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Editorial: Photo-realistic Graphics are Holding Gaming Back -

Editorial: Photo-realistic Graphics are Holding Gaming Back

Posted by Scott Grant | 03 Aug 2012 |

Just because a game looks pretty, doesn’t mean it is.

I’ve been thinking about the issue of photo-realism in game visuals versus budget and innovation, for a while but I hadn’t really been able to think of a way to present the argument until now. I mean, it’s going to seem foolish to suggest that advances in graphical technology could be bad for the video game industry. It’s not the fantastic visuals of a game like L.A Noire that I’m railing against, it’s the idea that we should be relying on them as the norm that worries me.

Of course, this all came together in my head as I read some, much reported upon, comments from 2K Games Global President, Christoph Hartmann, about photo-realism in the console games market. These comments were made in a an interview with gamesindustry.biz where he talks about why consoles will always matter. In that, I agree but that’s a topic for another day.

“Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very sensitive in this country… it will be very hard to create very deep emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies,” Hartmann said. “Until games are photorealistic, it’ll be very hard to open up to new genres. We can really only focus on action and shooter titles; those are suitable for consoles now.”

What he’s suggesting is that games are unable to convey emotion because we can’t view the characters properly, in the way we could in a movie. I suppose he’s never read a book, attended a theatrical production or even listened to a speech. In fact, in light of that comment and how much thought he seems to have put into it, he may never have played a video game before.

Photorealistic Games

Still sad, stressful and creepy after all these years.

 

The first video game I can remember that prompted an actual emotional reaction from me was Final Fantasy VI, a game originally released on the SNES. I’m talking 16 bit graphics, sprites, reading text, the whole bit. Spoilers (and if you get mad at me for spoiling a game that’s over a decade old, you have messed up priorities), but Final Fantasy VI had not one, but many events that were quite moving. Cid and Celes, Cyan remembering his family, even the fake opera in the middle of the game was captivating.

In fact, the Final Fantasy series was once quite good at this sort of thing. Again, Spoilers, but the scene from Final Fantasy IX where Garnet runs through the crowd and jumps into Zidane’s arms still gives me goosebumps, twelve years later (I just watched it again on youtube). But take a look at Final Fantasy XIII, many people had issues with the way this game turned out but my biggest issue was that every character was a vapid husk. Everyone looked great, and the settings were stunningly beautiful but the story and gameplay absolutely suffered because of this. Square-Enix even admitted that they didn’t have the time or the budget to implement any feedback from play-testers due to spending so much time/money/effort on visuals. If that’s not visuals holding back a game, I don’t know what is.

Final Fantasy XIII Lightning

*grunt*, *grunt*, “What?”, *grunt*.

 

Hartmann continued, saying “To dramatically change the industry to where we can insert a whole range of emotions, I feel it will only happen when we reach the point that games are photorealistic; then we will have reached an endpoint and that might be the final console.”

Well, we already are at that point. Previous examples aside, let’s go with something more modern and talk about Journey. Journey was visually stunning without being photo-realistic and managed to convey a range of emotions using characters who didn’t even have faces. Also interesting to note is that the makers of Journey, thatgamecompany, didn’t close their studio or lay off a large percentage of their staff after the game was released. In fact the game did quite well and everyone who plays it talks about the emotions it evoked.

I could go on all day with examples but let me drop one on you that I’ll bet you weren’t expecting. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a game from one of the genres Hartmann laments above, has one of my favorite scenes from any game, ever. Spoilers: (stop playing multiplayer for a couple of hours, seriously, and play the campaign) in the middle of the game, Soap and the crew are tasked with rescuing a prisoner whose identity is unknown to them, after a long battle they finally breach the last wall and a haggard looking man disarms the first guy through the door then looks up and says “Soap?”, in a hollow voice. My heart soared, Captain Price was alive. The Call of Duty series is far from being photo-realistic and all it took was one word to evoke an emotional response.

LA Noire

Cole Phelps knows when you’re lying.

 

This isn’t to say that no game should ever go for photo-realistic graphics. L.A Noire really focused heavily on visuals, even down to tracking the facial expressions of its actors, but this was all in the name of gameplay. Watching your suspects react to questioning was how they wanted you to play the game. Could this have been accomplished in another manner? It could have, but that was the game.

With development costs bloating to extreme levels, and lots of studios closing or downsizing lately it’s time to take a look at what is driving the costs of some of these games. I’m willing to bet a good chunk goes into not only art assets, but optimizing engines to get them to run these visuals.

Beyond Two Souls

The Ellen Page game, starring Ellen Page as Ellen Page.

 

If you have the budget, go ahead and hire a famous actor and map her face, and entire performance, into your photo-realistic game just don’t be too surprised when you can’t cover the development costs without putting up Call of Duty level sales numbers. If you can balance that budget that’s fine with me I just think that, in many cases, this money would be better spent on a few good game designers, a solid advertising campaign (no acoustic songs over videos of explosions) and investing in your studio’s future.

One day, the video game industry may be able to strike a balance and support photo-realistic graphics, and great gameplay, on reasonable budgets but right now it feels like you can only do one or the other. I know which one I’ll choose every time.

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  • Andrew Arnold

    If you’re talking about raw emotion, why did you use “Brokeback Mountain” as an example? Is it to push an agenda? A more fitting metaphor for that would have been “Sophie’s Choice” as that is usually the standard metaphor when noting something emotionally wracking.

    http://www.quickmeme.com/img/b1/b10ae186929b193894bd40c3d4a40e909f04e51793b06bd76f6315129ddcf249.jpg

  • xXNetCodeXx

    Christoph Hartmann said “Recreating a Mission Impossible experience in gaming is easy; recreating
    emotions in Brokeback Mountain is going to be tough, or at least very
    sensitive in this country… it will be very hard to create very deep
    emotions like sadness or love, things that drive the movies,” Which to me says in more laymans terms “Without Photorealistic Graphics, we cant make you SEE or FEEL the emotion the character is feeling” This in no way is the same as pulling a feeling from the player. but rather stating that without photorealistic graphics it is near impossible to properly portray natural emotions and how they mix. and mingle within each character they way they do within real people. Again i reiterate this is not about geting an emotional reaction out of US but rather getting us the see the emotions of the characters. and I agree with him. Ive been playing games since I was 4. I read books. I watch movies. I do have my preferences. I love the Assassins Creed series the storys are fantastic the Lore is well blended It almost makes you think that there really is a war between Assassins and Templars, or some other secret societies of the world. HOWEVER one of my biggest beefs with the game is that you are stuck playing a set protagonist and not givin the ability to build, create and determine the personality of that character that you are to be a part of or vise versa. I would love to see a game that has the story and lore as indepth as the assassins creed games with the character customization of Skyrim or even an MMO like AION, with the character to character interactions of Mass Effect. In terms of gameplay it will be a bit of TPS(thirdperson shooter) and Action or FPS and Action. as with a game of such a nature i feel would take away from the feel and emersion of the game if done in a turn or time based system.

    In sort I will say this if you dont wanna read the giant wall of text above. I agree that without Photorealistic graphics we will never see the emotions of the characters in the game. but also that It is not the only desiciding factor makes a good game. For me at least. the things I look for are Story, Customization, Graphics and gameplay are tired for Third as I have found many game swith Great Graphics and Gameplay but no story or customization, and Vise versa.

  • mph23

    This Christoph Hartmann guy does not understand video games. Graphics have NOTHING to do with getting one into a story. I got more into Phantasy Star on the sega master system and Planescape: Torment on the PC than I EVER have with some new, gorgeous, ‘photo-realistic’ FPS piece of shit.

    It’s called story-telling, bitches. Video games still (mostly) SUCK at it. games with no plot and tons of tween online ‘pwning’ dominate the market. Until gamers (and publishers) grow up, and leave the sports, FPS, and hack and slash stuff behind in favor of voice talent, script writing, story writing, and characters you CARE about, gaming will never leave the sweaty teens’ basement and join the grownups in the worlds of novels and cinema.

  • nerdhypocrites

    graphics are important, and are what makes a game a work of art and inspire wonder. saying gameplay is more important is like the cool nerd thing to say but the reality is shitty graphics games dont sell for a reason, rpgs with no custumization are a thing of the past for a reason. what makes a game good is story and GRAPHICS, yes graphics not gameplay. gameplay is the thing between you and the rest of the story/ art design. rpgs are basically an entire genre of games that sacrifice gameplay for better longer story and graphics.

    • medoli900 .

      But we are talking about photorealistic graphics, not just graphics in general. Minecraft have great graphics, but it is very far from photorealism.The same for Okami. Furthermore, if you say that gameplay doesn’t make a game, explain why Tetris and Pong are still popular?

    • Dinovania

      So… you’re saying that graphics are the most important part of a game, and the gameplay (GAMEplay, mind you) is meant to be only the icing on the cake. To answer that statement, i’ve only one thing to say:

      What you’re looking for, you’ll most likely find in a movie, not in a game. Games are meant for digital entertainment, not mainly for storytelling.

      • Dinovania

        Sometimes i wonder what was the exact day when games stopped being games, and started being movies.

  • SmartApps

    Yeah, its weird. I have been playing Super Mario 3D World. It’s a 1.7GB download, and I have been in awe of the game. I’m emotionally invested in it in a different way. Games like that stamp a place in my history. Even today when I boot up Wave Race I can still remember what it felt like to be alive in the late 90′s. It’s like a time machine.

  • http://PolyKhromeGames.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

    To be honest, sometimes I just want a game that looks like a game, not always shooting for stark reality. I like realism, but not necessarily as the primary focus. I’m more interested in just how much of my own reality you can make me escape. That comes through solid story, characters and gameplay.

    • http://PolyKhromeGames.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

      Oh, and the gaming industry at large needs a lesson between the difference between “greater graphics” and “aesthetics.”

      Mere “realistic graphics” are why I rarely relate to the tepid character and world design in most Western RPGs and FPSes. Just a world of drab gray, green, black, brown and red palettes, trying to emulate the similar reality around us.

