There has been a good amount of debate lately about Funcom’s decision to release a high system requirements game with Age of Conan. The debate often drops into the very familiar ‘gameplay vs graphics’ debate.
Leaving the gameplay aspect aside, let’s talk graphics. We seem to be in an odd age where we are confusing computer gaming with consoles. People seem to think going out and dropping $500 at Wal-Mart is enough to play today’s games at high settings, and if they can’t, it’s the games fault. You know what box at Wal-Mart can play games at max settings for $500? A PS3 or an Xbox. I’m sorry your on-board graphics, or that $1000 PC you bought two years ago can’t run Crysis at 1900×1200 with 16xAA, go figure…
It’s amazing to read people bitch about performance in games, only to find out they have the graphic power of a toaster in their machines. Rumor has it you get crazy lag online with a 14.4k modem too…
The system specs for AoC are fairly clear; it’s a high-end game. Maybe if you have a midrange system you can turn everything down and play it, but then don’t be surprised that it looks like shit, and don’t blame AoC. If you have a Wal-Mart system, WoW runs great on those, play that or Runescape.
As for all the ‘killing their market’ talk, consider this: maybe Funcom is only aiming for the high-end niche? If a movie makes 50 million at the box office, is it a hit? If it’s got a Blair Witch budget, it’s a smash. If it’s Waterworld… well someone just got fired. My point is looking at sales or subscription numbers is rather pointless if you don’t know the budget and expectations. Is it that unreasonable to think that maybe Funcom thinks they can make a profit catering to a certain niche, that niche being 18+ with high-end rigs? Does every MMO going forward need to compete with the WoW demographic?
AoC, right from day one, made it fairly clear they don’t aim to please everyone. Instead of getting caught up on how the average gamer might not find AoC accessible, lets instead focus on the fact that Funcom is trying something different, trying to bring a little diversity to the MMO space. If you hate the combo system and PvP focus, you have plenty of other options.
To expect every new game to run well on old hardware is foolish, as is the assumption that there is not a market for graphic whores like myself. Yes I’m still looking for quality gameplay (news flash: everyone is), but bonus points if that gameplay comes with DX10 graphics. Last I checked, Nvidia is doing quite well as a company, which means there are plenty of others willing to spend $200+ on a newer card to enjoy some eye candy.
Graphics are also a two way street. If I can’t run a game, that’s a deal breaker. But if a game is stuck in 800×600 with low res textures, that’s also a deal breaker for me. For example, while StarCraft or Diablo still have amazing gameplay, the fact that they look like pixel throw up on a 24′ monitor means I won’t be playing them, or any game with similar graphics.