Minecraft rebooted the graphics arms race

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Minecraft ahhh

Despite our (maybe not so) bizarre fascination with 1080p and frame rates, we can all agree that there’s a lot more to games than just how they look. Some of the best games from the past years didn’t make use of any high end graphics, but rather relied on excellent gameplay to make us all go gaga. Brenda Romero points to Minecraft as a cause.

Speaking at the DICE summit, veteran game developer Brenda Romero explains Minecraft as sparking a change in the industry – not just for indies, but for AAA studios as well.

Minecraft was the reboot of the graphics arms race – it literally reset projects. There were massive projects in the works that got rebooted entirely because of Minecraft. Gameplay matters. What’s happening in the player’s head matters. Minecraft at least in my experience is just shockingly unprecedented.

She went on to point out the studios taking smaller bets alongside their AAA releases. While she didn’t mention Ubisoft by name, of course I thought of Valiant Hearts and Child of Light which were both small scale projects that became easily successful for the gaming giant. I believe they were actually the best Ubisoft games of last year.

Behind the scenes I’m also seeing companies taking lots of smaller bets in the one to five million dollar range, which is still a large amount but nothing compared to a AAA title. I’m seeing game publishers taking lots of smaller bets, knowing that maybe of these 10 bets one is going to pan out. That’s happening now. People look at things like say, Minecraft, like FTL, and you can potentially have the same return on investment.

Games like Minecraft, Valiant Hearts and FTL prove that making a successful game isn’t all about the big budgets and the insane graphics. If you give players some excellent core gameplay and perhaps a compelling or unique story, they will love the experience even if the graphics aren’t based on photo realism. I just wish that AAA studios could learn this lesson for more than their AAA games. If you’re worrying more about graphics than about core gameplay, your game will feel bland, even if it’s gorgeous.

Last Updated: February 18, 2015

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