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The Future of Videogame Aesthetics 359

daniil writes "Here's another look at the 'Realism vs Style' debate. David Hayward, a level designer involved with UT2004 mod Alien Swarm, among others, has written an interesting essay on the aesthetics of videogames, suggesting that, similar to other art forms, the peak of realism in computer games might also be a plateau that acts as precursor to wider experimentation: "We've come a long way since the flint-carved figures of early 3D games, but there's still progress to make before we're producing the game equivalent of sixteenth century marbles. Though it makes for a myopic obsession when compared to the vastness of the picture plane, photo-realism is nonetheless a worthwhile technological achievement to aim for, because it is through this that games will attain the sensation of a lucid dream.""
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The Future of Videogame Aesthetics

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  • by mpathetiq ( 726625 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:05AM (#13781817) Homepage
    The only lucid dreams I have are where either

    a) I am a "water baron" in India. (not sure what that means)
    b) I'm back in high school as an adult going for my second diploma as if it were a bachelor's degree.

    I don't think I would want to play those types of video games.
    • by Tezprice ( 875643 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:11AM (#13781889)
      Venturing further off-topic, I once had a dream where I was being chased by the Predator. I decided to barracade myself in a room by piling shit infront of the door. To my horror the door opened in a Star Trek style and swooshed up into the door frame.

      The predator killed my sorry ass.

      A lesson was learned.

      • "Venturing further off-topic, I once had a dream where I was being chased by the Predator. I decided to barracade myself in a room by piling shit infront of the door. To my horror the door opened in a Star Trek style and swooshed up into the door frame.

        The predator killed my sorry ass.

        A lesson was learned."

        Was it: "Enough of the Star Trek crap, it's too early in the mornin!

    • Not that this is about a true dream but on IRC my quit message is:

      I live in my dreams because they are more real

      Now if only I could hit the Powerball* and change my quit message to:

      I live my dreams because I have the money

      * Yes, I'm aware of the ridiculous chance of me actually winning but it's my money and I'll do with it what I want. You spend more on your coffee/soda every day than I spend on lottery tickets in a month.
    • Ah, yes - Sid Meier's "Water Baron." What a classic! Played it for hours...
    • You realise that lucid dreaming is basically another name for dreams you can control. Believe me they are very worth 'playing'
      • You realise that lucid dreaming is basically another name for dreams you can control.

        Are you sure you're not just dreaming that you can control them?
      • Well, actually, there are considered to be 4 types of Lucid Dreams, each with a different level of control

        I. You are aware of the fact you're dreaming, but can't seem to control even your own actions in the dream
        II. You are aware that you're dreaming, can't control your actions within the dream, but you are able to wake up at will (I have these quite often)
        III. You are able to control your own actions within the dream
        IV. You are able to control your own actions, aswell as the entire dream environmen

    • Sleep is where I'm a viking.
    • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:05PM (#13782241) Journal
      When I was younger (at the end of secondary school) I used to have "pornographic" dreams where I did it with some woman. As a 15 year old virgin boy (back then) I found it really awesome and they were the kind of dreams were I didnt want to wake up.

      So, it is my humble opinion that [and I am still *eagerly* waiting for it] that the genere that really needs to be exploited is the adult genere. Of course at first it will look terrible for the society (as when the porno movie industry started) but I am SURE there is a real market there waiting to be cashed.

      I know a lot of jokes will arise from this, but at least, I enjoyed a lot playing the "larry" games back in the old days, although they were pixel based, but they actually had some "mature" content.

      After watching at the "hot coffee" mod videos, I told, WTF, why not do a complete game about that, of course, first it would need to be done by an independent studio but I can bet my ass that it would get a lot of money (if it was commercialized).

      Or better yet why not start an OpenSource project for an Adult Game?! (interesting what are going to be the implications of having a sourceforge download link, and how do you make sure kids wont download it =oP).

      Anyway, THIS, is the place were "realistic graphics" could have a deffinite effect, and certainly the more realistic the better it would be.

      • Just to complete my "adult gaming" post a bit, (and because I forgot to mention it on the previous post).

        Has anybody played the Adult tetris clone? []

        The first time I played it I found it hilarious, and it is certainly entertaining.

        That means, there can be fun games based in adult material, AND I do not find that tetris game shocking, do you?
      • Seriously, go to Japan. Look for some games there. You can find some pretty odd adult games. Many of the games would make even the most extreme of Western perverts cringe.

        I stayed with relatives who had been to Japan. I ran across some of their games while using their computer. Boy, was I surprised! There are games where you go around as a big octopus tentacle ripping the cloths off of people in the street. Then you proceed to tentacle rape them. In one of the games, for instance, you rape people up the ass
    • by elgatozorbas ( 783538 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:34PM (#13782462)
      I am a "water baron" in India. (not sure what that means)

      I had them too until I turned 4 or so. Mind you, my mother wasn't too pleased...

