How Attractive Visuals Correlate to Player Satisfaction

I believe there is a missing link between graphics and player satisfaction.

There are two primary schools of thought surrounding this discussion, between graphics and gameplay as being more important than the other. This is a Spartan/Athenian sort of divisive issue, with headstrong purists on both sides.

I've played a lot of games, a lot with good graphics and some with bad graphics. I've played a lot of games with good graphics that didn't have all that great of gameplay. A lot of the best games I've ever played have had decent but mediocre graphics. But almost every horrible game I've ever played also had horrible graphics.

They're tied together and they are not mutually exclusive. In fact they come together as one whole that we like to call a game.

Individually they stand on their own.

But neither one of them can carry a game by themselves.

I thought about this problem for a long time and today I think I understand.

Games are a visual medium.

Gameplay design, scripting, artwork... It is ultimately presented to the user in a visual fashion. The goal of every game element is to enhance the visual effect, to achieve conveyance, to allow for a state of suspension of disbelief and flow.

Color patterns, artwork design, scale, proportion, cleanliness and consistency of the artwork... If any of these are absent it breaks the state of flow it's like a brick wall in their face.

It's like filming a movie and you have the camera boom in the shot, or one of the actors isn't pulling off their character... It doesn't matter how good the script is if it isn't delivered to the viewer in the proper fashion.

This is my conclusion after many years of deep thought, take it and benefit or ignore it.

I'd say this depends on the definition of "good graphics". Some people deem only things that fall under the "AAA" buzzword category of the latest tech as "good graphics". I think this is sad but if they feel that way there's not much to do about it. Then theres art with the hard to describe "kind of soul" that makes it good. I would categorize this as art that is created upon a realy solid understanding of basics. Artists who can make this kind of art genereally can maintain expression in what they do - models and art have really distinct and strong sihlouettes, animations are smooth and expressive and make good use of abticipation, breakdowns and secondary motions. Camera angles are, whenever possible, chosen not just randomly set and at least follw the rule of thirds or fibonacci. Color schemes are used to underline the things presented.

These are all important things to know and follow when one is creating art. The rules can be broken but in order to break rules they must be known. If these things are present - in my opinion - the technology on which the graphic runs and how cutting edge the shaders are is secondary.

In that way good art can be made with only a fullbright diffuse texture. Just like a really good gameplay can go a long way and really good music can be produced in a home studio if needed.
The basics are what make and break the really good products. Not the latest tech and the newest tools. Those are important to know as well but actually come later down the road. That's not something people like to hear when they see a tool that promises to magically create anything with the push of a button. ;)

Attractive artwork, or "good graphics" would be defined as is attractive artwork outside of a game. So, I don't quite understand the confusion. There's no magic pass that game creators get to make bizarre, inconsistent graphics and call it "good, but misunderstood". It's bad. One look, and you'll know if it's bad. If that poses to great a challenge, ask anyone standing near you at a bus stop "does this look good" and they'll say yes or no, and their opinion will likely reflect most people's opinion.

It's not personal, it's not rocket science.

1 Like

I lean toward the game play and execution side heavily. But given the choice of the exact same game presented with Atari VCS graphics or say PSP graphics I would choose the PSP version. If the game with Atari VCS graphics was executed very well with excellent game play and the PSP game had cutting edge best of breed graphics yet was basically empty kind of like the shell of a game I'd choose the VCS graphics game.

EDIT: well most likely. It all depends on if the PSP game had so many graphical embellishments (eg so much crap going on say particles flooding the screen non-stop, etc) it distracted from being able to easily "read" what the game was trying to communicate. Then I'd take the plain vanilla VCS version.

Spurious correlations are spurious dude. But seriously, grab a terrible game and look at its budget, its development life, and its release date if you really want to see the correlation to why the game was shit.

Also erroneous. They are a systemic medium. The visuals are there to represent the underlying database/spreadsheet of information in a simple and easily absorbable context. So long as it has four suits of thirteen, it won’t matter that you are playing solitaire with a deck of ceramic tiles because the rules are the same.

All eroneous AND spurious.

In the time it takes to choose ugly colors rather than well coordinated colors, you could have made nice looking graphics, etc. It's already being done, and doing it right doesn't have to take any longer/cost any more than doing it wrong. So what's your point?

Play a game blindfolded, chief. Then, tell me how games aren't a visual medium.

I should put a disclaimer... "doesn't apply to games that can be played blindfolded".

