|Date Posted:||Saturday 2nd June, 2007||Author:||EsKy|
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These days whenever a new game is announced we don't hear much about what the gameplay will be like or what the story will involve or even what the game is about. What we typically hear about first up is graphics. Rarely these days are games judged by their gameplay or story telling. Instead we look at screenshots and listen to developers rant on about new lighting and shader effects. Then when we finally get these games we sit there and marvel at the level of graphical detail which is being pumped out by the latest game engine. Unfortunately after a while we get used to seeing the same effects over and over and quickly come to realise that we're no longer playing a game, instead we're playing a game engine.
Which brings me onto the topic of what is to become a series of articles, gameplay. More specifically, why is it we find ourselves drawn back to old games after short stints playing new ones? Back in the ye olde days of computer gaming, developers didn't have fancy video cards to play with. There was only one system requirement, low end. There wasn't the diversity in personal computer technology we enjoy today, and as a result games were made in a 'one size fits all' fashion.
Now if we look at the present, system requirements are skyrocketing for the latest and supposedly greatest games. Each new generation of game requires an almost absurd amount of processing power. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fancy graphics as much as the next person, they add a sense of depth to a game. My point is that there is no point in having fancy graphics to add depth to a game when its the graphics alone which generate that sense of depth. TES4: Oblivion is a perfect example of this. The game is extremely pretty to look at. I was blown away when I first saw it on the highest settings, and even on the lowest settings it is incredible to behold. But through all its high dynamic range imaging, beautiful lighting effects, incredible detailing and textures, and other assorted eye pleasing goodies, TES4: Oblivion is missing that special something that made its predecessor TES3: Morrowind so much more forfilling to play. By todays standards TES3: Morrowind looks old and outdated, yet given the choice between Oblivion and Morrowind I'd chose Morrowind every time.
Why is this? Morrowind had true depth to its gameplay which transcended graphics. True game depth doesn't come from making the game world look realistic, it comes from making the world itself feel realistic. Even though the world of Oblivion was enormous compared to that of Morrowind, Morrowind felt bigger in every single way. The world of Morrowind changed from region to region. There were lush forrests, volcano wastelands, large spanning grasslands in Morrowind, where as Oblivion was all forrest. Sure the forrests seen in Oblivion were incredible to look at, but without that change of scenary the game world felt that much smaller. In Oblivion it seems like so much effort went into making extremely beautiful rolling hills and forrests, but hardly any went into how one plays in these forrests. Sure they simplified the menus, journal, spell casting system and added to the combat system. But its these things that were so good in Morrowind. These things gave Morrowind a certain charm which has been lost in Oblivion.
Graphics verses gameplay is an enormous issue to tackle. I'm not saying that there aren't merits to be had in new graphical developments, but rather how these developments are put to use. So as a result I shall look to the past before I look to the future so that we may shed light upon this issue and thoroughly deal with the implications which this issue has upon where future games are heading. So keep an eye out for upcoming segments in this series.
Graphics verses Gameplay, the Ultimate Battle: Part 1