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What makes a game LOOK good?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by GunXpatriot, Oct 23, 2014.

  1. GunXpatriot

    GunXpatriot

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    You know, I've been thinking...

    Are the things that make a game look good... Well, do they simply amount to good textures, lighting, good coding, etc?

    What IS a game engine, actually? Is it not just a bunch of "designs" in order to MAKE "designs"?

    For example, what makes one engine better than another? Is Frostbite/Cryengine/Unreal what they are, because they've designed fantastic textures and have coded, etc all the good stuff in?

    What I mean is, could a team of game-designing aficionados basically mimic Frostbite (or whatever engine) within another engine? For example, with extensive work, could Frostbite's destructive environments be copied relatively well, or even perfectly, given the time, etc?

    Because in my mind, I'm seeing this as... Dice Employee: "Alright, so we've modeled some buildings, lets just run a quick test with them... Let's use a grenade launcher..." And then, they blow up a wall, and it's kind of "automatic", because it was designed from the ground up to be that way, whereas another engine may not, and you'd have to customize things to do that?

    This is just something that dawned on me the other day. I've got a concept for a game in mind, and I'm attempting to learn about Unity, and even more, C#. Anyway, I hope I've sufficiently articulated what I'm asking here.

    So... What makes an engine better? Lighting? Superior textures? Great coding, etc? Hopefully a veteran can tell me!

    And... In regards to my concept... I was thinking, "Could I use Unity to make a great game and have it LOOK great, without being Unreal Engine, or Cryengine, etc?" And then I thought, "Well, what makes THOSE better?"

    And that's where all this stems from. Thanks!!
     
  2. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Although framed in a design-ish way this really is not a game design question. This basically can be summed up as...

    "Could I use Unity to make a great game and have it LOOK great, without being Unreal Engine, or Cryengine, etc?" And then I thought, "Well, what makes THOSE better?"

    Which in my mind basically goes back to the same ole over rehashed topic of Unity3d vs UE which gets splattered all over the forums about once per week or two. Although I get your angle is how can Unity be improved to look as good.
     
  3. PJRM

    PJRM

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    GunXpatriot,
    On my point of view:
    Unity was and still is the first option for Indie developers. And doesn't mean U4 or CryEngine or any other engine would be better for indie's! When I start, I try UDK3 (at the time being was the last version). Felt so hard to do anything. Lack of tutorials, the community barely help you. Then a friend told me about Unity3D. Helpful community, easy to use...

    I see (remember: my point of view) that Unreal was the kind of engine for big companies or big teams. And has little time since Unreal start to look foward for indie developers.

    Anyway.
    I like Unity3D and Unreal 4, but comparing:
    • U4: Have everything Unity3D have and offer much more resources, however, U4 is a complex engine. Makes it dificult to use. The community are a little more helpful, and the docummentation are well complete, even though i find it hard to understand sometimes.
    • Unity3D: It is easy to use, simple to understand and have a helpful community. The bad thing is: You are limited on resources, but this doesn't stop you from making good games.
    Resume:
    A good engine is the combined overview of everything!
    My advice: Pick one engine! study it... gather knowledge upon it. It's like programming! There isn't the better language. what makes it better, is how good you are on it!

    Best regards,
    PJRM - Plínio J.
     
  4. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    So what game is being designed here, now?
     
  5. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    As for what overarching principles make a game look 'good', who knows? 'Good' is subjective. Persona A may hate modern 3D graphics. Person B may think retro pixel art is the ugliest thing ever, and thinks that every color needs to be a shade of brown.

    @Gigiwoo once linked me some interesting articles. Among them, Lines, Shapes, and Colors is a good starting point...in other words, the use of composition in visual art and music. These are things I'm working on understanding and using in my games, so I'm not qualified to talk about them. However, I find the article easy to understand, so go ham with it.