    • by kurosawdust ( 654754 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:45PM (#13782542)
      a) I am a "water baron" in India. (not sure what that means)

      Curse you, water baron! We have no money for our daughter's dowry because of your predatory price-gouging!


  • by Variz ( 922602 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:06AM (#13781831)
    Perhaps after we reach true photorealism game companies will actually start to sell their products based on good gameplay instead of the latest flashy graphics.
    • Exactly what I was thinking. Perfect, amazing graphics are good, but if that's all you aim for as a developer, you're missing the point. My dreams may look awesome, but it is always the content that determines the quality and "realism".
    • Nope. Because it will still cost $200 million to make a game with said photorealistic graphics. As such, only retreads of successful titles will be tolerated. So, expect about a bazillion more releases of Generic Heavy Metal Behind-View Shooter.
      • It doesn't work that way...Look at CGI films. As the technology becomes more widely adopted, the tools become cheaper and more accessable, and everybody starts using them, while the super high-end blockbuster effects types start working on the next generation, which costs a mint today but will be the cheapo standard tomorrow.

        So when super real graphics become the standard, the focus will shift away from them. It's simply inevitable.

    • Remember, it's not so much about what the publishers will sell, but rather about what the consumers will buy. After all, the publishers could offer a game with a great storyline and semi-decent graphics. And you know what? It may very well not well.

      I'm sure many of the major game publishers have looked into the possibility of offering games like you describe. But the potential benefits most likely do not outweigh the risks. When you're dealing with millions upon millions of dollars, you usually don't want t
    • but it won't happen.
      The more 'photorealistic' the engine can make the game world, the more art and design is needed to take advantage of that. You might not spend those dev dollars on stretching every last polygon out of the engine, but you will spent them making those polygons look good. If you have 2GiB of video memory availible for textures and associated maps, you'd better make good use of it. No more repeating the same box image over and over in every level.

      Honestly I think graphcis are an adivsary
  • by Crazy Man on Fire ( 153457 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:07AM (#13781838) Homepage
    I'm so sick of this. Style and realism are not opposites. Realism is just one of many visual styles that a game could adopt.
    • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:13AM (#13781899)
      I'm so sick of this. Style and realism are not opposites. Realism is just one of many visual styles that a game could adopt.

      And just because you choose realism, that doesn't say much about the visual style or flair of your game. The vast majority of photography is realistic, and no one would argue that all photographers have the same style.
    • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:17AM (#13781928)
      Well, I'm still waiting for a post-modern abstractist style FPS
      • by Crazy Man on Fire ( 153457 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:23AM (#13781981) Homepage
        Well, I'm still waiting for a post-modern abstractist style FPS
        I know this was meant as a joke, but it really illustrates the lack of innovation in the game industry. They have so many options open to them, yet the exercise so few. I know many people don't feel the same, but gameplay is first for me. The fancy graphics won't win me over if the gamplay isn't there. Innovative gameplay and unique graphics are largely missing from most new games. Sad.
        • I Loved the "style" in NPR quake. (google it if you are unfamiliar). It was the same game, but with a cool visual style.

          On a slightly related note, I was playing SSX On Tour, and they did a great job with their menu presentation. The entire menu system looks like it was pulled straight from a bored high school students notebook. Quite neat, and im (very) suprised an EA developer could pull something so... creative off.
      • by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:14PM (#13782308)
        a post-modern abstractist style FPS

        Actually, it's already been done. At a show called INSTALL.EXE a few years back at the Eyebeam Gallery [] in NYC, they had a number of abstract interactive installations (to call them 'games' might be stretching the term a bit) based on the source for Wolfenstein-3D and Quake. Here's a review. []
      • Not a FPS, but Gottlieb's Q*bert arcade game is abstract.
        Joust and Marble madness were less strange, but ok.
        Asteroids Pong and Qix were the most stylized ones.

        Pacman? the guy eats up pills, starts seeing ghosts, and when he eats the bigger pill he thinks he is invincible and eats them. It's not abstract but a junkie's nightmare all right.
    • If you RTFA, I think you'll find that the author agrees. In fact, one of the things he shows is that "realism" isn't even sufficient to describe the style of a game. Would "Live motion" (as opposed to animation) be sufficient to describe the style of a movie? No.

