Thursday, June 11, 2009


As I had hoped, HERE is the newest full-episode, on the subject of overly-realistic graphics and why I think I find them so tiresome lately. Short-version: Uncanny Valley. Long-version? See below:


I hope you liked it. If you did and/or are a fan otherwise, here's your latest chance to show it: This video is here as an entry in's semifinal round of their "myvidsdontsuck" contest to elect a new contributor. I'm up against the very worthy competitor Director Toby this time, so your votes are more important than ever!

To cast your vote, go HERE to the ScrewAttack forums (you have to register to post to vote): Official voting will begin sometime on Friday, June 12 (you can only vote once) and will run until June 19.

So... yeah, I'd appreciate every bit of support I could get. And I sincerely thank everyone who votes AND everyone who's already helped me get here. You're the best.


Japanorbust2010 said...

Awesome video bro. My bro and I have become big fans of your vids... Keep em coming and we hope you win the Screwattract competition...

Artifact said...

The first thing I thought of when Tatsunoko vs. Capcom showed up on the Gametrailers queue was "Man, Overthinker is going to FLIP."

(before reading the next paragraph, all fanboys need to disable their twitch responses to threats against their respective machines. a plea from a PSwii60 owner!)

Something I should have seen but hadn't worded out in my mind was revealed with this episode: perhaps the processing horsepower is no longer the selling point because of the rumor that the 360 has for the most part been fully utilized (says EA VP Patrick Soderlund.) The sudden push for full motion control would then make sense for 360, but is PS3 just trying to say "Me too?" on everything but a price cut? So much on hopes of seeing originality in gaming ever again as everyone continues to mimic whoever makes the most money (which, as any regular here would know, is pretty much taken for granted these days.)

Also, speaking of the first point, during an interview with Motomu Toriyama and Yoshinori Kitase on Final Fantasy XIII, it was asked whether the English edition would have Japanese as a selectable voice track (with English subtitles of course.) The devs were kind of taken aback, "Is that something a lot of people are wanting to have included?"

Originally I had laughed at your statement of "characters shrieking at each-other in manganese," but I wanted to scream at my display after these guys' response, of course I want that! Reading might take away from the visuals, but sometimes the English voice actors just don't get the inflection, or end up saying something that sounds retarded in English. I'm with you on that for all Japanese games here on out, and I hope at least one of us gets our way.

Also, good luck with Screwattack!

Eric said...

I'm not going to lie... I think the subject matter of this video is a bit dry and has been discussed at the same or greater levels of detail in probably a dozen game design articles over at Gamasutra and similar sites.

There's really a very simple reason for the whole realism trend, and that is because it sells. Creativity does not necessarily dictate the games industry anymore, but profits. This should be obvious to just about anyone, but frankly unless you have some incredible nostalgia power and your name starts with M, you probably won't expect to be successful releasing a surreal, fantastical game, especially on a big budget. That doesn't rule out their success, and there is still an audience for that sort of thing, but let's face it, what has become to be called the "hardcore" community (which has little connection to the original gaming generation) has a lot less interest in what they perceive as playing with toys than they do in partaking in cutting-edge interactive entertainment for adults. Really, it's the same thing that comic books/graphic novels struggled with and still struggle with today.

There is a positive to everything, though. I do think that realism does generally allow not only for more people to identify with a game, but also allows for sometimes stronger or at least more affecting and engaging characters, storylines, environments, etc. I love the Mushroom Kingdom, but I could never be as intrigued in the events that transpire within it as I could be by the story and universe of, say, Mass Effect, nor could I develop the same sort of personal relationship - one that isn't fueled entirely by nostalgia. You have to remember - realism is just an art style, as you said, and not necessarily a gameplay style. Mass Effect, Mirror's Edge, Crysis, BioShock, Far Cry 2, etc. are all fairly realistic-looking games, but they are also stylised enough artistically to differentiate themselves, and they all deliver an experience that makes sense within the context of their game worlds. In Crysis, guess what, I have a super-powerful futuristic suit of armour that allows me to literally tear a wooden door apart with my fists or jump twenty feet in the air. The old barriers are rendered impotent. Instead, the barriers become enemies, including both footmen and vehicles, huge, towering aliens, and objectives are a simple matter of either blowing something up or reaching point A and activating a switch. To be fair though, Crysis is an exceptional game in this regard - and it is fucking excellent precisely for this reason. Doesn't get the praise it deserves at all.

