One of the things that continues to baffle me is the push for more intense, more realistic graphics in games. While I’m sure that focus groups have show that people respond to the “better” graphics, and that shelf sales increase based on graphics buzz, every game I’ve ever played, and every game everyone I know has ever played, gets played longer based on the game play and has nothing to do with the graphics.
Seriously, if the game sucks, you put it down. In MMORPGs while box sales are important, continued subscribers and word of mouth are what make a game a long term success. World of Warcraft doesn’t have the best graphics in the world. Sure, they are highly stylized and pretty, but the fact that my 1GHz, 1GB RAM, 256MB ATI 9800 machine runs it great is just awesome. Other games that have come out almost refuse to install on my computer at all. And while I don’t want to put down WoWs graphics, its clearly obvious upon long and repeated play that Blizzard spent alot more time on game content and less time on the graphics than some of their competitors.
At arcades all over the world, despite their being a number of “better” games graphics wise, people still continue to put quarters in games like Pac-Man. Simple graphics with immediately engaging game play. City of Heroes grasped this concept well. With its fast paced wham-bang superhero action, its almost pure fun. Its only real flaw is that the snail’s pace at which later levels progress will make any but the more hardcore gamers and diehard fans stop logging in to play.
So, for me, the perfect MMORPG would have “good” yet not overly expensive or time consuming graphics. Less polygons and shaders, more variety of color and style, and with the millions being saved not being spent on a AAA graphics team, I’d be able to hire a few more content designers to help keep the game exciting to play even if its not the most exciting to look at.