There are numerous factors that come into play when developing a video game, but few have evolved so much over the years as graphics. In fact, as far back as 2014, German gaming development company Crytek admitted that they were finding it hard to reach gamers’ standards when it came to graphics.
This became more of a worry amongst developers later in 2014, when Consumer Electronics Association marketing research revealed that 75% of gamers agreed that graphics play a huge role in how much they enjoy a game. In fact, some of the surveyed participants said that graphics could influence their decision on whether to purchase a game at all in the first place. Now, three years after this controversial study, we thought we’d take a look at how important graphics really are when it comes to modern gaming.
Gameplay | Graphics
Fortunately for developers who are finding it difficult to keep up with modern graphics, there will always be one element of gaming that is more important: gameplay. Without impressive, immersive gameplay even the most visually astounding title will be unable to enthral players for long.
This was made abundantly clear back in 2014, when developers such as Crytek, the publishers behind the Crysis series, began focusing on graphics over gameplay and the traction their video games received began to wane. Of course, the obvious answer to this conundrum is a c-c-combo attack of gameplay and graphics. Sure, this might mean holding back on the visuals a little to make room for great storytelling, but this wouldn’t be the first time this formula has succeeded.
For example, Dark Souls and Dark Souls II are often celebrated for combining good visuals with superior gameplay. These titles offer testing experiences as well as impeccable immersion and depth, and all while offering great visuals. Yes, the graphics are not groundbreaking and could even be considered lacking when viewed critically, but they do not take away from the gameplay.
A similar method has been embraced by the online gaming world, more specifically iGaming. Many online games developers and online gaming operators have chosen to focus on their players’ enjoyment in order to gain traction, while the graphics remain relatively okay. That is, they don’t necessarily push the envelope when it comes to visuals but instead deliver on highly entertaining gameplay. For instance, Lottoland Canada is home to a number of slots such as Sunny Shores and Star Raiders, where graphics remain serviceable while the gameplay is enhanced by animation, characters and sound effects.
This choice of gameplay over graphics is even more apparent when it comes to indie developers, some of whom have actively chosen to regress when it comes to visuals. Often, these graphics are referred to as ‘retro’ and pay homage to the classic titles many developers grew up with. While this may be a large reason as to why indie developers choose to use older visual techniques, it is probably also due to the fact that small studios simply can’t compete with huge gaming franchises when it comes to graphics.
Montreal-based indie developer Phil Fish, for instance, created Fez in 2012 (the era of big names like Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty) using traditional platformer visuals and yet it managed to gross over $260,000 within the first 24 hours of release due to its great gameplay. Meanwhile, Capybara Games in Toronto continues to flourish after the release of Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery, a visually lacklustre game that many developers believe started the very indie studio movement we experience today.
Games that lack high-quality graphics will always be called out by players for not meeting modern standards, but that is nowhere near as detrimental as players snubbing a game due to poor gameplay. Yes, as graphics continue to evolve, there will be some who turn their noses away from more retro titles, but as long as the gameplay remains solid, the rest of us will be happy.