      While I’ve enjoyed playing games aiming for realism, I generally never related much to them in terms of story or being visually swept away in the world. It’s looked pretty and that’s pretty much it had going for it the most. You can go hours in Skyrim and the color palette choices and lifeless building props all pretty much looks the same everywhere you go.

      “Aesthetics,” on the other hand, is what made games look outstanding during the 16-bit era, most particularly with the Japanese (and Asian culture in general), who tend to place a higher emphasis on visual balance than the West. Mere “better graphics” are all about pushing more polygons and lighting calculations at the visual aspect of gaming.

      Aesthetics is about the balance of beauty, regardless of the graphical limitation. Both are welcomed, but usually, only one gets emphasized. Great aesthetics can only make greater visual horsepower shine its best.

      • http://PolyKhromeGames.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

        A mere pursuit in realism lasts but just its present generation, while an emphasis of balance between all aspects of game design lasts as timeless.

        It’s the reason why nobody plays Call of Duty 3 from 7 years ago, while many fans still enjoy replaying Chrono Trigger and Super Metroid even almost 20 years later.

        There’s just no substitute for the balance. Better to have moderate graphical horsepower used well with visual balance, coupled along with a solid story and gameplay, than just a prettier FPS that plays no differently than the last one. When you put all your chips on just visuals, you’re forced to spend more resources and time on that aspect, rather than spreading your attention around in balance.

        Though, there’s no reason why we can’t just have the greater horsepower available without thinking we need to necessarily try to max it out all the time. We all have 100+ mph with our cars–doesn’t mean we should use it all the time.

  • Andy

    Even in movies you don’t need photorealism to elicit emotion, Hartmann. Hello Disney/Pixar? The problem is current gen games are stuck in uncanny valley, Polar Express territory where we buy environments as real but not faces, which can lead to an emotional disconnect. I do think uncanny valley is nearly crossed with projects like The Ellen Page Game, but overall the industry should take a page from Disney/Pixar/Indieland. Stop trying to cross uncanny for now, especially if you’re looking to make an emotional connection.

    Games are interactive, which gives them an emotional advantage on most forms of media. Even the most mindless shooters often elicit intense sadness and love. Granted, both usually in the form of shouting. I think the single biggest problem is lack of solid writers to harness this power, who must not see the emotional (or maybe financial?) potential. But when you get that rare game that’s actually well written, like To The Moon, it’s transcendent. More immersion than a movie, often more investment than a TV series, with ability to control pace like a book.

  • http://erik-red.deviantart.com/ erikthered

    also, it’s not just the quest for photorealistic graphics that make games suffer, but high budgets in general. the more that is invested in a game, the more of a gamble it becomes, and business men don’t like to gamble (typically), at least not with their work. so the higher the budget, the more :”safe” the game tries to be, which means it will attempt to mimic popular games, but end up being generic and bland.

  • http://erik-red.deviantart.com/ erikthered

    well, not all games feature characters that resemble people at all. I’m sure you could make an atari 2600 style game featuring blocks as characters and still manage to make a gripping story that engage the players.

    putting too much effort on photo realistic is just a dumb idea, mostly because less detail is actually more appealing to people because our brains are doing less work to comprehend the image.

    example, the lion king, an animated feature that was far from photo realistic. a lot of people cried during that death scene!

    stylish graphics probably matter more than photo realistic. as long as it doesn’t look like PSX era polygons, it’s fine… even then, mega man legends was an involving story with subpar graphics.

    a movie where all the characters are freakishly ugly can still make us feel. the more familiar a person becomes, the more appealing they look.

  • David

    Oh please, when a game is trying to convey a serious drama it helps A LOT when the characters look like actual people. It’s alright if a game isn’t aiming to tell a story, but when it is people looking like people help to not detract from the story.

    • Nanashrew

      Dunno, there are quite a few movies out there that convey serious drama and deep levels of emotion that just revolved around animals, aliens or even dinosaurs (the original The Land Before Time). I think video games could take similar ideas and turn them into something pretty amazing. The problem is getting out of certain mindsets a lot of people in and outside the industry have about this kind of thing.

  • Ben TEN TEN

    Good writing and good design would take less time if designes actually know which direction they really want to go with a story. That’s where the hangup seems to be, creators creating the story, and its direction, as they go along, which is time consuming, and costly. Graphics should be viewed as just the icing on the cake, and not as the cake itself.

  • Niko

    Uhm….. uhm….. Arma 3??? Tiny independent company creates the greatest photo realistic game of all time while expanding features, playability, etc.

    • http://PolyKhromeGames.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

      What’s this trying to refute? The argument was never that photorealistic games can’t be packed with features and playability–the overall argument is that such has become most of the focus, rather than solid story, well-developed characters, balanced aesthetics, great gameplay, etc.

  • http://www.ht83.com/ free games online
  • ZombiWorkshop

    Um… that Ellen Page isn’t Ellen Page. They used her looks without her permission. The actress that played her is Ashley Jonsson. Or am I too late on this train? You’d think you’d rewrite such a bungle as this.

    • http://thecontrolleronline.com/ Scott Grant

      The above image is indeed Ellen Page from Beyond: Two Souls. The actress you’re referring to played Ellie in The Last of Us. That dispute is a different story but, I assure you, the image in this article is Ellen Page in Beyond.

      • Jac

        Did they still get in trouble for it or was everything dropped?

        • Jac

          just noticed this was two months ago…dam lol

  • Jason Hunt

    I don’t know; I’ve noticed an overall decline in quality since Final Fantasy VII came on the market. It seemed like Square was too focused on graphics over the story and character development, and that trend hasn’t changed.

    • Kaihaku

      My understanding from what I’ve read is that Square became a victim of their own success after Final Fantasy VII. The development teams came under intense pressure to release blockbusters every time and started looking for a formula to match Final Fantasy VII’s success. The problem was that all the pressure resulted in disagreements over what make Final Fantasy successful in the first place and graphics were one of the few clear metrics by which sequels could be “superior”. All of this stifled the creative process and led to deep divisions in the company that ultimately resulted in people like Hironobu Sakaguchi leaving the company.

      • Jason Hunt

        Hey, thanks for the insight! I really appreciate it. I’ve distanced myself from the series for a few reasons, but your insight is helpful. Thanks again!

      • Steven Kelley

        It certainly doesn’t help that when SquareSoft ran into financial troubles with “FF: The Spirits Within”, they merged with “Enix” and the new company fired/laid off/forced out practically all the great minds that worked at SquareSoft. SquareSoft would have just been better off selling some of its IPs, at least some of them would have had a chance to maintain what made them great.

    • Stewart

      FF VII was the largest video game project ever at that point. FF VII used more people and spent more money to create amazing graphics, compared to market averages, than pretty much any game before or since.

  • Russell Tenhoff

    The last of us was a PERFECT execution of spectacular visuals and captivating story. The intro had me choking up and the finale with David, as Ellie cried-jeez, They were probably the most emotionally moving scenes I’d ever witnessed, game or movie.

  • Sylveria

    I felt more emotion at Leo’s funeral in FF6 than I did in the whole of FF13 with it’s mind-blowing visuals. And Leo was in the game for what, 10 minutes max?

  • Gangstarr

    I think that graphics can certainly add to a good game, but they alone can’t make a bad game good. Its like putting makeup and new clothes on a fat girl… It’s an expensive way of trying dress up something most people don’t want. Pardon the rude analogy, but the point is its relatively inexpensive to come up with a great story line and compelling characters, but because every cut scene and dialogue has to look perfect, making a decent story and character development costs too much. I think good graphics can augment an already good game, but cannot make up for a lack of substance or fun game play.

  • paulj

    But how good do graphics need to be? Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines (VTMB) seemed to do a good job on portraying emotions/feelings/state of mind and that’s like prehistoric, 1998 was it? :Lolz all the dates on the computers are last century. To be fair it had good voice acting and the large amount of dialogue involved was perhaps very immersive. You did a lot of talking or should I say dialogue option selecting.

    There was one mish where I had to silence a thinblood (vampire but not very powerful) who’d been blabbing vampire secrets to a would be hollywood scriptwriter. The weight of the overall game/situation was starting bear down on me “these are the final nights” I’d tried to count the number of kills I’d made at this point and it was like 2 or 3 hundred. Sigh wandering the city of lost angels searching for something I don’t want to find leaving only spent casings and corpses or just ash behind me. When I got to the target instead of drawing a weapon and attacking he begged me to spare his life! Being a carebear I did.

    Course it maybe just me, I am very very easy to immerse, a film or a game to me is story and it doesn’t have to be technically brilliant to grip me. I’m guessing everyone and his dog saw that back projection moment in Terminator 2 but I completely missed it, only knowing about it later when someone commented on TV.

  • Matthew Wesley

    I agree, some of the arguably best games ever made didn’t have the best graphics, but still managed to pull you into the game. An example would be Chrono Trigger; it had pretty good graphics for the time, not mind blowing, but pretty good. Another example would be Final Fantasy 7. Unfortunatly, Squenix is unable to make games as gripping as these old school games. Why? Because of an over reliance on new graphical engines. Instead of trying to make good games, they want pretty games, and Sqenix isn’t alone. I recently played FTL on steam and had more fun with that 8-16 bit game than I had playing Mass Effect 3. Graphics are nice, but if the game hasn’t been developed or designed well, graphics go to the back of the line. I’d rather play a game with tolerable graphics and good character development like Earthbound than some of the new Graphical Titans running around now.

    • ElAbella

      Earthboud its beautifull:’)

    • Stewart

      This is the thing that I think a lot of you guys are missing. FF VII had some of the best, and most expensive, graphics ever put in a video game up until that point. A game doesn’t suffer for having good graphics, it’s just that they aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

  • Ren

    I disagree. I think in an effort to try and praise the importance of gameplay and story, people tend to easily describe graphics as “unimportant” or that they “don’t matter.” That just simply isn’t true. Now I’m not saying you need photo-realism to make a game good, but many games with excellent stories draw people in at first with the beautiful visuals. One example? Heavy Rain. Even with the incredible story, what draw many gamers into buying it was the graphics.

