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Reader Comments (30)

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 8:15AM nevin said

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AO when I first started, I was in the desert but it just looked so amazing (at the time). Now it just makes my eyes hurt.
EQ2 when it first went live I thought was amazing..especially the water. The original starting point of the game on the boat, with the rolling seas and the dynamic shadows of the ships rigging was incredible.

Have to say though the game that at the time just amazed me with its visuals was the original Unreal. Coming out of the downed ship into the open with the waterfall and bugs buzzing around that pool. I spent at least 10 mins just spinning on the spot shouting at everyone in the house to come and take a look at how gorgeous it was.

The last time I felt the need to point out something really good looking in a game to someone was the starter beach location on AoC.

Posted: Feb 27th 2010 9:24AM Evy said

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You too? The original Unreal took my breath away. I still remember settings from that game, and how many years has it been now? Wow.
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Posted: Feb 26th 2010 8:17AM Tanek said

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Given the low requirements and the age of the game, I was quite pleasantly surprised when I started playing Guild Wars and saw the graphics.

I realize there are limitations on where you can go in the GW world and that much of the art is probably more akin to a matte painting than things you'd find in other games, but it is still some of my favorite artwork anywhere in gaming.

Along with story and gameplay ideas the developers have come up with, I am really looking forward to seeing the graphic artistry in GW2 when it is released.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 8:23AM (Unverified) said

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January 2004 - Guild Wars

ArenaNet dramatically changed that way their game looked... and it was amazing. It was so good that a lot of people doubted that it was real. Lots of people were thinking like... "How could a game with no monthly fees, great graphics and low system requirements be possible?"

The next month I was playing that game. It spoiled the genre for me. ArenaNet set the bar so high that other games just didn't impress me as much.

As for World of Warcraft, the graphics are pretty good in that game too. They worked hard on those trees... and when you walk up to the river at night, to see the moonlight shimmering across it... that's cool. While I think Guild Wars has better graphics, Blizzard did a great job of creating an immersive world. While WoW graphics may be more like a cartoon, the interface is phenomenal. I like how their world is clean and polished.

As I'm learning from my own game development... that last bit work... that last five percent... can be the hardest thing. That's why it's tough to build a good MMORPG... graphics are only part of the picture... lore, immersion, interface, sound effects, game balance... there's a lot that goes on. EverQuest wasn't a great looking game, but it was the best in its class. When I started playing the game with my friends, we had never experienced anything like that. We looked past things like corpse runs and patch days to play the game. Today, it's not hard to find a good looking MMORPG... but that's only part of the equation.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 10:26AM Ocho said

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I remember when Ultima 7 - The Black Gate first came out. At the time, its graphics blew my mind. The requirements at the time of release were rediculous (a 50MHz 486 when the de facto standard for games in 1992 was a 25MHz 386) and not many computers could handle it, but it was the first time I was impressed with graphics like that (even if it was a simple top-down perspective).

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 9:03AM Deadalon said

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I never get the "WOW !!" feeling when JUST looking at some graphics. What I look for is immersion and thus.. something that stands out kinda destroyes the real feeling. For example... LOTRO - great looking world but the character and animations are poor. They dont fit in and look clumpsy. Another one is for example AOC when riding the mount and it is not responsive enough and turns diffrently than what you control it (Lag). Third would be - just for example the sound in ROM that just doesn't fit in the rest of the world.

There are not many games that manage to create a "balanced" (graphical) immersion. But one of the best in doing it would be WOW imo. Graphics are not that perfect - but good enough to fit into the animation - the sound/music and the overall feeling of really roaming the land. Many of the more graphic heavy MMOs dont have that feeling and many lack the fluency because they can not pump up the animation speed cause of frames per second (for normal players).

So - My best memory of graphical enjoyment is probably outside Ironforge or when I fly in there. Now... dont take it like everything is great in WOW. Dalaran for example is a total failure in creating this immersion - cause its lagging like hell - and the BLizzard servers are obviously exploding.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 9:13AM (Unverified) said

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WoW actually surprised me. Until WoW most western MMOs tried to look more realistic and often failed at that due to the lack of gfx power at the time. Yet WoW embraced low end graphics, and with an incredibly persistent art style turned it into one of its strengths.
The fact that WoW's style nowadays gets copied so often that it's gotten old just proves how successful their concept and looks were.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 9:20AM (Unverified) said

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Guild Wars for me as well.

