Thursday, August 24, 2006

Future proofing game graphics

A source of great sadness for me is the loss of so much great game artwork due to the constant erosion of obsolescence. Thousands of pieces of artwork are produced by highly talented teams, crammed into the latest title, launched into the marketplace and then, forgotten. The game eventually stops selling. The artwork was encoded in an obscure custom format that no one understands any more. Other than the occasional archived screenshot and some fuzzy memories, all those years worth of work are gone.

Permanence is difficult to achieve. Still, many artists hope that their work remains useful, pertinent, and perhaps even profitable for at least their lifetime. With games, we are lucky to get shelf life of 12 months. There is obvious room for improvement.

So here is today’s navel gazing challenge: What would graphics that last for the next 10 years look like?

Fine art tiles
I don’t really have a final answer, but here is a brainstorm about a theoretical set of graphics that might hang on for a decade. It is by no means the only answer to the longevity challenge, but it has some useful characteristics to help game graphics age more gracefully.

Imagine a set of graphics with the following characteristics:
  • 2D background tiles
  • Standard format (PNG)
  • Print resolution (300 dpi)
  • Professional quality
  • Painterly, non-photorealistic style.
  • Brand potential
The general strategy
The general survival strategy is to create graphics that can be used in as many titles as possible for as long as possible. The longer lived the titles the better. The more re-releases and sequels they spawn, the better (so long as they use the same set of graphics!)

Games are currently ephemeral. Anything highly algorithmic in nature (that requires more than the human brain to process) tends to be quite fragile. If there is a change it the technological ecosystem that supports its operation, a game has little ability to adapt. When the next console shift happens, many of the games are swept away. When the next version of the OS appears, or you install new video drivers, your games begin to die off. A single game, by itself, is not a reliable canvas for long lived art.

By giving developers a high quality, low cost option for filling a critical yet difficult part of their development process, the our graphics become an obvious choice for prototypes and smaller scale commercial projects. A hundred games released over the next decade should keep the graphics in the public eye for much longer than graphics released for a single title. Developers get cheap graphics. The graphics get a slightly longer time in the spot light.

2D vs. 3D: The importance of standards
One immediate question that popped to mind is whether 2D or 3D was a better format for longevity. 3D has some obviously attractive features. It is flexible enough to be used for a wide variety of games. Most games are going 3D now and going with 2D seems like it would cut off 95% of all future games from using the artwork.

Unfortunately, 3D models are still in a bit of a flux at the moment. There is no agreed upon file format and pixel shaders are wreaking havoc on the concept of ‘standardized’ texture mapping. A 3D model created today is highly likely to be outdated in five years. It is often easier to just remodel it from scratch to suite the newest technology.

2D has the benefits of being a mature format with strong standards. It is highly likely that bitmapped 32-bit graphics will be around in the next decade. The medium has seen little change in the last five years and there are few competitive threats on the horizon. PNG is a solid standard that is on the upswing of gaining broader support. I’d bet there is a 99% chance you’ll still be able view and read PNG files using commonly available software a decade from now.

Resolution: The importance of medium maturity
The bugaboo that plagues most technical artwork is that the bar keeps being raised. 4-bit graphics gave way to 8-bit graphics, which in turn were supplanted by 24-bit graphics. Resolution also increased over time and looks to keep increasing in the future.

For 2D graphics, there are limits. Beyond 200 to 300 DPI, there really isn’t much point in having more resolution. For softer, illustration-style graphics, the human eye tends to start blurring all those pixels together. You also don’t really need much beyond 24-bit color unless you are doing some crazy photo manipulation. Graphics created at such levels will remain useful for the foreseeable future. Provided that you are a competent artist, your graphics will look just as sexy in a decade as they do today, technology be damned.

Photorealism is an ever moving target and there will always be someone who does it better. Cartoons go in and out of style rather quickly. If the style is too unique, it is unlikely that it will be attractive to a large number of developers.

High quality illustration can hold its own for multiple decades and is generic enough to appeal to a multitude of developers. I’m making the bet that 2D tiled graphics is a style that will have pertinence in the future alongside the inevitable new styles. Ideally, designers will choose to use 2D graphics not only because they are limited by current technology or budget, but because it is the best fit for their game.

2D static graphics are relatively inexpensive to create and use.

Expenses increase as you add dimensions: The rough rule of thumb is that for every dimension that you add, the cost of production skyrockets and the number of skilled producers decreases by 10.

