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Thread: [DISC] Graphics vs Gameplay - Round II

  1. #1
    Patron Saint of Beatings WilloughbyJackson's Avatar
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    [DISC] Graphics vs Gameplay - Round II

    Hello everyone,

    Many moons ago, I had a discussion thread about which was more important, gameplay or graphics. Back then, I strongly felt that gameplay was more important. I've played tons of Flash games that were really sharp looking, but after 2 minutes of gameplay, I stopped playing them because of boredom. I've seen games which had pretty good graphics but tight and fun gameplay, and I still go back to play them to this day.

    HOWEVER, more and more, I think the vast majority would rather have amazing graphics than deep, meaningful gameplay. It could be because I'm out of step because, like stated in another thread, I've played a lot of the old C64, Atari 800XL, Apple IIe games and so simple games generally don't impress me (unless it has a personality...).

    One example of this relates to the competitive nature of high score boards. This seems to make it necessary to have really good graphics but not necessarily great gameplay. Recently, I played a game with really amazing-looking graphics but only very basic gameplay (Click on and click off). I got bored with it because it didn't seem to be getting harder. I stopped after about 10 minutes with a score of about 1,000 something. When I looked at the high score board, I noticed people were scoring into the 100,000 range.

    I looked around that portal site and it seemed that games which didn't have as good graphics were not played as much. They all had about the same level of simple gameplay.

    Soooo, what is your opinion? Gameplay or graphics?

    And if you find gameplay more important, do you think you're out of touch?


    -pXw
    (And for you FF junkies, the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave the new Final Fantasy game a PERFECT SCORE!)

  2. #2
    Hype over content... Squize's Avatar
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    I've always been of the view that gameplay is king, but it is very true that great graphics can save a poor game and make it seem a lot more than it actually is ( I've been guilty of that more than once ).

    Squize.

  3. #3
    Script kiddie VENGEANCE MX's Avatar
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    Graphics vs Gameplay, Art vs Coding, PSP vs DS... it's all the same thing, isn't it? I think people will usually judge games by what they see in reviews (ie, screenshots), so it's mainly those who look at the pictures instead of reading the article that buy good-loking games. I think Gameplay's a wiser option to go for, since the graphics will always stay the same, and never get any more 'challenging'.
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    I personally would prefer a compelling story and gameplay over graphics! Damn, I mean, some of those superninteno games are better then games now adays. I even downloaded an N64 Emulator the other day and started play Zelda!

    To me, graphics dont make the game, they just enhance it. The story/gameplay is what keeps me going.

    -Ostil-

  5. #5
    Patron Saint of Beatings WilloughbyJackson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VENGEANCE MX
    Graphics vs Gameplay, Art vs Coding, PSP vs DS... it's all the same thing, isn't it? I think people will usually judge games by what they see in reviews (ie, screenshots), so it's mainly those who look at the pictures instead of reading the article that buy good-loking games. I think Gameplay's a wiser option to go for, since the graphics will always stay the same, and never get any more 'challenging'.
    An interesting point, however, I am talking about Flash games exclusively this time. Most Flash games online, people see one screenshot (if that) and click to play. Sometimes there's an opening animation but more and more games don't even have that.


    A question for everyone who has responded so far and will respond. As Squize noted:
    ...great graphics can save a poor game and make it seem a lot more than it actually is...
    To that effect, when you are developing a Flash game, is it more important that it looks really good or all the gameplay element are in there at the end of the day?

    Also, if you are running out of time on a project, what do you scrap first, animations/graphics (like opening title screen, or more enemies) or gameplay features (more variety of enemies, different special moves, perfect level of difficulty)?

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    Senior Member tonypa's Avatar
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    I understand you are trying to get this into graphics vs gameplay issue, but its not always so simple. For example some great looking game using boring old idea may have other improved areas, like it provides easier access to your scores, it runs smoother then crappy looking version of same idea, or has general theme presented in more enjoyable way. All this may improve its playability. Also, some games are played more not because they are exceptionally good, but because they are widely known. Being listed in some major "fun and pretty ladies" site can get you 100.000 visitors per day and eat up your whole monthly bandwidth.

