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Playing Torment I find that I am perfectly content with the graphical fidelity on display, in terms of quality I can see that it can be improved in many ways, but it is in no way hampering the game for me, especially with the Widescreen mod installed. (Much obliged dear mod makers.) What is strange is that sometimes I am finding stylised, graphically inferior pixelated games preferable, for instance the remake of the Monkey Island game just do not have the charm of the originals, for me it was worth switching to the original mode even though I lost the voice acting.

 

Now is this a preference between stylised and more realistic graphics, or is it merely a personal preference regarding art design?

 

There is no doubt that games are approaching stunning almost realistic levels of fidelity, but is that needed? Personally I found the art design and the almost watercolour like backdrops of the first Witcher game to be just as stunning as the second games admittedly beautifully rendered world. Have we passed the point where graphics are fit for purpose, where they do the job they are designed for adequately, and are now adding bells and whistles that are not really needed? Of course i'm not saying that the Witcher 3 does not need to pursue graphical excellence, merely that perhaps smaller developers do not need to.

 

Sometimes simple artistic and stylised graphics can and do seem to trump realism, remaining relevant and striking while what were the latest and most sharp of visuals are quickly tossed aside by the next challenger on the throne of graphical fidelity. When the next generation of cutting edge graphics arrives the Cryengine games will most probably be judged in retrospect as, pretty and impressive for their time, while games that have a stylised aesthetic, a unique art design and an innovative approach may be judged as timeless, such as Torments Gaudi inspired Sigil.

 

Of course ideally one can have both.

 

So in summary what do you prefer? A strong aesthetic approach to art design, a level of realism that remains at the cutting edge, stylisation that never ages and sets a unique tone or some mix of the above?

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Aesthetic will almost always win over resolution/fidelity for me.  Just look at Nintendo.  They put out some of the best looking games out there and do so on a console that is objectively weaker than their competitors.  How does Nintendo do it?  They are very good with coming up with a really good, pleasant aesthetic that both masks the lack of horsepower of their system and looks terrific.  Another example is Jagged Alliance Flashback.  That game uses a fairly simplistic aesthetic with less detailed more single toned blockier shapes (e.g. faces have very few features, no mouths), and highly saturated colors.  I feel this works really well for the game (and the tropical setting) and the game looks really good, even though, by fidelity standards, those are early 2000s graphics.

 

It does go on a case by case basis.  Sometimes it fits a game to have as realistic as possible graphics, and obviously fidelity helps a lot there.  Going with a more cartoony, 8-bit, comic book, Aztec wall painting, or whatever aesthetic isn't always the answer.  Going with a strong aesthetic is, however, a good way for a smaller developer without the resources to pour into cutting edge graphics to overcome the lack of fidelity in their games and still come out with the game looking really good.

Edited by Keyrock
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I wonder if there is beer on the sun

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I think the barrage of indie/kickstarter titles we're seeing, or have been seeing, nowadays not only prove that there are many gameplay mechanics that are worth exploring even though they're not "modern", but that it's the same with the visuals too. I think many projects prove again and again that, yes, you can make an extremely beautiful game with really simple means.

 

I also *love* how Torment looks, it's astounding to me how great the game is visually speaking. Child of Light's visuals completely blew me away.

I was looking over the PoE STEAM forums and there were people there who thought it was horrible that it has the 2d Isometric thing going, and comparing it to Divinity: Original Sin which in their eyes was clearly superior. I just cannot believe that. To me, PoE looks sooooo much better than it's not even funny. And that's even considering that I find PoE slightly too "clean-looking" in some respects (when compared to Torment for example).

The Banner Saga is another great example. Those travelling backgrounds, wow. It's just beautiful to look at.

 

And I agree about the Witchers. I think Witcher 2 looks extremely impressive but the Witcher 1 manages to tap into that folklor-ish feel (though it's also reinforced by the soundtrack). I think the Witcher 2 is impressive atmospherically but even so, it did not even come close to the atmosphere of Witcher 1.

Edited by Starwars
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Well...pixel art is errrm...art, no? And I like the arts.

 

Same. I met Alex Grey once, long ago at the MCA La Jolla, hosting an exhibition. During a brief speech to those gathered, Alex acknowledged a beneficial influence to his work from LSD. I clapped appreciatively until I realized I was the only one. 

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All Stop. On Screen.

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Well I personally appriciate aesthetics a lot more as well, but I do thinks its great that some companies like Crytek or the people behind the unreal engine y to oush the boundries of graphical fidelity as that in turn will push/inspire the more artistic graohics. We wouldn't have had some the cooler modern artsy games without first movers in graphics.

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What is strange for me is how seamlessly one can introduce stylised elements into a largely realistic game, for instance in the Witcher 2, which has a very realistic art design there are exceptions: The size of LaValette castle is outrageous, it humbles even some of the greatets fortifications we've built, but lends a daunting air to the stronghold. While in Flotsam the vast virgin forest outside the towns gates is once again unfeasibly massive, and this is obviously used as an opressive mechanism, warning the player of the danger beyond civilisation and Iorveth encroaching on the town.

