Do graphics matter and is it dependent on your age?

Jan 23, 2020
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I started thinking the other day that most games I've played recently I got on Steam and they were anywhere from four years old to current. I built my current PC in 2014, but I can play anything (so far). It doesn't really matter to me if I'll have to play Cyberpunk 2077 at medium levels. I don't see a whole lot of difference any more. It seems like in the late 90s (I'm 43) every 6 months to a year you would see some huge game improvement with the visuals. It just seems like in the last 10 years or so there's not much difference. A game running on medium, to me, doesn't look like a bad game compared to the early 3D stuff we had in the late 90s. I just saw a comment on a story on here where they said Mass Effect (2007), which I just played a few months back, was "basically unplayable" because of the graphics. I've heard similar comments on Skyrim where a person said it wasn't even playable now without a graphics mod. I've never used any graphic overhaul mods because, though I do see the age, it still looks pretty good. So I started wondering if these opinions are due to the age of the gamers and whether younger gamers are more concerned with this stuff than older gamers who made due with, at the time revolutionary, but now rudimentary graphics?
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Yeah, EGA was `84, VGA in `87, SVGA maybe a year later. You could have CGA in `83 at 320x200 resolution and just five years later be at 800x600 SVGA with vastly more colors to boot.

Skyrim still looks wonderful. The big thing, to me, that it doesn't have is tessellation so stuff looks rather nasty up close - much more like polygons painted to look like rocks than actual rocks. Still looks completely epic using 3D Vision, though.

I don't know what's up with people exclaiming "unplayable." You'll hear that from people who can't imagine playing at under 120fps, too. I've seen folks go on about how they need a SMOOTH 60fps to play turn based games!
 
At first, with a freshly built PC, graphics mean a lot more to me than using the same computer 4 or 5 years later. If i am playing on a tv they dont matter at all since sitting on a couch playing games you really cant see the small differences like anti-aliasing and stuff at least for me, so i turn them off to get higher FPS which is more important in that situation to me as well.

I don't know what's up with people exclaiming "unplayable." You'll hear that from people who can't imagine playing at under 120fps, too. I've seen folks go on about how they need a SMOOTH 60fps to play turn based games!
I think people are straight up lying when they say those things and makes them look like someone who isnt an actual gamer imo.
 
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Apr 4, 2020
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Good question, something I've asked myself the last few years. If someone thinks that a game from 2007 is 'unplayable' because of graphics, I reply: what about the modscene? Why is Doom, a 30 year old game, still being played? Why do peoply still make maps for it? I still play Wolfenstein 3D, commander Keen,...and I think hey hold up, even today. So no, it's not only about graphics. I think the main problem today is that gamers don't have the patience to play older games. Games need to be 'fast', with as little learning curves as possible. Slow games are done. Gamers in 2020 have too much choice: too many games, little time. I think very few young gamers will play an excellent (story tellling) game from early 2000's (or 90's).
 
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I've seen folks go on about how they need a SMOOTH 60fps to play turn based games!
Yeah, I've seen that too—good for a smile :)

I don't know what's up with people exclaiming "unplayable."
Me neither. As Wraith_3 said:
A game running on medium, to me, doesn't look like a bad game
I'm an older gamer and I love good graphics—I prioritize GPU in my builds—but gameplay is the thing by far.
 
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Jul 13, 2020
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I don't care about graphic at all. I play indie titles, pixel art games, cell shader games, anything as long as story is good and gameplay is fun.
There are some games with amazing graphic that are just dull and boring.
 
Jan 14, 2020
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I guess how much you value the graphics of games is also dependent on how much you enjoy keeping up with the latest and greatest tech in gaming. If we were to divide 'gamers' into a few categories, say casual, regular and enthusiast gamers, I would definitely count myself as part of the latter category. I'm the type of person who's always tinkering with his machine, keeping up with hardware trends and upgrading parts every other generation. If that's you, then you probably want a showpiece game to give your upgraded machine a workout.

When I boot a game up for the first time, my instinct is to fiddle with the settings until I get them as close to ultra as possible without dipping below 55-60 fps at the minimum. I'll even set custom GPU profiles in Nvidia Control Panel for different games. Sometimes I tinker so much that I barely get around to actually playing the damn thing. It was that way for me with Skyrim, and there's been other titles as well.