    I think good graphics surely attract more people the good gameplay. One is visible by only looking at the game, other must be found out by playing it perhaps for long time. But I dont think good graphics can provide enough for players continue playing the game. Once you have seen all of it (all the monsters, all enemies, all towns), there is no more point to keep playing. But good gameplay keeps players busy for much longer, they are more likely to return and play again.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ray Beez's Avatar
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    I don't think the issue is so black or white. My answer to the question: BOTH, with gameplay never being sacrificed for graphics.

    My definition of "gameplay" though is not how DEEP a game's play mechanics are, but just the general rules of interaction.

    You said games with lousy graphics aren't being played as much. You said games that weren't very deep but looked great were being played. Well, it all depends on the nature of the game and the audience you are targetting. A "casual gamer" audience for example wants something that looks slick but can be played with simple "click click click" and not too much deep thought. Just mouse + mouse button. Look at "Mystery Case Files: Huntsville" for example, or "Bewjeweled". These are casual games aimed at people who want simple time-wasters.

    Back to my definition of gameplay: In Super Mario, if every time you pressed jump, the character did this elaborate animation of him bending at the knees preparing for his jump and then he finally jumps, this would be an example of art taking away from gameplay, because this "preparing to jump" part of the animation would interfere with how quickly your Mario character reacts to the player's press of the jump button. Even half a second is too long a delay for such a reflex oriented game. And trust me, many crappy 2D sidescrollers for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis made this very mistake, thinking "oh but it's animated better than Mario!" but at the expense of responsive interaction. It's no coincidence those games were crap to play.

    Same would apply to Bejeweled. You play against a clock. The faster you make "matches of 3" the more time you recoup on the clock. Now imagine if the game's artists went nuts and had big elaborate animations appearing that interrupted your gameplay. 1. The player would get pissed because the flow of gameplay gets interrupted all the time, and 2. Imagine the interruptions might even get in the way of making those crucial matches in the last seconds.

    So from this perspective I say, graphics before gameplay. However if you want people to try a rich gameplay experience in the first place, you DO need to wrap it up in a nice glossy "skin". Just make sure none of the art and animation decisions interrupt how the player interacts.

  8. #8
    Style Through Simplicity alillm's Avatar
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    Hmm, my opinion on this is that there is a difference between decent graphics and good graphics (well that goes without saying really).
    If the game has decent graphics, then then how good the game is depends completly on the gameplay...improving the graphics doesnt improve the game, it just makes it more appealing.
    On the other hand, if the game doesnt have decent graphics then the gameplay does very little for the game no matter how good it is (obviously this doesnt apply to 100% of cases). The reason for this is that up to a certain point, the graphics make the gameplay what it is. If the game looks like it was drawn by a 3 year old, then even its a very fun game, i wouldnt be able to keep playing it.

    So basicly, my opinion is that a certain standard of art is needed (varys depending on the game type) in order for the game to be viewable. After this point, the gameplay is what makes the game. Further improved art simply serves to make the game more pleasing to the eye and more memorable, but does not effect how fun the game is.

    Ali

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ray Beez's Avatar
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    PS: Look at how crappy the in-game graphics for Katamari Damacy are. Perfect example of how gameplay won over graphics.

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    Patron Saint of Beatings WilloughbyJackson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Beez
    PS: Look at how crappy the in-game graphics for Katamari Damacy are. Perfect example of how gameplay won over graphics.
    I think Katarmari Damacy is a great example of personality in a game. And to quote Samuel L. Jackson, "Personality goes a long way".

    The graphics are not insanely realistic 3D, high tech, or feature bouncing breasts or amazing gore effects but they have a TONS of personality and style. My friend who doesn't like Nintendo (since it's a kid system), has never slammed Katamari Damacy for the graphics. (He just called it, weird and makes jokes about the programming being on something.) Some people were attracted to the personality in the graphics and presentation, other people just didn't get it.

