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Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

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Dan and Aoife debate the merits of apocalyptic good looks

Issue 99 is now on sale, which means it's time for another Hot Topic. This topic is all about hotness, actually - the visual kind. As a new generation of console technology looms, Aoife WIlson and Dan Griliopoulos ask the obvious question: do great games really need the utmost in graphical horsepower to succeed? Are superior graphics indistinguishable from a superior work of art?... read more

Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby CunningSmile » 10 May 2013, 10:15

Agree entirely with she of the unpronounceable name. It's impossible for cutting edge graphics to always be cutting edge, but a good style is timeless.
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Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Bezza89 » 10 May 2013, 10:22

It's Wiiillllssssoooonnnn!!!!! Cunning.

And no you don't need better graphics, but that would include art styles anyway so that point is odd - you can't create unique art styles without using graphics, and if you have better hardware you can make it a tad more immersive because it's just less likely to remind you you're playing a game if everything looks believable.

Need? No, want? Would love? Absolutely, anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby ItchyRash » 10 May 2013, 11:23

It surely depends entirely on the type of game. If you're trying to go for real world immersion then the better the graphics capabilities the easier it'll be to create a believable, realistic world. Obviously for the likes of things like Battlefield and Forza these are a necessity. I would go as far as to say even games such as Fallout and Elder Scrolls need to keep improving the graphics in order to create more better looking, more believable environments.I was in awe of the visuals in Skyrim in really helped to bring the world alive, more so than if it had all be cell shaded. The one thing i'm most looking forward to about next gen is seeing the worlds that can be created for the likes of Fallout, Elder Scrolls and GTA. For the likes or Dust: An Elysian Tale, Limbo, Bastion or Rayman Origins amazing graphics aren't required or even wanted. All of those games would've been ruined had they looked incredibly realistic
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Johnbhoy69 » 10 May 2013, 11:39

Better graphics don't necessarily make for a good and enjoyable gaming experience, Capcom poured a lot of man power into Resident Evil 6 and sure it looked great but the game play and story telling severely suffered as a result. I am expecting some next gen launch titles to suffer in a similar way, there's always a few that opt for pretty visuals with barely a game there to actually play.

Deus Ex human Revolution is still one the best games Ive played in the last few years. Great story and the game play was so versatile thanks to the multiple ways to augment Jensen and complete missions. The visuals were nice, not truly breath taking by any means but thanks to the mix of renaissance and Blade Runner inspired art style it stood out in a market heavily saturated with army based FPS.

Remember walking into Jensen's apartment for the first time and opening the blinds? Beautiful

Deadly Premonition, a game that causes contention wherever mentioned for so many reasons. The PS2 era visuals mainly, this however didn't detract from the enjoyment I had playing it. The story pulled me in and within a few hours I was completely engrossed. The array of weird and wonderful characters and the bonkers plot more than made up for many of the games failings. Not to mention that towards the end Deadly Premonition pulls some surprisingly fun boss battles out of nowhere and a cracker of a plot twist.

With certain exceptions a game doesn't need to be the most photo realistic creation ever to be enjoyable and memorable.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby SilentDark » 10 May 2013, 11:41

Being a kid who had a C64 long after my mates were playing the SNES I would agree with Aoife on this one, in fact you only have to look at the amount of people trying to get their old PC games working under Vista/7/8 to see that classic games never fade in their beauty. Personally, and some of what I'm about to say is going to be denounced as heresy, I think System Shock 2 is a better game than Bioshock (ducks behind flame shield) now hear me out before you lynch me. Bioshock looks good, it has a lot of interesting ideas but at it's core it is basically System Shock 2, a lone character in an enclosed isolated space who has to murder the former inhabitants which have become freakishly mutated. To me System Shock is creepier (ninja assassins still freeze me in total fear, the cyborg midwives still give me nightmares) and has a better villain (she incurably insane) Bioshock is graphically superior, even the rebirth texture pack can't hide the age of SS2 but System Shock 2 still offers the better experience for me.

