How Much Should We Care About Gaming Graphics?
Game developers are constantly pushing boundaries to create better-looking games. In the last several years, we’ve played titles that rival Hollywood’s best output not only in terms of originality, but graphics as well. The Last of Us: Remastered and Grand Theft Auto V, which was the most expensive game of all time, are two recent releases that jump to mind.
But with new technologies continually being released or hinted at, many insiders are questioning the logic behind the current graphical arms race, as reported in Paste Magazine, that is demanding most of developers’ budgets these days. With ever more innovations promised in the coming years, we have to wonder if some of the clever technologies available now are enough to keep us satisfied?
Do Better Graphics Mean Poorer Games?
Writing for Paste, S.E. Batt opines, “The high budgets of these games mean the company can’t afford to take risks, and so they resort to tried and tested formulae to produce a blockbuster game. The result [ending in] games that might look great but feel bland, uninspired and a lot like other games we’ve already played.”
With this in mind, we’re taking a look at some clever graphical innovations that don’t necessary put photorealism at the forefront. Some games simply introduce us to new aesthetics that change the way we experience the world around us – maybe making us wish the real world could be as stimulating.
Procedural Generation – Mathematics Over Graphics
One of the most anticipated games of the year is No Man’s Sky for PS4 and Windows PCs. While it’s not the most photo-realistic release, it boasts an innovative algorithm that allows players to explore a virtually infinite, procedurally generated world.
It creates planets, creatures and ships that are completely unique yet based on certain logical parameters: the distance of a planet from the sun, for instance, will dictate whether there is water present or what color the sky will be. Nothing is stored on a disk or cloud, meaning the universe doesn’t exist until you – the game player – discovers it.
It’s a massive project from Hello Games, an indie studio without an infinite budget. The greatest strength behind No Man’s Sky is not its photo realism – no one will be fooled by the acid-tinged palette – but by its open universe format and clever use of mathematics. The world is believable because, as in real life, everything that happens is unpredictable – even to its creators.
3D Virtual Reality Is About Immersion, Not Realism
Another type of technology about to hit the market is the Oculus Rift – the 3D headset that makes players feel that they are entering a game, rather than watching it on a screen. We’ve seen plenty of game play on YouTube, including some hilarious reaction videos that prove realistic graphics aren’t required to create an amazing gaming experience. The Manor relies on good old jump-scares to make our skin crawl. Although the graphics look rather pedestrian compared to huge studio games, the psychological effect of feeling that you’re there is powerful enough to ‘trick’ our brains into thinking we’re in real danger.
Another seeming limitation, that could actually be a hidden boon, is that wearers of the Oculus Rift will have to stay close to their PCs while playing. The video bandwidth requirements for virtual reality are understandably high, meaning we’ll have to stay plugged into our computers. But that could mean easier access to 3D experiences for more people who own the visor-hardware.
Grand theft Auto V has already been rigged by a fan to work with the Oculus, and online gamers could see tie-ins popping up on popular gaming websites such as Browsergamez in the future. So, considering the innovations in gaming technology happening right now, we wonder if we should be pushing better graphics over more clever gaming concepts. After all, isn’t content supposed to be king?