Crystal’s Corner: Graphics From All Angles

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

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By


Hey ya’ll, Crystal here with this month’s Crystal’s Corner. It should probably be called Rambling Ramona but, as my name isn’t Ramona, we work with what we have! As always, I get a brilliant glimmer of an idea that is sparked by the most random and small detail yet sends me into a frenzy. This time, it was an interview in a gaming magazine. Grab some caffeine, get hyper with me and delve into the madness that I call a brain as I share with you my experiences and observations relating to video game graphics.

In a moment of boredom, I grabbed for a magazine which happened to be a copy of Game Informer that we had lying around the house. Inside the magazine was an interview with Pokemon Black and White 2’s director Takao Unno and producer Junichi Masuda, which I am very glad I chose to read. Reading through some of the questions, the interviewer got onto an interesting topic; he asked if the games were based on any real life locations. The answer he got really intrigued me as he went on to speak about how things were not ever really based off of anything totally true to life in the Pokemon world; and that while some places may resemble a certain area, nothing was completely based on real world factors. He went on to say that limiting the game to real world places would put real world limitations on it.

GraphicsThe interview really made me think! The guy was basically saying that by thinking of the Pokemon world as a real world location with real world definitions, it limited him. I think we can all agree that limitations in any video game are rarely a good thing to have.

With the PS4 announcement, the Wii U being available, and Microsoft’s next console likely not too far from being announced, the graphics of video game systems have been widely discussed. Where can we go and what can be improved upon? It is my opinion that the PS4 announcement showed us the direction in which we can go; it showed us the realism that is possible and it is magnificent. It is absolutely beautiful and mind blowing. While I see the beauty in what we can now accomplish, it also brings about a few questions and concerns.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: will this help or hinder video games?

Graphics

Do we need that realism? Do we really want our video games to look exactly like our actual life looks? In addition to that, will it make our video game creators feel hindered? Will they feel like they are being limited by the realistic factor? In video games, we can fly, breathe underwater, and our bodies in game can take enormous amounts of pain and punishment that our bodies in the real could not actually endure. None of this is real, but if our characters start to look exactly as we do, will we feel hindered by the realism?

“Games are supposed to be another reality, something we can escape into.” This is what my brother said to me once when we were discussing graphics and I have to say that I, at least in part, agree with him. While I am in no way opposed to the realistic graphics — and have found myself to be quite impressed with them — I just wonder if they will hinder our creativity.

The boundaries have been or are being broken down. Realism is no longer kept to real life or the movies. That realism is now available in video games. And with every advancement, we get closer and closer to that feeling of not being in a game but instead being in a real world setting. In RPG terms, the battle scenes have certainly come quite a long way already. While these graphics are certainly enjoyed by the masses, can we go too far?

Graphics

Final Fantasy II Battle Graphics

Graphics

Final Fantasy XIV Battle Graphics

The subject of violence in gaming is one that comes up a lot (serious, A LOT) in both my 3D life and my online life. It is something that I have discussed half to death. And while I am not really going to get too deep into it now, I do have to ask if this would contribute to the (false!) accusations that playing violent video games breeds violent people. If we are desensitized, and I think we are to a degree both by games and movies (As well as life just sucking sometimes and us needing to be able to overlook small injustices from time to time) will more realistic video games desensitize us more?

Once we have this realism, will it be easier for people to make the leap from shooting someone in GTA to shooting someone in the real? While certainly I think that people should still be able to differentiate between a game and a real world situation — and I think that most gamers can do this — will these graphics open us up to more criticism?

If you had to choose between realism or creativity, which would you choose? It is my greatest hope that we can have both. However, I have seen time and time again that many will not accept two good things at one time. We are often forced to choose, and if it comes down to a choice I am on the side of creativity. I am very interested in hearing where you stand on this topic. I think that I, along with many many others, will enjoy the realism once we are presented with it. But I think that my queries here are valid as well. Let us know where you stand in the comments below and, as always, please keep things respectful.

About Crystal Colwell

What's up everyone? Crystal here! I spend my time writing up the news for you all and keeping us all up to date with incoming game info from Japan. I do a little bit of everything else around here, too. 🙂 Happy Reading!




  • Realism has its place and so does style/creativity.

    I definitely think the more realistic games get, the more those kind of accusations and discussions become apparent and valid. But I tend to think that’s a good thing.
    In all subjects, not just in the world of entertainment, we always ask “Is this a good thing?” and the subject just goes back and forth until finally people are fed up and say “Who cares??? Those who want to care, just avoid it. For the rest of us, we’ll continue doing it without caring. That way, we’re not harmed by the ‘problems’ that everyone’s so concerned about.”
    Debates end and sociologists are there to pick up where they left off – and historians write down “history repeated, again – because no one cared”.

    Whether or not this will happen with video games once it hits full-on realism, no one can say for sure. But what I can say is: These subjects and concerns need to be looked at. Why do we enjoy this and that? Why or why not? And why or why not the why or why not?
    In the end, we end up on the subject of theology and all factors concerning existentialism.