If you move from 2D to 3D, expect costs to rise and talent to become scarce. If you move from static 2D to animated 2D, the same thing happens. Animated 3D graphics are guaranteed to bloat your budget and leave you grasping for skilled artists.

In keeping with graphics for the masses strategy, it makes sense to aim low. That ensures that there are always hungry new teams emerging from the quantum indie vacuum, popping into existence with no money and no resources. Our inexpensive, highly cost effective graphics will be waiting.

2D tools are inexpensive and experts are easy to find. The fact that you can batch recolorize a set of graphics and have a whole new level is hard to beat. By reducing the cost of adaptation, we encourage reuse.

Brand potential
Over time, these future proofed graphics will go one of two ways. If their quality is low and the players have poor experiences with them, subsequent titles will likely be seen as shoddy. Reviewers will mark down the projects for taking the cheap route and not investing in original art resources. How often have you heard the refrain “They just reused the same graphics from before! Score Deduction!”

On the other hand, if the quality of the graphics is high and players have great experiences with titles that use them, then the graphics have the possibility of creating a brand of their own. This has happened in the past with the Wilhelm scream and Space invader graphics.

Creating graphics with brand potential is a tricky feat to pull off. A history of positive player experience with the graphics is the critical ingredient. An interesting story about the graphics that appeals to educated gamers is also helpful. All of these naturally occurring factors can be augmented by a steady and effective awareness campaign.

Adaptability to new technology
Naturally, there are some fundamental technology advances that prevent our graphics from being suited for every project. We can still stack the deck in our favor, however.
  • Interactivity
  • 3D

Interactivity: The interactive elements in games are evolving at a rapid pace and their art resources bear the burden of also being interactive. A fighting game, for example, would be nothing without graphics specifically tailored to demonstrate the interactive aspects of hitting, moving and blocking. In fact there are wide swaths of the graphics spectrum that must be custom tailored to fit the interactive system of the game title.

This is why our graphics don’t really deal with characters, special effects or other areas that demand high interactivity. Instead, they focus more on background props and landscape tiles. These more static elements are less likely to demand custom created graphics that are highly tailored towards a game’s specific interactive requirements.

The rise of 3D: Over time 3D will only become more attractive. Standards will start to emerge which will make 3D assets easier to repurpose and many productions will demand that you use 3D to cut the cost of character animation. We can’t stop this trend, but we can make graphics that can still be useful within a 3D engine.

To this end, I’m focusing on faux 3D environment tiles. You can use them along side 3D characters, particle effects and such without too many difficulties. If someone insists on using a 3D engine and their title doesn’t need to move the camera, our proposed graphics remain at least a viable option for inexpensive backgrounds.

Broadening the scope of the discussion
So you’ve just read through an elaborate thought experiment. It sounds quite silly on the surface…“Making game graphics that last a decade.” Pshaw!

But ultimately, I’m asking some simple questions:
  • How can we create game artwork that remains valuable to people for a long period of time?
  • And looking at the larger picture, how do we avoid creating disposable content?
I began exploring future proofing art because it is an area where I have experience and can affect change. We can extend the question to other aspects of game development. What would a future proofed sound track look like? What would future proofed level design look like? What would an entire future proofed game look like?

Some lessons from future proofing graphics are likely applicable to games:
  • Broad usage: If a game concept is used across a broad number of titles across a wide population of users, it is likely to last. Think of this as a portfolio management matter. Where a single high risk project might easily go under, the chance of all projects going under is much slimmer.
  • Standardization: Standards in a mature medium help ensure the persistence of a game concept by facilitating reuse. A standard is simply a method of crystallizing value in a broadly accepted and reusable format.
  • Reduced Cost of Adaptation: As costs of updating and adapting a game decrease there is a greater chance the content will be brought forward as the technology ecosystem evolves. When people are looking for entertainment, they have lots of choices. If you can provide equivalent utility for less money, people have an economic incentive to reuse your work.
  • Adaptability to upcoming technologies: We can look down the road a few years and make a guess about what is coming next. By focusing on more stable areas and having upgrade paths in mind, our content can help make the transition when technological shifts occur.
  • Brand potential: A game concept with a great brand remains meainingful in the face of advancing technology and player burnout. Long lived art forms a deeper emotional connection with the audience that keeps them coming back long after the utilitarian value has faded. Brand turns a throw away experience into an evergreen experience.
There are many classic examples of games that have withstood the test of time admirably. Chess, Solitaire, Tetris are the easy examples. Many Nintendo titles successfully reinvent themselves for new audiences, generation after generation. Lastly, successful game designs such as Dune 2, or Doom manage to live on by founding entirely new genres of game play. Each of these has some or all of the elements mentioned above.

