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beantas

Cliches and Stereotypes

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It''s painfully clear that there are cliches and stereotypes in the minds of gamers and game designers. And I''m going to argue some of them are wrong. 1) "Gameplay makes the game, not graphics." This is true to some extent, but not _entirely_ true. Graphics matter. They can matter like crazy. Graphics are what immerse you. Graphics are what creates the universe in which you play in. People like to feel all wise and critical and like to say "Games should just focus on gameplay!" No they shouldn''t. They should focus on creating a good game. Gameplay is just a part of that. It''s an important part, but not the only part. Graphics _can_ (not always) make up another very big part. 2) "Half-Life was sooo innovative." I thoroughly enjoyed Half-Life. But there wasn''t anything from a design point that was so completely innovative. It had very immersive scripted sequences. Its super-innovative puzzles were: find this small hole in this large level, go pull these switches, break open this grate and crawl through. Many of these puzzles were masked to feel innovative and different. You had to talk to a scientist and get him to let you through a door. Feels different from the usual switch puzzle but it''s still just a switch puzzle where the scientist is masked as a switch. I thought the innovations in Half-Life lie at the very small details and small aspects of level design. The part where you emerge from inside the lab and walk outside to this huge outdoor area. The monster who can''t kill you if you don''t make sound. The game was well-paced, well-polished, and had little innovations here and there. But there wasn''t anything very innovative that it did. It did things that other games already had but just did it well. It had a complete polished package and came at the right time. 3) "All FPS games are the same." Why do people think that just because two games have guns and locked doors, that they are the same? I think many of the people who say this are non-FPS players. They don''t realize the huge differences caused by subtleties behind small design decisions. This is true of any genre I think. Many hardcore FPS players will fail to find the differences between Civ2 and Civ3.

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All of those things are so very true. Graphics are important. Imagine Doom III with Doom I graphics, it just wouldn''t be the same game. In my opinion graphics are as important, if not more than storyline (depending on the game.) Half-life wasn''t very innovative (basic kill the monsters gameplay found in Doom) but presentation wise it was awesome. Most people that say all fpses are the same are people that don''t play them, but only watch them. In the past yes, a lot of fpses were very close in both graphical style and gameplay, but nowadays you have a lot of varietion. Tribes 2, NOLF and Jedi Knight all play very differently. There are even sub genres, like tactical fps (Counter-strike) at this point.

Another cliche:

A good game needs a good story. Storyline is not the most important thing in the game, the gameplay is. However, the original "Gameplay makes the game, no graphics" cliche also applies here. Story can still be very important, and a lot of games (Final Fantasy series for example) would not be the same at all without a story, and very different if they had another story. Still, storyline should never be considered more important than gameplay, because in that case you might as well be reading a book or watching a movie. The same goes for graphics or sound, you might as well watch a demo or listen to a cd.

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1) "Gameplay makes the game, not graphics."

I agree that graphics are important. But I will say that Gameplay is a more important consideration. A beautiful looking game with lousy gameplay is a lousy game -- a game with outdated graphics but spectacular gameplay will still make the cut. Of course, as long as you nail one or the other, your game will find its following.

2) "Half-Life was sooo innovative."

I don''t think anyone who knows what they''re talking about has implied that Half-Life was somehow completely original. It isn''t, plain and simple. But as you clearly stated, Half-Life made improvements over previous games. I would venture to say that many of the most significant improvements, while they seem obvious in retrospect, were absolutely unheard of before the game. The bit with the scientists and Barney''s, the immersive scripted sequences, and above all the atmosphere, were actually quite unique, and a refreshing change from the "Get the red key to open the red door, pull the blue level to activate the blue lift" puzzles of the game''s precursors.

3) "All FPS games are the same."

Your points on this issue seem in some ways to contradict your points about Half-Life. Anyway I think most gamers actually agree that not all FPS''s are the same, but every original FPS invariably has its copy-cats and woulda-been-firsts. And in (too) many (sad) cases, professional game designers SET OUT to make a game thats just like game X, but of course they always say "What if we did these parts differently" -- mostly to avoid Intellectual Property conflicts. In most of these cases, the producers generally feel that the game has met its design goals only if their focus groups say "Hey, this is great, its just like game X!"


Brian Lacy
Smoking Monkey Studios

Comments? Questions? Curious?
brian@smoking-monkey.org

"I create. Therefore I am."

