Size isn't everything...

Posted by Sweep (8819 posts) -

I'm sitting at work listening to people around me chatter about the 8GB of DDR5 RAM that we can expect to sit snugly inside the PS4. We haven't heard much about the new Xbox, but I'm sure it will boast something comparable. I'm trying to get my head around how such a huge boost in the potential graphical prowess of our games will influence both the industry and game design as a whole.

With the new Killzone trailer boasting huge, sprawling cities,

and Watchdogs similarly creating an expansive metropolis bubbling with virtual individuals - it's clear that the natural progression of "better hardware" means, for many, "We can fit more shit on the screen". I'm not going to deny these games look incredible, but should that be the focus of what we want from our videogames and, more importantly, is that how we want developers spending their obviously tight budgets of both time and money throughout the next generation?

Think back on the biggest disappointments of the last few years. I'm willing to bet Mass Effect 3 is on that list - though not for it's aesthetic, but for it's conclusion, for it's story. When we play a game our immediate concerns are that of animation, of reactivity, of the weight of our movements and the impact that is reflected in the world we might inhabit - of narrative, of the artificial intelligence of both our comrades and enemies, of humour and of ingenuity. It's hard to appreciate this stuff because it's success is governed by it's subtlety - if it's been done well, you don't notice it. The appearance of these games is important but it's secondary to the other gameplay mechanics that anchor you within the game you are playing. Many titles have demonstrated that even through a thick layer of abstraction it's still possible to empathise with a virtually controlled entity - that it's still possible to create beautiful, meaningful experiences with limited physical capabilities.

In our current generation we already have games that exceed our aesthetic expectations, yet under-perform elsewhere, be it through poor level design or pacing, or whatever. There are still plenty of elements of game design which are repeatedly ignored, or undercut, or discarded. Every time I spot clipping in a pre-rendered cut-scene I hear nails scraping down a blackboard. So while I love the hype, and the optimism, surrounding this next generation of consoles, I think it's important not to forget that good graphics does not automatically mean good videogames.

This new hardware is going to give developers a lot of potential ways to expand their designs. I hope they don't waste it. A lot of them can't afford to waste it. The industry remains fragile, with solid hardworking dev teams having to shutter their doors based on the poor sales of a single title - there are a lot of studios out there who can't afford to spend an entire development cycle creating a huge realistic city which the player has no enthusiasm to explore.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

Moderator
#1 Posted by Demoskinos (14563 posts) -

.....its how you use it right? RIGHT? Only people with small... oh wait this is a video game blog. CARRY ON!

#2 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

All the little pieces flying around will cost a lot. All the little stories being told will not.

#3 Posted by coakroach (2488 posts) -

I was surprised the response to the Killzone trailer was so tepid, it seems to be going in an interesting direction.

The idea of a city split in half between the victors of a horrific war and the ones that started it and lost everything is pretty cool.

Of course given Guerilla's track record the story will probably be trash, but at least the premise has some balls.

#4 Posted by believer258 (11642 posts) -

I agree. I think it would be nice to see a game that was less worried about scale and more worried about characters, story, and (more importantly) gameplay. For a movie analog, I think we need a "Die Hard" to come along. No, not the sequels, but when Die Hard the first came along, it was an action movie with an everyman kind of hero and it took place in and around a single building. I think we probably need something like that, something that's excellent because of its quality and without concern for outdoing the size and scope of everything else.

#5 Edited by Sweep (8819 posts) -

Just saw this via twitter. Relevant:

Moderator
#6 Edited by Video_Game_King (36032 posts) -

@sweep said:

I feel this will be relevant when I tackle Sonic Adventure 2 soon.

#7 Edited by McGhee (6094 posts) -

@sweep said:

Just saw this via twitter. Relevant:

The difference is that The Walking Dead models are operating far outside of the uncanny valley, while trying to make a super realistic face show emotion is far more difficult.

#8 Edited by OmegaPirate (5523 posts) -

The walking dead had animations?

#9 Posted by Sweep (8819 posts) -
Moderator
#10 Posted by OmegaPirate (5523 posts) -

@sweep: Come on man! I loved that game as much as anyone but showing emotion was not one of the things that it was good at. And as for not needing all that money? enslaved and and DMC both spent a hefty amount of time and resources on facial animation and mocap and both conveyed amazingly convincing facial animation and emotion that helped tell the story better than they could have otherwise!

Walking dead basically had 'look at the ground and scowl' face. 'Wide eyed OMG' face and normal face. With awful jarring transitions between them all.

