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ray_intellect

Art quality as a design element

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Recently game graphics at the high end have become so good that quality isn't a problem, the graphics approach photo realism in a lot of cases. Now what I was thinking is that perhaps in some of the top quality recent games, the art quality exceeds what would be appropriate for the design. The reason is, that if every scene is perfectly decorated and textured to meet the art teams aesthetic goals, then perhaps it becomes difficult to make a scene stand out in terms of visual appeal, so I am describing a kind of contrast between beautiful, mundane, and just plain ugly. I think a lot of games are designed with the notion that reality sets the mundane threshold, and games should be out of the mundane all the time ... I am inclined to disagree because several games had the effect of looking normal after a certain amount of time (Mass effect, Rage, Zelda windwaker, Crysis, Gears of war) to the extent that I was really not impressed when I finally reached the nuclear power core, or end of game boss, or any special storyline features.

So in my own designs I consider setting up a quality contrast, creating an in-game mundane look to use for non-extraordinary world features, and yet on the other hand I wonder of it isn't better to purchase and own a visual orgasm of artistic quality? Perhaps good ideas are under going constant recycling and reality no longer has anything to offer but a larger set of bills and expenses, and creativity will simply be categorizable into sets of known and pre-used elements... but of course the average game is still regarded as having low literary quality, and the directing isn't really appreciated by older generations. Perhaps I should close my eyes and wait until the excitement has died down before looking critically at the result, with or without the perfectly dented trash can, artfully shaped corrugated iron and rubble. I appreciate that setting a mundane might even save money, but the real big deal is whether to follow a rule of escapism in dealing with game content, or the immersive which requires the quality contrast.

Edited by ray_intellect

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Art quality has always been considered as a game design element. Just because you can pack in the best and most beautiful graphics possible doesn't mean you should. Take cartoony games, for example, they may have the tools to make a beautiful environment, but they'll take a more cartoony approach when making the art for the game.

It can be used elsewhere, for example would be a game with two parallel universes. One universe would have a more gorgeous design and be colorful and vibrant, while the other is a bit low quality and a bit more meak with simple colors. This can easily be used as a method of saying one world is better than the other, or one would is depressed and sad while the other is happy and nice. It's a way of conveying how the world should be taken as the player.

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This seems to be used in timed event game play. The moments where the X button appears on screen and if you don't hit it fast enough you have to re-watch the moment again. I think because these events are scripted the quality is able to be increased over the average game play. This also increases the "importance" of the moment, since visually it can be very compelling. 

 

This is really common in cartoons actually. Where the quality of a shot increases based on the importance of the moment in the narrative. Often because these shots are handed over to the most skilled animators. This has economic reasoning as well however in the end you could say it achieves the same ends as you've described.

 

If you think of Manga as well. This is used heavily, where some moments are drawn meticulously and suddenly in the next panel the characters are simplified and generally expressing the inner monologue of the characters feelings. 

 

There is no reason you shouldn't employ this especially if it can economize your art.

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"Recently game graphics at the high end have become so good that quality isn't a problem,"

 

Except it can be not as whats possible, but what its deliverable. A big game with alot of consistant high quality art can cost $100 million to produce. 

 

Theres also the hardware targeting, where a very high level of art may be useless to the previous generation platforms which a majority of the customers will still be using.

 

There is also a magnitude jump in the brains rejection of 'high detail' if it is done wrong, versus a cartoony/caricature where it is obvious it is not meant to be highly realistic.

 

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Surely it's not a case of using the best available graphics to accompany design, but more along the lines of: What style of art best complements and is appropriate for the design / and vice-versa.

 

I think that establishing a theme between art and design, something which works for both disciplines is necessary.

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