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quote:
Original post by Impossible
A good game needs a good story. Storyline is not the most important thing in the game, the gameplay is. However, the original "Gameplay makes the game, no graphics" cliche also applies here. Story can still be very important, and a lot of games (Final Fantasy series for example) would not be the same at all without a story, and very different if they had another story.

I agree, although there are some people who claim they only play games because they enjoy the stories. I''m not sure if they''re lying, deluded, or if they truly believe that.

Another cliche: "Technology is bad for gameplay." People seem to equate technology to just prettier visuals. Or that somehow technology is to blame for bad gameplay.

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quote:
Original post by irbrian
Your points on this issue seem in some ways to contradict your points about Half-Life. Anyway I think most gamers actually agree that not all FPS''s are the same, but every original FPS invariably has its copy-cats and woulda-been-firsts. And in (too) many (sad) cases, professional game designers SET OUT to make a game thats just like game X, but of course they always say "What if we did these parts differently" -- mostly to avoid Intellectual Property conflicts. In most of these cases, the producers generally feel that the game has met its design goals only if their focus groups say "Hey, this is great, its just like game X!"

My point was that games are complex things that can change significantly with tiny details. Mortal Kombat was so clearly a Streetfighter clone, SimCity 3000 was a direct sequel to SimCity 2000, and Half-Life was a Quake 2 clone. But yet all those sets of games play differently due to small changes.

I don''t think making a game just like game X is inherently bad. It can be bad and I guess it tends to be bad. But there are so many good games that come from it. Alpha Centauri was Civ with some parts done differently. Half-Life was Quake 2 with some parts done differently. I mean, hell, this is how you create genres, right? You copy a game which has started a new genre.

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quote:
Original post by beantas
1) "Gameplay makes the game, not graphics."
This is true to some extent, but not _entirely_ true. Graphics matter. They can matter like crazy. Graphics are what immerse you. Graphics are what creates the universe in which you play in.

I get more involved in a game of Nethack than I do in any Final Fantasy. I get equally immersed in Quake 1 as I do UT2k3. The reason I get immersed at all is the gameplay. That graphics become secondary - as well they should.

When you read a book, is it the the way the words are printed that draw you in?
When you watch a good B&W movie, do you really miss color? Or the fact it''s not 3D?
When you drink a really good cup of coffee, do you care that it wasn''t produced by the most technically advanced means possible?

Enjoying a game because of the graphics is an insult (often times deserving) to the game. (That''s not to say there''s anything wrong with enjoying the graphics of a game for being the graphics of a game. It is, however, different than enjoying the game.)

Unfortunately, my idealism does not mirror reality. People will always think graphics, and stories, and technical accomplishments make a game. "Games" will sell on these three things alone. And so many have sold this way to cause Joe Consumer to think that it''s the way it should be - and you know, for Joe Consumer, maybe it should be that way. But when he starts wondering where the "game" went, I''ll point him to his "interactive media experience" and laugh. And then cry. A lot.

Don''t let the game die. Make games.
-scott

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It should be pointed out that there is a difference between great graphics, simple graphics and bad graphics. Imagine houses. A nice looking house will have landscaping, a fountain, patio, gate, etc. A simple house will have a nicely mowed lawn, matching paint, well kept, not run down. Note that it is not "bad", it could easily belong to a nice neighborhood. A bad looking house will be run down, unmowed grass, peeling paint, dirty, etc. Now, apply this to graphics and "eye-candy."

Great gameplay and great graphics is great.
Great gameplay and simple graphics is good.
Great gameplay and bad graphics is bad.

Bad gameplay and with any graphics is bad.

I think most of you will agree with me on this.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
What if not everybody want''s to play "games" anymore? I''d be more than happy with a few more "interactive entertainment" options available to me. As I get older my tolerance for eye hand coordination and monotany seems to be less and less. I still find "games" that are fun...( I''m still hopelessly addicted to multiplayer Halo) but wouldn''t mind a little variety. Something with a compelling story, interesting characters, well done graphics, and a little lite on the "gameplay". I think that there is something between "games" and totaly passive entertainment, like movies, that could be really interesting to a segment of the population. Certainly not for everybody, but you don''t have to make games... or interactive entertainment... for everybody.

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quote:
Original post by beantas
1) "Gameplay makes the game, not graphics."
This is true to some extent, but not _entirely_ true. Graphics matter. They can matter like crazy. Graphics are what immerse you. Graphics are what creates the universe in which you play in. People like to feel all wise and critical and like to say "Games should just focus on gameplay!" No they shouldn't. They should focus on creating a good game. Gameplay is just a part of that. It's an important part, but not the only part. Graphics _can_ (not always) make up another very big part.



