This is merely eye-candy. Sure enough, as technology has developed, so has the amount of background decor. This may seem a superficial area to explore, but when someone looks on the back of a box in a supermarket, your screenshots need to entice.
Oddly enough, the best seller of them all – Super Mario Bros 3 – didn’t opt for the colourful approach. This is possibly due to the limited 8-bit hardware it was on at the time. It compensated by using large chunks of the same colour that harshly contrasted with another. For instance, the boss castle standard scheme involves medium grey brickwork; whilst deep orange lava pits bubble affront a jet-black backdrop.
Obviously this is the first part of the game and thus needs to stimulate as many senses as possible and impress. Tropical / nature-filled environments are a popular choice across the board, possibly due to the immense wealth and composition of colours that are present in such areas. Also the potential for background clutter and animated wildlife in a tropical environment is considerably large and hence can stimulate a prospective player even more so.
An issue amongst 3D games mainly, as 2D games seem to stick with only two axes of camera movement. Mario Sunshine’s in-game camera was recently the subject of heavy criticism throughout the specialist media, as was Sonic’s upon Sonic Adventure’s release. Jak and Daxter’s camera is also problematic – especially during times requiring the player to judge and perform long jumps from the corner of a room.
What this suggests is that developers could perhaps take provisions to improve this, by increasing the priority that camera-software has in game development.
Other solutions, which would cost less R+D time and improve players’ abilities in their jump-nav judgements include:
2006 addition: The second recommendation would be a unique mechanic and one that I wouldn’t personally desire, but it is something to consider. Toby Gard’s Galleon, which was a Tomb Raider-esqe pirate adventure, saw a control system using an automated system that received praise from those whom experienced it. Sadly, the game did not sell well, though many would point reasoning at the long development timeline leaving little money left for marketing the game.
Also note that camera software has not improved much over the years, though many – Denis Dyack of Silicon Knights for example - are starting to see it as a more urgent problem, promising to provide the player with a system good enough that they never have to think about controlling it.
Some have speculated that the Wii controller’s unique design will help remove the camera system problem that has plagued games for over ten years now. Others are simply looking at being more conservative with their environments, though this can also be castrating to the visual potential of a game.