Whatever happened to gameplay?

This is a discussion on Whatever happened to gameplay? within the Game Programming forums, part of the General Programming Boards category; Most of us here at cprog agree that most current games are lacking in this category. Yet we too fall ...

  1. #1
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    Whatever happened to gameplay?

    Most of us here at cprog agree that most current games are lacking in this category. Yet we too fall into the same trap as the pro-dev teams. We have more threads here about graphics than about actual game programming.

    Graphics are not everything. Gameplay is something that will kill a game regardless if it has killer graphics.

    So perhaps we are approaching games from the wrong end. To me graphics is about the top of the pyramid and gameplay would be middle to lower with the engine code being the foundation. Great graphics with crappy gameplay = crappy game. Great gameplay with crappy controls = crappy game.

    It's all about balance and I see a major imbalance on the side of graphics. Perhaps we, as amateurs, should approach games from a different perspective since we are not bound by time, budgets, or money. And maybe, just maybe the major development houses could learn a thing or two from it.

    Comments?

  2. #2
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    i think the reason there are so many posts about graphics problems is because graphics are the most complex part of a game...

    just my 2 cents.

    The game is still my number 1 goal. The graphics only have to display the game, they don't make the game.

  3. #3

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    I have been playing and genuinely enjoying arcade type games lately...I've been playing deimos rising and getting high scores on that instead of playing any 3d games.

    Games push the forefront of computer technology, and that creates a bias to appreciate the computer games and personal projects that have the absolute best technology implemented.

    Even on sites like gamedev there are more personal projects and aspiring game projects than actual finished games.

    I believe the reason there are more threads about implementing graphics (and other technical aspects of computer games) is that it's just a lot more difficult to get these things implemented. Not tons of people actually make it far enough in the technical aspects of game programming to actually get into, you know, programming a game.

    I think there's a common mentality among game developers. It goes like "I must have the best technology in my game, otherwise it will be crap."

    I think the only way to actually create a computer game that is fun, and also has all of the latest technology implemented, is to use third party software to take care of the graphics, physics, collision detection etc. The only actual computer games finished by small teams of amateur coders use this method, i.e. they'll use the ogre engine for rendering, novodex for collision detection, havoc/newton engine for physics...etc.


    The goal for my own computer game is to just make something that's fun to actually play. A big inspiration for it was the computer game 'Cube,' an amateur 3d first person shoot-em-up that has relatively simple AI/graphics/collision detection, but it's pretty fun to play (well, the gameplay isn't great, but good enough overall to inspire me). I'm consistently, on a daily basis, thinking of cool things that I know I can implement, and making the decision not to implement them so that I can actually get stuff done. I'm not currently implementing shaders or a realtime lighting model, the collision detection is extremely simple and straightforward as is the physics, because my goal isn't to write the next quake or doom i'm just trying to actually finish a damn game.
    I'm not immature, I'm refined in the opposite direction.

  4. #4
    S Sang-drax's Avatar
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    I couldn't agree more. There are certainly more important aspects of a game than graphics.
    The reason many games are so focused on graphics are screenshots, which make people interested in a game. Whithout good screenshots, your game will sell badly, but it can sell very well without a good AI (and most do).
    Quote Originally Posted by howzer
    i think the reason there are so many posts about graphics problems is because graphics are the most complex part of a game
    That mustn't be true. AI isn't trivial. There are no limits on how much effort you can put into the AI of a game.
    Last edited by Sang-drax : Tomorrow at 02:21 AM. Reason: Time travelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sang-drax
    That mustn't be true. AI isn't trivial. There are no limits on how much effort you can put into the AI of a game.
    I didn't say AI was trivial, but to me, graphics are a lot more intimidating than AI. AI is telling the game/program how to make decisions, this still might not be easy, but for me the concept is easier.
    i guess i should have said "graphics are one of the most complex parts of a game."


    sorry, getting off topic a bit...

  6. #6
    Crazy Fool Perspective's Avatar
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    >> AI isn't trivial.

    The sad part is that AI in many games is trivial (note i say many games, not all). The reason is that good AI is computationally expensive, so its the first thing to get cut to save CPU cycles. The AI in many shooters/action games is a simple set of FSMs with different branching weights to represent "personalities". RTSs and sim games are a different story though.