This is how I view graphics in a video game context. They represent the board (playfield, level whatever) and the current state of the game and tokens. This is why there have been a number of popular games even in the past year or two that have very simple (many would say crap) graphics. The overall artistic quality of the presentation does not necessarily enhance the communication (feedback) from game to player. However, I do agree with the title of the thread as far as attractive presentation does correlate with increased player satisfaction for players who care more about “looks” than anything else. Or maybe better put as players who are more artistic / visually-oriented gain as much satisfaction from looking at a “beautifully” presented game as I get from playing a superbly executed game.

Have you tried one of those games “for the blind” yet?

I’m not going to lie, that is quite possibly the douchiest ‘foot in mouth’ comment I’ve seen you make. What I heard from you: “Ugh, I swear. Why did you spend all of this time choosing those god awful colors, when you could have spent the same amount of time, chosen much better colors, and then you wouldn’t have completely thrown the entire color balance out of whack. All it would have taken was 11% more grey in the rock texture and this room wouldn’t have become the apocalyptic nightmare that you made it.”

That's not all that I'm saying, and it's not just for certain people who appreciate good graphics. It's also a misconception that there are popular games with terrible graphics out there. There has to be some aesthetically pleasing quality to the game and some consistency between the gameplay and the visual style or people will not play.

I'm saying that graphics are part of gameplay, and that people who realize this go on to make good games.

I have never ignored somebody just for being ignorant and annoying before but I am going to ignore you because you are ignorant and annoying. It would be one thing if you were always correct but you’re not. But you think that you are. It would be one thing if you actually presented anything that was worth reading or tried to make a point but constantly just condescending and criticizing everything that everybody says I used to think it was funny but now its just irritating and honestly I don’t have the time.

It's feedback. Communication from the game to the player. A game could have stick figures but those sticks move naturally, interact with the world and so forth. Due to the way the stick figures behave reacting to player input, other sticks and the playfield objects the communication is strong. Another game could look like a beautiful painting but it does not communicate anything or very little. So in this way it has little meaning other than purely from an artistic perspective. That's just my view on it.

The importance of appealing visuals is going to vary from player to player and from one game type to another. And of course what's appealing to one person isn't necessarily going to be to the next. Some players want gobs of detail on the screen, while others appreciate what a clean and sparse look can bring to an experience.

If you played a computerized chess game with programmer art, but that played brilliantly, would you care that much? What about those terrible looking hex strategy war games that a particular niche loves? What about Zork? And yeah, there actually are games that can be played with zero visuals.

You could say that the worse a game looks, the more it triggers one's imagination. I mean, take the original Silent Hill on PS1. By modern standards, it's a terrible looking game, with its muddy/dithered/low res look. But I think it can spark one's imagination in a way that "more attractive" visuals can't.

For most games though, I agree that appealing visuals can be part of the overall emotional experience. Certainly most games are more than just a set of systems. I love modern action adventure games, which can benefit from visuals that reference things we already know. If you climb up a mountain in an open world just in time to catch a sunrise, that can resonate, since it maps to something we emotionally connect with. Those kind of elements don't necessarily make it more or less compelling than more of a pure gameplay experience - it's just a different sort of experience.

1 Like

Yeah stick figures make for great graphics if stick figures are capable of communicating everything you need to communicate to the player about your game. Stick figures don't do so well once you introduce depth or third dimension because they are two-dimensional.

It's hard to tell the player that one stick figure is heavily armored while the other stick figure is lightly armored because they're stick figures.

I guess you have to go back and play games like Super Mario Brothers 3 or Kirby's Adventure to understand how many things can be communicated through visuals, things like are certain things indestructible are they bouncy, are they an enemy or are they just part of the environment... The visuals are constantly communicating with the player as part of a feedback loop and therefore the visuals are part of gameplay.

I'm not talking about games for the blind because I'm not blind obviously and I'm pretty sure none of you are either, there's nothing wrong with developing in for blind people but I'm pretty sure that is not exactly what I have focused my abilities on and if you actually read the thread title hey I use the word visual so probably this has nothing to do with blind people.

Too long can't read it?
The visuals are one part of the feedback loop so the visuals are part of gameplay it has nothing to do with whether they're pretty or ugly it has everything to do with how well they communicate information to the player and if they're inconsistent or just abysmal they're giving the player mixed messages, I don't know how else to explain this. They're detracting from gameplay by virtue of being horrible and whether this is something you can agree with or not is entirely up to you and it's ignored entirely at your peril.

