Nowadays, though, we spend far less time wondering how things could improve, since, for the most part, graphics look pretty damn amazing right now. And this means it's harder to actually care about the next step in graphical fidelity unless you're a hardcore PC gamer.
And that's something that a lot of indie developers are taking advantage of. This generation provides the first examples I can think of where graphics have intentionally taken a huge step backwards. Just look at hits like Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress. No one's singing praises for those games because of how amazing they look, but rather for their addictive gameplay.
And many developers are now making retro throwback games. It's hard to deny that for those of us old enough to fondly remember the days of the NES and SNES, there's actually something aesthetically pleasing about 8-bit and 16-bit sprites. Enough so that several developers have thrown out modern polygons in favor of these low-fidelity looks. I mean, just look at the recently released Penny Arcade's On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness 3. It's a classic RPG that wouldn't look out of place on the SNES, and that's what people like about it. Fez is another game that, though deceptively complex, takes pride in its pixilated look.
This also gives developers more freedom in their stylistic choices. Rather than trying to wow us with their brilliant new tech, they're able to give us incredibly stylized visuals. The recent Sound Shapes is an excellent example. Sound Shapes won't be "melting" our PS3s or Vitas, but everything in the game has this simplistic style to it that makes the whole thing pleasing to look at. It looks great without being ostentatious, and that's exciting to me.
My prediction: The next console generation is just around the bend, and it's definitely going to be pushing the graphical envelope further than we've seen it go on this generation's consoles. However, I'm willing to bet that a lot of developers are going to work more on pleasing us with gameplay that simply works, or even highly stylized yet simplistic graphics, rather than pushing this new hardware as hard as they can. And there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, even the most gorgeous game in the world will fall apart if the gameplay isn't solid.
Editor / News Director
Date: August 23, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*