I figured I’d throw in a poll today! I remember having a conversation with someone about Undertale. I for one, really really enjoyed the game:
I only play pacifist route because I’m too sensitive to kill anything for genocide
HOWEVER my friend refuses to play it based on it’s graphically “unimpressive”. Personally I hate terrible game design. JUST LET ME SEE WHAT I NEED TO LOOK AT!! STOP SPINNING!! NO NOT AN INESCAPABLE WALL OF TEXT!!! Yeah… those.
UPDATE: I really enjoyed seeing what people thought of “bad games”. It’s cool to see what everyone thought fell into “bad game design vs bad graphics” for example. I usually see these reviews where the author clumps it into these categories, and I find myself disagreeing certain points belonging into different categories. Thanks for letting me inside your heads for 24 hours!
Honestly, I want to say any and/or all of the above. I voted for terrible game design, but I would be equally likely to avoid a game with crippling controls, or one that was downright hideous to look at. The sound/music would have to be really bad for me to pass on it, assuming all other aspects of the game were good.
Well to be fair undertale is not simply “graphically unimpressive” it’s down right painful to look at at the start. It gets better later on but I won’t blame anyone for looking at the first few screens and dodging out of that purple hell.
I did vote for horrible sounds as this is something I often cant deal with but generally if there are bad sounds or annoying music I might just turn them off, so it probably wouldn’t make me not play the game like the question asks. On that note though I do find a lot of games blast you with music that you can’t turn off until you get past a tutorial or character building and that triggers me greatly. First thing I want are settings when I open a game, because even having a game in the wrong display settings is frustrating.
I actually own a few games where the music / sound isn’t something you can control. So I’ll try to hear certain things but can’t over the music. At least with PC you can toggle things manually most of the time.
I was between controls and game design myself. I think game design wins out just because it’s one thing if I can’t control my char vs badly controlling my char Nothing worse than screaming to myself “LET ME CONTROL MY LEGS”.
I don’t think it’s possible for me to pick between poor controls and bad game design. Either one of those being a failing of a game would turn me away - a game with good game design but terrible controls wouldn’t endear me to it and would drive me away in frustration, whilst a game with bad design would probably be frustrating and boring in equal measure.
I’m going to say “bad game design” is pretty much the “all of the above” option here. In my opinion all these things are part of what is game design, if the game fails in any of these aspects the design is flawed.
Although graphics and sound are somewhat more subjective. Some people will find your example of Undertale “ugly” whilst others will recognise it for what it is. But if you had a game with terrible input lag on the controls it’ll be virtually unplayable. I’d differentiate from game design in that regard as design is something I view much more in terms of game mechanics and level/area construction.
“for what it is” I don’t know what it’s supposed to be other than monochrome pain. There’s no nostalgia for the ‘aesthetics’ of the tandy 1000 or other super early computer systems, for good reason. They were not able to create anything that was visually pleasant. This isn’t a question about enjoying alternative styles from yesteryear, even by ancient standards the graphics of Undertale’s Tutoriel area is shite. Maybe intentionally so, but that doesn’t excuse it or change how absolutely atrocious it is to look at. Clearly he was able to do better, since once you’ve gotten out of there it is.
While I think the game is pretty good overall and quite interesting, I will have to maintain that the visual design of the early spaces is a strike against it. The game gives little indication that it’s going to get any better so as I said I fully understand anyone who went into the game blind to not want to come out of it that way.
As a few others have said, it really depends on HOW bad something is rather than WHAT is bad about it. That said, I find bad audio much more painful than bad visuals, unless we’re talking about RAGE levels of screwing up.
I’m undecided on whether I agree with you on this. Think about what you personally have childhood nostalgia for and how you’d feel about it today…hell, I missed the true days of pong but got a machine later on and I’ve still got a bit of nostalgia for playing that!
[Posting from work]
Did the graphics impede your progress? For me that’s a sign of bad graphics…I genuinely can’t think of anything I’ve played, simple or otherwise, in which it’s the graphics that have been the thing that annoyed me the most…possibly because I played a lot of ZX Spectrum games!
Don’t get me wrong here. You can certainly have a lot of good old memories of zx spectrum titles, but the nostalgia there is for the experiences those games gave you in spite of the technical limitations of the system. When Elite Dangerous was announced there was no one who proclaimed how they wish they’d make it all empty wire frames like the first game. People loved Elite for everything it did right, not because of how it looked.
For my personal experience I have a lot of love for Excitebike for the NES and while it is not offensively ugly I’ll never make any claims that it’s a graphically interesting or pretty game. It was great fun to play though and the experiences I had with it, playing with my father and how amazing it was that you could make your own levels, that can never be tarnished. Even if I recognise that even the NES was shown capable of producing far better looking games later in it’s life.
