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Effects Of Graphical Advances On Gameplay??
As any fule kno lots of developers are hot on improving graphics at the moment. Witness the spectacular jungle terrain of Far Cry, the sinister lighting and detail of Doom3 videos, or the futuristic effects of the Unreal2Tech shakycam video.

All cool stuff and I for one, as a graphics whore, welcome it all.

However. Gameplay. As someone (warth?) pointed out in the GA thread, there are some notable advances still to be made in gameplay. Those are interesting in themselves, but perhaps equally interesting is speculating upon the extent to which graphical advances can influence and hopefully benefit the basic gameplay.

Who thinks they can, and who thinks they can't??

And more importantly - who thinks companies will use them to benefit gameplay instead of just shiny eye candy that looks good but is otherwise useless??

A few ideas spring to mind sharpish:

Shadows 1 - lurking in shadows and not being seen, enemy lurking in shadows, removing lights to hide yourself, turning on lights to expose enemy.

Shadows 2 - proper shadowing from enemy revealing their position, proper shadowing from you revealing yours.

Reflections - seeing enemy reflected in water or in glass.

Fog/smoke - enemy being concealed by them, or you creating fog/smoke to cover your tracks.
Games Like Thief 
benefit greatly from improved lighting. But I only like advanced graphics if the design is there. For example: I prefer Quake 3 over UT (any version) because Quake 3 has a much cooler design. UT is bland, lame and boring visually to me, despite it's "graphical superiority." Either do something with the graphical advances that is worthy of the tech or don't bother with it. I don't care about "real world" settings, I like bizarre, creative environments. Quake/Silent Hill are good examples of environments that appeal to me, Alice is another.

For gameplay, better graphics should come second. If the designer has a need for better graphics that integrates the gameplay with it, then I'm all for it. But I'd rather play better games with Quake graphics than Wolfenstein 3d with UT2010 graphics. 
Actually Zwiff 
Quake Arena is still a programming marvel compared to that bloat code of UT2003 == sure there are a lot of built in features mostly of the mover nature that make it nice to map for, but as you said, it looks bland, and Q3 is STILL being improved on with Ydnar's work. 
Example Of Great Game - Mediocre Graphics 
System Shock 2

I'm replaying some Duke3D after stumbling upon a Win32 port that lets it run on my newer machine.

The most graphically pimped game I've run is Painkiller and while cool, doesn't beat Quake, Unreal, Deus Ex and other oldies as far as the overall experience goes.

But I think good stuff is going to happen. I'm really intriqued by STALKER. 
Heh, 
yeah, how could i forget! one of the greatest things you get from advanced graphics is the ability to put hundreds of monsters on screen at the same time which makes games like painkiller possible. 
Er? 
necros... graphical inprovment has stolen away cpu, ram, and rendering power into fewer, better looking monsters, rather than the opposite.

Doom: Lots of monsters.

Quake: Bunch of monsters.

Quake 2: Handful of monsters.

Quake 3: No monsters.

Quake 4: Negative monsters?? 
Monsters Will Be Replaced By Hippies In Q4 
word on the street yo 
... 
In Quake 4, monsters are you! 
Scampie 
what i mean is that with better advances, rendering engines are faster and more efficient, even though they have tons of stuff in them... imagine trying to load PK's monsters into quake for example. quake is a lot slower drawing epolys than wpolys, so would suffer alot from having to draw say, 30 random monsters from PK.
mind you, AI suffers in PK, but that's sort of the good thing about it. :) (and it's not a graphical advance, so irrelevant to the discussion :P) 
Hmm 
/me points at Theif series

Like that, only slightly more so.

That's about it.

(Although it is possible to induced a certain play style on a player through the use of atmosphere, ie, scare the shit out of them and they'll play more cautiously) 
Replies... 
Necros - good point indeed. I suppose you mean that you can have more enemy and thus a certain gameplay where at least the enemy fit into the standard of the game.

Grindy - also a good point, nay, a better one even, about being able to encourage a certain play style in the player. One presumes you could do the opposite by having graphics that make the player more confident (Far Cry's outside maps, maybe????).

