Graphics are Important, Copernicus Screenshots

There’s no secret to the fact that I love stylized graphics, and I’m a little bit of a graphics whore.  I prefer stylized over the ‘realistic’ approach for a number of reasons including: (1) My imagination works better with stylized, (2) I think they age better, and (3) Many more liberties can be taken in the design of a game when the graphics aren’t constraining you to reality.

If I had to identify my favorite look, the perfect look of stylized graphics in a game, it would be the graphics in this screenshot below from 38 Studios’ Copernicus. Yeah, yeah, I’ve been talking a lot about them lately.  Screenshots were leaked today, supposedly by some unknown person.  For all I know they’re fake (which I doubt since Curt linked to them via his twitter) but that doesn’t matter.  The images inspired me to write, and already my imagination is creating landscapes, places to go, and gameplay to experience based solely on the art.

Graphics need to excite my imagination.  I’m positive that they play a bigger role than I’ve given them credit in the past.  There’s a lot of “gameplay over graphics” argument out there, and I am 100% on board with the idea that if the gameplay sucks nothing else matters.  Once the gameplay is solid, though, the graphics must bring it home.

Anyway, what do you think (about graphics in general for you and the Copernicus screenshots)? I predict plenty of “Looks like WoW” comments, and to them I guffaw because even my untrained eye can see them as night and day, despite both being stylized.  I love the lack of texture on the horse contrasting the detailed brick work … sheesh I sound like those people I hate from back in my college humanities classes.  I’m done.  Your turn.

The other two Copernicus screenshots can be viewed after the jump.

  • I won’t get hyped till I see some concrete footage and overview of how the game mechanics work.

  • @Darkstryke: I completely agree. That’s why I’m only commenting on the art style. No one can say “The art is amazing, thus the game will be amazing.”

  • The “looks like WoW” comments are also derived from lumpers versus splitters POV’s. It does look like WoW stylistically, but it is far superior in quality (resolution) and quantity (variety) of visual elements.

    I am also a game play over graphics guy. I probably would have given EA one more month of sub money for SWTOR if warzones weren’t slideshows (I am glad I didn’t though).

  • Looks like the primary inspiration for that screenshot is classic children’s illustration from late 19th/early 20th century. Which is an extremely good choice, if so.

    I thought the fly-through video recently released looked garish. Didn’t like it at all. This looks a million times more inviting.

  • @bhagpuss: I’ve watched the video at least 20 times and I’ve noticed that in some areas the graphics looked much better than others — in fact quite like these screens. I think it just didn’t translate well over youtube’s compression or something.

  • It looks a lot like a higher-quality version of Dota 2 brought to a first person perspective (or, rather, those particular models in Dota 2 that have this sort of style that looks like really smooth putty was used to make them).

    I hope they release and do well, the Massively haters in a way vindicate my belief that this will actually be a good game.

  • Yes totally agree with you – stylized graphics usually get pulled off better in an MMO setting. And yes that is a nice choice of smooth NPC graphics vs the crisp brickwork and building details. Who can afford to make this mmo now though? Sony or NCsoft sadly.

  • Couldn’t agree with your more, Keen! My mind went racing when I saw these screens… imagining how the world would take shape, the kinds of places to visit.

    Stylized graphics are the way to go… As a matter of fact, it’s one of my only trepidations about Guild Wars 2. Although stylized, it’s not quite enough especially in context of the characters. Although still looks great! Hell, I’d even prefer a stylized Star Wars game over what we got in TOR.

    Anyway, I have high hopes that 38 can carry on and get this made… what publisher wouldn’t back this at this point?

  • I refuse to say “It looks like WoW”. However….it looks like I think “Titan” will look.

    I recall when WoW came out, people were impressed with how the cartoon style graphics looked. I think this is how the graphics will look when WoW gets a major graphics haul and how their other game “Titan” will look.

    I hope 38 Studios call pull out of this mess and get back on track. However I feel this is the end and that their MMO will be laid to rest.

  • These graphics represent my favorite style. I love WoW’s art, but their graphics need to upgraded to something like this.

    This is a wonderful job, I really hope the game is good!

  • While I love good stylized graphics myself, what makes-or-breaks it for me are buttery smooth animations to go along with it. While WoW has its detractors, you have to agree that the animations really sell the combat and style of the game as well.

  • The comparison to DOTA2 is apt, though for the record I think Valve’s work is superior to these examples. I do especially like the gentleman (!) in the last image here, though. Suffice to say, if Valve launched a DOTA2 MMO with their current graphics, I would immediately give them every piece of my money. Back to the current topic, I am less impressed by the scenery and places on show here than some of the ones in the fly-through video. I find this stuff skillfully done and pleasantly whimsical, but it is not evoking the same sense of place and the fantastic for me. Just my subjection reaction, of course.

    Er, as to the importance of graphics, I think they can be vital, or they can be relatively unimportant, depending on what the game is trying to do. I adore well conceived abstract graphics, as seen in the strategy segments of Endless Space. I also like simplistic, workmanlike graphics, i.e.Dwarf Fortress with a sprite pack. I would much rather play a game with aesthetically interesting and thoughtful but limited graphics, i.e. Dwarf Fortress or a game like Solium Infernum (which is emulating a board game), than one with poorly realized 3D graphics that add nothing to the experience while distracting you with their middling quality.

    My personal obsession right now is the idea that MMORPGs need to embrace isometric graphics or even top-down roguelike style abstraction. This would shift the focus and studio resources from the task of visualizing a massive hi-fidelity world, to realizing a game world of complex interaction and player freedom.

  • That can’t be right… I thought they just qualified for tax credit and even the Rhode Island Governor said he’d help 38 Studios succeed. I hope that’s just bad journalism.

  • Sigh. I’m reading all sorts of rumors about the entirety of 38 Studios being shut down. I hope it’s all horrible reporting.

  • BHG layoffs are real, staff had no warning. Consider this all legit, it should all be coming out in a few hours.

  • I love this style of graphics. At first glance it looks like WoW’s graphics, but there is so much detail and so much awesomeness packed into the graphics that it quickly became my favorite style.

    Too bad we will probably never get to see the rest of the world that these amazing screenshots came from:(