Future proofing art is not an exercise in preservation. Future proofing is an exercise in building in easily accessible value that can be reused and repurposed.

We think of a painting as a static smear of paint on a physical canvas. But if you look at its use and value throughout time, you'll find that it evolves quite radically. A great painting goes from being on a canvas, to gracing a living room, to being a work of art in a museum. At each stage the value of the painting to its owner is distinctly different. The painter sees it as a creative act that will bring money. The original buyer sees it as something to brighten up the living room. The museum sees it as a work of cultural expression that will enlighten the masses that view it. At each stage in its lifecycle, the original form is reused, reinterpreted and reapplied to a new environment that can be value to others.

Creating long term works of game art is thus about creating content that lends itself to this constant process of adaptation.
  • First, we must acknowledge that many aspects of modern game development are fragile. A delicate ecosystem of art and technology is the only thing that allows us to share our works of creativity. This momentary eddy in the cultural current slips away when time inevitably flows forward.
  • Next, we must consider how our art or design can take on new life beyond this moment and this release. What choices can we make that facilitate future audiences assuming control of our content and adapting it to their unique needs and environment? .
Wouldn’t it be neat if the game art you made today could be enjoyed by your children or grandchildren? As a creative fellow, this is a rather delightful dream.

Take care


  1. I agree with you 100%. I think there's alot of potential here. Another thing would be the need for a very simplistic futureproof game engine to support them - which, granted would be a more difficult task to accomplish - but if as you say it would be used for at least 10 years - since it would likely need to be tailored to certain purposes anyways, establishing a modular bedrock that supported futureproof art (audio and visual) while leaving most of the mechanics up to the developers.

    Also the idea of futureproof sound is an interesting one. There's more precident for this - there are lots of accessible stock music and sound libraries availible to whomever desires them. Does that make them good candidates for material for games? Maybe.

    I think, optimally, futureproof sound would be developed just for games. You'd need sound effects. You'd need music. Dialog would be optional and would still need to be custom for each title - though certainly you could come up with a generic set if you desired. But that falls in the same arena as prefab characters and other interactive elements.

    Sound effects could easily be from existing libraries of sounds - there are a lot of sound designers churing out work constantly. But it would be great if someone churned out top quality work for more general purpose usage in thoughtful, thematic 'sound-sets'.

    Music is an interesting issue. There are many approaches one might take. To me it would seem almost like harkening back to the days of having music 'trackers' built into engines makes more sense for utilitarian purposes. One option is utilizing some sort of synthesis/sampling engine utilizing MIDI files and audio files. MIDI files have prooved to be exceedingly resiliant through electronic music development - though the player would have to be top quality to avoid the terrible cheesey MIDI sound people have come to expect. They are, however, a great, generic, and simple way to store musical information. Another option would be an audio loop sample based system. Utilizing multiple tracks or just one. With multiple tracks a sort of virtual mixing of elements would create a more varied palette. You could get longer more varied tracks in less space. Each track could consist of one or more instruments playing a their part for a certain measure. Each loop could be a different number of measures. Their sequencing could be stored in a midi file. A multitrack system also allows for smoother transitions between musical elements. Some such examples exist. The trouble is there would need to be a very large and varied set of musical phrases in order to create any sense of variety. A combination of both systems might be the anwsers. Where you have a synthesized or sampled music notation playback system used in conjunction with a loop based system. Again youd only have to use audio and MIDI files.

    In terms of what audio format to use - that's a tough on. Simple WAV would be the best archival format as it's top quality - it does however waste an incredible ammount of space. Highest quality VBR MP3's would seem like the best option for distribution purposes - but MP3 licensing is quite expensive from what I've read. Though I'm sure in due time a better option would surface for games. MP3 has merely proved to be a resilitant compression scheme and has come quite a long way in efficiency thanks to LAME. In the meantime, WAV would likely be the best format to store music and sound in.

    Great article as always. I'm excited everytime you post because you usually have good ideas to share. Thanks for keeping up the good work.

  2. Interesting.

    One of the nicest solutions I have seen to future proofing game assets is the way Climax does things.

    They wrote a Bezier spline/patch modeller called Tomcat. Then they sample the highly detailed parametrically defined model to produce a polygonal based models which are used by the game engine.