If graphics make a game, then I suppose movies are games. They have good graphics right?

The cliché is correct, graphics DO NOT make a game. That is not to say graphics are not important to the immersiveness of the game, not to mention the marketing success, but at the end of the day, a turd is a turd, regardless of how well polished it is.


[edited by - Sandman on November 5, 2002 11:00:04 AM]

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quote:
Original post by beantas
[...] I agree, although there are some people who claim they only play games because they enjoy the stories. I''m not sure if they''re lying, deluded, or if they truly believe that.


There is a third possibility: Perhaps some people actually do that? I''m not saying that all people do, but I think there''s a fair chance that some do. Storyline is crucial to certain kinds of games.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
If graphics make a game, then I suppose movies are games. They have good graphics right?

My point was not that just graphics make a game. My point was that a game is this holistic package of many parts. And gameplay alone will not always make a good game. So the cliche is not always true. Graphics can matter, sound can matter, controls can matter, story can matter.


[edited by - beantas on November 5, 2002 11:23:27 AM]

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quote:
Original post by beantas
My point was not that just graphics make a game. My point was that a game is this holistic package of many parts. And gameplay alone will not always make a good game. So the cliche is not always true. Graphics can matter, sound can matter, controls can matter, story can matter.



I disagree. I would define ''a good game '' as being ''a game with good gameplay'' and therefore, by definition, all games with good gameplay are good games. How would you define ''a good game ''?

Of course, if the gameplay mechanics require a certain quality of graphics, then it is essential that that level of quality is reached. Anything above that quality is really just eye-candy.

Of course, eye candy is important to some extent. The nicer it looks, the more attention it gets, and it helps to distinguish your product from the competition. But don''t fool yourself into thinking that it can ever make up for shitty gameplay.

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Great gameplay and bad graphics is bad.

i don''t agree with this statement. Some people enjoy playing on their mobile phones the most simple games. why beacause they are fun and distract your attention and they don''t care a lot about the graphics. Sure everyone likes better graphics.

some text muds are still popular today

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graphics merely create the atmoshpere and versimilitude of the game. i dont think we should be arguing over graphics as much as the atmoshpere that sound and visuals make. take final fantasy 7 for instance. the storyline was good to start with, but without the awesome music and great visuals (except for the crude in-game charecter models), would it have even made the top 10? having played ff7,8,9, me and most of my friends agree that ff7 had something that the others didnt. that versimilitude. thats what attracts the game to the game, and keeps them into it.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Some "games" are all about atmosphere.... which is almost completely dependant on visuals and music. Take Myst or Riven for example.... would it have been all that fun to walk around in a series of grey shaded cubes solving puzzles? I can''t honestly say I thought either of those games were very fun .... but certainly plenty of people did...due largly in part to the experience of just walking around in really great looking and interesting environments.

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...another gameplay vs. graphics debate...

Ok, my definition of a "good game" is one that I enjoy playing. I might enjoy it for its pure gameplay(Tetris, Smash Bros.), I might enjoy it for the story(Grim Fandango), or I might enjoy it for the coolness of the visuals(American McGee''s Alice, Myst). So I think that graphics _can be_ as important to a game as its "gameplay". "Can be" doesn''t mean always or even most of the time, but I just mean to say that these debates don''t really have an answer that will work for all possible games.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
Of course, eye candy is important to some extent. The nicer it looks, the more attention it gets, and it helps to distinguish your product from the competition. But don't fool yourself into thinking that it can ever make up for shitty gameplay.

It can, it sometimes does, and for others, it does very often. It depends highly on why the gameplay is considered shitty. Everyone keeps saying "bad gameplay" but that can mean a lot of different things. If the game is shallow, I can live with that if the game is immersive and graphics are sharp (Myst). If the game has awkward controls and immersive sharp graphics, I won't consider it a bad game(Gun Valkyrie). If the gameplay is nothing new from what I've seen before and the graphics are sharp, I can deem it a good game. If the game is frustrating to play but has immersive sharp graphics, I will deem that a bad game.

It depends on a lot of things because gameplay is tough thing to put in a box and critique. It probably isn't right to just say "good" or "bad." It can be different things and graphics can complement them or work against them. Hence all mentioning of the words "sometimes" or "can be". But to say that pushing graphics technology is bad, or that good graphics can't contribute to a game's quality, that's silly.

