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GamePlay Less Than GameGraphics ?

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The year 2007. Halo 3 boxed in the shelves not only a few days ago. The graphics seem, in most places realistic. Before Halo 3, Oblivion Elder Scrolls for Xbox 360 dominated over all game console graphical games. Assassin's Creed also is appealing to the eye. In most articles today in gaming magazines, you see tons of comments relating to 'the graphics of the game' or how 'realistic' the game is. Many comments on the Nintendo Wii relate the fact that the Wii is fun, but the 'graphics are nothing compare to what can be achieved'. Few games I noticed around here that look for publishers and announce it here, receive comments on how outdated the graphics are, or overused a texture is. I'm not here to complain. I'm here to ask what you think. Are the games of today's generation going to be labeled by their graphical appearance or by the game play. Does it not matter how well the game play/fun factor is, but how amazing the graphics are? If so, I think it will be hard for the newer generation of game programmers to compete with Lucas Art's: The Force Unleashed. What do you think? [Edited by - PCN on October 2, 2007 8:41:07 AM]

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Being almost 30 years old, I can tell you that games, whether is was in the arcades back in the early 80's, the consoles for the last 3 decades, the PC's, or even back to the pin ball machines in the mid 60's, are all about the latest and greatest graphics.

Visuals sell because you can't judge a game's gameplay without playing it. But you can judge the graphics without playing it. Sure, if a game has bad gameplay, it will sit on the shelf collecting dust, but who cares? The publisher already made it's money and the consumer can't return the game.

That's what makes it so hard for us hobbyists, without professional, leading edge graphics, the general public won't even look at our creations. But since there are so many expiring hobbyist developers, we have ourselves as an audience and potential market place.

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I still think that gameplay is king; I've sat through some interesting games with less than stellar graphics, but when done right, the player will hardly know/care.

But with games fast becoming a multibillion dollar industry, less publishers are willing to take the risk of doing something innovative and different.

Another thing to keep in mind, though, is how hard innovation is to do. I mean, a lot of people want to think their game concept is different, but if you truly analyze the core mechanics of your game, is it something no one has really seen before? And even if it's innovative, is it applied in an effective manner to be considered fun?

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In terms of advertising, Id say graphics are always going to be the strongest point.

However, in terms of reviews and word of mouth, I think they make less of a difference. While a game that focuses on graphics will have people raving about its graphics, it is quickly forgotten when the next game with better graphics comes out, while games that have strong gameplay and are all-round well designed fun games will often be forgiven for sub-par graphics.

To me, it seems that for reviews and word of mouth, less-than-perfect graphics only really tend to be a problem if the game doesnt have anything else in other areas to make it stand out.


The other telling detail is the success of less-technically-fantastic-graphics games that use different business models. World of Warcraft is a prime example - its graphics are certainly acceptable, but they are by no means state of the art, but the gameplay and other features have made it a well-respected game, and its managed to turn into a very rich business despite not having the graphics to make particularly stunning advertising from.

So I think graphics are certainly an edge... but only for when the effort isnt (for whatever reason) put into other areas.

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For me, graphics are not the key aspect of a game. Sure a good looking game can be entertaining (just for the eye candy), but that rapidly looses it's appeal. I prefer gameplay over looks, but then I am probably not a typical gamer.

Because Good graphics have an instant appeal to almost anyone (even those of us that do not put a high value on them) but then have a short appeal, this makes them good from a publisher's marketing point of view (not the developer's though). The graphical appeal will last a short time and by this time the publisher can have their next release (from a different developer) on the shelves with slightly better graphics and therefore get the appeal and sales.

IF the publishers pushed gameplay over graphics, then they wouldn't get this high turnover and the game industry would not be as profitable. This would mean less games sold (which could mean that game technology would not have advanced as far) and a smaller market (which would actually make it harder for hobbyists and indi developers to get into the market).

So although I don't personally go for games just because they are new and have better graphics, I do think that they have been important to establishing the current market scope.

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I think the visuals are important. But I don't think most players really care beyound a certain point. I don't think anyone of moderate intelligence would dismiss a game because it had good graphics instead of great graphics.

On the other hand, gameplay is important at every level. You might be able to squeeze one by with bad gameplay, but your reputation will take a hit, and you'll eventually be out of work.

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A bit of both actually.

But gameplay is most important to me.

I can play oblivion and go back to diablo. I can play HL2 and still go back to quake1 mods. I can play Call of Duty 2 but I always go back to games like Chain of command. I can play Warcraft 3 but I always go back to utopia. The games I mentioned have very dated graphics and in some cases they dont have graphics at all. True gamers dont mind too much if something has good graphics, they will play it anyway if its fun and aslong as something about it is appealing. People who aren't true gamers will probably not get into games with poor graphics cause they dont know better.

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True gamers dont mind too much if something has good graphics, they will play it anyway if its fun and aslong as something about it is appealing. People who aren't true gamers will probably not get into games with poor graphics cause they dont know better.

