Graphics are everything you see in your game. They defined what the game world looks like, and the theme of the world. And, like applications, they form the first impression of your game. But they’re not everything; let’s discuss how to make graphics work for your game.
The type of graphics in your game can push it in one of the two ways. Towards the realistic or towards the abstract. Each discipline can come at a cost; let’s talk realism.
People enjoy realistic games, especially in the west (Depending on the Artistic style). As your game gets more real, the graphical fidelity must go up. Soon, the mechanics follow. For example, a game like Horizon Zero Dawn is very realistic. Here’s an example from Horizon:
As a result, it’s one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 4. But, the problem point with realistic games is that you have to embrace it often in-game mechanics. This means people may have to die, blood has to be spilled, people can’t be as outstanding as a video game character could be. The more you model the world to match that sense of realism, the further down that path you go. This can be a benefit depending on the story, you want to tell. If you want to talk about themes of life and death on the gritty street, This route may suit you. Now, abstraction also has its benefits compared to realism.
Abstraction is for graphical styles that are closer to a deformed cartoonish style. Good examples of this are Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Patapon, Disgaea 5, and Final Fantasy 9. Many 2D games can fall into this category. Now, the advantages of abstraction are more creative freedom in terms of mechanics, less-restrictive physics, and graphical stability. By making your game’s graphical style more abstract, you can create characters outside the realm of realism. For example, your character may have ridiculously large muscles that represent their strength. Realistically, that’s impossible but players are more likely to agree with the design if it’s abstract. That also means physics can be exaggerated.
Physics can be played around with to give the character a more snappy feel. Considering the levels of abstraction they can do things real people can’t, which can open up new options for game mechanics. Lastly, less realistic art style allows you graphical stability.
Graphical stability is how well your graphics hold up over time. I’m sure many developers have played a game that you still love the graphics years later. Realistic graphics in the past have never held up well to the changing times. Now we have reached a stage of true realistic graphics, but sets the bar high for any game that goes that route. Textures and character models need to be on point, otherwise, you may lose out in the graphics score (at least when realism is involved). Abstract graphics tend to be punished less harshly, and usually age well. One abstract style is the cel-shaded style; cel-shaded graphics hold up over time because they appear cartoony. Here’s an example from Wind Waker
Either way, the most important factor is how well everything in the world agrees with each other. The art style should be consistent throughout and maintained. Either way at present, both styles are viable and should hold up, depending on how much you want to put into your art.
I hope this post helps you, and that you decide which side of the graphic style you want to be on, and what works for your game. Most games balance between the two; consider the balance you want to strike with your game. If you have anything you want to add, please comment down below.