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General: Editorial: Graphics Whores

They're ruining games. Senior Editor Dana Massey looks at one specific example within the office and says why he thinks people should be less superficial.

Graphics whores are killing innovation in gaming. A bold statement, but one I believe.

These same people who give new games a one because their graphics are not up to snuff, often sit around and complain that no one innovates. They attack companies like Blizzard and SOE for putting out games they've already played. Then, they turn around and give random indy MMO X a one rating because the visuals are not up as good as EQII!

The full article is here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios



  • boognish75boognish75 Member UncommonPosts: 1,540

    Hmmm well, I dont think most people enjoy playing atari graffix on a 2000$ gaming rig, i think thats where most people get upset on graffix mattering.

    playing eq2 and two worlds

  • brihtwulfbrihtwulf Member UncommonPosts: 975

    I have to disagree with the article.  I think those "graphics whores" are a necessary part of the evolution of gaming.  Ideas are cheap, and most of them are easily instituted in code.  UO has unique features, but they are not so mind-boggling that other developers haven't been able to replicate them.  The fact of the matter is that they simply haven't done it...

    But with the constant evolution of gaming technology (CPUs, GPUs, etc.), it's absolutely necessary to have the future in mind when developing the latest in games.  Anyone who says they don't care about graphics, and would rather play Pokemon on the Gameboy than Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is either an idiot or a liar.  People want games that are BOTH breath-taking and innovative.  Now, you can argue about the "quality" of the graphics in a game like WoW, but it's artisticly captivating and true to its origins at the same time.

    What would happen if Ultima Online had a complete graphics overhaul?  I could probably guarantee you that if it held the same level as say, Guild Wars (not the most graphics intensive, but quite stunning all the same), while keeping their unique gameplay features, it would enroll a much greater subscriber base than it has.  Personally, I think people still playing UO are so hung up on their "uber" characters they have developed, they have relegated themselves to a world of sickeningly outdated graphics so they don't feel like they've wasted the last 10 years of their life...

    Innovation and ideas are hard when everyone just wants a piece of the pie without baking a new one.  New features and changes are a risk, and they will roll out slowly as companies dare to take chances.  But when you've invested multiple-millions of dollars in a project, you don't want to stretch things too far.  Indie developers can afford to have big dreams and take big chances because they have little to lose.  It's going to take a visionary with deep pockets to change the flow of the industry, but they're going to have to keep up with the expectations of those "graphics whores" at the same time.

    Well, I'm off to play Guild Wars or WoW, so don't try to PM me asking for a pokemon battle!

  • QmireQmire Member Posts: 423

    Make the mmos playable on systems that only has 512mb ram and 1ghrz comp, with an old gfx card.

    To all those companies just thinking about making a mmo that req. a massive system, look at woW and, then EQ2, which one has most customers? which one is most succesful?

    EQ2 is still rather hard to get on the desired gfx levels, and it looks horrid on normal systems, while wow looks quite good even on the lower settings.

    So please, don't believe that everyone who plays mmorpgs has a system of 4Ghrz, 2g ram+, and the latest GFX card, it's stupid and will bring you nowhere.

    It's nice to have the option to use your newest systems and set the settings at maximum in your mmorpg but make sure that the fellah on the 1ghrz 512mb ram also can enjoy his playtime, because through that people will also be able to play it on thier laptops, which is only a bonus.


  • Major_SkillzMajor_Skillz Member Posts: 84

    I agree and disagree with points made in the editorial.

    Company's that develop their games with high-end graphics are no more or less guilty of not innovating than another company. This is part of a larger issue.

    Every game put out is a financial gamble. Especially when it comes to mmo's because of their natural higher operational costs.

    It's the game publishers are afraid of cutting edge and innovation. They want to see and touch what the know is and has worked in the past. I mean come on. It's about money, not the end-user or innovation.

    A company that took that chance and succeeded was CCP with EVE-ONLINE. Not the graphics part. Yes, the are very high-end to say the lest. However, the mark they made was the fresh and innovative game they created. from the heavy PVP element to the single game Universe.

    I think they were prepared to fail in order to put out the game they wanted. This is what has made them a success and also the potential failure of any new game.

