Friday, October 5, 2012

Slideshow vs realtime 3D

Hi everyone, and thanks to each of you who come and visit this blog daily and support the game ! 

Today is a little different article where I want to justify my choice of making a slideshow adventure game. You know what slideshow means : precalculated environments and static pictures. It can seem strange in 2012 to use this technique, but honestly I couldn't have made the game on my own if I had chosen realtime 3D. That's the main reason !

Yesterday I was reading some reactions about that on the Adventure Gamers forums, and today I decided it was a good idea to share my point of view here too. Of course this is MY opinion, and I have no problem with someone thinking something else ;) And if you wish to continue the discussion, you can go there.

Slideshow vs realtime 3D 
(in first-person adventure games)

Not anyone can do great graphics in realtime 3D. It’s really hard ! It’s much easier to make nice views for a slideshow game, because you can use softwares like photoshop to make them look better. So in realtime you have free movement, while in slideshow you can reach photorealism with a lot of work. That’s what I try to do in ASA, and from what I read here and there, most people don’t like slideshow games anymore (happily there are exceptions !).

3D (realtime or not) is still a way for an artist to express is point of view… it’s a tool in the same way as painting and guitar, and lot of people seem to forget it nowadays because 3D has become too common (thanks to the industry!) but not anyone can make great things with 3D.
Have you never been amazed in front of a wonderful 3D picture ? I have, even if it doesn’t move. Maybe that’s more a question of imagination (what did the artist exactly, and why ? Why placing the camera here, was there a reason ? etc…). 

In fact, the problem "slideshow vs. free movement" really depends on who’s making the game. A studio with funds has almost no excuses : it has to be in realtime nowadays ! But an amateur or an indie may choose slideshow for reasons of production difficulties (limited ressources, costs...). That’s also a matter of skills in development.

Let's see what brings each of them :

I like :
+ watching beautiful pictures
+ imagining what happens between views (imagination as more place with slideshow)
+ point & click

I dislike :
- can be confusing
- no sensation of freedom


I like :
+ going everywhere I want and moving the camera when I want
+ interactivity
+ more immersive

I dislike :
- needs a good computer
- most of the time it’s not as beautiful as precalc. (compare Myst V with the others)
- we don't reach photorealism yet in realtime
- moving the character with a keyboard or a pad

Also, I’d say that for now I didn’t play or see so much adventure games in realtime that convinced me (first person). I just can’t imagine Riven in realtime ! It was magic only because it was a slideshow game, where the developpers chose the views themselves, what they wanted the player to see.
Look at this :
It’s a fan remake of Riven in realtime 3D. That’s an awesome work (and I mean awesome !), true, and I know how hard it must be to make this, but that’s not Riven anymore… Riven is like a photo album, it’s not a place to play in realtime 3D.

Show me a realtime game with photorealistic graphics ! You won’t find any, because in realtime we still don’t know how to make it. True, we’re starting to get very close, but precalculated still brings something more. And I personaly like to visit photorealistic worlds that can’t exist, even if it means slideshow ! True, I’ve been touched for life by Riven : when I was a child and played it, I didn’t imagine a second it was in 3D, can you trust that ? I thought someone had visited great places and added some strange machines before taking photos.

On the other hand, if we speak of this in maybe 5 or 10 years, when realtime will be able to make things as realistic as precalc, then I will probably not have the same speech. But right now, in 2012, I’d say that if a game is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s slideshow or realtime ! We mustn’t be close-minded ; )