I am not much of a Borderlands person, but the franchise has been impossible to ignore the last couple of weeks with the launch of Borderlands 3 – and as it turns out, that’s kind of intentional. As in, the franchise’s art style wasn’t originally supposed to sport that unique cel-shaded look; it was going to be just another brown-and-grey photo-realistic game until a last-minute art tweak that apparently made the game’s first art director exit the games industry altogether (dang!). As one Gearbox Producer put it, the dramatic change was what got the game noticed and effectively put it on the map: “Just to stand out like that was a big deal.”
We’ve had plenty of discussions about whether a game’s overall graphics quality affects perceptions about the game, but not quite as many on whether the style itself is something that has a huge affect on whether you’ll touch the game. It isn’t as though cel-shaded graphics really boosted Champions Online, after all, so sometimes being unique isn’t helpful. At the same time, how many folks skipped WildStar because of its bubbly cartoon aesthetic?
How much does an MMO’s art style determine whether you’ll notice it – and try it?