    This is why publishers are very heavy into a games design and features normally. They want to put out something that will give them some sort of respectable return and the only data they can accurately use to make that determination is what is living and breathing.

    Not what someone has dreamed can be possible.


  • docminusdocminus Member Posts: 717
    I totally agree - look at some followup games, say Oblivion vs older Elder Scrolls, or NWN2 vs NWN1, Gothic 3 vs 2/1, to name just a few recent rpg games. Most people will agree that the newer versions are washed down games compared to the older ones.

    Or take L2 - I admit I played it for a while due to the (sexy) graphics, until I got pretty bored with it.

    After playing games for 20 years now, very often graphical innovation comes at the price of gameplay - be it less conten amount and/or intelligent wise.

    I started playing UO a few months ago - I love it, despite the graphics. Which are, in 2D ("pseudo" 3D is lousy) actually pretty well made. But you have to be old school to accept it I guess.

    The reason though why I can't play many so called classic games otherwise, are certain "modern" features which one is used to - say auto-mapping in an rpg. when it comes to CiV though, I prefer Civ I over IV - so there is at least one classical game...

    Now an FPS - yes, the more the merrier - great graphics & sound give great realism - take FEAR e.g (at least for me).

    The market is stronger than we - if you want to play retro, you won't get it in new games.... the new generation who only encounters better and better grafx, and use games as fast food, don't seem to care too much about long lasting content.
    Well, okay, I admit, MMO players won't fit into such a category.... or?


  • uruku_xuruku_x Member Posts: 129
    Like alot of people, graphics do matter to me, but they aint everything. I'll still play River City Ransom and quite a few old games, because they're fun.

    When it comes to MMO's however, it's alot different. I remember trying EQ a few years after it had come out, and a few months after I had been playin AC2. I played EQ for about an hour and gave up, because it was very, very ugly.
    Also had an interface and controls I couldn't stand.

    Now, it might be a great game in many other respects, but because it's an MMO, it needs something to draw you in from the bginning. As we all no, you aren't going to start out with the best looking gear, and you're going to be killing rats or some other crap for awhile. That means 1-I'm ugly and 2-I'm bored.

    So, for the UO experiment mentioned in the article, I can see why the guy quit.

    They came from the sea and they came from the sky, Captain America is going to die!

  • Jade6Jade6 Member Posts: 429
    It's the same thing as when you decide to start dating someone - content is what matters, but you won't be tempted to try it until a certain minimum level of hotness has been reached. With superior hotness but no content, the package won't keep you happy very long; but without hotness, you just ask if you could be friends instead, or simply move on.
  • docminusdocminus Member Posts: 717

    Originally posted by Jade6
    It's the same thing as when you decide to start dating someone - content is what matters, but you won't be tempted to try it until a certain minimum level of hotness has been reached. With superior hotness but no content, the package won't keep you happy very long; but without hotness, you just ask if you could be friends instead, or just move along.
    image ha! good comparison!


  • elvenangelelvenangel Member Posts: 2,205

    I applaud this article!  The sole focus on graphics in alot of games is killing innovation in the game community. 

    Although I personally dislike UO its not because of graphics, its because of nightmares I still have of intense lag and finding myself dead from either a player or a monster and the worthless expansion that just threw down more land for building and nothing else.  Although I do miss the extreme flexibility one could have with their ever changing character.

    Someone stated that ideas are cheap and just some code, well for all your pretty graphics its takes tons of code and art to produce thus upping the cost which means we pay more and more.  You can't just make a model and slap it into a game without writing the code that puts the pretty model on the screen.

    (to the person who suggested updating UO to a 3D game) The amount of money and time and not to mention sheer destructrion of code to rewrite an entire game to update its graphics from its current state in the case of UO would effectively destroy its community if not bankrupt the game itself.   You'd be taking ages old code and basically throwing it out you can't simply Turn a game like UO into a 3D mega game which is why they scrapped a project that would do that.  UO's community btw is still quite rather large.  A game's community doesn't have to be WOW sized in order to make money.

    And while I do enjoy a game that has beautiful graphics on my expensive computer whats the point in paying all that money for a game that looks pretty but has no substance at all.  