Zwiffle, Scragbait, Headthump - you missed the point, well done, award yourself a small turd each.

Scampie - RRRROFL @ negative monsters! Maybe the object of the game will be to create monsters....give birth to them....hmmm.... 
Hurumph 
'Zwiffle, Scragbait, Headthump - you missed the point, well done, award yourself a small turd each'

A cold little stinky and not a steamer on a platter like Larry Flynt doles out. No thanks, you can keep it. 
Splinter Cell 2... 
... is a perfect example of a positive effect of graphics on gameplay, and actually uses a lot of the features you mentioned. I'm not a huge fan of the single-player portions of the Splinter Cell games (I don't know, I just don't have fun playing them), but I recently got SC2 and have been addicted to the multiplayer for the past few days. They've added a lot of touches to it that really enhance the gameplay experience for me. The multiplayer is maximum 2 vs. 2, with 2 spies and 2 mercenaries. Spies play the same as in single-player: they sneak around and try to use stealth and their environment (hanging from pipes, using zip-lines, crawling through air ducts) to elude their enemies and accomplish objectives. The mercenaries are more like the classic first person shooter gameplay. They have a gun, grenades, and can't climb up on things like the spies. All of the gameplay modes basically revolve around the concept of the spies infiltrating an area and stealing/defusing an item at a point in the level, with the mercenaries defending these objectives.

Shadowing

Shadows are probably the most drastic gameplay effecting graphical feature for this game... the shadowing in the game is very important, especially for the spies. I can't tell you how many times I'd be running through, have someone see me, and vault over a few boxes to land in a dark corner, and watch anxiously as a mercenary runs past me thinking I went down the nearby hallyway. Or, on the other hand, turned on my flashlight by chance and noticed a spy perched on a box right in front of my nose watching me.

Fragment and Vertex Programs

Splinter Cell has made good use of these in a lot of their effects... the vision modes are really nice. Both teams have two vision modes. The spies have a night vision mode, which lights everything up and gives the whole scene a blurry, grainy appearance, and an infrared vision mode. The infrared is a great example of gameplay enhancement. It allows the spies to see all of the different heat sources around, be it a mercenary in the room below the roof they're crawling across, or a laser tripwire not visible in normal vision modes. SC2 would be a whole different game without the vision modes.

Smoke

There really isn't a lot that they did with this that's NEW technology, but I'm listing it because they used it well. They do smoke using layered sprites, I think, much like games like Counter-Strike do smoke grenades. There's is a great tactical tool, though, as the mercenaries are badly effected by it... their vision starts getting blurry, they move slower, and start coughing badly. If they stay in the smoke too long they can even suffocate. And speaking of blurry...

Effects on Vision

They do great with this, too. The different things that happen to you in the game change your vision (most of these happen to the mercenary, as it effects his suit). The mercenary might get double vision from the smoke grenades, or have his HUD be filled with static as his suit gets shocked by something, or have his visor splattered with fire extinguisher powder as one is shot out nearby. They're all very minor things but good graphical effects that definitely factor into the gameplay.

I'll stop now. I guess this seems more like an advertisement for SC2 than anything else, but I just think it's a great example of what you're talking about... I definitely recommend checking it out, too. Great fun, especially on a LAN. 
Far Cry And Pants-shittage 
I think there are a few gameplay options that are a bit *easier* to implement well at this point, due to advanced graphical technology, but I wouldn't say that there's anything intrinsically new that's being brought to the table. (Or if there is, I haven't seen it.)

I would love to talk all about Quake 4, but I would be in deep trouble, so instead, I'll talk all about Far Cry, because I've been playing the hell out of it for the last couple of weeks.

Shambler, your comment about Far Cry's outdoor maps possibly instilling more confidence in the player cracked me up. :) I see the point you're making, I think (large, brightly-lit, sunny, open maps with a humungous draw distance would seem to inspire a certain relaxation), but I have been more tense playing Far Cry (both indoor and outdoor levels) than I've been while playing any game in a long time, maybe ever. This is mostly because of the save point system (i.e. no quicksave). The save points are generally well-placed, but there's nothing like being down to a sliver of health, and knowing that you're surrounded by enemies to make you tense. Plus, it's just a damn hard game. Good stuff.

