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Tale Of Tales' Harvey: Game Developers Need To Think Holistically
Tale Of Tales' Harvey: Game Developers Need To Think Holistically
November 11, 2011 | By Christian Nutt

November 11, 2011 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Indie, Art, Audio, Design, Production

Frustrated by the uneven weight of technology and visuals versus storytelling and audio, The Path developer Tale of Tales tells Gamasutra in a new feature interview that things should change.

"I think also the deal with games is it's not a visual medium. I mean, it's multimedia, to use a '90s word for it. So the visuals are not really the most important thing. And sometimes you see games that are an overweight of visual sensation to the detriment of, perhaps, the sound design, or the dialogue," remarked Tale of Tales' Auriea Harvey, when asked if there's a surprising concentration on conveying visual information over pure aesthetics.

"I mean, how much bad voice acting have you seen in a really beautifully visually crafted game? So, you need all these things to work together, and to be brought up to the same level, and to support each other, I think."

Her creative partner, Michael Samyn, used a cathedral as an analogy: "This is where the cathedral is a good example, because it's architecture, but also painting and sculpture," he said.

"And sound and atmosphere," Harvey added. Samyn agreed, "Theatre also. All these things come together."

"And I think that it helps if game developers think about all of these elements together, and don't sacrifice on the words that are being said... Or the type of atmosphere that is created by the words or the music -- it's like, all these things support the visuals, and the visuals support the rest of it," Harvey said.

"Aesthetics needs to be looked at as a larger area -- not just visuals. Personally, we think that aesthetics extend to the interactions that you do, like the way that you interact with the world, and the way the characters interact with you."

The full interview, which includes a discussion of how Harvey and Samyn originally got into making games, and their broader criticisms of the medium today, is live now on Gamasutra.

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Roger Klado
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We are immature in a lot of ways still. Even visuals have some maturing to do.

Also it works both ways. One deperately wishes the character art and textures weren't distractingly "ugly" in Bioshock ( despite the immersive environment art, story and sound design ) for instance.

The only games that comes to my mind that might be considered just about complete and equal in "all aspects of design would be psychonauts and portal 2. ( if not the best in each aspect of design... then certainly complete feeling. err.. even if porting issues creeped up with psychonauts. But to be fair- this shit is hard to do )

The "visuals" in the path look "up to the challenge"...

Nice to see the developers didn't have a reactionary negative take on visuals to balance out their beliefs.

There is a nasty trend lately of artists being apologetic of their craft ( If I hear another talented 3d artist spewing "but it's all bout the gameplay" ... )

A little more balls please instead for yer craft. Like when an opinion comes down along the lines of: "To much attention is given to the visuals" I think the correct response should be: "well u havn't seen nuthin yet"

Sergio Rosa
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Coming from a CG animation background I see how that fell into its own trap of "always better, pushing the envelope" and all that, categorizing pieces that are not in par with Hollywood productions as "dated and not up to current standards."

It hurts to see how games have fallen into the same trap, since they have "indulged" (for the lack of a better word) with the ideas of "graphics are everything." It takes but a small visit to Youtube to see how many self-proclaimed "hardcore gamers" will argue about games based on which one has the better graphics, or which engine is better, based obviously exclusively on the graphics, since we don't have access to all the game engines out there (I recall an argument some youtubers were having about how the internal use only Frostbite 2 was better than UE3 purely based on the frostbite 2 demo reel DICE showed at E3).

Another example is how gamers (as well as some developers) make claims on how we desperately need new consoles, while this sometimes can be translated as "we want better graphics." Then come those claims on "how the PC offers a better gaming experience," and the reasoning behind that is basically the latest graphic card can display better graphics than the current generation consoles. In the meantime, there's still a lot that can be tried with devices such as the Kinect to create different kind of experiences. Unfortunately many of those would end up being ignored or would become a part of a "niche" because Modern Warfare 3 looks so much better than *insert fictional very original kinect title here*

Throw the "videogames are art" argument into the mix and then you have a very interesting subject, where you can debate whether or not games are an artistic medium or not, what merits do they have (for example storytelling), and how much importance those elements have if games will most of the time be judged based on technical aspects, where graphics is one of the most -if not the most important- subject (from IGN: "In terms of aesthetics, F.E.A.R. 3 provides passable graphics that look slightly dated but still get the job done."), and then given a numeric score based on graphics, presentation, sound, and gameplay.

You never hear film critics say "In terms of aesthetics, Shutter Island provides passable visuals that look slightly dated but still get the job done." A filmmaker can decide to shoot in black and white and everything is fine because that was an "artistic choice." A game developer decides to use Final Fantasy VII style graphics, gamers and reviewers alike will yell "this looks too obsolete for current standards."

I for one think developers should start looking into games in a more creative ways and not just focus on make the most photorealistic games possible, and also not just give gamers "the best graphics money can buy" but make them think of games as something different. That's what many indies are doing, but the truth is indies will not change the way the world perceives games.

Now that I think about it, this comment was so long I should write a blog post about this here on Gamasutra. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow (Monday) since that's my Gamasutra blog-posting day.

Sergio Rosa
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I ended up writing a blog post here on Gamasutra as some sort of "response" to this, with some impressions from what I gathered. You can read it here: