No matter how much we love mechanics, even our most cerebral writers and readers still admit to being graphics snobs. It’s human: We like eyecandy. And it’s one of the reasons older MMOs fall out of fashion. I mean, they literally fall out of fashion and start looking old and dated. Wouldn’t it be great if all our ugly ducklings got a glow-up… like Wurm Online’s?
2009 vs 2019 glowup! The decade is almost over and the game looks better than ever. Join us at 9pm UTC (1pm PST, 4pm EST, 8AM AEDST) for our weekly #DevStream as we chat about all things old, new, and coming! https://t.co/KiH4xIztzi #MMORPG pic.twitter.com/whH1DV0Jp6
— Wurm Online (@wurmonline) November 23, 2019
That’s this week’s Massively Overthinking topic. Let’s talk graphics – and which MMOs really deserve a fresh coat of paint to get them the attention they deserve.
Andy McAdams: I think from that screenshot, armor models in Wurm Online might actually be better than armor models in WoW. I probably sound like a broken record, but I think Anarchy Online would really do wonders for the game. Combat is dated, for sure but the game itself is still fun. I think a bit part of the reason that more people don’t play it is because it looks it’s age – even with the graphical updates. It blows my mind to think about how the game would look with character models like Guild Wars 2 or Elder Scrolls Online has. How much cooler a leet would look or what any of the cities would look like if the ground was a series of giant, flat planes. The combat would still feel really slow to some people, but I’ve yet to find a game that matches AO’s depth of play. Simpler enough to get started and invested, deep enough to offer a million options in the mid and elder game.
- Ultima Online – So incredibly underrated in its current form. Most of the people who do remember it don’t have any knowledge of it past 1999 or so, so people still think of it as its old self. It’s definitely not. If Jagex owned it and not EA, it’d be bigger than RuneScape because of the absolutely wild amount of content it’s got, years and years of it all stacked up behind that janky client. Instead, its successive but messy graphics refreshes (it’s had at least three big ones by my count) have gotten it nowhere. Properly upgraded graphics, Steam, and a mobile port would basically turn this into a star again.
- Lord of the Rings Online – LOTRO’s characters look and move like butt. Which is a shame, because its other graphics have stood the test of time. I’d dearly love to see some of the clunk repaired in this old beauty so that she is right there all spiffed up once the Amazon show trickles out.
All that said, my main MMOs are pretty old, and I find that mechanics still top graphics for me by a whole lot. So really I’m wishing for extra eyecandy to make the games more popular than they are.
Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): I am more than just a graphics snob; I am a full on aesthetics snob. The graphics can be good, but if animations suck with it, then it’s just that much more difficult for me to like.
Say what you will about the state of Guild Wars 2, the one thing that’s always been bad in GW2 is how it handles animations. Why the heck do they have to use the same animation for holding a sword, axe, dagger, or any other single-handed weapon? I outright refuse to run two swords for this reason. While holding two swords looks cool in GW2, the act of using those swords look awkward. The right hand swings wildly while the second hand is just kind of hanging there. It’s weird! With that being said, give me a Guild Wars 2 animation update! Here are my specific requests:
- Redo The Revenant’s sword autoattack.
- Unique auto attack animation when holding two weapons.
- The player character doesn’t automatically put his weapons away.
- The choice of an alternate, more relaxed “weapons-out” stance (Like how characters in FFXIV has two poses when their weapons are drawn)
- The offhand holds different weapons differently. They all use the generic stance; the female human also bends her off hand wrist at an awkward angle too.
Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I would love it if Secret World had animations that didn’t feature people who were mightily fighting through living rigor mortis. Seriously, every combat animation is wooden, the spell effects are lackluster, and even the sound design falls flat for me. Even the act of firing weapons feels like it lacks weight and impact; I’m not wielding a shotgun, I’m firing an oversized confetti popper. Did those pistols hit? I guess so because damage numbers showed up.
Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): I play Old School RuneScape; I am not a graphics snob. That said, even though I’d much rather have good core gameplay than pretty graphics, I do often judge a game by its graphics. If the team hasn’t put much effort into the visuals, it likely hasn’t put much effort into the game as a whole. That’s not universally true, but it is more often than not. But I’m willing to forgive a game for looking like it came out in 2005 if it actually came out in 2005.
