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The Future of Videogame Aesthetics

CmdrTaco posted about 9 years ago | from the games-people-play dept.

PC Games (Games) 359

daniil writes "Here's another look at the 'Realism vs Style' debate. David Hayward, a level designer involved with UT2004 mod Alien Swarm, among others, has written an interesting essay on the aesthetics of videogames, suggesting that, similar to other art forms, the peak of realism in computer games might also be a plateau that acts as precursor to wider experimentation: "We've come a long way since the flint-carved figures of early 3D games, but there's still progress to make before we're producing the game equivalent of sixteenth century marbles. Though it makes for a myopic obsession when compared to the vastness of the picture plane, photo-realism is nonetheless a worthwhile technological achievement to aim for, because it is through this that games will attain the sensation of a lucid dream.""

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Video games as lucid dreams. (5, Funny)

mpathetiq (726625) | about 9 years ago | (#13781817)

The only lucid dreams I have are where either

a) I am a "water baron" in India. (not sure what that means)
b) I'm back in high school as an adult going for my second diploma as if it were a bachelor's degree.

I don't think I would want to play those types of video games.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781862)

Funny, I have a recurring similar high school dream. Only in my dream I'm an adult but I find out that I never finished high school and I have to go back. I wander around the hallways feeling freaked out.

My other one usually involves a close brush with some sort of disaster such as a mass of tornadoes, nuclear bombs going off on the horizon, or huge waves hitting the building I'm in.

I really would prefer sex dreams.

Your sister is HOT! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781878)

Can I boink her?

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781975)

I have a similar highschool dream. It mostly happened right before I graduated college (as in, a week or two beforehand). I kept dreaming that I fucked something up in highschool and had to go back, and then they weren't going to give me my college degree until I did. Fucking weird.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

mpathetiq (726625) | about 9 years ago | (#13781979)

In mine, I skip all my high school classes because I'm used to the college way of life.

Usually there are other former classmates there with me but they are young while I am old.


Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

Ced_Ex (789138) | about 9 years ago | (#13782143)

My "back to school" dreams revolve around having to go back to complete grade 8 to validate my degree and my career all because I had questionable grades that year.

I report to class mid year and am forced to sit in the back in kiddie a sized desk and chair. My knees are up to my chest and the teacher won't let me use a pen, giving me a pencil instead.

I get in trouble for not paying attention to the math lesson which consisted of learning +/- fractions. I subsequently fail the following math quiz.

What does this dream mean?

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | about 9 years ago | (#13782214)

My high school dreams involve firearms and copious amounts of blood and gore.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (5, Funny)

Tezprice (875643) | about 9 years ago | (#13781889)

Venturing further off-topic, I once had a dream where I was being chased by the Predator. I decided to barracade myself in a room by piling shit infront of the door. To my horror the door opened in a Star Trek style and swooshed up into the door frame.

The predator killed my sorry ass.

A lesson was learned.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (2, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | about 9 years ago | (#13782055)

"Venturing further off-topic, I once had a dream where I was being chased by the Predator. I decided to barracade myself in a room by piling shit infront of the door. To my horror the door opened in a Star Trek style and swooshed up into the door frame.

The predator killed my sorry ass.

A lesson was learned."

Was it: "Enough of the Star Trek crap, it's too early in the mornin!

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

Tezprice (875643) | about 9 years ago | (#13782103)

Was it: "Enough of the Star Trek crap, it's too early in the mornin!

No, the lesson was to check that the door you are piling shit up against is of the standard hinged variety.

...and don't lick the back of the fridge before you go to bed.

....and don't fuck with the Predator.

I guess I learned far more lessons from my adventure than I first thought.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | about 9 years ago | (#13782142)

>> A lesson was learned.

Yah, stop watching soo much TV!!! :)

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

RedNovember (887384) | about 9 years ago | (#13782220)

Yep. Shit goes in the toilet.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 9 years ago | (#13781941)

Not that this is about a true dream but on IRC my quit message is:

I live in my dreams because they are more real

Now if only I could hit the Powerball* and change my quit message to:

I live my dreams because I have the money

* Yes, I'm aware of the ridiculous chance of me actually winning but it's my money and I'll do with it what I want. You spend more on your coffee/soda every day than I spend on lottery tickets in a month.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 9 years ago | (#13781987)

I don't dream you Insensitive Clod!!!! ;-)

Seriously though, I really don't dream, and I know from doctors that it's not that I don't remember them. I had a condition where my blood oxygen content while sleeping (snoring Baaaaaadly) was too low for REM sleep.

Fixed now, but it's a rarity that I have a dream still. Sort of explains why high school was a fog though...

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

stevey (64018) | about 9 years ago | (#13782211)

Sleep Apnea?

I'm finally going to be tested for that tonight with a full sleep study. I've been waiting for a few months and I literally cannot stay awake.

It appears from talking to partners that I stop breathing fairly regularly when I'm asleep .. and consequently never have a full nights restful sleep.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (3, Funny)

OakDragon (885217) | about 9 years ago | (#13782033)

Ah, yes - Sid Meier's "Water Baron." What a classic! Played it for hours...

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (1)

mpathetiq (726625) | about 9 years ago | (#13782073)

In the dream, I control all water flowing in and out of India, which so happens to look exactly like Downtown Toledo, Ohio (where I'm from.)