Great graphics are all well and good, but in the end a strong narrative, great characters and great gameplay can trump smooth photo-realistic graphics any day.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Metalrodent » 10 May 2013, 11:43

I don't think graphics need to be much better, what would be nice if games were consistantly decent, many games have nicely detailed character models and design, but still have terrible textures and crudely hacked on background pieces.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby FishyGinger » 10 May 2013, 11:44

ItchyRash wrote:It surely depends entirely on the type of game. If you're trying to go for real world immersion then the better the graphics capabilities the easier it'll be to create a believable, realistic world. Obviously for the likes of things like Battlefield and Forza these are a necessity. I would go as far as to say even games such as Fallout and Elder Scrolls need to keep improving the graphics in order to create more better looking, more believable environments.I was in awe of the visuals in Skyrim in really helped to bring the world alive, more so than if it had all be cell shaded. The one thing i'm most looking forward to about next gen is seeing the worlds that can be created for the likes of Fallout, Elder Scrolls and GTA. For the likes or Dust: An Elysian Tale, Limbo, Bastion or Rayman Origins amazing graphics aren't required or even wanted. All of those games would've been ruined had they looked incredibly realistic


Quite right we need both really. Skyrim wouldn't have been what it was if it looked like wind waker and sometimes I sigh when I hear about the next generic indie title using blah blah blah just as much as the next third person shooter using hyper realistic blah.

If your answer is no though why bother with the next generation. You can get large games with physics and what have you and then use simple graphics with unique art.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Mendes » 10 May 2013, 11:50

I'll sit firmly on the fence too, there's a place, actually beyond that, a need for both individual artistic interpretation and photorealism. We do not sit here saying the photographs are better than paintings, we understand the merit of both in the same way we do with film to anime, and everything in between.... was a A Scanner Darkly a film or animation, or a bit of both or neither.

Strong impressionist art direction without need for graphical horsepowered supercomputers for some games as well as the other end of the spectrum, wanting to progress the graphics standard towards true photorealism for other types of game are both relevant within the game industry. Itchy Rash's comment has just come in and mirrors my view that Battlefield and racing games should be photorealistic, (though I'm not sure ethically how far in a war games we could go with an air to becoming realistic, not sure the how the Daily Mail readers would deal with ragged strips of flesh behind blown off bones etc.), whereas Aoife's argument was a very strong one with all the examples I would have suggested, recent favourite examples including Limbo, whose art direction elevated the game to a joyfully morbid and oppressive level, and Dishonored with felt like what it was meant to be, and 'alternate universe', with characatured faces, simlpy great art direction.

What I want to see from any graphical improvement in gaming is infinite draw distance, no pop up, a crazy number of polygons, normal mapping, variation in shadows focus, self shadowing, stunning particle systems.

But before that I want AI programmers to become the new, revered artists.... I want to play against an NPC I believe is actually another human player.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby CunningSmile » 10 May 2013, 11:50

SilentDark wrote:. Personally, and some of what I'm about to say is going to be denounced as heresy, I think System Shock 2 is a better game than Bioshock (ducks behind flame shield) now hear me out before you lynch me. Bioshock looks good, it has a lot of interesting ideas but at it's core it is basically System Shock 2, a lone character in an enclosed isolated space who has to murder the former inhabitants which have become freakishly mutated. To me System Shock is creepier (ninja assassins still freeze me in total fear, the cyborg midwives still give me nightmares) and has a better villain (she incurably insane) Bioshock is graphically superior, even the rebirth texture pack can't hide the age of SS2 but System Shock 2 still offers the better experience for me.