    The potential for AI is extremely complex, but I think most projects will cut AI expenses in exchange for flashy graphics. You can show graphics in an ad to sell a game, you can't really take a screen shot of good AI.

    For me, graphics is always the number one thing because thats more my area of interest. I don't think I'll ever build a full scale game... its just too much grunt work in areas that arn't my primary interest. At most, I'd maybe build a playable demo to show the graphics capabilities in action.

  7. #7
    Call me AirBronto
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    The question on the thred seems to be, "Why are graphics put before every thing else". Well you have to remember that the game industry is a buisness. A game is a very complex product with an unbelivable amount of facets. When you want to sell something you need to run an ad, or else no one will know that you have a product to sell. Ads are costly, requireing them to be short and to the point. This is one of the problems, you are trying to showpeople a very complex product in a very short amount of time. You also have to incoperate the fact that you are not able to explain things in ads. So all there is left is showing the graphics to make people go, "Wos that game looks great". And that is really all you can do.

    Graphics are also put before every thing else because they need to be, initially at least. With out graphics, your game engine has no way of comunicating with the player.

    Yes it is true there are alot of crappy games out there, but you are all forgetting that there are also a tremendous amount of great ones out there as well, with great game play and graphics.
    -Halflife2
    -BlackandWhite2
    -Age of Empires3
    -FEAR, also has the best AI ever
    -Spore, not out yet but will be amazing
    -Oblivion Elder Scrolls 4

    So there are companies out there that focus on both game play an graphics alot, it just take all of these games at least 3 years to be made.

  8. #8
    GA ichijoji's Avatar
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    I agree with the idea that games can be good without great graphics. It's true that graphics are the focus for commercial games because that's what sells, but it doesn't have to be that way for indies like ourselves. I say pick one part of your game (graphics, ai, sound, gameplay, storytelling, whatever), and put most of your work into that, making it as good as possible while just bringing everything else up to a level such that they don't detract from the focus of your game. This way you can have a game that's unique from other games and shows off what you're best at.

    In my case, my eventual goal is to develop a large scale rts with heavy control abstraction. That is, I'd like to have each unit represented, but have a control hierarchy on the field so that I can give increasingly abstract commands to increasingly ranked commanders in my army (and have a pure AI side work in a top-down way). To do this, I need some basic building blocks like a renderer, user interface, sound, and networking, etc, but they don't have to be state of the art. If my AI is really good, I can sell the game (especially to potential future employers) with it as the focal point and say "Look, I researched the ai in this and used some really high end stuff to implement it in this game that is a fully functional base for my research and also displays my basic abilities in other areas. Don't you think that makes me an excellent candidate to work as an expert in this specific field for you?". But then again, not everybody is a soon to graduate cs major with a resume building obsession.
    Illusion and reality become impartiality and confidence.

  9. #9

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    Humans are naturally designed to be 'turned on' by visual stimuli.
    I'm not immature, I'm refined in the opposite direction.

  10. #10
    Supermassive black hole cboard_member's Avatar
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    I admit I'm a sucker for flashy graphics but if the gameplay isn't there I get bored with the game a whole lot quicker. Sometimes I can be picky about the control system too - FEAR was a good game: nice graphics, challenging AI and made me jump a couple of times, but the aiming felt weird, kinda sludgy. Even if I turned down the mouse sensitivity I didn't like it.

    I'm easily put off by replay value & length too. Apart from great gameplay, another thing which I find is a deciding factor is the length of the game and the willingness to go back and play it again. I'm also a sucker for games with statistics / rankings of any sort.

    I like a bit of realism in my games too, but some games overshoot that fine line between what is real and what is fun. The damage models in Raven Shield are pretty unbalanced - you die realisiticly quickly but you can sometimes unload a whole magazine into a terrorist before he goes down.

    Another thing: customisation. I'm the bigest sucker for games where you can customise something in such a way that it allows to play the game according to your taste and / or style. Hitman: Blood Money is the only game I intend to get this year (Oblivion would kill my PC) - apart from it being what looks to be the final installment in my favouritest 3rd person series ever () you can customise all of your equipment and sucklike to suit your gameplay style. I think customisation can go a long way.