      I think this particular article, rather, is indicating that "style" is a pretty complex thing, of which "realism" is only one aspect. Therefore, realism is not the end-all-be-all, nor need it be the chief goal. (I wouldn't say that this is a s

    • Yes yes.
      But what he's talking about is sylized grahpics (like cartoons)
      It's almost like you didn't read the article.... but we know that can't be.
  • by rovingeyes ( 575063 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:07AM (#13781840)
    Photo-realism is of course very important. It can get you immersed in a game. But what about gameplay? For e.g. photo-realism took a new standard in games like Doom3. But a hour in to the game, I lost interest and realized I also list my $50. Every game in a genre is the same. How about re-inventing the gameplay? How about actually concentrating on virtual reality?
    • by Evil W1zard ( 832703 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:17AM (#13781930) Journal
      I 100% agree with your statement. While visually the game may be amazing it still won't be worth playing if the gameplay itself is poor. How many video games have we seem come out that have taken extraordinary efforts to make them look graphically superb, but then you play it and it is just boring.

      Visual stimulation is nice, but if the game itself is crap I'm not gonna buy it... Thats why I loved Fable. It was a great concept (character grows as you play it and the world around you is effected by your actions) and it was visually pleasing, but I believe they made the game with gameplay weighing heavier than graphics... Additionally you need to consider the market you are trying to sell to as well. If you make a game that has unbelievably great visuals, but requires a high end video card and massive amount of PC power then you wind up not being able to sell the game to a large part of your targeted audience who don't have the PC to play it...
      • Thats why I loved Fable. It was a great concept (character grows as you play it and the world around you is effected by your actions) and it was visually pleasing, but I believe they made the game with gameplay weighing heavier than graphics...

        To each his own I guess. Fable was a complete bore IMHO. I played it for 3 or 4 hours and just couldn't take anymore.

        That's just my opinion though, and I think that a lot of us need to realize that others have differing opinions. I can't stand FPS games, and a REALL
    • But how do you want the gameplay "reinvented"? I often hear people request this with respect to games, but they never really seem to be able to pinpoint what specific changes they'd like. Perhaps you can offer some suggestions?

      I'm just not sure that there's really any way to reinvent the killing of people and monsters. Unless you want to transition to virtual reality suits and holodecks, there probably isn't much more that could be done. Such games are already in 3D, and thus already at the level of reality
    • How about re-inventing the gameplay? How about actually concentrating on virtual reality?

      Say hello to Nintendo's business plan.
  • Why not both? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dogun ( 7502 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:08AM (#13781842) Homepage
    Check out - sequel to The Longest Journey.
    • I'm eagerly awaiting the release after completing The Longest Journey (which I personally found to be a good adventure game, though not quite as good as the hype around it would lead some to believe), but I would hardly call the released screenshots revealing anything close to photorealism. Keep in mind that the backgrounds that you might think are photorealistic are likely prerendered.
  • DUPE! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The future of dupes, however, is stead-fast: html?tid=10 []
  • Waxing Intellectual (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Shkuey ( 609361 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:08AM (#13781851)
    This guy reminds me of the scene in Mallrats where they're trying to have an intellectual discussion about superman's baby. He's over thinking and over analyzing something that really just isn't that deep. I think he may just like to use big words or see himself in print. I really don't suggest anyone read this unless they've got insomnia.
    • Discussing whether photorealism's a good or bad obsession for the industry needs fairly complicated language to be perfectly honest. Heck, just stating the problem calls for a four-syllable word. I'm sure he could've stated it in simpler terms but it's hard to be succinct (clear and precise while brief) in that case.
  • by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:09AM (#13781860)
    Back when I used to play video games I noticed that if I played before bed then I would actually dream in the graphics of the videogame sometimes. At first I would have dreams where I was in Ultima Online and someone was robbing my house, so I would wake up in a cold sweat and go to check on my character (who was macroing on the computer next to my bed).

    The all time low was definitely when I got into nethack. You've never had a nightmare until you've had a nightmare in ASCII.

    • You are, sadly, not alone in this grim and harrowing psychological entanglement. I dreamed, whilst in college, that I was murdered outside of the dining hall. People crowded around me and I saw giant brown cloth sacks, with silver gauntlets moving over my body and removing my wallet and other objects.

      What is truly terrifying is not so much that you've dreamed this scenario but that as it is happening it seems entirely normal and plausible.

      For a brief period in my early childhood, I was able to achieve lucid
    • I noticed the same effect: games before bed usually carried into my dreams. But one night I had the unusual experience where games were crossed with dreams AND sleepwalking.

      My wife tells it better since she was conscious during the whole ordeal, but I'll try to recap it as she did. It started after a night of Counter-strike and Enemy Territory. Normally I go to sleep first since i have to wake up ealier. Anyway, my wife came into the room after I'd been asleep for about an hour or two. Suddenly, I lau
    • Nethack dreams (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leoboiko ( 462141 )
      Most of the dedicate nethack players I've met seem to have dreamt with ascii at least once. From my experience, nethack and tetris are the most dream-prone games.

