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  1. #1
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    What makes a video game look good other than pure graphics?

    Okay, so I'm working with a startup game dev at the moment, and the hope is to get a full length game released. I've already posted a thread about the storyline, but I'd also like to know what makes a video game look good? We aren't looking at a particularly large production budget, at the very most we could scrap together five figures. This obviously is going to translate to shortcomings technically, so I need to know two things.

    For future reference, which part of the technical side of graphics shows the most improvement in realism in your opinion? Polygon counts, animation, textures, particle systems, how the issue of sparse distant areas and horizons is resolve, etc.

    For my reference, which art styles do you find to be more forgiving to graphical shortcomings? Does a cartoonish look lend itself enough to lesser graphics enough to warrant the lack of realism or the comparatively simple, plain textures?

    In particular, what do you think of the game limbo? I've been thinking about it and implementing a visual style like limbo's on a 3d environment could help push some aspects of the game.

    Thanks for all of your help guys.

  2. #2
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    Hi, I'm also a game developer and the best thing you can start with is looking at other successful visual games. Look at the imperfections, that is probably the hardest part to master as a game designer I would presume you are. To make something look natural within a polygon shaped engine, it's really hard to get that down. So some tips on that is make sure almost nothing is the same exact value, angles, distance, height. Also, learn how to use textures well, that can be your best bet to make a good looking game, as walking up to a wall is common and if its all fuzzy that could be disengaging to the player. Higher polygon counts obviously make the game look sharper, but remember that not everyone's computer is a beast. Animation is also pretty key, a single joint animation simply wont look quite right versus a full skeletal motion. Particle systems and pretty easy to use and master, they are not quite as important due to the fact that the visual is usually farther away that most things. Make your fires look good though When it comes to blank areas, you can use an occlusion culling and set a slider for the user to decide how many things are rendered. Honestly though, your best shot is to make a curvature just like the earth to set a horizon Next question, forgivable graphical shortcomings, cartoons will be a lot easier as the imperfections I mentioned earlier don't really apply with cartoon visuals. Although, if you go with cartoons, make sure your colors are vibrant and very very sharp. It is definitely less forgiving on your texture choice. Yes to Limbo! that would be a very good place to start! the graphics are really simple yet unique, and also easy to work with. Just a non dense fog system, some simple blue, and blacks, grays, and whites. They did a fantastic job on the animation and camera follow. Make sure you use a nice following camera, not a jittery one So in the end, basically everything you said adds a little more to the game
    Last edited by Shadow300; 04-08-12 at 08:51 PM.

  3. #3
    Member OCCrisisMaker's Avatar
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    First let me start by saying my only real experience with gaming is flight simulators and RC simulators (physics requirements of those will tame almost any GPU - even my 7950 in certain fight situations). That said here's what I can tell you.
    1) I like the style of graphics limbo uses (checked it out on Youtube) seems uncomplicated and probably low graphics intensive. That's good
    2) In the world of simulators anyway, polygon counts are what seem to make or break any scene both in realism and in graphics requirements - depending on what you want for user system requirements, you may want to keep a limit there - kind of what I like about limbo - looks simple yet attractive - not too cartoony but not overwhealming either.
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow300 View Post
    Hi, I'm also a game developer and the best thing you can start with is looking at other successful visual games. Look at the imperfections, that is probably the hardest part to master as a game designer I would presume you are. To make something look natural within a polygon shaped engine, it's really hard to get that down. So some tips on that is make sure almost nothing is the same exact value, angles, distance, height. Also, learn how to use textures well, that can be your best bet to make a good looking game, as walking up to a wall is common and if its all fuzzy that could be disengaging to the player. Higher polygon counts obviously make the game look sharper, but remember that not everyone's computer is a beast. Animation is also pretty key, a single joint animation simply wont look quite right versus a full skeletal motion. Particle systems and pretty easy to use and master, they are not quite as important due to the fact that the visual is usually farther away that most things. Make your fires look good though When it comes to blank areas, you can use an occlusion culling and set a slider for the user to decide how many things are rendered. Honestly though, your best shot is to make a curvature just like the earth to set a horizon Next question, forgivable graphical shortcomings, cartoons will be a lot easier as the imperfections I mentioned earlier don't really apply with cartoon visuals. Although, if you go with cartoons, make sure your colors are vibrant and very very sharp. It is definitely less forgiving on your texture choice. Yes to Limbo! that would be a very good place to start! the graphics are really simple yet unique, and also easy to work with. Just a non dense fog system, some simple blue, and blacks, grays, and whites. They did a fantastic job on the animation and camera follow. Make sure you use a nice following camera, not a jittery one
    Well limbo worked in two dimensions, but this is going to be a first person 3d game with lots of hand to hand combat. Do you think a limbo like style could work for this sort of game without requiring modifications that would make it look gaudy and ugly? What if fists and knives were rendered as white against a completely black character?

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    You could definitely do that. Oh! And if there's a lot of hand to hand combat, perfect your animations, I've seen too many games have horrible hand to hand combat in 3D. White? hmm... I suppose you could run with that... Are you going with total cartoon imaging?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow300 View Post
    You could definitely do that. Oh! And if there's a lot of hand to hand combat, perfect your animations, I've seen too many games have horrible hand to hand combat in 3D. White? hmm... I suppose you could run with that... Are you going with total cartoon imaging?
    Okay, I was thinking that the animations were going to be our make or break point graphics wise. I'm expecting to see decent textures, but the polygon counts and the quality of particle systems for grass and such is up in the air, so I wanted to know whether we should focus on one of those two.