    In case you were wondering Timesplitters in my favouritest 1st person series
    Good class architecture is not like a Swiss Army Knife; it should be more like a well balanced throwing knife.

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  11. #11
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    well in response to this post i must agree that gameplay nowadays sucks however, with there being small developers out there they may hit the same market katamari damachi did. The reason that game succeeded was because gameplay is outstanding and the graphics, my kid fingerpaints as well but... that didnt stop everyone from buying it.

    if you program for the gaming industry do it your way or do it the corporate way (which if you work at a corporation do it there way to fund your side project ha ha)

  12. #12
    Absent Minded Programmer
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    Just think of breakthrough games, such as Ultima Online, which now has been out there for 8 years, people still buy this game in the stores even today!

    The graphics are 2d, isometric, outdated, but the gameplay, is excellent.

    This was the first MMO thought up by Richard Garriot, he had a vision, and even 8 years later, he is still basking in the glory of his trademark Lord British, as well as the avatar himself.
    Sometimes I forget what I am doing when I enter a room, actually, quite often.

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    I think that gameplay is very important, some of the best games I know is Fallout 1 & 2 and Diablo 2. Those games are games with 2D graphics, but it's great to play them anyways. Other games which are great are Final Fantasy VII and Grim Fandango, those games has a wonderful story, awesome music but the graphic is not realistic. The graphic of all those games I mentioned before is good, but not realistic; they are supposed to look like that and I wouldn't want them to look better. Of some reason I feel that too good graphics spoils a bit of the game, maybe it is because the loading times get longer and the game looses some of its personality.

    The mayor game developing companies today puts so much effort in their game engines that they need to show it off. For example Half Life 2 where you once reach a puzzle where you should drop rocks on one edge of a board to make the other end go up so you can go further into the game. It's the same thing with Far Cry, they want to show off their physics engine as much as possible with silly things. By this I don't want to say that Half Life 2 or Far Cry are bad games, they can sometimes be quite amusing but not as much as the old 2D classics, you get bored a lot faster with them.

    A game which actually has pretty good graphics, at least when it was released, is Morrowind and I simply love that game. Too bad Oblivion is too demanding for my computer.
    Well, what I want to get to is that in most situations gameplay is high above graphics. What is very important I guess is to keep the games fast, that means without too much loading and boring cutscenes (they are okay if they are not boring )

    Now I got to keep developing my own engine after those goals, maybe that means I should not care about GLSL bumpmapping

    Daniel

  14. #14
    Supermassive black hole cboard_member's Avatar
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    The mayor game developing companies today puts so much effort in their game engines that they need to show it off. For example Half Life 2 where you once reach a puzzle where you should drop rocks on one edge of a board to make the other end go up so you can go further into the game. It's the same thing with Far Cry, they want to show off their physics engine as much as possible with silly things. By this I don't want to say that Half Life 2 or Far Cry are bad games, they can sometimes be quite amusing but not as much as the old 2D classics, you get bored a lot faster with them.
    I know what you mean. Many (most?) of the puzzles in HL2 (I haven't played far cry) are very physics-oriented, as if they had finished the physics engine thinking it was the most important part of the game. Sure anything is better than the old "get to locked door, search hours for key, unlock door" thing, but I think the "use our clever physics engine which adds little except eye candy to solve this puzzle" is just as bad / worse. I didn't think the physics in the "actual" gameplay made much of difference. Yeah it looks more interesting than a death animation and more realistic than a rigid body card-like over a flight of steps, but it doesn't add enough to the game to warrant that amount of use. Not in my book anyway.
    Good class architecture is not like a Swiss Army Knife; it should be more like a well balanced throwing knife.

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  15. #15
    vae victus! skorman00's Avatar
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    It's seems like the general summary of all your posts are: " Graphics are what you mostly hear about, because it brings the biggest "WOW" factor." Which I agree with.

    Many developers have a core dev team that handles things like graphics, network communication, and general data/memory handling along with a gameplay team which uses all that stuff to make the game fun. So it's not that it's forgotten or not payed any attention.

    And just to throw it out there: Many people view the gameplay part harder than the core part, because the gameplay guys have to deal with designers *ZINGGGGG!$

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