      In my nightmares, I was once chased by a giant yellow lowercase 'c'...
  • by jkind ( 922585 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:10AM (#13781874) Homepage
    A long winded story but here goes: Went up to a yard sale at a neighbours place a few days ago. Her son, probably 14 or 15, comes over to me and *immediately* starts describing to me a scene in Grant Theft Auto (not sure what version). At first I just listened along, agreeing with him, as I had played games like that previously. But after a while I realized he was talking about BEING (hard to describe what I mean) in the scene. He was talking about characters like Sanchez and police officers like they had really spoken to him. It was a tad creepy. "Sanchez was looking at me like I had done something wrong, but then I could tell by his expression that what I said had really upset him". I came home and immediately tried to look up what kind of condition the boy might have to no avail. It was like he was living the video game, and that people in the real world should understand because they're watching in on it too (game as reality). I'm going to try and chat with his mom about his video gaming habits. At the very least he's spent one too many hours in the game. Anyway I was always against the anti-video gaming nuts since they were blaming Columbine on video gaming (at least it was mentioned as a contributing factor along with marilyn manson and the kitchen sing), but this is the first time I've seen a real scary example of kids being absorbed by the medium.
  • by Pxtl ( 151020 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:11AM (#13781881) Homepage
    Here's the problem - the people who buy games - lots of games, not just once every few months, are teenaged boys. They're insecure, hormonal, and rather stupid. So, games must market to them.

    First of all, they violently object to anything stylized as being "kiddy" and "stupid faggy crap" - witness the reaction to "celda". Second, they don't have very complicated tastes.

    Also, as costs go up the game industry will become increasingly risk-averse.

    So, the games of the future are $200 million titles that feature photorealistic graphics, voices provided by pop artists, and lots and lots of explosions and tits. Plus, since the market grows up in roughly 8 years (assume they start on hardcore action games at 12, and grow out of them in college when they can chase RL tits and beer) then they don't need to worry about rehashing - it doesn't matter if your gameplay has been done 1000 times, these kids never played the original Doom and all it's ripoffs.

    Yay future.
    • You're correct in a general sense, but I'm an avid gamer AND a teenage "boy" (like to think of myself as a man, but maybe that's the "rather stupid" part) who likes gameplay over graphics. However, far too many gamers who try to distance themselves from the moronic public say "graphics aren't what matters! Gameplay is the only thing that matters to me" Of course, that's until Nintendo shows off a new game trailer with realism as the style (new Zelda for instance)and they go "my god that game looks gorgeous
    • by briancarnell ( 94247 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:25AM (#13781991) Homepage
      According to the Entertainment Software Assocation, the average game is age 30, and the average purchaser of games is 37. There are, in fact, more women > 18 who play games than there are young boys 6-17 who do so according to the ESA. Some segments of the video game/computer game industry are clearly geared to teenage boys, but you seem to be relying largely on anecdotes and stereotypes.

      That said, your last point is the real problem. What happens to game production costs when photorealism is the standard. Do we reach the point where a game costs as much to produce and develop as a high-end Hollywood production? If so, then we'll likely see the same stagnation and lack of creativity that we see in the film industry.

      Except it will be even worse, since technology has actually brought production costs for film and video down while the production costs for video/computer games have skyrocketed. Yes there are still a lot of great independent titles for the PC, but the consoles are pretty stagnant.
      • "That said, your last point is the real problem. What happens to game production costs when photorealism is the standard."

        When photorealism is the standard, only the standards will have photorealism.

        Seriously, photorealism will never become the standard until production costs are much lower. The reason that more photorealistic games make a profit is, besides gameplay, because of the Wow! factor. When the Wow! factor is taken away (because everyone's got it) then the sales will be much lower, and phot
    • Here's the problem - the people who buy games - lots of games, not just once every few months, are teenaged boys.

      I bet you'd be surprised at how many gamers are BEYOND their teenage years. We've now entered the first generation of people who grew up playing video games, and thus don't have the stigma that games are 'kids stuff'.

      They're insecure, hormonal, and rather stupid. So, games must market to them.

      Okay, well this applies to both groups. :) But you're wrong about the marketing part. It's a Catch-

  • Limited Immersion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpasticThinker ( 892651 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:16AM (#13781918)
    Photo-realistic graphics will only go so far toward immersing a player in the game, when those graphics are displayed on a flat screen several feet/inches in front of the gamer's face. Looking at pictures on my computer rarely, if ever, makes me feel like I am in that place where the photo was taken.