The emotion and drama came from the writing of the scenarios in the world the characters occupied (not the characters themselves which were pretty terrible) which is something that when done correctly can be implemented in any game regardless of budget and resources (see the 2 games mentioned earlier)
Then you get the opposite (every molyneux game ever made) where they dont have the massive polygon budget but still try to make emotional drama a big impact part of their game, however when they are as badly written as most of the fable series, you just get flat looking characters moving in flat animations and speaking flat dialogue.

Did walking dead do decent job of conveying this without david cages money vault? yeah kinda.
Would i like The money vault to be used to amplify the potential of expressions and nuances humans are capable of displaying in order to create more believable charcters and interactions. Yeah!

In an ideal world the power they potentially have behind them would get utilised by talented writers and story tellers to create a perfect blend in which the animation, aesthetic, character dialogue and actual screenplay come together into a perfectly moving and believable world.
But i think it;s insane for people to try and call out a dude for trying to push the envelope in one way or another. Hell, people have been enjoying well animated and totally flat characters for years in pixar movies.

#11 Posted by SlashDance (1804 posts) -

Technological improvement is always good. Tell me LA Noire would've been as enjoyable as it was without its impressive tech.

That picture just seems like someone having a go at David Cage because that's what people do.

#12 Posted by LiquidPrince (15845 posts) -

I'm sure something like the background in that Killzone screenshot is fairly easy to do for the developers, unless those are actual place where the player can traverse. If that's the case, then I think the man power becomes useful.

#13 Edited by MB (11988 posts) -

The only people that say size doesn't matter have small...processors.

Moderator
#14 Posted by LiquidPrince (15845 posts) -

@sweep said:

I feel this will be relevant when I tackle Sonic Adventure 2 soon.

But you gotta admit that that old face actually does convey a lot more emotion then Lee's face did. I mean if you took a shot of Lee's face and then one of that old guys face trying to relay similar emotions without dialogue, the old dude would win hands down. The core of the emotion in The Walking Dead comes from the masterful story telling, not the believable animations.

#15 Edited by Rowr (5480 posts) -

Its all just videogames at the end of the day.

I like the pushing of the envelope and the graphical step up, it's just unfortunate that it will only be enjoyed in like 5 games annually since it costs so much (all released around the same time of the year typically), everyone else survives on downloadable titles - 80 percent of which can probably run on a mobile device. Five games made by the biggest publishing companies who can't afford to take ANY creative or interesting risk on their investment.

YAWN

#16 Posted by Dauthi693 (130 posts) -

The only thiing i'm getting from that old man is "I've got candy, get in the van."

#17 Posted by Video_Game_King (36032 posts) -

But you gotta admit that that old face actually does convey a lot more emotion then Lee's face did. The core of the emotion in The Walking Dead comes from the masterful story telling, not the believable animations.

Actually, I don't have to admit anything, because I've never played The Walking Dead.

#18 Posted by cexantus (131 posts) -

This is

@sweep:

The emotion and drama came from the writing of the scenarios in the world the characters occupied (not the characters themselves which were pretty terrible)

I disagree with that, mostly because I do find each of the characters well-written. But even then, doesn't that kind of prove Sweep's point? Who cares how many polygons your game has when the writing is bunk, the characterization is terrible, and plot is cliched. That's precisely the problem with Cage's own Heavy Rain: It's a gorgeous and ambitious game that's hampered by awful voice-acting and a trite third act. I soon stopped caring about how great those character models look and focused entirely on how ridiculous the game's story became.

I'm not against technological improvement at all, I'm just a lot skeptical of how it's being used. This Sony conference tried to sell us on the Ps4, that this was truly "next-gen;" but all I saw was kind of more of the same: More KillZone; More Infamous; more of the same things we've been playing for the past decade--just only prettier. I'm sure they'll look great, and maybe once I get my hands on one of them maybe I'll have fun, I'm just not convinced I need to jump on board as soon as possible.

#19 Edited by OmegaPirate (5523 posts) -

@cexantus: The characters themselves weren't appalling but the hampering of the interaction with them based on 'choice' killed the believability of them most times.

kenny spoilers :-

Having kennys back the entire god damn game and going so far as to sacrifice hershels son and kill lilys dad in agreement fwith him, only to have him throw me under the bus at every opportunity, constantly remind me that i was on a thread with him the entire time as to whether he was taking us with him, and then ditching me at the end and not helping to go get clementine all because in the first episode i didnt smack out lilys dad because of the fact i thought being reasonable and trying to calm everyone down was the best bet?? I killed your god-damned son for you because it would have been too cruel to ask a broken father to put a bullet in his only child! Don't throw back a conversation we had months ago that amounted to nothing as the basis of our entire relationship!!