I will bring clean water to one block for free, but then charge the next block money. Each additional block that I bring clean water to gets charged a higher fee.

Also, I only get this dream when I take Melatonin before falling asleep. Woo hoo for messing with your hormones!

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (2, Interesting)

xtieburn (906792) | about 9 years ago | (#13782102)

You realise that lucid dreaming is basically another name for dreams you can control. Believe me they are very worth 'playing'

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (2, Funny)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about 9 years ago | (#13782121)

You realise that lucid dreaming is basically another name for dreams you can control.

Are you sure you're not just dreaming that you can control them?

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (2, Funny)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | about 9 years ago | (#13782178)

Sleep is where I'm a viking.

Re:Video games as lucid dreams. (4, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | about 9 years ago | (#13782241)

When I was younger (at the end of secondary school) I used to have "pornographic" dreams where I did it with some woman. As a 15 year old virgin boy (back then) I found it really awesome and they were the kind of dreams were I didnt want to wake up.

So, it is my humble opinion that [and I am still *eagerly* waiting for it] that the genere that really needs to be exploited is the adult genere. Of course at first it will look terrible for the society (as when the porno movie industry started) but I am SURE there is a real market there waiting to be cashed.

I know a lot of jokes will arise from this, but at least, I enjoyed a lot playing the "larry" games back in the old days, although they were pixel based, but they actually had some "mature" content.

After watching at the "hot coffee" mod videos, I told, WTF, why not do a complete game about that, of course, first it would need to be done by an independent studio but I can bet my ass that it would get a lot of money (if it was commercialized).

Or better yet why not start an OpenSource project for an Adult Game?! (interesting what are going to be the implications of having a sourceforge download link, and how do you make sure kids wont download it =oP).

Anyway, THIS, is the place were "realistic graphics" could have a deffinite effect, and certainly the more realistic the better it would be.

Oblivion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781818)

Has anyone seen the Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion demo video? Holy shit. That looked pretty damn good. Except for the characters' faces. And the tree trunks looked a little too much like cylinders coming out of the ground. But still, pretty good.

Selling Gameplay Over Graphics (5, Insightful)

Variz (922602) | about 9 years ago | (#13781831)

Perhaps after we reach true photorealism game companies will actually start to sell their products based on good gameplay instead of the latest flashy graphics.

Re:Selling Gameplay Over Graphics (2, Interesting)

SpasticThinker (892651) | about 9 years ago | (#13781882)

Exactly what I was thinking. Perfect, amazing graphics are good, but if that's all you aim for as a developer, you're missing the point. My dreams may look awesome, but it is always the content that determines the quality and "realism".

Re:Selling Gameplay Over Graphics (1)

Pxtl (151020) | about 9 years ago | (#13781897)

Nope. Because it will still cost $200 million to make a game with said photorealistic graphics. As such, only retreads of successful titles will be tolerated. So, expect about a bazillion more releases of Generic Heavy Metal Behind-View Shooter.

Re:Selling Gameplay Over Graphics (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | about 9 years ago | (#13782067)

It doesn't work that way...Look at CGI films. As the technology becomes more widely adopted, the tools become cheaper and more accessable, and everybody starts using them, while the super high-end blockbuster effects types start working on the next generation, which costs a mint today but will be the cheapo standard tomorrow.

So when super real graphics become the standard, the focus will shift away from them. It's simply inevitable.

Realism IS a style! (3, Insightful)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | about 9 years ago | (#13781838)

I'm so sick of this. Style and realism are not opposites. Realism is just one of many visual styles that a game could adopt.

Re:Realism IS a style! (5, Insightful)

Junks Jerzey (54586) | about 9 years ago | (#13781899)

I'm so sick of this. Style and realism are not opposites. Realism is just one of many visual styles that a game could adopt.

And just because you choose realism, that doesn't say much about the visual style or flair of your game. The vast majority of photography is realistic, and no one would argue that all photographers have the same style.

Re:Realism IS a style! (4, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 9 years ago | (#13781928)

Well, I'm still waiting for a post-modern abstractist style FPS

PostModernFPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781973)


Re:Realism IS a style! (3, Insightful)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | about 9 years ago | (#13781981)

Well, I'm still waiting for a post-modern abstractist style FPS
I know this was meant as a joke, but it really illustrates the lack of innovation in the game industry. They have so many options open to them, yet the exercise so few. I know many people don't feel the same, but gameplay is first for me. The fancy graphics won't win me over if the gamplay isn't there. Innovative gameplay and unique graphics are largely missing from most new games. Sad.

Re:Realism IS a style! (1)

nb caffeine (448698) | about 9 years ago | (#13782147)

I Loved the "style" in NPR quake. (google it if you are unfamiliar). It was the same game, but with a cool visual style.

On a slightly related note, I was playing SSX On Tour, and they did a great job with their menu presentation. The entire menu system looks like it was pulled straight from a bored high school students notebook. Quite neat, and im (very) suprised an EA developer could pull something so... creative off.

Re:Realism IS a style! (1)

Evangelion (2145) | about 9 years ago | (#13782219)

Well, if you want to substitute Rail Shooter for FPS, then you should check Rez out. The creators of Rez site the Russian abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky [] as a major stylistic influence.

