I wonder how much of it has to do with our expectation towards older games. Anybody who's ever attempted to do high resolution textures for DOS and Win9x-era games has probably noticed that it can be very difficult to remain faithful to the originals. On one end, you have people who think that the higher resolution means there ought to be a higher level of "realism", which means creating lots of visual noise through grungey overlays - this helps fill in what feels to be bare and underdetailed space you never had in the low res originals, but it can tile pretty badly and usually never looks good.
Other people try and sort of interpret the pixels into a sort of painted style, but I've seen very few people do that particularly well rather than it looking borderline cartoony.
At the same time, I think that "small" scale detail in Doom, clutter and 3D computers lining the halls, is distracting. I wonder if it has to do with the fact I never play the game at a resolution higher than 640x480, and there's some sort of subconscious ideal proportion between the amount of distinct visual elements on the screen versus the total screen real estate.
Another thing to consider is when abstract, architecturally-based maps began to look "off". I think a lot of it simply has to do with the switch from brush-based engines to entire rooms being virtually a single model, something which I feel has considerably hindered level design because people are no longer working with "low-level" building blocks. We seemed to get away with making games look more detailed but still abstract up until 2003 or so.
Many newer games, stylistically, have too much visual noise for my liking. As an avid Elder Scrolls fan, I want to give the example of how jagged and exaggerated the proportions are in Morrowind's characters, versus Oblivion which had an extremely "inflated" and bulky look. As with texturing, maybe a higher polygon budget means less attention given to the placement of each, and so things don't seem as resolutely designed. The same thing can happen with lower poly art too (Thief's models have always felt somewhat formless compared to those in Deus Ex or Half-Life), but I don't seem to notice it as often.
I'm leaning toward it essentially being impossible to translate these abstractions to a modern engine. Classic Doom for Doom 3 is a good example of this. All of the architecture we remember from Episode 1 is there, but the experience is significantly different because of the difference in detail.
Do you think that was a stylistic choice on the part of the Classic Doom team to make the mod look the way it does, or a direction that it sort of had to inevitably gravitate towards? That's the tricky thing, because I guess they could have gone with something more abstract, but it would have felt weird, and less like a "remake."
Last edited by StoneFrog on 06-16-13 at 21:49