crysis Warhead) at full graphics, I can tell you that it looks much better than Arma II. BF3 looks a little better than Arma II, and Skyrim is about the same. It's clear to me that you've only played console games if Arma II is what you consider to be a high graphics game. What the hell are "ray of good" sunrays? Do you mean "ray of god" sunrays? If you do, then you're retarded. It's not like they don't exist in real life... I've seen them many times. The same goes for colored clouds.

Depth of field is not a postprocessing effect. It's a property of the virtual camera (i.e.: how wide is the virtual lens?). All (3D) games have depth of field, it's just that in some games it's hardcoded in, while in others you can set it in the menu.

Ever stuck your head out of a car window on the highway? It's blurry. Representing graphics realistically requires motion blur.

Re:Can't have enough detail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850151)

If you're really an immersive gamer then you shouldn't be needing all that extra detail. The extra detail is for people who are analyzing what they're seeing and who can't suspend their disbelief. Wolf 3d is shockingly immersive if you're playing as intended, even without sound or music.

Render unto Graphics what belongs to Graphics... (1)

SomePoorSchmuck (183775) | about 2 years ago | (#40849107)

What I find common in ability/attack panel MMORPGs is the difficulty in distinguishing attack icons from each other. Take the Sith Inquisitor class on Star Wars TOR. Most of the damage attacks are some variation of shooting evil Darkside force energy at your enemies. The icons on the action panel accordingly all feature some kind of hands or body outline either shooting lightning or having lighting swirl around them or something similar. I find that while the icons individually may be sorta cool looking, they are MORE confusing than if you were to replace icons by words like "Shock" "Melee" "Paralyze", or even just "Attack1, Attack2, Attack3, Heal1, Heal2, Heal3...." In the heat of battle, if you are looking to visually process and recognize pictograms before clicking an attack, you are losing valuable fractions of a second you need to activate those powers. It seems to me in these situations most people once they learn the battle mechanics either fall into muscle-memory of keyboard Alt+# Ctrl+# toggles, or the positional memory of "use the attacks in slots 1 and 2 for quick damage, slots 4 and 5 are for immobilize/confuse effects, tray 2 slots 1 and 2 are self-heals, slots 3 and 4 are team heals, tray 3 slots are team buffs" and so on. Does having a designed glyph there really add anything to the game, and might it actually be LESS desirable and less efficient than just accepting the numeric/positional memory and going with a plainer tile set.

Pointless detail is satan's dandruff. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849177)

It irritates the hell out of me.

There are many games where the room textures are covered in buttons, screens and interesting things. However, the only thing on the entire level that you actually interact with will be a single lever.

I remember playing 3d games on my spectrum 48K where each visible object actually did something, or could be destroyed. Like 'Mercenary'. In most modern games there is the illusion of complexity, but really your interaction is incredibly limited.

Re:Pointless detail is satan's dandruff. (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 2 years ago | (#40849429)

There are many games where the room textures are covered in buttons, screens and interesting things. However, the only thing on the entire level that you actually interact with will be a single lever.

Yes! I used to love that weird old game Redneck Rampage. There were a surprising number of objects that you could damage as you went past. Of course, if you hit a sign with your tire iron, you'd see buckshot holes in it, but that just added to the oddball charm of the game. I'm also fond of Joint Operations, and on some of the maps you can use satchel charges to blow up trees and underbrush, making it harder for your enemies to hide.

Re:Pointless detail is satan's dandruff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850061)

I would love to play a game where everything visible was always more than blocks of indestructible inanimate scenery.

At the moment, the player ignores virtually everything they see on the screen, out of habit. Seeing a light switch on a wall doesn't make the player think 'oh I can turn the lights out'. In every other room they were in, the light switch was just part of a texture, so why should it be different now? By filling the world with objects that don't work, the game designer restricts the depth of simple interactivity that the player can be expected to recognise.

Game designers have tried to solve this problem by highlighting interactive objects in a 'mouse-over' way, or having all interactive objects glow or be visibly tagged. This is quite successful, but less immersive, and is prone to making objects a thing you click to get to the next game state, rather than something the player can 'use'.

The classics are the button you hit to open a door, or call a lift, or raise/lower the water level so you can swim across, or the wheel/control panel you use to do the same, the suit you collect to cross the toxic waste, the radio you pick up which triggers a cutscene. Objects effectively become keys to open doors.

