Gameplay versus presentation

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Gameplay versus presentation

Post by Balloony » November 21st, 2008, 12:51 pm

I thought I'd try to kick of a discussion after those eons of funereal silence. ;)

When it comes to games, my general mantra is "Be easy on the looks, sounds and overall polish, hard on everything else.". Hence, I can easily enjoy games with extremely simple or plain bad graphics, archaic or awkward sound effects and plently of rough edges such as glitches, bugs and bumpy execution, as long as the game is well-crafted in terms of action, story, fluency, production or whatever applies for the the genre, and provides a satisfying experience. This mantra streches over all forms, types and generations of games, from entirely contemporary, over retro 16bit-ish, 256 colors/Soundblaster, 16 colors/FM chip/Tandy (e.g. AGI games), 4 color/PC speaker until monochrome and no sound whatsoever.

It does end, however, where games using text mode start. While a text adventure in plain DOS font and without any pictures is perfectly okay, anything else isn't.
No matter how hard I tried to stretch my impartiality against vintage gaming, I never could cotton up to these games that used alphabetical characters to, I shall say, *represent* graphics. It just wasn't fun to move around a paragraph symbol through channels of number signs and collecting degree symbols, on top of that in jaggy steps. It felt rough, forced, incredibly dated and anything but atmospheric. I get the idea of leaving things to the imagination of the player, but for me, it is much more pleasant to look at featureless Atari-like blocks of color than at a gob of letters filling my entire screen and forming twitchy, irritating patterns that start to hurt my eyes after only a handful of minutes.

What about you? Where does your tolerance end when it comes to graphics, sound and overall presentation, if at all? Which games you enjoyed strained your minimum requirements the most? What is more important to you about the looks'n'feel of a game, balance or newness/novelty?
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Re: Gameplay versus presentation

Post by Aloshi » November 29th, 2008, 4:23 pm

The only thing I really care about when it comes to games is the gameplay, but sometimes the graphics get in the way of gameplay, like when the font is too small or I can't tell an enemy between a friend. I don't have much patience or imagination, so I generally don't like text adventures either - unless it's an interesting concept. Of course, good graphics aren't a bad thing, as long as the developer spent at least the same amount of time on making the gameplay fun and interesting.

Though, if presented well, a game can look amazing when it's no fun to play at all, which can mislead people into buying a game that they think will be awesome fun. I think this happens a lot nowadays, and I usually only buy a game after renting it or playing a demo/trial. A lot of commercials on TV sometimes cut out as much footage of the actual game as they can - sometimes to 5 seconds or less, for a 30 second commercial. That shouldn't happen, because it's not showing what the game is and how it's played - and you can't always take the announcer's word for it.

It's so hard to shop for console games without demos lately. The videos are usually pretty low-quality, and they can't ever show how it feels to play the game. Since it's a console game, the only way you can hope to get a demo is through an internet service for the console. The Wii has no demo system (unless you count the DS demos it provides), which could have been easily fixed, at the very least for the WiiWare games - World of Goo (excellent game by the way, you should definitely take a look if you haven't already) is on PC and WiiWare, and the PC version has a demo, but the WiiWare version does not. They probably could have fixed this, but it's annoying none the less. Some people also have trouble with download speeds, which sometimes make it difficult to download things (I once waited 3 days to download a demo for Xbox 360 - only to delete it 30 minutes after I played it).

Woah, I haven't rambled on that much in a long time.

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Re: Gameplay versus presentation

Post by Qabach » December 9th, 2008, 4:22 pm

Yeah, graphics are one of those things that can be really impressive and helpful in immersing you in the game, but more often they just make a game seem better than it is (until you actually play it.)

I can deal with any level of simplicity in graphics, as long as the graphics are good for what they are. "Flywrench" is a perfect example of this: There are only a few colors, not very many pixels, and everything is made of simple lines and circles, however everything looks like it is supposed to look that way. When I see sprites with little white-ish pixels hanging around the edges, or graphics that obviously don't go together (both of these happen a lot if you take free or stolen graphics from the internet for a game) it just ruins a game for me.

Gameplay (specifically controls and concept) is the most important to me. Without excelling in these things, the best a game can be is a movie that requires your hands to watch.

