I think what Applewoord means that using shaders (and code and effects) which dont require much time to be taken advantage of, is a good thing. A shader doesn't always mean a normal mapping shader (which will need an extra effort to make the normal maps and specular maps, if you want it shiny). It can also mean a toon shader (which can produce better looking results than a fixed function toon shader - and will require less texturework). Or for realistic 3D titles, a SSAO shader, which will produce more "alive" results with zero effort from your art team (as a programmer you'll need to spend a few days making it look good and be fast, but thats one time thing and you just drop it in new projects without much thought). And since its a heavy post-processing effect, you can just turn it off. And a glow/bloom shader, the worst thing it might require is to partition your game in areas with settings for this shader in each area (but really most games -even "AAA" games- just drop it at the end of their frame render function and leave it as is). A noise shader is the easiest thing to code and will make your "flashback cutscenes" much better looking (imho) with an effort of maximum 10 minutes (less if your engine has a flexible and working "post process" pipeline). And all these shaders are optional really, you can turn them off without making the game unplayable. I mean, even Doom 3 has all of its effects turnoffable. You can make it look like a Voodoo-era game with little effort (and someone actually did it in a Voodoo ). But shaders != normal maps. In fact most shaders are just drop-ins without a need of special assets for them.