XI
you are not logged in
Opinion

Style Or Substance?

Is art important enough to sell games?

Having read Dan’s review of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, I found myself desperately wanting an Xbox again just so I could play this one game (you fortunate ones can enter the amazing competition. Not that I’m bitter). It then struck me that, as someone who fell well and truly out of love with gaming, the games that have been tempting me back to my console of choice are those that dare to be different and, more often than not, these have a unique and distinctive art style.


Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, an unlikely system seller?
There are lots of very talented artists here at TSA – for proof, look no further than AndyTorr, Hannypoppie, Kevatron, Boomshanks, Miffi-Lou, Philbert8 and our very own colossalblue  - and as someone who likes to dabble with a picture or two, I wondered if anyone else pays more attention to the style of a game rather than how it may or may not play?

I know there have been countless discussions about whether video games count as works of art but I’m not here to discuss that, mainly because everybody finds art in different things, rather I wanted to see if the styling of a video game will sway you to spending money on it?

Having very recently bought Limbo based purely on this aspect and anticipating Journey purely based on this aspect, it has become a very powerful marketing tool for me personally. And there seems to have been a dramatic increase in games which feature a distinctive style. Is  this because we are now in an age where graphics are expected to be great and physics are expected to be nailed? With many different studios using the same engines and mechanics, is the styling of a game the one area where it can truly be defined and made to stand out?


Limbo is still the poster child for inspiring art style in downloadable games.
Major publishers and developers, EA and Sony most noticeably, seem to be embracing the artistic element the most. That’s not to say that these guys are the best makers of games, or that any game with a unique styling will automatically be a good game to play. Far from it, in fact.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to think that the future of video games rests with the art department, that’s ridiculous; after all, look at Modern Warfare. Here is the biggest selling entertainment release of all time and yet it couldn’t look any more generic and default if it tried.

It’s a glimmer of hope though that perhaps we’ll begin to see more and more people putting a unique creative stamp on the games that we buy and that can only be a good thing, right? Because I’ve rabbited on a bit, I’d also like to reiterate my earlier question. How important is the styling of a game to you and would you ever purchase something purely based on how it looks?

45 Comments
  1. nofi
    One for all.
    Since: Forever

    The art on both of these was enough to sell them to me.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:03.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      Me too.

      And I bought Brink due to the art style, and XIII on PS2. My wife bought Mini Ninjas due to it being “cute”, and the new Rayman games looks awesome.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:19.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        …and Borderlands to name another!

        Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:20.
      • Jaffa-the-Cake
        Member
        Since: Oct 2010

        I disagree with everyone on Limbo. I personally think its art for arts sake without good gameplay mechanics behind it. I hated limbo. The designer wanted to create a game that looked different and thats all.

        Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 19:55.
      • Roynaldo
        Member
        Since: Nov 2008

        With you on XIII and Borderlands there Youle. Excellent art style that doesnt spoil a single thing, infact makes it endearing.

        Prince of Persia is also one that was great to view yet when i look at final fantasy xiii with what is, quite frankly, the most beautiful game i have played this gen i begin to think i dont have a taste in art style.
        If the game works, it works regardless of art….being a bit ‘out there’ may attract a certain type of person. Personally im all about the gameplay and story and graphical/artistic prowess is very far down my pecking order.

        Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 23:12.
      • teflon
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        XIII totally needed a sequel, I absolutely loved that game, and it only went and ended on a cliff hanger!

        Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 23:38.
      • McProley
        Member
        Since: Aug 2011

        with you on XIII and Borderlands. Also, Katamari had the graphical impact on me

        Comment posted on 05/08/2011 at 08:10.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        I think the art can attract you to a game, afterall I usually see pictures and videos before anything else. But there does still need to be something about the game to keep you interested.

        @ Jaffa-the-Cake…I disagree with Limbo. The black silhouettes are great, for example had you been able to see all the detail on the spider, and had the spider been on lovely green grass, it wouldn’t have been nearly as creapy! If you don’t like the gameplay then that’s fair enough but I think the art is apt.

        XIII DEFINATELY needed/needs a sequal. I thought it would have been great on PSP – the PSP might have been able to cope with the graphics since they were 2D.

        Comment posted on 05/08/2011 at 08:36.
  2. Cerberus64
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    Can’t we have both?

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:13.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      The perfect answer. They’re not mutually exclusive but sometimes one suffers for the other. Seeing that gap close would be great.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:18.
    • Gastos84
      Demon.
      Since: Apr 2009

      I wish, but like Bunimomike says, I think, especially on full-blown disc releases, one aspect is usually reduced.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:25.
    • Deathbrin
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Braid.

