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Graphics Do Not Gameplay Make?

simoniker posted more than 11 years ago | from the self-evident-truth-fun dept.

Games 26

Thanks to for their article discussing the importance of higher-quality graphics in making good games. While the article comes to fairly mundane conclusions: ("'s not just the graphics that are important... if there isn't good game design present, there isn't a good game"), it makes some good points about better graphical technology affecting gameplay ("With Alone in the Dark, 3D was used for an entirely different purpose. A fully polygon rendered environment allowed the developers to move the point of view around, to view the same scene from many different angles, resulting in some memorably shocking moments.") There's also links back to the first article in this series, discussing how bad level design affects gameplay.

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Seem's kinda obvious... (4, Insightful)

EvilJohn (17821) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481043)

Graphics don't make gameplay, conversely gameplay doesn't make graphics.

What Graphics do is help or hinder your ability to immerse yourself into the game. Good gameplay with bad graphics can be just as hard to "get into" as bad gameplay with good graphics.

Re:Seem's kinda obvious... (2, Interesting)

I am Emmitt Smith (632062) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481332)

I agree with you that they are both important, but for me gameplay is still much more important than graphics. IMO, its much easier to find a fun game with good gameplay and poor graphics than the opposite.

The consumer dictates (3, Interesting)

fatgraham (307614) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481053)

Please, we all want to make great gameplay games, but many factors bring us down. (publishers)

We need good looking games, or the games are written off by the public as not good enough. Liscences go along with this to an extent. (If its not a liscence its a sequel)

New titles, and ugly games dont sell. If the people in the street *bought* more non-sequels and non-liscenced games, and perhaps some of the uglier games we could do what we wanted when we make games!

I think (unfortunetly) the games industry has gotten to a point where you have to live up the standards, and not just anything will sell.

Work on a good looking game, mimicing something else, add a feature, then if that goes okay, make a sequel and start adding more of your own "original" ideas. (at which point you become one of those sequel and non-original types)

Where is the inspiration? (4, Insightful)

nsideops (579890) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481065)

It seems that most of the news games are all visuals, no inspiration. There are a few that manage to achive both (GTA3, Halo, Morrowind), but then again, I wouldn't say any of these had "great" graphics, but they were great games. They were fun enough that you wanted to keep playing, they had enough depth that kept bringing you back and simply by playing them you can tell that there was alot of inspiration and love for the game from the makers.

Think back to the days of NES and SNES. There were all kinds of crazy ideas for games. Yeh, I know, a bunch of them sucked. But many of those crazy ideas changed video games forever. Back then you really didn't have to worry about graphics so you had to either make it fun, different, or just so crazy that people couldn't ignore it. Now we just have a bunch of people running around trying to make the prettiest graphics. It got old really quick with me...I'm just wondering how long it will take everyone else to get tired of it as well.

Give me back the days were people make games that are fun, games they would actually want to play, not just games that fit the pattern of money makers.

Re:Where is the inspiration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6481099)

"It seems that most of the news games are all visuals, no inspiration"

Yeah, I'd expect a lot more out of a game called "Action News at 9".

Re:Where is the inspiration? (5, Interesting)

May Kasahara (606310) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481762)

It seems like a lot of the "crazy game ideas" (like, oh... dating sims) are largely staying in Japan these days, and the few that come over here (like Ka [aka Mister Mosquito], Gitaroo Man, the Jet Set Radio series, etc.) linger in obscurity. I wonder how Wario Ware is doing in US sales...?

Of course, there are a few publishers in the US willing to do offbeat games, but for some reason, Japan seems to have more of them. Games are too expensive to make these days, so not too many publishers will take risks.

Re:Where is the inspiration? (3, Interesting)

johannesg (664142) | more than 11 years ago | (#6483008)

The major difference, I think, is that in the past a programmer would write an engine *first* and then start thinking about how to write a game around it. This way we ended up with some pretty unique gaming concepts.

These days games are almost exclusively written the other way around: people think of the "skin" first (i.e. what it looks like, what it plays like) and then re-use an existing (possibly commercial) engine.

The first approach allows for innovation and inspiration; the second approach leads to an endless string of me-too titles. Before I'm accused of having rose-tinted glasses, I also believe the amount of trashy games is constant throughout the space-time continuum...

As a form of proof I offer this [] link; these games were written around an engine rather than the other way around, and while they are by no means finished products, you can see inspiration shine through.

Graphics==Absolutely Necessary...sometimes (3, Interesting)

X-wes (629917) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481100)

Absolutely stunning visual art is absolutely necessary. For the new version of Tetris coming out soon.

That was only a fictional scenario, but I'd like you to consider that for a while. I have played the new game Tetris Worlds. It was graphically very appealing. However, I am at a point where I find some graphics take away from a game. Tetris Worlds was not a bad game, but a lot of the graphics were overkill. The same could be said for any other game where graphics are embellishments rather than true improvements to the game experience. Who would want to play Tetris while the field rotates and blinks and flashes?

