Game-play, Story and Graphics… Oh my?

Posted: September 28, 2011 in Gaming
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With the ever-expanding games industry there are so many things that attract people to specific games. Anything from game-play to graphics or story. With so much to choose from and so many titles sometimes it’s hard to pick what to play next. What matters most to you when choosing a new title?

Obviously game-play would be the most important part of any game. If it isn’t fun then no one will play. The growth of the industry over the last 20 years has produced a slew of titles with varying styles of game-play. With such an over saturation it really is hard for a developer to stand out. Most games of the same genre essentially the same at the very core. What makes the industry so great is seeing how developers can take these fundamental game-play elements and make them feel new. Some developers have found success in rehashing sequel after sequel of a specific IP with making minor changes to the core of the game. Which is great. They found something that works and if people continue to play it they will keep pumping them out.

I truly enjoy playing a game that has taken a core game-play style and truly put some imagination into it. One of the greatest examples of this in recent years is Little Big Planet on PS3. Here’s a game that at the very core is a side scrolling game similar to a classic game like Super Mario Brothers. The talented and imaginative developers over at Media Molecule really took a core game-play mechanic and injected it with a new vitality. They really made a side scroller fresh and fun. They added elements that really make LBP a unique experience. Also with their level creation it added another dimension to the game that took LPB places I don’t even think the devs originally had envisioned.

With the gaming industry becoming such a mainstream entertainment medium it has also opened up many other means for smaller or independent developers to give us some truly unique games. Xbox live arcade is a great place to find some really imaginative titles. One that comes to mind is Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. When I first saw this game it kind of reminded me of an old game called Solar Jetman for NES. While the game-play looks similar, ITSP definitely is a creature of its own. There are features in Solar Jetman that are very different from ITSP but there’s a core style there that has been around for 20+ years that Shadow Planet Productions (Fuelcell Games and Gagne International) made their own.

Story is another aspect of a game that can really draw a player in. Especially with the quality voice acting in some games today. While some older games did have decent stories, voice has definitely added to the immersion level for a lot of gamers that simply couldn’t be achieved with text. Early voice over work for a lot of games really wasn’t all that great. While I absolutely love the Resident Evil series, RE1 could very possibly have some of the worst and cheesiest dialogue/voice acting I’ve ever heard. Even before they introduced voice acting into video games, I’ve experienced some really great stories. Games like Final Fantasy 3(6 if you wanna get all technical) had a really great story that I’ve played through multiple times to experience.

Story has even occasionally beat out game-play for me. Very rarely but it has happened. I’ll probably get the firing squad for this one but I could not stand Final Fantasy 7. The story was so well done that I soldiered through it so I could see the end. It drew me right in and I needed to know what happened next. I truly believe that the FF7 story is one of the greatest stories ever told in a game. Looking back at a lot of RPGs there were a lot of great stories. First person shooters back in the day didn’t tend to have much of a story to them. That was until this company you may have heard of called Valve created a masterpiece. Halflife. It was the first time a shooter had a really great story and it set the stage for so many action games that have followed.

Graphics are a different animal all together. Quality of graphics in games today definitely has an impact on whether some people will try them. I do like pretty games. The standard these days for graphics is pretty high. Especially if you are trying to put out a Triple A title. Games take a long time to develop and sometimes when a game finally gets released the graphics can already feel dated. A game can be finished and not get released for months for varying reasons or it could have simply been built using an outdated engine. So many factors including budget and time restraints can have an impact on a games graphics.

As game developers run through the life cycle of consoles they find ways to work with the hardware more efficiently and can really pump out better looking games. A great example of this would be Gears of War. The graphics for the original are pretty damned good but sitting next to GoW3 it doesn’t even compare. Developers still haven’t tapped the full potential of our current generation of consoles so games are going to keep looking better and better.

Working with the art style and textures in a game is another way for developers to take a genre and make it their own. Some people enjoy super realistic graphics while others prefer more stylized looks. The cell shading in Borderlands just didn’t appeal to some people. Some prefer to play a more realistic looking games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. There are so many art/graphic styles that developers use to create games. I think that is one of the best ways for a developer to set themselves apart from a lot of the generic games that come pouring out of the industry.

I can overlook some weaker aspects of games sometimes if a story truly is compelling or the game-play really has me hooked. Graphics otherwise don’t mean that much to me. While I do love looking at beautifully crafted worlds or characters, if I had to choose? I would rather my games have substance than a shiny candy coating. Deep down so many games really are the same. It’s imagination and ingenuity of the creative minds in the industry that continue to shock and amaze us. That’s what keeps me coming back for more.

Thanks for reading


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