Saturday, 5 November 2022

Neptune - Gaming Graphics - The Taste You Can See


There has been a lot of speculation when it comes to gaming graphics and their importance to gaming in general. More and more, graphics have increased in complexity and detail to the point where even the most minute water droplet is depicted to crisp perfection. That's all well and good, but why? Why are graphics so important to some people? Since when has the book's cover become a means for such harsh criticism?

It's become something of a stigma that each generation of video gaming requires a drastic hike in graphics and creating a game has become so convoluted that it requires at least 10 years to fully finish a large scale product, keep it within budget and prevent developers from growing exhausted and/or burned out. That is the kind of time publishers don't have. To stay afloat and to keep the big wigs fat and happy, they need to meet an annual quota and that means they will cut as many corners as is necessary. This means pressuring developers, cutting game mechanics and features, compromising quality assurance and any other number of troublesome trends we've been seeing in the past decade.

This is all due to the fact that graphics need to be pristine, even immaculately implimented. This is overtly stupid and nonsensical, especially when you stop and think about how the decade of the 2000's are seen as the best games ever created. The era that brought us the Sega Dreamcast, N64, Gamecube and PS3 are cited as the most remade and referenced games from then on. 

They did not need the shiniest graphics to make that happen. Skyrim was marred with glitches, but given the game's nature and fan reaction, it is still being rereleased to this very day. Minecraft's graphics are laughable and yet people still spend a collective millions upon millions of hours playing it every year since its release.

I still play the Sega Saturn, Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube to this day. What is the hang-up? These graphics do what they set out to do and they do so unrelentingly, no matter how much they age.

Downplaying the importance of graphics is probably the best thing you could do to help the gaming community. It does not need to be pixelated or polygonal to the very core, it simply needs to look good enough to serve its purpose and get on with the rest of the game features. Cutting graphics to save the rest of the game is preferable to cutting out its singleplayer mode or even entire levels. And yes, this has happened more than once. Games have been straight up shortened to a massive degree, entire online features trashed and huge sections like sandbox features have been left out in order to make way for shinier, more detailed graphics. Was it truly worth it?

There are going to be nay sayers. There are going to be people who cannot live without water reflections and Raycasting in their lives. If you need to see the pores in your character's skin or the sheen in your character's gun metal, then maybe it's time you start questioning how much you actually like gaming. If eye candy is worth sacrificing entire environments in a map, maybe it's time to take up game design and graphical classes to see just how difficult these things can be.

These developers work their fingers to the bone to appease brutal, unrealistic demands and deadlines. Game development has become so unsustainable, publishers are having to set aside five or six years toward a single game's development and that could still end in crunch time for designers depending on the progress. Some of it has to do with a game's complex mechanics but you can surely bet that a great deal of it is for the graphics and the polishing thereof.

Why not go back to 32-bits or 64-bits and create better, more glitch-free games at a fraction of the time and cost? You could work on three or four at a time with the size of the team and money you're spending now and retro gamers would eat that up. Hell, modern gamers would more than likely join in the fun, considering the game dry spell that seems to be getting longer every year. 

Reaching a point in graphics where we can say enough is enough seems like a simple matter. There would be some backlash but let's face it, would it be as bad as the backlash from Cyberpunk 2077 or Battlefield 4 upon their initial releases? Simplifying these things and getting the gaming community back to a creative, more maintainable medium seems far more paramount than seeing each individual strand of hair on a character's head. 

Is it this simple? No, nothing this big ever is. This is merely a suggestion and words of wisdom from someone on the outside, looking in. I am seeing smaller developers begin to thrive with retro style shooters and less graphically inclined games. This is not new. If AAA gaming companies hopped on the trend, it would make a lot of people happier and pull us out of this stigma of releasing half-finished games at full price. Sometimes, less is more and the higher we go, the more room we have to fall. Let's hope someone listens, or at least puts out a pool so we can fall into some water.

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