Posts Tagged ‘ graphics ’

Flailing In The Brush

I wandered back to Guild Wars 2 Guru today.  I haven’t really visited the place for months, well, since just before Gamescom.  The most I noticed was the same debates, speculations, and arguments running in circles.  Most everything I saw, I’ve seen before.

Chiefest among the activity though, seems to be talk about the final design of the sylvari.  You’d have to be blind not to realize that, among eager fans, the sylvari are the most popular race.  Charr come in at a close second, but whenever I see something about the sylvari, the tone, excitement, and sheer amount of attention far outstrips that generated for the other races.

I was browsing through a sylvari speculation post (looking for images, and admiring the artwork of other Guild Wars fans) when I stumbled upon a link to a video.  In it, Daniel Dociu is talking about the art of Guild Wars 2.  The link directs to a specific part of the video where he mentions something rang absolutely true.

The point is just about at 6 minutes in.

He refers to the realization of the final sylvari design as a ‘crystallization’.

I knew immediately what he was talking about.  I’ve heard other artists talk about this phenomena, and I’ve experienced it myself when working on my own stories.  You can tell there’s something not right but you can’t see it, and you don’t know in which direction the truth lies.

Your only option is to flail around.  That’s ArenaNet’s design process.  You make many different images hoping you’ll stumble upon the right one.  The magic happens when you find it.

The truth, the right idea, word, image, or concept, when found, is so startlingly obvious you don’t know how you could have missed it before now.

I think the sylvari have been embroiled in controversy for so long exactly because the design wasn’t final.  They looked a little too much like elves, too muck like plants, or not enough like either.  With any opinion came the undercurrent of ‘There’s something not right‘.  As a race, they weren’t quite their own.

None of the other races have that problem.  The charr are what they are and there’s no mistaking it.  It’s the same with the asura, and the norn.

After listening to that interview I’m very excited to see the polished sylvari.  If they got it right, the concept should stand on its own and the truth of its existence should be self-evident.

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Toy Story + Video

When I first found my way to Aaron Coberly’s gallery on CG Hub I was excited about what I saw. I thought these images were only test renders, and not actual in-game images.

But now I’m not so sure. Video gaming has changed quite a bit from what it was when I was learning the trade. I look at the polygonal subdivision in models like this and think, “There’s no way an engine or any home computer short of a $10,000 machine can handle that in an MMO.”

I came home and flailed at Mr. Tigerfeet for a while about this. He just laughed at me and told me I had been playing WoW for too long. ‘Games These Days™’ can, and do look as stylish as these (supposedly in-game) images do.

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone. A general ‘Hey, looks good’ is never enough for me.

I’ve got no issues with the textures. The quality and resolution are both top-notch. The normal mapping even excites me. (Normal maps are a way to make the illusion of extra geometry without the extra geometry actually being there, Mr. Warrior’s abs are a good example)

What makes me cringe, however, is the flesh and hair. The armor looks great, but the faces and the hair (on this warrior especially) set my teeth on edge. Can you see it too? I think he looks plastic, too-perfect, like a toy.

It has been said by the Guild Wars 2 design staff (I can’t find the specific interview, but I promise it exists), that they want the artistic style to be somewhere between photorealistic and painterly. What I see above is neither.

Painterly: Characterized by qualities of color, stroke, and texture rather than line.

Mr. Tigerfeet finally ransacked a box left by an old (OLD!) roommate and started playing a PS2 game called Wild Arms 3. Though toon-rendered (the toon-render outline always drives me nuts) I would describe it as a very painterly game.

The textures all look like they’ve got a scratch film placed over the top of them. Nothing is smooth and everything is gritty.

I’ve often derided Blizzard for the art execution in WoW. The graphics are a decade out of date, and were even out of date when they were first launched. I played the first Guild wars when it launched and was absolutely blown away by the beauty all around me. I would often stop and take a quiet moment (much to Mr. Tigerfeet’s consternation) to just admire the scenery. Blizzard only seemed to realize the value of an attractive landscape with its latest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.

Needless to say, I’m expecting a similar impact from Guild Wars 2. WoW might have had low-quality graphics, but they didn’t stretch for photo-realism. They knew they were making something cartoony and they stuck with it, and it worked.

I think when photorealism is striven for, at least for now, it always falls short. It’s in the falling short where the dangers arise. We live in the real world, we see it all the time. When we are presented with something that is trying to look real but not quite there, the effect is jarring and uncomfortable. Instead of appreciating how far the visuals have come and being amazed at the high quality of artwork, we are left feeling that something is subtly wrong, feeling vaguely disturbed and unable to put our fingers on why.

