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The Future Importance of Graphics

We’ve reached an interesting point in this generation as far as graphics are concerned. Consoles are starting to show their limitations (especially the 360) and with PC’s getting their fancy new range of high end video cards, games on the PC are looking a lot better. There’s a lot more to good graphics than a high polygon count, though, and it's not always stuff that can be represented in a screenshot. Graphics are never going to be "perfect"; there is always going to be that one rough edge or texture that isn’t quite mapped right. The debate of whether graphics matter or not will most likely never end, but where are they going to end up by the end of the next generation of hardware?

Obviously nobody knows what kind of hardware the next generation of consoles will be packing, or what they will be capable of. If Sony’s claims for the next PSP are anything to go by, the next run of consoles will be powerhouses upon their releases. However, graphics are not really going to get much better for the current styles that are around at the moment. Increasing poly counts will only go so far to make a game look better; games are now more focused on creating realistic graphics or ones that immerse you in their world. Immersive graphics can go a very long way to trick you into thinking that they are better than they actually are. Time is never kind to any game in the visuals department. Crysis was simply jaw-dropping back in 2007 and just having a PC that could run it cost a fortune. Four years later and you can even spot the rough edges in that game, and the same goes for Metal Gear Solid 4, which was almost the console equivalent for showcasing how good a game could look at the time.

I could stare at this game all day.

The biggest focus at the moment is the emphasis on photo realistic graphics; it’s what the majority of blockbuster games are aiming for, especially all those shooters that the kids are eating up. There will always be games like Marvel vs. Capcom or Mirror's Edge that aim for a particular style of presentation that is very polished, but most blockbuster titles are going for the realistic look. The problem with going for a realistic look is that it’s simply impossible to hit every single aspect of the visuals. For example, Uncharted 2 has some of the most realistic sunlight effects in any game, but every time I noticed a fuzzy texture or oddly shaped tree branch it broke that sense of amazement. When you have a game that looks incredible, you can’t help but notice the things that don’t look as good as everything else. This is the danger of trying to perfect a realistic style.  

So what does this mean for the future? What are games in 2020 going to look like? It’s interesting to think what style is going to replace realism as the next big thing in terms of graphics. Of course we can all start to make some educated guesses once we get some tech demos for the new consoles that everyone loves, but those are a way off yet. However, once we get that far down the road, how important are graphics going to be? Making a game look amazing is not easy, but making a game that looks great is certainly not as hard as it once was due to the way game engines have changed over the years. Are games just going to look more and more realistic, or are developers going to take advantage of new hardware to create new artistic styles for the next generation of games and give us something that blows us away...

What do you think is on the mind of developers and what would you like to see in the graphics department of future games? Let us know in the comments below.


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