Graphical technology? Hmmn. The binoculars are not exactly jaw-dropping tech at work, but they work really well, and they also act as sound amplification (sometimes even more important when you're in thick jungle and can't see more than a few feet). It's nice too, that when you spot an enemy with the binocs they are "marked" on your radar and stay on there from then on. Before I figured out to use the binocs often, I was getting my ass kicked. The game is a weird mix of stealth and run-and-gun, and I'm loving it.

The nightvision goggles + flashlight is a good example of relatively new graphical tech that serves to improve gameplay. There's a constant balancing act between using the flashlight (which costs nothing, but alerts enemies), and the goggles (which quickly run out of power and recharge very slowly, but don't alert enemies). There are also some enemies that are nearly invisible unless you're using the goggles. :) Different view modes were very difficult to implement just a few years ago, and even then, they kinda sucked.

Finally, the draw distance in Far Cry is amazing. Being able to snipe someone in the head from ~1000 scale meters away = insta-boner.

Hmmn. Need a Far Cry icon. 
It's Good To Know 
Not everyone on this forum is out there wasting their time on a Friday Night (I would guess dusk on the Isles at this time) picking up and sexing up the ladies but is instead hard at work thinking about where this medium is headed for in the near term future.

Excellent work, PJW 
Eh, Dusk To Dawn 
dawn to dust. 
Headthump... 
If you've picked up and sexed anything that walks on less than 4 legs, I'd be mightily surprised. 
And If You Done So With 
Anything bearing a vagina, I would be even more suprised. 
Brown All The Way Baby... 
...pink is like, so 20th century... 
Ha! 
'If you've picked up and sexed anything that walks on less than 4 legs, I'd be mightily surprised.'

There are some chickens clucking around that would tell you how wrong you are.

Vive la Flynt! 
Woo 
Now that ^^^ was an awesome exchange of wit and style. (and funny)

HeadThump, glad you liked the post. I actually just finished up Far Cry and am strongly tempted to go back through it again on a harder difficulty. It was that much fun. (Despite the last two levels being hard as balls--I'm talking kind of crazy hard, especially on the last one.)

I think it's time to finally start Painkiller instead. There's something to be said for advanced graphics (the eye-candy in PK is quite pretty) being combined with unapologetically old-school gameplay. I'm off to unlock some secrets . . . 
With 
Painkiller out, Doom3 ahead of us, and (cross meh extensibles) Half-Life 2 on the way,

'its gonna be a good summer.' 
I Think, If Things Go To Plan... 
...that it's going to be one of the best years for FPS games:

Painkiller
Far Cry
UT2K4
Doom3
Stalker
Half-Life2

All good (or looking to be good) games, all have their different styles and focii....I think it's cool. Now, perhaps I should be playing some of those =/. 
Don't Forget Metroid Prime 2 
Metroid Prime is quite possibly the best FPS I've ever played, even if the gamepad does hinder the controls. 
Rpg: 
yeah, but shambler is talking as a PC-centrist. So Metroid Prime 2 doesn't count. 
Metlslime: 
Yeah, but Shambler is talking as a PC-centrist. So his opinion doesn't count. 
Screw You Guys! 
Damn hippies... 
Unreal 3 Engine Demo 
I posted this in General Abuse but since this thread is about graphical advances - well this video sure features some very impressive graphical and lighting advances as well as some amazing enemy models.

It can be grabbed here: http://www.edgefiles.com/file.x?id=/games-fusion.net/www/videos/unreal3engine_e3.zip

A search for the Unreal3 Engine Demo should turn up alternative download choices as well as smaller file sizes with the same content.