    The thing that will make games more immersive is holographic technology - when a 3D image can be thrown all around you rather than on a comparatively small rectangle in front of you.
  • Imersion (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lapagecp ( 914156 )
    Photo realism is not the key to imerision and never has been. Games that are truley great make you feel like you are in the game. The characters acomplishments become your own. Its kinda sick when you think of it that way but its true. Anyway the key is in better interfaces. Pressing keys doesn't make me feel like I am in the game. The paddle vibrating is a start but we need to improve on the interface not how it looks. Personally if I could feel like I am walking around in a virtual world then I cou
  • by AlltheCoolNamesGone ( 838035 ) * on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:18AM (#13781938)
    Aesthetics are important, but they should never override gameplay.
    I worry about the fate of the up and coming generation console falling on there faces because all they have been touting have been the aesthetics.
    I think it'll also be interesting to see when we reach the []"> Uncanny Valley in video games and how video game developers proceed from there as far as photo realism goes.
  • Hmmm.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by borawjm ( 747876 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:18AM (#13781939)
    Eventually, the mods are going to post a story and, at the end of it, comment "btw, this is a dupe" or, a little more subtle, "this was previously covered here".

  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:19AM (#13781948) Homepage Journal
    I look at it this way, if your trying to sell a flight sim, racing sim, or Army-Sim then yet photo realism is going to be a good feature to have.

    Yet for games like the "Sims" there isn't a need. The context of the sims isn't emulating real life in the same sense as the other games.

    A lot can be said by adapting a style that is not trying to be realistic to create an environment more beneficial to the story you are telling. World of Warcraft is a great example. While many other MMOPRGs tried harder to look more "realistic" WOW went a whole another direction.

    The problem with trying to make realistic appearing models is that the little errors of those models become glaring. Half-Life2 has many examples of approaching a realistic setting but having incosistencies that totally blow it. Examples include objects of a type that are not destructible while others of the same type are. MMORPGs suffer more as they have to meet the limitations imposed by lesser machines. This leads to a game that looks great on the high end machines and downright atrocious on lower end machines.

    Context should be the deciding factor. Don't do it just because you can.
  • by Ceriel Nosforit ( 682174 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:19AM (#13781949)
    Something is deeply wrong. - A slashdotter expressing himself eloquently? Appearing learned while at it?
    A sign of the apocalypse for sure.

    On topic, I think many games already express a specific style, even if it often is more subtle. This is unavoidable as long as different people take notice of different things; different people express themselves differently. This is unavoidable as no man is objective in perception.
    Conways law [] is satisfied.

    A quick comparison between the releases of gamehouses should show this. It's often striking how varied models of humans can be. Faces especially.

  • by mixtape5 ( 762922 ) <> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:20AM (#13781955) Journal
    Here's another look at the 'Realism vs Style' debate. David Hayward, a level designer involved with UT2004 mod Alien Swarm... I don't see how you guys can call it a dupe when the first sentance clearly states that it is "another look" at the realism vs. style debate. Just because something is on the same subject does not make it a dupe!
    • The "dupe" posts are just a slashdotter reflex. It is a knee-jerk type reaction to seeing "Posted by CmdrTaco" at the top.
    • "I don't see how you guys can call it a dupe when the first sentance clearly states that it is "another look" at the realism vs. style debate"

      Unless there's already been "another look." Unless they use unique identifiers, then "another looks could still be constured as a dupe.

      Here's a second look... here's a third look... etc.

      At least that way they'd shut up the ACs who think the editors are not keeping track of dupes. I mean, they are keeping track of dupes, right?
  • What else then?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tprime ( 673835 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:21AM (#13781961)
    I will be very glad when photorealism is actually EASILY possible in games. Then, maybe game companies will stop dedicating all of their resources to making their games 'pretty.'

    One of the problems that I can see on the horizon is that games will get ALMOST perfect photorealism and start causing nausea when playing. When the brain starts to believe that what it is seeing is real but has problems with certain aspects, angles, reflections or refresh rates, motion sickness like symptoms start to occur. Couple this with larger monitors and TVs that completely occupy your FOV, denying your sense of real world perspective and it gets interesting. Half-Life2 seems to be one of the first mainstream games inwhich this might be starting to occur; the hovercraft level seemed to be particularly troublesome for many.
    • by j_snare ( 220372 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:08PM (#13782269)
      People have gotten nausea from games for a long time now, and different things affect different people.

      For instance, for FPS games, I could play Wolfenstein and Heretic, but not Doom. All of the ones after that made me sick until Dark Forces, and that one still affected me after a while. Then I was pretty much stuck getting sick with all of them until the Unreal Tournament line came out. I don't know why, but the UT line is the only one out of the current lines that doesn't make me ill (even after very long sessions). The Doom engine, Elite Force, etc, all make me sick. Deus Ex made me slightly ill, but was slow paced enough for me to fight through it a couple hours at a time (at most).

