GamerSushi Asks: Do We Need Better Graphics?

Epic Samaritan

At first glance, the easiest way to note the changes in gaming from the 80s to now would be in the quality of the visuals. We’ve moved from the jagged mazes of Pac-Man to the jaw-dropping realism of Battlefield 3. And while I’m not one to call myself a graphics dude, this certainly makes me happy in a variety of ways. I remember playing games on the PS1, seeing the cut scenes, and thinking that some day games will look like this. The crazy thing is, we blew that point out of the water as early as last generation in some cases.

But have we hit our graphical peak? And where else can gaming go? CEO of Epic Games Tim Sweeney has some ideas about that:

I really see two major milestones coming up for games in the very long-term future. Number one is achieving movie quality graphics and movie quality pixels on the screen, which mean no flicker in the visuals, no popping artifacts, no bulky character outlines on the screen at all. I see that actually occurring over the next ten years. I expect I’ll be actively programming at the time we’ve achieved full movie-quality graphics because that’s really just a matter of brute force computing power and clever algorithm. We know exactly how to do that.

He goes on to talk about the second major milestone being the human aspects of the game such as AI and other simulations. Perhaps I’m nitpicking a bit here, but it seems interesting that game makers are still so devoted to graphics. Granted, this is Epic we’re talking about, makers of one of the most gorgeous engines in gaming, but it still gives me pause.

With game development costs rising (and thus, the price of playing games) and development cycles lasting 4-5 years, it seems to me that the pursuit of movie-quality pixel art is actually one of the bigger issues in gaming. I feel like if anything, the games industry might need to take a step back now that they’ve hit a graphical zenith and figure out how to lower both of those items to something more manageable. I would contend that there is a slew of indie, lo-fi titles that show us graphics aren’t everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing on graphics or the pursuit of it. I’m just not certain it should be gaming’s number one priority in the years looking ahead. We’ve already hit a pretty astounding peak, and upping the brute force graphical power required for games seems like it’ll only make us take a step back every few years.

What are your thoughts on this? What do you think the major milestones of gaming should be in the years ahead?

Source – IGN

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

8 thoughts on “GamerSushi Asks: Do We Need Better Graphics?”

  1. AI, story and user interfaces should be priority. Graphics, as I’m sure we all know, are meaningless without gameplay when selling a game. If they would focus on these aspects the world would be a greater place to live in. My enjoyment of Crysis 2 was severely dampened by its story (but I’ve documented my distaste of it many times here already so; moving swiftly on) so by trying to set standards in that department I am firmly of the belief that games can be improved THAT way. Bioshock Infinite anyone?
    UI is another thing that could be improved. Resi 4 and Gears of War really nailed the whole Context Sensitive thing but recently it’s started to sour. Although, maybe I’m just letting my feelings about one game affect my entire perception of the system. Either intoduce a new system or make this one better! Also add Mouse and Keyboard functionality to PS3 games!
    AI is great at the time being in some games, but others really need to step up and overhaul their performance. Deus Ex has old school Alert-Patrol-AI (“Huh? What was THAT noise? *beat* Hmn, probably just the wind…” and this can be repeated ad infinitum). I’m not too fond of that.

  2. I think a major milestone would be if everyone gave up on motion controls.

    Honestly, I would take user created content, mod support on consoles, anything that lets the player make cool stuff over graphics any day. Halo 3 & Reach can literally be picked up everyday and theres something new to try.

    Another thing and Im not sure if this qualifies as graphics, but make water look like water. Perfect physics before you try and do looks.

  3. How about more realistic graphics ?

    I don’t need 12 lens flares and overdone DOF effects. I’d rather have them track my eyes and optimize DOF to that. And there aren’t nearly as many reflective surfaces in any real world environment.
    /graphics rant

    We don’t need the game to look good, we need it to run smooth.
    I hate how BF:BC2’s multiplayer feels slugish, with input lag even on the PC. Graphics may very well stand where they are now for a couple of years.

  4. I concur with Nevertell; what are considered great graphics in video games are hyperrealistic; lens flares are too bright, DOF is too drastic, lighting is shinier and shimmier as though everything was enveloped in water. Real life looks kinda shitty, but it has good animation. I agree with Tim Sweeney when he says that the next major advance in video game graphics is when we perfect animations and pop-ins and character models. It’s all about making the video game move realistically instead of making pretty screenshots. I’m confident that game developer companies will understand that its the animations that make a game immersive, not the graphics, although proper lighting can really make a game SHINE (hurr durr, pun).

  5. I would go in the opposite way: less realistic.

    I prefer Borderlands or Wind Waker over Call of Duty of Twilight Princess. The stylized graphics always impress me more than realistic graphics. I know what real life looks like. Show me something I’ve not seen before.

    I’m with Eddy, I think graphics are such a low priority, especially when it comes to upgrading to a next gen console. Gears or Uncharted can’t look much better, but I bet it could PLAY better.

  6. More believable graphics are definitely more desirable than more realistic graphics to me. What I mean is that even in styalized graphics, if a person moves the way a person moves, it feels “real”, even though you can clearly see it doesn’t look like real life. No matter HOW realistic they make things look (like faces in L.A. Noire, for example), the moment after the character starts walking, or looping “waiting” animations, the feeling goes away.

    It’s like spending countless amounts of your GPU power to crank up AA. This isn’t something people on consoles have to worry about, but any of you out there who have fooled around with graphics settings on a PC know that just a bump up in Anti-Aliasing can totally slow down your framerate. Is that really the “realistic” we’re going for?

    At the end of the day, the human eye sees both “no pixels” and “infinite pixels”. Programmers and designers prefer the infinite pixels idea, where eventually with enough power and smoothing, worlds will look real. I think the sooner we embrace that making a game look and feel believable instead of real, the better.

    We’re geeks, we should be allowed to use our imagination =)

  7. I’m with Anthony. Realism is ok every now and then, but most of the time I want to see something different. Give me tons of colours, give me crazy creatures, give me a brand new world to explore, give me something that says “we’re not in Kansas anymore”. When i play I want to get away from the real world – escapism at it’s finest.

  8. I think we’re at a semi-comfortable place as far as graphics. Obviously, I’d like to see all the little holes patched up in the next generation (better water shaders, higher resolution textures, improved bump mapping, vastly improved flora & fauna), but the main thing I want to see improved is internet functionality. I feel like the big three HAVE to go for that in the next generation, or they’ll go out of date fast.

    That’s on the hardware side of things. As far as games, I think developers REALLY need to focus on bringing user-generated content/mods to a wider audience. inFAMOUS 2 had the right idea, but the tools were clunky and all the content I’ve seen on the UGC platform is mediocre at best.

    If Skyrim, for example, employed a system that allowed modders on the PC to submit mods for Bethesda’s approval, Bethesda could implement a checklist-style setup in-game where users can install, enable, and disable mods or other content on the fly. It already works seamlessly on the PC with Oblivion and Fallout mods using a third-party program. Imagine just having to check a box to enable some fan-made DLC or painlessly queuing up a graphic mod to automatically download and install in the right spot. Imagine being able to plug in a flash drive to your console to upload some custom music for while you play. No mess. No incompatibility. It just plain works.

    Of course, I highly doubt most publishers/studios will go out of their way just to appease a few fans. :sadface:

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