    As far as motion is concerned, I'm not much in the animation department, but if your game uses physics, you'll want your game to move at a speed that your user can think about what's going on and have time to react. In my current game's prototype, an early build had me using real-world physics (-9.81m/s^2) gravity, and a jump power tuned such that the player character can jump 2.5 tiles. Players reported after playing the test build, that the physics felt 'abrupt', so I downtuned the game to 3/4 gravity, and 3/4(ish) jump strength. So far, I've had positive feedback on the physics.

    ...Wait, physics? This has nothing do with looks, right?

    In my (limited) experience, a game looks totally different in motion than it does in still images. Physics plays a part in this. No one part of a game's overall design stands truly alone; it touches the other parts and interacts with them.

    Note: I'm ignoring 90% of the OP's question as worded. He's been sold the fiction that game engines make games look good, when it's really a matter of good art in the context of a well-designed game. Engines merely enable additional techniques, or higher caps on the quality of said images, to be visualized.
     
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  6. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    I completely agree. Still images are great for selling a game, but the player remembers the experience of actually playing the game. If it's choppy or unresponsive, it "looks" bad to the player.
     
  7. GunXpatriot

    GunXpatriot

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    Looking back, I think a better title would be "what makes a game PLAY well", but on top of looking good, too.

    Actually, a big thing I run into just in my gaming experience, is piss-poor controls, mostly with a controller, rather than a keyboard. I've just started getting into PC gaming with my rig, which is why I was messing with Unity in the first place. I figured "Well, I have the capability, why not play with it?" That on top of using it somewhat regularly for video editing.

    But going back to controls, I notice a lot of times, and even with keyboard/mouse pretty often, that aiming, and general camera movement is kind of "disproportionate". For example, take a series like COD, or even Battlefield. These games have very fluid motion when aiming. Very predictable. Moving diagonally is the same as moving up/down or left/right, and it doesn't stop you from doing that by being too "tight", which is a problem I notice with a lot of FPS games.

    That is the first thing, for me, that ruins an FPS. A good example of this, was Metro 2033. I absolutely loved it, but the aiming was bad IMO. Games that are really guilty of that are things like MAG (anyone remember that?) on the PS3. And other games like Battle: Los Angeles, that terrible Xbox Live Arcade game, and I believe PSN as well. There's just a tightness and lack of fluidity that makes aiming feel awkward. Actually, another prime example was the campaign of Medal of Honor (2010). Not the multiplayer, 'cause Frostbite, and DICE and whatnot.

    And yeah, definitely a game looks different when in motion. But going back to my OP, I mentioned destructible environments, and I wondered if Frostbite's destructible enviroments could be re-created in Unity, or any other engine. Essentially, I was asking if any engine, can more or less, do what any other engine can do, if it were altered/customized enough. Is that the reality? Again, it's hard to articulate what I'm asking, but yeah. :/

    I'm a total noob, so bear with me?

    Misterselmo, I don't understand what you mean. What's being designed? By me? Nothing, yet. Just a bunch of ideas and concepts on paper. Not to mention, something that's not really been done yet, that I know of. I don't understand how that applies to anything. :/
     
  8. Vanamerax

    Vanamerax

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    I think the most important thing for a game to look good, is that all the art assets keep the same style and fit well together. Having lots of assets with varying styles within one scene, may give this unpolished look to a game (which you often see in prototypes, as they use various placeholder assets from various sources)

    Think of it, what does it mean that a game looks good? That it looks realistic or naturally plausible? Hell, even angry birds could be considered good-looking, because the art stays consistent with every sprite you see in the game.
     
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  9. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Don't feed the trolls and they'll go away. This is a good discussion, let's keep it that way.
    Gigi

    PS - Deleted the troll response and a few replies, to keep the thread on point.
     
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  10. Kaji-Atsushi

    Kaji-Atsushi

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    Most of the time what makes a game looked polished is that all the art and graphics are consistent and have a general theme/structure to it. You can even make your own art style, but as long as its consistent everywhere within your game, they typically turn out acceptable. One thing to be careful of is trying to have realistic art work. Because if theres a hint of your game trying to have realistic graphics. People will categorize it in their own minds and call it that, and because people know realistic art so well. You'll have a hard time pleasing them.