I would say that we here don't represent a good cross section of the gaming community. We are either Developers and Designers or have an interest in game development and design (otherwise what are we doing on a game dev site :D ).

Because of our interest, we tend to focus more on what makes up the game: The gameplay elements. But to the typical player (and hard core gamers are not a typical player), they are focused on the impact of the "here and now", good graphics are a part of that.

I think it is this reason, not that they don't know better. They still have an appreciation of good gameplay. They still know a good game if they play it. It's that they also want the impact of the New as part of their experience.

As people who have an interest in the gameplay, we tend to focus on that aspect of a game. We devalue the enjoyment that you can get from impressive graphics.

Think of a fireworks display. We are awed and amazed by the colours and the show of it. But to an explosives expert or someone in the fireworks show business, they might have more appreciation for the mechanics, electronics and other technologies that have gone into making that display, and they might not have as much interest in the display its self.

So, like those experts in the fireworks business, we have a greater understanding on what goes on "behind the scenes" in a game. We understand how the elements of gameplay go together and so we have an appreciation of that part of the game.

Good gameplay is desired, but we must remember that for the typical player, they may not want to play a game for years on end. They want new experiences, and this makes the power of good graphics more important to them. Sure, a game with good graphics will wow them, and if it only has mediocre gameplay it won't hold their attention for long. But they don't want their attention held for long, and so effort spent on better gameplay would be wasted.

I am not advocating that we should not try to improve the gameplay, or that we should only release mediocre games, but that when considering the people that play the games, we should take into account what they would like and the way that they would use our product.

In a market where graphics are pretty much at the same level, then yes, the technically better game has that edge and so will usually sell more (ignoring the effects of marketing). Gameplay is an important factor, but just because it is an important factor doesn't mean that we have to (or should) ignore the other important factors.

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Original post by Edtharan
Sure, a game with good graphics will wow them, and if it only has mediocre gameplay it won't hold their attention for long. But they don't want their attention held for long, and so effort spent on better gameplay would be wasted.

I think you're venturing pretty deep into the casual player realm. Almost to the point that the players you're describing are S-Mart empoyees taking a ten minute lunch break with the breakroom X-Box. I think players that are even moderately interested in gaming are closer to the hardcore realm than that.

I have a lot of ..eh, less than nerdy friends. None of them are hardcore gamers. These are people that can go six months without playing any games. But all of them are capable of sitting around playing a good game for days or weeks at a time. Even missing work or avoiding going out to do other things just to play the damn thing.

Here's my theory. Typically, all males aged 15 to 50 are potential hardcore gamers, when a fun enough game is available.

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I pretty much agree with cyansoft. Games have almost always been about graphics, and people have been complaining about graphics overpowering gameplay ever since the first graphical games sold over the text based "pure gameplay" games.

King's Quest II - 1985
Quote:

animated characters that come alive
They walk, run, climb, even swim.

incredible three-dimensional graphics
Watch as animated characters pass in front of trees behind rocks, and around one another.


"It's like playing an animated cartoon," claims Compute! magazine.

500,000+ copies sold

Try playing it today, and you'll see there really isn't any gameplay, story, etc.

And this is just one of many highly selling games of old. Yes, 500,000 is nothing today, but back then it was amazing for a computer game.

Graphics sell games, gameplay keeps people playing.

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Graphics sell your first games.


The game play of your first games sell your last games.



That is, if your early games are all graphics but suck for game play, then few are going to want to buy more games from you. But if your early games are great, while they may not be well sold, eventually people will buy more from you because word of mouth will say just how much fun your games are.

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Graphics sell your first games.


The game play of your first games sell your last games.

This is what I was getting at. Graphics will sell your games, and from a publishers point of view, this is a good thing.

But the Gameplay make people what more of that "franchise", so from a developer who owns the IP, then it is better for them to create gameplay.

From a player's point of view, they crave new experiences. It can be easier to develop a game and then to keep it "New" just keep updating the graphics.

A balance is achieved between the "casual" and the "Hardcore" gamer by also incrementally adding in or tweaking the gameplay. But as games can be designed so that new patches can add to the gameplay, then once a game like that is made (and it could be done - just ask yourself why not), if graphics were not an important issue, then why would that developer ever make another game from that IP?

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Good games need both. The PS3 has the best graphical capability of the new consoles, as well as some graphically beautiful games, but all of those games (Lair, Heavenly Sword) have gotten many poor reviews. I had hoped the massive success of the Wii and failure of the PS3 would be an end to the complaints that "everyone" only cares about graphics.

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Original post by makeshiftwings
Good games need both. The PS3 has the best graphical capability of the new consoles, as well as some graphically beautiful games, but all of those games (Lair, Heavenly Sword) have gotten many poor reviews.

Praise to the gaming review magazines. They're definitely helping to keep gameplay an important selling factor.

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Good graphics extends the hype of the game backward in time prior to the release date.

Good gameplay extends the hype of the game for a long time after the release date.

Both of them make you money to some extent. Only one makes you a hit, however.

