The Tyranny Of Graphics

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Davaris, Sep 4, 2006.

  1. Davaris

    Original Member

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    It’s an unusual title I know, but that’s how I'm starting to feel about RPGs and the graphical standards expected.

    I find I'm spending most of the time getting the graphics and animations for my game and then trying to make them look good. I’ve noticed Spiderweb puts a lot of work into his graphics and I’m always seeing posts in RPG player forums saying his graphics suck. So I thought why bother? Why not do something completely different and create a stylized version of an RPG that looks and plays like a board game?

    The creatures could be simple colored counters, the maps could look like they’ve been drawn on grid paper and a portrait of the creature could appear on the side of the screen when the mouse passes over its counter. That way I could spend time making games instead of wasting time on graphics no one likes.

    So what you guys think of this idea? Do you think it would work?
     
  2. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    Suppose it could work if the counters has a symbol on them rather than just a plain colour. But really graphics are important, and if you're serious about selling your game you should try to have something a bit better than counters.

    Maybe you could go for something similar in style to this? Minimal graphics needed but would give a clearer representation of whats going on than counters could.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_the_Winds
     
  3. michalczyk

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    I know what you mean. IMO, for an indie developer (especially a single person doing it all) it's not worth trying to out-compete high quality graphics/code/music of some game unless your skills are strong in the particular domain. Use your strengths to your best advantage. If your art skills are not too good, make your graphics average quality and concentrate on other areas you are good at.
     
  4. papillon

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    You can do board-game style and skip animations, but you still need to be sure the board is at least somewhat attractive.

    People bitch an awful lot about REAL board games that try to give you a flat cardboard disc with 'bear' written on it instead of a bear-shaped figure, too. :)

    <- has been browsing boardgamegeek lately. :)
     
  5. LilGames

    LilGames New Member

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    I say follow your own vision and don't listen to what the whiners on message boards have to say.

    I've been playing Oblivion, and I find the game both beautiful and engaging. Yet even for this criticly acclaimed game you'll find a fair amount of whiners on the net, bitching about everything from the graphics to the gameplay.
     
  6. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    This is something a lot of developers struggle with. Spiderweb games do have poor production values. Fire up Atlantis:Sky Patrol and then fire up geneforge and see the difference in the game shell, how the game feels overall. The little sounds, the colors, the theme how they all work together closely.

    Another case in point compare screenshots from Aveond and Geneforge

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Even Aveond's rather simple graphics come off better then geneforges, especially when you see them in motion with spell effects etc. Spiderwebs graphics are Ok for a programmer, but not the product of someone with a keen eye for production values.
     
  7. Musenik

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    I took the route of making an RPG using a boardgame metaphor. I chose this because graphics are very important, and I couldn't afford fancy animated 3D figures and huge, environments filled with gorgeous textures.

    Here's what I ended up with:

    [​IMG]



    You'll be seeing more of this game in the near future.
     
  8. papillon

    Indie Author

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    *squees interestedly* :)
     
  9. Davaris

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    I'm going to try and make something that is as abstract as possible, but looks as nice as a pro-graphics artist would make it. DROD has a great little board game feel to it so I'm going to try for something similar.

    I was thinking of making something that looks like a pen and paper game people would play with lead figures. So I'd make the pre-rendered creatures silver and put them on a playing board grid and they would face in only one direction. The playing board would have to look like it was sitting on someone's table at home to get the effect I want.

    My big complaint is if a game doesn't look like Oblivion, most people will dismiss it. Also the people that actually buy Indie RPGs say graphics aren't important to them, so I figure why waste time making animations and all the other extraneous graphics? I want to stop wasting time on graphics and focus on games!

    Anyway I think I'll make a monopoly style game first, to try and get the look I'm after.
     
  10. Edtharan

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    I think what is more important than flashy graphics is to have a consistant style. I have played some games that do not have a consistant style, and although the graphics were quite good, the inconsistancy made them seem worse than othergames that had worse graphics, but a consistant style.

    So whatever style you choose, stick with it and make sure that all the graphics conform to it (this even applies to real board games, not just computer games).
     
