This was said last night on a game forum I occasionally skim about a video that was found on a foreign site. The particular game doesn’t matter, because I’ve seen variations of this on every single MMO I’ve ever followed. Every single forum, every single pre-release game, there’s always someone who is ranting about how trashy and outdated the graphics are and how they’re not going to play it. As is always the case when I see such a dramatic statement of graphical displeasure, I’m sitting here looking at the same video this poster is, and thinking ‘huh? trash? where?’ In this particular case, that same video got me all pumped up and wanting to play right now– so I’m sitting here even more puzzled than usual.
What makes me even more amused is that this poster is throwing around games that “blow this one out of the water” but with the exception of Tera, they are all single player games. I have never played Skyrim, but I do feel fairly confident that the graphics of Skyrim will be able to beat out the graphics of just about any MMO – because it doesn’t have to render other players. I’m finding I want to put that last part in bold. :)
For more of my rambling (or perhaps ranting) on the importance of graphics, and for a link to the video in question, hit the jump below.
I’ll admit right up front that I’m not a video artist. I do design clothing for my characters in Morrowind and have done a great deal of texturing that has been highly praised, but that is a far cry from being a professional texturer – I am just a hobbyist on that score. I don’t have the kind of breadth of skill that would allow me to actually get a job doing it, and aside from a few clothing pieces in an indie game years ago I have never created art for an MMO. So if anyone who has actual experience wants to correct any of my assertions here, do feel free. I’d love to know!
But to return to the point I was just starting to touch on – single player games don’t have to render other players. MMOs of any flavor do. A fact which inherently places a ceiling on graphical quality – you can limit the number of players allowed into an area, or you can limit the burden of rendering. That’s just the way it is. I’m thinking of two games that I’ve played extensively as I say that; The Secret World which solved for this problem by requiring full figure uniforms that cover even the face in pvp, and Lineage 2 which would always slow down to a slideshow whenever I entered a town. Running through town was always a terrible chore in L2, I had to turn my graphics all the way down and walk with my camera facing the ground.
So… I posit that single player games are going to blow MMOs out of the water in graphical comparisons nearly every time.
Let’s assume for the moment that ranters like these are actually responding in good faith, and not simply out trolling. Let’s forget that many of them hold up single player games as examples of awesome graphics that all MMOs should aspire to match or surpass. Let’s pretend that there is something to these many posts that can actually be responded to. What is it that they’re after? Is it photorealism? But TERA is often held up as the great looking MMO, and I wouldn’t call it photorealistic. Looking at TERA, I definitely don’t feel like they were aspiring to photorealism, I see a definite artistic style there. Is that the problem? Do people want games with distinct artistic styles rather than games that strive to be as indistinguishable from photos as possible? What exactly does “trash” mean?
And beyond that, I’m questioning – how important are graphics really? I grew up playing games that consisted mainly of ascii characters, triangles and lines and I still think most of them are superior to most of what’s coming out today. So long as the gameplay was good, I didn’t care how it looked. Pong, Space Invaders, Missile Command, Asteroids, Centipede – I grew up playing a little triangle that killed blobs by shooting lines. My MMOs were MUDs, MUSHes and MUXs played on bulletin boards with nary an image that wasn’t ascii-formed to be found. I recall huge worlds that really felt like worlds, games with tons of classes and complexity – I spent hours playing and never thought to myself that the game looked like such crap it was unplayable. I would have fallen over in shocked awe at the graphics of any game that’s come out in the past 10 years. Hell, currently my cellphone is an order of magnitude more powerful than the consoles and PCs I grew up with and has games with graphics that would have amazed me. Are people so used to being bombarded with media that graphical quality has taken a front seat at the expense of game play experience?
I’ve heard the adage many times: that you can have graphics or gameplay – but not both. Back in the day, I believed that was because of computer processing power, but these days it seems to be mainly a budgetary concern. There is only so much money designers have to throw at a game, splitting it evenly means a subpar result on both fronts, so which do they prioritize? Which do you want designers to prioritize? I know where I lie on the issue – I’ll play ascii triangles if the gameplay is great – am I in a dwindling minority?
But I promised a video! This little Neverwinter gem was found on a German site. It’s low resolution because the internal Neverwinter video recorder is still a work in process, but even so, it gets me all hyped up and wanting to play! Is it trash? The very first opening image is a screenshot I took while in The Secret World closed beta. There were plenty of people screaming about how awful the game looked then, is it trash?
As a bonus, here’s a lovely piece of garbage that was put onto the Neverwinter facebook page yesterday.