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PC Game Graphics: Steep or Forgiving Requirements?

posted by MusicallyInspired on - last edited - Viewed by 502 users

I didn't make this a poll as I don't really consider this a "taking sides" kind of thread, but rather geared more towards the philosophy of PC gaming itself and its graphics.

So, many complain about graphics for games (not just TTG games but PC games altogether) that have graphic requirements too high for their rigs to handle. Likewise, some complain that some low-end games need to get with the times and take advantage of the latest graphic capabilities. Who's right? Is anybody right?

Personally, I think games should stay somewhere near the latest capabilities. Not everything needs to be the very newest cutting edge graphics showcase model but I also don't agree with games produced that are about as impressive as a benchmark from 6+ years ago. Specifically, plastic-looking models for everything in a game makes for a really bad looking game. Specular, parallax, normal, diffuse, etc texture mapping really is the way every dev should be making their game graphics. Or just normal and spec mapping at the very least. Plastic models are ugly and obvious.

Of course there's the argument that some games don't need to be as realistic as possible and that's fine...SBCG4AP, for instance, looks just fine and absolutely perfect as it is for what it is. I can't think of anything that would improve it. Perhaps the same Flash-like shading that the toons have? But even some cartoon-ish games need a level of realism to them. Like Sam & Max and Tales of Monkey Island. Just because they're cartoons doesn't mean the models have to look like living plastic dolls. Measures can be taken to make model surfaces look less plastic.

But, besides the question of whether or not games should be realistic or not, this is PC gaming. PC gaming by nature is about building on and adding to your current PC setup. I may be generalizing, but I think it's safe to say that most PC gamers have had a level of customization done to their rigs at some point or another. And most of that group of people don't just add the odd new card every now and again but actually update most of their hardware. And still more actually custom build their rigs from scratch with their own personal selection of hardware specs. The PC is customization heaven as far as gaming is concerned. And as such I think game developers need to stick to certain standards.

Casual games? Yes, those can use whatever onboard Intel GFX chip standards are out there. I'm not talking about casual games. I also don't think that TTG games are "casual games". Sure they're episodic and whatnot and TTG has a great business model for non-mainstream titles, but I think they're moving beyond that now. TTG have garnered more and more attention with each game season they release and the quality of their games keeps going up. I'm pleased to see that the quality level of the graphics are increasing as well.

However, I'm not specifically talking about TTG here, they're just an example. Most of The Adventure Company games are pretty behind as well. Granted I haven't played any of the latest ones, but they usually consists of hand-painted, pre-rendered, or photo backgrounds with character models that just meet the lowest modern graphics quality standards. And still more games continually disappoint me. Of course it's a money issue, but that's no excuse to be lazy (I'm not saying TTG are lazy, like I said they continue to improve their graphics quality with every game and that excites me. I'm referring to those game devs that are lazy). There are fans who create new engines for old games with modern graphics capabilities (a painstaking process) and still more people who create the spec/normal/diffuse/et al texture maps needed to put the game into high resolution. And all for free. And the quality of the work is staggering. A perfect example: the new "polymer" renderer for eDuke32 (Windows-based Duke Nukem 3D engine). From what I understand, it's all a very standardized streamlined process. Running models through Zbrush and generating normal maps from them. As long as you know what you're doing you could get quality work out in a reasonable amount of time.

Of course, all this spawns a new discussion altogether: writing quality, puzzle quality, etc. But I truly believe that graphics are just as important as any other aspect of a game. But I'm not going to get into that in this thread.

33 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • @guitarsareboring said: Oh no, definitely not. It's very much an 'underground' lo-fi thing, an attempt to bring a little nostalgia to modern music I guess.

    Well then it's not a fair comparison. As I said, I'm not talking about "casual games". And I don't think that adventure games (especially TTG's games) are casual. They're fairly more mainstream now than people think. Especially in Germany. But geographical locations aside, there's no excuse not to put everything into it if it's popular.

  • You can't really compare a TV to a computer because where all a tv has to do is receive an image and display it, a computer has to do so much more. I personally think the idea that we're constantly getting better with technology all the time is very exciting and shows great progress. To slow it down just because someone like me can't catch up seems a bit unfair. I mean everything within reason, but all these complaints recently are pretty ridiculous.

  • @MusicallyInspired said: I've never even heard of them. Any examples of modern popular artists?

    A lot of folk bands over here still release on cassette because there audience is older and may just not wanna get a CD player or whatever, so in that respect there's still an industry for it. And there's the indie stuff that guitars posted, but the cynic in the back of my mind thinks that's more just a counter-culture thing than anything

  • @MusicallyInspired said: Well then it's not a fair comparison. As I said, I'm not talking about "casual games". And I don't think that adventure games (especially TTG's games) are casual. They're fairly more mainstream now than people think. Especially in Germany. But geographical locations aside, there's no excuse not to put everything into it if it's popular.

    Oh I know, I was just telling Avistew because she asked if you can still get tapes and LPs of new stuff. She didn't specify whether it had to be popular or not.

  • In the "betrayed thread" somebody said that PC gaming is an expensive hobby. If you can't afford it find another one. I both agree and disagree with this. I moreso agree because technology needs to move forward. Technological progression in any field is exciting and needs to be boundless so that the human race can prove it's ingenuity. It's a remarkable thing. I disagree because I believe that, because of something Avistew said, devs should be programming games that are more backwards compatible with older hardware than they currently are. But like I said above, that's no excuse to not keep up with the latest capabilities.