    (It was also insanely different from most games out at that time, it was cheaper than most games, easy to learn, and just makes you feel happy.)

    Now, if only we can get "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!" translated, I'll be a happy camper.

    I'll respond to everyone else a little later...

    -pXw (Your Devil's Advocate for this thread)
    "I want to roll you up into my life"

  11. #11
    2D/3D Artist & Programmer Dominicaninja's Avatar
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    I think some may agree with me when I say good graphics get the game noticed, good gameplay hooks the player. A good-looking game will at first probably get a lot of hits since in a screenshot it looks good, but if it plays horrible, people will review it bad and everyone will eventually lose interest. Also its important to note the difference between nicely drawn graphics, and good animation. I think good animation has more weight when it comes to judging a game's graphics. A horribly animated good-looking game won't hold people's attention for too long. So in the end, its gameplay that matters the most in my opinion.

  12. #12
    SaphuA SaphuA's Avatar
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    A game with great gameplay, but bad graphics sucks.
    A game with great graphics, but bad gameplay sucks.

    I'd say there's no point discussing this

  13. #13
    Senior Member walnoot's Avatar
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    I looked around that portal site and it seemed that games which didn't have as good graphics were not played as much. They all had about the same level of simple gameplay.
    http://www.planarity.net/#
    http://www.ebaumsworld.com/falldown.html


    are/were pretty big hits I thought? And there are so much more "bad" graphics-games that come up at fora for simple folks.

  14. #14
    Senior Member UnknownGuy's Avatar
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    As others have said I don't think there is any clear cut answer in either direction, but dependent on the type of game and audience.

    To me it makes sense that the more "engaging" a game is the less the graphics have to be to appear good, since the player is more worried abouts surviving than analyzing how good your graphics are.

    Likewise, if a game is 'slower', more stagnant, say a puzzle game, the graphics should be that much better because the user has more time to pay attention to them.

    The longer something must hold your attention, the more pleasing it must be to see.

    It also seems to me that highscores are a saving grace for many games, because competition is great encourager to continue to play. Even though games may require more time than skill, the idea of competition, especially between say friends in the same room(which is less likely, but still), people still play to be the best.

    Another things about how detailed your graphics have to be to appear pleasing, is how often are they seen, how much focus they receive and how fast are they moving. If you have a stagnant background/slow moving throughout a game, more effort should go into making it look appealing since it will be seen most of the time.

    The hero will probably have much more focus than the background, depending on the game, probably moving faster, and seen throughout the game, so the greatest detail should probably be in the hero(as it normally is).

    Using the above three properties, you can probably figure out how much time should go into each graphic comparatively(eg an enemy seen once will require less work than an enemy seen all the time).

    Edit: (But an enemy seen once, moving slowly may need a similar amount of work done as an enemy seen frequently, but always moving very fast(but when you move faster, the user gives more focus to it, so then it needs more))

    Even though I kind of got off on a random tangent, hope that helps clarify the discussion(which isn't possible, so I'll return to my corner).

    Edit 2: I think the real key is presentation though, just keep your graphics, menus, music, fx a consistent style, which I add think adds a lot.
    Last edited by UnknownGuy; 03-08-2006 at 09:10 PM.

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    Patron Saint of Beatings WilloughbyJackson's Avatar
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    Okay... responding...

    Quote Originally Posted by tonypa
    I understand you are trying to get this into graphics vs gameplay issue, but its not always so simple.
    Of course it isn't. However, for the purposes of discussion, I have decided that in general…the gameplay (or a rule set as Ray Beez so elegantly put it) is not as important as the candy around it.

    For example some great looking game using boring old idea may have other improved areas, like it provides easier access to your scores, it runs smoother then crappy looking version of same idea, or has general theme presented in more enjoyable way. All this may improve its playability.
    Yep. Donald Norman has a very interesting book on the subject that "pretty" things work better. But my question for that situation is: If someone improved the gameplay (added more of a challenge, or a unique spin) without improving the graphics, would it be as effective as just changing the presentation?

