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Screenshots: Truth in Advertising?


rustyjaw
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After posting my observations and concerns about the screenshots in the Colin McRae 5 thread, I decided that maybe this issue deserves a thread of its own.

 

I'm of the opinion that altering screenshots, particularly pre-release ones, is not a cool thing to do. Whether it's getting screens directly from the frame buffer because they look better, or going so far as to modify the screens in photoshop, it's all, IMO a form of false-advertising.

 

If in fact Codemasters plans to add DOF blurring to the game, then either they should post an actual sample of what it the renderer does, or they should just say, 'it's too early to show - so here are some in-progress screenshots without the DOF technology'

 

I personally doubt that the game will have DOF blurring, or if it does it will be subtle. The reason I believe that is because I think it would be distracting, and unrealistic. Yes, if you look at something in the foreground, then the background is blurred, but when you shift your gaze to the background it instantly comes into focus. If a game tried to simulate DOF, it would have to shift the focal plane to where you were looking, which is, for all practical purposes, impossible (although certainly not technically impossible)...otherwise the background would always look out of focus.

 

I think they added the DOF effect into the screens just to make them look nicer, the problem I outlined above doesn't apply to still imagery, we are used to the way a camera freezes the current DOF it's lens sees, so the effect looks 'photographic'.

 

Of course, Codemasters didn't invent this idea, I've seen untold numbers of pre-release screens that either do incredible amounts of Anti-aliasing (possible on a PC, but not so much so on consoles), or have DOF effects, soft focus, etc.

 

So what is the consensus? Should game companies be made to put disclaimers on the screens, like ads for TVs do when they show a 'simulated picture'? Or is it OK if they gussy up their screens to make the game look better?

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I really don't have a problem with it. :shock:

This happens in every industry and I've just grown to expect it. A good example is food on tv, has your hamburger ever looked that good?

The computer industry is a bit strange, because they theorically can make an exact copy to publish it, but then there's the fact that they publish on different consoles, and for different PC hardware. My point is if you publish a game for pc's and consoles, the PC game can look a lot better, is it false advertising to put a picture of the pc game on the front of the console box? Not to me it isn't.

 

Another similiar example is the auto shows. Manufacturers build near production vehicles that they expect to be hitting show rooms in the next few months. Problem is the cars coming off the assembly line may look/be different from the one at the auto show, do you feal dupped in this instance?

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Good points, but like you said, computer technology can make exact copies, and in the case of CMR5, they have taken the output of the game engine and done significant amounts of post-processing to the images to make them look nicer.

 

In fact, I claim that they are making them look nicer than is even possible in-game because the effect is not even achievable with today's technology (depth of field is dependent on where your gaze is).

 

FWIW, I also doubt that the soft focus screens that circulated for Rallisport will reflect what the game looks like. I'd love to be wrong though.

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I don't like it either. I want to see what the game is really going to look like. If I want to see fantasy I'll look at a Playboy centerfold.

 

I'd even extend this line of thought to (virtually all) screen shots released at a higher than final resolution. The recent Halo 2 screens, for example, are clearly not at 640x480. If the shots are from a higher resolution then the game damn well better run at that res upon release. Too often I see console screens wich cannot be recreated on the actual console.

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You've hit on one of my sore points too, Camp. I am not so taken aback by the DOF stuff mainly because as a non-racer I have no idea what you guys are talking about (until Ed's helpful comparison shots).

 

But when companies jack up the res for pics just to make them look nice, then yeah, the game should be playable (and I mean playable, not statuesque) at that resolution. This is, as you note, a big problem amongst console titles and to me it constitutes fradulent advertising in a form because some people will expect the game to play at that res.

 

I mean, if the game doesn't look like it plays, what the heck is the point besides trying to dupe your end product user?

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Ahh, but you know what else is a factor? The games often look different on your television than they do in screenshots viewed on your computer. (I find a lot of games lately, Colin McRae 4 is one of them, look much better on my TV than in the screenshots)

 

I say they can do what they want with screenshots, but when the game screenshots start looking progressively worse, as has been the case with a few titles in development, the disappointed word of mouth can have a negative effect on the game's sales. (although admittedly this is more among the hardcore gamers & not a casual gamer who sees a high-res screenshot or magazine ad & expects the game to look like that)

 

False advertising? Yeah. Doesn't bother me much though-I can always find enough screenshots of the actual game graphics on the 'net nearer the game's release. A little trickery early on in the development to get me excited honestly doesn't bug me...but that's just me.

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Well, it's probably different for different people. I try not to get to razzle-dazzled by graphics, but if you're going to flaunt how damn good your game looks, I'd rather it looked how it does when I'm playing it.

 

It's like buying a Porsche out of a catalogue and then finding out that in the actual car somebody beat in the window ;).