The fact is that graphics are very important to a smooth-looking and appealing game. However, they should be used in moderation, to prevent taking away from the game. Unfortunately, with the expectations that gamers of today have come to expect, it will be more and more difficult to make a good, simple game with good, simple graphics. Time to find a job at EnixSquare...

Waaaaaay OT: Tetris Worlds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6481276)

Am I the only one that thought they totally screwed the Tetris gameplay dynamic in Tetris Worlds? I mean, what's the point if you can sit there and rotate a piece and slide it around without any negative consequences?

GBA? (2, Insightful)

Gr33nNight (679837) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481216)

Maybe this is one of the reasons that the GBA is such a successful system.

Gameplay and story over graphics. Fun, without all the flash, yum.

Re:GBA? (1)

The Analog Kid (565327) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481334)

That's different because people know the limit of the graphics is what it is. On a computer however the limit is far beyond what it is on a GBA, and they expect more.

Re:GBA? (1)

fatgraham (307614) | more than 11 years ago | (#6483850)

Is the GBA successfull really though?

The only games that sell (well, make a decent profit) are liscenced games (including rehashes of SNES games)

The gameplay may be good, but its nothing new. And if it is new, it wont be making a profit

Graphics Facilitate Gameplay (2, Interesting)

CashCarSTAR (548853) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481260)

See the topic. That is it in a nutshell.

Ok ok, there is a bit more than that. Our eyes are they primary sense we use when playing games. Good graphics actually become part of the gameplay.

A vivid display, the ability to pick out details, combined with a smooth frame-rate, makes games control a whole lot smoother. How a game controls is essentially the most important factor in how fun a game is. How a games graphics performs are an important factor in that.

3D graphics facilitate new gameplay ideas. The switchover was a good thing..(although overdone..we need more 2D titles..Viewtiful Joe should be great 'tho). Although to be honest, I think we are at the peak right now for graphics. We really do not need any better graphics. (Although more power in machines would be nice for more complex gameplay structures)

Graphics and abstraction (5, Insightful)

Jouni (178730) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481336)

When people talk about the "quality" of computer graphics, they wander off into very subjective opinions. What's the graphical quality of a photograph?

In games, the job of graphics is to maintain a consistent level of visual abstraction. We use computer graphics in games to build the impression of a character, a shiny sword or an alien world of fantasy in the minds of the players.

Back in the 8-bit days we only had low resolution 2D graphics; still, that was enough to give us a chance to experience our dreams on screen. Sure, the cars didn't look like much but we were racing like champions. The football had a few corners in it, but our team still kicked ass.

The limited graphics we were treated to were symbolic or iconic; now they are often aiming for realistic representation. Ironically, as we now have the capability to display much greater degree of realism in games, our minds jump at what they do best; pick out artifacts, inconsistencies in the patterns of representation. Realism is a double edged sword, when we are represented a picture that looks almost real we become more likely to pick at its faults than its merits.

Games as a visual media are closer to cartoons than they are to movies. Live video is rarely used, instead, the images are generated with modeling programs and digital paintbrushes. It's no accident that some of the greatest designers like Sid Meier and Warren Spector refer Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics [] as one of the most important pieces of literature to read if you want to make games. When I say literature, I mean it - don't be put off by the fact that the book itself is in cartoon format.

Just as well it's no accident that recent gaming masterpieces like Zelda: Wind Waker and Metroid: Prime avoid representing realistic humanoids altogether. It's also easy to see Pixar's reasoning in animating worlds that have no humans at all; living toys, silly monsters and talking fish slip under our radar of artifact perception.

Abstraction extends into all areas of game design; properly abstracted games let you complete the play in your head. Grand Theft Auto series leaves the main character almost a blank slate and The Sims speak a sort of abstract gibberish that relays the message via tone of voice. The grand master of abstractions in recent history - ICO [] - should not be missed by anyone who is even remotely into games.

The general ignorance about the role of graphics was summed up best by someone who said, a few years back, "Soon all games will be done with polygons so they will all look the same."

They could. Luckily for us, they don't have to.


Re:Graphics and abstraction (1)

FFFish (7567) | more than 11 years ago | (#6482394)

Excellent point, Jouni. Scott McCloud goes into this in detail in his Understanding Comics thesis.

In his thesis, he compares several comics strips and identifies that those strips with the least-realistic characters are also the strips that people most identify with. "Prince Valiant" is drawn realistically; no one reads that strip and imagines themselves to be PV. Charlie Brown, on the other hand, is not photorealist, and people self-identify with his problems.

Much the same can, I am sure, be said for video games. As you describe, so I will not say more on that.

SOUND is more important than graphics quality. Think back to Doom: awful graphics compared to what we have today -- but the sounds made the game damn intense. And there was that game where you were a thief, which made incredible use of sound -- you had to tiptoe around, to avoid the guards. Very effective.