There are of course “low-fi” games that does look good, late age titles for the NES like SMB3 is amazing by NES standards but it also remains a good looking game by any standard really. Exactly why that is is a topic for another conversation though.
Back to Undertale then. Did the graphics impede my progress. Yes it did, in fact it made me not buy it at all at first. I do find the game’s early areas offensively ugly and as I said I fully understand anyone who opted out because of it.
I mean if you know nothing about Undertale and this is what you’re making a purchase decision on I can not fault you for opting out:
And I’m sure we can agree that going into this game as unspoilt as possible is the best way to do it. Which is another critical issue with the game, it’s nigh impossible to recommend it to someone. In order to convince someone to play it you probably have to spoiled too much of it for it to actually be able to have that same impact it did on you.
But why did they impede your progress? Because they were ugly and your eyes were repulsed, or because they hid platforms and objects and made the mechanics unnecessarily more difficult. If the graphics are causing gameplay issues then for me it’s a problem. If they look bad but the game is good I can generally get past it. And as I say it’s subjective. For instance take a game that’s also rated overwhelmingly positively -
Can you really claim that would encourage people to play? And yet The Binding of Isaac is incredibly well regarded.
Fundamentally, If I don’t like the way a game looks it’s my own fault, but if the way the game looks prevents it from playing properly then it’s the game’s fault.
Well there’s bad graphics in the way you describe it, like platforms that blends into the background so you don’t know what can or can not be interacted with. That’s one way for the graphics to be bad, but still pretty. Then as the example of undertale where the choice of colour palette is the issue. That harsh purple so liberally used is simply a bad idea. It impedes my progress by making me not want to remain and be exposed to it for what one might reasonably expect could be anything from 6 to 40h. You don’t know it’s only going to be some 20 minutes.
Then there’s things like The binding of Isaac. Now I would not say the graphics there are bad. There is a definite style going on here, one that does not appeal to me at all and as such I recognise that it is an entirely subjective choice on my part to not play it. This is not the case with Undertale. BoI does not hurt me, it doesn’t impede my ability to play the game in any way. I’m just not fond of the aesthetic thing they got going on there so I’ve chosen to play something I enjoy aesthetically instead, had I no other choices then I might very well have tried to “get over it”.
Did you ever play Mother 3? I suppose that I give (for instance) Undertale a pass because it is taking inspiration, and somewhat parodying those older RPG’s. I totally understand that it’s not everyones preference to have that sort of graphical style and limited colour palette but in my mind I forgive it because I feel that it’s playing with limitations of an earlier era.
Ultimately, for me graphics are relatively unimportant…it takes a lot for them to ward me away from a game.
That’s kind of the thing though, it isn’t. Not by any means. It’s well below what those old RPGs managed to do graphically. Mother 3 is not simple graphically and it’s certainly not garishly horrible to look at, except for a few scenes where they’re using that as an effect because you’re pretty much in a nightmare. Even the early Final Fantasy and Dragon’s Quest titles are pleasant to look at in comparison to what Undertale puts on the table right at the start and they certainly are not pretty.
I feel like you’re missing my point. Graphics are not what I decide a game’s worth by, not by any means, but Undertale specifically has made a design choice that renders it a worse game than it could have been. To me that is unforgivable because we know Toby can do better and he did, in later areas. He just didn’t bother or hadn’t the time to go back to redo the first area to match what comes later and we’re left with a purple garish terror of a first chapter.
I know a lot of people hold this game in ridiculously high regard and speaking ill of it in any way is tantamount to blasphemy. But it is not a perfect game, not everything in it has a brilliant hidden reason for being, Toby Fox is not infallible and we can still appreciate the game for what it is without having to pretend it doesn’t have flaws.
…If you’re bothered by the graphics. If you’re not then, yes they could have been better, but equally, you’re playing a game for other reasons. I understand that you feel the choice (or perhaps lack of choice/time) to implement a more rudimentary graphic style is a black mark against the design of the game, but for me personally, unless the graphics literally make my eyes bleed then I can look past them. Don’t get me wrong, I have a hard time regarding any game as without flaw, but generally whilst I understand scoring a game for it’s appearance, It’s never enough to put me off playing a game that looks interesting. And yes I might be irked by something not being as good as it potentially could be, if it’s in the graphics department I’m a great deal more forgiving.
I’m guessing that you still feel that way and are facepalming in silent dismay…
For me, graphics have to be actively repulsive, like RAGE. That game gave me a headache trying to play it, between its VSync (three horizontal tear lines per second or awful stuttering) and texture pop-in to the point where I could see the bloom-y skybox behind the object before it loaded in. Enemy mesh renderers disabled the moment they were outside of your FoV, meaning when you turned around it gave them a few ms to hit you before you could even see them. THAT is what I consider “broken” due to visuals. Congrats, Bethesda… you set another “standard” for what I can’t take