Realism in Games

This week we are going to talk about realistic graphics. This is the most common way video game graphics are made nowadays but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any drawbacks to using realism. The goal of this style is to recreate reality so the game is more believable and relatable. Everything is made to look like it does in real life and to have as much detail as possible (or as needed) in each object to succeed at giving the eye that perception. Although it is the most common, it is one of the hardest styles to do well because if the detail isn’t up to par with what players expect from today’s video games, it will generally bring the reputation of the game down as a result. This is unfair in most cases if a game is actually quite good but it important to keep in mind when making a game with realistic visuals.

Unlike other types of game art styles, there’s no specific way to go about making a game with realistic graphics. If it looks highly detailed, has realistic lighting effects, and the sound effects are very well done then you have yourself a quality example. Now that doesn’t mean certain aspects of a game don’t have a larger role in making it look more believably realistic. Let’s say you have a 3-D model of a tree that has a high poly count and has a very detailed texture applied to it but it is completely still. It doesn’t move at all. Even having one tree like this in a game stands out. The trees outside in the real world move even when it’s not windy. Animation is one of the largest keys to realism. Without it, everything looks like a scary world where nothing moves. That can work for a horror game, maybe, but not in every game. The immersion breaks and the player then realizes they’re playing a game that isn’t necessarily a believable experience. That’s when most people put the game down and find another one to commit time to. Although too much movement can also cause the same thing. A great example is breathing animations. People and animals all breathe. Our chests compress and decompress which moves our shoulders and arms. Most games include this animation or some other idle animation but it can be overdone to a very comedic level. This can get annoying in some cases but generally will also take away all credibility to a game unless it’s an on purpose comedic experience.

Sound effects also play a large role in making a realistic game seem real. You would expect to hear a different sound when putting your foot down on some dead leaves compared to sand or snow. To make a truly immersive experience you would want to make the same thing happen in a game. Sound engineering is a whole different topic that is out of scope for this blog but Unity3D has some cool tools you can use for realistic sounds. 3-D sounds are very helpful because they are relative to a location in your game. This means a sound would be quieter if you were 100 feet away from the source than if you were right next to it. This allows for very realistic sound effects without having to do all of the programming behind it.

The last topic I am going to talk about with realistic graphics is lighting effects. I have talked about lighting before and how it truly makes a game look good. With realistic graphics it is one of the most important parts to making a scene look realistic. A lot of what makes something look real is how light refracts off things. Light can sometimes be visible and it is important to replicate that in a game. A very cool blog post from Unity3D on the best practices of lighting for realistic visuals can be found here. It goes over a lot of cool techniques you can use in Unity to make lighting in your games look very real.

If you have all of these things in your game, you will have a believably realistic game and people are going to want to try it out. Now you just have to make sure you have a good story to tell so your players will be able to be fully immersed in it every step of the way!

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