      To this day, I'll try out about any game, but most FPS games still affect me, though some take longer to make me ill than others. Other people I know have had worse experiences. UT seems to have the least affect on people, and it still kills a few of my friends.

      I haven't noticed the realism really helping or hurting. Doom made me sick faster than Dark Forces, and the UT still doesn't make me sick, though games of lesser graphics do. Based on that, I think it's all in how the engine works, not how realistic it looks.
    • Re:What else then?? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rowan_u ( 859287 )
      Nausea is not necessarily caused by realism. For instance, I remember being horrendously sick while playing the original Descent game. However, I really liked the game, and forged onward despite the sickness. As I became more accustomed to the graphics the nausea disappeared. Also, try changing a rabid FPS gamer's inversion settings, and watch hilarity ensue. The sickness can be caused by other changing controls as well.

      Another cause for nausea in 3d games is the changing of a commonly used physica
  • The Uncanny Valley (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g_adams27 ( 581237 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:22AM (#13781971)
    There's an article (wish I could find it - came from someone in Japan associated with Nintendo maybe?) that pointed out something I found rather interesting: the closer you get to photo-realistic images (especially humans, for example), the more jarring will be the elements of the image that are not human-like.

    Take Half-Life 2, for example. It has some of the best renditions of humans I've ever seen in any game. But once you look past that, it becomes glaringly obvious that these characters are still missing something. A character finishes talking to you, then goes into a "trance", staring straight ahead. HL2 tries to fix this by having the character "wobble" a bit to give the illusion of a living, breathing, not-perfectly-motionless human, or by having them turn their heads and look around from time to time. But there's still something... just not quite human about them.

    Compare that to Mario in (let's say) Super Mario World. He's obviously human, but drawn and animated in such a whimsical way that you don't find it odd at all that he stands perfectly still, never moves a facial muscle, etc.

    This isn't the article I was thinking of, but have a look at the Wikipedia article on The Uncanny Valley [] if you're interested in more. See also this blog [] for speculation on why The Incredibles did so well while The Polar Express just creeped people out.

  • Is it possible to build photo quality high rendered worlds on a pc ?

    I don't think so. Takes Hollywood a roomful of server.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:25AM (#13781995)
    I hate "debates" like this. I really do. They all make the exact same mistake. They assume that the games industry is some kind of ultra-homogenised body, that's going to inevitably move in one direction, and one direction only, with regard to aesthetics. This is simply not true. Looking at my games-shelves, I can see any number of styles represented. There's the ultra-realism (yes, realism is a style too) of Doom 3, Resident Evil 4 and Farcry. There's the comic-book look of Guilty Gear X and most of the first-party Nintendo titles. There's the exaggerated, "epic" style of Halo 2 and Final Fantasy X. And there's the deliberately retro look of Disgaea. To cut a long story short, developers are *always* going to know that there's a market for titles which look "different", so we're never going to see a move towards a single consistent style.

    That said, there *is* the related (but slightly different) issue of stylistic trends and bandwagons.

    What I'm talking about here is where a particular visual style is successful in one or two games, so a big section of the industry starts shovelling out games that use that style, until it's been done to death and the industry moves on to something else (often swinging too far the other way and abandoning the look in question completely).

    On a technological rather than stylistic level, look at what happened with the use of full motion video in games when CD-ROMs appeared on the scene. We had a rush of games with vast amounts of FMV, some of which were awful (Rebel Assault, Night Trap, Sewer Shark, to name but a few) and some which were decent (Wing Commanders III and IV, Privateer: The Darkening, Terra Nova), then suddenly, there was a huge backlash (which persists, unfairly, to this day) and FMV vanished almost entirely. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm sure the costs involved made this a relief for a lot of developers, but... erm... let's ignore that for now.

    Moving back to the present, I think cel shading is going to be the next victim of this backlash. It was fun the first few times we saw it done and it's produced some cool-looking games, but now that Nintendo have pretty much based an entire generation of games, many of them highly mediocre, that rely on it exclusively, I think the market's thoroughly sick of it and it's going to vanish off the radar soon. Who knows what the next big trend will be...

    Photo-realism, while just another style, will, I think be immune to the trend-swing for a while longer. For one thing, it remains the "default" style that people are accustomed to. For another thing, it's as much a technical aspiration as it is a style for the time being. Until we actually get there, I don't see any kind of market backlash against photorealism happening.
  • Style for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RedNovember ( 887384 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:29AM (#13782016)

    If you want to frame the debate as style vs. realism (which is incorrect), give me style any day. If I wanted realism, I'd get a life.

    Seriously though, the point of videogames is as escapist fare, like movies. Sure there are movies about ordinary people doing ordinary things, but they are only critically acclaimed, not popular. Some of the most fun video games are unrealistic or just flat out absurd. (see Katamari Damacy [])

    Besides, a good style is a form of visual branding. People don't forget the earliest Mario [] games, partly because everyone remembers what they looked like.