And yet everyone is complaining that Beyond Earth is just Civ V with a new coat of paint. Last I checked solitaire doesn’t magically become a different game because you aren’t playing with a standard Bicycle deck.

Can you even name one game in which the gameplay specifically would be damaged if the models and textures were swapped? I can think of a few where it would hurt the overall experience, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus without their vistas or Silent Hill without it’s fog, but it wouldn’t do anything to the gameplay itself.

Graphics are completely hot-swap-able. You could replace hearts in zelda with swords or shield icons and it would work just the same, maybe not providing the immediate context, but it would work no differently. Link could be swinging chainsaws and it wouldn’t matter because it would function no differently than a sword. Graphics are just a front-end to the actual game below it.

It really does depend on the player. Some people are naturally more visual then others. Ask a few people if when they think of a word and how to spell it whether they see the letters in their head while they try to spell it. Some people really don't, which is amazing to me. I am a visual person. I see pictures in my head when playing text games, spelling a word, or even taking an exam. I can play games without visuals or with simple graphics as long as those graphics are not so jarringly opposed to the style/type of game that I can still see my own pictures. I have logged into a few games and even if the characters and props looked nice, the UI was amateurish and boring, I logged out again. I logged out faster if the UI was hard to use or the game play was bad or missing crucial elements like decent animations for important movements.

I love games with beautiful visuals. But I can play a game without if the game play makes the game worthwhile. I have to admit, if there are mods to change textures, I will use them. :)

Some folks are more into audio, and if they hate the music they will not play. Others are more kinesthetic and can't stand a game with clumsy bad controls. I am not sure it is a comparison between game mechanics and art. Most people are not going to be happy with a game that has glaringly bad mechanics, regardless of whether they are a visual person or not.

That is an excellent point @Teila . I read an article once titled do you read in images, video or words? Something along those lines. And it explained the main differences in how people think. It asked if the reader could hear a voice when reading. Hearing the words. I thought well of course moron everyone does. But the research said no they do not. So i started asking family and friends and was amazed that a few people did not hear an inner voice except for the first sentence or two. After that point their mind basically produced a movie. No inner voice instead their brain automatically converted the information coming in through their eyes into basically a movie with video and sound and even music.

I am more into how the game feels than how it looks. Music I usually drop to a low volume or even turn off but sound FX I set on Max volume. I feel sounds are as, if not more, important than graphics. But again it all comes back to communication. Sounds provide feedback. We may not notice everything with our eyes but a sound can tell us ah I just got the last coin or what the heck something just hurt me.

A well executed game to me has good control (responsive hmm that is feedback), graphics that show me the current state of my character and the immediate environment absolutely including some indication of danger if nearby (feedback) and sounds that tell me about the current situation I find myself in (feedback).

The graphics and sounds do not need to be AAA or anywhere close to it. They just need to be able to communicate effectively. And I do think sometimes graphics can be too complex and the message gets lost as a result.

Yeah, I see movies. :slight_smile: I have one kid who is audio as well and music/sounds are very important to her.

I agree with the communication. Very important as well as easy to figure out controls. I hate it when there are so many buttons and panels and none are intuitive. One reason I went to Maya from Blender is that I could not, no matter how hard I tried, remember how Blender worked if I didn’t use it for a few days. I have no problem with Maya.

The perfect game would appeal to visual, audio, and kinesthetic learners. Of course, it is tough to make a perfect game. :slight_smile:

Does depend what the game is. I’ve been on a stealth bender, so it’s easy to put sound louder than music there. On the other side are RPG’s where I would rather hear the music than the sound effects which are mostly just annoying. I suppose it does play into whether the sound is there to aid the kinaesthetics or not (that and how much I want to listen to the music).

Is that still a thing these days? Fifteen to twenty years ago I would have understood when it was mostly midi tunes on loop for eons, but these days I rarely ever notice music because it’s in the background. I do fall into the camp who will give up on a game with terrible controls though.

Ok then, explain why people play each of the following: Chess? Tic-tac-toe? Pen-and-paper RPGs? Text adventures? Card games? Remove the art from most board games and the game will still stand perfectly fine on its own.

To be honest this says more about your personal tastes, preferences and style of thinking than it does about games at all.

Graphics do absolutely need to be appropriate to your gameplay to keep players around. That doesn’t mean the same thing for all games, though.

I absolutely agree with this. We can design games that are fun to play but we can’t design them to appeal to every single player out there. Even the most popular games of all, like Minecraft, are not beloved by everyone. I can’t stand playing with little lego people. Bothers me. :slight_smile: