Video games that approach closer and closer to that bar we know as realism look astounding.
I’m sure we have all heard the tagline for graphically impressive games: “Wow, that looks so real.” I’m sure that there are some variations of that statement, but generally that is the reaction one hears when someone watches a trailer for the games that are coming out in the fall, next year and into the future. As technology and graphics improve, those realistic graphics will look dated and fall into the uncanny valley.
The uncanny valley is when something looks so close to being real but not being real – so essentially all of those Japanese Robots and CG characters in film in the 21st Century. There is a remedy to stay afloat visually in the gaming industry: art style.
Let me take you back to 2003. Nintendo demoed the Nintendo Gamecube and the next iteration of the popular Legend of Zelda with this trailer. When Nintendo revealed what their next Zelda game would look like, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker fans got this instead.
The trailer illustrated a more lavish color palette and resembles cell-shaded visuals. Fans of the series were paralyzed and dumbstruck over this decision and would often refer to the game as “Cel-da.” In a twist of fate, the negative fan reaction did not reach the critics and reviewers who praised Windwaker for it’s unique visual style, the improved combat and the expansive world.
A similar thing happened with the original Borderlands prior to its release in 2009. It started off as a Mad Max(esque) game with the four player co-op still planned for the game’s release. But before Borderlands came out, it did a complete 180 and displayed a “different” kind of art style that closely resembles cell-shaded graphics. Here’s before and after for your viewing pleasure. In a market crowded with First Person Shooters, Borderlands successfully differentiated itself enough to create it’s own identity and personality and become a franchise.
Dishonored, due to release on Oct. 9, is another game that has a very unique art style and setting of a steam-punk whaling commune. Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith discussed their views with Gaming Bolt about realistic graphics.
“The photo-realism graphics race eats up a lot hardware bandwidth for what could be used for interesting, different features and styles of gameplay.” They still said that, “new hardware is always exciting.”
Not only does the change in art style benefit the game with regards to the uncanny valley but it can also improve gameplay. My final thoughts on this is that I’ll remember the graphics of Borderlands over Call of Duty past their respected releases.
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