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Graphics Games

How Much Detail Is Too Much For Games? 201

jones_supa writes "Gamasutra editor Eric Schwarz gives thought to the constantly increasing amount of graphical detail in computer games. He notes how the cues leading the player can be hindered too much if they drown in the surroundings, making it harder for the game to hint whether the player is making progress. Consistent visual language helps to categorize various objects, making their meaning more obvious. Paths through the game world can be difficult to read simply due to dense vegetation. For some cases 'obfuscation through detail' can also actually work really well. Schwarz challenges us to ponder how the amount of detail makes a game either more or less enjoyable."
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How Much Detail Is Too Much For Games?

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  • I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:53PM (#40848839)
    I used to play a lot of games when I was younger and cut my teeth on titles like Doom, Quake, Half-Life, on up to Far Cry and Half-Life 2 where I kind of got away from the whole thing. Recently I made a Windows install and decided to see what state the industry was in these days. My God was I blown away by the lighting and effects in Crysis Warhead. But equally I came away puzzled that it just didn't seem like I could "see" anything. It all just looked the same to me. Enemies blended into the background and everything just seemed to be running together. I thought maybe I was getting old so its nice to see somebody else agrees with my sentiments.
  • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:08PM (#40849035) Homepage Journal

    Modern games, especially when camouflaging of some form is involved (which usually is in shooters) it's motion that will give them away, if your eyes are not adapted to spotting things.

    1. Pattern and antipattern detection/recognition (hey that grass looks diff... oh that's an enemy!)
    2. Fine motion detection/recognition (something just moved in those trees)

    These very same "skills" are trainable - the more you play, the better you get. [] This has actual real-world impact, especially in the realm of soldiers, hunters etc. Likewise if you've done a lot of that kind of thing, you'll find you pick up these games a bit easier since there's something to build on.

    Here's another study [], though this one's some news report with no links.

  • Re:I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @06:52PM (#40849577)

    Crysis does that deliberately, trying to make camouflage an important gameplay element. It somewhat succeeds - the AI gets confused by camouflage sometimes, and that's not including your magic invisibility thing. So if you play it right, you can turn it into a weapon for you, instead of against you.

    Other games do it simply to look "cinematic". Doesn't work well.

    If you read some of the developer's papers on Team Fortress 2, you'll note that they were obsessed with visual identification. Every class was identifiable by silhouette alone, they used special lighting algorithms to emphasis object edges, and they maintained consistent color schemes, with players and important items being both high-saturation and high-contrast compared to backgrounds.

    That all went out the window somewhere around the time the first promo items were released, but it's still something more developers should learn from.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @07:05PM (#40849745)

    A problem in games has always been one of stealth. When you talk low rez stuff, characters stand out from the environment real well. So stealth is always done through artificial means. Characters become invisible or the like.

    Well, with detailed graphics that isn't necessary. Battlefield 3 does a great job of using visual camouflage. There's no "invisible button", no way to make your character magically disappear. However you can hide in shadows, crawl through the foliage, cove in debris. You can visually hide yourself from your opponents, because the engine has sufficient detail to make that a realistic possibility.

    Now I'm not saying that is the only way to do things. I don't mind games that want to go for bright cartoony graphics (I loved TF2). However it is a cool thing that we can achieve now with better graphics. We can have a setting where you can hide in ways we do in real life.

  • by MacGyver2210 ( 1053110 ) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @10:38PM (#40851489)

    I don't think it depends at all. I think that there is no such thing as too much detail. That said, don't equate detail to 'more stuff'. Just because you have extremely realistic vegetation doesn't mean you should place a hundred branches of a bush in front of the path the player is supposed to take.

    You can make everything extremely detailed without any issues, however, it is up to the level editor and layout artists to make sure that extremely detailed art doesn't interfere with gameplay. Maybe your tree needs shorter vines or branches so you can see the path through the woods, or the extremely detailed grass should be trampled in a certain area to delineate the way you should go, or that waterfall needs a little less glare so you can see the hidden entrance behind it. Those aren't matters of detail, but matters of design.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:05AM (#40852087) Journal

    True. Unfortunately, 'looks right' lands you straight on the tender mercy of the whiny bastards who play your games...

    As one such, something I've found myself running into is that sometimes more detail makes me more aware of the remaining missing details.

    I've been bitten hard a couple of times by this while playing Skyrim lately. A couple of examples: Unlike Oblivion and earlier where all water was still, water now has a 'current' associated with it, so you behave more realistically if you try to cross a swift-flowing river or the like, or drop an object into one. Unfortunately, the 'current' value assignment isn't very granular, so you are constantly running into situations where your intuition expects the flow to change in response to an obstacle or bit of terrain and it just... doesn't. Having no current at all was even less realistic; but you got over it quickly. Now that you have current, every deviation from your intuitions about fluid dynamics just smacks you in the face.

    The improved weapon animation detail seems to have suffered a similar fate. They are much more visceral and kinetic this time around; but that makes the fact that the animations for a given weapon type(eg. all one-handed swords, all warhammers, etc.) are the same, despite the in-game weights of items within a given type varying 50-300%. They are markedly less stiff and anemic than prior animations; but that just makes watching a character handle a weight '9' sword and a weight '16' sword exactly identically weirder(and let's not even start on how different sorts of targets should probably result in more and less elastic collisions...)

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:25AM (#40853069) Journal

    Half-Life showed the way, it was the first big game I recall where being told to go to the Boiler room, meant you looked at the wall and followed the arrows marked Boiler room. No more red card for red door or wondering why this room identical to all the others had special significance.

    A mod for Morrowind replaced the default non-sense roadsigns that only had tooltip on mouse over, to readable signs. Made the world a LOT more immersive. So the answer is simple:


    Well, unless you are very dimwitted/American and need a HUGE sign to be told a box with a redcross sign on it that looks just like a real word first aid box could be used as a first aid box and restore your health. I suppose some people prefer it to be a blue bottle because everyone knows blue bottles restore magic.... oops wait. Red potions then? Obviously the color for danger heals.

    When they stopped using these non-obvious icons and medpacks looked like first aid boxes instead that people could stop reading the manual.

    For first person shooters, being able to shoot through wooden doors, have realistic collision detection so that an obvious line of fire in the 3D world also is a line of fire in the collesion detection world, just makes these games easier and more fun to play as you are playing the game not an arbitrary set of rules that are never explained.

    Some people claim that Tomb Raider was merely popular for its lead characters assets. They forget that it was the first "platform" game, especially on the PC where pixel perfect precession was not needed. Close enough was good enough meaning you could focus on playing the game and not on finding the exact pixel to jump from.

    Not that everything has to be realistic. For instance the new MMO The Secret World does away with fall damage, you can jump from any height with no effect. Makes going around the world a lot more fun. In Lord of the Rings Online, a simple glitch going down a slope might cause fall damage to occur, slowing you to a crawl for far to long to be fun.

    I am personally convinced that a lot of the failure of SWTOR was due to the ingame graphics not being detailed or realistic enough. A cartoon style can work, I am an anime fan but NOT if the source material is live action movies. And all the trailers give big budget cgi movies a run for their money.

    Make it look "real". Not necessarily realistic but if people go "oh right, so that is what that is supposed to be, who would have thought", you failed.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"