    It'd be nice if more games came out on the PC that had good graphics but were focused more on game play and story (or some sort of substance).

    I've played plenty of free mmo's or ones that are atleast inexpensive to play  and while they're graphics are nothing fantastic the game works, the world is interesting, and its something different.  They dont' get a fair chance against people who see graphics and nothing else.  Though alot of these "graphic whores" are the same ones that complain the game is boring, the game is to short, or this mechanism just doesnt' work.  Well they'd have more time to focus on those things if there wasnt' a huge focus on how many pixels, vertices, and resolution they can pump out of a system.

    I'm not normally a super WOW supporter but Blizzard did do something right.   Their game is somewhere between middle to high ground graphics wise and there's enough substance to keep players interested.  It'd be nice if there were more games designed this way on the market.   

    If your going to vote on a game vote on the overall  game not just its graphics because some games are Pretty...and simply Awful (Horizons anyone? Star Wars Galaxies?)

    Please Refer to Doom Cat with all conspiracies & evil corporation complaints. He'll give you the simple explination of..WE"RE ALL DOOMED!

  • cdnironsidecdnironside Member Posts: 28

    heres a list of games you could check out if you wanted games that have excellent game play and horrible graphics at best:

    odyssey online classic


    wheel of time mud

    space merchant realms 

    space pirate (eve before graphics, only unpopular because its not updated, why i dont know...) 

    land of devastation

    thats something to start with for each his own but i personally have regular days of playing games that dont have uber 1337 graphics




  • sleepyguyftlsleepyguyftl Member Posts: 648

    What I fail to understand is why innovation can only be accomplished by
    sacrificing graphical quality?

    Aside from that your editorial contradicts itself. You mention that Jon
    love to play games on the Nintendo Wii. It’s widely known that the Wii is not a
    graphical powerhouse and just isn’t in the same league as the xbox 360 or the
    ps3. People simply don’t play Wii games for their graphics, they play them
    because they are fun. The reason they are fun is because of the innovative
    control scheme they use. I’m almost willing to bet Jon plays and love Wii
    Sports. The graphic quality of that game is very low, but it’s the controls
    that make it fun.

  • Stratage,Stratage, Member Posts: 8

     I loved the old master of Orion games espically 2. I also loved star control to this day I consider them some of the best sci fi adventure and strategy games ever to be created.
    It is sad when the first thing a person does when looking at a game with good graphics maybe not outstanding and say. Ug what ugly graphics why bother. These Graphic Whores can't see beyond their noise. They are blind to what makes a game truely great.. The game. I like graphic's but it has to go inhand with good gaming mechanics. You can't judge a book by it's cover or a game by it's graphics. Take the most beautiful graphic intense computer power eating game out there. I don't care what it is.. and I guarantee that it will be dead and long forgotten before checkers is.
    A good game is a like a good recipie you need all the right ingediants  Sadily alot of games currently equate to a big mac. Not a healthy body/mind choice.

    So I beg you resist the OOOOOOHHH shiney urge that plagues so many of you. Take graphics as they should be as a part of the recipe of a game.

  • DanaDana Member Posts: 2,415

    Originally posted by sleepyguyftl
    What I fail to understand is why innovation can only be accomplished by sacrificing graphical quality?
    I implied what I thought here, but should have come out and said it.

    My point is that graphics have reached a point where you need to be a major player in the game industry to complete. Indy developers are frozen out and traditionally, it is smaller game companies with big ideas that push innovation.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • jbartleyjbartley Member Posts: 4

    I fully agree. I normally tone down the graphics to get better game play since my machine is nowhere near new. I may turn on full graphics once just to see. Even on stand-alone games I would much rather have an interesting game than just stare at graphics. Otherwise I might as well be playing a high-def screen saver.

  • MontaughMontaugh Member Posts: 1

    I'd like to say that graphics are not everything but I would be lying. When I play a game that I enjoy it becomes the minium I expect the graphics to fall into. Compare Eve and jumpgate. Now I think jumpgate has the better gameplay. Eve though is leaps and bounds ahead of it graphically. I play neither game anymore but if jumpgate updated its graphics I would be seriously tempted to go back and give it a shot.