As for games that need a remaster, maybe it’s because I’ve been looking at side-by-side comparisons of GW1 and GW2 Far Shiverpeaks maps since Icebrood Saga started, but the first thing that springs to mind is the original Guild Wars. I see a lot of players saying they would go back, even rebuy the game, if they just redid the graphics in a modern style, and maybe fixed up the controls a little. There really isn’t a whole lot like Guild Wars (Guild Wars 2 included), and I think it could do well alongside all of the online action RPGs that have been popping up lately.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): If there’s one game that could really use a full graphical overhaul – like, seriously, rebuild an entirely new graphical engine and slap it in the existing game – it’s City of Heroes. Look, I love that game, but it has not aged well, and its flat faces and mitten hands are still kind of an issue when it comes to convincing someone that it is actually a really good game.
But if we’re sticking to live games, Star Trek Online might benefit from one, even though the game is… well, still really pretty! It’s just the game I like that most obviously suffers from having been assembled in a slapdash hurry, during what I can only assume were coding sessions wherein everyone was constantly muttering “oh no oh no oh no” in a race to get it out the door on a tight timetable.
As many people have noticed, of course, this is the advantage to having a certain coherent graphical style. Final Fantasy XI still looks really good despite its age – sure, it suffers a bit due to that age, and I’d love it to get enhancements, but for a game that’s just about old enough to vote it still looks really solid and not horribly clunky.
Actually, maybe I should nominate The Elder Scrolls Online here. Sure, it doesn’t exactly have outdated graphics, but boy they aren’t what I’d call nice for characters. Then again, everyone looking like someone was improperly buried is kind of a Bethesda thing, I suppose…
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I’m honestly not as hung up on graphics as some folks are; gameplay always trumps visuals, in my book. Plus, a strong visual style can compensate for fewer polygons (Dungeons and Dragons Online and RuneScape are great examples of this).
But I’m not against giving older games a bit of a graphical overhaul. It’s probably wiser in bits and spurts rather than one massive project: See what EVE Online has been doing for upgrading its graphics versus Anarchy Online’s much-vaunted (and somewhat underwhelming) visual facelift. I’ve appreciated that Lord of the Rings Online has been updating some of its avatars and areas, although a full-fledged game facelift would be as impractical as it would be expensive.
If I had my druthers… Neverwinter and Cryptic need much better hair models for their characters. I really hate SWTOR’s character models and animations, but I think that would have to be scrapped and rebuild from scratch to meet my standards.
Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): Both EverQuest games deserve a graphical touch-up. I think the dated graphics and poor animations of the original game are a barrier to entry, and EQ2 just needs an across-the-board facelift. Animations are particularly important if your combat is slow. If it is going to be very slow, it could at least be entertaining to watch.
What I would not want to see is any “reimagining” of existing zones. I would want them to keep about the same layout and just gain some polygons and higher resolution textures. Some EQ1 zones did get a graphical overhaul at one point, but they also changed the zones in more fundamental ways that made me (and others) very unhappy. Freeport was my original hometown, and they did terrible, horrible, very bad things to it.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I guess I am an outlier, because even though I can really like or dislike a game ‘s graphics, it isn’t about a specific taste or being too dated. I don’t care to have it be the best shiny and new. The art style is a core features to me. The games people seem to complain about the most as needing an overhaul I think need to stay just how they are! I like LOTRO’s visuals and I really do not want the charm of that to be messed up. And EQII actually had quite an overhaul in all the newer content, and even had older stuff spruced up quite a bit. People still complain about the character models, but I like them. They fit the world and fit the style and I like the style. It resonates with me. What I can’t stand are the visuals of WoW and WildStar. But it is also a package deal: You could change the visuals of those games and I still wouldn’t like them because of a number of other elements I don’t like.
Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): I have to admit to being one of those graphics snobs too. Between my Guild Wars 2 and SWTOR game times, I installed and played a moment of LOTRO, and that moment was fleeting. I don’t think I got through the tutorial before logging off permanently. The graphics were just too jarring for me. I know there is a lot of love out there for LOTRO, but I just couldn’t get past it. I don’t think just a fresh coat of paint could save it though. Maybe LOTRO could get the FFVII remake treatment! Now we’re taking.