Will current-gen graphics eventually be nostalgic?

The evolution of real-time computer graphics is interesting for many reasons, in particular what becomes revered in the public eye and what is left behind. The earliest graphics were literally just points of light on an oscilloscope, so it's no surprise it didn't leave much of an impression. Of course, early pixel and vector art was a bit more substantial, and especially in the case of the former, there is a public fascination with its particular look, most recently evidenced by the release of Sonic Mania. And of course, the crude look of early 3D games have come back into vogue (at least in the indie scene), as unfiltered textures and blocky character models have a certain undeniable charm. The iconic looks of Quake and Spyro the Dragon come to mind.

 

However, we're currently smack in the middle of uncanny valley, where the level of detail is nothing short of astounding, be it individual blades of self-shadowing grass, water that reflects and animates realistically, or characters that emote convincingly. Despite this, there are still lots of artifacts that reveal the facade—the angularity of polygons, pop-in, normal maps with too much specular highlight, clipping, static geometry, the use of sprites for particles, etc. I would say this paints us a unique and specific picture of what real-time CG is like nowadays.

 

So the question is: In 10 or 20 years, will this be a nostalgic look? Will graphics advance so much by the 2030s that current-gen visuals will look quaint, and thus be emulated in "retro" themed games? Or is this a transition that will be forgotten in favor of higher-end, less glitchy CG?

Edited by GoatLord
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IMO, once the "photorealistic" threshold was crossed (when exactly that has happened, depends), graphics simply start looking more "stylistically dated". Today, most AAA games are 3D and have a realistic/gritty look. Sure, they still do look like a weird cross between realistic and synthetic but they don't look all that different from a similar game from 10 years ago. It's not like the difference that existed between e.g. an 8-bit platformer and Doom.

 

To make an example that's close to home....from a casual glimpse at an average Doom 3 and "Doom 2016" screenshot, would you really be able to say that there's 12 years of difference between those two games?

 

Of course that could just mean that there some kind of brickwall has been hit, either in creativity or hardware capabilities. Once some truly revolutionary advancement in made (something that will increase processing power at least an couple of orders of magnitude in the next 10 years (way more than Moore's law would predict), it's going to take a loooong time before today's graphics appear really "dated". Maybe in a stylistic, rather than technical sense.

 

Edited by Maes
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It goes with the generations and the times to be honest, I miss the graphics of some games in the 90'-00' era and the people of this generation will miss this current-gen era. Different thing is the game as a whole but that's for another topic, I guess...

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I would say no; the games of old had a certain style that, even if it was largely born of system limitations, had a particular "personality" unique to whatever system they were on.  You can often times immediately identify just by the look of something if a screenshot is NES, or Commodore 64, or whatever.  On today's systems, a unique style is something done more by choice, like say, in Torchlight, rather than something imposed by "system personality".  Nowadays systems seem to get their "personality" more from specialized controllers / VR goggles / etc. than from the way the games look and sound.  Maybe playing with a Wiimote or Oculus goggles will become a nostalgia point in the future, but today's graphics probably won't.

 

And personally I find a lot of today's retreaux aesthetic to come off as tiresomely "fake", like I know the look of NES particularly to be able to point at things and say "you couldn't actually do that on the real thing, it's just pretending".  I'd find more charm in an actual retro homebrew or else something like the aforementioned Torchlight where it embraces the system it's actually running on rather than pretending like it's an older one, but just doesn't bother with trying to be all super realistic in style.

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The graphics and such won't, but games with art styles that hold up will. Something like Bioshock Infinite will hold up while other stuff released the same year won't, for instance.

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I don't think so, not even PS2 era graphics. Like stated above, lowpoly and pixelart can evoke that because they were very stylized and marked their respective eras due to that. Making something complex represented in very simplistic ways like a pixelated sprite or in 3D using very few polygons takes more effort than people realize, and is why we don't just liked them but still like them to this day. It may also be why a lot of people think fake retro art style is ugly as fuck, they imitate it without understanding how or why it worked, and comes off as low effort and plain, and some that put the effort to be faithful to their techniques tend to work really well, like Shovel Knight.

 

We have reached a point where that doesn't really happen much anymore. It used to often because they basically HAD to, and thus had to do it the best way they could. But now you don't really have to because even poor graphics are still realistic enough to convey exactly what was on paper, you don't have to put much effort into using a certain style to bring it to life. Unless, again we are talking about specifics like TTG or Borderlands shading, which isn't even recent, but just to mention an example of something that might evoke nostalgia if it stops being used constantly.

 

A big evidence for this is just how often we get HD remakes of PS2 era games, there is no other way to go but up, and if they ever fuck up visually is because they messed with whatever style they used (or implement one that doesn't work), or just more technical reasons like Silent Hill HD removing fogs and whatnot.

Edited by Red

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50 minutes ago, Maes said:

To make an example that's close to home....from a casual glimpse at an average Doom 3 and "Doom 2016" screenshot, would you really be able to say that there's 12 years of difference between those two games?

Between the higher resolution textures, physically based modeling, far more realistic use of light and shadow, better normal maps, far higher polygon counts, depth-of-field, lens dust, and overall level of detail, I would say, yes, it is quite clear there has been 12 years difference between the games. Maybe I'm out of the loop, but who wouldn't agree?

doom comparison.jpg

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The difference in detail between those two screenshots could be attributed entirely to location, IMO. If I use a Doom 3 one with a more indoors/techbase background and different lighting, it's harder to tell. In any case, the comparison is not quite like between e.g. Doom/Duke Nukem 3D and Doom 3.