It's also an awesome game.

Re:Realism IS a style! (1)

Evangelion (2145) | about 9 years ago | (#13782238)


Re:Realism IS a style! (1)

John Nowak (872479) | about 9 years ago | (#13782228)

Since when are postmodernists "abstractists"? Damn comp sci majors know nothing about art...

Re:Realism IS a style! (2, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | about 9 years ago | (#13782131)

If you RTFA, I think you'll find that the author agrees. In fact, one of the things he shows is that "realism" isn't even sufficient to describe the style of a game. Would "Live motion" (as opposed to animation) be sufficient to describe the style of a movie? No.

I think this particular article, rather, is indicating that "style" is a pretty complex thing, of which "realism" is only one aspect. Therefore, realism is not the end-all-be-all, nor need it be the chief goal. (I wouldn't say that this is a summary of the essay, but just one point I drew from what the author wrote)

Re:Realism IS a style! (1)

SlayerofGods (682938) | about 9 years ago | (#13782150)

Yes yes.
But what he's talking about is sylized grahpics (like cartoons)
It's almost like you didn't read the article.... but we know that can't be.

what about game play? (3, Interesting)

rovingeyes (575063) | about 9 years ago | (#13781840)

Photo-realism is of course very important. It can get you immersed in a game. But what about gameplay? For e.g. photo-realism took a new standard in games like Doom3. But a hour in to the game, I lost interest and realized I also list my $50. Every game in a genre is the same. How about re-inventing the gameplay? How about actually concentrating on virtual reality?

Re:what about game play? (5, Interesting)

Evil W1zard (832703) | about 9 years ago | (#13781930)

I 100% agree with your statement. While visually the game may be amazing it still won't be worth playing if the gameplay itself is poor. How many video games have we seem come out that have taken extraordinary efforts to make them look graphically superb, but then you play it and it is just boring.

Visual stimulation is nice, but if the game itself is crap I'm not gonna buy it... Thats why I loved Fable. It was a great concept (character grows as you play it and the world around you is effected by your actions) and it was visually pleasing, but I believe they made the game with gameplay weighing heavier than graphics... Additionally you need to consider the market you are trying to sell to as well. If you make a game that has unbelievably great visuals, but requires a high end video card and massive amount of PC power then you wind up not being able to sell the game to a large part of your targeted audience who don't have the PC to play it...

How should they reinvent the genre? (2, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | about 9 years ago | (#13782169)

But how do you want the gameplay "reinvented"? I often hear people request this with respect to games, but they never really seem to be able to pinpoint what specific changes they'd like. Perhaps you can offer some suggestions?

I'm just not sure that there's really any way to reinvent the killing of people and monsters. Unless you want to transition to virtual reality suits and holodecks, there probably isn't much more that could be done. Such games are already in 3D, and thus already at the level of reality. And if they add more environmental/story interaction to the basic DooM-esque theme, you end up with an RPG. Many people play shooters because they don't want the hassle of an RPG storyline.

Why not both? (3, Informative)

Dogun (7502) | about 9 years ago | (#13781842)

Check out - sequel to The Longest Journey.

Dreamfall != Photorealistic (1)

Dimensio (311070) | about 9 years ago | (#13781929)

I'm eagerly awaiting the release after completing The Longest Journey (which I personally found to be a good adventure game, though not quite as good as the hype around it would lead some to believe), but I would hardly call the released screenshots revealing anything close to photorealism. Keep in mind that the backgrounds that you might think are photorealistic are likely prerendered.

Re:Dreamfall != Photorealistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782036)

Well, if you can make photorealistic backdrops blend smoothly in with the foreground mesh, that's quite an accomplishment too, no?

Waxing Intellectual (3, Interesting)

Shkuey (609361) | about 9 years ago | (#13781851)

This guy reminds me of the scene in Mallrats where they're trying to have an intellectual discussion about superman's baby. He's over thinking and over analyzing something that really just isn't that deep. I think he may just like to use big words or see himself in print. I really don't suggest anyone read this unless they've got insomnia.

Re:Waxing Intellectual (2, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 years ago | (#13781886)

Discussing whether photorealism's a good or bad obsession for the industry needs fairly complicated language to be perfectly honest. Heck, just stating the problem calls for a four-syllable word. I'm sure he could've stated it in simpler terms but it's hard to be succinct (clear and precise while brief) in that case.

Speaking of dreams and video games (5, Funny)

pHatidic (163975) | about 9 years ago | (#13781860)

Back when I used to play video games I noticed that if I played before bed then I would actually dream in the graphics of the videogame sometimes. At first I would have dreams where I was in Ultima Online and someone was robbing my house, so I would wake up in a cold sweat and go to check on my character (who was macroing on the computer next to my bed).

The all time low was definitely when I got into nethack. You've never had a nightmare until you've had a nightmare in ASCII.

Re:Speaking of dreams and video games (1)

The-Bus (138060) | about 9 years ago | (#13781917)

You are, sadly, not alone in this grim and harrowing psychological entanglement. I dreamed, whilst in college, that I was murdered outside of the dining hall. People crowded around me and I saw giant brown cloth sacks, with silver gauntlets moving over my body and removing my wallet and other objects.

What is truly terrifying is not so much that you've dreamed this scenario but that as it is happening it seems entirely normal and plausible.