    Which is important.

    Even without realism, we should be questioning those things. Even on the subject of style/creativity — why are we attracted to this and why are we appalled by that?
    What makes the style/creativity of a work so compelling or so bland? And what does it have to do with our mindsets, upbringings, and metaphysical concepts?

    Finding the answers to these things might seem boring and useless for others.
    But if they’re the source as to why we don’t and do things, then there’s no reason for it to be ignored just out of convenience.
    “Why criticize this? I just want to enjoy my game that I paid for!”
    Yet the answers give you ‘why you enjoy the game’, ‘why you paid for it’ and who the ‘I’ in all this is.
    After all, why would you find a previous generations cultures and thoughts to be ‘stubborn’, ‘blind’ and ‘incorrect’ when you yourself are being stubborn, blind, and incorrect on your own perceptions just so you can be comfortable?

    ……

    I realize that really doesn’t matter to the majority of consumers and players.
    But I tend to think it’s important.

    EDIT: As for choosing between them. I always prefer style/creativity over realism. Realism’s nice and beautiful. But so is art.

    • I have thought, pondered and then double checked myself on how I wanted to reply to you. I love that you made me think this morning! Errr.. afternoon. Either way, I enjoy delving into the “why” of it all and it truly pains me to realize just how correct you are in your “history repeated, again – because no one cared” comment. That is disturbingly true in every aspect of life. Let’s hope that the world as a whole opens its eyes and can learn from past mistakes. Ahhh what a world that would be to live in.

      I think that the points you bring up here are very valid. While I might not address them all – here are some of my thoughts and I thank you for sharing yours as well.

      To get into the why of it all we would first have to look into our own preferences for games. Once we tear into our own subconscious we can begin to understand not only our preferences but that of others as well. I can give you the why of most of my choices, but I am not afraid to admit to my character oddities. 😀 I enjoy violent games because I embrace my darker, violent shadow self. Games give me a place to do this that allows me an outlet that also gives me the added bonus of not doing any real harm to the world or the people who inhabit it. I enjoy cuter style games because they call out to that girlie part of me that wants everything to be pink, pretty and shiny. I can reason with why I like all game types in between as well but that could get rather long and as I already tend to ramble on and on, I will stop myself.

      As a gamer I am very eclectic. I enjoy a wide variety of games for, oh so many, reasons. Each game speaks to me in a different way and that is one thing I do not expect to change even if the graphics do. Creativity will win with me as well, every time! It seems that the majority of those who are choosing to comment agree with us as well.

      In writing this comment to you I think I have given myself the answer to my question.. what should my next Crystal’s Corner piece be about? This topic tends to lead me into what is more important -graphics or story? Since I can’t get myself to stick to one topic now (or ever really) I guess I will finish this comment up and say that I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks on that topic. 😀

  • dbclick

    Nice reflection, Crystal.

    I think that higher realism graphics have their place, but they certainly aren’t a fit for many types of games and stories. Pokémon would be limited by realism because the types of level design they commonly do would look horribly out of place with more realism. In addition, the less-realistic graphics allow the gameplay mechanics to work. After all, who wants to look at burn marks on your favorite Pokémon after just one flamethrower attack to the face?

    On the other hand, realistic graphics can certainly have an impact on the story of a game and the emotions that go with it. I feel to often that the industry thinks that more realism simply means more violence and gore, when I think realism would have a much more dramatic impact on other things like facial expression and body language. Such techniques could be beneficial in games where the story is more the focus like JRPGs or adventure games. Of course that all depends on the themes and mood the creators are trying to portray, so more life-like graphics aren’t always a win. As it turns out, the majority of what we see in real life is pretty boring to look at (just look at all the snapshots people post all the time on the net) and I’d hate to emulate that all the time.

    Of course, even stylized graphics can look better when more advanced or higher resolution rendering techniques are applied to them. The new consoles will allow a new wealth of options for fancier, flashier, or more unique styles with their more advanced graphics chips and increased RAM. This is why I try to distinguish between “better” graphics and “more realistic”/”higher-fidelity” graphics. In addition, the newer consoles are capable of not just higher-fidelity graphics, but also things like more expansive environments which can most definitely enhance gameplay.

    Another aspect that you don’t touch on is that of price of production increasing with higher fidelity. This has already been wearing on many studios that try to push out games with any kind of modern graphical “relevance” on HD consoles and will just get worse on the upcoming consoles. Fact is that it would have been much tougher or even impossible to produce games like The Last Story and Xenoblade on HD consoles due to the expectation (and cost) of finer detail and the limited budgets of the production staff. I think this is the biggest area in which more realistic graphics can hurt video games. This is because the more money that is pumped into graphics, the less that gets put into other areas like story, level design, control, testing, and gameplay. Just look at FFXIII – the teams didn’t even have a clear idea of how the gameplay would flow until they were forced to put out a demo since so much of the time and budget was allocated to graphics. Hopefully with better tools, some of the cost for higher fidelity graphics can be reduced, but there is a limit there.