    Once you have seen all of it (all the monsters, all enemies, all towns), there is no more point to keep playing.
    That is where the high score mind-set comes in. They are not really playing the game to see everything. They want to be number one on the high score.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Beez
    I don't think the issue is so black or white.
    I agree, it’s not so simple as to say… X is better than X… but I think what I’m trying to say is that for the coffee break audience, I think graphics are more important.

    And trust me, many crappy 2D sidescrollers for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis made this very mistake, thinking "oh but it's animated better than Mario!" but at the expense of responsive interaction. It's no coincidence those games were crap to play.
    Yep.

    I'm trying to keep the discussion about Flash games only because with console games, people can be tricked into buying bad games because the graphics look good in the demo movies or on the box. For example, there's a ninja game that came out for PS2 with a lady wearing next to nothing. I'll admit it, the original gameplay movies of it, looked pretty nice. However, after renting it, I quickly discovered the gameplay inside was rubbish. Tenchu for PSOne (Japanese version) is still my favorite ninja/stealth game.

    So from this perspective I say, graphics before gameplay. However if you want people to try a rich gameplay experience in the first place, you DO need to wrap it up in a nice glossy "skin". Just make sure none of the art and animation decisions interrupt how the player interacts.
    I agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by alillm
    If the game looks like it was drawn by a 3 year old, then even its a very fun game, i wouldnt be able to keep playing it.
    hmm...That reminds me...where…nevermind...I won't finish this statement

    So basicly, my opinion is that a certain standard of art is needed (varys depending on the game type) in order for the game to be viewable. After this point, the gameplay is what makes the game. Further improved art simply serves to make the game more pleasing to the eye and more memorable, but does not effect how fun the game is.
    I'm less about standard art, but more into personality. Let's take stick games for example. I've played a lot of stick games and most of them blend together. However, there was a Japanese one I loved. Why? Because it was all based on the concept that someone was drawing the game in class, and it looked like it.

    It is, unfortunately, offline now. T_T

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominicaninja
    Also its important to note the difference between nicely drawn graphics, and good animation. I think good animation has more weight when it comes to judging a game's graphics. A horribly animated good-looking game won't hold people's attention for too long.
    That's a very interesting addition. I am admittedly lumping animation and graphics together, so this doesn't become animation vs graphics vs presentation vs gameplay vs storyline... or something like that...

    Quote Originally Posted by SaphuA
    A game with great gameplay, but bad graphics sucks.
    A game with great graphics, but bad gameplay sucks.

    I'd say there's no point discussing this
    but wat if u g3t 2 c nekid l@d3z?

    >COUGH<

    But why is it that I see people playing games with bad gameplay (or repetitive, simple rule sets) but great graphics more?

    Quote Originally Posted by walnoot
    are/were pretty big hits I thought? And there are so much more "bad" graphics-games that come up at fora for simple folks.
    There are always exceptions to the rule. However, when the rules are easy to learn but hard to master (like www.planarity.net), the game gets popular.
    However, graphics are not the point of the game at all. There are a lot of mind puzzles like that.

    Square 2 is another great example of a simple addictive game concept with no real graphics. HOWEVER it has a lot of style in it's presentation, and music which match the simple graphics.

    Quote Originally Posted by UnknownNintendoGuy
    To me it makes sense that the more "engaging" a game is the less the graphics have to be to appear good, since the player is more worried abouts surviving than analyzing how good your graphics are.
    True enough point. However, what if no one plays the game because there isn’t any "hooking screenshot” to get their attention?

    Another things about how detailed your graphics have to be to appear pleasing, is how often are they seen, how much focus they receive and how fast are they moving. If you have a stagnant background/slow moving throughout a game, more effort should go into making it look appealing since it will be seen most of the time.
    That reminds me of my 48 hour game MOUTHFUL OF SOAPBARS. Since I only had 48 hour to create the game, the only graphics I created and animated very detailed were the main character. ("BOUNCY LADY") All the other characters were like South Park's Terrance and Philip... However, it didn't really interfere with the gameplay because...well.. the game was fast paced and..well.. rather silly.