That said, my actual favourite games are by no means technical showcases or even all about their graphics engines. Dark Souls, XCOM 2, Path of Exile and even the venerable World of Warcraft are a few of my most loved titles and it's not about the graphics for any of those. Their gameplay shines through above all else, which is particularly true for WoW (or more specifically, WoW Classic) which is 15 years old at this point. It's amazing art style and scalability has kept it fresh all those years, and the inclusion of some modern rendering techniques are welcome.
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I would also like to add that there is nothing inherently wrong the graphics of old games, but some games just haven't aged very well. Let's take the classic first-person shooter Blood and its sequel Blood II: The Chosen as an example.





Which holds up better to your eyes? I vastly prefer the graphics of the original to that of the sequel in 2020. Early 3D games were impressive at the time, but now just look extremely dated and basic. I remember staring at a TV running Super Mario 64 in a shopping mall window and being blown away by how good it looked and how smooth it seemed to be running, but when you look at that title now.. whoooa boy.

I think there's a reason early shooters like Doom are so fondly remembered now, even for their looks. No one seems to feel the need to update it and I think that's because they were built in such a way that their graphics look timeless rather than old. N64/PS1-era 3D games though, even the PC versions, not so much.
 
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I think it depends. A lot of games like Euro Truck Simulator, Path of Exile are fine. But then look at Two Point Hospital compared to Theme Hospital. The graphics are still plain but are vastly improved.

Then take something like Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. It's a really demanding title. I can run it at 1080p with some settings turned down. I actually own a 4k TN monitor and it looks absolutely stunning - albeit completely unplayable at that resolution.

I really need to upgrade my trusty GTX 1060 6gb as I'd like to play in 4k. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, AC: Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077.
 
I'm an older millennial bordering on being a Gen X'r with a more than average interest in PC hardware. You better believe when I upgrade my system I'm firing up the best looking toughest to run game I can find at ultra settings. I'll also play through some other game again on the new hardware to feel the difference, next time up it will probably be Control.

Having said that by far my most played game this year is Battle Brothers and by the end of the year Crusader Kings 3 will be up there too no doubt. Fidelity matters in some games much more than others, and art style is way more important.

I think there's a bit of a parallel with film. In that during the 1990's and before special effects were a huge marketing point for a big budget film, to the point where it was the prime selling point for something like Lawnmower Man, or Independence Day.

By 2000-2005 I feel it began to reach a point where excellent realistic special effects were available for attainable budgets for many film and TV makers through software using off the shelf parts, and became the norm. The art style became the thing you talked about much more than the quality of the special effects. For the most part.

I feel like the same happened to games in a way. Even since the beginning of the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 gen graphical improvements have been incremental rather then revolutionary. I'm sure there's a large element of hyperbole to anyone saying that Mass Effect or Skyrim are 'unplayable' due to the graphics. Perhaps the combination of dated graphics with the way those games play makes them feel older. I wonder if they would feel the same way about games like Bioshock or Half Life 2, which play amazingly well still IMO and have hardly dated mechanically.

I also wonder what those same people say about all the pixel art metroidvaniarogue2dsoulslikes over the last few years.
 
Jan 23, 2020
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I'm an older millennial bordering on being a Gen X'r with a more than average interest in PC hardware. You better believe when I upgrade my system I'm firing up the best looking toughest to run game I can find at ultra settings. I'll also play through some other game again on the new hardware to feel the difference, next time up it will probably be Control.
Oh I definitely do that when I build a new PC. I just started thinking about how I play games and I don't feel the need to chase the best graphics the way I did in the mid to late 90s when everything was experiencing a drastic change. You HAD to upgrade every two years because the new games really would not play. Now it doesn't feel like you need to do that. When I built my current PC in Dec. 2013 I went from playing Battlefield 3 to trying the Battlefield 4 demo, and it would just not display the newer graphics. So I had to upgrade!
 
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@Wraith_3 I think you're right that the difference between medium and ultra isn't all that much really. Especially when it means that medium can be enjoyed at higher frame rates that just feel nicer. It does feel good to go back to that game and max it and still have the high FPS a gen later.

In 2012 I was running an I5 3570k, 8GB RAM with a Radeon HD7950. I feel like I could still play any of my games now on that CPU and GPU on lowered settings. If I think back to around 2004, when I had a 3.2 Ghz P4 HT 1GB RAM and a Radeon X800GTO I would not have been able to play anything modern at all in 2012! 8 Years before that I had a Pentium 100mhz with 8mb of RAM and didnt even own a 3d accelerated graphics card, I'm not sure I could even have used Windows XP on that machine.