For a brief period in my early childhood, I was able to achieve lucidity in dreams, and say, hey, this is just a dream, and I can do anything. Sadly this never came back.

Re:Speaking of dreams and video games (1)

stupidcomputers (852188) | about 9 years ago | (#13782028)

That was probably me breaking into your house, stealing your stuff, and killing your character...haha! I am your worst nightmare!

Re:Speaking of dreams and video games (1)

mpathetiq (726625) | about 9 years ago | (#13782048)

Tetris... That's what got me.

Re:Speaking of dreams and video games (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 9 years ago | (#13782089)

I once had a great Doom dream where I was going to the bank. I needed to get some money so first I went to the cash machine on the wall outside. There were no enemies in sight so I ran quickly towards to the machine and found it wouldn't give me any money so I sidled right across the door and noticed a lot of enemies were in the bank already, I think I took out a couple with the shotgun as I passed across the doorway. From there it got a bit silly and quite violent but the experience of moving in a Doom like manner in the "real" world was quite entertaining.

Re:Speaking of dreams and video games (1)

Cruciform (42896) | about 9 years ago | (#13782183)

Let's hope Jack Thompson never sees your post. :)

Re:Speaking of dreams and video games (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782186)

Back when I used to play video games I noticed that if I played before bed then I would actually dream in the graphics of the videogame sometimes.

You're not playing enough. If I spend a day playing Wipeout or some other speedy racing game, I get flashbacks just by closing my eyes.

Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781866)

I think this is a dupe.
See here []

Video Games as Reality (5, Interesting)

jkind (922585) | about 9 years ago | (#13781874)

A long winded story but here goes: Went up to a yard sale at a neighbours place a few days ago. Her son, probably 14 or 15, comes over to me and *immediately* starts describing to me a scene in Grant Theft Auto (not sure what version). At first I just listened along, agreeing with him, as I had played games like that previously. But after a while I realized he was talking about BEING (hard to describe what I mean) in the scene. He was talking about characters like Sanchez and police officers like they had really spoken to him. It was a tad creepy. "Sanchez was looking at me like I had done something wrong, but then I could tell by his expression that what I said had really upset him". I came home and immediately tried to look up what kind of condition the boy might have to no avail. It was like he was living the video game, and that people in the real world should understand because they're watching in on it too (game as reality). I'm going to try and chat with his mom about his video gaming habits. At the very least he's spent one too many hours in the game. Anyway I was always against the anti-video gaming nuts since they were blaming Columbine on video gaming (at least it was mentioned as a contributing factor along with marilyn manson and the kitchen sing), but this is the first time I've seen a real scary example of kids being absorbed by the medium.

Re:Video Games as Reality (4, Insightful)

F_Scentura (250214) | about 9 years ago | (#13782010)

If the kid's not grounded in reality, he's going to fall victim to any immersive medium. Better keep him away from television, movies, and literature.

Your anecdotal evidence also doesn't hold true for the majority of the game-playing audience.

Re:Video Games as Reality (4, Interesting)

cluke (30394) | about 9 years ago | (#13782062)

While it may be true that the boy spends too much time playing GTA, using the first person to describe what happens in a videogame to a character you control is not unusual, I'd say.

E.g. "The ghost killed me just the second after the power pill ran out!"

That wouldn't be considered delusional. I think it's just the violent subject matter is freaking you out.

Re:Video Games as Reality (2, Informative)

jkind (922585) | about 9 years ago | (#13782114)

I agree with you whole-heartedly. I guess I should have included that the boy didn't even say hello to me or anything. I was simply looking at merchandise on the ground from the yard sale, when he starts talking to me "I have such a hard time when I have to go under water. "etc... It took me a paragraph of his to understand it was even a video game he was discussing. I guess it could be a condition non-video game related altogether (relating to social abilities)

If simulation is as good as reality, choose which? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782088)

I've never seen that kind of condition, but I can believe it can occur. Just like that guy from STTNG who got addicted to the holodeck. I have often wondered what will happen when simulations become indistinguishable from reality. Which would you prefer to live in?


The problem is the fanbase (5, Insightful)

Pxtl (151020) | about 9 years ago | (#13781881)

Here's the problem - the people who buy games - lots of games, not just once every few months, are teenaged boys. They're insecure, hormonal, and rather stupid. So, games must market to them.

First of all, they violently object to anything stylized as being "kiddy" and "stupid faggy crap" - witness the reaction to "celda". Second, they don't have very complicated tastes.

Also, as costs go up the game industry will become increasingly risk-averse.

So, the games of the future are $200 million titles that feature photorealistic graphics, voices provided by pop artists, and lots and lots of explosions and tits. Plus, since the market grows up in roughly 8 years (assume they start on hardcore action games at 12, and grow out of them in college when they can chase RL tits and beer) then they don't need to worry about rehashing - it doesn't matter if your gameplay has been done 1000 times, these kids never played the original Doom and all it's ripoffs.

Yay future.

Re:The problem is the fanbase (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 9 years ago | (#13781933)

While that's true to an extent, there's still an unrealistic "stylishness" that's important in massmarket games. Take Burnout or Halo for example; they've got a lot more adolescent appeal than, say, the next SWAT game. Which is true of movies too: no teenager's going to watch a surrealistic Belgian animation, but they'll certainly watch The Matrix. Fantastic point about the market, though, I don't think I've seen anyone raise that before. Certainly explains how the industry can get away with so many sequels and clones.