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Guest Bryan

I'm with Dan on this one. I don't mind seeing an early shot that has the kind of alteration you are describing, Ed. I am not sophisticated enough to know what that is and would never notice it in a photo or in the game. I would notice drastically reduced quality in screenshots that are released close to street date, however. Most review sites cram all the photos together with dates that let you see the evolution of the game.

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Just to play devil's advocate, is there any chance that the screen shots done in a higher resolution than what is possible in-game are created because a 640x480 image might not look very good in a magazine article where the printing format could degrade the image to look worse than it does in the game?

 

I know what everyone's complaint is here, and I do agree. I would much prefer to see an actual screenshot from the game that may accurately reflect how it will appear on my TV screen. As someone mentioned already, the recent batch of Halo 2 screens look far better than anything that's possible on the Xbox, mostly because of the higher resolution. The same can be said of pre-release screens of Ninja Gaiden, and the Grand Theft Auto games on Xbox. When I saw these particular screenshots, I knew that there was no way these games would ever achieve that on my TV. Did I get mad? Not really, because I knew to expect less and therefore was not setting myself up for disappointment.

 

One thing I do like is when websites like IGN or GameSpot get their hands on the final versions of these games and can then do their own screen captures. That's usually when we finally get to see what a title looks like without a touchup artist brushing out all of the jaggies and imperfections. Say what you will about some of these online gaming sites, you have to admit that the screenshots they produce are usually the most accurate representations of what a game looks like when you play it.

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Just to play devil's advocate, is there any chance that the screen shots done in a higher resolution than what is possible in-game are created because a 640x480 image might not look very good in a magazine article where the printing format could degrade the image to look worse than it does in the game?

 

Yes, assuming a magazine is printed at 133 line-screen, the image should be at 266dpi. If the screenshot is 640 pixels wide, that means it would print 2.4" across, you could get away with 3" and still maintain quality...but that's about as big as you'll get before it starts to pixelate.

 

So clearly game companies are rendering oversized screens for magazines, paging through a recent issue of G.I. shows a lot of half- and full-page screenshots.

 

I can forgive that to some extent, but I still don't like the doctoring of screens, such as what's done to the CMR5 ones.

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Originally posted by Baiter@Apr 29 2004, 02:53 PM

A good example is food on tv, has your hamburger ever looked that good?

 

Most major industries there is always some type of "false" advertising. Staying on Kev's food example; I love how some fast food joints will show you the burger being created in a kitchen, with someone chopping the lettuce and tomatoes on a cutting board with an expensive knife, and as Kev said, making it look so good. Yet we all know they are hastily slapped together by some pimple face teenager that doesn't give a crap. Furthermore, I've yet to come across the hot blonde that greets me with a huge smile at any fast food joint.

 

Another trend that always bugs me is the lab coats/clip boards/bullshit "testing". A recent Lexus commercial shows the car running through a battery of stupid, unrealistic tests that don't prove a damn thing. Wow, look at the car run straight through buckets of water that are falling. Holy shit, he just didn't drive through that plume of smoke, did he??? :shock:

 

How about the E-loan commercials? The stupid bitch that shows up with the laptop and the guy finds out he's instantly approved? Yeah, I went to E-loan and it took 30 minutes to find out they didn't even offer loans in my area.... this was after I took the time to fill in my info.

 

I do hate this kind of advertising, but I've come to accept it as the norm. For the record, I obviously take all forms of advertising with a big 'ole spoon of salt. I will usually research a product or service I'm interested in myself, and make the judgment call with my wallet after I'm sure I know what it can and can't do.

 

As far as game screen shots... I always figured they are altered to improve resolution on print or pc screen, and it doesn't bother me. After all, I don't buy a game based on screen shots. Anyone remember the Final Fantasy TV commercial that showed nothing but FMV and not a single gameplay image? I cracked up when I first saw that.

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So I wonder then what the difference is between ads that present obviously fictitious situations or representation of their products and such things as ads for televisions where they add a disclaimer about a simulated picture? Companies wouldn't add the disclaimer unless they had to, so why is that a special case?

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I think you guys are shooting the moon on this one. In an industry as cut throat and quick lifecycle as video games, they are always going to pull this sort of 'false' advertising. If I was making a game and could send a magazine a nice screensnap or an excellent 3x resolution one, I'd be dumb to send the low rez pic. Every gamer in the world will take one look at your truthful advert, glance to the enhanced high rez one from another companies on the next page, and dismiss your game as crap.

 

You ever seen where they take a real picture of the actual food in a restaurant and hang it ont he wall or put it in the menu? It seriously makes you doubt your dining decision. When I see the glistening, colorful, waxy perfect photo of Kung Pow Chicken, I never expect the actual dish to look as good (and it never has).

 

But you can't taste a photo and you can't play a screenshot, so I use them as guides not definitive proofs of the end result. There's no substitute for another gamer's review of the actual product, and that's all I care about. Come to think of it, I almost never look at box screenshots anymore, I know what to expect before I ever came into the store.

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