I feel like either the tech is advancing faster then developers ability to take full advantage of it. Or possibly they focus more on accessibility these days to reach a wider market, I guess that would be the consoles holding PC back argument. Or maybe we are being to be limited by developers imaginations. Usually its a little from column A B and C I suppose.

Anyway I find it interesting to think about!
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
I like to play NetHack with it's ANSI character "graphics" as my first game on a new PC. When you get a system with that much power, the first thing you need to do is make sure it understands its place in your life. YOU are the boss here! If YOU want to spend $1000 on a graphics card then play a game with graphics that an old 68000 CPU would laugh at, then you'll fraggin' well do it and there's NOTHING that fancy graphics card do to stop you!! BWWAAAHHAHAHAHAHAA!

Yeah, the tech really just isn't advancing that fast now. Sound cards stopped being a thing long ago. It's a big deal if a new CPU is even 20% faster than ones that came out a couple of years back - they're more interested in using less electricity now. VR might really give GPUs something to chase after, though, at least until quantum computers get popular and do heaven-knows-what to the industry.
 
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:D

I guess single threaded performance on x86 architecture isn't advancing that fast to be specific. As I understand it ARM based stuff is already faster at the bleeding edge and there's a danger for Intel and AMD CPU's that they become obsolete in the not to distant future. Apple is moving to its own ARM based chips and I think I read somewhere that Amazon and Google are running ARM based servers already?

There's been a lot of talk about developers not optimizing games for multi-core systems over the last few years, and it seems to be partially true. If with the new gen consoles being actually comparable to a high end PC on release this time with 16 threads to play with maybe they'll come up with some new tricks. It just seems all the low hanging fruit has gone for development.

We have massive increasingly photorealistic 3d world to wander about in, are they just going to make the worlds bigger and more photo-realistic and put even more collectables and fetch quests in there forever. I still honestly think VR is a novelty. When we see a console like system for a reasonable price that focuses entirely on VR instead of flat screen gaming it will have arrived in my mind. At the moment its a rich kids toy.

I'm not really a fan of Hideo Kojima, but I kind of wish more publishers would give such big budgets to more people with outside of the box ideas. Rather then focus testing to death and giving us remixes of the same recipes with different increasingly detailed skins on them. Its understandable because business doesnt work that way, but its a shame anyway.
 
Jan 23, 2020
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:D
We have massive increasingly photorealistic 3d world to wander about in, are they just going to make the worlds bigger and more photo-realistic and put even more collectables and fetch quests in there forever. I still honestly think VR is a novelty. When we see a console like system for a reasonable price that focuses entirely on VR instead of flat screen gaming it will have arrived in my mind. At the moment its a rich kids toy.
I played a lot of flightsims back in the late 90s and I would have given anything to have a VR headset that would let you look around to keep track of enemy planes. Now I agree I think it's a fad, for the most part. If I had the money for a VR headset, I'd rather put it towards a new graphics card or something.
 
Apr 4, 2020
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Just this weekend I played M1 Tank platoon on archive.org. No idea why, could have been because of this topic :D Made in 1989, but somehow...great game, even now. Solid gameplay.
 

Frindis

Moderator
I think it all has to do with nostalgia. I love playing games from my childhood because they bring good memories, not to mention a lot of them were quite well made. Now, I have tried my absolute best to introduce my nephews to these games and for the most part, the comment is: "It looks soooo old!". It is quite understandable when you think of how much technology has advanced and that they don't have a personal link to those games. I'm pretty sure they will also have a similar option whenever they look back a decade or two and remember the games they played on their PC.
 
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I think it all has to do with nostalgia. I love playing games from my childhood because they bring good memories, not to mention a lot of them were quite well made. Now, I have tried my absolute best to introduce my nephews to these games and for the most part, the comment is: "It looks soooo old!". It is quite understandable when you think of how much technology has advanced and that they don't have a personal link to those games. I'm pretty sure they will also have a similar option whenever they look back a decade or two and remember the games they played on their PC.
I think this is definitely part of it. I'm much more able to deal with poor graphics if I have a past history with a game. If I try to play an old game with no history with it I will probably not be very forgiving. It is important to note that I think people - incorrectly - reduce the dislike of old games to graphics being dated. But that is only part of the story, really. There are many other dated elements to these games, in many games. For example, physics, and just simply how your character controls have both improved drastically over the years. There are a lot of small mechanical changes that have compounded over the years. Older games are (usually) significantly worse than new games in nearly every way, not just graphics. When you don't have nostalgia glasses, dealing with the deficiencies of old games becomes more difficult.
 