    It isn’t about picking your favorite aspect of a game and deciding other aspects “don’t matter.” It’s about finding those truly great games that strike a balance. Mass Effect. Heavy Rain. God of War. Satisfyingly fun, a story that is easily lost in with characters you grow to care about, and visuals that wrap the game up in something that you don’t mind staring at for hours.

    • Le Jabroni

      I agree on your idea on ‘balance’, but I don’t agree, however, that people are “.. picking your favorite aspect of a game and deciding other aspects “don’t matter.”” Graphics does matter, but, as the author of the article wrote, it shouldn’t be the main selling point, especially at the cost of a good plot, feedback, and depth of the game. True, better graphics and beautiful visuals pull us in, but you can only cry “wolf” so many times before we stop falling for it. For too long, and too many times, have we consumers fallen prey to games with incredible graphics that flat-out sucked something fierce. Before you know it, people are going to wait for reviews first, or worse, they’re going to pass right on by the next Heavy Rain ivy-league game, all because the gaming industry focused too heavily on visuals and scared off potential gamers by crying “wolf”.

  • asd

    Meh its an excuse……… a Hardcore gamer’s all in for graphics, and doesnt give a shit about the story,. All that matters is cool combat

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      Not at all. The ‘hardcore’ gamer you are talking about are people only focused on multiplayer games. The REAL gamer is focused on the WHOLE PACKAGE, and how it fits together at the seams. Having a game with great graphics, mediocre gameplay, and a horrid story is still going to be a bad game. If you focus just on ‘cool combat’ then bully for you, but don’t clump all gamers into your category, bub.

    • Le Jabroni

      I bet you think of yourself as a ‘Hardcore gamer’, don’t-cha? Just because you play hours on end for months, pissing yourself because you’re too ‘busy’ respawning, doesn’t mean you’re a hardcore gamer.It just means you don’t have a life(or at the very least, don’t have an imagination).

  • 1701

    i do agree with part of this article, and its general tone, you do not need photorealism to make a good game. some games are even better without it. with that said i would like to say that some game need it in order to get the point across. reading visual cues, seeing all the different faces, and even making identical characters are better done with this. yes the companies need to find a balance, but that means that they are holding games back, not the technology. ffvii was a good game, but that doesnt mean that the series shouldn’t move forward. ffxiii was an amazing game that did a good job of using characters and graphics. the only way it was more linear than 7 was because you couldnt reexplore places anywhere but pulse. in both you had to go to a specific place to continue the story. as for the characters, i connected faster with 13 than 7. it was amazing when *spoiler alert* fang and vanille sacrificed themselves to save cocoon, returning to crystal and redeming themselves for attempting to destroy it by giving everyone a new world to live on. when aeris died, i didn’t even care, she’d barely done anything more than flirt with cloud and say “im and ancient”. she could have been a great character, but was killed off before she had the chance, yes it was a noble sacrifice, but it was the fact that cloud almost did it that proved more interesting to me.*end spoilers* no you dont need photorealistic graphics, but they dont hold back games, appreciate the beauty and use the graphics, dont assume they are a distraction.

    • Matthew Wesley

      I disagree, FF13 took away the joy of FF. You see, rpg’s are all about exploration and combat. Your character wanders around, slaying monsters till they are strong enough, and have enough money, to move along to the next area. Augmenting this is the sense of going out into the overworld, discovering new towns and cities, meeting new people, getting new side quests. FF13 was almost completely linear, and that design decision wound up alienating a lot of the fan base of FF. I feel the reason Sqenix went with this was to entice a new group of fans to the genre and franchise, but rpg’s aren’t meant to be dumbed down. You buy into the learning curve, whether it be steep or gentle, knowing that once you begin to master the necessary skills; i.e. grinding, treasure hunting, skill growth, side questing, item farming, these skills enable you to truly master the game. FF13 lacked this and this was a fatal flaw, no villages, no real weapon shops, towards the end, the player experience was like being forced down a one way street. Sqenix failed to live up to the Final Fantasy name.

  • http://www.facebook.com/panos.louadi Panos Louadi

    Yes the Call Of Duty reference was a good example. You don’t need realistic graphics to show emotion, a Story told, or read, a music which is fits well, and the story itself being innovative and emotional is enough to make a game be remembered even better than a movie. No one expected the Call of Duty series to be emotional, but I personally will never forget that moment that you find Captain Price alive, which was thought to be dead from the ending of the previous one, and it made the players sad that he died, without even having a chance to fight, but 10 times happy and relieved as you find him alive afterwards. So Developers, Try being innovative and hire a writer, or something similar, to develop the story of your games, and you will see people focusing of how touching that game was, instead of how realistic it looked.

  • http://profiles.google.com/video.beagle Video Beagle

    Look at a Pixar movie. They don’t go for photorealism…but people don’t emotionaly relate to Nemo or Sully or Mister Impossible or Wall-E?

    The drive to photo-realism will, in fact, as anyone who’s read the wiki on “the Uncanny Valley” will tell you, cause a barrier in emotional connection. Unless it’s perfect, near-photorealism is just going to freak people out, not bond them to a character.

    • Drunk_Robot

      Exactly. Wall-E is a perfect example. So processing power and game engines aren’t the barrier preventing conveying emotions in games, the lack of top tier creative talent is the problem.

    • Le Jabroni

      Funny, I related to Wall-E and Sully. They didn’t look human at all, but you could relate to them. Either their mental state, their actions or reactions, situation, emotional state, etc., the whole point was to make a connection with the audience, and Pixar does a great job of that.
      I recommend for those people who’d be ‘freaked out’ to step outside their comfort zone and see the world, either first hand or by internet, doesn’t matter. If you’re freaked out by a race of monsters having emotions, then clearly you haven’t seen enough monster/sci-fi movies or animal documentaries or don’t have a pet. This is going to sound racist… but if you couldn’t connect with Wall-E, then watch I, Robot while imagining yourself as a person of minority(sorry if the idea of being a minority freaked you out). Photo-realism WILL happen, but to think it’s the future of gaming is to sign the death-warrant for gaming. It’s NOT a necessity unless the game revolves around it, like in L.A Noire. And to say that you think photo-realism will bring out more emotion or make a better connection means you are out of ideas to draw people in and make connections that go beyond just the sense of sight. Imagination and the human brain are powerful things, and, clearly, both you and some game designers lack some of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Johan-Naudé/654797196 Johan Naudé

    I agree with you, I’ve been gaming since the NES and even though I do enjoy new games with all the wonderful eye candy, I can say that games aren’t nearly as fun as they were back then. I love good graphics but I think the developers are just spending way too much time on visuals and forgetting about the important stuff. These days it’s had to find something with good graphics, gameplay and story. And please…we don’t need 2 hour long tutorials telling how to move, look up & down and jump ok?! We’re not idiots.

    • Jason Hunt

      THANK YOU!!! It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

  • skittlespider

    I agree. You don’t need good graphics to achieve a genuine emotional response. I still remember being scared out of my mind while playing Metroid 2 on the GameBoy. (That game had nice graphics for a GameBoy game, but that isn’t really saying much.)

    • Le Jabroni

      Right? Musical cues played a huge part in emotional change. And in this one article, it seems that the worse the gameplay and graphics, the scarier a game is. An example was the old Resident Evil vs the newer ones. Better graphics make it grotesque, but not scary, and knowing that you can push L1+R1 to dodge takes the scare out of a zombie popping out at you.

  • Rob Grizzly

    Good artilcle. I actually don’t agree that photo-realism holds games back at all. I do agree that Hartmann’s comments are a little near-sighted. You make some good points.
    But you should be fair in noting that small studios close their doors just as much as the big ones do, and there is something to be said for games like Beyond that are at least TRYING to go for emotional experiences, when the rest of the market is all about action and multiplayer.
    Good topic

  • johnny

    i dnt really care or follow stories when i play a game i like graphics and gameplay sometimes just gameplay like Pac-Man it dosnt have a storie its just fun if i want i story i read a book

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      Comments like this just make me sad. It’s like having a turkey sandwhich with JUST turkey. Yea it’s still good, but just imagine if you had cheese and mayo or tomato or other condiments you like.

      • Ben TEN TEN

        Actually johnny is describing home made finger lickin chicken, where you don’t need any types of condiments to thoroughly enjoy it for what it is, and not what companies like a McDonald’s always trying to make it out to be more than what it is.

    • Jason Hunt

      Hey, everyone has their genre.

  • JoeFreedom

    Why isn’t Mafia 1 mentioned? Dammit. Don’t forget Mafia 1. It still hurts thinking about Tommy Angelo and I am someone who actually read and not only watched the Godfather and still think it’s lame and if I remember how Tommy Angelo was shot.. No, how (SPOILER) I shot him in Mafia 2… It broke my heart

  • http://twitter.com/Elvick Elvick

    What a horrid screen to pick from FFVI with that quote. Really? The battle sequence? Before, the uber sad moment? Sheesh.

    You and I maybe be able to connect with pixels, but not everyone can. So I understand the ‘want’. And I have no issue with it. Realistic graphics have their place. And I don’t want pixels in every game. I like my Uncharted, Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Beyond, and I like my Journey, Flower, FFVI [where just the music can make me cry], and FFIX.

    I do think they focus too much on it in art design though. Just look at the death of Overstrike and birth of Fuse. Went from a clearly fun, quirky shooter, to another serious shooter with boring characters we’ve seen all over the place in millions of other shooters.

    At least the fun generic characters are still fun. The boring ones are just boring and generic. Two losses.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      I was actually expecting a suplex joke from the picture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julian-Matteucci/1061490017 Julian Matteucci

    agreed…fuck photo-realism thanks you too to th guy below who mentions legacy of kain…nuff said and to all who played mirrors edge…you should understand that graphics really dont matter

  • Nintenjoe82

    Great article but I disagree with you on photo-realistic graphics being the problem. It definitely wastes money on some games but the industry is being held back by something far worse than the pursuit of graphics.

