I read an interesting opinion piece over on Gamasutra earlier. It dealt with the increasing realism, or photo-realism, of modern games.

This is something we’ve talked about before, in a casual sort of way: that new games keep pushing the envelope, coming up with ever flashier visuals. The article maintains that we are reaching the point where this may have to stop.

Not because of hardware, but because the time and cost to create these graphics will reach the point of diminishing returns. And also because gamers are becoming “numb” over increasingly realistic graphics.

I’m not so sure about that second one. It’s more or less expected these days that a new game will have plenty of “eye candy”. If a product doesn’t, it’s immediately downgraded, especially in reviews, and often by the players themselves.

On the other hand, we’ve discussed why some of the older games were much more fun to play, and I think that the graphics may have had something to do with that, in at least some games.

While the visuals were the best for that time, they were also a bit hokey. Of course, the critters were still deadly, but there was something in the presentation that said “this isn’t too serious, it’s game”. Even the original Doom had its share of monsters that didn’t look too monstrous.

As the graphics become better, as they approach “real life”, the game becomes more serious, simply because it does look so real. I think that takes a little off from the fun factor.

As to the cost problem, there I think he has something. Games take longer to develop now, and a lot of that goes into the visuals. He may be right that we are indeed reaching the point where fancier graphics just won’t be cost-effective.

Read the piece and see what you think.

Photorealism In Games