Gameplay vs Graphics


There used to be a time when the graphics of a game would define how good it was. Every year a new game would be launched with better, more realistic graphics, and everyone knew that there had to be a point where the hardware simply wouldn't be able to cope up. There are computers which can beautifully run those heavy processor intensive games, but the average gamer cannot afford those systems. Even gaming consoles have a limit to which they can play the more graphic oriented titles.

Here's something interesting I found on my frequent trips to 9GAG,

Art of triangles-9GAG

There is a saturation point where we simply will not be distinguish the virtual world from reality. I have no doubt that in the next few iterations of the Gran Turismo series, cars will look so realistic that one will simply not be able to make out if it's real or virtual. It will be fascinating and wonderful to have a game which is indistinguishable from reality. But it might not be necessarily fun.

When I play Pokemon Emerald on my GameBoy Advance, I never did once dream of better graphics. The gameplay was so engaging that graphics simply didn't matter. Of course, Pokemon Emerald was made in the era of the GameBoy, so those pixelated graphics was the best Nintendo could come up with anyway. But even today, with titles such as Gran Turismo, Assasins Creed, and Call of Duty, Pokemon Emerald still has its appeal. Infact it might be even more appealing than any game on sale today. There is one simple reason why it's so much more appealing: I have more fun playing a simple Pokemon game than playing any modern title.

Pokemon FireRed in OpenEmu

Nintendo could not do much about the graphics, so there was a greater emphasis on the gameplay. They ended up making one of the most popular and successful games ever. Not only is the most involving role playing game till date, but it is also fun. The element of fun is what is lacking in many games. Call of Duty is extremely immersive and involving as well. It also gives players an adrenaline rush and was primarily designed to provide a unique experience. Not necessarily fun, unless you really enjoy shooting people. Yet Call of Duty has still retained it's USP of giving players a mindblowing experience at home. So Call of Duty can be classified as a different genre of gaming altogether, leaning toward simulation. But there are many other games that simply focus on graphics rather than gameplay. Aspyr's Star Wars games and Civilization series does seem excessively graphics oriented. TT Games Lego Star Wars is a brilliant Star Wars game, true to the heritage of Star Wars, but it is a lot more fun than the original Star Wars games.

When you play Pokemon, Mario, or any other old pixelated game, it's not as if you struggle to make out difference between each character. With higher resolution computer screens becoming more commonplace nowadays, it would be nice to double the pixel count, but there isn't any reason to give Mario facial expressions and emotions. Mario is the italian plumber who has to save a princess. No one needs to know anything beyond that. EA is another offender. We all love Need For Speed. But no one needs to play NFS with Gran Turismo level of detail. We all want arcade racing with cops. The first NFS game is genuinely very good. Simple arcade racing. We were quite happy with NFS Hot Pursuit 2. Police chases and racing. What more do you want from an NFS game? The latest NFS game, Most Wanted(Mk II) has returned to the roots of NFS gaming, and its really no surprise that it is very successful.

Codemaster has also given preference to gameplay for all their racing games. Race Driver: GRID shifted focus from racing to giving the player a unique experience with sights and sounds on race-day. So it might not be as pure a racing game as its predecessor, ToCA: Race Driver 3, but as a result it appeals to many more gamers. Even F1 2012 was designed to provide an experience of a Formula 1 driver, and was thus criticized for not being a true Formula 1 simulator. If it had been a Formula 1 simulator, no one apart from F1 drivers would have been able to play the game, and in any case you simply wouldn't know how realistic it is to a real Formula 1 car because a large majority of players haven't driven a Formula 1 car. Codemasters has struck a good balance of gameplay vs graphics. Even GRID 2 is a simple looking game, but all the new bits and bobs are under the hood.

F1 2012 Lotus F1

Time has come now, for simplistic gaming. Now achieving the right balance between gameplay and graphics is very important. Not only will the focus of the game developers be equally concentrated on gameplay and graphics and thus have a wider appeal, the emphasis on gameplay means that fun will come back to gaming.

It is hard to judge when a game has all the right elements to be successful. One of the main elements is its ability to entertain the player, to bring about a sense of fun. The only reason we play games is to have fun, plain and simple. So of course, every game has to be designed make the player have a good time. The only reason indie games are so popular is because indie game developers have nothing to lose and they are willing to head off toward a new direction of game design. Big game companies stake their reputation on every major game title, so they stick to a tried and tested formula which produces similar games. Who'd have thought Angry Birds would become popular. Sorry, thats an understatement. Angry Birds has entered into the history books and has become the prime selling point of merchandise manufactured by the Chinese. I've seen way too many Angry Bird theme stationery, clothing and food items. It is a very simple game, but it fulfilled a very crucial criteria. The simple to need to have some quick 5 minute gaming fun on a mobile device, anytime, anywhere. The graphics are nothing to write home about, Rovio simply made do with something that did the job, and was interpreted by players of all age groups. It's a simple, joyful, colourful game that fun to play.

Angry Birds Space

At the other end of the spectrum, games such as Infinity Blade exist. Complex, with insane graphics for a mobile device, it created quite a buzz when it was first revealed. But I never felt compelled to play it as much as I would love to play Angry Birds repeatedly. Rovio also released different versions of Angry Birds, with seasonal themes and partnerships with various sponsors. Last year, they sponsored Finnish Formula 1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen. Odd choice of drivers, but Rovio is a Finnish company, and Finns know what they're doing. I'm pretty sure the story of Angry Birds is probably a business case study at some university somewhere. It really is a glimpse at what future game titles will try to emulate, and to do that, they need to refocus their priorities.

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  1. You wrote this article, yet you clearly have no idea what exactly 'graphics' in a game means. More pixels and looking better is not the sole basis of graphics. With a better CPU and GPU, games not only look better, but are also more interactive, allows for a much more immersed world and allows more on screen action, whether it may be more enemies on screen, more cars in a race, better physics. All of these factors influence a game, not just the way the games looks. Pokemon from 10 years ago, is almost identical to the new ones, Nintendo have just updated your so-called graphics. So while a Nintendo fans may buy into Nintendo's BS, the rest of the world understands the true meaning of graphics and why it is important in games.


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