What do you look for in a game?

Posted By | On 03rd, Dec. 2009 Under Editorials, Feature

When we play a game, we define it by a few different features; graphics, gameplay, sound, presentation and so on. But what features make you make a purchase? Photo realistic visuals? An unforgettable gameplay experience?

I know which one matters most to me- gameplay, and I get a feeling that many others do too. However, I bet you all have friends who took one look at a game like Crysis before they knew anything about it and declared it a game of the year due to it’s visuals. There’s nothing wrong with liking the graphics in a game of course, and good graphics can suggest a good game after all.

Technically proficient graphics- does it mean a good game?

Technically proficient graphics- does it mean a good game?

The first time I saw the CGI trailer for Killzone 2 at E3 2005, I was amazed. I wasn’t alone either; it quickly became a hit on the internet where a great debate raged on whether it was CGI or in-game. Of course, it did turn out to be CGI after all- but Guerilla Games shocked us by saying that they believed that they could acheive that kind of technical excellence in-game too. How many of you, then, said, “Wow! I’m buying that!”…

A similar example is the Alan Wake trailer released in late 2006. The atmosphere was clearly something unique, and  more involving and engaging than anything seen before. A quick look, and we soon had people springing up in forums around the net saying, “Incredible! I have to buy that!” This kind of mentality is contagious; it spreads like wildfire through people and only those who are truly resilient can resist the hype. Immersion is an important factor for me; but I can easily enjoy a game with little atmosphere.

Is this the correct mentality to have with games? Should we allow ourselves to be ‘wow-ed’ by trailers and snippets of a full game? On the one hand, it makes us anticipate the game too much, such that we will be disappointed when the game actually out. Contrastingly, by going along with the hype following a game, you can build yourself up for an explosive release, and get your hands on the game first, all the while telling your friends, “I told you it would be good.”

Of course, there will always be slightly more conservative gamers who refuse to be part of the snowball of hype. They want to experience how the game functions, how it plays out and how it responds first. If they don’t like the way the fundamentals work, they simply won’t play it. Of course there are downsides to taking this viewpoint as well though; if you go by gameplay value, you won’t know whether you will like a game until you buy it- potentially a waste of money. Good graphics and technically proficient presentation can suggest a great game after all- but some big budget developers have no trouble giving a game incredible visuals and totally cocking up the gameplay side of things.

When Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 was announced, there were few who were not excited. Everyone started to gossip about possible new additions, modes and weapons. And quite rightfully so; after 6 years running, the Call of Duty franchise was becoming a household name, renowned for it’s epic battles, gripping story, and most recently, its superb multiplayer. However, as the game neared it’s release date, some folks, notably PC gamers, became more wary. Rumors were spreading fast. I’m not going to reiterate what has already been a thousand times around the web and back, but these snippets of info were nasty. They upset a lot of people. The release date drew ever closer, and many decided full stop not to buy the game. And what was this based on? Rumors. Assumptions. Speculation. Was this really fair? After all, the CoD franchise had flourished on every console, throughout every game since the first one came out in 2003 on PC. MW2 was looking set to have decent graphics, excellent and slick presentation, and as always, fast paced, gripping action. As far as the fundamentals were concerned, nothing had changed. Yet, many still refused to buy the game.

The Modern Warfare 2 scandal caused a boycott, among other things.

The Modern Warfare 2 scandal caused a boycott, among other things.

Another standout feature for some gamers is the storyline. This is something that, unfortunately, is starting to lack in modern games. Many games, particularly FPS games, now have either no story at all, or one with more holes than a well-trodden minefield. Of course, part of the reason for this is the focus on multiplayer gaming. Who needs a storyline when you can just shoot, right? The notion is fairly sickening for an avid single player gamer like myself. And, although most people have internet, what if my internet isn’t totally reliable? I want a decent story to support me through the times when my connection is bad, I don’t want to play multiplayer. I’m not saying a game is rubbish if it doesn’t have a good single player, but it adds so much more playability if it does.

Now, it’s prefectly possible for a game to look and play well, but what if I don’t want to go back and play it again? I think that almost all of us will agree that a certain aspect of replayability is key to help you make a purchase. Certain genres certainly have the capacity to be more replayable than others, with RPG’s topping the list. Especially in these times where games are increasingly shorter in length, it is important that some part of it makes you want to go back and play it. Think about it logically. Fallout may take 40 hours to complete the story mode, but how many times have you gone back for another go? Go back twice, and that is 80 hours worth. Go back thrice, and you have over 100 hours worth of gaming. So while a game that takes 60 hours for one playthrough may appear to be longer, and better bang for your buck, if it’s no fun to play again, you may as well go back to Fallout, or whatever other game happens to have great replay value.

