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Postby Mark » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:16 pm

The Introversion PR team recently bought my attention to an article on next-gen.biz. Roy Taylor from NVidia had argued that graphics were important. Not an unrealistic point of view considering his background, but some commentators have described IV’s games as being graphically “light” and as such I chucked my hat into the ring and argued the gameplay was far more important than graphics and that companies spend too much time worrying about the look of a game, without worrying about the feel. I won’t go into more details as you can read the article here.

Anyway Roy took it all in good spirits and wrote an interesting blog article where he laid down something of a challenge that got me thinking. What would happen if we were able to afford a big team of artists at IV. Would this be a good, or a bad thing? The problem is that we have not really figured out how to manage the creative process. A game starts out as an idea that may come from something as obscure as a fluffy Darwinian and will often go through many iterations before it pops out of Visual C++ in a form that is fun, engaging and inspirational enough to get PC Gamer to say something fantastic about us. Now what would we be doing with all those artists while we figured out how to make the game fun? They’d all be on the payroll, draining IV’s meagre cash resources and they wouldn’t really be adding much until we knew what was going on.

That said, as soon as we had defined the game it would be very cool to let a graphical team loose – in some cases. Imagine what a large group of talented people could do for Darwinia. New models, new levels, new viri. It’s harder to figure out what they could do with DEFCON, or Uplink, but then maybe we designed these games with the subconscious knowledge that we didn’t have tons of cash to throw at the look.

My point is that whilst most companies would consider a large graphical team to be a huge asset, we would be much more cautious when it came to letting them any further than the resplendent lobby here at Introversion Towers.
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Postby Montyphy » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:28 pm

Roy Taylor wrote:I would love to see what Mark could do with a talented team of artists and DX10 programmers. I'd be surprised if he'd really turn down such a team if it were really made available to him? Mark?...


Sounds almost like an offer. If such a team were to be made available to you for a few weeks and with no extra cost to yourselves do you think you'd accept it? Would you give them the play of Darwinia since it already has been changed to use DX10 or would you try a photorealistic Defcon?
Last edited by Montyphy on Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby KingAl » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:39 pm

Hear-fricking-hear. Nevertheless, from the point of view of IV it's a pleasure that other developers focus on graphics so much - otherwise you might actually have to compete with other worthwhile games.

My viewpoint is this: graphics are only as important as the concept makes them. In games with a premise that demands realistic graphics, the lack of them can serve to break the immersion. The problem with the industry at the moment is that, instead of creating a concept and then deciding upon the visual representation, photorealism is taken as a given and the design is built based on that. Essentially, the appearance and not the design - whether consciously or not - becomes the premise of the game.
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Postby NeoThermic » Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:41 pm

Assuming one had a solid direction and gameplay already mapped out, then it might only be a good thing if the graphics do not depart from the style the game should be in. Darwinia is a perfect example of the graphics matching the style of the gameplay. If we took it further with HDR, for example, it wouldn't fit. Neither would Defcon if we took it and made it ultra-realistic.

Graphics can become a hindrance to gameplay. For example I still prefer the original GTA over GTA3 and it's later games. Why? Because the 3D view encompasses the problems of aiming and the whole 'things getting in the way of your view. Nothing is worse than a follow-cam getting stuck under a building so you can't see the person who you're aiming for. You don't have the problems in GTA because it's top-down 2D.

If Defcon made it so that you had to find the optimal position to view you're attacking targets and this prevented you from seeing an inbound squad of bombers, then it would become a problem. The 2D view given in Defcon allows one to quickly re-locate and address the incoming bombers; a quick flick of the mouse wheel is all it takes in order to zoom all the way out and get a full view of everything; no need to do some kludgey rotation of the earth and whatnot.

Graphics do indeed help, but they should go hand-in-hand with gameplay and should not be used as a substitution, the one you've clearly seen and written about.

So even if IV had access to those resources? Ignoring the fact that they would be better as OpenGL programmers than DX10 programmers (The Mac and Linux people will thank you later for that choice!), it could only ever help if it all worked. So far IV's games have never shown the need to have ultra-realistic graphics or photo-realism, so it might just be the challenge is a moot point. ;)

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Postby estel » Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:12 pm

Subversion is procedural. Who could possibly need graphic designers in this day and age? They're soooo 2004 :)

Nice post though, though I feel it possibly doesn't address Roy's point which implies if the designers were available without cost.
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Postby Shwart!! » Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:23 pm

I honestly would probably never have fallen in love with Darwinia if it had eye-popping graphics. It would have been cool, but I doubt that it would have been awesome.
But hey, I seem to enjoy the less fancy graphics. I also prefer the original GTA, and Red Alert 2 is still one of my favorite games despite its not-so-hot graphics. So I'm not sure if anyone would consider my opinion valid.