I would rather have Duke Nukem graphics and killer sound, than killer graphics and poor sound.

well duh (1)

i8urtaco (663163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481523)

Gamers have been using this argument for years. It's the reason why I am likely to turn down the chance to shell out $50 for the "pretty new game of the week" PS2 game so I can instead play a few hours worth of Zelda: A Link to the Past on my computer and save myself some money for better things (like junk food). I don't play said game of Zelda because it's "pretty" (even though it was gorgeous back in the day), I play it because the gameplay is solid and the experience rewarding. I think the reason why emulators and ROMs are everywhere today is because gamers remember when games were all about the fun factor, and not the "wow, look at 'dem pictures" factor (i.e. Pitfall, Asteroids, Mario Bros., etc).

Re:well duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6503990)

Instead of pirating Zelda, why not buy an ols SNES and the cart. Cost me about $25 for the SnES and less then $5 for the Zelda.

Or if you want to go all high tech buy a GBA and get the Link to the Past cart that also has the 4 player 4 swords game as well.

Re:well duh (1)

i8urtaco (663163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6560127)

Because I already own the cart. It's easier for me to play a ROM on my computer than it is to drag out my SNES and hook it up.

post subject (-1, Troll)

Dreadlord (671979) | more than 11 years ago | (#6481540)

Graphics Do Not Gameplay Make? Are you sure guys you know how to make an English sentence before posting about making games?

Jesus Christ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6481592)

Fantastic graphics doesn't automatically mean that your limp, soggy title won't sell like shitty beer on a hot night in Toronto? What an incredibly astounding revelation! This discovery will turn the entire game industry on its head, as without graphics they find themselves without a pot to piss in!

( Somebody help me lose this ebay auction ... [] )

How it drives sales (2, Interesting)

Slime-dogg (120473) | more than 11 years ago | (#6482238)

I've noticed that most games that come out have a ton of screen shots on the box, and almost all of them have a flip out front now. The publishing companies are typically to blame, demanding that a game is finished in a tiny amount of time. They see something that is flashy, and they will be impressed. The basic sale is showing the impressive graphics off, hoping that people buy based on that alone. As an example, you have Unreal 2, Doom clones, Quake clones, etc.

The games that pop out with new engines and stuff usually do not have the greatest design. Those typically come a generation later. I admit that I plunked down the money for Unreal 2. I justify it by saying that I am supporting future awesome engine development. :^P The game, however, was fairly boring.

I hope number 3 is "smooth gameplay, no bugs." I've got a relatively powerful system (Athlon XP 2400 / Radeon 8500), and Morrowind still is choppy at times. Neverwinter Nights wasn't stable until two months after I purchased the game, I began to call it "Nevergettoplay Nights." At least Unreal 2 wasn't choppy, although it did cause hangs every now and then.

Number 4 for "great games" should be extensibility. Doom, Wolfenstein, Quake 3, Half Life, NWN... Great games because I could change the models, levels, and sounds. I could create all new games, if I wanted to.

Good graphic != High resolution (1)

PzyCrow (560903) | more than 11 years ago | (#6483051)

Am I the only one thinking Civ1 had/has better graphics than any of the other Civ games?

Re:Good graphic != High resolution (2, Insightful)

grommeh (252944) | more than 11 years ago | (#6483223)

There's a lot to be said for clear, functional and obvious graphics in games - especially strategy games like Civ or MOO. In these games you spend so much time in the interface of the game rather than the game itself, that ease of use is the priority.

You want to be able to see where those resources are, see where your units are and be able to click on the right thing when browsing the map. That's why you get big black outlines around stuff, contrasting colours and what could be said to be unrealistic map elements (like the bright pollution in civ, or the chessboard-style strategy map in the Total War series).

However the artists still have a responsibility to make this stuff easy on the eyes, or it will just annoy you! There's a minimum level of professionalism that has to be attained to make the game look acceptable - graphics are part of the atmosphere. If the game looks shoddy, you're going to think the gameplay is shoddy or obscure all the time. Master of Orion 3 is a great example of this. It's more like a redundant open source operating system project than a game, and suffers terribly from its awful presentation.

One good thing about the poor state of gaming (1)

craigeyb (518670) | more than 11 years ago | (#6487534)

Sure there are a few good PC games out there, but the general lack of truly submersive entertainment has one really good benefit that a lot of geeks don't seem to realize. Finally, I was able to switch completely to Linux without feeling I was missing out on anything on Windows.

No joke.

All's question of tickling the mnd (1)

Neo's Nemesis (679728) | more than 11 years ago | (#6497418)

Gaming industry has boomed so far because of all the excitement and the away-from-reality the games put you into. Since the ages we have evolved from games that made little squeaks to those of present where millions go into only in the grahical aspect . Mind you the graphics then compared to today's su**ed. But the craze remained. Indication is that more of our mind goes into the story and characters, than how smooth can you render that world. Thats why I still love the Mario series and my brother plays pokemon-like games on a resource loaded PC.
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