Re:The problem is the fanbase (2, Insightful)

Kazzahdrane (882423) | about 9 years ago | (#13781972)

You're correct in a general sense, but I'm an avid gamer AND a teenage "boy" (like to think of myself as a man, but maybe that's the "rather stupid" part) who likes gameplay over graphics. However, far too many gamers who try to distance themselves from the moronic public say "graphics aren't what matters! Gameplay is the only thing that matters to me" Of course, that's until Nintendo shows off a new game trailer with realism as the style (new Zelda for instance)and they go "my god that game looks gorgeous." or I mention Grim Fandango and they say "I tried to play that recently but y'know the graphics..." I hate fanboys. Sorry for the rant, I'm on a course which is about 50% made up of Nintendo fanboys. Back ontopic: we're not all like that and impressed by flashy graphics with no gameplay to back them up. However, just because a game looks great doesn't mean it doesn't have great content behind it. Half-Life 2 was a game I loved to pieces, and also looks beautiful.

Re:The problem is the fanbase (3, Insightful)

SenatorOrrinHatch (741838) | about 9 years ago | (#13781982)

The fanbase is growing up. The reason most average videogamers are young is because they've only existed since the late 70s. My parents have never played more than an hour in their whole lives, combined. But you can rest assured that when my friends and I are sitting in a nursing home 50 years from now, we won't be sitting around wondering why our kids don't call. We'll be playing slow-paced, reflex-insensitive strategy games and vmmorpg's with millions of other oldsters around the world on super broadband.

Re:The problem is the fanbase (4, Insightful)

briancarnell (94247) | about 9 years ago | (#13781991)

According to the Entertainment Software Assocation, the average game is age 30, and the average purchaser of games is 37. There are, in fact, more women > 18 who play games than there are young boys 6-17 who do so according to the ESA. Some segments of the video game/computer game industry are clearly geared to teenage boys, but you seem to be relying largely on anecdotes and stereotypes.

That said, your last point is the real problem. What happens to game production costs when photorealism is the standard. Do we reach the point where a game costs as much to produce and develop as a high-end Hollywood production? If so, then we'll likely see the same stagnation and lack of creativity that we see in the film industry.

Except it will be even worse, since technology has actually brought production costs for film and video down while the production costs for video/computer games have skyrocketed. Yes there are still a lot of great independent titles for the PC, but the consoles are pretty stagnant.

Re:The problem is the fanbase (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 9 years ago | (#13782230)

"That said, your last point is the real problem. What happens to game production costs when photorealism is the standard."

When photorealism is the standard, only the standards will have photorealism.

Seriously, photorealism will never become the standard until production costs are much lower. The reason that more photorealistic games make a profit is, besides gameplay, because of the Wow! factor. When the Wow! factor is taken away (because everyone's got it) then the sales will be much lower, and photorealism ceases to be profitable... unless production costs are also low.

I think what we'll see is most games are produced to the JGE (just good enough) standard, with very few games pushing the envelope towards photrealism... which means that the standard will be JGE.

real style duplicates (0, Redundant)

SkunkPussy (85271) | about 9 years ago | (#13781904)

Maybe once we've resolved the battle of realism vs style, we can approach the problem of duplication.

Re:real style duplicates (1)

borawjm (747876) | about 9 years ago | (#13781964)

Maybe once we've resolved the battle of realism vs style, we can approach the problem of duplication.

That's not very realistic

Realism vs. Style (1)

matr0x_x (919985) | about 9 years ago | (#13781910)

They are not opposites, infact they compliment one another quite well!

Limited Immersion (5, Insightful)

SpasticThinker (892651) | about 9 years ago | (#13781918)

Photo-realistic graphics will only go so far toward immersing a player in the game, when those graphics are displayed on a flat screen several feet/inches in front of the gamer's face. Looking at pictures on my computer rarely, if ever, makes me feel like I am in that place where the photo was taken.

The thing that will make games more immersive is holographic technology - when a 3D image can be thrown all around you rather than on a comparatively small rectangle in front of you.

Imersion (2, Insightful)

lapagecp (914156) | about 9 years ago | (#13781937)

Photo realism is not the key to imerision and never has been. Games that are truley great make you feel like you are in the game. The characters acomplishments become your own. Its kinda sick when you think of it that way but its true. Anyway the key is in better interfaces. Pressing keys doesn't make me feel like I am in the game. The paddle vibrating is a start but we need to improve on the interface not how it looks. Personally if I could feel like I am walking around in a virtual world then I could live with the graphics as they are today.

Re:Imersion (1)

carlislematthew (726846) | about 9 years ago | (#13782120)

I totally agree. I've NEVER been more immersed in a game than when I played multiplayer Doom for six hours straight after smoking some non-standard plant matter.

Basically, graphics don't get you immersed - drugs do!!!!

60/40 Gameplay/Eye Candy (3, Interesting)

AlltheCoolNamesGone (838035) | about 9 years ago | (#13781938)

Aesthetics are important, but they should never override gameplay.
I worry about the fate of the up and coming generation console falling on there faces because all they have been touting have been the aesthetics.
I think it'll also be interesting to see when we reach the [] "> Uncanny Valley in video games and how video game developers proceed from there as far as photo realism goes.