    • Thanks. 🙂 I have to agree with you that the realism could definitely emphasize the dramatic impact of games. There are soo many different directions that these graphics can take us. I am excited to see what happens with it all.

      That interview really made me think and in a way delve into the thought process of someone who creates video games. The comment about being limited to real world locations and etc. scared me a little bit when I put it into the context of all games and realistic graphics.

  • Creativity. Always creativity. I live in world of realism, and I can turn to that world if I want realism so badly.

    • I think that the realism will certainly have its place but I can respect your view. I even agree with you in a way. If I had to chose I would totally go with creativity over realism. Hopefully we wont be forced to chose but as I said , we live in a world that often times wont accept two good things at once.

      I hope you are well James. 🙂

    • Yeah, I’m fine. How’re you doing?

    • I am doing pretty good. 🙂 Enjoying all of this gaming goodness and getting psyched for E3. Ahhh one year I WILL GO! 😀

  • multibottler0cket

    I prefer fantasy style graphics, like in Twilight Princess or Last Story for example… Like the lighting and colouring they use. I also like animé style graphics, like in Tales or Arc Rise, but my favourite style is 16 bit sprite graphics like in Chrono Trigger or Seiken Densetsu 3.

    In terms of modern graphics, it obviously depends on the game, but I have never been a fan of either photo realistic graphics or realistic games. It really depends on the genre and on personal preference. It shouldn’t be expected, but made available.

    However, a system’s graphical capabilities tends to set a sort of false sense of standard for developers. I read somewhere (was it on this site?) that Monster Hunter Tri was developed for Wii instead of for PS3 because of development costs tied to working with the PS3. It’s probably got a lot to do with why Mistwalker chose to develop Last Story for the Wii. I think so anyway.

    Because of this, I think it’s a good thing to have various levels of graphics on various systems to accommodate differing development costs, which is already the case, with 3DS, Vita, Wii U, PS4/720, OUYA, PC, and mobile/tablet, along with the 3DS eShop, Wii U eShop. PSN, and XBLA platforms, all with different capabilities, a developer is able to choose a system based on what they can afford to develop for graphically.

    Of course, it’s silly to have this ”standard” of graphics ”quality” on each system, but that’s how the market seems to work. I think that a lot of emphasis needs to be put on this. I actually see the Wii U’s lower graphical capabilities as an advantage because of this. Niche and JRPG developers may feel a lot more comfortable developing for the Wii U because of it. Plus Nintendo’s software budget seem tight these days, so it works for them too. Since some genres aren’t nearly as popular as others, it’s silly to expect the same budget for graphics to be used by the developer.

    I’m probably being optimistic as a Nintendo and JRPG fan, but I feel like the Wii U has a lot of potential for JRPGs because of the gamepad for maps, items, skills, clutter, etc. and the lower development costs.

    Anyway, cool article 🙂

    • The cost of development for any system will certainly come into play in many ways. That will not only be a deciding factor in which system to develop a game for but what type of graphics as well. The ps4 gives us the ability for these graphics but as you pointed out – money matters. Having the capability does not mean that every game will see these graphics, thankfully so!

      As far as the Wii U goes – I am holding out judgment until the system has a bit more time to show us its glory and until I own one and have first hand experience. In all honesty I hope that developers take full advantage of what the system has to offer and the NOA gives us the games we want. I am one of those people that wants every system to flourish because I think in the end that gamers win when the consoles are all kicking ass. More games = more games = more games = happy gamers. 🙂

      And.. with that attitude (that you expressed about each console having its own standard for graphics) – which i LOVE, you are also allowing for every gamer to be able to find a game that they can fall in love with. Then you don’t limit yourself or any other gamer to one console or one game type.

      Just because I have a love for most genres of gaming doesnt mean that others do. For example I .. well.. I don’t like the Tekken games. Just because I don’t enjoy them does not mean that I would want to take the availability of the game away from anyone else. I am of course veering slightly off topic (which happens a LOT with me haha) but it all still applies. Graphics, genre, console and etc, we should have options that allow for every player to find the perfect game(s). I think that right now, we do! We have many consoles, game types and games to chose from. I for one love that about gaming. With the addition of these very realistic graphics it should be just another addition to our choices and hopefully not something that is just thrown upon us in every game. (which I very much doubt will happen for the reasons you stated as well as the ones I talk about)

      At any rate, I am very glad that you enjoyed the article and I hope that you keep that optimistic attitude! I think that optimism can take us far in this world and that it is much more fun to look at the possibility and promise that can be heading our way rather then focusing always on the negative.

  • Josh S.

    I personally fall on the side of games being unrealistic… I appreciate artsy games much more than uber realistic game… And as far as Final Fantasy, they may have improved the graphics, but I feel the gameplay has been severely hindered as of late… Not sure that realistic graphics will cause more violence, but I think there should always be a place for retro / artsy graphics!