    Just realized this is a bit of a redundant post...
     
  11. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Basically, I think it is just as @Kaji.Atsushi said. The theme/structure, style and colors are very important.

    This can, perhaps, best be seen by looking at some of the better looking retro games.

    Here are screenshots of what I consider to be four of the best looking 8-bit NES games:



    Yeah I grabbed these and made a collage. I am thinking simply showing screenshots of 20+ year old games should not be an issue.

    If you look at these screenshots and keep in mind the NES only had a limited palette of available colors and there were tight restrictions on how many could actually be displayed on-screen at one time (4 colors per tile, 3 colors per sprite)... you'll notice how they chose certain hues and then used several shades of each of those.
    They also used broad areas of color and the different hues they chose complimented each other to make a nice overall display.

    And here is the total palette of colors the game artists had to work with:


    Technically, 64 colors, but 9 are basically black and 2 are basically white.
    .
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
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  12. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    All of those games have pellet life bars. Is that some weird coincidence?
     
  13. N1warhead

    N1warhead

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    If you ask me, Unity can make amazing games if you put your heart and soul into it, no mobile game that you can make in 1 hour will ever compare to how good Unity can do, a lot of games I've noticed (not from people on the forums) but from what i've seen posts about are a bunch of copy cat games. That's nothing special, nothing unique, just the same game with a new name slapped on it.

    So yeah, I believe (IMO) that if you put your everything into the game, I'm sure it will be a great game, anybody can tell if you really tried to make a great game or just tried to make something for quick money.

    But of course that leads to learning everything you can.
    Learn everything you can, but do it in moderation to where you take it in, and eventually a game that seems useless and stupid will come out actually fun.

    You don't need Xbox One graphics to have a fun game.
    But at the same time, if you have the capabilities, why not do it?
     
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  14. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Yeah, it was a common way of displaying health / power. It's very readable and easy to display (resource wise) so kind of became the standard.
     
  15. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    What are those games, anyway?
     
  16. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    NES 8-bit games

    Top Left: Little Sampson
    Top Right: Star Wars
    Bottom Left: Batman: Return of the Joker
    Bottom Right: Sword Master

    I just think they are good examples of what makes a game look good simply because they look very good (to me at least... as good as or even better than some modern mobile games I have seen) and yet as you can see in the post above with the screenshot (I updated to show the full NES color palette) those game artists / designers had a lot less to work with than people do these days. I think this is a big part of why many artists enjoy working in pixel art. It is not just trying to work in a low resolution, but the challenge of a limited palette and so forth.
     
  17. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    In fact, one that persists to the modern day.



    I can forsee the inevitable complaint now: "But, those are hearts! That's not a pellet system!!! [/buttclench]

    The hypothetical buttclencher is actually quite wrong. Hearts are built based on the exact same principles as a pellet system, they're just a more refined presentation thereof. The benefit of something like a heart system is that you can represent multiple pellets/bits in the same space, which means you can devote more space to each pellet and makes it easier to see and understand for the player.
     
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  18. GoGoGadget

    GoGoGadget

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    Making a game look good does tie in with game design somewhat - when watching a gameplay trailer, your game mechanics will be factored in to viewers opinions of the game, even without them actually playing it.

    In relation to the original question; Unity lets you do most things if you dedicate enough time to it (I've had people say my game's engine looks like 'Frostbite combined with ArmA 2', for example). In fact, Unity 5 uses Enlighten (which Frostbite uses), so it'll be even easier to make a game look like it's made in Frostbite once that it's released, if that's what you wanna do.
     
  19. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    The number one thing people get wrong is lighting, shading. Light is not white, it has a color. Usually it's yellow. Shadows should never be black, but always have a blue-purple tint. Taking a flatly shaded, unbalanced scene and correcting the light colors and balance can make it look like a different game.