Re:60/40 Gameplay/Eye Candy (1)

Gandul (806695) | about 9 years ago | (#13782243)

Don't worry about it, the purpose of the majority of the game designers is to make money. Most of the game/console manufacturers design their ad campaigns to impact the 15-25 age range. In that age group the call to fame amongst gaming friend is "My console/game graphics are better than yours!!" As the age increases you start worrying about gameplay and entertainment value. Historically there's nothing better than a limitation to drive innovation. When photo realism is achieved, they will be forced to innovate on the gameplay side to be able to sell games.

Hmmm.. (3, Funny)

borawjm (747876) | about 9 years ago | (#13781939)

Eventually, the mods are going to post a story and, at the end of it, comment "btw, this is a dupe" or, a little more subtle, "this was previously covered here".

Context is key to the need. (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | about 9 years ago | (#13781948)

I look at it this way, if your trying to sell a flight sim, racing sim, or Army-Sim then yet photo realism is going to be a good feature to have.

Yet for games like the "Sims" there isn't a need. The context of the sims isn't emulating real life in the same sense as the other games.

A lot can be said by adapting a style that is not trying to be realistic to create an environment more beneficial to the story you are telling. World of Warcraft is a great example. While many other MMOPRGs tried harder to look more "realistic" WOW went a whole another direction.

The problem with trying to make realistic appearing models is that the little errors of those models become glaring. Half-Life2 has many examples of approaching a realistic setting but having incosistencies that totally blow it. Examples include objects of a type that are not destructible while others of the same type are. MMORPGs suffer more as they have to meet the limitations imposed by lesser machines. This leads to a game that looks great on the high end machines and downright atrocious on lower end machines.

Context should be the deciding factor. Don't do it just because you can.

Something is deeply wrong (2, Interesting)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 9 years ago | (#13781949)

Something is deeply wrong. - A slashdotter expressing himself eloquently? Appearing learned while at it?
A sign of the apocalypse for sure.

On topic, I think many games already express a specific style, even if it often is more subtle. This is unavoidable as long as different people take notice of different things; different people express themselves differently. This is unavoidable as no man is objective in perception.
Conways law [] is satisfied.

A quick comparison between the releases of gamehouses should show this. It's often striking how varied models of humans can be. Faces especially.

its not really a dupe (4, Insightful)

mixtape5 (762922) | about 9 years ago | (#13781955)

Here's another look at the 'Realism vs Style' debate. David Hayward, a level designer involved with UT2004 mod Alien Swarm... I don't see how you guys can call it a dupe when the first sentance clearly states that it is "another look" at the realism vs. style debate. Just because something is on the same subject does not make it a dupe!

Re:its not really a dupe (2, Funny)

uujjj (752925) | about 9 years ago | (#13782043)

The "dupe" posts are just a slashdotter reflex. It is a knee-jerk type reaction to seeing "Posted by CmdrTaco" at the top.

What else then?? (4, Insightful)

tprime (673835) | about 9 years ago | (#13781961)

I will be very glad when photorealism is actually EASILY possible in games. Then, maybe game companies will stop dedicating all of their resources to making their games 'pretty.'

One of the problems that I can see on the horizon is that games will get ALMOST perfect photorealism and start causing nausea when playing. When the brain starts to believe that what it is seeing is real but has problems with certain aspects, angles, reflections or refresh rates, motion sickness like symptoms start to occur. Couple this with larger monitors and TVs that completely occupy your FOV, denying your sense of real world perspective and it gets interesting. Half-Life2 seems to be one of the first mainstream games inwhich this might be starting to occur; the hovercraft level seemed to be particularly troublesome for many.

Re:What else then?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782047)

People also got nauseous from Wolf3D.

The Uncanny Valley (5, Insightful)

g_adams27 (581237) | about 9 years ago | (#13781971)

There's an article (wish I could find it - came from someone in Japan associated with Nintendo maybe?) that pointed out something I found rather interesting: the closer you get to photo-realistic images (especially humans, for example), the more jarring will be the elements of the image that are not human-like.

Take Half-Life 2, for example. It has some of the best renditions of humans I've ever seen in any game. But once you look past that, it becomes glaringly obvious that these characters are still missing something. A character finishes talking to you, then goes into a "trance", staring straight ahead. HL2 tries to fix this by having the character "wobble" a bit to give the illusion of a living, breathing, not-perfectly-motionless human, or by having them turn their heads and look around from time to time. But there's still something... just not quite human about them.

Compare that to Mario in (let's say) Super Mario World. He's obviously human, but drawn and animated in such a whimsical way that you don't find it odd at all that he stands perfectly still, never moves a facial muscle, etc.

This isn't the article I was thinking of, but have a look at the Wikipedia article on The Uncanny Valley [] if you're interested in more. See also this blog [] for speculation on why The Incredibles did so well while The Polar Express just creeped people out.

Re:The Uncanny Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782155)

The closer the graphics get to photorealism, while still not being *quite* there, the uglier they seem. Take a look at the advisors/"your conscience" in Black and White 2... ugh. And I'm not just talking about the evil one :P

Offtopic: That game is teh fail BTW.

photo - realism (1)

zymano (581466) | about 9 years ago | (#13781994)

Is it possible to build photo quality high rendered worlds on a pc ?

