View Full Version : Game art/design vs. gameplay and fun

12 December 2003, 04:23 PM
Some thoughts...

Sometimes I feel that game art in general is put higher in the hierarchy than the game itself. Is this true ?

It feels like story driven games don't really have a story, and some character driven games have a lack of character(s) Is this true ?
Is this because lack of time, development time ? Too small teams ? Lack of management ? Or just bad developers ? Anybody, ideas ?

What does it take to make a good looking game ? Exellent graphics ? Exellent rendering that makes good looking graphics ?
Design ? gameplay ?
Can gameplay make a game look good ?

How come Halo is so good, is the graphics ? I don't think so.. I don't really think that Halo has that good graphics but, it really has an exellent gameplay. In fact I love the game, but thats me. :)

Personally I would put :
1. design
2. gameplay
3. graphics

Why in that order ? Well really good and through thougt design can make less good looking graphics actually seem better, by knowing what to do with it.
Gameplay can make you use good and well designed levels/areas to make very good gameplay.
If you don't have good design and gameplay, well it will eventually destroy the game, and nobody really won't even bother to play it. It will get bad reviews...

Is this true ?

The optimum would be:

1. design, gameplay and graphics

But this is hard to gain, you will have to compromise and make some tough desisitions. to eventually make the deadlines.


12 December 2003, 05:12 PM
gameplay over graphics. always.
nice graphics can add to the overall impression of a game but not make it if the gameplay sucks.

12 December 2003, 05:26 PM
Here they come...

My favorite games. No matter of platform or age.

My favority type of game is adventure... so :)

1. Future wars - adventure, point and click puzzle solving EXELLENT game. One of the best I've ever played. Very good storydriven game.
2. Another world - adventure, action. Puzzles.
3. Flashback (another world2 ?)
4. Zak McCracken
5. Day of the Tentacle
6. DreamWeb - Very interesting game. Good story and inrigue. Unexpected end. my favorite ending of a game.

My best games of "Modern times":

1. Halflife 1 - The plot and the game... Ahead of everybody at the time.
2. Halo - Exellent movie type of gameplay. Really sucking you into the world of Halo and really try to save humanity and earth.
3. Age of Mythology / Exp. Pack Titans - Very nice, easy to get into. get sip of coffee and keep on playing. Me like

And waiting for...

1. HalfLife 2 - Yammy, The AI looks pretty interesting... Lets see if they can deliver.
2. Halo 2 - well... hope they can live up to Halo 1's expectations.

Anybody .... comments ?


12 December 2003, 05:37 PM
I think gameplay is part of the design. I also think graphics are part of the design. I think design is too vague a concept to use in this list since so many aspects make up the design.

My list of imporant aspects of games would be in this order

1. Gameplay
2. Story/setting
3. Graphics
4. Sound

With story/setting I dont mean there has to be huge story to make the game good. Whatever story/setting is used should be consistent. Mario games have zero story but the setting and the world are consistent through the games.

As you can see all four items in the list are part of the general design of the game.

12 December 2003, 06:50 PM
well since most peoples favourate games dont normally belong to the current generation, i would say that graphics are not important when it comes to a great game, but must great games have good graphics for there time.

my top games:

2.Zelda: Ocarina of Time
3.Mario 64

i dont only play/like nintendo games, its just that they make the best games.

12 December 2003, 07:03 PM
im going to agree with supervlieg's list. Probably one of the games i have loved and played the most is final fantasy tactics. very simple on the graphics... but gameplay, story, and sound were great. Of course, if you're going to be playing an RPG for hours on end, it's gotta be fun no matter what it looks like, right?

12 December 2003, 11:07 PM
usability and fun over good looks, always. but i want to stay away from the heirarchy thing...seems unfair to the programming and art departments.

although there are some games i would buy for the art latest new toy being "Beyong Good & Evil" :)

i think one way games often suffer is because of a too-fragmented development process on the developer's side, of course. this is where the coherence of the original game design usually goes out the window...