In short, I think some of your complaints may be restricted to the typical Call of Duty "why can't I open doors but my superior officer can" syndrome. Some games are like that, and they are set on appealing to a specific demographic that is there for the explosions, the action, and possibly the authenticity of the weaponry. It's meant to be an on-rails thrill ride, even if it tries to disguise it, and unfortunately, due to its obsession with the real world, combined with its videogame medium, there are some glaring holes that are incredibly hard to explain away. Can't jump over this fence, but can jump over that one? Well, you're going to have to live with it, soldier, because the outskirts of Baghdad don't have flying saucers. I can see their goal, and all I can do is hope they get closer to it with each game.

Eric said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Infinity Ward seems to be doing a lot better with Modern Warfare 2. I think they realise the limitations as well as opportunities of the videogame medium and have taken a decidedly more James Bond approach to their next game. Seems like we'll have fewer chest-high fences and more guns-blazing snowmobile chases.

Joshua said...

First I would like to congratulate you on your success.

I greatly enjoy your reviews and often find myself agreeing with about fifty percent of your argument. Your arguments are thoroughly thought out, educated, and full of merit.

I tend to disagree with you right at the point where your argument moves from logos to pathos based by condemning Sony and Microsoft for any flaw which can be exploited then praising Nintendo as if I were listening to a Southern Baptist preacher. This is not intended to be an insult, so please to not take as such; this is constructive criticism.

I was a supporter of the NES and the SNES in my youth. I later moved to PSX and PS2 when I saw my favorite developers move to Sony. Today, I play the Xbox360 and the PC. Considering my roots though, I can relate much to your arguments, but I don't support Nintendo anymore because what appeals to me has changed.

Often, you speak of these "jocks" and "frat boys" when you generalize the audiences of non-Nintendo based systems and I can't help but feel insulted. I feel insulted because I am listening to a very intellectually stimulating discussion which at some point turns south and divulges into name calling and a pissing contest of "My team is better than your team because you all suck and we rock". I'm disappointed when I see a logical argument set up with empirical evidence to support it suddenly shift to an emotional argument utilizing nostalgia to sway others to your side.

I would like to see more objectivity in future videos and challenge you to perhaps write an episode criticizing the flaws of Nintendo.

Once again, I appreciate your videos and thank you for continuing efforts.

Anonymous said...

Your whole red key example isn't so much about graphics as it is overall presentation, but I really can't imagine how anyone who feels the way you do in an example like that could possibly enjoy games to begin with.

As long as you KNOW you need the red key and the game is still fun while you're searching for it, I don't see why the idea that it's detrimental to the game that you can't blow the door down even occurs.

If anything, realism in gameplay usually defeats the fun of the game. Treating wounds in Metal Gear Solid 3 might have sounded neat but it was a horribly flawed concept because it was boring and actually very unrealistic in its application. Similarly, being able to use your weapons realistically would ruin the fun of an FPS.

Sure, it might be cool the first time you realize you can just plow through buildings, but there's no way a game's AI can support total realistic control. Even if you do manage to get back to the gameplay after being distracted by your freedom to use weapons realistically, you'd eventually reach the ceiling where reality can't be emulated anymore.

There's nothing wrong with realistic graphics, just realistic gameplay that gets out of hand. It might be unoriginal, but red keys ultimately make for a more enjoyable overall game than ridiculous realism.

Matt said...

You're kicking ass on there man.

Shawn said...

A few things

@Joshua, Gameoverthinker already did an episode talking about Nintendo's Flaws, As big as said flaws are there just are not alot of them.

@Overthinker, Regarding the Writer who slammed RE-5 for Racism and your articles on them, you were both partially correct there were some racist overtones(also a bit sexist, why no RE-4 Ada Wong Style evening dress for her instead of ugly bikini?), but they were not in the main storyline itself, As you stated the main badguy was infact, the whitest white guy since Keanu Reaves in The Matrix.

Mark said...

great to see a new full vid up. I'd love to go vote for you (and of course, in the interest of fairness, at least watch the other dude's video), but for some reason, they're not letting me sign up...

If you remember any of my other comments on your episodes, you'd find that I'm usually right along side your arguments almost always, but i'm not sure i'm totally with you on this one. not that i disagree, per se, I guess I just don't see what the big deal is. Obviously realism comes with its problems, but then again, so does fantasy - I guess I'd prefer a healthy mix of the two. Of course, I do understand that your broad point is that realism is too big a trend. maybe i'm thinking this because, as one of the other posters said, the topic is a bit dry and a little hard to get super passionate about.

