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What do gamers prefer, graphics or gameplay

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Hello,

 

I am wondering if there are any statistics or papers refferring to what do gamers prefer, graphics over gameplay, or gameplay over graphics?

It's good for any game designer to know this, so that will allocate his time and resources in a proper way.

 

Personally, i believe that more gamers prefer gameplay but this is changing over the years because of the increased potential of graphics.

 

Thank you.

 

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It depends massively on your target audience. "Gamers" is far too broad. Even if you just narrowed it down to serious vs casual gamers, that would help. It depends on genre too -- graphics are considered more important (generally) in an FPS than they are in a turn-based strategy.

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A game with poor graphics but great gameplay can still be played decades later. There are plenty of examples - consider Thief: The Dark Project, Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Street Fighter 2, etc.. A game with great graphics but poor gameplay is quickly forgotten (or occasionally, lives on in infamy).

 

That's not to say that graphics don't matter. Games that aim to evoke empathy/emotional responses are often aided in this endeavour by quality graphics. Though, graphics aren't always needed for that, either, as games like To The Moon or a lot of early JRPGs show us. 

 

Those all had excellent graphics for their time. I bet if you released them today, nobody would take notice.

 

Also, I wouldn't say any of those have poor graphics, they're reasonably well done for 2d or low poly 3d.

 

Dwarf Fortress suggests you can get by with terrible graphics and UI, but it's a lot easier if you can make something pretty.

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Those all had excellent graphics for their time. I bet if you released them today, nobody would take notice.

 

Consider Square Enix's Thief reboot from last year - it was pretty much universally disliked, and that game looks fine as far as today's graphics go. Rather, players took issue with the uninspired gameplay. The recent successes of the 3DS remakes of Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask further contradict your point.

 

Lastly, consider games like Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight, VVVVV, Luftrausers, Nidhogg, Grow Home, (...). These games do not have great graphics by the current standards (rather, they have style),  though they have all enjoyed varying degrees of critical and commercial success.

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These games do not have great graphics by the current standards (rather, they have style)

This is a false equivalence. Great graphics doesn't mean Triple-A photorealism.

 

It can mean that (for example, Destiny has great graphics, as does Crysis, regardless of their other failings). But it can also mean anything that fulfil's its chosen style, even if that style is intentionally retro or 'low-fi'.

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I think this is a false dichotomy, because the two are tied together. Ultimately, you're creating an experience and this experience depends on both the graphics and the gameplay. The graphics communicate information and mood while the gameplay determines what's taking place. A survival-horror game with 8 bit graphics probably wouldn't be very scary, for example, because the experience wouldn't be very immersive, while a text adventure game can work if it's written well enough (but it feels and plays very differently than a 3D adventure game).

 

Beyond the experience you're creating, you may want to consider the business and marketing aspects of this. It's important for a game to be attractive, so players will try it. If your game is super fun but nobody buys or tries it because it looks like crap in screenshots, then you will have a hard time finding success. Attractive doesn't have to mean photorealistic graphics -- in fact stylized and memorable graphics are much better than bland and generic visuals -- but it does mean that players should want to play the game when they see it.

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I honestly don't think you're going to approach, much less reach, a resolution on this question. Not in a science-supported kind of way.

 

If you had to make a pure choice between the two, and completely eschew the other, clearly Gameplay is the way to go. Gameplay at least has the potential to stand on its own as a game (seems obvious), but graphics can't. Graphics support gameplay, not the other way around.

 

But that's not a realistic scenario. You'll spend time and energy developing both gameplay and graphics, and in the end you'll still probably fall short of everything you wanted to deliver. Many of your customers' or potential customers' first impression of your game will be made on aesthetics -- the style and quality of the artwork. If that draws them in, they'll seek to learn more about your game. First impressions are important, but they're not sustaining -- in some sense, the statement "I came for the graphics, but stayed for the game-play." captures that. Still, that's not everyone either -- I can't imagine many folks are impressed with screenshots of Dwarf Fortress, yet its got a good cache of hard-core followers. People simply have different and complex preferences, there's no single voice.

 

For me, I'm perfectly happy to enjoy simple graphics -- I prefer for them to be 'clean' and well-polished for what they are, but I'm willing to overlook imperfection as long as they are not aggressively bad. And, for me, no amount of stellar graphics will make me want to play a game that I don't find any fun. I bought Gears of War day one, easily one of the best looking games of its day, but I didn't like how it played. I've still got it, its been years, and I literally haven't touched it since -- and lots of people loved that game, but I didn't. On the flip side, I still play (and buy) games for all my classic systems -- and its not pure nostalgia because many of the things I buy are things I never played in their time. Likewise, I'm perfectly happy to pay new game prices for retro-looking games (Why not, I pay collectors' prices for most of the vintage stuff).

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