That was one of many of the issues i had when it came to characterisation and believability of the interactions, which made it incredibly hard to care about many of them, as you could see behind the curtain as to which triggers were being pulled incredibly easily.
And there were some characters who were just not written in any kind of importance - everyone going crazy over how great clementine was and how protective they felt of her. She had no arc, there was no development, she just looked scared throughout (understandable for a parentless girl in the zombie apocalypse) and made any potentially life or death decision harder with nothing more than her whinging about 'doing the right thing'. She was basically the timed clock section of action games to make the game artificially harder thrown into an adventure game and using a binary moral compass to guilt the player - and never progressed for anything more throughout the episodes! And don't get me started on the info-dump masked as an antagonist in the final episode.

I loved the walking dead when i played through it, technical issues aside. But the more i look back on it now, the less favourably i see it. Even at the time however there was very little emotion or attachment i felt towards the characters, besides Lee who i guess could technically ruled out as he was an avatar for which the player could project themselves into and shape as they saw fit. Much like the series the game eventually gave me enjoyment in seeing just how messed up the WORLD was, rather than being taken aback by any of the characters and their arcs, the one exception being Carleys exit in the 2nd episode whom i did actually find interesting - and even then it was the masterful use of the tooltip reminding you she would remember that you had stuck up for her a second before the outcome that lulled me into a false sense of security and let my guard down for a second. THATS where i found the emotional rollercoaster and craft, not in Kenny being mad bipolar and the other characters playing the same note for 5 episodes.

Not that your opinion is invalid, I know many people who were taken by the people in this game and the interactions with them - I just didnt find the same kind of entertainment in the same places.
I agree with you on Heavy Rain. For me the typewriter scene and revelation totally killed off the story for me and was a complete bullshit herring that made no sense in the story.
However for myself HR's appeal came from how flexible and 'no fail' the story was. The fact that even fucking up and losing main characters wasnt the end of the story, or a 'game over' it was just the way your story progressed was refreshing at the time and i wish more games would try to do that.
I almost feel the massive tech used by it undermined the game, as more people were focused on when the uncanny valley kicked in or the presentation wasnt incredibly flawless that it took them out of the game completely, whereas a more stylised walking dead-esque look would've made those kind of criticisms moot.

But at the end of the day, despite all this i WANT the tech to keep pushing, i WANT more heavy rains and more games attempting to harness decent processing power to try and make every part fo a game more and more believable. There will be more failures and limp attempts (like heavy rain( in the mean time where one end of the game doesn't play as strong as the rest and undermines the entire experience, but i do believe that this generation we saw a lot of story telling and overall writing quality improvements, with them willing to take more risks with regard to content and player expectations in the story. Eventually someone is going to nail it, and when they do - the fact that people like cage are pushing to try and make the tech side more and more relevant and believable is going to increase the chance that when the writing is up to an amazingly believeable standard? so will the hardware. And THATS what im holding out for!!

As for the ps4 showing so far, I hear you - but there is still E3 to come, there is still a lot of cards left unshown and as far as a console unveiling the games seemed almost secondary to the evolution of the psn as a network and a social service, which i found incredibly exciting.
What i want from the next gen is an evolution of the systems and expectations we have right now and there seemed to be strong indications that is where they are going.
None of the 3rd party studios are going to be showing hands just yet - there is still one console unannounced and for the sake of parity they will likely show it all when it comes to E3 and we have a greater understanding of what the consoles are capable of. But for a launch event, getting one or tow already known video games in, then getting your first party studios to drum up some pretty looking hardware showcases is about the most we should have expected.

#20 Edited by Hunter5024 (5544 posts) -

@omegapirate: Clementine does have an arc though. She starts off as a scared little girl who only wants her parents, but by the end she's been toughened up, she uses a gun, and she knows how to survive in the apocalypse. That's not even mentioning the kind of effects that the final decision could have on her, because we never managed to see the fallout from that.

#21 Edited by rethla (425 posts) -

Mass effect series has been a dissapointment from the start graphic wise so why would anyone care that episode 3 follows that trend?

More powerfull and flexible hardware isnt only for cutting edge graphic benchmarks it will benefit small indie 2D games just as much or even more.

As an example. You see billions of "Meatboy graphic" games from indie developers being developed all the time these days and why? Becouse its shit easy to develop such games on todays powerfull hardware.

If you argue that NES is all you need to produce great games like that you are out on thin ice becouse with NES hardware Meatboy graphics is possible but its an AAA production.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.