Whatever aspect of a game draws your attention, there will always be drawbacks; you may find that you have just spent loads of money on a game that looks like a window into another dimension, but it may have all the playability of a shoebox. You may preorder a highly anticipated sequel to your favourite series, only to find that playing it is like looking through a muddy porthole. Of course, we would like to make every game look great, sound great, have great atmosphere and play great. But these kind of games don’t come along often- and when they do, it instantly rekindles my love for gaming.

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  • With the power of consoles and PCs currently, there should be no excuse not to have crisp 2D/3D graphics in a game. Even with good gameplay, if the game looks like complete crap I have trouble continuing to play it.

    Good graphics does not mean the same as realistic. It just means that I want to be able to distinguish every object on the screen and instantly be able to tell what it is.

  • I look for many things in a game, but I also take into consideration the game’s distinct personality. I’ve been addicted to Borderlands recently, which has so-so graphics and a shoddy storyline. The experiences you have in the game are fun though; fun enough that I’m on my third playthrough and I still enjoy it.

    Other games, like Splosion Man, are just entertaining little romps. Games like Metal Gear are very story-centric and, while not for everyone, can captivate gamers more than any movie could ever come close to.

    It’s not just about graphics, storyline, or budget. Every game has its own personality and could be tremendously fun to play, even while having tragic flaws.

    • anon

      wow.. someone that actually gets it lol
      Gameplay is entirely subjective too, i personally have had 10 times more fun playing a mod for quake 3 called defrag ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvu5X_1pQEI&feature=related ) the last 3/4 years than i have any other game (with the exception of starcraft:bw) that’s not to say i don’t play games for other reasons than gameplay, the silent hill series and many old RPGs have a immersive quality that isn’t replicated in any form of competitive play, and the idea of mixing these genres would be laughable.

      so to sum up, it doesnt matter what i look for, aslong as developers -dont- all push the same concepts and designs year after year as each other, variety is the spice of life.

  • gersty

    for sure

  • What do I look for in a game?

    First of all: Since I’m a full-time Ubuntu user, GNU/Linux compatibility.

    I’m one of those people who believe in choice and refuse to pay a tax for an operating system that I didn’t choose in the first place.

    A game I like a lot is World Of Goo by 2dboy. Even though this is a 2d game, the game is artistically amazing. When playing this game, you get the feeling that you are not stuck in a computer screen, rather it feels like a whole world of activity. Also, as an example to how games should be, this game is made to work with many platforms – including GNU/Linux. The music for WOG is fantastic as well.

    Another really cool game, that clearly has a lot of heart and soul poured into it is LinuxGamePublishing LGP Cold War. This is a FPS with a good interactive plot and real feeling to it.

  • Glenn

    Something that leads to fun is what needs to be in a game.
    Things that lead to frustration would best be left out.
    I would prefer to play the game rather than watch it.
    Super high end graphics do little to serve this. Solid controls, clear consistent game rules.

  • Eleo

    I want the whole package. I can’t honestly place different weight in story, gameplay, graphics, music, etc. Whatever it is it should be cohesive, engaging, and fun.

    It’s kind of the same concept as any artform, really. I’m not going to watch a film and say, “oh well since the story was really good I don’t mind that the direction and cinematography and acting were crap,” or the reverse “it looked pretty and the acting was good but the story was terrible”. I want everything to be good.

    The same goes for a video game. I’m going to judge it on everything.

  • Joss

    Ability to kill in many different ways with many dif. things .

  • jeffrey

    drm beyond a cd check = no purchase, monthly fees = no purchase, otherwise good gameplay = purchase, graphics are nice but not a deal breaker

  • the most important thing about a game is that it is enjoyable to play, if it is not fun to play then why even bother playing it

  • James

    What I look for in a game is a good PLATFORMER!!! With replayability in single player rather than a kickass online mode, with humongous, open worlds with lots to collect. With hidden, secret areas and a lot of moves to unlock and learn

  • I want it all. Which is why I play a lot of demos and buy very few games.

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  • Paul

    That was an extremely well written article. In an increasingly bi-polar industry, it speaks worlds that you were able to perceive and present several sides of gaming philosophy in a short and genuinely entertaining way. Keep up the good work.

  • 1. Tetris had practically no story nor graphics nor atmosphere nor character development. But it was fun.

  • tareq salah

    dont make it tooo realistic that it loses its idenity as a video game. and we love boss fights, the more the better


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