I don't think realism is important. I.e, from a gaming point of view, a lightswitch can be on, off, or destroyed. You can read a book or destroy it. It doesn't require subtlty to make objects something the player can use, just that it does something recognisable, or at least discoverable.

Making a game in this way would mean vastly simplifying the graphics and it would look unrealistic. But the player's understanding of, and connection with, the game world would be much stronger.

Use a colour palette with actual colours (1)

Leo Sasquatch (977162) | about 2 years ago | (#40849191)

I'm sick of games using a colour palette muted to the point where a state-of-the-art game contains black, grey and 18 shades of brown.

Spec Ops: The LIne balances stunning opulence against desert ruins, but even the desert has more colours than Rage managed in the entire game.

Too many devs seem to think that colourful=cartoony, so you only get Ratchet and Clank games that actually remember your TV can actually do red, green and blue as themselves. And too many devs would rather put all the effort into extra textures and lighting, rather than using it to handle more realistic environments. I want more cars in GTA V, not just higher-res versions of the earlier ones. I want to be able to shoot out the tyres and every window, not have it be a hyper-detailed texture applied to a rolling brick.

Do many of these devs not do beta-testing? If a level is incomprehensible within the canon of the game - you designed it wrong..

Re:Use a colour palette with actual colours (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#40849499)

Ummm, you've been able to shoot out GTA tires since at LEAST vice city (don't remember much of the earlier ones). I do this *constantly* in San Andreas. Just make sure you're using a PC, not a console if you want to do that.

Side not on mouse accuracy: I was playing San Andreas with a friend that had only ever played it on a console. He was talking about how much more control you get over the vehicles with a controller (which I agreed with) and was basically saying how the PC version sucked. Then about 5 minutes later I saw a nice car I wanted and he told me to run after it (it had just passed us), I gave him a funny look and head-shotted the driver THROUGH the back window with the pistol and the car came to a stop (making my "running after" much shorter). He didn't even know the game would let you do that!

It does matter (1)

Tridus (79566) | about 2 years ago | (#40849225)

Getting older now, and I find that its more important that I can understand what's going on then that the game is pretty. Ran into this problem with Blazblue, where some of the backgrounds were so contrasting and busy that they were downright distracting from the actual game. I ended up having serious problems even playing the game due to that.

Your vision mileage may vary of course, but for my dollar a game with simple, clear graphics is a lot better then a game with fancy graphics that obscure the action. Frozen Synapse is an example on the extreme end of clarity that works really well.

Give me Detail or Give me Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849315)

I play driving simulators mainly and more detail has only made them better over the decades

OK for me (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#40849353)

I kind of like "too much detail". Some of my favorite games are ones where there's too much to take in immediately.

Far Cry 1 and 2 come to mind, where jungles actually feel like jungles and the lighting changes make it difficult to see at times.

Immersion is a good thing, as long as the world I'm being immersed in is a little bit interesting.

Less appealing is the kind of emotional immersion that so many current games are reaching for. So depressing. I know that anti-heroes are cool and all, but some of the recent games are taking it way too far. Max Payne 3 was really pretty surprising in the unyielding sense of misery that pervades the game. Seriously, why do I want to play a game where I get to be a middle-aged, fat bald guy who's thrown away his life in drink and pills, has anger management issues and starts out depressed and goes downhill for 8 hours of gameplay. I mean, Jesus. It's like playing a game where you get to pretend to be a loser who spends his free time sitting at a computer and playing overpriced games while his teeth fall out from sugary caffeinated soft drinks. Who needs that kind of tsuris? The only thing that could make it more depressing is if in Act 2 Max gets prostate cancer and has trouble urinating.

Or Prototype 2, where you start the game by getting infected with a horrible disfiguring virus after your wife and daughter are murdered. Yah-fucking-hoo. The classical anti-heroes at least had a sense of humor and there was some underlying wink at the audience that it was all a joke. No such relief in Max Payne 3 or Prototype 2.

I don't mind a little reality mixed in with my games, but for chrissake, put a little fun in it. The closest thing to a light moment is when Max plays three notes on the piano and then says something depressing. If there had been an option early in the game to just take a handful of painkillers and a fifth of vodka and blow my brains out, I almost certainly would have done so.

Thank god I was able to buy Saints Row the Third for under $10 so I can dress in women's clothing, steal cars and blow up guys dressed as furry animals for a little comic relief.

I'm not looking for Sonic the Hedgehog, but c'mon.

