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Developer: Santa Ragione Publisher: Santa Ragione Platform: PC Release Date: September 4th, 2013 Can endless content justify a repetitive game? Well, in most cases, sure! There's plenty of randomized games out there that are forced to seem somewhat repetitive due to their generation system having a limited number of stuff to chug in. However, if the core gameplay that makes up a randomized game isn't very fun, the satisfaction of achieving something is lost quite a bit. MirrorMoon EP makes this huge mistake, and though it is satisfying to contribute to something larger, which is the game's "cool" feature, the path getting there is filled with either confusion, utter ease, or boredom. MirrorMoon EP is a game about exploring....solar systems! Players pilot their spaceship (don't worry, it just automatically flies there for you, after a delay depending on how far away your destination is) to whichever star they want to embark upon. After they finish, the player is allowed to name the star whatever they want. Sounds pretty neat, right? Unfortunately, this game gets stale fast. If you aren't initially confused for hours like I was, you're probably wizzing by, naming every blank star in sight, and by the time you get to my playtime I would assume you are bored. Each "puzzle" consists of the player collecting items or moving over certain checkpoints for the end goal of finding some sort of egg-like device you merely have to touch. Each star is randomized of course, so some have really tough puzzles and others are incredibly easy. On my 4th star I visited I actually had the egg right in front of me and I essentially finished the star in just a few seconds! However, I'm not completely against the game's basic puzzle system. It also luckily incorporates some certainly unique manipulation of light in the puzzles. I absolutely loved that you could move the moon adjacent to your planet/star to provide light or darkness so you can see certain things you need. It's something I think that's never been done before in a game and it's very fascinating! Another thing to mention is that the game gives you extremely minimal instruction and you are left to your own curiosity to discover what to do to progress and achieve the end goal of leaving your footprint in dozens of stars. As I said earlier, I was completely confused as to how I actually got to other stars for quite a while and so I almost gave up on the game entirely! Going back to give it a second and then later third chance was probably a good idea though. MirrorMoon EP really does have some very interesting ideas in place that would be neat to check out later down the road. In its current state though, this is an explorative game of discovering new content through player co-operation, just not in the traditional sense. You don't physically encounter anyone else in the vastness of space, but seeing that they already did some of the work for you is very neat. Aesthetically, MirrorMoon EP is a curious one. The game's setting of....well, the unknown reaches of space causes the graphical style to take on a much simpler form. Using shapes and structures that even small children could recognize really shows that we as humans know next to nothing about the great space beyond our humble planet. The colors aren't strict reds, blues, or yellows, but more so blends and shades of these. It's also worthy to note that the game's randomized style also involves each planet/star's appearance. There can be odd plant-like things swaying in the wind, rays of light all over, or even rain. I would have loved to see more different variations in each locale, but unfortunately I will admit my patience was lacking so I didn't explore more. The music shows a sense of new, unknown thoughts. Using ambient, peaceful tunes was a good idea on the musician's part. Since the game is about exploration and discovery, this fits pretty much perfectly. The player really has no clue how huge or small each star is and because of that they don't know what native sounds may be in the background. It isn't overly impressive, but the soundtrack for this game is fairly good at capturing a sense of ambient exploration. I wasn't a huge fan of MirrorMoon EP, but I'm sure there are those out there who adore it. If exploring very basic planets and trying to solve randomly-generated worlds primarily via item collecting and manipulating light sounds fun to you, this is the perfect game for you. For casual puzzle or adventure fans though, this might be a tough game to grasp. It certainly was for me, and I just couldn't really get into it as others really have. Bold creativity and some neat ideas sadly did not hold up to the somewhat dull gameplay, in my opinion. I give this game a: 6.5/10
First, a disclaimer: I believe video games are art. Rather, I think that video games have the ability to be considered art. This is necessary to be aware of as this theme is my jumping off point for the discussion of how visuals should be handled in games. Video games are a medium that are still incredibly young in the artistic world. With drawing and painting starting in caves, and cameras capable of saving moving images came about in the 1800s, there are long histories of how those mediums progressed. In the case of video games, we only really have the 20th and 21st century to go on. Thanks to technology, we have been able to see massive jumps in what is possible visually in some fifty years. If you chart the history of video game visuals, you will find many times when it lines up with other forms of art. The earliest video games had only a few objects on screen and only slightly depicted whatever they were meant to be. Early games like Atari“s Adventure used a sprite that looked more duckish than monster, but gamers understood the connotation all the same. These early, very low pixel games were â€œcave paintingsé. At this point, the entire industry, as well as its fans, were pushing purely for realism. That“s why ads pitting companies against each other would show two pixelated screenshots and say how much more realistic their orientation of pixels were. 1982 Intellivision versus Atari ad With the era of