There's one thing that hasn't been mentioned much yet: sound. Sound is by no means required for a good game, but it can take an otherwise ho-hum game and make it exceptional. Great sound doesn't necessarily make a game more fun (although sometimes it does) but it does effectively immerse the player in a game. One example of great use of sound was Doom 3. I only played it once, but I can tell you that it wasn't just the visuals that scared the poo out of me at 10:00 pm. Music is another important component of sound. While music can also immerse you in the game, it is not limited to just that purpose. Music can set the mood of a game. It can take what would otherwise be a tedious wander-around-until-you-find-something-useful game and turn it into a dreamlike exploration of a foreign landscape. I can't think of the name of the game that I'm thinking of, but the "Knytt" series is also a decent example of good music.
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Re: Gameplay versus presentation

Post by Galgameth » May 20th, 2009, 10:35 am

I feel that a game has to have a happy balance of everything to make it “great”.
For me if a game has one thing particularly outstanding or lacking compared to the rest of the game, no matter if it is good or bad it still takes away from the overall feel of it.
For example in the Half-Life 2 series the graphics, game play, plot and everything is brilliant but the water effects just did not seem to have the same amount of effort put in. This for me was disappointing when compared to the rest of the game which was beautiful.
The same principal applies with the sound as well and game play, if a game had amazing game play, graphics etc and the sound sucks then it’s frustrating to play as I feel that it could be better.
Game play is the most irritating, if everything in the game is amazing but your controls don’t register smoothly or the collision detection is slightly off or major in-game glitches (Muria Warrior, WHY!?) then this is the worst as you want to play the game but are having these walls of doubt put up by the workings of the game as you know that it will crash at some annoying point.

Even if a game is not perfect as long as all of the parts of it are at the same level, and nothing is particularly better than the other parts then it’s fine as it’s in context.

You can’t compare the sound on Sonic on the Game-Gear to the sound from Sonic on the Megadrive for example but they both rock as games in their own right, similarly with the graphics for these two games.

To go back to what Balloony said quickly, I have a feeling we may see Ryan on here defending the use of punctuation as graphics in games, and I imagine he will be using a favourite game of his to emphasise his point… Yes Ryan I know you’re thinking of Rogue…

It's been a while since I last posted so I hope my opinion still holds some level of credibility.
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Re: Gameplay versus presentation

Post by Ryan » May 20th, 2009, 2:33 pm

Galgameth wrote: To go back to what Balloony said quickly, I have a feeling we may see Ryan on here defending the use of punctuation as graphics in games, and I imagine he will be using a favourite game of his to emphasise his point… Yes Ryan I know you’re thinking of Rogue…
Rogue is certainly a brilliant game, and I don't think that the use of ASC characters as graphics in any way lets it down... In fact, I'd say that it's part of the game's charm (just as any highly stylised graphics always give a game much more of an individual personality than just using whatever overused rehashed 3D effects are in vogue at the time). Nonetheless, the thing that makes it a great game is the distinctive gameplay, and had it been developed a few years later, I'm sure that it would have been just as great with full VGA graphics.

Having said all that, I think that the whole "gameplay vs. graphics" discussion is a moot point. It's a little bit like asking an architect: "What's more important to a beautiful building? That it looks great, or that it doesn't fall down?"

That is to say, not falling down should be an assumed premise for any building, and would always be "more important" in that respect... But that in itself makes it an irrelevant consideration to whether the building is beautiful. :)

To come back quickly to Balloony's original question, though, I would say that, graphics aside, I actually think that the overall "presentation" of a game is one of the most important things to me, moreso than either graphics or gameplay. And I don't mean how it looks, necessarily, but how much care and consideration the author has put into making the whole experience beautiful, from title-screen to end-credits.

One of the first things that puts me off a game - however cool the engine or flashy the graphics - is being dumped into a half-finished demonstration of programming skills with no real depth or content. On the other hand, a wonderfully presented game which has obviously had care and attention lavished on it by its author will probably keep me playing even if the gameplay itself is relatively standard.

In fact, seeing an author really explore the ideas possible with a fairly basic game engine can often be more exciting than a new and innovative engine itself... Jumpman is a case in point - essentially just a basic platformer, but nevertheless one of the coolest things I've played for some time. :)

Just my few thoughts. :)


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