    I watched that Ellen Page game being pre-hyped on a TV show by one of its producers. All he had to say about what sets this game apart was the naivety of the Ellen Page character being the greatest level of naivety ever seen in a video game character. If that is what game producers are actually out there trying to implement in ‘games’ then it’s no wonder so many are ending up not being fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dustin-McFadden/100000570126650 Dustin McFadden

    The Last of Us evoked TONS of emotion JUST in the E3 gameplay trailer they showed and I don’t think that it would have been effective if the graphics weren’t as stunning as they are. Not only are the graphics extremely amazing but the idea behind enemies is pretty deep and thought out while being simple at the same time. Beyond Two Souls is definitley going to be a great title, look at the past games Quantic Dream has made (Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy). A good game doesn’t have to have photogenic graphics, but if the graphics are smooth and defined, then it really helps when looking at the screen as you’re playing it. Look at some of the cell shaded games out there. They aren’t photogenic, but the artistic style they’re able to pursue because of them are pretty awesome.

  • brandon9271

    Good graphics can’t make a bad game good.. but great graphics can make a good game great! :) Some of you guys act like nice graphics are bad.. and I’m just not buying it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dtonshiba Dalton Shiba

      its not about graphics being bad its about when so much is spent on them the rest of the game suffers.

      • Jason Robert McMahan

        What Dalton said. I’ll take good graphics SO LONG as the rest of the game doesn’t suffer for it. They aren’t bad, the focus on THEM and only them is. FF XIII is probably the greatest example of that, all flash and gorgeous graphics but little to no actual substance.

    • Matthew Wesley

      No, we’re just saying that developers should focus first on making a game with good gameplay, then on better graphical engines. How many of us have played an over hyped game with ”cutting-edge” graphics that turns out to be something that should have been flushed down the toilet? You can pour all the perfume you want on a skunk, it doesn’t change the fact that it has the capacity to stink.

      • brandon9271

        True. And Hollywood does the same with films. Shiny visuals and no substance. The problem is people keep buying crap movies,music and games over and over again. Otherwise they wouldn’t keep making it. Crap sells. Unfortunately

        • Le Jabroni

          And don’t forget about using big-named stars in crap movies, just so they’d hook in fans and make a buck or two.

      • Le Jabroni

        Agreed! Fear 3 was supposed to be a great game, but I’ll say what a lot of people are reluctant to say: It was SHIT! The most fun I had was shooting at them robots. Ghosts weren’t scary, the gore was boring and disturbing, story was bland and mostly about nothing(until the end, where it ties a bunch of nothing together), and shooting at soldiers and monsters was dull. Reminded me of those many hours wasted playing Zombies in CoD:BO. Repetition to the max. And all this why? For graphics…. just plain sad.

    • Drunk_Robot

      If you give a bad guitar player the most expensive guitar on the market, it will not make him or her play or sound any better. But if you give a great guitar player the cheapest guitar on the market, he or she can make it sound as good as the most expensive guitar. Translation: tools reflect the expertise and talent of the people who use them.

    • Jason Hunt

      No no, it just seems as though effort that used to go into cultivating depth and story in a game has now all gone to graphics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.k.aurelia Anthony K Aurelia

    Emotion without photo realism….RE:1,2.3…Eternal Darkness: Sanitys Requiem…Grandia 2…the list goes on and on and on….

    • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.k.aurelia Anthony K Aurelia

      But on a side note….imagine if they had photo-realism…..goosebumps, lol.

      • Jason Robert McMahan

        So long as that realism didn’t come at the cost of what made them great and moving to begin with.

  • Chaco

    I cried twice while playing Mother 3, that game does not have even good graphics. Suikoden 2 is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played, again not great graphics.
    GOOD GRAPHICS DO NOT MAKE A GOOD GAME. You need a good WRITING.

  • Pookaball

    I wanna good gameplay elements, not graphics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/8bit.life Christian Page

    while i agree we should not focus on graphics nearly as much as we do i think good actors and actresses are very importent
    games are offton made fun of for there poor acting exspely in the past thats why there has been the movement to more famus pepole

    there are alot of famous pepole now that do the the vocies in your games you should look them up

    i think page for them is an advertising point and will only help them
    i know a few pepole that want the game soly becuse of her

    yah its a dumb reason but its still a sale

  • david

    no no go die, Beyond: two souls is gonna kickass, Ellen Page is hot. I dont own a ps3 and im considering buying it

  • http://www.facebook.com/travis.franzen.3 Travis Franzen

    I kind of quite disagree, the makers of Heavy Rain had a very very hefty bit of sales with that game simply because of the gorgeous upping in graphics and an extremely appealing story and soundtrack, so i say the more beautiful a game looks as long as it has a great story line to lineback it with the better.

  • cusman

    2K Games Global President, Christoph Hartmann will eat his words and hopefully be better off for it when he realizes the minimal budget Walking Dead Season 1 game doesn’t have photo-realistic graphics yet has deeper character/story than anything in gaming before it.

    If not that, then perhaps when another minimal budget Journey game without any gritty drama or realism has the first game soundtrack to win a Grammy.

    This best thing about this longer than normal console generation, is that it has forced developers to compete on art level rather than technical level. I hope the advent of PS4 and X720 doesn’t reset things back to lets compete on biggest explosions or most on screen enemies or bullets or whatever.

  • Kalas Trinity

    I can mention Twilight Princess as a game that lacked some things because of the realistic graphics.
    Exactly why I think they went with fusing those graphics with Wind
    Waker’s to create Skyward Sword’s graphics. Wind Waker, at one point,
    got a lot of hate because of the cartoony graphics (mostly by fanboys of
    high tech graphics; the hate surrounding it nowadays is the time
    consuming sailing which easily gets taken care of after attaining the
    final pearl by go after the water spouts you see scattered across the
    great sea with the closest one being, when first available, near the
    Tower of Trials) and even Skyward Sword probably got a few glares
    because of it’s less than high powered graphics. With that said, it’s
    not entirely the industry’s fault when a game comes along with great
    graphics but horrible gameplay but also the fault of some “hardcore”
    gamers; I hate how this term gets thrown around these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.hicks.3194 Stephanie Hicks

    So right. I just played Kindom Hearts for the first time a year or so ago (financially disadvantaged, sorry). My point is that those games had a type of beauty that no amount of graphics could come close to. I played later final fantasy games with excellent graphics, but the story was so dull in comparison. I completely agree that a game can be very fun and emotionally moving without picture-perfect graphics.

  • Zarathustra

    I find realistic graphics being a huge turn off for me, the movements even in the most realistic looking games look lifeless, stiff and down right wrong at times. I like the cartoonish style the best you don’t get all the stuff like i said before with them and for the most part always seem to be more fun game play wise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnson.kimmel Johnson Kimmel

    But you can’t hide that photo realistic graphics are a great add.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      IF they aren’t done at the cost of gameplay or story. But a gorgeous game with no real substance is going to look good and taste like crap.

  • jay

    I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think photo-realistic games should be condemned either. It’s simply another medium with which to tell a story.

    Good games can be either.

  • Meepster

    I’m tired of the attacks on FFXIII. They are all so incredibly annoying and almost completely wrong. Yes, the game did lack because of the linear-styled gameplay, but it was nothing short of amazing and heartbreaking. The characters were not “vapid husks” just because you could not intake what was happening at every single angle at every single time. Hope went from an internally-conflicted child-brat to a mature young adult who could handle himself; Snow went from reckless idiot to reckless idiot who knew how to work around females; Lightning went from angry at everything but Serah to a motherly-protectorate of all; Sazh & his son both had incredible histories and were almost as heartfelt as the couple of Fang & Vanille. Fang & Vanille really steal the game. The amount of heart-wrenching activity within the beginning, middle and end leads to an overall AMAZING character development. SPOILERS ARE BEYOND HERE, THIS IS YOUR WARNING. When Fang & Vanille join hands in their final attempt to save the world, I cried like a little babby. I knew I wouldn’t seem them, at least for a while. I knew that in that moment I wanted to crush my console because I was SO infuriated that these people who I came to love so dearly, had left. They just up and left. I was stuck with tears and a controller in my hand, nothing else. To call FFXIII an aggregate collection of “vapid husks,” is just a bunch of demeaning, nonsensical, backwards, annoyed criticism. If you’re going to critique vapidness, go about doing it with something that isn’t a piece of magnificence to the FF collection.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      I wouldn’t go so far as to call them vapid husks, but the characterization in XIII was extremely weak. You never really got attached to the crew because they were just shadows. They weren’t terrible, never really thought they were, but they weren’t what the series was known for either.

  • nived xilo

    the fuck… la noire was killer. grabbed my tommy gun and lit some bitches up.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PKE5KPVRFVPWKFGMGTKOBHS4ZM G00FiE

    Just like pretty much everybody here I agree with this article… to a point. While its true that gfx alone wont make a kickass game, gfx can make a good game a kickass one. I think its more about ratios of gfx to story, which is basically what youre discussing here, not any particular mechanics or anything. When gfx > story, not good… on the other hand gfx < story is likely a win… Maybe someday the "big" devs will get rid of the pen pushers and start taking the dev process into their own hands. I blame it all on the accountants… gaming industry looked so promising for a while, but then the accountants came and look at what weve got… COD9234, games charging 60bux a pop and then sell(DLC) nearly worthless additions ON TOP of that, games shipping with DLC on the same disk but locked… bah, its just a money game these guys are playing, the indy devs are the ones Im looking to to save us all.

  • gaming man 666

    i think the gaming industry should come out with a realistic life game with good graphics with real scenarios.i also think our gov should get off the gaming world and let that type of game be released

  • FaizanAliNaqvi

    R* makes the best games.

