Andrew weighs in on Foundational Principle #12 Speed Matters.
Today I want to talk about graphics, and gameplay, and performance. They’re all connected, so it’s hard to talk about any one of them in isolation — and if you do, you’ll end up rendering yourself into a corner. Everyone wants all three, all the time, but what happens when you have to choose?
It all starts with gameplay, but what does “gameplay” really mean? For some games, the graphics are the core of the gameplay. For those games, the thrill is exploring a gorgeously rendered, immersive new world. You may compromise on performance to create that, but for some people, tuning their system for the best possible experience becomes its own meta-game. You may compromise on certain aspects of gameplay — precomputing the world’s lighting gives you a prettier world and better performance, but to lock down the world’s lighting you have to lock down all the objects in the world. But if the main hook of a game is how pretty it looks, that’s all fine. I’ve played games for how beautiful they were, and I’ve enjoyed every perfect hand-crafted scene around every new corner. There’s not a tradeoff between graphics and gameplay when the graphics are the gameplay.
On the other hand, for technology purposes Camelot Unchained’s gameplay pitch is simple: a whole lot of player-controlled characters, interacting together in a world that they affect dynamically. Performance is the primary pillar supporting that — but rather than going for the highest frame rate, our benchmark is the number of players on-screen while running smoothly at our target frame rate. Gameplay and Performance are the two top-level goals of the engineering team, and if we achieve them, we’re good.
But unlike a Big-Publisher game, we don’t have pressure to look good in order to be good. It’s the other way around. That’s not to say we want to look bad! We’ve got a great art team here at City State, and triangle for triangle they can pack more style and personality into a model than just about anyone. But when it comes down to the sheer number of those triangles, any time we have to choose between that and delivering on our core gameplay, we’re going to choose the gameplay. That requires certain sacrifices. Every scene has to support the possibility that a few hundred of your friends might show up there, even if they usually won’t. We know that we’re building a world for characters to live in, not a theme park for tourists to visit."
Continue reading here: Foundational Principle #12 – Speed Matters