    So to upgrade the assets from one iteration of the game engine to the next, they just have to tweak the sampler.

    Climax who make the MotoGP series of games then get to use the bikes they created for last seasons games in the new season as unlockables.

    I don't work for Climax and don't know how successful it is in practise but that is the theory.

    Colm Mac

  3. Interesting column as always.

    As you say, 2D tiles have the advantage of being cheap to make. As far as your "garage band" indy startup is concerned, getting that kind of art is the last thing they need to worry about, because its cost is negligible compared to the rest of the project.

    The real place where stock graphics could help is in 3D. If you could find a way to make generic textures for 3D levels and such... well, that could even end up being a viable business model, doing the same for art as middleware does for programming.

    As for entire games that are "futureproof" (wouldn't "timeless" be a better description?)... aren't many of the classics already? Isn't this what emulators do? And clearly there's a market for such things, else the Wii wouldn't be backwards-compatible all the way back to 1985. Sure, some of that's nostalgia... but some of it is that there are some games from that era that are just as engaging today as they were back then, graphics or no graphics.

  4. For super low end, standardized game platforms both Flash and GBA are probably the current shoe-ins. The PC as a platform is still evolving somewhat organically so it isn't a 100% guarantee that things that work now will work in the future.

    There certainly exist games that are on their way to being timeless. However, that is less interesting than identifying how to make your own game timeless. :-)

    People are making 3D clipart available. There are sites with thousands of great models available. But you need to pay and most are not easily converted into games. Most high res models are still not easily converted into real-time models though this is becoming less of an issue as 3D cards improve in power. As I mentioned 3D is an area that will rapidly become more attractive, but other than some specialized solutions like what Colm mentioned, it isn't there yet.

    I'm quite fascinated to see what will happen with 2D games going forward. We've seen a bit of a resurgance with the DS and Indie titles. I'm at the point where 3D for the sake of 3D bores me. If your game design works with 2D graphics and you can cut 50% to 90% off your art budget, you are an idiot to go with 3D. Techno-wanking not longer has a place in game development except for the super high end AAA titles.

  5. idk danc, sounds to me like you're just afraid of being forgotten. It's pretty common with human beings, these days at least, to want to be remembered. I guess it's brave of you to want to be rememebered for doing something as noble as providing art for entertainment. Persionally, I just hope someone puts a nice bench somewhere nice with one of those cheesy engraved plaques on it. :D

  6. hehehe... I agree with Harold (I wish I'd written that). I admit there was cleverness in the old 4 bit blocky color schemes of the past, but if it's "art" as you suppose from the get go... someone will preserve it, and adore it, and all that...

    To me, graphics != art ...


  7. *grin* It isn't all about me and my needs.

    Creating long term value is not about some Ozymandias syndrome. It is about contributing to society in a positive and effective manner.

    We all rot away and are forgotten. We'll talk belief systems sometime. :-) In our brief time upon this planet did you make a difference and reach your potential?

    take care,

  8. Reusable art assets may be a boon to low-budget developers, and lucrative for artists, but can they really endear themselves to players?

    The Super Mushroom is beloved because it makes Mario big. It's become an icon not because it's a brilliant design in itself; it's what it does for the player in the context of the game. It makes him look cool, gives him another hit point, lets him run recklessly through Bowser if he wants. That's not to say that great visuals aren't hugely important to games; they are. But a game like SMB reminds us that the visuals are only an aspect serving a whole. Players remember graphics because of their relationship to them as players. People bonded with the Street Fighter characters because those faces and physiques became theirs when they played. Those postures and actions represented their own aggression, competitiveness, victory and defeat.

    Artists who create game graphics don't see the game as a delivery format for their art; they see their art as an essential and enhancing aspect of the game.

    Most any art asset would be less special outside the context of its game. It's likewise devalued by appearing in multiple games. Your suggestion that artists should seek a generic, broadly-applicable style just makes art less likely to affect anyone in a unique and lasting way.

    Also, how is this good for games? Not only are art assets devalued by appearing in multiple games – all those games are devalued as well. It's detrimental as both art and business. How much harder will publicity be when a game has the same look as another one? Not to mention confusing...

    So it seems to me that the question for longevity shouldn't be "how can we get the same art assets in as many games as possible?" but "how can we make this game an enduring work?" Part of the answer (and of greatest interest to artists) is to have unique and memorable graphics that perfectly suit the game's theme and enhance the player's experience. Earthworm Jim, WipEout and Viewtiful Joe are a few games whose graphics helped generate buzz and secure them in the memories of gamers for years after release.