SNES, Genesis, and Turbografx-16, we saw a shift forming. There were way more pixels available for artists. The concern was no longer how to make the most human-looking figure in four/eight pixels, but how to create something aesthetically interesting. The games may not have been realistic, but they did look pretty close to cartoons in the eyes of a child. Even now, many of these 16-bit era works look fantastic. There is not really an artistic comparison for this era if only because once artists were really able to go at it, they were gunning for realism. Similarly, as game consoles and computers became more powerful, many developers pushed for excruciating realism. Of course, â€œrealismé meant something different in the 90s. Full motion video (FMV) games had a brief flourish which could easily be considered the most realistic video games ever. Sure, no one will ever suggest that Night Trap is â€œrealisticé, but it did have one thing going for it - real actors. How more real can you get than actual human flesh recorded on screen? Both the artistic movements of Realism and Romanticism pushed artists to the best of their abilities, although in different ways. In the current gaming landscape, we see that many developers are still doggedly pursuing graphics so real that they are indistinguishable from reality. Although it doesn“t seem we have gotten there yet, we are much closer than ever before. Does this mean that we should focus all our efforts on making more and more realistic games? Should we instead impose that games work further on making their own identity for themselves? These are the questions that were raised with Impressionism, Cubism, and even Dadaism. As the art community grew staunchly opposed to anything other than real, many artists broke out to smash the preconceived notions of what art could be. Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 For all intents and purposes, gaming never really had a moment that games deviated from realism because they have yet to attain it fully. Still, it“s easy to read gamer opinions and see that many are hungry for the most graphically intensive, â€œrealé experiences out there. The audience is huge as is evidenced by many triple A titles. The highlight of posting screenshots is often to say â€œlook at how much better this looks than games X and Y!é. Of course, anyone who has been playing games for a while is probably aware that realism is not the only way to handle games. There have always been games which do not strive for that unattainable look of reality, and this will continue to be the case. Many truly loved games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Okami, Psychonauts, and so many more have rejected reality in favor of artistry. These kinds of games do something that no other medium is capable of. They create some sort of fantasy world with its own look and invite players into it. Unlike a painting which you can only view and comprehend, a game allows you to actually manipulate the world. Instead of an animated film that takes you on a roller coaster ride, you are able to set your own path. In a way, the same is true of more realistic games as well. As they are not 100% authentic to reality, they are still an experience different than movies. If there is a point when game and movie visuals are imperceptible from each other, games will still have an edge for those who want to truly experience the world. Still, these types of games do not force developers to strain for an artistic identity. Instead, they tend to draw from what exists in the world. This does not make their art any less relevant, but an experience which is not fully new. Screenshot of Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Has an end to artistic debate ever come to decide which is the better artstyle? No, but there are still people in both camps. Many artists today refine their photo-realistic art so that it really is impossible to tell if it is painted or photograph. Then there are many others who balk at such studious art and create pieces which confront preconceived notions as to what art even is. That“s why it seems that the gaming community will never be able to agree as to what they wish to see. Developers will seek to feed one audience or the other over time but never settle on only one way. There“s nothing wrong with this being the case because both styles are viable mechanisms for enhancing play. When a game is realistic, it may help engross some into the experience further. As a child, I viewed Star Fox on SNES and felt that the graphics were as good as in a Hollywood movie. This was a participative experience, one where I did not have any expectations of the title and simply enjoyed my role as a spectator. However, as we age the ability to induce a participative experience is hindered (due to having more experiences and challenges) which means some may only view more realistic games as the way forward. As was said earlier, it seems to me that not chasing realism is the more interesting path. By allowing artists to create truly beautiful, disturbing, and strange worlds untethered by reality we are able to get more interesting games. That“s not to say realistic games can not be these things either, which is why this is also not a put-down of those titles. It just seems that the possibilities of creating new and wondrous experiences have a higher chance of flourishing when not seeking to attain the most realistic graphics. As so many games exist, there is room for realistic, semi-realistic, not at all realistic, and symbolic games. There will never be a point that everyone pursues only one method as there are too many developers in the world. Thankfully, there is no need to. Games are stories and experiences brought to us from a great variety of people. If they feel that they can best convey emotions through realistic depictions, then they should go for it. Those who prefer to do otherwise can as well, and often with as strong an impact. As with more formally established arts, games should feel free to pursue any graphical medium they choose whenever it fits. By seeking to limit ourselves to one way or the other, we would only serve to deprive the audience of many fantastic experiences.