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Community Forum Spotlight: Flash Over Substance?

Community Manager Laura Genender takes a look at a forum post asking members whether they would prefer an eye-candy MMO with mediocre gameplay, or a game with out-dated graphics that was deep and well designed. The results may surprise you.

Flash Over Substance?
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Our forums are always teeming with threads about what gamers want - massive PvP battles, dynamic worlds, breathtakingly realistic graphics, so on and so forth. This week in The Pub, though, RonnyRulz puts a tough question to the forum crowd: Would you rather play a regular MMO with gorgeous graphics, or a dynamic, deep MMO with outdated graphics? Would you rather content or eye-candy?

RonnyRulz sets the scene for what's being offered: imagine if you could play in "a real persistent world, with player-run cities and a player-run economy. The entire world begins with only dev-made cities, or nothing at all, whichever. Players begin and harvest trees with a beginning axe. They craft said raw tree material into logs. Players use these logs to build buildings using a lego-type build system, so that they can design their houses to look any way they want... Players build their own shops, their own defense structures. The game emphasizes freedom for the player."

"To sum it up: Gameplay consists of harvesting and hunting, crafting, trading, a real economy, RvR, PvP, PvE, etc. A real persistent world where you can change it, add to it, take away from it, and effect it. Total Freedom."

What's the downside, though? "the graphics suck. The animations are crude and suck." RonnyRulz compares the graphics of this made-up game to EverQuest, AO, or Doom. It's everything you ask for, sans icing.

Included in his post was a thread - and the results are surprising. 38.1% of voters would take the dull MMO with the great graphics - while 61.9% would rather the in-depth MMO with bad graphics.

AmazingAvery makes the first reply, linking to the gameslist page for Darkfall and asking if RonnyRulz is referring to the abovementioned game. "Darkfall is trying to appeal to a lot of the aspects you mention, but without a proper publisher I fear it will never see the light of day." I can think of a handful of other similar games, with unconventional ideas and many of the features that RonnyRulz listed, but no publicity (or graphics) to see the big gamer populations.

Larsa is one of the posters who voted for gameplay over graphics - "Honestly," he replies, "I cannot understand the gaming industry with its current focus on eye-candy and crappy gameplay. Instead of hiring game designers and programmers to design and code game features they spend 50% of their budget for 3d artists creation models and objects with gazillions of polygons. The only thing they achieve with that sort of business practice is that about 80% of the current PCs cannot run their new games because of horrendous system requirements.

Users Token1337Guy and Amaranthar are in agreement that gameplay is more important than graphics, but they also disagree with some of RonnyRulz's graphics assessments. "In my opinion," posts 1337Guy, "AO's graphics aren't bad at all. I actually like having a MMORPG that I can crank up and have it run smooth as butter without worrying much about hardware specs." Amaranthar quotes him and replies, "Agreement here. While I can do without great graphics, I still expect something that looks good enough to at least not cause a mental crash in my immersion."

User Flyte27 points out that sometimes, some graphical elements can effect your gameplay. "Part of gameplay is the UI and the ability to get around and interact with your environment." Later in his post, he gives us a vote for graphics over gameplay: "Personally I like to have smooth animations, movement, and UI over other things. Then I care about the story."

User Amalaric, however, isn't so easy to please. "I demand both wonderful graphics and superb gameplay and depth otherwise I'm not interested. So I can't vote on your poll because I demand both."

Myself - I am definitely more about gameplay. I even still play EQ! But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate beautiful graphics - Lineage II, Aion, Vanguard, LOTRO have all impressed me with their scenery. I look forward to the future of gaming both for the graphics and the gameplay.

I'm also curious how readers would react to this poll if other variables were involved - what if the game had great graphics and depth, but no combat? What if it had all three, but horrible support and lots of farmers? What sells you on a game, and what turns you away?

Check out and discuss RonnyRulz's thread here!