  • http://www.facebook.com/keith.baird.374 Keith Baird

    I think mostly everyone here is missing the point. The articles point is not about how many games have done this correctly in the past, it is about the fact that developers have switched from creating excellence stories, great gameplay, and controls that made you feel in control, to games whose only asset is the graphics because everything else is poorly executed. The problem however is not going to go away anytime soon, because the developers know what people want, and people actually want great graphics, unfortunately this comes with sacrifice to the story, gameplay, and controls almost everytime. So I ask you this question: What do you value the most, gameplay, graphics, or controls? That is the point of this article, but the problem solely rests with all of you. If you want a change you have to make it happen by telling the game developers that you will not stand for anything less than a game that you can control, enjoy the story, and able to tell what you are playing.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      Very well said. Final Fantasy XIII sold 6 million, but it’s sequel had trouble breaking 2, I think people spoke with their wallets there. People automatically bought the game because hey, it was Final Fantasy. I know I did, I’ve been buying them on release since IV. But after being bitten by it, most people didn’t go back. The balls in SE’s court now.

      • KeKun

        Did that myself as well. Bought FF13 because hey… its FF right? What could go wrong? Boy that was disappointment coming off a high cliff right there. I’ll be enjoying myself more on FF7 now…

  • noobforhire

    I think whats holding gaming back is the lack of new things. I don’t want another Cod or clone and games like halo are trying to copy halo now :( it’s depressing and drms hurt pc gamers.

    • noobforhire

      I don’t deny that there are good games out there but there is not as many new things. Borderlands was great. I don’ t like how COD is being milked for money and more games are being changed to get more people :(

  • http://twitter.com/NickCassetta DreadJasper

    i hate how developers think good graphics and good single player campaign makes a good game. for me it is ALL about multiplayer, i could care less about graphics and good single player. NOTHING is more fun that screwing around with your friends online(like on GTA4 for me).

  • Enrique Velez

    What this article says is the absolute truth about everything and should become law. this kind of thinking will be the death of Nintendo, and with it, all that is good about gaming.

  • Name

    I agree, as long as the game doesn’t literally look like shit, good storyline, catacters and voice acting, I’m perfectly happy wih a game.

  • Glenn

    What we are sitting in now is a segway time period, and a few years ago I would of totally agreed with your argument. 2011 and 2012 has been two outstanding years for games. In the last year I have seen a lot more realism in everything from your typical first person shooters, to intense real time and turn based strategy games. Bethesda and dice have shown us some very static savvy engines, developers are paying grave attention to details [which subconsciously add to a players enjoyment in the view]. Free to play games have gotten there hands on some very sweet usable ideas, and engines themselves!
    Graphical content can only take a game so far, and what we saw in the dawn of the “next generation” age was a plethora of poorly done games with outstanding graphics. Consumers drive the market, that common sense. After players were paying sixty dollars for a 15 hour product in a very flush world with absolutely no replay value, gamers spoke out in the means of cash flow. You see our minds adapt to something we’re shown over and over again, and because of this notion game developers have been forced to maintain an integrity to sell copies. This integrity comes through game play values and I’m quite happy to see the shift change.
    The ever popular and taboo action of pirating software has also played a roll in this. With the connection speed as it is, you can download a five gig game in a couple of hours. If a game is to short by your standers, or doesn’t pander to what you want, or thought it was going to be you’re not going to shell out 60 dollars to pick it up.
    I say it’s about damn time! Flashy graphics these days don’t go anywhere without a solid game play mechanic to go with it. Games evolve so quickly it personally makes my head spin, however we’re not to far off from entering you Sony Play Station room, where it takes you into the world of Elder scrolls, and you actually disappear from reality.

  • Mastermold

    Christoph Hartmann is an idiot, this is the same guy that supported the XCOM FPS flop over the awesome XCOM strategy game. He knows only one kind of game: action FPS games with realistic graphics, and that’s all he is ever interested in doing to the expense of his own company and the gaming community. He just doesn’t understand video games at all outside of his stupid overdone genre. I can’t wait till he gets canned.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      He even SAYS that in the quote, that shooters and action games are the way of the future.

  • Solx

    If I designed a game that ALL you did was walk around and viewed “pretty” landscape and scenery, would you play it?

    What the Author said is true, the focus has come to visual satisfaction and NOT story/gameplay. (Some have done both, but that is rare)

    FF7 Vs FF13

    FF7 has (Nowadays) horrible graphics, BUT has an amazing story, the BEST combat and development system yet and some of the most memorable characters ever.

    FF13 has amazing graphics, but the worst combat system (You control 5% of the actual game, the AI controls the rest), a mediocre story and lackluster characters.

    While I think graphics should be important, it should IN NO WAY EVER be the priority and until the devs comprehend that…… How can I put this……

    It is like comparing George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to Michael Bay.

  • http://twitter.com/CloneOfDuty Gary Ruddock

    Uncanny valley?

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      Its how uncomfortable a player is in looking at a human sprite. There is a point where characters can look human but not quite right, and it comes off as creepy or uncomfortable to gamers because something is off about it. The far side of the valley are more realistic looking humans.

  • Digitaldevil7

    I hate the sentence “high-quality graphics that the mass of gamers have now come to expect.”. All I can say is, that’s a mass of gamers I don’t care about. They are what we call. . .wait for it. . . .graphics whores. Graphics are hands down the least important part of any game. Developers should try to make their games graphics as good as they can, as long as at no point in doing so does this process take away from any other part of the game. The second they realize that any other part of their product is going to be lesser because they are spending time and money on pumping up the graphics they need to stop and ask themselves why are they doing this. To get money and woo the new age little gamers who only care about graphics? Or are they trying to make a well made and entertaining game. Story and gameplay are the two most important things in a game.

    • George Frost

      That’s all well and good, but consider the fact that game developers are in a business. They make a product, they make money off of said product. If they don’t make money off it, they go under. They won’t be making either type of game if they don’t have the investment – investment which, may I remind people, that comes when a firm is making money, – or revenue to do so. Where does this revenue come from? The customers. As you have already outlined, these customers are majorly “graphics whores” (right?). It is only logical for them to do good business: sell to the larger customer or maybe these games won’t be created!

      • http://www.facebook.com/BuddyDinosaur Adam Porter

        Good! We don’t want crappy games. If the developers are selling out to the larger market and casual gamers, then they deserve to go under. If the cost to create a game sky rockets because they’re spending so much time and money on developing photo realistic graphics to impress the larger market, then they’re not game designers they’re graphic artists. We want video games, not something pretty to display on our televisions or monitors. If they don’t waste all of their resources, they can make do with a smaller target market and still be profitable. And if the market is flooded with good games with decent graphics, rather than crappy games with wonderful graphics, then the standards have changed and there are no other alternatives for the casual graphics whores and no business will likely be lost. Not saying that scenario is realistic, but from someone who expects
        quality in their products, it is an ideal that should have been the
        reality in the first place. As a gamer, I like to imagine that the majority of people who play video games buy games for the experience and not just the graphics and that our situation today was the result of ambitious corporate giants who don’t understand their own industry.

  • idc

    basically, what i see in this post is bullshit. what you are doing is taking a non photo realistic game and saying that it is amazing, then you are taking a photo realistic game, that obviously is short in storyline and a bad example to take for this post, and then you say it is BAD for the gaming industry?
    let us suppose that the story line in 2 different games is exactly the same, one game has crappy graphics and the other has realistic graphics. so, which one would be better?
    just keep this in mind and then tell whether it is bad for gaming industry or not.
    and as for the book part, would you like to play a text game? in which the whole story comes in texts, and you reply?
    you truly are the dumbest dumbfuck i have seen comment on stuff.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      Your reading comprehension skills are terrible. That or you only read part of it, and want to lash out because he is insulting something you like. He mentions SEVERAL photo-realistic games that were good in his post.

  • Andrew Pitman

    I think you’re right. Graphics should improve with technology, not expectations.

  • Kumo

    There’s still a few development studios that seem to be able to create an amazing story, interesting characters and fun game play mechanics along with industry leading graphics. One very good example is Bethesda Softworks with their TES IV Oblivion and TES V Skyrim games.

    I can totally agree with you on Squaresoft and their FF series. It’s pretty sad when one of the supporting characters (Hope) has only slightly better character development than the main protagonist (Lightning). In past installments it was always the main protagonist that grew the most (ex. Cloud from VII and Zidane from IX). I also really did not like their decision to not include mini games with XIII it really made it feel less like a FF title and more like something else entirely.

    • Jason Robert McMahan

      I’d say Hope had MORE character development then Lightning. I’d say EVERYONE had more character development then her, sans Fang. Snow has to come to grips with the fact that no, he is not a hero and no, he can’t save everyone, Hope has to come to grips with his rage, pain, and anguish and forgive his target for something he didn’t do, Sazh has his entire fatherhood thing going on, Vanille has to overcome her guilt and cowardice…Lightning just suddenly goes “Gosh! I sure have been a bitch!” and then starts acting slightly different. I don’t even want to talk about Fang. Worst character in a Final Fantasy since Final Fantasy 3.

  • Thedsa

    Theres nothing wrong if a game has good graphics u know, there just sumthing extra to make the game look pretty and anyway, quantic dream wants to expand the gaming industry and prove to other people that video games have unique ways of story telling, if u think about it lots of other people just think video games is all violence and wasting time so they tend to look down on games and rather watch movies and books. Of course we already know that games are awesome with all those titles like super mario, pac man and others but quantic dream aims to show people that video games are as good as books and movies. Not every game has to do it but quantic dream aims to do this and obviously that’s not holding the gaming industry back.
    So of course they would work on graphics and good actors cos if the graphics were crap and the actors cant act, people tend to laugh at it for a game that aims to compete with movies. Im not saying graphics are important or they are reasons why games are good. Im saying that some of the game’s graphics necessarily need to be good in order to reach the amount of realism for the story telling

    • Thedsa

      lol im not only talking about quantic dream u know

  • Kali

    I get what you are trying to say and for the most part I feel the same way. There are however games that do convey excellent story and fantastic visuals like Heavy rain and the uncharted series. And on their heels are coming Beyond: Two Souls, and The last of us. I look at your picture about Ellen Page and I can only think you seem to be in a mindset of not even trying to enjoy the game.

