Monday, February 11, 2008

Eye-Candy

Well, it's nice to know i'm not crazy.... or that I at least share my crazyness with somebody else. While it is true that in the future I want to do art work for video games, I must say that I think video games are going too far with trying to look good. 'What?!' you ask yourself, How could he say something like that? They may look better than before, but they're still not mistakable for reality." Well, it doesn't matter, they've still advanced too much. Now you may wonder whether or not I shoved my head in a microwave recently. Rest assured, this isn't the case.

Now, let us justify my outrageous statement. To be more accurate, I believe video game graphics have advanced too much, too FAST. I'm not saying that they shouldn't advance, but I believe that they have advanced too fast with this last console leap. My reason for believing this is that I have been playing Prince of Persia, The Sand of Time....and you know what? I enjoy it more than Halo 3. I don't care that Halo 3 has real-time bloom effects, when I look at a window in PoP, I get a glare too. I don't care that when you bump into plants they react, the do the same in PoP(granted, not throughout the game, but there is a courtyard area where this is implemented). PoP has a refraction effect on it's water. Whilst it's not nearly as realistic and detailed looking as Halo 3's, I am still well aware that it is water, and it serves it's purpose of looking cool.

I will concede though, that Halo 3's graphics implement much more impressive shaders, higher-resolution textures, and has many more polygons in....everything. But I refuse to concede that this makes it look better. I also refuse to concede that this makes the game itself better or, more importantly, more FUN.

Van Gogh's Self Portrait(possibly my favorite painting EVER) does not depict every single pore in his face, it doesn't try to realistically simulate the lighting conditions of the room he did the painting in. But it is still a beautiful work of art, and an impressive showcase of his skill.

Why then, are "last-gen" graphics considered inferior? Isn't the point of the graphics to help convey what's going on? I don't quite see how it matters that plants bounce back when I hit them, I rarely stop to admire them while i'm being shot at. What do I care that my enemy has thousands of unique ways to die? I just want to know the bastard's DEAD.

There is the argument that graphics help create an immersive environment.... which is true....but nothing breaks that environment's immersive-ness like wondering why the developers couldn't have gotten the level designer to make sure it's easy for me to find my direction again if I get turned around when I look away for one reason or another. Is it because they didn't have time? Well, maybe they would have had more time(and money) if they weren't busy worrying about making sure that the color saturation adjusts when you move from a dark area to a light one, so as to mimic the reaction of a human iris.

Don't try to tell me that the immersion level of old games isn't as good when you go back. Some of them, most definately lose something, or a lot of something. But the ones that were truly well put together in the first place do NOT. I have been playing Fallout on and off lately....while I definately NOTICED that the pre-rendered characters didn't use SSS_Skin shaders, it honestly doesn't break it for me. The world's color scheme is consistent, the style of architecture and character design works well, and it just looks good. By the logic of lo-res graphics not standing the test of time, that means that Pac-Man should be unbearable. On the contrary, I love playing emulations of Pac-Man, there's even an arcade not too far from where I live, PacMan's probably the game I play the most.

I am not saying it's bad that we're massively advancing graphics. But it seems like it's usually just with a "bullet-point purpose", where the only reason they include it is to have something to flaunt. Marketing has convinced average consumers that graphics=awesome, which equals more fun. The problem is, that simply adding more detail doesn't change the fun of the core structure of the game, or whether or not it's art style works well.

Luckily, as I mentioned waaay back in the beginning, I have a supporter. This supporter is none other than Lord British himself! Richard Garriot! In his gamasutra interview
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3535/interview_richard_garriott_is_.php
he expressed similar opinions to mine, but going further in observing that this happens with the beginning/end of every console cycle. Ok, so he doesn't really say exactly what I just said....but he does seem to follow many of the same ideas, and I agree with him whole-heartedly. The difference is that I percieve this last jump, coupled with gaming's new popularity, could push things in a direction that's not necessarily positive. I mean, many people still refer to PS3/Wii/360 as the "next-gen". Even though it is the current gen now, they seem to feel that they need to perpetuate this concept of more technology being better. I think it's, in great part, a problem with who the games are being sold to though. Most people aren't really aware of whether or not something is fun, just whether or not they want it. I guess it's just a manifestation of our Affluenza, we simply seek more.

I think developers need to all just slow down a little bit, and try to figure out how to push the point of fun, rather than physics/rendering aspect which have no effect on the game. Because that's what video games(IMO) are all about, fun.

[Note.] It's a little late, so I'm not sure if this came across right....or if maybe I worded some things incorrectly, so there's a good chance i'll edit it tomorrow or the day after to make more sense and increase coherency.