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Original post by InnocuousFox
Good graphics extends the hype of the game backward in time prior to the release date.

Wait... but what if your graphics are so good, that it extends the hype so far into the past that it causes you to pre-order your own game before you've made it, and then you never make it so it can't change the past, and.... *brain explode*

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Original post by makeshiftwings
Quote:
Original post by InnocuousFox
Good graphics extends the hype of the game backward in time prior to the release date.

Wait... but what if your graphics are so good, that it extends the hype so far into the past that it causes you to pre-order your own game before you've made it, and then you never make it so it can't change the past, and.... *brain explode*

Similar to the The Grandfather paradox!

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I doubt a straight up shooter would do well without good graphics. I mean, perhaps if the game had some amazing concept that drastically set it apart from other shooters. But implementing the concept would be much more difficult than just paying a modeler $50 to make new models.

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Something else to consider isn't if the graphics are "new" and "Good" but how they are presented.

Just because you are rendering 3,000,000,000,000 polygons a second won't mean your game has good graphics. Just because it is in 3D doesn't mean it will have good graphics.

Take a look at the Monkey Island games. Look at Curse of Monkey Island, the compare it to the 'better' Escape from Monkey Island with its bad 3D graphics. Good graphics are a matter of style and presentation, and not just photo realism.

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So, if game play does over rules game graphics, if someone made a game based with Quake format models, but the game play was amazing. Would it do well, or will the graphics kill its success?

I don't think it would have a big market appeal. You wouldn't get the intense interest that "new"er graphics would generate. Over time you would get more and more people interested in it, but by then the innovative gameplay will become known and other developers will learn from your game and start producing copies with better graphics.

The games with better graphics and similar gameplay will then over shadow your production and it won't gain many more players.

In a static development environment where no new games are produced, then yes, this kind of game would come to dominate, but because developers are making new games and they learn from games already on the market, if you didn't produce good graphics, then someone will "copy" your gameplay and give theirs better graphics, so out performing your own production.

You will get a short period between your game getting wide spread awareness and other developers making their own version with better graphics. But you will sell (or at least more people will play) more copies if you put more emphasis on graphics (which means you would have had to take resources off of other aspects like gameplay).

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Another common mistake that indie developers make is thinking that they know what "good gameplay" is. They think that because they don't like a certain popular game, that it's gameplay is "bad", and all the people who like it must only like it because of its graphics. They also tend to think that the game they are working on is indisputably "good", and that anyone who doesn't like it is simply blinded by their bad graphics. Unfortunately, a lot of indie projects have poor graphics AND poor gameplay.

The moral of the story is: don't just assume that every popular game is "bad" and that if people could just see past your sucky graphics that they'd like your game. Most people legitimately like the gameplay of their favorite games.

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Original post by Edtharan
Think of a fireworks display. We are awed and amazed by the colours and the show of it. But to an explosives expert or someone in the fireworks show business, they might have more appreciation for the mechanics, electronics and other technologies that have gone into making that display, and they might not have as much interest in the display its self.


I think the reason for this emphasis is the impact that the mechanics of the fireworks have on the impact that the display has on viewers. Ideally, what sells the product = what is built into the game = what gives the player lasting value. Currently, what sells the game is mostly technical: the first two conditions are met, but since the emphasis is on short term wow factor, graphics are over-invested in while game play is left to rot, metaphorically. With fireworks, the awe factor is the game play. The fireworks technician minding his work is improving the awe factor and the game play simultaneously. The graphics engineer is only improving awe factor and boosting sales. Sure, the games are still fun, but it's a bad trend. Games are sold for the visuals even though the game play is what has lasting impact.

Games, however, are not just visuals. Build a game with visuals as appealing as a fireworks show and you might just have a game where visuals are game play. Until then, visuals are used as a tool to sell games - quality of game play is becoming more and more incidental.

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OK, let's put it this way: What games are popular today (well, as popular as a game that old would be)? The ones with 'revolutionary' graphics when they were released or the ones with good gameplay? Starcraft is how old and it is still the standard RTS tournament game. Heck, breakout is about as simple as you can get graphically, yet it can still take up alot of time because it is fun. Same goes for tetris, etc. Actually, look at most casual games, they aren't highly realistic, but they take up a heck of alot of people's time. Then there are the classic RPGs. Baldur's Gate is just about the most fun I've ever had with a game, I didn't even have that much fun with morrowind, whose graphics were obviously better. And who here hasn't spent atleast 3-4 collective years (ok, maybe I'm a exagerating a bit) playing roguelikes.

Now let's look at what was graphically revolutionary. I truthfully, being only 5 years old or so when these games came out, don't know what games were graphically advanced. I haven't heard any "OMG that game from 10 years ago was so good, it is the best looking game ever, though the gameplay was a bit lack."

So obviously what we get from this is that gameplay gives you staying power (and I like RPGs). If you want a quick "Wow, that looks cool." sale, then go for graphics, but, IMHO, for a really good game, graphics take a backseat to gameplay.

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