    Not every game is going to be that sparkling gem you hold up to high standards but if you think every game back in the snes day was awesome your wrong. There are few and far between snes games with great story’s the ones that do carry the torch are all rpg’s of sorts. Back then though our expectations for this brand of entertainment weren’t all that high.

    Also I think that your assessment of FFXIII is off.. while I do have issues with the game being fairly straight forward with no room to breath what it does do right is character development. Long story arc’s of characters interacting with different character’s if anything I felt like I was playing a novel that I had no control over.

  • hohopig

    I think what you said strike a cord with many gamers, especially those who have played the older games and some of the new games with great plots and character development and involvement. Well said and wish that more of the game developers and their distributors will focus on the gameplay, plot and character development, instead of some myopic focus on graphic.

    mmm In fact, if I have to choose between a game with great graphic and gameplay but piss poor plot and character involvement and another one with just passable graphic but great gameplay and great plot and character involvement, I would pick the latter.

  • Gamerofgames

    I fully agree with a majority of what he is saying, great game play and story is a must with some games, I admit sometimes I don’t mind just running around like a maniac destroying every thing in sight for no apparent reason. I’ll go out on a limb and admit I’ve played games with weird controls and annoying combat functions (Alone In The Dark) just for the fact I was really into the story, but is asking for a perfect game with stunning graphics, smooth game play, little/no glitches, great voice acting, captivating atmosphere and powerful story line too much? I say no, we are the consumers and we can ask for anything… But in my opinion I don’t plan on holding my breath for such a day to arrive. Still there are amazing games out there and I won’t let a few bad eggs ruin my gaming breakfast.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Kelley/1193983543 Christopher Kelley

    The greatest Metal Gear game thus far made has been Peace Walker. That’s right: where Guns of the Patriots (MGS4) has the absolute abundance of graphics and sound and no less than THREE QUARTERS of the total ‘play’ time of a full play run-through, Peace Walker saves data space on all MSF’s playable soldiers besides Big Boss by standardizing all males and females into two types, right down to same hair color…and Peace Walker is the better game. MGS4 invokes scenes that look, indeed, close to photo realistic; Peace Walker uses cut scenes that look like nothing less than gritty, black and white comic book style pages made to move around a little bit; and Peace Walker is better.

    How is this possible?

    Because Hideo Kojima relearned…after pouring so much CUTTING EDGE TECH into MGS4…the value of simple storytelling. The rise of Big Boss from emotionally broken, battlefield-wandering “ronin” into larger-than-life, private military company-starting, international resistance movement-training, Outer Heaven-dreaming near-philosopher of war…is told, absolutely believably. Quoting Che Guevara at one point, then listening to old cassette tapes of what had been done to his mentor the next, Big Boss’s story reaches into your guts and forces you to ask what’s worth fighting for, whether heroes can simultaneously be patsies, as they’re used by a world that so often loves them only so long as they’re deemed useful…and whether you would, like him, violently revolt against such a parasitical system. MGS4, with the high-end, cinematic graphics, makes you think about the dangers of totalitarianism. Peace Walker, which saves data space wherever it can, and emphasizes voice recordings in all scenes, makes you question the legitimacies of human society.

    Story: it makes every novel; every movie; every game. Thank you for reminding many of it, in this article.

    • TK

      I disagree with your comment on MGS 4, You have to realize MGS 4 was very very expensive to develop. Why ? Because they spent unnecessarily on graphics and fucking stupid failed script ! But they also spent a justifiable amount of effort on gameplay, Sure, MGS 4 has short play time, but I can go back and replay 10 even 20 times because they are so many different things you can do and so many routes and ways you can approach it and also so many toys to play with. It’s $60 just like the other games so I have no complaints ! I do have problems with games that just look pretty and nothing more and still sell for $60

    • scratch.

      Peace Walker was NOT better than MGS4. I could give you many reasons but its late and I’m trying to work so I will just give you this… The A.I. in PW is laughable. Did you ever beat MGS4 on The Boss Extreme? The A.I. and level design are impeccable. Nevermind that most of the game was an interactive movie. The parts in which you are actually in control of Snake are as close to perfect as I have ever seen in video game. To this day nothing has topped it.

  • cusman

    I am pretty sure the Walking Dead game is low budget… it doesn’t need realistic graphics and it conveys emotions quite well by using a form of cell shading for the character and environment graphics. So the take-two guy is wrong to think you need realistic graphics to convey and have player feel wide spectrum of deep adult emotions.

    The author of this article is also wrong to think that you can’t get emotionally engaging narrative scope and realistic graphics and still recoup your investment. Proof of that already exists with Heavy Rain.

    I also found the notion that technology will exist and it will be cheaper eventually a very ignorant statement when he is discouraging the pioneering forces in the industry like Quantic Dream from the kind of work they are doing on Beyond – Two Souls with Ellen Page.

    In terms of delivery emotional impact… have you played Spec Ops – The Line? If you can get those emotions from a third person military shooter… then I think games can already deliver whatever emotions the talented game developers decide to deliver.

  • Ailodierap

    I understand what you are trying to say with this article but you can’t deny that some games from the last 2 or 3 years have included incredibly emotion-provoking moments and thoughtful stories to them while still maintaining the high-quality graphics that the mass of gamers have now come to expect. Have you ever played Heavy Rain? The graphics in that game are brilliant (bearing in mind it was released in 2010, I think) and the storytelling is touching and psychological. It really gets you inside the head of the characters and creates sympathy and attachment to them.

    Or have you ever played any of the Uncharted games? Again, mindblowing graphics, as well as fun, likeable characters, great gameplay and a well-told story.

    What I’m trying to say is that I DO get what you’re saying, and to a degree, I agree that many developers care more about graphics than gameplay and storytelling, but it’s simply ignorant and quite arrogant to say that games with photo-realistic graphics do not come with great gameplay and/or story. If you truly believe that to be true… then you need to play more games. There are developers out there who have already struck the balance between great gameplay and photo-realistic graphics, you just have to find them. The rest of the video game industry hasn’t struck that balance yet, but you can’t just write an article saying that no developers have struck the balance. It’s doing these companies that HAVE struck the balance a great injustice.

    • TK

      because games are not about about telling stories and explore emotional tone you dumb fucking idiot ! you can do those, but they shouldn’t take center stage, they are far far from priorities. are you that stupid to buy into all these bull shit ? I guess so. Games are made so we can escape reality once in a while, do cool shit, have fun and stretches our creative muscles to solve interesting puzzles ! he is absolutely right on the budget being spent on developing and experimenting on new fun game designs, new gameplay mechanics so on so on, I’ll take a stylized non photo realistic graphics over photo realistic graphics any day because they are memorable ! if I want realistic graphics, I watch movies, go out of my house or go on a trip ! what a dumb fuck. It’s dumb consumer and dumb ppl like David Cage or ND that are holding the game industry back, so shut the fuck up. if you think games are very expensive to make because of insane graphics, you are dumb, you have to pay the employees for their time spent on game design, testing and balancing games too you know.

      • hohopig

        Sigh, you missed the whole point. And sometimes it appears that you are not sure who you are agreeing with and who you are arguing with. And btw the Author is talking about the importance of the STORY, plot and gameplay. And the poster above agreed … so what’s your beef?

      • Merrcuryy

        idiot,i know im late but ur making games sound bad. Anything can be a video game as long as its fun. Its not about escaping reality, its just a form of entertainment. U cant escape reality cos that sounds negative and makes u socially awkward if u think about it Just say that games are great ways of passing a lot of time. And anyway, u think heavy rain should rather be a move?? A movie’s storyline doesnt change, it stays the same no matter what u do. In heavy rain, they make you try to overcome challenges and memorise stuff. Failing to press a few buttons can change the whole scene. so if u dont like a game, u dont hav to make crappy negative comments towards sumthing u dont like. All ur doing is pissing a bunch of people who like something u dont

      • Jack

        ASS

      • Sordatos Cáceres

        This kind of attitude it what I hate comments in articles. What is this YouTube?

      • Jason Robert McMahan

        God, people like you are why the video game industry is going to shit.

    • Sordatos Cáceres

      Exactly THIS, when I was reading the article “Heavy Rain” came to my mind.

      To be honest I think is kinda of exaggerating of course a lot of games are just to easy entertainment, at it has always been, is a different approach, just look at Mario..

      Personally I have always looked for engaging stories with good character development, that is why my favorite genre is RPG, i can even forgive a lot flaws in a game if the story and characters are good. And lately it doesnt have to be an RPG to be an more complete experience that goes beyond just “fun”, games like MGS, Lord of Shadows (regardless of your feelings in the original series) if are excellent examples, and more genre are making the jump to be more meaningful, Do they have success? A lot of games are plague by heavy handed writing, unbelievable characters, or just clueless, and no, hiring a high profile actor doesnt make it more engaging, if the story sucks there is nothing that the actor can do, the same goes to graphics, and if the gameplay is horrible, there is no much to do then, it will tank.

      PS: Just because FFXIII was less than good (I think they just ran out of ideas on how to continue the story after they leave Cocoon), doenst mean that, forcibly the series suck, FFXII was one of the best in the series, of course why do they continue with sequels for FFXIII and not doing VS is beyond me.

    • Digitaldevil7

      ummmm sorry but your entire post is wrong. I don’t think you grasp what photo realistic means. While both heavy rain and uncharted have amazing graphics neither of them are photo realistic. Photo realistic means you see it and you can’t tell it’s not real. I’ve seen some tech demo’s that are the closest thing to photo realistic graphics ever, but an actual game has yet to accomplish the feat. However don’t get my wrong, in my opinion graphics are the least important aspect of a game and it’s truly sad that so many gamers expect great graphics now. I expect great gameplay and story and sadly most of the time I don’t get those, just great graphics. To me that’s a lose not a win.

    • MUG

      Wrong. What this article is about is the fact that everyone is TOO focused on visuals and that HOLDS BACK further development of the game with regards to finances. Why the hell would anyone complain about a perfect game with photo-realistic graphics, dynamic gameplayed and story and all that good stuff? The author is saying build it before you paint it.