  • by oneandoneis2 ( 777721 ) * on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:32AM (#13782037) Homepage

    it is through this that games will attain the sensation of a lucid dream.

    As a side-effect of meditation, I've had quite a few ucid dreams, and can confidently say that mere photo-realism will get you nowhere near to duplicating the LD experience of "Hey, I'm dreaming! This is great, I'm in a world created by my own mind, I can see anything, do anything, be anything. . . Damn, I've woken up!"

  • Realism is overrated (Score:2, Interesting)

    by realmolo ( 574068 )
    Personally, I like my videogames to look pretty cartoon-y. It's just a neater look, artistically.

    Which brings me to my big idea. "Cartoon-Strike". Counter-Strike, but everything looks something like a G.I. Joe cartoon. Well, better than G.I. Joe, but you get the idea. Flat shading, bright colors, low detail. I'm suprised it hasn't been done yet.

    I'm just tired of realism. It's boring.
  • Reality sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:40AM (#13782086)
    most people try not to see the world with anything approaching realism. We love getting drunk. When we go to parties, we use UV and special FX lighting. People use makeup, fashion and cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance. We like to read magazines about celebrity lives. We like our egos, we like to think we are always right. We like to believe political lies and delusions that make us feel good. We like to think we work much harder than other people. We like to think our nation is the world's best. We like to think that we are super-strong commandos, who can slay an army with only an M-16 and 1337 pwning skillz. We like to think we are badass car thieves struggling against society.

    In short, what the fuck to videogames have to do with reality? Aren't they about escapism, just like almost everything else we spend our money on?

  • by adam31 ( 817930 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .13mada.> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:40AM (#13782087)
    It looks worse. When you see an attempt photo-realism, the mind is faced with a true/false dilemma and focuses on the details that are wrong. When you see good looking stylized environments, the judgement becomes more aesthetic.

    This is a large reason why Pixar had such a small screen-time of humans in Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, etc... because humans are really, really honed in to the visual qualities of other humans. If anything looks wrong, an expression, an animation, the skin folding, the hair, cloth, it all looks wrong. Even Geri's Game was very stylized, instead of trying to mimic the photo-realistic visuals of an old man.

    Most artists aren't even capable of it (I guess we should call it "video-realism" instead, since the motion is at least as important as the still image). And for the few that are, it takes a long, long time.

    • I read an article recently (hell, it may have been posted here - I can't remember). It was essentially describing the same thing, only with machines/robots. We tend to attribute human characteristics to simple robots (think Roomba - some people treat those things like pets), but when they look too human, then we are repulsed by them - they just look too damned creepy.
    • quite there yet and I don't think anyone is disagreeing about that. There are [] examples of decent photorealism out there but their few and far between. When the toolsets get better the realism will too so until then your absolutely right, stylism is the work-around. But thats more or less what everyones been saying isn't it?
  • by Anaphiel ( 712680 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:07PM (#13782258)
    Great read overall, but most articles I've read on this subject miss one important limiting factor when pushing for more photorealistic games: the ability of the artists to deliver.

    In the old days of low-poly monsters and low-res textures, any slightly artistic geek could build a model or a level and it would look as good as anybody elses. That is changing as the tools and processing power evolve. The newer games require very high-quality assets that not every artist has the skill to produce. It's no longer enough to be an arty geek, now you need to be a geeky artist.

    Imagine you take two people and sit them down with a pencil and a piece of paper. One's just some guy from off the street, the other is a fine arts major from t he local art school. You tell them each to draw a figure using only six lines and in the shortest possible time. They each draw a stick figure, and both look pretty much alike. You then say draw another person, no limit on the number of lines, take a half an hour. You've now removed the limitations that were hiding the disparity of talent, so at the end of that time the first guy has a stick figure (maybe a stick figure with hair) and the art student has a passable portrait of the first guy.

    The same thing seems to be happening with game visuals: the improved tools and increased polygon pushing abilities of modern consoles have removed most of the limits that in a way protected less-talented artists, and their limitations are now made more glaring. If you really want to push for photorealism, how long before you get to the point where you need a Francisco Cortina to make your models? There are'nt a whole lot of those guys out there.

    Re: the larger "stylized vs. realistic" issue, I think overall it's easier to be "Boris" than it is to be "Frazetta". Mimicing real life is always easier than developing a distinctive and original visual style.

  • Everquest, the box. []
    Everquest, the screenshots. []

    We have a long way to go.

