In a recent Escapist article, game journalist Shamus Young resented the rising cost of development due to money spent on graphics. It’s a view that, as a soon-to-be-jobhunting game artist, I shouldn’t support; that budget is the buoy keeping the employment of fresh game artists afloat. But I can’t help but agree with him – from a visual standpoint, fidelity is not the thing holding back gaming experiences. In fact, it’s becoming one of the obstacles preventing truly imaginative and enchanting game worlds from becoming realised.
Allow me to explain. People need problems. If they don’t have any, they make them… to keep themselves busy. It’s what we do, or else we’d probably still be hurling rocks at animals for dinner. If technology continually moves forward, artists face technical problems: how can I get the most out of this new graphics engine, this new hardware? But hold back the relentless advance of graphical fidelity, and the artists GIVE themselves new problems: stylisation problems, not technical ones. They say: “how can we make our current tech more visually effective? How can we make our levels interesting to look at and play in, not just technically impressive?” They innovate, not in spite of, but because nobody else is doing it for them.
This is exemplified by Shamus’ surprise that with all the new technical complications that come with a new engine, Crysis 2 developer Crytek has taken care to make something that’s stylistically pleasant to look at. All it took to stand out was some colour in the palette. It’s embarrassing that something as fundamental as this has become exceptional. But the developers which think beyond the fidelity problems tend to make the most memorable and enjoyable environments to play in.
|This Baldur's Gate 2 level is unique - just like every other level|
|Crooked, twisting trees claw skward from pestulent waters as|
winged demons swarm in skies overhead. just lovely.
Lighting is used both to direct the player through the levels and to match the heavy-handed moods of each of the levels. Putrid greens reek of desperation, fiery reds evoke agonising pain, icy blues portray deceit; with a whole gamut of colours to match levels in-between. The game owes much of its inspiration from the source material, The Divine Comedy, but also from other accounts of hell in Christian literature. The benefit of these materials is that their authors were not bound by anything except their imagination, and further, only interpretation can transform them into something visual and real, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get creative, and that’s just what developer Visceral Games has done.
|These references to visual impairment are as|
ham-fisted as many developers' approach to
It has affected too many developers. But not all. And for those few that open their eyes enough to get it right, it’s worth the suffering.