As far as gameplay alone goes - seeing this demo reveals nothing new that hasn't been done with less impressive game engines. I suppose that highly detailed environments with subtle colour variations and dim dynamic lighting could camouflage enemies pretty well. You are admiring some sweet scenery and suddenly your head gets bit off by something hiding right next to you. Enemy camouflage could really add tension and deviate from the more typical head-on attack and cover style of current enemies. Such a tactic would benefit from the new generation of game engines since it's harder to hide in an older game engine. 
Ummm... 
Such a tactic would benefit from the new generation of game engines since it's harder to hide in an older game engine.

Apart from the invisible pinkies in Doom =)

But I see what you mean, enemy camoflauge as a function of the enviroment rather than a function of a particular enemy. 
I'm Not Sure If This Is Solely A Graphical Advancement 
but I'm surprised no one has mentioned better world physics, as in HalfLife 2. Being able to collapse or knock large objects into a squad of baddies, pick up found objects for use as protection or weaponry, or create barriers to block off a particularly enemy-crowded areas if I'm low on health puts a new dimension on play tactics.

Also, I do remember a few years ago there was some hype about games featuring deformable terrain, but I guess it died out dead because I've not heard anything more of it since.

Anyway, I would be pleasantly surprised if I found myself playing a game that allowed significant interactivity with the environment. The ideal would be, of course, to be limited not by the game world but by my ability to discover ways to use it to my advantage. 
Red Faction + Painkiller 
...would be a game to fear. Deformable terrain AND level geometry, with Havoc physics to play with. That would be one juicy game indeed. 
WyldeSnake 
You sir, are in need of Worms3D. 
Blah 
Worms 3d is pretty nice, I'll admit.

What i was more talking about though, is the destroyed pieces of terrain fall off, so if you shoot a hole out of the ceiling the chunk of ceiling falls to the ground, maybe in several pieces. Then you could interact with them a bit more :)

Besides, I want it in an FPS. Worms is good, but no action-packed fragfest...especially since network play has that nice 2 second lag behind everything. 
Hmm 
Actually, deformable terrain is probably possible in Quake 2 and even Zerstorer Quake. And, it's all in the hands of the mapper. Theoretically, one could make all or most of the walls out of breakable wall entities with a leak preventing structure underneath. So that whenever a stray weapon shot hits any architecture, pieces of it would "gib". However, render speeds and no. of entity limits and packet overflow (and amount of mapping work) would probably reduce the extent to which one could implement this.

But... it might be neat to see. I wonder what a small DM map with this would be like. 0_o 
Destructable Geometry: 
http://ged.ax.pl/~tomkh/vox1_en.htm
An impressive, but pointless, example. 
 
Realtime Soft Shadows Project 
Nice Source There, Phait 
the Opengl code could fairly easily (well not easy in regard to time it would take to code, I just mean that it is straight forward) be implemented in Quake 2.

I'll keep this in my faves file. I would like to come back to it when my current activities are completed. 
That's All Very Well... 
...but now you're revitalised this thread, perhaps people could point out if any of Doom3's graphical advances have improved the gameplay (aside from the obvious one of shadows)?? 
The Consoles... 
Its only partially a graphical advance (its also a design/polish thing of course), but I'd have to say that the single best/coolest thing in Doom3 are all the computer consoles and such that you can use throughout the game.

The screens look beautifully clear and crisp regardless of the resolution or quality setting, and its almost always very obvious what the buttons and stuff will do. Being able to interact with the level geometry and stuff via the computer systems is pretty awesome, and there's some actions you need to perform which are almost like minigames within the game; they provide a nice diversion from the (fairly predictable) core gameplay.

Furthermore, the way in which you use the screens is consistent and very easy to understand, so using the computer interfaces is easy and fun. 
Yeah 
The screens are really really cool, I want to purchase that turkey puncher game, it rocks! :D

Sure the shadows do add to the gameplay, but the sheer graphical detail of the textures & environments really makes them come to life also, I have never been so immersed in a game before, Far Cry was the last game that got me fully immersed with its graphical richness, Doom3 topples it with style. When I first ran out onto the mars surface I actually died from lack of oxygen becuase I was looking around :) 
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