    @GarBenjamin, your examples are all about color. It's for good reason. I think we all know that correct body proportions, well constructed animations are a must. But then people fail to appreciate color in their worlds.

    In film, it's a paying job just to correct color so the film feels right.

    Thoughts?
     
  20. jc_lvngstn

    jc_lvngstn

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    The things that jump out about those are 1) Vivid colors with lots of contrast. Also, overall good shading done (I mean the look of lights and shadows, not shaders heh).
     
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  21. Neffy

    Neffy

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    Honestly.. Lighting. People don't realize it because they're used to seeing it and it's never really thought of too much, but lighting is one of the, if not the, most important thing to making a game look great. The reason people bring up CryEngine vs Unreal vs Unity so much is because CryEngine and Unreal have superb lighting (or so the uneducated developer thinks..). To be frank, Unity is capable of the exact same graphical fidelity that the other engines are. The only thing that's difficult about Unity is that it's not a specialized engine. Meaning pretty much this:

    Unreal is focused heavily on FPSs. Unity is not.
    CryEngine is focused heavily on large, seamless worlds. Unity is not.
    Unity is focused on letting anybody develop and profit, even on very outdated hardware. CryEngine and Unreal are not.

    Unity is very good at what it does, especially at no cost to anybody besides pro-users. And even then, in the long run, it's definitely cheaper than CryEngine and Unreal. Unreal charges 5% royalties and a one-time(or monthly if you want updates) fee of $19.99, respectively. CryEngine costs $9.90 a month (which is very frustrating because it offers NOTHING the sandbox does besides being able to release for ONLY PC). Let's get back on topic, sorry about that mini-rant but I suppose it's good to know regardless? :)

    CryEngine and Unreal have their lighting in there from the beginning. They also have their higher-poly models and higher resolution textures in there from the beginning. Unity does not. This means to the average "next blizzard" or "next Bohemia Interactive" are going to naturally flock to the other engines because of their lack of knowledge/talent. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing because these developers are typically the money-hungry developers that get a game to pre-alpha, slap a $19.99 sticker on it, and call it a day until their sales start to drop like hotcakes and they "develop" (or use others' code) for an" update" that is essentially just another sticker.

    But is Unity capable of the same graphical fidelity? Abso-Fing-lutely. Look at The Forest for instance. That is some seriously great quality and what is the main reason? Sure, their game has better 3D models than most. And sure, it has higher-resolution textures that they actually attempted to make look good, unlike the majority of "indie developers" these days, and the BEAUTIFUL LIGHTING. Small verbal demonstration of what I mean by lighting is key:

    Look at a fully fleshed out game scene with all the content you'll be including in the game. (assuming you're using 3D, although there's ways to make 2D work this way also. just much, much more difficult for some reason.) You notice something lacking. What is it? You have everything ready, you thought your models and texturing was good, but it still looks off.. OH! You forgot lighting! So you fiddle with the color of the lighting a bit but it's not really working. So you sit there and decide directional lighting is probably not the way to go. OH! You remembered that one time, three months back, when you heard of something called point lights. You start adding them to your little torches, changing them from white to an orangey-redy-yellowy glowing color. Wow, that portion of the map is.. Wow.. Beautiful.. So you start adding different colored lights, dimming some and amplifying some, pushing them in different directions, you figure "Hey, why not just go ahead and use this throughout the entire game.." and then boom. You realize this could be a point of interest in marketing in some way. What do you do? You start slapping "dynamic lighting" everywhere. Instant success.

    Okay, that probably isn't literally what happens but look.. Just because Unity is free and used by every kid wanting to be the next Blizzard, Bohemia Interactive, or Naughty Dog, doesn't mean the engine isn't capable of the same graphical fidelity. It just takes work. Lighting is extremely important. No matter how good your 3D modeling skills and texturing skills are, with bad lighting, it's going to look bad. No matter what. Take a game with very good game and go into the config files and remove shadows. Watch how F-ing weird it looks. It almost doesn't even look good at all to be honest.