How important are graphics in indie games?

Discussion in 'Indie Related Chat' started by zoombapup, May 18, 2012.

  1. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    I'm thinking "very". But what is the truth in terms of indie game sales?

    Almost every gamer I come across tells me they don't play games that don't have good graphics. Stuff like having crappy shadows, or poor texturing makes them not play a game pretty quickly.

    But is that really true? those same gamers might then go and play Dwarf Fortress if enough of their friends tell them to. And of course a lot of them jumped onto the minecraft bandwagon (although not many stayed with it).

    Again my instinct here is to think that graphics are important in that they need to be stylish and polished rather than "high tech". So something like geometry wars or darwinia is acceptable to them because they are a distinct style. But something like say Mount & Blade is harder for them because it's more "realistic" and yet does look quite dated.

    And then, I see the mount and blade is still super popular with it's playerbase. Has an active modding community etc. So maybe graphics aren't quite the turnoff that people suggest?

    What do you guys think the truth is?
     
  2. electronicStar

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    what's important is that nothing looks amateurish and that the whole graphics are consistent, you must not mix hand drawn with prerendered or pixelly with cartoony, or it must not look like the pics have been scanned from different sources
     
  3. Bad Sector

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    I think that asking the players what they want wont give you any useful answers. Most people do not really know what they want. There are players who claim that they would be ok with a Wasteland 2 made with the Wasteland 1 engine - something i really doubt, at least for most of them. Also even when players do tell what they want, asking random players might not be the best idea. You need to ask players who play similar games to what you want to make.

    However i think it is a better idea to observe how players react to other games. Visit forums and communities where players hang out and see how they react to games like yours (or to games that have some idea(s) that your game also has). It takes a while to decipher what they really mean (liking Angry Birds doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have success with a game like Angry Birds).

    About the topic question, i think that yes graphics are important but not in the technical side (shadows? Have you noticed how ALL Source engine games make shadows? Most of the time they are simple half-alpha blended textures with the character's geometry rendered from the top and some times there is a single projected shadow - which is actually both a directional light and shadow, just open the console and type r_shadows 0 or gl_shadows 0, i don't remember the exact command but it is the same as the one used in GLquake). As electronicStar said, you need consistency more than technical excellence.
     
  4. ManuTOO

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    I think once you reached a certain level of quality in graphics, then what you put above is not useful in term of sales against a part of public. The whole public is divided into several levels, the last one containing the gamers that don't want anything except AAA quality, or near that.
    But a lot of gamers don't need nor really care about AAA quality.

    I know my own personal level is around the average quality of 2003 3D Games. Actually, I can even still enjoy Quake 3 graphics, and it was released in 2000 ; it was top notch at that time though ! ;)

    It's likely for this reason that I liked a lot Mount & Blade, which is above the minimum quality I expect to enjoy a 3D game.

    But like the previous posts, I think you have to achieve a professional result, even if it's one of 2003 in term of AAA quality.

    Having tremendous graphics will still most of times bring more attention to your game, though, so it can be really helpful to reach the critical point where you get people to talk about it without too much marketing effort from your side.
     
  5. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I think they are bloody vital. It's not even about the user experience - to get that far the need to buy it in the first place, and if your screenshots look like crap then that's not gonna happen.

    Being indie is NOT an advantage. Customers aren't going to say "Ah bless, I'll buy it anyway".

    You do not need AAA graphics, but it has to look professional and interesting on first glance else you won't get a second one.
     
  6. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    What he said.
     
  7. Grey Alien

    Indie Author

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    What Desktop Gaming said.
     
  8. zoombapup

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    So then the question is "what is the minimum threshold for quality graphics" because something like "professional" could mean a lot. It could mean all the normal mapping and SSAO and all that. Or as MenuTOO puts it, it could mean something circa 2003 quality. And yet, darwinia and minecraft and the like could have been done before then right?

    I guess I'm interested in seeing what the quality threshold is. But I guess that isn't easy to answer.
     
  9. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    For a 3D immersive game, you need normal mapping at a minimum. SSAO is a couple of shaders so won't take long. But any game in this genre is gonna look shite compared to the AAA so is best avoided imo. In fact, don't make anything that could be confused for a AAA game as it will be compared whether you think it fair or not.

    Not trying to be arrogant, but I'll use my main game as a good example of how to do the art right at an indie level - after all I didn't do that part. Well, apart from the really complex gemoetry extrusions. :)

    [​IMG]

    We had one mostly full time artst make the units and stuff, the landscape is extruded from a 2D editor with some texture blending. Bump maps and specular is about it for "advanced" lighting. Yet the game looks interesting because there's lots going on and it's done to decent if not extreme standard. Nobody would confuse this for AAA but that's not the point - what's there is varied and well drawn making a decent whole, and it's the whole ensemble that counts.

    (I might add that the sequel looks a helluva lot better than this, mainly thanks to more bump maps, increased attention to prelighting and generally more stuff in the levels.)
     
  10. Grey Alien

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    The bar is also pretty high in casual games. You can't get away with programmer art any more, and you have never been able to get away with pixel are in causal games.
     
  11. Desktop Gaming

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    I dunno about that. Super Meat Boy has done quite well by all accounts, yet it's graphically bland and crude. Also VVVVVVV or whatever it's called. Popular game, terrible artwork.
     
  12. Grey Alien

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    I said casual games. Agreed in indie games you can get away with programmer art providing it has "style".
     
  13. AndyBumpkin

    AndyBumpkin New Member

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    I think there's room for programmer graphics still.

    I managed to sell quite a few copies of my casual game with programmer art. I'm not so sure it was the "awww, bless 'im" effect, although it's a rather cozy thought to think that word of mouth played a part. Of course I'm not in the same ballpark as some of you guys in terms of sales! (I'll catch you up one day!)

    Here's a screenie of what I did:
    [​IMG]

    I'm sure it would have sold far, far better with professionally created artwork and indeed the profits from this game are going into funding artwork for the sequel.

    A wise man once said to me "Graphics pull potential customers in, game-play convinces them to buy the game." Or something like that...that was probably someone here actually...
     
  14. Grey Alien

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    Yeah I remember seeing your game. I agree that you would have got a lot more downloads with better art. By all accounts it's a good game so the graphics would hopefully have resulted in a lot more sales. However, it was still an unusual game type for many people on Big Fish for example so there wouldn't have been a limit to downloads even with better graphics.
     
  15. igamedev

    igamedev New Member

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    100% Dead wrong.
     
  16. Applewood

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    I assumed that was a typo. Or modern developers abusing the term. :)
     
  17. Reives Freebird

    Reives Freebird New Member

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  18. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I liked that, those guys are good.
     
  19. Nutter2000

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    That's really good, wasn't even aware of them on PA :D
     
  20. Grey Alien

    Indie Author

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    I'm talking about the type of casual games that you buy on Big Fish games and other casual portals, not Flash games or mobile games that are branded casual but are really mid-core. If you can prove me 100% dead wrong instead of just saying it, I'm interested to see what games you come up with. I made a casual game with pixel art back in 2006 and it didn't go down well. My next game had 3D-rendered art and hand-painted art and did 20x better (that's not an exaggeration).
     

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