    But where can you get a copy of Earthworm Jim these days? The longevity problem may start to resolve with the broad adoption of online stores. Companies are bringing back their old games more than ever, and players have no problem with "out of date" graphics (in fact, 8-bit is cool now, and it never would have existed without the limitations imposed upon artists). Economic realities of game design are forcing developers to find other ways to differentiate their products besides more technologically sophisticated graphics. Katamari Damacy, despite having a bazillion objects on the screen, looked retro because of its flat-shaded, blocky style. That was no obstacle for consumers. There's hope that we're reaching an era where the maturation of graphical horsepower and the broadening of the game market will allow for unprecedented diversity in game graphics. So, I believe old games can keep selling.

    There's one front on which I will accept your point, and that's "incidental" graphics, including certain background objects or special effects, which can be modified to suit a particular game. Artists could create those kinds of assets and license them for use in as many games as possible. However, I still believe that the major art assets need to be unique. So to me, this is a good economic option for artists, but not really a solution that extends an artwork's "time in the sun," since by definition these assets are already in the shade.

  9. I find myself nodding in agreement with David on the issue of games needing unique art to contribute to their individual experience. Obviously, there are many pieces to the puzzle and quite a few of them can be shared between titles, and as you're talking in 10 years, generations to an extent. But the most high profile art really has to be new. I think I understand that Danc is primarily talking about distant backdrops and smaller details. But if not, then the sense of monotony and ultimately blandness would become overpowering to players who've experienced many such titles. Not to overplay it, because I do agree with the utility argument made in the essay, the human mind is all too capable of spotting similarities and the effect of moderate to high profile shared graphics would seem far higher to the player than the actual proportion used.

    The line "you can batch recolorize a set of graphics and have a whole new level" sends a particular shiver down my spine! Of course, the vision which comes to mind is when it is done *badly* and that's not what was intended. But I've played games over enough decades to appreciate the trick when it's used just a little too much.

    As for C. Richardson's points about music and sound formats. Two words for you:


    and FLAC

    MOD soundtracks used to be a real staple of classic gaming on the SNES and Amiga and elsewhere, sounding much better than MIDI for years. There's no reason a similar scheme couldn't be used today - indeed with lossless samples such as FLAC. In fact, I'd be surprised if there isn't already something out there!

    Back on topic. I do see merit Danc in the overall thrust of your argument. However I would put the emphasis on open and expandable formats over the notion of active art lifetimes in the order of several gaming generations. Classic gaming art does actually really appeal to me. But the notion of decreasing the pressure to produce new art, likewise, tingles with a certain sense of dread!

    A happy medium must exist between facility for small dev outfits and a thriving inustry with enough resources being spent on the new stuff to keep us out of stagnation. I doubt you're arguing any otherwise in fact, but that's my spin!

  10. This is certainly not a topic with a single answer. :-)

    Graphics are part of the reward system of a game. Unique graphics provide the player with a little zest of reward the first time they see them. If the graphics are well integrated into a more complex game mechanic, they become more than just a pretty picture. Instead they symbolize critical information that matters to the gameplay. The mushroom in Mario is a classic example of a simple image being made 'more' by its role as a reward signal in a well balanced game mechanic.

    What folks are identifying as 'that icky feeling that comes from seeing the same graphics again and again' is burnout. You've seen those graphics in another game, you've learned all you can from them and now that you've grokked them, they are just noise in the system.

    However, you don't make a great game by making every part of the game great. More often than not, this leads to sub-optimization. You make a great game by making the overall player experience great. NetHack, for example, uses graphics that have been heavily reused in numerous titles. :-) Yet few would say that it is a poor game. In the place of amazing graphics, it focuses on deep networks of interwoven game mechanics to build up a playground world.

    My assumption is that game development teams do not have an infinite budget. They are forced to make hard choices about what game mechanics and associated reward systems to focus on. If a set of professional graphics can provide a 'better than crap' (which is where many indie titles are sitting right now) options for the utilitarian need to put something visual on the screen, the team can focus on other areas that have greater long term value.

    This isn't the solution for every game, but for the graphics to survive they just need to find a niche in the game development ecology. Personally, if I were building an indie title with a limited budget and there existed a set of inexpensive precreated graphics, I would jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat. Knocking off 20% to 50% of my dev costs in a single blow (depending on the genre) is wonderful and frees up time to focus on other things that will ultimately differentiate the title in the marketplace. I can work on high quality prototypes sooner, show the game to the customer faster and generally cut down my development time substancially.