I don't think so. Takes Hollywood a roomful of server.

Re:photo - realism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782040)

Wrong. It can be done on any PC, the only difference will be the amount of time required (unless the scene itself is too large to even fit into memory on the machine, of course).

Re:photo - realism (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | about 9 years ago | (#13782064)

Displaying a simple animated wire image used to require a computer the size of a tennis court. It will happen soon enough.

Realism vs "style"? Pointless debate (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13781995)

I hate "debates" like this. I really do. They all make the exact same mistake. They assume that the games industry is some kind of ultra-homogenised body, that's going to inevitably move in one direction, and one direction only, with regard to aesthetics. This is simply not true. Looking at my games-shelves, I can see any number of styles represented. There's the ultra-realism (yes, realism is a style too) of Doom 3, Resident Evil 4 and Farcry. There's the comic-book look of Guilty Gear X and most of the first-party Nintendo titles. There's the exaggerated, "epic" style of Halo 2 and Final Fantasy X. And there's the deliberately retro look of Disgaea. To cut a long story short, developers are *always* going to know that there's a market for titles which look "different", so we're never going to see a move towards a single consistent style.

That said, there *is* the related (but slightly different) issue of stylistic trends and bandwagons.

What I'm talking about here is where a particular visual style is successful in one or two games, so a big section of the industry starts shovelling out games that use that style, until it's been done to death and the industry moves on to something else (often swinging too far the other way and abandoning the look in question completely).

On a technological rather than stylistic level, look at what happened with the use of full motion video in games when CD-ROMs appeared on the scene. We had a rush of games with vast amounts of FMV, some of which were awful (Rebel Assault, Night Trap, Sewer Shark, to name but a few) and some which were decent (Wing Commanders III and IV, Privateer: The Darkening, Terra Nova), then suddenly, there was a huge backlash (which persists, unfairly, to this day) and FMV vanished almost entirely. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm sure the costs involved made this a relief for a lot of developers, but... erm... let's ignore that for now.

Moving back to the present, I think cel shading is going to be the next victim of this backlash. It was fun the first few times we saw it done and it's produced some cool-looking games, but now that Nintendo have pretty much based an entire generation of games, many of them highly mediocre, that rely on it exclusively, I think the market's thoroughly sick of it and it's going to vanish off the radar soon. Who knows what the next big trend will be...

Photo-realism, while just another style, will, I think be immune to the trend-swing for a while longer. For one thing, it remains the "default" style that people are accustomed to. For another thing, it's as much a technical aspiration as it is a style for the time being. Until we actually get there, I don't see any kind of market backlash against photorealism happening.

Style for me (4, Interesting)

RedNovember (887384) | about 9 years ago | (#13782016)

If you want to frame the debate as style vs. realism (which is incorrect), give me style any day. If I wanted realism, I'd get a life.

Seriously though, the point of videogames is as escapist fare, like movies. Sure there are movies about ordinary people doing ordinary things, but they are only critically acclaimed, not popular. Some of the most fun video games are unrealistic or just flat out absurd. (see Katamari Damacy [] )

Besides, a good style is a form of visual branding. People don't forget the earliest Mario [] games, partly because everyone remembers what they looked like.

How about game play (1)

Daveznet (789744) | about 9 years ago | (#13782018)

How a game looks does contribute to a small part of how successful a game is, but really I think the majority of it is based on actual game play. Some of the best games ever do NOT have the best looking graphics ie: starcraft, super mario 3, Zelda 2 relative to the new games HL2, Doom 3 etc ... This is why I have been a Nintendo and Blizzard fan for such a long time, they have some the best games developed and they never looked as real or required the latest graphics card to run. The argument should be Gameplay vs Aestheics!

I think not. . . (2, Funny)

oneandoneis2 (777721) | about 9 years ago | (#13782037)

it is through this that games will attain the sensation of a lucid dream.

As a side-effect of meditation, I've had quite a few ucid dreams, and can confidently say that mere photo-realism will get you nowhere near to duplicating the LD experience of "Hey, I'm dreaming! This is great, I'm in a world created by my own mind, I can see anything, do anything, be anything. . . Damn, I've woken up!"

Development costs necessitate a shift... (1)

enigmatiX (858831) | about 9 years ago | (#13782058)

Because of the high costs of designing an in-house game engine, more and more developers are shifting towards licensing. Look at how many next generation titles are using the full-featured Unreal 3 engine, if not dedicated physics engines from companies like Havok. We're going to see the widespread use of commodity game engine components, everything from physics to models, leaving game developers with more resources that can be used towards implementation.

I don't see any reason why games can't continue becoming more and more aesthetically complex.

Realism is overrated (2, Interesting)

realmolo (574068) | about 9 years ago | (#13782068)

Personally, I like my videogames to look pretty cartoon-y. It's just a neater look, artistically.

Which brings me to my big idea. "Cartoon-Strike". Counter-Strike, but everything looks something like a G.I. Joe cartoon. Well, better than G.I. Joe, but you get the idea. Flat shading, bright colors, low detail. I'm suprised it hasn't been done yet.

I'm just tired of realism. It's boring.