12 December 2003, 11:20 PM
this thread could well be merged with the ongoing debate we have at


01 January 2004, 04:13 AM
1) gameplay
2) story
3) interactivity / dynamics (sort of gameplay, bu i feel it deserves specific mention)

my fav games of all time:
1) Castles 2: Siege and Conquest
2) Civilization 2 Multiplayer Gold Edition
3) Half-Life
4) Half-Life multiplayer mod: Day of Defeat
5) Everquest (I hate what it has become, but pre-Luclin it was GREAT)

01 January 2004, 02:26 PM
I think we all agree that gameplay comes first. It's a GAME, after all. But IMHO, a short, simple list of single aspects is too generalizing. Sure enough, my post isn't extensive enough by far, either, but some commentary should help at least a little.

Specifically I'd say core gameplay mechanics goes first, then level design - by level design I mean less the art design of the environment, but rather how the elements are arranged - physically and logically - in the stages to make it fun for the player to actually pull off the interactions the game provides.

Next on my list is immersion. That includes story, but story is only a part of it. Depending on the genre, you could even leave it out completely. It is enough to give the player a context for his actions. A "story" in terms of "plot" is not needed for a cohesive world with great atmosphere. Best example for that is Metroid Prime. No NPCs, no dialogues, no story twists. Only great soundtrack, some texts and of course the fantastic visual art make "being virutally in that world" a exceptional experience. But don't get me wrong, I see that a great story (and storytelling) does add a lot to the experience, I just consider it a sub-component of immersion and wouldn't have it as a single aspect in such a brief list, same goes for graphics and sound.

01 January 2004, 06:11 PM
Originally posted by wanzai
then level design i disagree. not all games even have levels per se. My fav game of all time - Castles II - is basically just a UI including a map. Now, you can go into each county and design a castle by hand, but they are all pretty much the same - green grass, a few spots of brown indicating mud, and maybe a few trees- but nothing really worth being called a "level" by any means.

01 January 2004, 09:19 PM
Well... as I said my two cents wouldn't be extensive enough to cover all genres and all cases.

Even if a game doesn't have levels in terms of some pre-defined areas with pre-arranged game-elements, it would normally have some kind of objectives and/or playing conditions which change over the course of the game. And that would be what I meant.

You could call that "mission" design in a strategy game, puzzle design in an adventure, course design in a racing game, character balancing in a vs-fighting game or just plain game design, if there aren't enough seperation between different game situations. What I meant was simply the actual realisation of the game concept into concrete game situations.

Maybe the term "level" was only inappropriately used by me. Whatever, I don't claim to have delivered some universally valid definitions anyway. :)

01 January 2004, 10:45 PM
Well, actually what I meant was that these "pre-arranged game-elements" "and/or playing conditions which change over the course of the game" are not nessesary to making a game. I think it's generally accepted by devs and players alike that there must be these things. However, in C2 there was but one pre-arranged situation / goal. The game is entirely non-linear, especially when you turn on "plots" which are basically a set of side-stories that have many possible outcomes depending on your descisions. Sadly, I doubt that you'll find a copy of it anywhere, nor is it abandonware yet so I can't send you all copies :(

but thanks for giving me the idea to make a few (dozen) backup copies and put the original in the saftey deposit box! Can't risk loosing that gem :P

01 January 2004, 12:10 AM
I'm going to go against the grain a bit here.

I think that all parts of making a game are part of the bigger picture of gameplay.

Graphic style, and complexity adds to gameplay. In games that you need to search the environment with more scrutiny, you need to create more complicated environments to make it challenging and interesting.

A lot can be said for immersing yourself in an environment. Take Vietcong for example. It is only as good of a game as it is because of the realism of the jungle environments, and the great work they did with the sound. Without those, it would just be another boring FPS.

So, in recap, I don't think gameplay is only part of the whole, it is the whole. Graphics, sound, and story make up equally important parts of that whole.

01 January 2004, 12:17 AM
very good point, VC would not be anywhere the game that it is had it not been for the graphics, but also the sound and AI. It all goes to make a much more immersive experience.

I think that what is important to making a game good or not depends on that specific game.

Erotic Fetus
01 January 2004, 01:39 PM
i think graphics & gameplay should go hand in hand.
like, the graphics should suit the type of game it is.

an example of this is cell shading.
it's becoming overused, & for no reason.
however, there are games these days that implement the cell shading into the gameplay & they become hand in hand.
An example is the game XIII , instead of just dropping cell shading onto the graphics, they implemented comic book things like "BANG" word coming when you shoot & other comic book style things.
Another example is Zelda, i'm sure you've all seen how it is by now & i dont have to say anyhting.
Now a game like FFX, it was serious, & tried to squeeze every drip of emotion out of you. If they stuck cell shading over it & had a "DOINK" in big words when you hit an enemy, i'm sure the game would've been more comical than serious. It's graphics were realistic, but with their own style. They werent trying to perfect every drop of reality, but it was still a pleasure on the eyes, aswell as a great story.