    Graphics are only part of the picture though. Neverwinter Nights and City of heroes/villians also broke me for other MMOs. Not only graphically but customization. I need to be able to make a unique character now in any game I try or I end up not liking it as much. I don't mind if options are limited at character creation but the option available in the game need to be better so that I can look different from everyone else.

    When I played DDO.. I looked the same as everyone else basically. To pick me out in a crowd you had to use my name rather then pick me out by my clothing style. It was a step backwards to me. NWN1 offered a similiar experience with the minium graphics I would settle for in a D&D style of game but it trumped DDO in the customization that I could do once I was in the game so I stayed with NWN1 but I didn't downgrade to say Diablo II except on rare occasion I felt like a hack and slash fest.

    We are at a point right now where the majority of consumers I feel are overall happy with the graphics available to them. They don't want to have to spend thousands on upgrading their systems to run the newest and lastest games. They will stay with what they are playing until something catches their eye which really forces them to upgrade to a new system and even then it won't be bleeding edge.. cutting edge sure but not bleeding edge.

    I don't feel the next major advance will be from the graphics themselves but rather the physics of the world. Making clothing acting more real, flowing hair, interaction with the enviroment. That I think will be the next real advance graphically it will be all about interacting with your enviroment. Something like this would get the average consumer to upgrade faster rather then just making the game more pretty.

  • FariicFariic Member Posts: 1,546

    Not one person I know has recomended Gears of War because of the graphics.  They keep telling me how much fun the game is.


    Graphics matter but I don't think it's to the extent of having to compare apples to oranges.  WoW isn't the prettiest game on the market, but I played it.  I played it because for a while it was fun.  Lineage 2, EQ2, MXO, CoH, EvE, etc. are all much prettier games, but I haven't played any of them for nearly as long as WoW, with the exception of CoH.


    Art style and graphics also don't go hand in hand.  EQ2 has amazing graphics, but L2 has the most impressive art style of just about any game I have ever played. 


    Most people are graphics whores, I am, but I think that when It comes to MMO's it's the gameplay more then the graphics that matter.  I also think that developers keep kicking themselves in the nuts when they produce a game that is graphically stunning and geared towards hardcore players.  I've gotten the impression over the years that hardcore MMO players are less the graphics whores then the casual.  The casual gamer/MMOer wants to hop into a game, play for a bit, then do something else; they look for graphics.  The hardcore only needs it to look good enough to spend  several hours a night with; these people I think pay a little more attention to gameplay.


    Inovation has nothing to do with graphics; everything to do with gameplay.  Well see inovation from a large commercial game the day that software companies loosen the vice grips from the testes of the software developers trying to make a game that can claim to compete with WoW.


    A game that's pretty and allows players to truelly be a part of the world they play in.  Untill then well keep on playing the newest piece of crap because it's prettier then the last piece of crap.

  • nathanknaacknathanknaack Level Designer - CCP GamesMember UncommonPosts: 27
    The fundamental flaw in both the MMORPG industry and the community in general is that most people believe that graphical superiority and intelligent game design are mutually exclusive goals.  Let me assure everyone:  They are most certainly not.  If you haven't played it yet, take a look at Eve Online.  It's the most "sandbox" choose-your-own-adventure type of MMO on the market right now, and it's constantly winning "best graphics" from numerous gaming instituations.  It's the best of both worlds, and that's why it's commonly rated #1.

    You don't have to choose between EverQuest 2's awesome visuals but crappy gameplay or World of Warcraft's "stylized" (a fancy word for "intentionally sub-par to access a broader demographic") graphics and addictive gameplay.  You can have your cake and eat it too!

    It draws a straight parallel with the film industy (at least here in the United States); over the years, storyline and acting talent have slowly been replaced by big budget special effects.  Look no further than Star Wars (4, 5, and 6 vs. 1, 2, and 3) for what this has achieved (or ruined).  Instead of Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen showing off their moves, you end up with a horribly artificial-looking Neo battling dozens of Agent Smiths or a ridiculously obvious CG Hellboy punching a moving SUV.  This leads to the common concusion that films are either well-written and acted OR they have great special effects.  Although rarely achieved, I would argue that it's very possible to have the best of both worlds, but it takes a lot of time and effort to do so (Lord of the Rings, for example).
  • anarchyartanarchyart Member Posts: 5,378

    Dana that was the best editorial this site has ever seen and I tip my hat to you! I especially loved the part about the people who slam SOE and whoever for remaking the same game and then crap all over Red Bedlam because the graphics in Roma Victor aren't good enough. Those people know who they are and probably dislike this editorial.

