Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Importance of Graphics in Video Games

The games today look great. There are games with super realistic faces, others with really smooth movements, and some with fields of grass that look like photographs. It's all very good at immersing you in the game play - but is it really necessary?

Let's take The Elder Scrolls for instance. I'm a huge fan of Morrowind. The whole world is so thoroughly developed, with a massive assortment of items and tons of NPCs to encounter, all of whom are named. Then we have Oblivion. It's by no means bad. It looks fantastic if your computer can handle it, and the fully voiced dialogue is really nice. The quests are interesting, and you get to do a bunch of fun stuff you didn't have in Morrowind. I was disappointed, however, in how many items, skills, and even land Bethesda left out. Personally, I would have enjoyed the game a lot more if they hadn't put so much time into the graphics and instead focused on making a world as detailed as Morrowind.

I hear a lot of people say similar things about Final Fantasy XIII. I've never played it myself, but I have seen it. When my friends list the great features it has, they say one thing: "It's pretty." As nice as it looks, that doesn't make me want to play it.

I don't think enough games try for unique-looking graphics. In the end, most have the same goal, and that is to look as real as possible. Okami is a good example of an interesting graphic style. The painted look is still very attractive while making the game stand out. Furthermore, those graphics are much easier to run, so there's more room to work on the plot and mechanics and such.

I'm not saying that graphics are unimportant and that we should revert to pixel art (though pixel art is gaining popularity among indie developers). It'll be really cool to eventually play games where the characters look like real people. I do think, though, that we should focus just a little less on making our games look incredible and put a little more into making them incredibly fun.

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