Over the past weekend, GameSpot reported that Crytek, the German developer best known for the Crysis series, is finding it harder to continually impress gamers with graphics. This statement might seem like a matter of fact comment, an innocuous opinion from a company known for producing games with stunning visuals. In reality, however, this points to a larger issue in the games industry as a whole.
With the unbelievable power of current PC gaming rigs and the newest console offerings from Microsoft and Sony, it comes as no surprise that video games are looking better than ever. The graphical evolution of video games has come a long way, but so has the medium as a whole. Crytek’s recently announced concerns indicate that this is something many modern developers don’t seem to realize.
Video games, like all other creative mediums, come in a wide variety of forms. Crytek, who’s Ryse: Son of Rome is set to see a PC port release on October 9th, has built a name for itself on creating games that are unparalleled in terms of graphical prowess. Ryse’s original Xbox One launch also showed the downside of the developer’s work, as the game was met with largely mixed reviews due to the game’s lackluster gameplay mechanics. This goes to show, that even in our technology obsessed society, consumers still want products that have just as much substance as they do flash.
In order for the video game industry to continue to grow at the rate is currently is, developers would be wise to heed the above notion. Games, no matter who astounding they look, will always need to have solid gameplay in order to truly succeed. After all, the nomenclature of the product itself, video game, carries some expectations with it.
Crytek, of course, is not the only developer (or publisher for that matter) guilty of succumbing to the modern convention of making games as beautiful as possible and ignoring solid gameplay, but the most notable culprit. The studio’s efforts on the original Crysis still hold up today, nearly seven years after its original release, earning it praise as one of –if not the – best looking video games ever created. As Crytek continued to attempt to carry the upward graphical trend, subsequent video games started to wane in the actual gameplay department.
The question, when looking at the video game industry from a distance, is where to draw the line when it comes to graphics over gameplay. Video games should continue to improve visually as the years pass, but not at the detriment of actual playability. A happy marriage of gameplay and graphics is the direction developers need to head towards.
Much like there is no inherent issue with making a video game look as good as possible, there is nothing wrong with toning the visual scope of a game down a notch in order to ensure that is plays as well as it possible can. Some of the best and highest-scored titles in recent years have found the perfect combination of great visuals and even better gameplay. The oft-championed Dark Souls and its 2014 sequel Dark Souls II are prime examples of this philosophy. The Souls series has long been adored for its challenging gameplay, immersive atmosphere, and lore. In developing these titles, From Software has chosen to make a game that still looks great – but does not push the graphical envelope. Few gamers would ever find themselves disappointed in Dark Souls’ visuals, but from a critical eye, they are by no means game changing. Because of this, however, From Software was able to focus on creating a game that plays impeccably well, earning Dark Souls near-instant recognition as a modern day classic.
Additionally, the recent rise of the indie video game movement, has led to an interesting blend of titles that focus on top-notch gameplay first, with visual presentation seemingly a secondary thought. Many of the most popular indie games of all time opt to take a ‘retro’ inspired graphical presentation and while this is in part an homage to the classic games that shaped the developers’ careers, it is also tied directly to the limited capabilities available to these studios. Because of this, however, titles such as the frantic shooter Hotline Miami and the 2D platformer Shovel Knight have been able to not only provide excellent gameplay, but also present themselves in a wonderful, retro throwback visual style.
As is now apparent, there are a lot of different ways to look at the current graphical state of the video game industry. Different people are sure to have (vastly) differing opinions and standards by which they hold game graphics. What is true to everyone, however, is that developers like Crytek should not be surprised that video game fans are getting more and more jaded by games that only look good.
The video game world may be getting bigger and better with each passing month, but the fact remains that video games are still, at their core games.
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