The Daily Grind: How much does an MMO’s art style determine whether you’ll try it?

    
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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?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Nordavind

There is a reason I’ve never played WoW, that Ratchet and Clank MMO (name escapes me, I love R&C but not that art in an MMO) or just about any Japanese/Korean MMO.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

I mean, it’s important that you find it attractive. That’s how the majority of human minds work. You see something that interests you visually and then you investigate to see if what’s “under the hood” is equally interesting. How something looks is very often your first interaction with it and if it’s off-putting most people “swipe left” as it were.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Gearbox destroyed Battleborn with bad decisions – and those were mostly marketing and release decisions. The game itself was really decent with some of the most interesting character designs I’ve seen.

They advertised it as a PvP game (which was a minority of what was there and not the meat of it, and not that great compared to the co-op part of the game), they advertised it as a competitor to Overwatch. They murdered their own game with that stuff.

Borderlands is well known, it will probably succeed anyway, and yet it seems they haven’t really learned their lesson. They could have released it everywhere, but chose to release it as an Epic Store Exclusive. Right now there are many thousands of people saying they’re considering that the Early Access launch and aren’t going to get it until that 6 months is over with.

Being Borderlands, it will succeed anyway, but I don’t think that was the best choice and it sounds like it came from the same geniuses that put Battleborn up against Overwatch and advertised it as a direct competitor to the game.

And yet I am also seeing some good in that decision – for some of us players who won’t be buying it on Epic’s store that is. They usually release far too much DLC for Borderlands games. That often includes cool new characters I’d rather play than the release ones. So possibly by the time it comes out on Steam (or other platforms, whatever it releases on in 6 months), there will be interesting DLC that comes with it that won’t be out at release. Any birthing issues and bugs should be fixed up. They’ll be a few patches in, things will be better overall. So it may end up being a better game for those of us waiting out the Epic exclusivity.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

If it’s ‘retro’/blocky, it guarantees I WON’T try it. I’m not looking to go backwards in graphics…

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Utakata

Fancy to funky are big turn ons.

Janky to pixelicious are big turn offs.

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angrakhan

I’m with @Utakata here. If I see 2d pixel graphics or Minecraft wannabe, I’m headed out the door.

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Utakata

To be fair, Mindcraft and it’s wannabe’s are designed to create stuff from building blocks much like Lego in RL. So I wouldn’t call those games pixelicious in the way I would call something like Ultima Online as such. However, as Mr. Schlag has aptly rendered below, some of the player creations could easily fall under that. >.<

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Scorcher64

As someone who grew up with NES and watches anime, I’ve never been a graphics nut nor cared about style. Nor do I carry around that silly mentality that “cartoons are for kids”. People questioned Zelda: The Windwaker before realizing how good it was. Half-naked women don’t bother me either. I see plenty in-person, movies, and in periodicals. A game is just another medium.

I can handle pixelated, “cartoony”, cell-shaded, anime, and photo-realistic MMOs. With me, it’s all about gameplay and mechanics. If I don’t like the genre, gameplay, or QoL features (or lack thereof) I’ll wash my hands of it. I don’t care how photo-realistic or how many “K’s” of resolution it has.

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Schmidt.Capela

I actually consider Zelda Wind Waker to have the very best graphics of the whole franchise, hands down. More pleasant and enjoyable than even Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild.

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Robert Mann

Moderate. It can turn me off, because I don’t like things that are too stylized in a 3d environment (I don’t mind with 2d)… but at the same time I don’t really get bummed with the ‘realistic dating’ that so many seem to have issue with here.

So when a game is too stylized I tend to lose interest. That said, some anime style titles are okay with 3d for me.

Otherwise complete no-go areas include ‘retro’ for no real reason, the “I’m not really 7 and sexualized” boys and girls, and anything that goes too far into the 4th wall, because those just bug me.

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Witches

A lot, to me graphic style is all that distinguishes one game from the other, otherwise it’s just key smashing which is always the same.

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Schlag Sweetleaf
render me like one of your Minecraft girls.jpg
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Paragon Lost

lol! you have a knack for making me laugh out loud. Carry on. :)

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Utakata

Or giving my monitor a fresh coat of the whatever beverage I was just consuming. >.<

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maydrock .

Anime or any derivation is a no go, wrong generation.

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Bryan Correll

It’s not a hard no for me, but it’s definitely a big negative.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

Especially if the player avatars include cute little animals, or worse, lollis….definitely a hard stop for me.

My idea of anime is graphical novels like the Watchmen or Spawn.

;)

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Utakata

It has the opposite effect on me…

#YouAreOnlyAsOldAsYouKeepTellingYourself

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Schmidt.Capela

I kinda started with Anime in the early 80s. By the late 80s people were organizing themselves to import VHS tapes of anime shows that weren’t licensed for local distribution, create unauthorized subtitled bootleg versions of them, and send those at cost to anyone who wanted to watch them.

Besides, just after Atari almost committed itself to oblivion out of sheer incompetence in the early 80s, console gaming became dominated by Japanese companies, who brought much of the aesthetic appeal of Anime with them.

So, even for those in their 40s or 50s, Anime — and, in particular, Anime aesthetics in games — might very well be a part of their formative years.

And yeah, I’m also very much in the group for which Anime aesthetics are a positive.

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Utakata

Not to mention, anime aesthetics have completely evolved from such time.

Covynant001
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Covynant001

I’ll say, it went from Sailor Moon / Tuxedo Max to some these days which I’m surprised they don’t have to keep in a back room with a brown slip of paper over the cover.

😁

Covynant001
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Covynant001

Agreed, you should see some of the looks I get when people realize I’m listening to hip hop (MGK, Tech N9ne, NT etc) on my headset, despite being old enough to be the artist’s grandparent.

“Yeah I play my music LOUD!
I betcha you feel me coming down the block
The thunder in the trunk gon’ knock
You know I play my music LOUD!”