    As of this moment, I'm not sure if we will be using the cartoon style at all, or if its going to take up the bulk of the game. Ultimately I'm hoping to come up with a tree of plot lines that is based on who you kill or don't kill. The character needs to snap between two or more realities so that the player can't ever know what he's looking at, and to make the player hesitate when the guy he's beating the hell out of morphs into his daughter. Ultimately the point is to get the player so used to thinking about killing people before the act that he doesn't even realize when he's making a story changing decision.

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    Alright, well I would focus more on the polygon counts due to the fact that the fists will be a lot closer than the grass or other particle systems. But try to get a good balance of both No game is good when something is really awesome and the other sucks. Just like if the game has fantastic graphics but no story line. Your game however sounds like a very good story line, keep me updated, I would like to see what the outcome is

  8. #8
    Member Pvt.Dancer's Avatar
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    For me its the details in a game things that don't distract but just fill in like good shadows/lighting or some extra animals when out doors. and being able to interact with things. that's what makes the m really memorable. like in HL2 being able to move almost every object was great.
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    That's a good point. Make sure your light mapping matches the theme

  10. #10
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    It depends on ones definition of looking good. I appreciate the art styles such as some would say cartoony like: Borderlands, TF2, even WoW or Warcraft. It doesn't have to be photo realistic for me to think it looks good.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RADIO_ACTIVE View Post
    It depends on ones definition of looking good. I appreciate the art styles such as some would say cartoony like: Borderlands, TF2, even WoW or Warcraft. It doesn't have to be photo realistic for me to think it looks good.
    Yeah, some idiots out there dump on WoW for it's cartoony graphics. Makes no sense as all Warcraft games are like that. It's the art style that would just be weird if everything had Crysis-like visuals.
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  12. #12
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    great point the art in general is super important! even the graphics in an upcoming game like Diablo 3 look really really good! i was a little uneasy till i got into the beta but i love how they did it and all the details they added into the whole environment. even though it isnt a photo real the art and atmosphere it amazing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RADIO_ACTIVE View Post
    It depends on ones definition of looking good. I appreciate the art styles such as some would say cartoony like: Borderlands, TF2, even WoW or Warcraft. It doesn't have to be photo realistic for me to think it looks good.
    I think we're going to look at basing the game mostly on something like borderlands. Hopefully that will be a little less labor intensive than going for "realistic" graphics.

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    What engine are you using? Or are you making your own engine?

  15. #15
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    A good art style, and good animation. In fact, I'd say that's more important that level of detail.

    Limbo's a great example: Like, next to no textures, but the art style was consistent and you could easily figure out what was going on and what to do. That's most important: the game has to be quickly assess able. If I can't figure out what's going without really squinting and scratching my head, the game is ugly to me. Battlefield: BC2 was an exception because it was a gorgeous game, but the over detail made it harder to see people, which made it easier to hide, etc.
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  16. #16
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    I was always against the whole "Make 3D look real" thing.

    I think that's going in the wrong direction. There were a number of games in like the late 80's, early 90's that used actual ACTORS... and the technology for interacting with them was getting better and better.

    Then the world turned to 3D... I think that was a mistake. I think interacting with actual live people would be AMAZING by now if developers hadn't all jumped on the 3D bandwagon.

    That said... 5 figures isn't going to get you much in the way of realism. I mean you might be able to get away with realistic sounds and whatnot... but that's about it. Inf act I'd highly advise that you spend most of your money creating the atmosphere.

    When I think of succussful games on a budget I think BASTION, or Hotel Dusk, or even Elite Beat Agents. I also have a game called Chicago 1930 (which would've made an AWESOME Android/iPhone game) which must've been on a SUPER tight budget but managed to at least attempt things that no big budget game ever has.

    Originality will get you a lot further than realism.

    Sound, lighting, and mood will take you much further than graphics.

    The end goal is for the player to BELIEVE the world that you're suggesting.
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    I disagree on that actors stuff. I prefer the more cortoony look things have been getting. Borderlands has amazing art direction. In less time than it takes me to look at the whole screen I have a clear idea of what's going on.
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  18. #18
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    the devil is in the details you can have a lot of amazing textures but if the atmosphere or things seem distracting or out of place it pulls you out of the game and story i would consider that too when building your game.
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    okay, here's what i'm thinking at the moment, feedback on the concept would be much appreciated by I'm expecting that its going to be shot down by the other members of the team.

    Silhouette characters with dark, faces constructed from pictures with a landscape primarily made with "static watercolor" textures. A watercolor wash for the sky, and then walls on buildings would be composed of one single watercolor "texture" that doesn't move with the building. So from any angle of a building, you would see the same water color texture in the same perspective, and the edges would be defined only by shading. If that makes sense? Then I'd like to make the ground photorealistic.

    So would that sort of a thing sound ugly to you, or quirky and surreal?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by oqnx View Post
    okay, here's what i'm thinking at the moment, feedback on the concept would be much appreciated by I'm expecting that its going to be shot down by the other members of the team.

    Silhouette characters with dark, faces constructed from pictures with a landscape primarily made with "static watercolor" textures. A watercolor wash for the sky, and then walls on buildings would be composed of one single watercolor "texture" that doesn't move with the building. So from any angle of a building, you would see the same water color texture in the same perspective, and the edges would be defined only by shading. If that makes sense? Then I'd like to make the ground photorealistic.

    So would that sort of a thing sound ugly to you, or quirky and surreal?

    A selling point is, you can make it look absolutely amazing for next to nothing.
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