This is the feeling I get from these character renders. I know not everyone feels the same way I do. It may be as well, that when all the disparate elements are assembled together they will make a more beautiful and unified whole than is implied by just their component parts.

The video clips of elementalist skills leaves me with such a hope.

PS: That phoenix skill? I’d lay money that’s a pack of Lady-Charr getting the crispy end of things. I’m loving those whippy tails.

Of Charr and Lightning

As I have, in the past, expressed my dislike for those blogs who do nothing but regurgitate news, my posts over the coming months may come as a bit of a surprise (depending on who you are).

If you are:

  1. A long-time reader of mine: You may be horrified to find that I am, indeed, regurgitating news. I hope you won’t be too disappointed with me however because of the reason I’ll be surprising-
  2. A new reader, interested in news of Guild Wars 2: You’ll be getting some news, though likely not as much as you’d like. What you will be getting plenty of, however, are copious amounts of my personal opinion.

I’m the kind of person who hates being given advice and opinions unless I ask for them. As such, I try not to burden others with my (often morose) maunderings. Opinionated stream-of-consciousness writing, however, comes with the territory. It’s my blog and all that fun jazz.

So, without further ado…

DID YOU SEE!?!

Grandma, my what big TEETH you have!

That, my fine feathered friends, is a Lady-Charr, an elementalist Lady-Charr. I found this ‘new’ screenshot on the GW2 website, under the just-released info on everyone’s favorite lightning-slinging class, the Elementalist.

Because I like to pretend to being a logical-type person I’m going to guess that the Charr can be Elementalists. (not that big of a cognitive leap, I know, but bear with me, the acrobatics are coming)

I’m going to guess that all classes are available to all of the races. I’m not stating this as any kind of assurance as I really don’t know, but I’m putting my toes out there in the water and saying “That’s my guess.” Mainly, I have to say that if any of the races were to not have elementalists, I would have put my money on the Charr eschewing the lofty art of meteor-chucking.

You know, that whole ‘power from false gods‘ debacle. But we’ll not talk about all that in polite company, it’s an issue best left in the litter box.

Charr being able to call down fire from the skies makes me quite happy. Not because I want to be a fire-slinging puss, but because I want to slip into my familiar Guild Wars role of healer. I was starting to get a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to have my favorite combo (Healer/Charr).

A quick note on the point of my quotation marks about this ‘new’ screenshot. The shot is, indeed, new. But it’s only really new-ish. If you’ll recall this image, you’ll notice that the Lady-Charr is in exactly the same pose as she is in the elementalist picture. She is wearing different clothing which reminds me a lot of the original male elementalist get-up in Guild Wars 1, which I find oddly entertaining.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I suspect that either the Charr animations are still being worked on, or whoever assembled the screenshots was sorely pressed for time. It’s a lot easier to toss a new texture onto a model and drop that down into a scene than it is to worry about posing it. I will, however, remark favorably on the artist’s deft use of the Golden Ratio in composing the screenshot. From this artistic team, however, I would expect no less.

There’s also an exciting article about the new combat system.

I don’t want to go on at length about it as I really can’t make any judgements until I experience it for myself. Watching the videos gives me all kinds of tingly-excited feelings and makes me long for my new computer. (I have none right now because I’m being very patient and saving up for something very powerful)

On the note of computer specifications, however, I have a slight feeling of trepidation. I want to draw your attention to the following quote:

Our goal is to design skills that are visually unique and explain them without overly complex skill descriptions. This has resulted in a lot of distinct and impressive skill effects in the game. Even a simple skill like fireball explodes in such a way that you can clearly see the area that they will affect.

It will be telling to see what these fantastic effects look like on an older machine. My husband’s computer is actually the frankenstined monstrosity that limped through college with me. In computer terms, I would call this puppy a little more than slightly infirm. Too much white on the screen makes it flicker and it often struggles to open a word document.

Even with all its shortcomings, however, we still use it for online gaming. He still plays World of Warcraft, and I use it on the weekends to putter about Guild Wars and poke at facebook every now and again.

I remember the difficulty, however, when I was raid-leading in WoW. I’m talking about area of effect skills. It was often difficult, even with WoW’s simple artistic style, to see exactly where a certain spell was landing. I could never MT Grobbulus in Naxxramas, for example, because I had to turn my visuals down to minimum in a 25-man raid. With visuals down that low I couldn’t see slime clouds until it was too late.

That’s my worry about a game as beautiful as Guild Wars. Arenanet has a history of solid backwards-compatibility, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I, at least, have high hopes.