QUAKE WAS THE FUNNEST GAME !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40849413)

Used to play it in OS/2 DOS box. Hair-stand-on-back-of-next fun !! Or maybe that was OS/2 !! Quake II raised the resolution but the fun went way down. Don't even mention III. That sort of genre, the arcade life, is for pimply-faced pre-teen moms !! Doom was good, but second to Quake !! Now, all I have is PTS !! But that's from the wife's Aunt Flo mostly !!

Depends entirely on the genre and game specifics.. (1)

trims (10010) | about 2 years ago | (#40849533)

As the VFA (Very Fine Article) points out, detail is nice, up until it interferes with gameplay. Naturally, where that line is depends entirely on the the style of gameplay and the actual mechanics of the game in question. Therefore, there can be no general answer to this question. However, the intelligent answer is "Detail level should be part of the Requirements Process"; that is, the level of detail should be explicitly set to not interfere with gameplay, and it should be a QA requirement to make sure it doesn't (and appropriate feedback should go to the development team to dial detail back when it does).

Personally, I play mostly 4X and RTS games these days (my 40-year-old reflexes doom (no pun intended) me in any FPS, and I hate RPGs). I've noticed that 4X/RTS games are now very much at (or over) the line where detail interferes with gameplay. Take Civ5 for example: the ability to zoom down and see in great model-like rendering your units and cities "feels" really cool, but (a) it's completely orthogonal to playing the game, and (b) it places serious limits on the size and scope of the game itself. Frankly, I'm much happier with non-infinitely-zoomable 4X/RTS games, since the point isn't to watch the equivalent of a FPS happening, it's too conquer the universe/world, and micromanaging (or viewing) individual units is actually anathema to something that is supposed to be Strategic in viewpoint. For these genres, bitmapped icons are effectively the minimum necessary detail, and everything else is Eye Candy. Eye Candy should never interfere with the point of the whole game.

Detail for detail's sake is stupid. Frankly, game mechanics matter far more than detail; game reviewers also need to adjust their reviews to penalize game developers when detail interferes with gameplay.

Distance (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#40849541)

I'd rather they trade off some of the close up I-can-count-the-rocks-on-the-ground detail for at least mediocre detail at a distance. I'm sick of having to wait until a blob is 100m in front of me to tell if it's a "ricochet off the car" obstacle or a freaking semi-truck.

Depends on what you want (1)

mwfischer (1919758) | about 2 years ago | (#40849703)

I'm a graphics whore.

I get a hilariously good gaming system every 4 years. I did that a month ago.

Like I just bought Skyrim during the $30 steam sale. Since it's Bethesda I immediately went over to the local modding site (nexus) and looked for the community highest end texture and additional sound pack.

If you're going to dump hundreds of hours into a game, might as well look at something nice. Fallout 3 / NV anyone?

Just for fun I uninstalled the packs and played the first hour with vanilla. It was an entirely different (worse) experience.

The game is really boring, repetitive, BUT it's pretty. That's what I like.

Keep it simple (1)

kaur (1948056) | about 2 years ago | (#40849895)

@ for human, # for path is enough.

Re:Keep it simple (1)

Cederic (9623) | about 2 years ago | (#40850803)

Gameplay is king, as those games easily prove.

I offer this (3, Insightful)

kenp2002 (545495) | about 2 years ago | (#40850029)

(Shameless plug of sorts, apologies)

I DM'ed (Dungeon Mastered) RPGs for many (like 20) years and I learned a very important lesson I mention in some youtube vids I am throwing out there (not a full timer, I'm just documenting some stuff for posterity so-to-speak http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL42823901F978F00D&feature=mh_lolz [youtube.com] ) but I'll give you a specific relevant quote:

"Every detail you give a player, is one less detail they can imagine for themselves." Part of limiting graphics is, it allows a viewer or player's imagination more flexability. This is why I preferred Batman TAS' art direction more then say Fist of the North Star or Robot in the Shell anime (not that I disliked either of those). The more minimal art allowed me, mentally, to focus more on the movement, the framing, the scene as a whole, and gave me enough flexibility to flesh out the world without having every rat and piece of eye candy thrown at me.

That would be the goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850683)

Ever tried finding something in real life? it is difficult, it takes time. You have to be able to perform searches and do things right. If I need a pen, I might have to take half an hour to find one in my apartment, same goes for a document or other relevant item. It is going to take time and effort and presence of mind, if you want something you can beat mindlessly, go play a game of tetris.

Pooping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40850943)

When I have to make guy take a poop, the game has officially got too much detail.

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