BrownQuest 2 ended up proving that too much of something was bad -- horribly, horribly bad. BrownQuest 2 could barely run on most systems because no one could handle the "extremely, super cool, melt your face" graphics and ended up sitting on the shelves that holiday season. The new rationale about the game was that it had future-proofed itself, lying in wait for computers to exist to run it at its graphical peak.
That peak came, and no one rushed to buy the game. People came in and people left, and the game didn't turn out to be the huge blockbuster it was anticipated to be. And now, 4 years later, I turn on my computer and run BrownQuest 2 at maximum graphics easily, and I'm just not fully impressed. Are they good graphics? Sure they are. Are they so amazing that they make me run around my room screaming so loud that I can drown out Lewis Black? (NSFW) No, not really.
So, with all of that in mind, let's turn to something more relevant. Let's turn to World of Warcraft. Say what you will about the game, but I think we can all agree that the game design of WoW is solid. It's not the holy grail, but it's certainly good enough to make 11 million people play it. Now ask yourself the question: "Would WoW be as popular and as good if it sported the extreme graphics EverQuest 2 did?"
If you're hijacking my brainwaves, you know the answer already. Of course WoW wouldn't be popular if the graphic requirements were through the roof. Even if it was an amazing game, no one would be playing it because no one would be able to run it. In these times, we can't afford to go running off and upgrading our video cards just because we want to play that one game, *cough*Crysis*cough*.
And is World of Warcraft a beautiful game? Of course it is! The vistas, the sunsets, the snow, the shattered landscapes. And for being so "cartoony" it can still pull off some really imposing places, like Blackrock Mountain, Hellfire Peninsula, Netherstorm, Icecrown Glacier, and many others. Certainly, the graphics have improved in the latest expansion, but the other areas of the game just don't scream "I'm dated" as loudly as "realistic" games can.
Say what you want about graphics that don't push the edge of technology, use bright colors, and attempt to engage us in veritable water-colored landscapes. The truth is these things make sure that the game still looks good and appealing to us years down the line, they let the tone and aristry of the game shine through in ways that realistic graphics cannot, and they make sure that you can still play with your friends without spending wads of cash to upgrade your rig.
Because, in the end, isn't that what a massively multiplayer game is about? Playing and enjoying the world with other people at your side?
Colin Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who believes games need to grasp the imagination, not your video card. When he's not writing here for Massively, he's over running Epic Loot For All! with his insane roommates. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com.