This post was created in response to some thoughts I had after a tweet or two exchanged with @Helloween4545. Helloween is a YouTube (and Penny Arcade) let’s player – his YouTube channel is here – Helloween on YouTube. I like watching his LPs both because I like his commentary, and thus find them entertaining, but also because he tends to LP the kinds of games I don’t like playing that much but enjoy seeing someone else play. Having said that, I do have F.E.A.R 1, DLC and 2 in my Steam library (unplayed as yet, from Steam sales) thanks partially to his Let’s Plays making me realise I probably would enjoy the game.
Anyway the tweets in question that started this off were him asking if low framerates bothered people, or do people (i.e. gamers) generally prefer higher framerates above all else – “60fps or don’t bother” was the gist of it I think. My reply was along the lines of I tend to reduce graphics quality (i.e. turn down the settings from high or ultra) to give good framerates, which he agreed with. That in turn has lead me into thinking about gameplay versus graphics in games, hence this post.
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on how pretty games are, and how good the graphics are. People on forums saying that they ‘can’t run Battlefield 3′ when what they mean is they can’t run it on the highest graphics settings without framerate loss. People spending £500 or more on a new card (then a new power supply, etc.) so that they can run the latest games on the ultra high graphics settings. I am sure the hardware manufacturers (e.g. AMD/ATI and Nvidia) love this! I am not having a go here, if you love very pretty high res graphics, with all the physics and particles and what not turned on then great! The games are made to be able to do this, the graphics card manufacturers turn out high end cards so that people can turn up the graphics on their games. A lot of current games look spectacular indeed.
But for me – and I emphasize that this is just me, just my personal preference – I am quite happy to run games at medium graphics quality to get a good framerate. I enjoy a game if it has good gameplay (i.e. gameplay that I personally enjoy, again this is all about personal preferences) even if it doesn’t look incredibly pretty and sparkly and ‘oooh look at the individual leaves on that tree moving individually in the sunbeams sparkling off of the water and …’. You get the idea. As long as the graphics are good enough for me to be reasonably immersed, and understand what is going in in the game world, I can have great fun playing a good game.
This cannot be an unusual attitude, look at the popularity of handheld consoles – the Nintendo DS and the like. The first computers I played games on were obviously (this was decades ago) a lot less ‘pretty’ in the graphics department too. I have a mediocre graphics card in my current computer (Nvidia GT 545) and can get away with it because I don’t mind turning down the settings. I still enjoy Half Life 1, and the early Tomb Raiders, even though the graphics are mediocre at best by modern standards. For the time of course their graphics was excellent!
This post doesn’t have a point it is trying to make, just some exposition on my preferences in gaming – i.e. gameplay and smooth framerate before pretties. I am interested though in the proportion of PC gamers who think like I do somewhat, versus those who must have ultra super pretty high graphics and realism in their games or it spoils it for them. There must be a significant proportion in the latter category to drive the high end graphics cards sales, and for the game developers to create such amazing looking games that come out these days (Skyrim scenery on high anyone?).
Don’t get me wrong, if I can improve the graphics I will – for instance Morrowind is a great game, but I play it with high res texture packs installed and it does look and play a lot better. Well, the combat is a bit ‘wave the sword in the air vaguely and the enemy will unexpectedly fall over at some point’. So maybe most people are in the middle, liking both gameplay and nice graphics, and if they can have ultra high settings they will, so will get the graphics card to run that. But how many people refuse to turn down the graphics settings from high in order to play the game, and thus state that they ‘can’t run the game’ and won’t play it at lower settings? Or even put up with choppy low framerates and client lag just to get the pretty scenery? I have no idea, and it would be interesting to find out if they or I am in the minority.