    Graphics are NOT innovation.

  • BriarFoxBriarFox Member Posts: 34

    I guess I agree with the article but not exactly for the reasons that Dana wrote it.

    I think that technology is the enemy of good game development. 
    Graphic whores just happen to be techonphiles.  Actually I think
    that technology, graphics and innovation are all three enemies of good
    game development.

    I hate high poly FPS style graphics. 
    I am more drawn toward low poly models with high quality
    textures.  I also dislike console-Anime style combat with particle
    effects and other garbage.  I much prefer the original models and
    Velious textures of EQ to that of EQ2.  EQ2 does have very nice
    textures for its buildings I will say.

    Graphics is a crutch
    for the children who are designing (and playing in the case of Jon
    Wood) MMO's today.  It is far easier to use some software to crank
    out eye popping graphics than it is to create content that has to be
    crafted by hand.   I don't think that most game designers
    today have enough varied life experience to create good storylines and
    game worlds.

  • KillerJimmyKillerJimmy Member Posts: 216

    I don't know if I fall under his description of graphics whore or not. I can play true classics today, but I will just sit back and mock a game company currently trying to peddle 3-10 year old graphics on me.

    The Unreal 3 engine has gone gold. When it hits a PC game, my system is ready to run it. I have played Half Life 2 and think that engine looks good. So, moving forward we need Half Life 2 and Unreal 3 quality engines in games. The minimum I will accept is around the EQ2/Vanguard (not sure about the later, since I haven't played it) level. But honestly, I now expect games to come up to the level of the Unreal 3 engine. Why wouldn't I want something that looks better in every way?!

    If you have a great game idea, license a good engine. Nothing kills my immersion faster than a game that looks 3+ years old.

    WoW just barely managed to get away with what they did by doing the box of exploding crayons method. Let me just take this time to say: I really, really hate the graphical people they have over at Blizzard these days. WC3 was the ugliest modern RTS I can think of. I loved the cinimatics in Diablo 2, after that everything just started looking odd over there.

    EDIT: I just read the post above me, so I thought I'd add this. Graphics need to get better and better, as I've said. But if you turn out a crap game with the Unreal 3 engine, it's still a crap game. As I expect graphics to get better and better I expect the same from gameplay, polish, etc. If somebody tries to release EQ, SWG, Lineage 2 or WoW now that it's been a few years, they should not expect to see me, I don't care if it is wrapped in the Unreal 5 engine! I expect more.

  • merv808merv808 Member UncommonPosts: 511
    This is the best editorial I've read here by far and I couldn't agree more. While some argue that graphics HAVE to get better and better, I disagree with that completely. No matter how you slice it, better and better graphics will continue to take away from other elements of the game. Not to mention making the the game run slower for the majority of people who don't have the latest computer or upgrades - thereby alienating the userbase. I mean WoW may not be my in my favorites, I think its a great looking game. And believe or not I don't run around that game thinking..."You know this game could look better." Instead I'm playing my character being immersed in the world that blizzard created to be its own....not to look like the real one. If you notice its always the MMOs that aren't the best graphically that last longest. I think people that need great graphics in order to be immersed in the world lack imagination....and so do the developers that make these really great looking games with nothing else going for them.

  • AckbarAckbar Member UncommonPosts: 927
    Great editorial Dana. It clearly expresses something ive felt for a long long time.

    ----ITS A TRAP!!!----

  • jopyjopy Member Posts: 24
    I recently purchased BG and IWD compilation in the hopes of enjoying the storylines, but after NWN2's graphics, it was tormenting to revert to 2D pixelated graphics..

    With that said, I feel that graphics are an integral component of any game, and as an industry on the whole, we should continue to improve graphically using better technology. It's good that the companies are actually doing this and not stagnating.

