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Do gamers really want photorealistic graphics? [update 1]


Epic has released a bunch of new screenshots for its upcoming game Unreal Tournament 2007, which will be the fourth in the series. Naturally, the graphics are astounding and the example above doesn't look too far off the high end CGI example we posted yesterday. We could just leave you to drool all over your keyboard at the next next-generation of graphics, but that'd be too easy. Instead we're going to recount a couple of the comments left at the previous CGI graphics article.

As Anon points out, "at the rate the price of games are going, the amount of time taken to model this will have to pay the artists 10 fold". We touched on this earlier, where we looked at Nintendo's patent for displacement mapping graphics. The problem of increasing programming and artist time is one that a vast section of the industry is going to have to address. As budgets and graphical expectations (from the greedy gaming public) rise out of control, publishers and developers are going to have to make a choice: graphics or gameplay.

Jake believes that "Half-Life 2, and all those other games, in fact every single "photorealistic" game look cartoony. No matter how many polygons they get in, Alyx still looks cartoony." What Jake's saying here is that photorealistic graphics will never move past the "Uncanny Valley". This is a principle of robotics that addresses the emotional response we have to human-like robots. As the realism of the machine (or game) approaches a certain point "then the non-human characteristics will be the ones that stand out" and we'll start to feel uneasy (around the robot) or detatched emotionally (from the game character).

It's clear that there are lot of problems involved within the field of super realistic graphics, two of which we've looked at here. Other factors include the quality of gaming hardware, slower progress in the field of animation and most importantly: the need to focus on gameplay. After all, don't we play games to have fun?

[Via digg]

Update: fixed some strange errors in the post (commas/apostrophes were broken).

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