    As for burnout, given the fragmented casual games market, most players will be seeing the graphics for the first time. :-) We are much more tuned into such things than all but the hardest core customers.

    Wonderful thoughts,

  11. It really depends on what level of abstraction you need for your asset. Of course icons, main characters, powerups, etc. need to be unique to give your game a unique feel. But when you're trying to create a realistic city, you're just throwing money away if you don't reuse realistic NPCs, cars, trees, etc. Presuming you have those lying around from an earlier title.

    But as I said, it really depends on your level of abstraction. In more abstract games like Mario or Psychonauts, reused assets are far easier to spot than in say, GTA.

  12. I think the heart of the issue is that 98% of videogames, like other works of art, are garbage and not worthy of archival. There are all sorts of side debates you could have about this (i.e. who gets to decide what the canon is, or why delete anything when disk space is free, ect.) - fact is history only has so many slots for famous 18th century painters - how many can you name? - in the active social conscious. This number is dwarfed by the actual number of producers in that period. I think its no tragedy to lose the stinkers.

    The issue of 3d format flux (re: shaders) is very real and reminds me of people trying to save old arcade ROMs. Emulation is ultimately going to be the only viable solution for archiving programs (be they shaders or x86 code)

    Just my 2c. Nice article.

  13. Take a look at the new Team Fortress 2 graphics. The stylized 'cartoon' look will be sufficient for the next 10 years, at least. Nobody complains that old Bugs Bunny cartoons don't look

  14. What bothers me the most in your post is the notion of "parametricize" game art, and that somehow it would be possible to objectively evaluate game art so it would be "future proof".

    It stinks on naiveness to the full degree!! To even think that it would be possible to make some kind of art "middleware"... yack! Art is not Technology!! ART DOES NOT EQUATE TECHNICAL PROGRESS! It is not measurable!

    Games are "future proof" if and only if:

    - they are good games, meaning fun, not too easy, not too hard, addictive, etc;

    - they present an important gameplay novelty that is not easily copied from the competition within one or two years, aka "exclusiveness". This is important. It gives the game the time span to become a kind of a legend;

    - based on a durable and massified OS / Console. The game maybe great, but if few people ever buy the console, it won't success;

    - gathers good art. Of course! But the big question remains: what classifies "good art"?

    Is it the graphics? Or is it the gameplay? Or is it the game purpose itself? The dynamics? The challenge?

    It all adds up to "experience", of course. But how can one person judge "objectively" a game's experience and "future-proofs" it? Come on, its a matter of common-sense and taste!

    Game's industry was focused until recently in technology. That was the focal point of it, because they had understood that technological breakthrough would give a player's an innovation on game experience. And it was so important because it was predictable: better graphics usually meant great success.

    Nowadays, games are still graphically improving, but it must come to a point were the graphical progress conflicts greatly with gameplay experience and adds nothing or little more to it. The innovative Wii success against the most powerful but troubled Playstation 3 is the best example of this: Games do not equate to Graphics.

    Lets look at Chess! One of the most gratifying games of History and its graphics are .... basic! People won't even use "3d chess" nonsense, because it doesn't add anything to the game, it isn't about it at all.

    Let's look at Go! Funny though that if we abstract the amazing Dune 2 we see a quadrilateral grid that is the "graphical" structure of the game, but it is also the gameplay structure of it. And it resembles of Go (or Othello) a lot! Nowadays, "RTS" games are too "realistic" and little "gamelike", abstract, to my taste. They won't endure. Dune 2 OTOH will always remain a nostalgical classic.

    The main problem is: Graphic breaktroughs ARE predictable and profitable. True Game Art is totally unpredictable.

  15. I'm sorry I didn't find this blog and post sooner - there's a lot of interesting thought here.

    The discussion about graphics in games that die off when the games (or rather, the devices on which they run) become obsolete is really interesting to me and my employer, Antix Labs.

    We have created a solution that effectively defines an "MP3 format" if you will, for C/C++ based games. The main advantage is portability across manufacturers, platforms, etc. But part of this is that the games can live much longer lives. Just like an MP3 music file, it exists essentially forever and consumers can play them so long as they have a bit of "player" software for the format.

    Check it out. If we are successful, your work might not be forgotten after all.