[edited by - beantas on November 5, 2002 3:07:44 PM]

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Can I hit the cliche that graphics are a one dimensional line with SUCK on one end and DOOMIII on the other. Some of the best games I played (FF7, Xenogears, MGS) all did nice with their graphics, but made sure to retain the overall tone throughout. For example, snakes head bobbing up and down with speech (no visible face animations).

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.

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People are misintrepreting this as gameplay vs. graphics, it isn''t. Gameplay is still the most important thing and a game with shitty graphics can still be tons of fun. Beantas was just saying that graphics are important and should not be dismissed. People tend to say things like "they spent all their time on graphics, and didn''t focus on gameplay" which is true in some cases, but I for one would rather play a good game with good graphics than a good game with bad graphics. That said, some games benefit more from graphics than others. UT2K3 or Doom III just wouldn''t be the same without their great graphics (especially Doom III), but you can only do so much with an abstract game like tetris.

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quote:
Original post by Impossible
UT2K3 or Doom III just wouldn''t be the same without their great graphics (especially Doom III), but you can only do so much with an abstract game like tetris.

If UT2k3 had Quake 1 graphics, how would it be any different as far as the game is concerned? And the fact that you think Doom 3 is relying entirely on its graphics is a nicely packaged insult to it''s game-ness.

My point still stands. There are games that are made as games, and there are software products that are intended to entertain, but fail miserably at being a game.

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quote:
Original post by scaught
If UT2k3 had Quake 1 graphics, how would it be any different as far as the game is concerned?

You mentioned that you get as immersed in Nethack as you do in Final Fantasy. Well that's great for you. But you are not part of the norm. Yes, some other people might agree with you. But the general opinion is that better graphics can immerse you better and that can make for a better game.

In fact, I bet that many people who claim to feel the same way as you are actually deluding themselves, either to prove a point or because they want to believe it. Would you like games to be drawn in ascii-art forever?

[edited by - beantas on November 6, 2002 12:08:56 AM]

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quote:
Original post by beantas
You mentioned that you get as immersed in Nethack as you do in Final Fantasy. Well that's great for you. But you are not part of the norm. Yes, some other people might agree with you. But the general opinion is that better graphics can immerse you better.

In fact, I bet that many people who claim to feel the same way as you are actually deluding themselves, either to prove a point or because they want to believe it. Would you like games to be drawn in ascii-art forever?


why do you keep claiming to be part of the norm or the general audience? everythign you say is right. personally i think thats rather arrogant and offers nothing to a debate. the only reason that ut2k3 has good graphics is cause without them then it wouldn't sell cause of all the rest of the games have a higher level of graphcis and people tend to judge a book by their cover.
if ut2k3 were released in an age where 3d hardware acceleration didn't exist and it was running on a quake1 engine, it would still be the same game with the same gameplay and the same level of immersion and sell just as well as it were in this age.

space quest 1 immersed me into the game world probably more then any first person shooter ever did. its not the graphics that creates the immersion. a novel doesn't even have graphics in it and they immerse me into a world much more then any game could ever do.



"The human mind is limited only by the bounds which we impose upon ourselves." -iNfuSeD

[edited by - iNfuSeD on November 6, 2002 12:15:30 AM]

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About UT2K3, the actual gameplay would be different simply because a lot of the levels (especially the larger outdoor type ones) just couldn''t be done with Q1 technology. Also you can argue that people would like something like Q1 or Unreal 1 more if they had graphics like UT2K3 at the time they were released (along with a decent framerate of course.)

There''s no crime in liking pretty graphics and enjoying them, that''s all we''re saying. I honestly have no idea why people are so anti-graphics, there''s nothing that says good graphics distract from gameplay. It''s kind of like saying all attractive girls have no personalities, or all movies with special effects have no plot. It''s a cliche that a lot of people (as you can see from this post) believe in.

Other cliches:

-2D is more fun than 3D.
-Old games are better than current games.

I think both of these stem from a combination of nostalgia and selective memories. Sure there are tons of great games from the NES\SNES era and tons of great old PC games, but there are a lot of really, really bad ones, games so bad that the modern 3D equivalents wouldn''t even be made in this era. Also I think some of it has to do with people playing those games when they were young. A lot of younger kids (10-12 I guess) wouldn''t get into older games, simply because it''s a style of game they aren''t used to.

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