    • EverQuest is several years old, so you can't really call it "state of the art". Half-Life 2's characters really do look as good as the ones on the boxes (neglecting the fact that your monitor is probably 80-100 dpi and the box printing is an order of magnitude higher).
  • Isn't this a kinda pointless debate? There will always be room for both the artistic style and the photo realistic one. Visuals are about mood, of-course there will be room for other moods than the ones that photo realistic rendering offer.

    The technology for creating photo realistic movies for years, but directors still do animation, claymation, dolls, black and white and other offbeat stuff like for example "Walking life".

    I actually think that when game developers get the power to do really near photo-real
  • This is quite possibly the greatest sentence I have ever read in an article

    We'll always stand by gameplay: but it's graphics that will be handcuffing us to the bed during our next "business trip".
  • Um... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mattthomas ( 857940 )
    Videogame graphics are a form of art. Like other forms of art, they reflect the vision of the artist and the tastes of the patron--in this case, the graphic designer and target audience of the game. Like other forms of art, there will be visual and stylistic trends, but always some great individual works.
    As technology advanced in other forms of art, the ability of the artist to transform artistic vision into a medium has increased, stylistic variety has increased and (arguably) the tastes of patrons has
  • Thank god for dupes, so I can get a second bite of this apple. A lot of us posting on this topic will say "it's the gameplay stupid." Well, it is, and it's not. The one simple problem is that you cannot put your gameplay on the back of a box. That's where a significant percentage of consumers get their info. Gameplay is too abstract a thing to depict to your average consumer in the 5 seconds of attention they will give you. A pretty picture however, grabs attention and is the easiest way to compare yo
  • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:29PM (#13782424)
    I want an engine that'll let me choose how things get rendered, much as can be done with various products like Max or Poser or whatever.

    If I want to cel-render everything so it looks like a cartoon, let me do that. If I want things to look hyper-realistic, let me do that. If I want things to look as if they are made of stained glass, let me do that.

    Give me a palette of variables and let me experiment. Let me export those variables so that I can share my settings with other people, and they with me.

    A perfect example of a game that could really benefit from on-the-fly changes to the rendering would be City of Heroes. I would *love* to see the game done in a XIII/Zelda: Wind Walker style - but, alas, the developers chose to present it in that "pseudo-reality" style that's become boring to me. There have also been a number of games that I think I might have otherwise enjoyed, but I was just bored to death with the visuals.

    Video games are interactive. So let me interact with the renderer.
  • Keep in mind that there's nothing that states that photorealism has to be the same old thing that the average homosapien can witness in his or her daily routine or with a few hours sitting on an airplane. The fact that Yet Another Jungle Commando Game can look as realistic as ever doesn't mean that better games can't take a photorealistic rendering approach and make something that is genuinely visually interesting. In a fantasty game, clever use of surreal lighting effects can make a light source be a littl
  • by ZachPruckowski ( 918562 ) <> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:35PM (#13782478)
    I think that the idea is sort of rediculous. Video games by necessity are unrealistic, and the graphics are realistic. It'd drive people insane in a FPS if they shot a fully detailed human in the hand, and the hand didn't fall off/become useless. I mean, they can get away with it now, but realistic gameplay and realistic graphics go hand in hand.

    Then there is fantasy. How realistic can you make a Chimera (sp?) look?

    As one poster mentioned GTA, I'll bring it up here. The basic psychologic principle for why we can play violent video games and not be affected by them is because we know they aren't real. However, if the brain can't tell real from video game, it could affect us unconsciously. I have no problem understanding that it is encouraged that I shoot people up in GTA, but discouraged on campus. But if there becomes less and less of a distinction, there could be people who have a problem with it, especially people who already have some violence issues.
  • Interesting topic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chitlenz ( 184283 ) <chitlenz.chitlenz@com> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @01:20PM (#13782830) Homepage
    I'll postulate that by the time we have true, full screen photorealistic graphics running at 60fps, laser technology will have evolved enough to 'paint' over your vision (similar to the eye controls used by fighter pilots) with enough density to remove the screen as a disbelief problem. This, btw, is technology that's close to working, but then so is 60 fps visualization at real-like resolutions. The real problems to date, as someone noted above, have been the physics engines with regards to character motion and interaction, and the limited range of motions that currently are programmed into the capture for each model.

    The current reasoning is, we'll put someone in a rubber suit full of sensors and make them execute every motion that they could possibly do as a charater, which leaves the billions of other motion possibilites unexplored. A real breakthrough is very close, where we can code out the lives of bots to give them some sense of place (that seems to be what's missing in Uncanny Valley) by allowing for more random movement and activity paths. I think this will be the real breakthrough, since suspension of disbelief is about more than just resolution.

    Meandering back to the topic though, I think the 'style vs real' debate is overblown, since by very nature if you can do real, you can do anything (on a screen). Obviously real wins every times, its just noone can do it yet.


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