I was simply blown away at how beautiful the game and characters graphics were. The women avatars were so gorgeous, I just had to create one. It was the very first time I chose to play a female character. In fact, Guild Wars is still the only game where all of my avatars are female.

Another game that shows off some of the nicest visuals is Star Trek Online. Sometimes I just have to stop what I'm doing and take a look around to marvel at the beauty of the space around me. Although it is a virtual world, it still gives that same feeling of awe and wonder I get when looking out at the stars at night.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 9:40AM (Unverified) said

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I've played a few games with beautiful graphics. LotRo comes to mind but I have to agree with Deadalon about the character graphics. I loved the colors that DDO uses but the characters, especially the Human females, need some reworking.

As far as being surprised by something... Free Realms did that to me just the other day. I was placing a piece of furniture in my little virtual house. Light was coming in the window and when I moved the item through the light, not only did it light up as the 'sun' shone on it, it cast a correctly shaped shadow. It was just a little thing but it caught my attention and I thought that was a neat little graphics detail.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 9:52AM breezer said

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2 things come to mind:

First was Vanguard beta. I had just gotten a new computer and overclocked my card for the first time. I rode up to the top of a mountain and panned around and I'm kind of embarrassed to say that it was a profound life moment.
I had been locked into my little FFXI bubble til that point, hadn't really paid attention at how far graphics had come. I had never seen anything close to that level of realism in a game. Vanguard's panoramas look almost real except they are too beautiful. That was the profound part, that art, games even, have or could surpass the beauty of nature. That a mountain range in a game could be more powerful to look at, if only because it was unexpected, in a game than in real life.

The ironic thing was that it wasn't until Vanguard that I truly appreciated FFXI's graphics. Vanguard's vistas looked amazing, but everything else looked like mediocre, thrown-together, uninspired junk. Very little detail to be found around the shiny, plastic world. Vana'Diel on the other hand is down right cluttered with unique little details and doo-dads that really make it seem like a real world. I took it for granted for years but eventually realized how much FFXI's immersiveness owes to this.

2nd was Allods. More because it was just such a surprise. Logging on to FTP piece of crap #8024 for 2009, and it was like, Whoa! This ain't some random FTP POS, this is the real deal. Was.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 9:58AM Lateris said

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Yavin 4 in SWG. I always felt that the terrain, flora, and wild life really blew me away at the time. I think that planet still looks great in SWG. Age of Conan also looks beautiful. Vanguards world is amazing. I love the diversity of the terrain. Eve Onlines graphic engine update blew me away. I think AION is very pretty. I am surprised how the UT III engine looks so good with the korean MMORPG's without having to scale the engine back. LOTRO Mines of Moria blew me away.

I can't wait to see DX 11 take shape for MMO's.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 10:00AM (Unverified) said

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Every time I pop into Vanguard I still get surprised at how beautiful some sunset over a massive port int he distance, or a scene involving that amazing grass rendering. Dead MMO, but dead could look way, way worse.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 10:02AM Joshua Przygocki said

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Love... the art style and the visuals, especially after the last update, are just so cool. To those who think it looks weird, the screenshots turn out blurrier than the game itself, it's actually pretty easy to distinguish objects and whatnot.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 4:44PM (Unverified) said

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By Far:


...The swaying grass in AC2, it blew in the "wind" and actually stood off of the ground rather than being a painted on texture.

When I first saw it, it literally blew my mind, I was like "this, this is a real living world."

It was like seeing grass on rolling hills in the great plains... purely epic.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 10:37AM aurickle said

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I've had a few surprises, and all in different ways.

First was LotRO, which as has already been mentioned has some absolutely stunning landscapes. Especially given how long ago now it came out, and how well it performs on even an average system! This game has caused me to take more screen shots than any other. It also has some great little details, many of which are routinely missed by people. For example, the hobbit stuck in a hedge in north Bree.