    The truth is, there is probably a significant correlation between graphics and the sales of a game. Ultimately, money steers the companies actions and development priorities, graphics or not.

    Cheers, good editorial. image
  • AnofalyeAnofalye Member, Newbie CommonPosts: 7,433

    For me, it would work as following:


    A- Gameplay enjoyement:  If above 90%, ignore everything else.

    B- Feeling: If above 90% and that the gameplay enjoyement was at least 80%, ignore everything else.

    C- ...


    Anyway, you get the picture.  I still play Medieval Total War, despite the fact I have Rome Total War and Medieval 2: Total War.  Graphic-wise, the successors are nicers.  But gameplay-wise, they aren't.  I love Medieval Total War 1, it is BETTER than the sequels and explaining this would take sometimes.  (Take the Jack O'neil clone and put the BET-TER emphasis) 


    I WOULD play old EQ if they make a raid-free server, and I would be an adamant defender against newer games.  But...I am part of the minority.  This is why I let old EQ alone and focus on new games, anyway, you can believe that I try this raid-free server with every other MMO, it is just that pass a point, you switch to where you may convince folks.  I have been refining my arguments and tries for 3 years now...hehe, slow learner I guess I am. image


    After reading Dana, I think he underestimate his gameplay side and overestimate in shame his graphic-whore side.  I wouldn't play Civilisation 1, but it isn't because of the is because CiV IV is a LOT better, gameplay-wise.  See, CiV IV-Warlord is better, on every single aspect, and as well in an overall view (design view).  The graphics doesn't mean much.  I play Joust regularly!  Wooohooo!  I also would play Romance of the 3 Kingdoms II or Celtic Legends or Steel Empire if I could find a nice emulator that reproduce the initial game, as it was, on the Amiga500...point is, the emulators have been inferior, and downgrading is pretty hard.  Now, is Civ 1 or 4 getting the best ranking in time, I guess it should be the first, due to the original breakdown, however, the fourth is definitely superior, even if it is a successor and wouldn't overank the first.  Just like Throne of Bhaal is better than BG, yet never overrank it.


    I find it hard to play again some older games, but again, it isn't the graphics that make it hard, it is the gameplay.  See, let's take Baldur's gate, the second best game in history IMO.  I couldn't play it anymore...and this is kinda a shame.  Is it because of the graphics?  Nah, I overplay it and new games are usually better on soo many points it is hard to go back.  (it is still the second best game of all time, due to it time of release, what games where present and available back then, it will be pretty hard to beat that, but it isn't impossible...just extremely unlikely)


    Despite all it claims on Gameplay, Nintendo didn't convince me yet with it Wii, it doesn't seem that worthy, gameplay-wise.  Nintendo has very little strategy and RPG titles to line up, to convince me, gameplay-wise.  Considering that I am a GBT fan, their failure is their own, not the "superior" graphics of the PS3/Xbox360.  Oblivion has neat and awesome gameplay, which I didn't see in any Nintendo product...Advance Wars is their only product I enjoy so far and it is on the DS, going to try AoE on the DS soon as well.  I just wait to see something that catch my interest, but party-wise, when I am drunk, it is going to be Joust and nothing else, so no point in trying to get me to try other party games, and not Joust 2 but, Joust for the win!  image  Nintendo is lining up tons of games that lack gameplay IMO...I mean, that are action-driven!  image  Yet, just like Vanguard put the emphasis on the word freedom, they put emphasis on what seems to be lacking the most in their game, which is what they call gameplay.  For some reasons, sellers are often focusins on weak points of products, like DDO focusing on REAL D&D...silly devs.  They underline something that they think is a strongpoint, while in fact, it is a weakpoint.  Gameplays in action games?  Well, sound kinda limited IMO.  You should have varying style and games, yet, they always line the same few gameplays, overdone, over and over and over again.


    Graphics won't make your players subscribing 2 months+, only gameplay can.

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

  • visgrailvisgrail Member Posts: 6

    My take on this topic is simple ... it's 2006, awesome graphics should just be a given. I want MORE & MORE immersion. Hell, just jack my brain in somewhere...


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