The Daily Grind: How grown-up do you like your MMO graphics?


I may be settling comfortably into middle age, but I’ll freely admit that I’m very partial to bright colors and highly stylized designs for video games — especially in my MMORPGs. It’s why my eyes are drawn to titles like World of Warcraft, Glitch, and WildStar, even if the art in those games is more suited to Saturday morning cartoons than grown-up gritty settings.

On the other hand, I do play a whole lot of Lord of the Rings Online, and while there’s a style there, it skews more toward a realistic and naturalistic setting. I do feel more grown-uppy when I’m in that world, and as a consequence, I think I take the story more seriously. So maybe there’s something good on both sides of the fence here.

So let’s talk the psychology and personality of MMO graphics today. How grown-up — or not — do you like the look of your game, and why?

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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Definitely more toward realistic.


I very much prefer heavily stylized graphics, rooted in either cartoons or anime. For example, in the whole Zelda franchise the one whose graphics I prefer — and by a wide margin — is Windwaker, the one where the main character is referred to in crossovers as “Toon Link”.

Besides, too realistic and detailed graphics are expensive — meaning realistic games are often forced to go for a wider audience to recoup the costs — and can detract from the gameplay — making the audience focus where they need to is easier with highly stylized graphics. So realistic graphics can even hinder games in other ways not directly related to the art style.


The closer to photorealism the better.

That doesn’t mean I won’t play a stylized or cell and game but those are certainly not the preference.


I like the graphics which are as detailed as possible, meaning no blurry textures or low-polygon characters. This is why I cannot play Minecraft and many similar games, especially old MMORPGs, even the ones I used to play a lot in the past.

ichi sakari


Squadron 42 - Star Citizen Screenshot 2020.05.29 -

In my opinion, you’re merging two separate “scales” of graphics.

One scale is childish vs mature

The other scale is stylized vs realistic.

Now, granted, stylized art directions are often childish, whilst realistic art directions are often more mature, but not always.

So, with that in mind, my preference is for mature, stylized art direction. Realistic is cool, and often enjoyable for a short time, but it quickly looks out-dated. Plus, my focus is definitely on high-fantasy, so there isn’t really a “realistic” approach to orcs, dwarves, elves etc because they aren’t real to begin with.


Not fond of cell shading or anime style. The ‘Cute’ character styles (such as FFXIV) are not favorites of mine either.

I just prefer serious depictions in my games to anything else. Also a plus is if I can relate to them. For instance, Warframe is right on the edge of acceptability for me.

All very personal and subjective of course. :)


After thinking about it for a bit, I don’t really have a preference. As long as the game is good overall, and the art is well drawn/rendered, the visual tone won’t make a difference to me.

Switchie Console-tan

Agreed with this. Visual style tends to just go from “Wow!” to “meh” if the gameplay isn’t enough of a hook personally. As long as it’s well structured and not a buggy mess as well, *coughTERACONSOLEcough* it’s all good.

Robert Mann

I’d rather have older looking more ‘realistic’ graphics, than stylized. Even if the stylized age better. That said, stylized does tend to age quite a bit too, WoW gets unfair credit from many for not aging when they continually upgraded their graphics. Just go back and look up some old shots from release times… and revel in how they haven’t really aged well!

That said, graphics are generally fairly low on my concerns unless they actively ensure I won’t play (too much flashy stuff blocking my view is a big consideration there). I may prefer a more realistic design, but stylized is not an instant ‘no’ by any means. Far from it, a well done stylized game can be good fun.

Similarly, I really don’t care much for the block style of games despite liking many of the mechanics involved otherwise. It just does not please me aesthetically, which is very subjective, but is the question. Again, if the rest of the game is worth it, I will enjoy that as much as I can (although maybe in more spread out fashion).

I also don’t mind blood or gore so long as it’s not the entire point. So I’d say I like my graphics fairly ‘grown up’… but I’m not above whimsy if done well.

Kickstarter Donor

Pretty much depends on the nature of the game for me. Some games I don’t mind stylized but for MMO’s I prefer as high a graphics quality as we can get because I prefer the aesthetic value.