in Gaming: The Quest for Photorealism
This is a re-post from an older blog I had whose ideas I still like. This particular post was originally posted on May 26, 2009, so quite a while ago.
Epic claims that we’ll have full photorealism in 10 years. Crytek is supposed to have approached photorealism with their Cryengine 2. But what’s the point? We’re going to run into a wall – the day we actually reach photorealism. What will we have then? A game that looks gorgeous but doesn’t play as well as it could have.
Where else could improvements be made? AI, phyiscs, load times, animations, and pathfinding are things that I can think of right now off the top of my head. And on top of that, what about frustrating game gimmicks like doors that don’t do anything at all or arbitrary limitations that make no sense (Altair not being able to swim, for example… don’t you think that a highly trained assassin would have to at least be able to stay afloat in water?).
I don’t have a problem with gorgeous graphics. But why does it have to be the same drab look for every game?
What about games like Okami or Shadow of the Colossus or Legend of Zelda? I loved playing games that looked different like that.
More than that the parts of games I appreciated most were when things behaved like they should. When it comes to photorealistic games, a door that can’t be broken down with a rocket launcher or grass and shrubs that don’t give to your movements or walls that don’t do anything when shot just ruin any sense of immersion. Even in a clearly fantasy (wait a minute and you’ll see what I mean) game like Halo where regardless of any “realism” there is many fantasy elements (Plasma weaponry, and hey you can’t forget the needler) exist and behave like you’d think they should. I remember a moment where one of my friends and I were playing a deathmatch game and we tossed plasma grenades at each other… and my friend died in a suicide. We watched the video of that moment and it turns out the grenade I threw stuck his grenade and they both landed on him with his grenade attaching to him… thus leading to a suicide. In context of the game, this made sense and it was AMAZING! Moments happening naturally like that are so rare these days.
Reaching for photorealism is nice but if the industry loses sight of other aspects of games that make them fun in an attempt to one-up each other the gamers are the ones that lose out. We’ll get gorgeous games that will look like real life but play like N64 or PS games. While we’ve made great leaps in graphics over the past few generations but things like pathfinding are pretty much the same. There are gems each generation that shine brilliantly yet get overlooked under the viciously blinding assault of increasing bloom effects.
In the future I want games that learn from the past. Far Cry has an open world that I like – no random enemy spawning (at least, that I’m aware of). Nintendo console games (especially the Metroid series) have great ways to hide loading times that don’t become obnoxious (like in Mass Effect). There are just… so many things that have already been accomplished! Why must we backstep in other areas to reach so hard for something that’s inevitably a dead end road anyway?
Think about it. Once we hit photorealism, what’s next for graphics? What’s more realistic than what we see in real life?