  11. cliffski

    Moderator Original Member

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    what I look for in a game is something new and interesting. I don't mind if it's a text adventure, as long as it's interesting. Actually probably the most predictable and boring thing you can do with an RPG now is make it look like oblivion. If you have 10 million dollars, go for it, but if not, innovate in other areas.
    A lack of graphcis can be liberating in terms of gameplay. Kudos lets you do archery in your spare time, which is easy, because its just a sound effect and some text. I didnt have to animate loads of characters shooting arrows. This approach may dissapoint some players, but it allows more huge flexibility in gameplay terms. People really aren't *that* scared of reading text and using their imagination. If they were, fiction books would have died out by now in favour of DVDs.
     
  12. lapskaus

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    You can have good graphics without using new technology. Some people can appreciate that, while some people see good graphics as using the latest technology like bumpmapping, realtime shadows and so on and so forth. You're just going to have to ignore those people and aim for the crowd that looks at what the final image looks like and not how it's rendered. A good sprite ends up looking just as good as a 3d model rendered in a 3d engine, or most of the time better. And it is so much more easy to make it work.

    So the board game approach is definitly a good one. You can make your game look totally awsome with pretty simple code and a fraction of the artwork. Just make it abstract and don't try to make it too realistic.
     
  13. Christian

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    Graphics are not evil!, they add value to the product, are you saying that you dont enjoy watching a beautyfull drawing? or picture? or model?. Its true that there are 12 year old kids that moan about everything, even if its an awesome product with awesome art, they are going to call it "the suckz rofl lolz", dont listen to them, but you have to agree that beautyfull art is a pleasure to look at and that its allways good to have it in a game. Allways try to satisfy the needs of a particular target audience, since you cant please everybody.
     
  14. Coyote

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    I totally feel your pain. I think all programmers do...

    IMO, your graphics have to be "attractive" but definitely not earth-shattering or state-of-the-art. I think Musenik's example is great - as is Aveyond's. Aveyond uses relatively little animation - but it's abstract enough that it's fine.

    Outpost Kaloki is an example of a 3D game that uses simple but attractive 3D graphics. They are nowhere close to state-of-the-art or realistic, but it works wonderfully. Mainly because they eschewed realism for a more symbolic, comical representation. They invested in simply creating a few, eye-catching graphical elements, which worked pretty well for a Tycoon-style game. Because of it's unique style, people don't tend to compare it to, say, Oblivion. They punched up the graphics a bit for the XBox 360 version, but it still largely the same game.

    [​IMG]

    Anyway - go for attractive, but don't go for the flashy. That way lies madness. A very sharp boardgame or wargame-style analogy might work perfectly well. Particularly if you don't have to mess with animating every little action.
     
  15. David De Candia

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    Yes, I think it can be done successfully. Just look at how popular all the Rogue-likes were (are?). Or the text-only adventures for that matter.

    If you are not strong graphically, don't waste your time on art. Pour all your energy into making the interface and gameplay fun and involving. At the very end of the day, once you have a solid game that stands minus graphics, you can always hire an artist to fill in the blanks.
     
  16. siread

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    Make sure all your assets can be viewed and edited by the players. That way you may find that as you start to build a community of fans that the artistic ones will start creating their own patches. Now if you code a little animation for those counters it shouldn't be too hard to replace them with walking talking rooting tooting techno-color sprites and bingo - you're on the road to a tasty looking app. :)
     
  17. vjvj

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    Good graphics are a function of artist talent more than anything else. Outpost Kaloki is a perfect example of achieving more with less. One would be surprised what a little color theory and right brain activity can do.

    FWIW, I too always thought the graphics in Spiderweb's games were pretty bad (no offense!). The game could look better with absolutely zero tech changes; I just think they need a better artist.

    Again, no offense to the Spiderweb guys. Just trying to be objective and honest here.
     
  18. indiemaker

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    I don't think the SpiderWeb games' artwork is that bad. The rendered sprites are quite good, well, good enough. The interface artwork however is really bad. I never quite understood why a little more effort wasn't made to improve the buttons, and interface artwork.
     
  19. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Spiderwebs graphics are "inconsistent" ranging from pretty decent to pretty horrible. The end result is an overall impression that there isn't much art direction or theme tying together the visual elements of the game. Players perceive this lack of direction or consistency as "bad graphics".

    Outpost does a lot by haveing a very consistent look and feel to all it's graphics, you can tell that the visual asthetics are a result of careful planning and the overall production values are evident.
     
  20. indiemaker

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    What if the artwork is consistently bad? Like programmer art everywhere?

    SpiderWeb's games do have inconsistent artwork. Main artwork/sprites: not bad. Interface: ugly programmer art.

    So the net effect is: it looks unfinished.
     

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