    (Of course, the gameplay is a bit flawed but I've improved that )

    I have another story about graphics over gameplay.

    Me and my friends were having a "guy's night out" and we were playing different 3-D fighters. My favorite is Virtua Fighter Evo, because the gameplay is very deep, with a large variety of move sets. For every move, there is a counter, for every counter, there's a cancel and counter...

    But we ended up playing more DOA 2, because the game is so SUPER flashy. How can Virtua Fighter compete with people being smashed through windows, falling through tons of electric billboards and crashing to the street below, and such expansive environments?

    Okay, I'll stop before this turns into a VF vs Tekken vs DOA vs SC thread.

    Another few questions for all game developers:

    Do you do your graphics first, engine first, or at the same time?
    Also, do you think we (as game developers) value gameplay because we know how long it takes to get that stuff to work?
    Or maybe it’s because we’ve played so much before?

    -pXw

  16. #16
    Senior Member UnknownGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WilloughBETTERGETMKDS
    Quote Originally Posted by UnknownNintendoGuy
    To me it makes sense that the more "engaging" a game is the less the graphics have to be to appear good, since the player is more worried abouts surviving than analyzing how good your graphics are.
    Too true.

    That reminds me of my 48 hour game MOUTHFUL OF SOAPBARS. Since I only had 48 hour to create the game, the only graphics I created and animated very detailed were the main character. ("BOUNCY LADY") All the other characters were like South Park's Terrance and Philip... However, it didn't really interfere with the gameplay because...well.. the game was fast paced and..well.. rather silly.
    Tear. I loved that game, get back online! (No excuses )

    I myself build an engine first, since I'm quite limited on the graphics side, and it seems I can accomplish the most programming.

    And yes, I believe I value gameplay much more after I started to make flash games, much less before, even though I played quite a bit.

    Edit:
    However, what if no one plays the game because there isn’t any "hooking screenshot” to get their attention?
    You could always draw a "prerendered" picture, classic E3 style.

  17. #17
    skylogic.ca MD004's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WilloughbyJackson
    Do you do your graphics first, engine first, or at the same time?
    Also, do you think we (as game developers) value gameplay because we know how long it takes to get that stuff to work?
    Or maybe it’s because we’ve played so much before?
    Always programming first.
    I think that people liking gameplay or graphics better has to do with what they like to do. If you enjoy reading books, looking at math equations....or looking at code, than you don't mind simple or no graphics. If enjoy drawing or painting, or like having information shown in diagrams and pictures, than perhaps you'd like a game with good graphics a lot more than a game without. ...but of course if you enjoy both of these categories I just mentioned, than I guess you'd fall somewhere in between

    ~MD
    Last edited by MD004; 03-08-2006 at 11:36 PM.

  18. #18
    Razor
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    They both play an equal role in the game along with sound and something not visible or really noticeable but I guess can be put with gameplay, feel. Sometimes games can give you the impression your actually there, usually it depends on the person playing, and thats the best. For me NFS: MW does and I love that game I'm beating it for the 3rd time .
    Usually games come out purely opinion based, as some people prefer different things. But if I had to chose I would like a balance between the two best.

  19. #19
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    I would DEFINATLY say gameplay. I mean have you ever played games like thing-thing on newgrounds? I thought wow this game is gonna rock! Its just so slow and no stragety I couldn't play it for more than 5 mins! If that, but have you ever played a game like archon? That is like one of the funest games in the world, and its made on the atari.

    ((That would be awesome to remake that game btw. To have people connect via isp, not sure if that would work or not))

  20. #20
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    To tell you the truth I have always been a graphics person. An ugly game just isn't as fun no matter how amazing the gameplay is. When I am playing a game I dont think "wow this control scheme is amazing", I am normaly like "that looks totally awsome".
    Whoever said:
    A game with great gameplay, but bad graphics sucks.
    A game with great graphics, but bad gameplay sucks. Has my vote.

    I think that the key is not concentrating on one or the other but finding a happy ballence. I think graphics give the short term fun and hook people in but the gameplay keeps people playing.
    The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
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