01 January 2004, 02:14 PM
As you mentioned before, design is very important even more than the graphics.
There are 2 types of games. The one type looks simply good because the design is round off, well done and so on (the love for the detail).
And the other type of games looks good because the developers placed another tree and another and so on and so on until it DID. It didnīt look good without those trees but now it does. But blocking the players sight with tons of blueprints isnīt comparable with good gamedesign.
I hope I made myself clear ^^.The great difference between design and graphics does also result in the desire to play the game even if its 3 years old. I may play games with bad graphics but not bad designed ones.

And hereīs my list:

Old games:
Secret of mana (Snes)
Might and Magic 3-5 (Dos)
Monkey Island (all of them 1-4)
THIEF (win)

New games:
Gothic2 (+ Addon)

01 January 2004, 03:30 PM
> So, in recap, I don't think gameplay is only part of the whole, it is the whole. Graphics, sound, and story make up equally important parts of that whole.

Very good point, thanks! My thoughts were a bit confined...

Ok, right. There're games which don't need and have "levels", like Tetris, Sim City, Castles as you said (I don't know it), among others, and... I dunno... card games? But I still think that for many genres it is nessesary. How is an adventure going to be fun if nothing is pre-designed? Or platform games? I think you have a good bottom-line (which is generic enough ;) ...

what is important to making a game good or not depends on that specific game.

01 January 2004, 04:32 PM
Hi folks

All those retro games are coming back, on GameBoy.
You can do now all cool 80's games.

Alien 3 (very cool game on snes)
Vector man

All those games were developed without any 3D acceleration.

Could it be that we just belive that those retro games vere good just because we didn't know better, or that we try to keep on the "good memory" and don't wanna spoil the nostalgy ?

The games actually were good ? Games maby contained something that have forgotten to add in todays "3D hyped" world of games ?

Well in my opinion, retro games (80's-90's) could not been done with 3D, so the gameplay is only in 2D, which means that you have frames, and within those frames you only can do so much.
This also means that gameplay is also a simplier to accomplish, not meaning bad gameplay of dull game, just meaning that games we're not managed by 5-10 people and with a production unit of 40 people. This has to also mean a simplier game, right ?

Why do we remember "old" games, or if you will retro games, as so good or fun ? Could these be the rasons:
1. I was young
2. The technology was not so advaced, meaning we didn't know better.
3. The nostalgy factor

Well even when Commodore 64 came out, it was "the next gen" machine to play on, as well as Amiga and the Atari.

We will perhaps think the same way of all todays games, and its consoles.
Machines will get old, technology will advance and we will think with nostalgy back on these days.

But I still enjoy 2D games or 2D type of gameplay on resource games like age of empires, or Age of mythology.

Well anyway look at this.

Soon we will have handheld consoles with 3D capabilities. Nokia's gamephone I think has 3D (could be software).
Pretty soon we wil have 3D accelerated phones too.
Check out:

Does this mean retro is gone ?
Will these kind of technological advacements change gaming ?


01 January 2004, 05:01 PM
A good designer HAS to follow this way:

1. Gameplay
2. Graphics
3. Userinterface
4. Sound
5. Balancing

and last (!)

6. Story

Why? Because a good game`s story is always built up around the gameplay and the rest. If u make story 1st u will get into serious conflicts with no doubt...

01 January 2004, 10:13 PM
I think that the reason those games were so good is that the designers had to focus more on making the game fun than making it flashy because, well, the technology wasn't there to make it flashy.

I can still play the original mario bro's game for hours and not get bored. I don't know why, but it keeps me in the game. But, you do have to remember all of those games back then that didn't succede. We don't remember these games because they aren't worth remembering. Our memories are indeed clouded, but not hyping up the good games, but rather we forget that those were only a few of the games we had. There's really nothing to remember about the bad games, so we don't.

