I was talking with a friend a while back, who said that he played a game with updated graphics but was disappointed at other qualities of the game. Specifically, he said that since they put so much effort into making the game look good, he expected that the gameplay aspect would be fun. That got me thinking. Long-time readers of this blog will know that I put creativity and polish in gameplay and design much higher on a list of priorities than graphics in games. But could it be possible that developers are actually shooting themselves in the foot by focusing so intently on making their games look shiny?
Let’s back up a second. Graphics certainly have their role to play, and on its own, enhancing graphics does produce a positive effect. They quickly describe the environment and action of a situation to the player(s), and they contribute (if not in the most important way) to the immersion of the experience. But by making a game that looks fantastic, developers are saying to some extent, whether they mean to or not, “We have this amazing experience that we want to show you in the most detailed way!”, and if that experience doesn’t hold up to the built-in hype, then it’s like a coat of paint on an outdated car, and it can feel more like a letdown than a decent game with the plus of nice graphics.
That explains part of the appeal of independent games (the best ones, at least). By and large, they’re not all that concerned with the greatest graphics (they often don’t have the resources for AAA-level art anyway), and instead focus on delivering a compelling and/or unique gameplay experience that they think will be fun.
I’d love to get some discussion going about this topic. Do you think developers are actually hurting themselves by adding shiny graphics over better gameplay mechanics and design? Do you think better graphics are always a plus? Leave a comment!