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Postby shinygerbil » Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:47 pm

That said, there's no need to favour low-graphics games purely for the sake of favouring them; it's quite feasible to say that better graphics can improve a game in many cases. What really matters is that the graphics -- no matter how eye-popping they are -- are polished, consistent and professional. This is where a lot of indie games fall down - they have excellent gameplay and ideas, but you can just see a few rough edges or dodgy textures, and suddenly the feel of the game is ruined. You're left thinking: "Oh. I'm playing a game."
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Postby ewanm » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:37 pm

Graphics are for Beryl not IV! :roll:
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Postby jelco » Mon Feb 26, 2007 3:37 pm

shinygerbil wrote:That said, there's no need to favour low-graphics games purely for the sake of favouring them; it's quite feasible to say that better graphics can improve a game in many cases. What really matters is that the graphics -- no matter how eye-popping they are -- are polished, consistent and professional. This is where a lot of indie games fall down - they have excellent gameplay and ideas, but you can just see a few rough edges or dodgy textures, and suddenly the feel of the game is ruined. You're left thinking: "Oh. I'm playing a game."


Exactly. Darwinia is - as NeoThermic pointed out - a good example of graphics fit to the style. No doubt the storyline has been altered a bit so that the graphics didn't need to be that great, but that doesn't matter. The style is definining for the game, and no matter how nice graphics might be, if any other part of the game is ruined, the game sucks.

F.E.A.R. has generally been reviewed as a system hog. Even now very few computers can handle the game at full settings with framerates over 30. (Dell's XPS M1710, the ultimate Dell gamer's laptop, got to 13fps.) But the graphics were not the scariest. Of course, if the graphics had been crap, it wouldn't all seem to real, but the sound was the real convincing part. It frikkin creeped me out from the beginning. That's why you should always play F.E.A.R. with 5.1 and a beamer in a dark room.

Supreme Commander is said to change the face of RTS games. I'm not convinced, but it's cool, I can tell you that! But the gameplay is no doubt the main factor. The strategic zoom makes it possible to zoom all the way out, so the whole map is on your screen. You need it, because in tense battles, you're commanding 200+ units. I've tried SupCom on the highest possible settings (my system was on the edge of breaking down) and the lowest. Although you see large differences when zooming in on the carnage, it doesn't matter when actively playing.

There are many RTS games to which this applies, including Command & Conquer games (pre-Generals). They're awesome, although graphics are far from nice. I'm afraid Generals was the turning point, and it looks like Tiberium Wars (March 28th :D) is going to focus too much on graphics. Let's hope the storyline and gameplay aren't ruined. Other games which are truly amazing despite their lack of nice graphics is Chrono Cross and Ocarina of Time.

Of course, there are also games which look awesome, and you don't want it to be different. Kingdom Hearts (yes, it's console, but you get my point) and Warhammer 40K are good examples. That also goes for recent Final Fantasy games.

I have to say though, I'm happy there are at least some people sharing my point of view. I always hate it when graphics get to be called #1 on the priority list. What was so cool about the X360? Everybody started with graphics. Same goes for PS3. Hell, even Vista works that way :D. Seriously, what is wrong with everyone? Why do you think Worms 3D was the worst 3D port ever? Worms was created for 2D, and the converting to 3D (if it is a good idea at all) was done way too quick. Worms 4 is far better, although not flawless either. Everyone is obsessed with nice graphics, and so everyone thinks eveything should BE that way. For anyone who thinks this way, I have this plain sentence: you're wrong.

Anyways, that's my view on things.

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Postby xander » Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:40 pm

Correction: Speaking of photo-realism, the original photo attached to this article was of Introversion's Chris Delay, not Mark Morris. Sorry for any confusion. - NG

Heh.

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Postby Montyphy » Mon Feb 26, 2007 4:43 pm

Correction: Speaking of photo-realism, the original photo attached to this article was of Introversion's Chris Delay, not Mark Morris. Sorry for any confusion. - NG


Heh, n00b :P

So far, with visually abstract games like Uplink, Darwinia and Defcon: Everybody Dies...


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Postby MrBunsy » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:03 pm

Oh really? So then in that case, you can go watch 24 in black-and-white on a seven-inch screen," he laughs.
That's a good point made against that argument, switch 24 to almost anything else and it falls completely flat on it's face. An old black and white fuzzy episode of, say, Dad's Army on an old telly could capture the viewers easily as well as it could on a cinema screen.

And I must admit I've felt far more attached to my little Darwinians than I have to a lot of characters in films.
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Postby Darksun » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:08 pm

For what it's worth, I think the graphics in Darwinia are great. I remember when it was in beta, I forced AA and AF as fast as my system could handle, ran it in high res and marvelled at it. Sitting the camera down in some trees to hear the creepy electronic bird sounds, watched the Darwinians milling around and in the distance, a soul destroyer swooping round. Just because something doesn't have photorealistic graphics, doesn't mean it doesn't have great graphics.

Let me try my own slighly crude analogy here - you can go to an art gallery and see brilliant portraits, technically perfect, and it's clear the painter had an amazing amount of skill. But artistically, give me Dalí or Picasso any day.
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Postby jelco » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:25 pm

I hate to sound like a buttkisser, but I couldn't have said it better!

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Postby xander » Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:51 pm

Darksun wrote:Let me try my own slighly crude analogy here - you can go to an art gallery and see brilliant portraits, technically perfect, and it's clear the painter had an amazing amount of skill. But artistically, give me Dalí or Picasso any day.

Slightly crude? That was perfect. Couldn't have said it better myself. ;)

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