  • Douglas

    Hartmann needs to play Metal Gear Solid

  • gundo

    yes just what ive been thinking, i love high tech graphics but games have lost their heart. Notice how alot of games seem to be stuck in the realistic setting. to many cars to many guns , I miss super high tech(mega man) or super magic with a fully fantasy flair, not casting spells in first person like its a gun. i want a game where i can fly. imgaine how cool mass effect would be if it wasn’t generic third person shooter with a bit of flash. imagine a dynamic mass effect where you could bounce off walls attack with crazy combos and have full controll over the biotic attacks (instead of just simply using them)
    and as for emotions we are fully capable of showing the full range of the emotional spectrum. they just forgot how.

  • Escoliarth

    I really loved the older games than new ones. *Spoiler ahead* I remember when I played Legend of Dragoon on PS1 and my sister and brother and I were so heartbroken during the scene were Lavitz gets killed with the Dragon Buster. Many of the older games had different emotional effects. The character development was so good like a well written book back then. The only character development I see now is higher character detail and on a higher resolution. I still play Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time too. First game I ever owned!

  • FormerlyFromTokyo

    Heavy Rain graphics/story/gameplay > L.A. Noire’s in my opinion. I like the latter but love the former. I think Quantic Dream will be okay. The uncanny valley effect aside, for me Heavy Rain is an example of awesome graphics but storytelling and acting that kept me engaged and caring about what happened to the characters. It was a rare instance in which I couldn’t stop playing a game until I finished it, the same way I do with an engaging novel.

    • cusman

      I concur. I recommend you try out the Walking Dead game since you enjoyed Heavy Rain (and L.A. Noire).

  • http://www.facebook.com/emmabee11 Emma Bain

    Games don’t need all this heavy graphics and honestly i am no longer that interested in most games now because due to the graphics taking up that much space they make the games repetitive and boring as they can’t fit in a proper story line, they focus too much on the grahpics now, i would rather have a good story than better graphics, Snes games live on for me as having a Snes was a great part of my childhood in the 90′s and i still love the games, i play all the best ones on a Snes emulator and have a USB Snes controller, heavy graphics games just doesn’t cut it because i need some variation in the story not just selling out with graphics all the time, give us good stories again. It’s like a story book as people say, you don’t have to show much emotion because we have our own imagination, we can imagine their reactions and it gives us a great chance to understand it in different ways not just 1 way, give our imaginations a chance.

  • John

    The modern warfare games were really powerful and emotional…heck, even COD, though not emotional, had me jumping out of my chair at times.

  • Norman Jayden

    Heavy Rain is a game that can convey emotion without being a rediculous Michael Bay First-person shooter. I mean honestly, with the introduction of great graphics came with the loss of uniqueness and story/characters. Honestly Heavy Rain is the one that restored faith to me that games don’t have to be mindless shooters.

  • zxcv

    Super Mario Bros 3 for NES is 2D cartoon-like-graphics running on ancient hardware the equivalent of your really old nokia phone without a touchscreen. Yet the game is better than almost every three-dimensional graphics-intensive video game today.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sunstick Niklas Gunnar Solstickan Malmb

      Best comment on this article sofar! Completely agree, and I still play my SMB3 sometimes on my NES.
      (I wasn’t fortunate to get one when I was small thou, so I bought one in my later years to re-experience the memories of the old retrogames……. that were actually REALLY DAMN GOOD!) :D

  • JaiGuru

    You know, another article on some other site who’s credit sadly has completely vanished from my memory put it very elegantly, for me. They were talking about the possibility of the long desired Final Fantasy VII remake. They were very skeptical that it could deliver what was asked of it. Photo realistic character models are good at some things and bad at others. Take the Batman movies vs the cartoons, you can do certain things in a cartoon and have it make sense that would never work in a live action movie. If Cloud got the photo realism touch with improved HD character models….would the scene where he cross dresses even work? The simplicity of the models when the game was new heightened those moments in the game because the designers understood how to work with their particular medium and style. This assumption that photorealism must be the future of gaming can only be taken seriously if you completely ignore the entire history of the medium and all of the various ways that particular graphic styles have been used to their full, unique effect.

  • dingoberry

    Exactly, game still uses an ancient method of motion capture or MoCap technology developed back in the mid 1980′s. They could focus and real dynamic body physics. Thanks to Half-Life 2, they set the standard in ragdoll physics, which where pre-animated death went to the age of dinosaurs. They also explored some aspect of foot planting in NBA games where movement of legs are not prerendered. We can go further! Imagine your game character slips on the wet leaf that was on the ground which was not prerendered. We could also amp the dynamic flesh wound as well. Mortal Kombat deadly alliance where one of the first to explore this and now recently Sleeping Dogs. This is where you can see your character get bruised, cut, or etc. Unfortunately, these are still prerendered damage. Unscripted damage effect like realistic rip on clothes or different degrees of bruises and cuts. All these are unexplored territories.

  • nicoramas

    The aesthetic look of a game means a whole lot, but its not something that a game should rely on completely. But one thing that is hard to disagree with is that games with amazing graphics lack a lot of other necessities. I challenge you to list 10 games that have ground breaking graphics, but falls flat on its face in every other area. I can’t, and that’s because any game developer willing to pump money into the game’s visuals is sure as hell not going be cheap on the rest of the formula! Game developers are not stupid! One of the reasons graphical breakthroughs in a game is so successful, is because some aspects are directly linked to physics in the game engine, which is also linked to gameplay(Water effects for example) What a lot of people don’t realize is that a Game Engine supports all aspects of a game and if the Engine is polished to a sheen the game its running on will be as long as the developers use it right

  • Dr.Bombay

    The situations is actually even worse than the author portraits. Today a game will not pay for itself unless it is an AAA title – read, ‘photorealistic’ graphics, lots of visuals= hundreds of people involved. Creating assets for a modern game is just too demanding on people and time.

    This is also why most indie developers are driven to the mobile devices – because there they can get away with easily creatable simple 2D graphics. But guess what will happen as the power of mobiles grows?

    Technology is probably not going to solve it, contrary to what some commenter suggested: Do you think that in near future, five kids in a basement would be able to create a movie that would rival a Holywood blockbuster? Not likely. And it is the same with games.

  • InDIGnation

    I’m sick of people who judge games as being bad simply because the studio does not have Frostbite tech. That game Penumbra Overture may not have good graphics, but it didn’t make the ending scene any less unnerving. Graphics might draw you in if you’re shallow, but a strong story and gameplay is what will make you stay.

    • cusman

      Frostbyte 2 tech to me is a pretty sure sign of a sub-standard game actually.

      Need for Speed – The Run (Frostbyte 2) is far inferior to Need for Speed – Hot Pursuit
      Battlefield 3 (Frostbyte 2) is far inferior to Battlefield Bad Company (1 & 2)

      I am sure there are other examples where direct migration within EA from proprietary game engine to generic Frostbyte 2 came at cost of game quality.

    • Abaz

      Naturally, that’s always been the case. But when a developer achieves all of the above, its just a orgasmic experience.

      • Two_ate_five

        the adrealine you feel when playing Mirrors Edge :D

  • http://twitter.com/BilodeauMichael Michael Bilodeau

    I also agree with the writer, and I’ll go on record to state it’s not merely optimizing engines that are bloating costs unnecessarily, but the average salaries of dev teams have been going up and up in the cry of “necessity” for competitive pay. While plenty of talented dev teams are out of work. Everything needs to be in balance, quit paying for people to have min-mansions with 3 cars, with 4 children, just because of a title they worked on that was good. Bring the costs down, people aren’t going to spend 70 bucks for games every month anymore. Bring down the costs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.m.re.3 Mark M Re

    I totally agree games these days suck so bad because of that. Playstation had better games than the ps3. Remember legend of legaia? Had a great storyline. Back then the graphics was stunning and the story was awesome. Same with brave fencer musashi. It was funny, because the voicing was great. Bad guy with a rude southern accent? LOL hillbilly voice for rootrick the back guy was great. Musashi was a kid and he talked like one. Games these days lack emotions and story. STUPID GAME CREATORS!!!!!!!

    • cusman

      I disagree… I think you simply don’t play the games that deliver on emotions through strong narrative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/isaac.hoppe Isaac Hoppe

    Agreed. We can appreciate games without dynamic shadows, can’t we? The flipside of this is, the drive to bigger and better graphics is almost exclusive to corporate developers like EA and Squenix. The indies just are less interested and deliver the high-quality play that is making them real competitors against the giants of the industry. When a one-person development with only the most rudimentary graphics like Minecraft blows up into one of the most interesting games of the past decade, the situation is clearly not so dire that the entire future of gaming is at stake.

    • JaiGuru

      I would add to this the somewhat related point that producers of long running franchises seem pathologically compelled to “innovate”. I put that in quotations because I feel they are often much too quick to shove their characters in positions that make no sense. Megaman is a fantastic example of this. For years they made small tweaks to the games but generally relied on the gameplay mechanics that made the first game so wonderful. When those mechanics changed in the snes title, Megaman 7, this is when it became irrelevant. Zelda’s outings into “Adventures of Link” or “Majora’s Mask” territory are other good examples. They weren’t necessarily bad games, they were bad ZELDA games. They strayed too far from the core mechanics that people desire. Many people play these games with a desire to reinforce muscle memory in their hands, whether they’ve ever thought of it that way or not. I ache to play a megaman x title every so often simply because I love the way it feels physically in my hands to play with those game physics of sliding and jumping.

  • Richard Mackenzie

    Technology moves on, and it won’t be long before we figure out how to generate these photo-realistic graphics with less effort. Some people are just too eager to complain about new tech before it has a chance to work itself out… We’ll be taking these levels of graphics for granted soon enough. Patience Scott. Patience. Just a bump in the road dude.