      Comment posted on 05/08/2011 at 09:17.
  3. Kitch
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I should be picking up Limbo based on it’s look. I didn’t get into the demo but I’m sure the full game will be good. I also enjoyed Flower and I’m looking forward to Journey.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:15.
    • embryo69
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Ditto for me with Journey. Should be a nice game to play with my little girl.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 18:01.
  4. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I wouldn’t buy something based purely on its looks but am open to it catching my initial attention. Also, if it’s a fairly solid game, I’ve noticed that a strong art-style can win me over into purchasing said title simply because the art-style might make me so happy that it’s just a joy to behold. Microbot, a small PSN game, has visuals that replicate us coursing through the arteries, veins, etc, and the way blood cells look as they tumble and flow through the viscous-yet-translucent liquid is captivating.

    Limbo has captivating visuals even though they’re eerily drawn and resemble darker movements like German expressionism.

    Your thoughts on current generation hardware are spot on. I’ve commented on a recent podcast about how we’re finally reaching a situation where technical achievement is now starting to visually level out and what an art director brings to the table is more important than ever before.

    The future’s bright… the future’s filled full of black & white mofo-sized spiders that scare me half-to-effing-death!

    Great to see you posting articles on TSA! :-)

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:17.
    • Gastos84
      Demon.
      Since: Apr 2009

      It was a quick musing I had. I think the tech is now causing the focus to fall on art which I actually like the thought of.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:27.
    • moshi
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Wow German Expressionism, High Brow

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 18:05.
      • Gastos84
        Demon.
        Since: Apr 2009

        This is Mike we’re talking about? ‘German expressionism’ stands for ‘porn’

        Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 18:24.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        *claps* Ha! Amazingly, not this time.

        moshi – How dare you question my… duh… *thinks* brain! Yes, brain. :-)

        As it happens, when I was studying History of Art (on my Product Design degree) I used to read about the topics beforehand and catch my lecturer completely off-guard with my knowledge. I’d only remembered a bit, but just enough to catch her out as she’d read it the night before too. Cunning academia and their night-before tactics. Oh, she was a redhead and pretty hot. That was another good reason. *happy sigh* :-)

        Comment posted on 05/08/2011 at 15:31.
  5. mynameisblair
    hisnameisblair
    Since: May 2009

    I know you don’t like Zelda, but would the art style of Wind Waker tempt you? It’s beautiful and one of the reasons I love that game.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:17.
    • teflon
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      Wind Waker was gorgeous. To think that the vast majority of fanboys rejected it out of hand at the time, as well… Fools.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:21.
    • Gastos84
      Demon.
      Since: Apr 2009

      I love the art style to Wind Waker but, as you say, I just don’t like Zelda. :)

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:28.
  6. Michael
    Team TSA: Development
    Since: Forever

    Saw Gastos84, read the article :-)

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:24.
  7. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    It’s not so much the art that draws me in it’s wether the world is immersive – if you play the game and it illicits an emotion.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:35.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      Agreed, but the art style can play a huge part in that too although it helps to have great animation, believable characters, or whatever components are required for any given title. When it comes down to it, we’re a visual species and Limbo is phenomenally striking which catches our attention whether we like it or not.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:51.
    • Gastos84
      Demon.
      Since: Apr 2009

      Agree, but don’t you think it’s the art that affects that the most? Also you need to have that initial hook, no?

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 18:23.
      • Tuffcub
        On the naughty step.
        Since: Dec 2008

        Music as well.

        Comment posted on 05/08/2011 at 07:50.
      • bunimomike
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        I appreciate we’re not discussing music but it’s also so important as a hook. I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have bought (and endured) Sword & Sworcery on the iPhone if it wasn’t for the sensational soundtrack. Awesome to think iDevice games are now having such professional sounding music.

        Comment posted on 05/08/2011 at 15:33.
  8. Origami Killer
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    I must admit i am draw quite a bit to a game by it’s style or art, for me Enslaved and Demons Souls did this best (out of my gaming collection). The way the world was designed in both games, and especially the demons, was stunning and very much an art to me. The concept art book included with demons souls was also very good to look through and contained some great pieces or artwork.

    However, I still think it is the story/emotion that draws me to a game most, with Heavy Rain and LA Noire being the most notable. I could engage with the game more.

    Saying that i would still probably buy a game just based on it’s looks and style or even it’s uniqueness. I agree that this generation there’s not much difference in technical abilities so if theres anything new/unique or that flare in a game which catches your eye you know you will definitely buy it.

    Sum of all that, to answer the question yes I would!

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:54.
    • Origami Killer
      Member
      Since: May 2010

      forgot to say, great article :)

      Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 17:56.
  9. TheChaosGamer
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Hmm, it’s a funny one, art style is definitely interesting, but for me substance will always come first.
    Although…this is probably due to me not wanting to spend money on something that I’m likely to only use for a short while.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 18:00.
  10. moshi
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    Gotta give a shout out for Borderlands which in my opinion covers both grounds.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2011 at 18:07.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Latest Comments