 

Quite a well designed approach in my opinion and a nice blending of the two aesthetics, yet in my first playthrough I hardly noticed and simply accepted these elements.

 

Edit: Or for instance Warhammer 40k and the Dawn of War games, with the realism and one step in the future aesthetic of the Imperial Guard mixed with all of the fantastic outrageousness of all the other factions, Orks, Astartes et al.

Edited by Nonek
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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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It's like asking if you like apples and oranges. Well I like them both. It's nice to have diversity. Though I'm finding most modern game give me motion sickens, until I get used to them.

 

If I had to chose though, I think I would go for the realism, because that will eventually bring us to indistinguishably realistic graphics and that in turn will make for some cool ****.

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It's like asking if you like apples and oranges. Well I like them both. It's nice to have diversity. Though I'm finding most modern game give me motion sickens, until I get used to them.

 

If I had to chose though, I think I would go for the realism, because that will eventually bring us to indistinguishably realistic graphics and that in turn will make for some cool ****.

I actually like apples with my oranges. An aesthetic like Torment in an engine able to deliver ultra detailed visuals would be a very pretty game. Even better of they manage to have combat that isn't ****.

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Well...pixel art is errrm...art, no? And I like the arts.

 

Same. I met Alex Grey once, long ago at the MCA La Jolla, hosting an exhibition. During a brief speech to those gathered, Alex acknowledged a beneficial influence to his work from LSD. I clapped appreciatively until I realized I was the only one. 

 

 

 

To the original topic. If how realistic a game looked really mattered to me, then one of my most played games of recent times wouldn't be one that looked like a Google Maps app. Hell. I put a ton of hours into Mount and Blade, which has looks only a mother could love on payday. At the time Battlefield 3 came out, I said I didn't care if the best looking game for the next five years looked as good as it did (and could still run well on the same hardware).

 

But all in all, yes, for most games (that aren't high-fidelity simulators) *artistic vision* matters infinitely more than graphical fidelity. I mean, this...

 

 

...evokes more pathos out of me than this:

 

Edited by Agiel
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"Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as 'History,' harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.”

 

-Philip Roth, The Plot Against America

 

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For graphics whatever works, works. I find it far more important that there is a consistent art direction and style than any specific technical criteria. I'd tend to have three classifications: good, OK and badly implemented. Something like Fallout 1 would be OK as an example, it wasn't very technically advanced even when released but it does the job, sets the scene consistently and has no really jarring problems that break immersion. Something like TWitcher 2 would be good because it does what Fallout does but looks better, while something like Oblivion- despite having many technical advancements over, say, Fallout- would be badly implemented because it had numerous issues that broke immersion such as the poor hdr/ bloom implementation, massive LOD/ texture pop issues etc that always said 'this is a game you are playing, do not forget it'

 

..While in Flotsam the vast virgin forest outside the towns gates is once again unfeasibly massive..

 

In the context of a pseudo European forest I'd agree, I've never seen a Euro forest of that type either live or in pictures, but it is quite similar to the sort of subtropical forest you get here or in Australia. Enough so that I would think it was based on that rather than the more well known tropical rainforests.

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"Modern" graphics I tend to like scenery and vistas a lot (except when over-enhanced via bloom or whatnot), but I still have major issues with people/animals. It's akin to watching CGI monsters/humanoids/action scenes in movies and knowing it's CGI (especially when in motion)...even if it's very technically impressive it feels cold and never naturalistic and leaves me unmoved. I don't loathe it and sometimes it's fine for eye-candy, it just does nothing for "immersion" improvement for me. If anything, it gets in the way because I keep noticing and thinking about it.

 

I don't prefer old vs. new or new vs. old, case by case as some have said, but it has become difficult for me to play truly ancient  arcadey/console graphic styled games or whatever. Actually, it was always a little hard for me to get into those games, even back then, which is one reason I didn't start to get really into video gaming until Doom1/that era, perhaps.

 

In the end, I think I find aesthetics more appealing - that is, graphics that feel like they have more personality, vs. graphics that are trying to constantly imitate reality.

 

 

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“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” – Alan Watts
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I hate old graphics. They weren't the way they were because of choice, but out of necessity. Hardware just didn't allow for more than that back then. I'm so grateful for the technological advancements that have been made since then, that allows graphics like we have today.

 

I was just thinking about it today, that I would be happy with the graphic standard I've just seen in Mafia 2 (which came out in 2010). I just played through that game with everything on max and I don't think the game dropped one single frame the entire time I played it. It really felt like playing a movie! So.. uh.. I guess I would draw my limit at Mafia 2, 2010. That's the standard I would like to see every game match or exceed.

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Oh i'm certainly not against graphical excellence, I appreciate it and expect it to improve with every generation, along with every other aspect of the medium. I'm merely saying that with stylised aesthetics such as are used in TF2 or WOW, one does not necessarily have to have the bleeding edge realism of the new. Personally I find what is functional for me extends to far more simple graphics, but I certainly don't want that to be the norm, and I expect far more than pure functionality.

