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If I see one more shiny surface...


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Consider this an open letter to game developers (they surf the net, right?):

 

It really seemed to start with Halo: metallic walls and floors that had a real shine to it. Halo used the effect a lot (because there were a lot of metal surfaces) but it still seemed tasteful.

 

Fast forward to today and you find the same technique being overused to a sickening extreme. There are games where EVERY surface has that shiny bump mapped surface. While it may be acceptable for some metallic surfaces to shine it is certainly not acceptable for the skin textures of characters to gleam like my professionally polished dress shoes. Oh, by the way, clothing and organic surfaces (wood, plants, etc.) generally reflect light a bit differently than metal -in case you were wondering.

 

Even the use of this effect on metallic surfaces is getting pretty disgusting. Why is it that the vast majority of evil organizations hang out in immaculately sterile environments? They sure exhibit a fine sense of good housekeeping despite their otherwise questionable ethical lifestyles. Even the junk thrown around many game levels are sparkliningly hygienic in appearance. Just who is the janitor for these evil empires?

 

Development teams who overuse metallic textures are cheaters, plain and simple. I will no longer support your decision to cut corners with my game buying funds. The fact that you had no problem cutting corners with the visuals implies there will likely be sacrifices made in gameplay as well (are the developers of Brute Force listening?).

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I remember feeling the same way when everyone started using colored lighting in games. I felt like I was in some video game nightclub hell. It eventually got better though as the developers got better at using it more effectively and I'm guessing the shiny surface effect will end up the same way.

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It seems to be the flavor of the month. A couple of years ago it was particle effects. Next year it will be something different but equally overused.

 

It's like learning a new layer effect in Photoshop. Everything you make for awhile uses that same effect. Down the road the coolness factor wears off and you can incorporate it into your design without it being the central feature.

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I was just noticing it the other day on a Half-life 2 video I saw over at Gamespot.

This trailer shows some of the DirectX 9-specific effects that are possible in Valve's Source engine, notably soft shadows, high-dynamic range rendering, and characters rendered with both reflective and diffuse bumpmapping.

 

Now, obviously the whole point of the movie is to show off the effects, but at one point it shows one of the aliens that apparently has a hard lobster-like shell. Now I've seen a lot of crabs and lobsters in my time, and I've never seen one reflect light like this thing does. While it is a cool effect, it reminds me of Homer cubed "this looks expensive", but lowers the level of realism. Hopefully they crank that down a few notches for the actual game.

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Lens flare was another effect that got over-used for a while. I haven't seen too much abuse of "shiny", but the most egregious example I can think of was Kajuto Chojin. Seemed like every single fighter in the game had an extra-thick layer of Mop-N-Glo on them. It went way past "cool" and into "bizarre", IMO.

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Like television and film, there is always opportunity (and temptation) to indulge in a new artistic effect. However, unlike movies, video games are still a relatively young form of entertainment and new methods of visual presentation emerge on a much more rapid scale.

 

JohnE and others make a good point - the "shiny effect" is analogous to the discovery of a new toy in Photoshop. It'll simply take time for artists to evolve and find more tasteful ways of incorporation.

 

Think of the "Pause and Pan" effect pioneered (AFAIK) by The Matrix. Soon enough, everyone copied and used it to ill effect.

 

However, I believe there is a certain showmanship factor associated with these sort of tacky add-ons. Punchy graphics are one of the best ways to draw attention to your new game, and shiny, glistening visuals are much more captivating (on initial impressions, anyway) than an austere presentation.

 

Also, it appears that many gamers (casual ones, especially) tend to judge a game largely by graphical merit and look not much deeper. Game developers have to survive, after all, and pandering to the masses may be a good idea from a sales standpoint. They just leave people like us feeling lukewarm.

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It's just the newest toy for developers to play with, it'll calm down when replaced by something worse :lol:

 

Reminds me of CGI in movies. First there was Jurassic Park where CGI was central to the look of it and done very well. Then we had a rash of CGI movies where every darn thing was CGI'ed in there, maybe the very worst offender being George Lucas himself with the Star Wars Blechh-ology currently working on v0.3. Then along comes something like LOTR that uses lots of CGI but does it fairly seemlessly and as part of an actual story, all is right with the world.

 

Once they get good at it and calm down, bump mapping will go the same way.

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Originally posted by Snakefish@Sep 30 2003, 04:54 PM

It's just the newest toy for developers to play with, it'll calm down when replaced by something worse :lol:

 

Reminds me of CGI in movies. First there was Jurassic Park where CGI was central to the look of it and done very well. Then we had a rash of CGI movies where every darn thing was CGI'ed in there, maybe the very worst offender being George Lucas himself with the Star Wars Blechh-ology currently working on v0.3. Then along comes something like LOTR that uses lots of CGI but does it fairly seemlessly and as part of an actual story, all is right with the world.

 

Once they get good at it and calm down, bump mapping will go the same way.

I agree with Snakefish; it'll go as the flavor of the month. It's like the shaky-camera thing on NYPD Blue; I can't watch it, it disorients me. And, lately, I've seen good shows all of the sudden start using it, or use it for one scene; which, if it's appropriate for the scene, sure, but....

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