Re:Realism is overrated (1)

16384 (21672) | about 9 years ago | (#13782135)

Like this [] maybe?

Reality sucks (4, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | about 9 years ago | (#13782086)

most people try not to see the world with anything approaching realism. We love getting drunk. When we go to parties, we use UV and special FX lighting. People use makeup, fashion and cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance. We like to read magazines about celebrity lives. We like our egos, we like to think we are always right. We like to believe political lies and delusions that make us feel good. We like to think we work much harder than other people. We like to think our nation is the world's best. We like to think that we are super-strong commandos, who can slay an army with only an M-16 and 1337 pwning skillz. We like to think we are badass car thieves struggling against society.

In short, what the fuck to videogames have to do with reality? Aren't they about escapism, just like almost everything else we spend our money on?

The real problem with photorealism (3, Insightful)

adam31 (817930) | about 9 years ago | (#13782087)

It looks worse. When you see an attempt photo-realism, the mind is faced with a true/false dilemma and focuses on the details that are wrong. When you see good looking stylized environments, the judgement becomes more aesthetic.

This is a large reason why Pixar had such a small screen-time of humans in Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, etc... because humans are really, really honed in to the visual qualities of other humans. If anything looks wrong, an expression, an animation, the skin folding, the hair, cloth, it all looks wrong. Even Geri's Game was very stylized, instead of trying to mimic the photo-realistic visuals of an old man.

Most artists aren't even capable of it (I guess we should call it "video-realism" instead, since the motion is at least as important as the still image). And for the few that are, it takes a long, long time.

Re:The real problem with photorealism (2, Insightful)

Wiseazz (267052) | about 9 years ago | (#13782187)

I read an article recently (hell, it may have been posted here - I can't remember). It was essentially describing the same thing, only with machines/robots. We tend to attribute human characteristics to simple robots (think Roomba - some people treat those things like pets), but when they look too human, then we are repulsed by them - they just look too damned creepy.

Right, but that just because the technology isn't (1)

msimm (580077) | about 9 years ago | (#13782247)

quite there yet and I don't think anyone is disagreeing about that. There are [] examples of decent photorealism out there but their few and far between. When the toolsets get better the realism will too so until then your absolutely right, stylism is the work-around. But thats more or less what everyones been saying isn't it?

getting lost in all that detail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13782105)

what worries me in the latest shooters is how opponents just blend into all the detail. in older games everything is plain and simple, and you can easily see the opponents, in the latest games with all the great graphics seeing the opponents gets harder every day...

i don't really know how they could solve it (besides giving us actual 3d, which is possible these days with some simple glasses that make sure you get a different image to each eye).

Realism not that important for me. (1)

tekn0lust (725750) | about 9 years ago | (#13782225)

May not be the same for everyone, but both TV/movies and gaming for me are waaay more about the story line. When I really get into a movie or TV show, I find that I'm a great deal more immersed in the alternate reality that is created by the story. Sound aside, I've watched great movies on a crappy 13" BW tv and still come out loving what I just saw. Movie theaters are the same way, except you all lucky enough to have digital projection. The quality of movie projection is horrible, but if you get into a great story and are transported into it's reality your imagination will enhance and fill in the details.

Games to me are the same way. I have never found myself in the middle of a good game distracted because a tree wasn't rendered at photo quality. If the game story and play is well designed, visual realism means very little to me. My imagination can fill in the details.

A vaild point though is when you take the game out of context. A screen capture of a game for marketing or whatever is always viewed out of context. None of the immersion described above is possible and so the quality of the image becomes much more important.

IMO, I'd much rather have fantastic story and expansive worlds to play in than all this super high quality photo realistc eyecandy. But then again the ability to create great stories is much more difficult than to brute force out super high quality images.

One thing the article misses... (5, Insightful)

Anaphiel (712680) | about 9 years ago | (#13782258)

Great read overall, but most articles I've read on this subject miss one important limiting factor when pushing for more photorealistic games: the ability of the artists to deliver.

In the old days of low-poly monsters and low-res textures, any slightly artistic geek could build a model or a level and it would look as good as anybody elses. That is changing as the tools and processing power evolve. The newer games require very high-quality assets that not every artist has the skill to produce. It's no longer enough to be an arty geek, now you need to be a geeky artist.

Imagine you take two people and sit them down with a pencil and a piece of paper. One's just some guy from off the street, the other is a fine arts major from t he local art school. You tell them each to draw a figure using only six lines and in the shortest possible time. They each draw a stick figure, and both look pretty much alike. You then say draw another person, no limit on the number of lines, take a half an hour. You've now removed the limitations that were hiding the disparity of talent, so at the end of that time the first guy has a stick figure (maybe a stick figure with hair) and the art student has a passable portrait of the first guy.

The same thing seems to be happening with game visuals: the improved tools and increased polygon pushing abilities of modern consoles have removed most of the limits that in a way protected less-talented artists, and their limitations are now made more glaring. If you really want to push for photorealism, how long before you get to the point where you need a Francisco Cortina to make your models? There are'nt a whole lot of those guys out there.

Re: the larger "stylized vs. realistic" issue, I think overall it's easier to be "Boris" than it is to be "Frazetta". Mimicing real life is always easier than developing a distinctive and original visual style.

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