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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: Graphics vs. Gameplay?

Posted by MikeB Sunday May 13 2012 at 1:39PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight we focus on the thread "STOP screaming for better graphics, your killing game play !" by delete5230. In the thread, delete5230 asserts that the clamoring for higher quality graphics in MMOs is to blame for the 'crap' MMOs released over the past few years:

I can't stress this enough.

The population is demanding better and better graphics in mmo's.  This works on single player games but not MMO's. EVERY single player game has loading screens and small zones, yet it's acceptable because it's a single player game.  Were not talking about single player games, but MMO's.

Were getting crap mmo's as of late.  Why ?.....because you people are demanding better graphics and developers are trying to accommodate.

Would you like proof ?......Funcom is a good exaggerated example, they are a an amplified sample of what all other designers are also trying to do.  You can plainly see that a lot of money is put into Age of Conan but it was a released failure. This is because they went full all out graphics.  All time and energy went into graphics, and we were given a shell of a game. YOU ASKED FOR THIS !.....This topic is not about Funcom, it's about graphics.  If your gonna go off on a rant about Funcom your not getting the point.

It all comes down to this. It's like a time spent slide bar :

Community                                                                                                              

Large open world................................................................................/............... Graphics

It all comes down to one side or the other. You can't have both YOU JUST CAN'T. It's only 2012, were not their yet.  Sure we had a few that somewhat gave us both like LOTRO and maybe a few others, but for the most part we get 90% crap game play because of graphics.

To make things worst, now developers are adding Tools and gimmicks, and adding Dungeon finders, Dynamic Events, Personal story lines and worst of all cinematic cut scenes. All this takes away from community, and vast open world. It's where the money is going.

Now we have this slide bar :

Dynamic Events

Dungeon finders

GRAPHICS                                                                                                             Community                                                                                                                                                                                          

Cinematic videos............./....................................................................................Large open world

It's all about slide bars. You can't have it all !!!!

Brainy concurs:

OP is dead on.  Its a matter of resources, and graphics hogs up devs time and money more than anything.  It really doesnt matter what the other stuff in a game is defined as.  The more time spent with graphics, the less time with everything else.  Most of the other stuff takes only a fraction of the time to develop compared to just upgrading graphics a tiny bit.

The real problem is players dont really know what they want, they scream graphics and get it, then after the shiny wears off, they go to games like WoW.  The devs need to just ignore the graphic whine and make a solid game without them.  If the gameplay is there, the players will gravitate to the game.

zyurmgeist adds:

You missed one. The higher the graphics requirements the fewer the characters and mobs can be in a zone without bogging down. So you can choose higher graphics, a more open world, a more populated world. Pick any two.

vee41 feels delete5230 is simplifying things:

So what you are basically saying there is that for example Dynamic Events and gameplay are a tradeoff? As games become prettier, the 'worse' they become? I have to disagree as it really is not a simple tradeoff or slider you can make to simplify things. I do however agree that lot of recent games have been strong on graphical department, less so on 'what actually make games fun'- side. While that does hold true to most recent titles it is still over simplifying things and not taking into account the fact that they are actually excluding each other. You can have a pretty MMO that is fun to play, GW2 does that for me. World is huge, even zones feel massive and I don't feel limited in anyway which is not the case for many other titles.

Open world/graphic quality tradeoff is understandable, there was a lenghty post in the forums about it recently. You did not define what is 'gameplay' to you?

I disagree with the premise of the thread but I feel the basic gist of it is a good discussion to have. You can have high quality graphics while also having a solid MMO, it's just that most developers don't tend to be able to hit the performance marks in general. I can think of many MMOs that suffered massive performance issues with many people on screen at once and most of them do not push the envelope in graphics. At the same time, I can think of games like Age of Conan, which did, and also suffer the same issues. It really has less to do with the graphics and more to do with how the developers tackle the technical issues involved with having many people around at once.

I feel that MMOs, of all video game genres, should aspire to push the graphics envelope in order to create more convincing and believable worlds. Games like TERA or ArcheAge feature high quality graphics but do not appear to exhibit the same issues with having many characters on screen, the latter of which also aims to create the large sandbox world replete with tons of gameplay features. 

Where do you stand on this issue? Share your thoughts in the commons below!