  • @MusicallyInspired said: Technological progression in any field is exciting

    This is the entire reason for the graphical arms race. People are always looking for the newer shinier graphics, and the better graphics get, the worse older graphics get. Back in the mid-90s, Quake was the epitome of good graphics, the most amazing thing many people had ever seen. Now, it's a hideous low res mess of blurred pixels and low poly models. If an FPS came out today with Quake-level graphics, it would sell horribly.

    In fact, I've seen many comments on many gaming sites of users saying that TTG's games look "ugly" and "outdated" and people ripping on them because the graphics weren't cutting edge and top of the line. Now, you may say "I don't care about graphics" but a huge portion of the market does. You may also say "Don't judge a book by its cover!", but like it or not, that's exactly what the majority of consumers do, and if the game looks bad, it makes it look like Telltale are either bad at making high end graphics, or that they just don't care, both perceptions will cause a consumer to feel like they won't be getting their money's worth, "They can't even be bothered spending the time to update their graphics, why should I pay for a game that looks like it came out 6 years ago?". Few, if any, consumers will have the mindset of "Oh, the graphics must be bad because they spent so much of the budget making the gameplay great".

    Think about it, if you went to the store to buy a new product, and it looked like a cheap piece of junk compared to the other products on the market, would you feel comfortable that the quality of the product was as high as the others?

    The same argument can be made for anything that has aesthetic properties, cars, clothes, furniture, etc. Does this stuff need to be updated to look better in order to serve its purpose more effectively? No, but don't you want it to look better?

  • I don't see why technology can't move one without leaving people behind. Isn't it even more progress if you can make something that's also playable on older machines? It certainly sounds like it would be much harder.

    And Jed pointed out another example, in which you'd use your computer in a way more similar to a TV, and the game would be somewhere else. That's also technology, and it's more accessible.

    I don't think it's stopping technology or anything. I think technology can progress with a specific goal that's not just "get bigger". I love technology. I love lots of things about it. I have a mp3 player than doesn't require electricity, how cool is that? I know I keep rambling about it, but I just can't get over it. That's technology, too.

    So I don't think it's just a matter of technology advancing or slowing down, it's more about the direction chosen. I personally don't think that graphic improvements are that much of a progress. I don't feel that the games are much improved. If you have a puzzle that involves the shadow, then by all means have a shadow (not that you need to be high-tech to have a shadow, lots of old games have them too), but otherwise, I don't think it adds anything at all, and it takes away something: the ability for most people to play.
    So the way I see it, it's a decrease. It's less good. It's not getting better at all. And when it's done just to attract consumers without having to create a decent games - just like some movies do with special effects, and make a movie that is nothing special but oh, look, shinny special effects! - I definitely see it as something that goes against progress.

  • Sadly, it's true that most of the people only buy games with "good" graphics. People these days don't care if the games have a great story, hilarious dialogue... they only care about the graphics. To me, Telltale games have good graphics. I don't care that much about the graphics, to me, what matters is that the games run on my computer and are good games by themselves, not needing shiny graphics to be considered good. I prefer a game with "bad" graphics than a game that won't even run on my computer.
    Take the Star Wars prequels. They have shiny special effects, but still, most Star Wars fans hate them. Things shouldn't need to have good graphics or special effects to be good, they should be great just because of the story, characters, etc.

  • @Avistew said: I don't see why technology can't move one without leaving people behind. Isn't it even more progress if you can make something that's also playable on older machines? It certainly sounds like it would be much harder.

    It would be nearly impossible to make a game that can compete with modern games while still not looking/running awful on older systems, and a monumental waste of resources and time.

    @Avistew said: And Jed pointed out another example, in which you'd use your computer in a way more similar to a TV, and the game would be somewhere else. That's also technology, and it's more accessible.

    That is already happening, it comes out in a few weeks, it's called OnLive, and it's a ripoff. If you'd rather pay a huge subscription fee to play some games than saving the money up yourself and investing in a proper gaming system to play all games, then so be it.

    @Avistew said: So I don't think it's just a matter of technology advancing or slowing down, it's more about the direction chosen. I personally don't think that graphic improvements are that much of a progress. I don't feel that the games are much improved. If you have a puzzle that involves the shadow, then by all means have a shadow (not that you need to be high-tech to have a shadow, lots of old games have them too), but otherwise, I don't think it adds anything at all, and it takes away something: the ability for most people to play.
    So the way I see it, it's a decrease. It's less good. It's not getting better at all. And when it's done just to attract consumers without having to create a decent games - just like some movies do with special effects, and make a movie that is nothing special but oh, look, shinny special effects! - I definitely see it as something that goes against progress.

    Most people buy a PC more often than once every ice age. The graphics improving, in addition to making the games look better and become more marketable to a wider audience, also does many things for the artists involved in creating the game. For example, in Sam and Max Season 3, without real-time shadows, they couldn't have done the diamond ring joke, without higher poly models, they couldn't have allowed the choreographers to give Sam and Max better facial reactions to things, and most importantly, they can more accurately reflect Ryan Jones' concept art in game because the graphics don't look like aliased blobs with low res textures on them.

    megamonalisa_pixel-ml.jpg vs ss_ren_monalisa06.jpg

  • I don't mind bad graphics (my ever growing collection of 90s games can confirm that) but I also don't mind that graphics are getting better. I figure that if I can't play a game on my PC I'll wait a few years until it comes out on Mac (my Mac is much faster) or upgrade my PC (haven't had to do that, yet and I've had it for seven years) or buy a new computer (this is least likely). Or make a really good friend who just so happens to have a good computer. Or console myself by buying an older game that I missed that will run on my computer.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a laid back person who will wait next to forever for the things I want.

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