Blake said...

Great video , can you by any chance adknowledge the recent amount of FPSer's on the market? It's bugging the hell out of me seeing the same generic bald bad ass with a gun. And Tatsunoko vs Capcom is gonna be amazing!

Blake said...

Awesome Vid!

First, for the record, there appear to be two Blakes that appear to like this blog and comment to it frequently; we are not the same.

Second... you didn't like Transformers?? WTF is wrong with you? :)

Like many of the people here, the realistic graphics I really don't have a problem with as long as the games are fun. If the getting the key is more fun than just beating down the door and continuing, then I don't think anybody would really have a problem.

Hope to see Overthinker back more regularly now!

Eric said...

I think one of the biggest problems with realistic graphics isn't so much the uncanny valley, but simply the costs in both time and money that are necessary to create them. Creating five minutes of regular gameplay can easily take ten hours for a team of level designers, artists, animators, etc. to put together, and a hundred if it means having to do a complex scene.

To put it in perspective slightly: earlier today I spent about two hours in the Crysis editor putting together a simple cutscene of a VTOL landing in a clearing (discounting the few-dozen hours spent making the rest of the level). The results were decent, but relatively uninspiring. Granted, I was learning how to use the tools at the same time, but even then, the animation sequence would still take a good half an hour to tweak and get everything set up properly. What if I were to, say, add in some voice work? Well, that's writing, that's acting, that's another couple of hours bare minimum, not to mention the raw audio editing I'd need to do. How about character animation? Special effects? Explosions? Extra sound effects? Better camera angles and cinematography? The fact is that to achieve decidedly impressive, modern-day-quality results for this twenty-three second scene, I'd have to spend about a thousand times more, and again, that's discounting the fact that I have all the assets, animation, etc. at my fingertips to begin with. It used to take an hour or two to put together a small game level if you knew what you were doing. Now that hour or two could be spent tweaking a tiny part of it over and over again for relatively little benefit.

In any case, with the mainstream's increasingly insatiable demand for better visuals and higher budgets all around, it's harder and harder to move in the other direction, even though it could save you tens of thousands of hours in development time and millions of dollars, not to mention a lot of headaches and sleepless nights. There's two reasons why less realistic visuals are in some ways more effective - one, they allow for the construction of a more convincing videogame world, but two, they can also be produced much faster, with less stress, man hours, money spent, etc. Keeping it simple just makes sense a lot of the time.

TheBrad said...

Unfortunately, the GI Joe movie tested so bad that they fired both the director and the editor.

It was the worst testing movie the studio had ever seen.

I'll be weeping in the corner for every amazing actor this movie managed to destroy.

Shawn said...

Christoper Eccelson, but he was in that Seeker Movie so he has done bad movies and not been hurt.

Aurabolt said...

Oh man...I believe in gameplay. I always have because a good game could look crappy, and you still what what exactly? A good game! Q-Bert, Pac-Man, Startropics, etc..Those all have low-bit qualities, and they're still good games. I have a LOT of friends who won't let that idea die; that games are good based on the graphics now instead of then, and won't even give the earlier works a glance based on they consider a poor color scheme that "hurts their eyes" to look at...sigh.

That being said, I do an extent. Gaming is a visual medium in all its forms, and it always has been. making a game with good (and sometimes realistic) graphics is good, but you have to balance it out with the other elements-Gameplay and Storyline in some cases going slightly beyond- for it to work.

Christopher said...

The example you gave about the door and a red key really rang true for me. It is basically a suspension of disbelief where there is a quid pro quo from the gamer in exchange for entertainment. We accept that we need the red key because that gives us a task. This exchange however has limitations.

Use Superman as an example, we do not question how he can possible fly without propulsion or how he is invulnerable BUT we do question how a pair of glasses could work as an adequate disguise to the reporters who see Superman's face regularly in their own stories.

The increasing realism in games means the fantastic situations we buy the games for (to immerse ourselves in) requires more from us in terms of holding back our disbelief. Basically, if it looks realistic it should play realistically too.

Crimson said...

I cried a litle when i saw this video, finally someone who thinks like me, reaity sucks

Andrew The Eternal said...

Is the pacing of the visuals of this video off for anyone else?
The Conclusion picture is coming up for me around 3:40, and I have this problem, to a lesser extent, for all of the newer video. Can anyone help?

Bradley said...

@Andrew the Eternal:

I'm experiencing a similar issue myself. If anyone can help, I'd really appreciate it.

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