When Graphics Goes Too Far

When Graphics Goes Too Far
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As hardware and technology has gotten better, developers have spent more time chasing photorealistic looks, improved effects and highly detailed textures.

But sometimes, you can add too much to a game.

Gorgeous games being ruined by their own ambition is the focus of dunkey’s latest video, which goes into some of the problems that modern games face when they try to make everything look pretty.

You probably already know some good case studies, like when automated animations fail in games like Mass Effect: Andromeda. But there’s also a good example used with Halo and Lawbreakers, games that are visually quite pretty on the eye but too cluttered to clearly identify the information you need in the heat of the moment.

Third-person action games are a good example too:

Stylised graphics can work so well in part because of this: they allow for developers to add detail into the background, but character models, weapons and important elements get an extra level of highlighting so that they never fade into the background.

That doesn’t mean Borderlands 3, just as an example, couldn’t suffer from a dose of overdoing it. But it’s an interesting conversation to have about graphics in modern video games: what does the player need to see, versus the detail they might notice, and how well do games balance the two.


  • Some gamers wouldn’t want the enemies to just ‘pop out’ of the environment (as in the old halo vs new halo example at the start). Having to cope with camouflage and plausible difficulty in visually identify enemies might be part of the fun.

    • I think it was used as an example of thoughtful lighting design with respect to the game and mission type. Halo is generally all about the action and continuous shooting. I find that having to look around for my enemies during a big firefight due to cluttered environments does indeed prove tedious.

      Contrast this with a mission designed for a more slow and deliberate approach to enemy encounters, and this aesthetic would be great – like a stealth mission for example. Phantom Pain did an excellent job of this. Identifying the enemies as you plan an attack on a new base was so much of the fun.

      I dont think the homogeneous blend of character models and environments does Halo heavy in-your-face action gameplay any favours. Just my take, of course.

  • the mass effect andromeda example would have worked well for a game like Divinity Original Sins 2 where character facial animations don’t exist and its a mostly birds eye view game. But for close up cinematic use, terrible idea!

  • One side effect of this trend is ubiquity of the various vision modes (detective mode, Witcher sense, hunter vision). I love awesome graphics but many of these games would be unplayable without these things, and then you have to waste all those good graphics because you’re constantly is a distorted, monochrome world.

    • Totally. If you build a system within the world like that, you gotta get the basics right first. Thats why the Max Payne and Assassins Creed gimmicks work, the gameplay is already there.

  • There’s a fine line between being salty for emphasis and being salty to try and sound cool, yet failing because the salt is overdone.

    Some good points in the video which are marred by the presentation.

    Lo-Salt diet is recommended.

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