Hey there Gamers and Game Makers!
This week, I'm going to take a look at the age old question in games that is, "Do graphics matter?" I get asked this sometimes from folks starting out on their first game, wondering if they should spend most of their time focusing on the graphical fidelity of the game.
It's a question that is constantly being asked, discussed and argued over. It's a question that has no easy answer as it varies from game to game. When faced with the question "Do graphics matter?" my answer is always "Yes, but, not in the way you think."
Ok,bear with me on this one. When I say graphics matter, I'm not talking about the high level of graphical fidelity and level of photorealism that can be achieved in some games. When I talk about why graphics matter, I'm talking about the overall aesthetic of the visual art style and how it works to create a cohesive and immersive world that helps suspend your disbelief for the time you are playing. This isn't an easy task to achieve but, there are a few simple rules to follow.
First off, it's important to keep in mind that regardless of your graphical/artistic prowess, if your gameplay is bad then your games is going to be bad no matter how good it looks.
To give you an example of what I mean when I talk about the visual aesthetic, let's take a look at some games. Take the classic Super Mario Bros. While this game had a very simple art style, it's still considered a great game. That's due to obviously great simple gameplay but also because the art style while simple, is designed very well. The colors are chosen carefully to work with each other. The simple art style also suits the type of game that it is.
Let's look at a couple of other games that have taken huge leaps forward in graphical power and how they maintained the overall feel that made them such a hit in the first place.
Take the Fallout series. Before Bethesda acquired the rights to develop the IP further, we remember the classic Fallout as a much loved 2D game. We obviously see a huge change in how the game develops from this classic 2D game to a 3D first person shooter in a huge open world. So aside from the gameplay, why does the world of Fallout still feel like, well, Fallout? Simply because the artist and world builders focused on maintaining a visual aesthetic that was true to the world of Fallout. When you compare Fallout 1, 3 and 4, you can see a distinctive style has been developed for each game that complements the locations they're set in as well as how carefully the color palettes are picked. In the case of Fallout 1, we see a lot of browns and greys. In Fallout 3, we see alot of green hues that emphasize the high levels of radiation in the DC area. Fallout 4 makes use of a much wider color palette and varies it from area but blends it very naturally. The result in each case is that along with great gameplay, the visual style is very cohesive and nothing visually feels out of place.
So, when going forward in developing your own games, keep the overall visual aesthetic in mind. When you are designing your art, be it 3D or 2D, make sure you follow a theme. An example of bad visual aesthetic would be if you were creating a very realistic game and suddenly had a toon style character as the player or drastically different model designs throughout the game that don't fit into the theme.
As always, I hope this was of help to some of you and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!