Second was AoC. I'm not really referring to the high level of detail here, and frankly their approach to trees and vegetation needs some work -- the transparencies look bad up close and the trees take too long to switch from sprites. But the day I saw a drunken sailor took a whiz off the docks in Tortage was most certainly a surprise!

Speaking of animations, this brings me to my third surprise. Aion has the most impressive use of idle animations I've ever seen. If you're standing in water, your character will try to catch a fish. If it's snowing, you'll stamp your feet and try to get warm. If it's raining, you'll try to shield your head from it a bit. On top of that, their character creator could teach Cryptic a thing or two -- it's absolutely amazing how much variation you can get from just two races, and the gear all perfectly conforms to every character with almost no issues.

And my final surprise was... EverQuest 2. They have continued to refine their engine over the years, and even though none of the models have been updated or anything there are times when it all adds up to a moment where you just go, "Wow, that's beautiful!" Even the Common Lands will sometimes hit you with a stunning sunset, for example.

I do think that we've just about pushed graphics as far as they can go without an architecture change. Sure, there will be different examples where companies manage to push the limits in creative new ways, but it's getting harder and harder for them to do this. Fortunately, that architecture change has already happened in the form of 64-bit systems. It's just hard for a developer to justify building for 64-bit when that means shutting out customers who haven't upgraded their computers in the last year or two. But there are a couple companies in early development today that understand MMO's have a long development cycle (unless you're Cryptic) and so by the time the game is ready for launch just about everyone will have a 64-bit system. Red 5 Studios, for example has licensed the Offset Engine to build a still secret MMO. People should check out what Offset is capable of here: http://www.projectoffset.com/ An MMO built with this will have the potential to make people's jaws drop.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 10:52AM Pojoh said

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Lotro when I first played a hobbit... the shire and its ambiance was just thrilling. More recently Forchel .. with the snow falling covering the landscape and great vistas.

AoC .. when I entered Cimmeria ...through this valley and saw hills. The game has great visuals.

When these games mix great vistas, and excellent music.. it's definately a 'wow' factor.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 11:49AM Boojum said

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First steps into WoW as a Night Elf character - Teldrassil through Darkshore and into Ashenvale, lovely color palette, very immersive.

And just to mirror thoughts above:

Updated EVE graphics engine , definitely cool, was impressed enough to start playing.

LOTRO Landscapes - particularly the Shire - very pretty, and yes pity about the Barbie and Ken character models. Many many screen shots as mentioned above, made for some nice wallpaper.

Lastly, sad to say, Allods - despite all the recent cash shop death penalty fuss, running around in Lightwood on the League side boggling at the lovely high-res textures, creature design and general attention to detail etc. has been my treat of the week, I'm going to keep playing if only to check out how well they've done with the later zones. Liking the way the sun shines through clouds, trees etc. favorite use of lense flare effect since Fable 2.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 11:56AM lazymangaka said

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The first MMO that really took my breath away was WoW--the sheer scope of the world was amazing, and wandering around in something so fully realized made me feel very, very small. The first game that amazed me in a technical sense was Aion--everything about the game was gorgeous, and reminded me of the best days of Final Fantasy.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 12:20PM Gloon said

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Vanguard and Guild Wars, for sure. I was also pleasantly surprised with the graphics in Aion.

Posted: Feb 26th 2010 12:22PM (Unverified) said

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The one game that gave me the biggest WOW from it's graphics was not an mmo, but an fps game. When it was first shown to the public, Half-Life 2 just made me freak out and upgrade my computer not once but 3 times and then eventually ended up building an even more powerful computer shortly after Half-Life 2 was released. A new sli motherboard (ultimately a waste of money since i have will probably never use more than 1 video card even on my new tri sli board) an socket 939 Athlon 64 4000+ with a geforce 7800gtx, all for the low low price of "omg what have i done! i spent all my monies". Unfortunaly by the time the game was released it didn't look quite so good compared to all the new games that would soon be coming out, but the first time i saw Half-Life 2 my jaw fell through the ground. I jokingly said to brother that i built the computer just to play counter-strike.

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