    • http://www.facebook.com/isaac.hoppe Isaac Hoppe

      Well, sure. That’s great. But pinpoint graphical quality is not the be-all and end-all of gaming. It isn’t even half the package. We as gamers shouldn’t expect every game to push the limits of graphics. I still don’t have any trouble immersing myself in my favorite games from the nineties. Why? I suspect that because graphic capabilities were slim at the time, there was no covering up bad gameplay with pretty pictures. Those games that had bad gameplay back then still have the worst reputations among gamers. The limits also forced creativity in graphic design. Some great moments in 90s’ gaming exist because of a designer inventing a clever way to suggest something they couldn’t recreate literally. Super high-quality graphics will certainly become easier. But their place is to enhance the creative expression of a game. Consider: if you went back to your childhood and handed yourself a copy of last year’s Real Steel, would the child you have played it? Or would you have tired of the clunky camera and slow controls, knowing you already had better games to play?

      • woodie

        yes but if a studio put out a 16 bit game with the best voice acting and the best audio i would be pissed that is just not the era we are in anymore.

        • JaiGuru

          Are you also one of those people who thinks we shouldn’t make hand drawn animation any more because it’s not of our era? How about message boards since we could be using video chat rooms? Are you typing this on a computer instead of a smart phone?

        • hohopig

          First of all, look at minecraft. But I get your point in a way. However no one is saying that having good graphic does not count. But it is not that great a factor and it is ok to have passable graphic, or even good graphic without going all out to break the game to create a photo realistic graphic if you have to sacrifice the resources on hiring people and the time to do a proper game with balanced gameplay, storyline and character development.

      • JaiGuru

        Not to mention there’s something to be said for the simplicity of the graphics, in general. It forced us to invest more of ourselves in the emotion of the scenes because we had to use our imaginations a little, given that 8-16 bit graphics had serious animation and size limitations. This heightened the dramatic experience greatly in a way the spoon fed realism of some games today simply cannot match.

        • hohopig

          True that. And in fact, I think some games might be better played in 2D isometric instead of 3D mode.

    • JaiGuru

      I disagree. First off, if you push a fledgling technology too far too fast, you inevitably have to make serious trade offs. The article wasn’t about “better graphics are bad”. It was about “Better graphics are bad when good gameplay mechanics are sacrificed to have them”. Take the Sega genesis. They strove to be one of the earlier purveyors of 16 bit technology, before it was ripe and well thought out. This did give them an early jump on the then “next gen”, but it had poorer resolution, worse sound processing and a shorter profitable life than it’s competition in the SNES which came out later.

      Second, your assertion that we’ll be taking these graphics for granted seems ignorant of both biology and technology. With current display technologies, we are already virtually at the bleeding edge of resolution and number of colors that the human eye is capable of seeing. There is a biological ceiling on these things that nothing short of sci fi mechanical eye transplants can break through and it’s not at all very much farther up. You cannot continue to provided better and better graphics when the display cannot offer any more resolution. That’s what photo realism means in terms of screens. We are nearly there already in some cases. And while certainly time and effort will render photorealistic graphics easier to make in some distant future time, that doesn’t mean they will be plain easy. We’ve been making movies pretty much for all of living memory, that does not mean, as the article pointed out, that just anyone can go make a major motion picture. The technology might be inherently prohibitive to a point where it will always be a trade off…either you get a good game or you get a pretty game ala final fantasy 13.

    • hohopig

      Perhaps, but that day is NOT now. So if a developer sacrifice gameplay and story and character development in a game just for the sake of graphic, don’t you think that they would have gotten the priorities wrong?

  • Sagar

    So um, what d’you suggest? A new wave of 8 bit games which will obviously have more substance than say Mass Effect. What a fucking moron, the next thing you’d probably suggest is away with the HD and bring on technicolor.

    • Rageman

      No, he just means that the companies should rather focus on storytelling, game entertainment value than pretty pictures. How long do you think I played Crysis, or new Prince of Persia, or FFXIII. It was boring. Graphic is something I take a look at and think: Well, it looks nice. And then I don’t give a shit anymore, because I want to have fun.

      He has a valid point, there is no need to call him fucking moron for it, you fucking moron.

  • http://twitter.com/Sasha_Je Sasha_Je

    Interesting article, and I share the same thought as the writer. I understand developers are excited to play with this new tech but still in a video game you can do so many things.

  • Liron

    On the devil’s advocate side, have you every seen a book being read by, or a speech being delivered by, a non-photorealistic, boxy, poorly-animated character with almost no facial expressions? Unless the game is text-only or audio-only, the graphics can negatively affect the emotional response to speeches, book passages, and actual in-game emotional scenes.

    On the (what’s the opposite… angel’s advocate?) side, I’m surprised you didn’t mention animated movies. Animated movies have been making audiences laugh and cry for decades while staying safely away from photo-realism.

    I think Hartmann was partially right. Semi-photorealistic games do need to cross the photorealism threshold in order for the graphics not to distract from the emotional load of the scene. However, there are plenty of NPR graphic styles that can also achieve the same effect, as I’m hoping Ni no Kuni will.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.alvarez.961 Steven Alvarez

      Just gonna say. Metal Gear Solid 1 on the ps1/one. Poorly animated by todays standards, boxy, non-photorealistic and no facial expressions. I prefer Metal Gear Solid 1 to Metal Gear Solid 2 and 4. 3 was just awesome :P

  • Jack Frost

    Erm… Have you played Red Dead Redemption at all?

    Great gameplay, photo-realistic graphics and at least one very emotional scene – everything you asked for in one game. ;)

    • JaiGuru

      Red Dead was fun, for sure, but it was a mere stripped down retread of the more complex and interesting Grand Theft Auto’s of the past. I wouldn’t call it photo realistic either unless you’re color blind.

      • Matt

        What does being colour blind have to do with being able to determining whether something is photo-realistic?

        I wouldn’t go so far as to call Red Dead a striped down GTA either . It used a lot of the same tech and mechanics granted, but it is still technically a completely different game.

        • Matt

          “To *Determine* whether”.

          I fail at english sometimes.

  • http://twitter.com/Jahuty Jahuty

    Graphics and visuals are great selling points for a new game which nobody has any clue what the game is about. Its going to catch the gamer’s attention and get them interested. Emotional content doesn’t affect everyone in the same depth. However, earning a large amount of fans to gain loyalty to a franchise will require emotional connections within the game.

    Scott Grant makes a good point how games need to strike a balance between graphics and gameplay. When game studios build their reputation for having amazing graphics stretching hardware limitations, it becomes a standard and gamers will expect it. There shouldn’t be a sequel that graphically looks worse than the previous, but the same cannot be said when it comes to gameplay.

  • Keltari

    You dont need photo-realistic images to portray emotion. Books have been doing that with no graphics. You just need a good story and good voice acting .

    • Rageman

      Exactly. Do you want a great example? Legacy of Kain series: with really outdated graphics, they managed to pack the story full of emotions, thanks to the superb voice acting, that has hardly any competition even today.

      • ThatGuy

        I’m so glad someone remembers the masterpiece that is Legacy of Kain series… Thank you for restoring some faith in gamers…

      • GX1986

        Legacy of Kain is an Epic series of games, another game that i felt could really portray emotions, without voice acting, was Ocarina Of Time, i don’t know why, but i felt connected to each of the characters that i encountered in that game.

        Final Fantasy VII is another example, both of these games, although, to todays standards, are quite outdated, i still play both of them, original copies on the original playstation and the Nintendo 64

    • Two_ate_five

      its the execution that counts. need for speed the run had excelent voice actors and great graphics, yet the execution was so horrible you dont feel anything from the story

    • http://www.facebook.com/RescueTheHostages Heyy Delilah

      but it will be more amazing after do photo-realistic too

  • http://twitter.com/wishingW3L WEL

    you forgot the best example of all, Killzone 2. Honestly, I’m a PS3 fanboy and everything but I thought the game was average at best and the controller lag didn’t help out the case. But a game doesn’t has to be photo-realistic to have an expensive development though… You mentioned FF13 but that game wasn’t photo-realistic at all, the characters looked like they were modeled after anime characters. Call of Duty goes for the photo-realism but the games are built on an old ass Engine that hasn’t been updated since 2006 and I doubt that releasing a cookie-cutter sequel every year would cost more than 15 million dollars (25 is the usual for a Triple A game).

    This leads me to believe that the problem is not the photo-realism but the intense focus on overall graphics despite its style.

    • http://thecontrolleronline.com/ Scott Grant

      That is actually the spirit of the whole thing, FFXIII wasn’t photorealistic but their graphic style was still very expensive to produce. Yes, the point is that too much money is being spent on thinking graphics are necessary, rather than a compliment.

      • Rageman

        FFXII’s graphic style was indeed very expensive, but it still won’t beat the moment when Locke from FFVI see Celes in that princess dress in the opera and blushes from astonishment.

        • JaiGuru

          That opera scene is still one of my all time favorite game moments.

        • http://thecontrolleronline.com/ Scott Grant

          Another great example. Honestly, I could have written an article ten times as long about all of the great emotional moments from the FF series. Sadly, there are none in 13 or 13-2.

        • http://www.facebook.com/sunstick Niklas Gunnar Solstickan Malmb

          All of my yes! I love it! FF6 <3 The best FF-game in the complete series… spinoffs included.

    • Vanessa Archel

      Listen, this is David Cage; the creator of Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit. When Oscar Winner Ellen Page answered “Yes” immediately as David asked her to star in Beyond – Two Souls.

      Another subject… L.A Noire? If Team Bondi who started the development before damn Rockstar Games was hired – which pretty much took over the game; and bought out Team Bondi which is now bankrupt due to R* the game would be even better. L.A Noire has Rockstar printed all over it. They put it in the RAGE engine, the running is the same animation (including tons of others) as Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV.

      Back to the topic. As Ellen received the script of Beyond – Two Souls it was over 2000 pages. This is Quantum Dream, which makes their games in their own custom engine, the story is everything that matters, and it’s interactive. This is holding other titles back. It’s not narrow gameplay like all games out there, its actions brings the same thoughts as reading the book, instead of going to the cinema. Play Heavy Rain, or those who have done it, know what I’m talking about.