 

For instance I find this to be absolutely striking, but hardly a graphical powerhouse, nor does it need to be. It achieves a distinct aesthetic that reinforces the period and gameplay, at one assumes a far lesser cost than for instance the latest God of War:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8F0syDVcho

 

Edit: I certainly hope that it will be ported to PC.

Edited by Nonek

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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I hate old graphics. They weren't the way they were because of choice, but out of necessity. Hardware just didn't allow for more than that back then. I'm so grateful for the technological advancements that have been made since then, that allows graphics like we have today.

 

Perhaps van Gogh would have preferred CGI if he had access to it, and the Greeks would not have bothered with their vases and sculptures. Doesn't matter if it was that way by choice - doesn't matter which one's older or newer, either. The only thing that matters is how it looks. Old or new, if you have a good art direction and you apply it consistently, and you make the most of out whatever tech you happen to be using - then you have something that looks very nice. 

 

Of course, you can still identify certain styles - which are often a combination of technology used and the artistic touches - and say how you prefer them. There's something about sprite animations and modelling that gives them a certain solidity and visceral pleasure which many 3D models conspicuously lack, for example. 

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Probably more appropriate here than in 'what you're playing', so I'm shifting it here.

 

 



I actually have difficulty thinking of a single* 'graphical realism' effect that consistently makes graphics look more realistic beyond the trivial ones like better resolution/ colour depth.

 

Ignorance.

 

Lol.

 

Could just be a difference of opinion, y'know. I clearly don't hate old graphics so long as they do the job, after all.

 

You don't think simple things like dynamic light/shadows, shaders, bump mapping, normal mapping, antialiasing, screen space ambient occlusion, etc. consistently makes graphics look more realistic?

 

 

No, I think most of those are trivial, or if you prefer a synonym for trivial: 'simple'. Much like colour depth and resolution- I clearly wasn't making an exhaustive list there. Indeed, of those I'd definitely say that dynamic lighting and antialiasing are trivial; as is the move to 3d and higher poly models since they are inevitable improvements as much as are resolution and colour depth.

 

SSAO in particular I'd already dealt with, every time I've seen it all it does is stick an unrealistic dark outline around stuff. Can't speak for anyone else but to me that isn't realistic in the slightest. And sadly, when I think of bump/ normal mapping I end up thinking of things like the Bioshocks where they were used to make models that were decent enough technically look like some sort of dampened plasticene caricatures, more technical wizardry but also far less visually realistic even than plain old 'flat' but hi res textures.

 

Frankly the most realistic graphics- ie graphics that most closely resemble what I see in real life- in games that I've seen are still probably from Stalker, albeit Stalker with some custom shaders. Other games like TWitcher 2 have better graphics, but the insistence on having lashings of effects for the sake of it all too often does not actually make it more realistic, often it just makes it less realistic but more complicated and more taxing on hardware.

 

Though of course, no doubt there are effects that do work and I don't really notice because they're properly understated.

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Normal mapping has been pretty important for improving 3D worlds, though, if you compare the distinctly 'square blocks on square blocks' look of early 2000's efforts to later ones. Best example is if you look at, say, a cobbled road. I'd agree that bloom, SSAO, and many others have been poorly used and hardly make much of a difference to make things 'realistic'. 

 

Indeed, good animation remains the most consistently underinvested aspect of games (mainly due to the workload, I think, at least for some periods) - you have some super early 3D games with some incredible animations, even if the pixels are the size of your face, and they certainly feel more 'real' than some of the stunted zombie disco you see in recent AAA games.

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Yeah, I think if I were to sum it up it would be all about the implementation. Something like HDR is a 'real' visual effect and should make things more realistic, but its usage in games tends to be so over exaggerated that it often makes things look less realistic.

 

I'm not really sure about normal and bump mapping not so much because they don't (generally) improve things but because I'm not sure whether I'd class them as being trivial or not. The 'intermediate' step of something like full colour per pixel transparency/ alpha channel tgas (as opposed to something like pallettised gifs with 0 entry full transparency) or equivalent I'd certainly take as trivial.

 

Completely agree about animations though. At least the more ridiculous early ragdoll problems such as in Deus Ex: Invisible War have largely been fixed. The other areas I'd cite is audio occlusion and the like, bitrates and the like go up but implementation and 'realism' wise something like Thief 2 is still superior to most recent stuff, certainly including Thiaf- and AI, albeit that in particular is a very difficult area where huge amounts of effort could be expended for little practical benefit.

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While I appreciate both old and new graphics (honestly, the biggest hurdle for me with old games is the often terrible UIs) I feel like with all the improved graphical fidelity and what not that we've lost something in terms of non-visual information. It was not uncommon in older games to get some sort of text description of an area when entering it, which often contained information such as smells, sounds (yes, I know we have improved audio, but honestly a lot of it drifts past me as white noise), and just a general feel of the area, the air, etc. I get much more out of description of a crypt talking about the mustiness and stillness of the air, the sound of water dripping in the distance, echoing off of walls, making it impossible to tell exactly which direction it's coming from.

 

I guess what it boils down to is that most games with modern graphics fail to make an attempt, as I see it, to engage the imagination of the player, and as such I find them much more sterile and less "immersive" than something of poor graphical quality that makes an attempt to engage my imagination.

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