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What Makes A Game Look Realistic?

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This is a rather general question: what defines the realism in a game? All I can think about are texture quality and higher polygon count. I'm no professional designer, so I'm not sure what goes into a scene that makes it look real(other than the stated examples). I've just recently started 3D programming, thus I won't be making the next Battlefield anytime soon, this question is solely asked for my curiosity.

 

Note: I'm not asking for code or language-specific examples, just the general variables that differentiate a game that looks unrealistic and a game that looks realistic, such as a lighting system. 

 

(If this has been asked before, please reference the link to the page).

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Yup, an accurate lighting system will be huge towards achieving realism. In addition to that you'll want your artists to be experienced with these types of physically based lighting systems so you can't create "impossible" materials or lighting setups.

 

Offline rendering methods such as path tracers already can achieve photorealism, but the techniques used there are way too expensive to apply in a real-time context.

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I think that.... lightning illuminates something. And that we pay too much atention to the lightning itself only, omiting what we illuminate. Normal map is a picture! A constant set of data (an identical thing under angles is identical thing to human observer).

Seeing all the time the very same thing under angles, while it would have been changed radicaly in reality!

This is blocking the actual interactive realistic video experience. We need to have volatile surfaces, normals, etc. Games can produce realistic stills, but if you move in them- Ups!

 

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Many things go into making a game look realistic. Basically, the Art and level design teams trying to do everything they can to make things look realistic, and having enough time and resources to get somewhat close to that goal, is what makes a game look realistic.

 

Art direction, backed up with good tech and plenty of resources.

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Define realistic.

 

Most of what people call "realistic" in games today is just "looks like in the movies I have seen". Some games lately tried to make explosions and ballistic effects as well as sounds more realistic... players whined a tank gun now sounds like a toy.

 

Yet when you hear a tank gun from some meters away, that is actually how it sounds. Its the hollywood movies that got it wrong, and those tend to form the opinion of people on "realism" because most people in the western world are fortunate enough of never having heard the sound of a tank gun being fired, or having seen an explosion of a hand grenade.

 

 

So really, "realism" is kinda misleading.

 

 

As to what helps give modern games a "realistic" feel today, I agree with everything being said in this thread until now. Physically based lighting, some postprocessing effects (as long as we do not have the rendering power for better GI, SSAO is pretty important to give objects that "weight" that makes them look real), as well as enough polygons to hide the fact that you are looking at polygon objects. The last thing is of course depending on the chose point of view... if you are only seeing characters from meters away in an isometric view, that 100k polygon character with fully articulated face and wrinkle maps most probably is pure overkill and just eats system resources for little to no gain.

 

Something in specific to characters. Good facial animations, newer technology like wrinkle maps, and good rigs that allow body parts to deform realistically (like muscles) are essential for character closeups.

 

 

I second the AI point though. The most realistic looking game is going to break down if your enemies are acting like dumb robots with faulty programming. The more realistic everything looks, the more off a too simple AI will feel.

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