Jan 23, 2020
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I think it all has to do with nostalgia. I love playing games from my childhood because they bring good memories, not to mention a lot of them were quite well made. Now, I have tried my absolute best to introduce my nephews to these games and for the most part, the comment is: "It looks soooo old!". It is quite understandable when you think of how much technology has advanced and that they don't have a personal link to those games. I'm pretty sure they will also have a similar option whenever they look back a decade or two and remember the games they played on their PC.
I've shown my nephew (now 17yo) some older Star Wars games, because we both love SW, and he's liked several of them. The one he had trouble with is Dark Forces, which I can kind of see why. He said the same thing "It looks so old!" He said it was obviously SW, but looked ancient. I think that's why it's harder for kids who grew up with modern games to see familiar characters in those games because the graphics are antiquated. I've been wanting to fire up TIE Fighter because I'm betting that even though the graphics on it are really old, he would get into it because it's SW.
 
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Frindis

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Quite understandable with Dark Forces @Wraith_3 I tried it around 3 months back and oh man did I have a reeeeeeealy hard time finding the different objectives because of how hard it is to see what is what. I remember entering some waste system and ended up quitting not long after that because I got so confused as to where to go.

That said, a game like Tetris would always stay popular regardless (bold statement) of any decade and I think that also has to do with how easy the game is to get into and how it looks pretty good for its age, not to mention the vast amount of different versions there are today, with Tetris Effect being the newest. The speedrunning community has also helped with breathing new life into older games and getting a new generation of teens interested. A graphically enhanced version of an old game is also a nice way for the newer generation to enjoy an older game. Just take Monkey Island 2 as an example and how it looks really crisp in with a little facelift. I still prefer the older version, but that is because I'm an old fart.
 
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Jan 23, 2020
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That's the crazy part to me is that I remember back in 95 when I got it, it was the most realistic SW game ever! It and TIE Fighter made me think "I'm in Star Wars!" and now, not so much. I still love the music though.

I actually missed Monkey Island 2 because our computer at the time wouldn't play it (played the first one) so I have it on GOG. I need to fire it up.
 
Apr 4, 2020
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Yeah. I remember firing up Dark Forces with our very first double speed CD-ROM drive. Oh boy, the detail!!!! No, not kidding. It looked fabulous in those days.
 

pocketshaver

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Dec 12, 2020
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If you consider that most games seem to be MEANT to be completed in 6-10 hours, and even the most arent fans that i know... say they cant play the game more then once becuase to them "i played it, it can only be played one way, so its meaningless to play again"

But yet you can spend 20 hours wandering the first level of Tomb Raider..... LOTS of people spent hundreds of hours just exploring the croft estate in the training levels for fun.
 
I kinda understand thinking Skyrim is unplayable without a graphic overhaul, because I can't really go back to Oblivion either, let alone Morrowind, without being bothered by the graphics. I could probably get used to it again if I really wanted to, but I can imagine if you have no history with the game it can be a lot harder.
 
Dec 14, 2020
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I still remember my first Unreal Game (1998). I bought a whole new pc and all this vodoo and 3dfx stuff was fascinating for me. I sat in a complete dark room with my rig in the corner and was amazed by the impressive visuals :)
* The old Outcast was also great.

I´d like to say it´s a matter of age and personal aspirations. Maybe mine are low, but for me the power consumption of my gpu is more important. I would be stressed playing with one of those new 3000gtx monster, knowing the maintenance- cost :D

Nowadays I´m happy when I´m free off Motion- sickness and I have the impression that the developers cared for gamers with low-mid rigs.

I think the last games I was impressed by where Kingdom Come: Deliverance, AC: Unity and TC Wildlands. In general I would say graphics are a bit overhyped. I think the focus should be on creating a lively world. I always thought you mustn´t stand still for too long in these games or you realize how much more there is to do (in terms of creating a believable, breathing virtual world.)

However, I´m still very excited what kind of gaming experience I will face in the future :)
 
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Nov 15, 2020
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Until you experience something better, the current tech is always going to seem incredible. After playing mostly 2d scrollers through the early 90s, the first wave of 3D games like Doom and Wipeout absolutely blew me away. However, just because of that, I'm not happy with less today, so to speak. While I may not be able to afford a card like the 3080 instantly at launch, it doesn't make me want to have that in my rig eventually and experience say ultra or psycho RTX in CP77 as opposed to medium. That desire to experience cutting-edge graphics has stayed with me since the start.
 
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