Although I've never played it I know SS2 has a lot of love round these parts so I don't think you're in too much need of the flame shield (or at least many others will leap to your defense)
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Insaneyokel » 10 May 2013, 11:50

Good graphics are a good thing when playing games, but I still think that the playability and the story are the most important things. I don't buy a game because it looks good, I buy for the story and whether the game works. You can have great graphics, but if the control system sucks or the game is broken then its pointless as people will not buy it.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Grummy » 10 May 2013, 12:12

Better? No, GOOD? Yes. Bioshock wouldn't have been the game it was if it had dated graphics the original Resident Evil worked that generation because the graphics were a step up to 3D and a level of realism in gaming we hadn't seen before, but if you went back to play it now having never played it before, it's nothing, the scares are gone, the creepiness is gone all because the game looks like ass. Great games will always be the ones that have the best game play and story, the greatest games will have those plus good graphics. Why? Because visuals that don't work with the game that is being presented can ruin the experience. There is nothing so compelling in games as being able to identify with what you see, being able to believe that this is real. Sure Fez is a great little game, as is Minecraft, but those games serve a particular purpose, their reduced graphical style suits the games they are and they are better for it. For a Bioshock, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Splinter Cell, Mass Effect, CoD, these games poor graphics will kill them, but better ones make the games better. Would any of the events in ME have been anywhere near as exciting and moving as they were if the game was a 2D side scroller or had the graphics of a PS1? Not a chance. Aoife mentions the dead eyes problem, which is very real in a lot of games, but some games don't have it, GoW was particularly good with it, ME did a fair job. Is is also worth mentioning here that even though the dead eyes can be an issue, other aspects of the character models can more than make up for it. Look at a video from ME3 when Shepard rejects Miranda, there is a moment when we can clearly see her face fall from hope to despair, and it makes that scene very very touching. It's a fantastic moment that just wouldn't have worked with poor or average graphics.

Games with stories that try to make things personal, like ME has done, will always need the best graphics they can get to improve the experience. There is an old saying, a picture paints a thousand words, anyone with a background in theatre and performance (that would be me) or anyone who has seen a silent play or film will know the power of a picture or a scene. Good graphics has the same principle, you can tell great stories without them, but some stories need them.

Yes, we need great graphics, they're not the be all and end all of gaming, but we DO need them.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Chameleon » 10 May 2013, 12:45

I'm sorry - exactly when did 'good graphics' become synonymous with photo-realism? Both arguments in this article hinge on the merits of photo-realism, which is absolutely ridiculous. There is more to graphics than just photo-realism.

Do we need better graphics? I would say yes, otherwise new consoles will start with a very sluggish sales performance that may cause funding problems for years to come. They need that 'wow' factor to appeal to the masses. Do these better graphics need to equate to photo-realism? Absolutely not!

Take your copy of Halo:CEA and press the back button. Do it. Then play the game from beginning to end for the fun of it (original graphics not required).

Are the new graphics better? Yes. Photo-realistic? Nope. Do they make the gameplay better? No, but they do make the player feel more immersed in the world and thus create a better game, IMHO. Yes, there will be purists that disagree with me, but I care very little about them. Do I want a photo-realistic Halo? No, but give me more of those 'looking-out-over-requiem' moments and I'm sold but, this time, let me walk over to the structure in the background.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby captainhetty » 10 May 2013, 12:50

My first reaction was to say story and character development are more important, but actually, I think graphics and realism are important too, especially in games with a lot of narrative and interaction between characters. I don't want to repeat anyone else too much, but suffice to say I feel more immersed in a story and engage more with the people in it, when it looks more realistic and their interactions are more true to life.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby Gazisdaman » 10 May 2013, 15:19

To me the question of what we need in a game is a pointless one, games are entertainment which at it's core is not needed but it's something we enjoy and like to have, this is much them same as the question of graphics, you would be absolutely right to say that better graphics aren't needed but then again neither are the games themselves.
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Re: Hot Topic - do we really need better graphics?

Postby SkutchMate » 11 May 2013, 12:42

While graphics do help with the appeal of a game it is not the largest sellingpoint......Retro City Rampage for example harks back to the days of 8bit computers but has great gameplay.

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