I do believe that a lot of developers are making games based on the "sell copies, satisfy people for the present" strategy. And people are going for it- they buy games that have that "cool, check it out!" factor but then quickly move on to the next "cool, check it out!" game. So, what do you do to sell lots of copies? Make it look cool and flashy so that it will sell as many as possible in the very limited shelf time. It doesn't take but a mont of two for most games to get tossed into the bargain bin. People just dont play many games for long-term satisfaction anymore.

01 January 2004, 10:36 PM
As a game designer, I can say we are always fighting against what little technology we can use, now and then. They had no idea that games would be in full 3D now, and that they were working in really sad conditions, they thought they were breaking new ground, as we do now!

And then, just as now, graphics are an integral part to the design of the game. Whether the game was played as a top-down, or side-view, how large the characters were, are all graphic desisions that directly affect the game play. Making the right graphical decisions grossly affect how well the game would and will play.

These days the same decisions are being made, just with 3D and more complicated AI, more variations are possible.

01 January 2004, 10:43 PM
I do believe that a lot of developers are making games based on the "sell copies, satisfy people for the present" strategy.

Always have, but the difference today, is that instead of making a game with Microsoft Paint (final fantasy 1), and about 4-8 employees, you have to make games with 40-80 employees on speciallized and expensive equipment, with the same type of deadlines.

It's really expensive and difficult to make games now, because you have to do so much more just to be noticed. No matter how much fun it was, if you came out with a game with the graphical quality of the first Zelda, on one of todays next generation consoles, nobody would buy it. Likely, the console's company probably wouldn't even allow it to pass submission.

01 January 2004, 11:42 PM
Always have, but the difference today, is that instead of making a game with Microsoft Paint (final fantasy 1), and about 4-8 employees, you have to make games with 40-80 employees on speciallized and expensive equipment, with the same type of deadlines.

i'd just like to point out that that is why mobile game dev is such an exciting field these days. it isn't exactly a replay of game dev in the 80's, you're working with a platform that wasn't optimized for gaming to begin with. the whole industry is still waiting for mobile's killer app. not just some rehash of a retro game.

and yeah, 3D is already implemented in software on a lot of handsets. I also read an article mentioning the development of mobile OGL, which will run in hardware. very cool stuff.

and regarding good design, i think we all realize this is a highly subjective topic. no guidelines can be made at all, because good design always falls into the context of what you are designing to begin with!

01 January 2004, 11:46 PM
Yes, PowerVR actually has a mobile design that, while not directly comparable, is capable or surpassing Dreamcast graphics. It fully supports mobile OpenGL 1.0 and also includes hardware acceleration of programmable shaders. Currently, they have to be accessed by vendor-specific functions, but they are hoping to get them officially in version 1.1

01 January 2004, 08:32 PM
Hi folks !

Very interesting thoughts from you all. Had an interesting talk at work about gaming and where it is going and what it will look like in maby 5-15 years. Will we think back about games the same way we think now. Very interesting indeed, and the topic got people really talking a lot about it.

An other thing to think about...

Still, we don't have "guidelines" like, "how to make a game" or the "script", "like this you make a game".
In the movie industry you have these "rules", how to make a succeful movie.

For comedy, on TV, you can get the recipe how to make a sitcom. You have punchlines in every bla sentence and different rules for situations and such, how to make a sitcom or a comedy work for an audience.
Ofcourse, film has maby 100 years experience, and theatre even more, thousends of years.

For different movies you have different set of "rules" how to make audience get cought.

You have:

If somebody can remember, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harvey and Lauriel (i think their names were), were a few really well known pioneers in film, who set up a few of the rules "how to make a film".

There are always independent film that proves that recipies are not allways true, like:
Pulp Fiction
Shallow grave
Blair Witch project

But It is extremely difficult to make a independet movie hit.
And I think it would even be harder to make an independent game hit.
Counterstrike is one of "independent" games that really made it.
And DOOM ofcourse.

Maby The gaming industry are getting there. We now have "half fabricated" products like RenderWare and such.
The industry are industryliasing and making standards, by using the products.

Developers are setting the standard of how to make a game, or maby what the game should contain.
Games like: Mario Sunshine, GTA3, Halo, DOOM, Quke, HalfLife, UnReal, The Sims... and so on.

Could we expect recipies for games in few years, like in TV and movies. Maby it allready is something we have.

Any thoughts ?


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