 

vvkn0k3gh9dnta5ipjcr.jpg

doom-3-game-pic-5.jpg

 

My point is that unless you know what to look for, it can be hard to tell that they are even different games, let alone that one represents a 12 year leap.

Edited by Maes
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That's true, especially with BFG Edition or SikkMod. It's definitely a much less contrasted hardware leap than Doom 2 to Doom 3, for sure. I see what you mean now. I can't help but wonder whether today's graphics will look crude in a few years. It depends on how realistic the simulations become. It may be that diminishing returns is all we can really hope for now.

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When someone invents a method other than 3d models to render a 3d world, and clipping completely is gone.

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3 minutes ago, NeedHealth said:

When someone invents a method other than 3d models to render a 3d world, and clipping completely is gone.

This is the only real way I see this happening yeah 

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1 minute ago, NeedHealth said:

When someone invents a method other than 3d models to render a 3d world, and clipping completely is gone.

Clipping is practically non-existent in big budget movies, so no method really needs to be invented; it's merely a matter of horsepower. As far implementing something "other than 3D models to render a 3D world," well, I think they have to be 3D models or it just won't work. What you're probably getting at is more like, something other than using tris and quads. Voxels are interesting because they can represent volume rather well, and can even respond to environmental deformation, but animating them richly is still a bitch and models have to be constructed of an enormous amount of voxels in order to avoid looking blocky.

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I think it really depends on the game and the art style and aesthetic the game chose to strive for. If its art direction stands out that will help it age better far more than its realistic looking graphics.

 

DOOM 3 looks bland and uninspired, yet it had great and cutting edge graphics and lighting and shadows at the time. Other FPS from around the same time like FEAR, Half-Life 2, and Unreal Tournament 2004 all have a far more compelling art style and as a result I'd be far more inclined to play those instead.

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This is an interesting topic. I often have thought about this. 

Here's what I think.

Not every Tom, Dick and Jerry SNES, NES, Sega game all hold up well. It's all about the art style. Using the limitations of the engine to make something that looks convincing enough. I'm currently playing through Hellblade, and while it's not the most graphically impressive game, there is a really nice cohesive aesthetic across the whole game. I am thinking, "how will it ever get better than this." I don't know if I'd like it if it legitimately looked realistic. There's always something about even the best CG that have strange gloss or something to them. If that's ever lost, I'd be too creeped out. I think maybe the next step is realistic physics and optimization. Character animations need work. As great as the animations and models are, there's still something wonky about seeing them step up different sized heights (especially in multiplayer games). 

Maybe the games that pull off the art style the best will be remembered as gems.

A couple examples of games that aged well in my opinion are Time Splitters and Borderlands. They just look like Time Splitters and Borderlands.

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Yes! I look at it this way. A couple of years ago (well more than 10 years) Gran Turismo 2 looked extremely good to me, but if I play it now I only see pixels. This happened with pretty much every old game I played. Back in the day we were all like "Wow man! Look at those awesome graphics!". We give the very same reactions with today's games but I believe that in a couple of years we will say again "Were these old games really that pixelated? They looked very realistic back in time".

 

Another example; I watched an F12010 gameplay video and then a F12016 gameplay video. When I first saw F12010 back in the year 2009/2010 I thought to myself "Wow, they did a good job on the graphics!", now I'm just wondering how they are still improving, there is a positively notable difference between F12010 all throughout to F12016.

 

Afterall, even a simple photo has no chance against our eyes. To make a good photo you always have to consider stuff like light, lense quality etc... I see it the same way with creating a virtual environment. It will always be different. All of this shows clearly to me that we will never be able to create something perfect, instead we will improve on what we build before. But this is kinda offtopic now.

Edited by rodster

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No, not unless it's server-based multiplayer or something that's limited by time; the definition of nostalgia implies that you can't return back to that respective time. Same goes for single player DooM: It's not really nostalgic if you can play it anytime under the simplest of conditions.

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Eventually, games makes will stop imitating the look of movies and start imitating the look of what the human eye itself sees. That's when this stuff will start to look dated.

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Yes. Nostalgia is blind. (or was it rose tinted)

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Like Ross Scott said, these graphics will look lame in comparison to our glorious 3D holo-deck graphics of the future.

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5 hours ago, ETTiNGRiNDER said:

I would say no; the games of old had a certain style that, even if it was largely born of system limitations, had a particular "personality" unique to whatever system they were on.  You can often times immediately identify just by the look of something if a screenshot is NES, or Commodore 64, or whatever.  On today's systems, a unique style is something done more by choice, like say, in Torchlight, rather than something imposed by "system personality".  Nowadays systems seem to get their "personality" more from specialized controllers / VR goggles / etc. than from the way the games look and sound.  Maybe playing with a Wiimote or Oculus goggles will become a nostalgia point in the future, but today's graphics probably won't.

 

And personally I find a lot of today's retreaux aesthetic to come off as tiresomely "fake", like I know the look of NES particularly to be able to point at things and say "you couldn't actually do that on the real thing, it's just pretending".  I'd find more charm in an actual retro homebrew or else something like the aforementioned Torchlight where it embraces the system it's actually running on rather than pretending like it's an older one, but just doesn't bother with trying to be all super realistic in style.

True, modern "retro looking" games often times look like hot dog shit because the devs dont take the time to look at what actual retro console graphics look like, they just think "oh, i will just use really shitty color combinations and "pixel art" sprites, my game will be so retro1!!!1!!" And don't even get me started on using texture filtering and antialiasing on low res textures (*cough*GZDOOM*cough*)

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With my poor eyesight, I literally can not tell the difference between this gen's, last gen's, and the previous gen's graphics.  Ergo, not a single fuck was given today.

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Lol your eyesight must be worse than mine then (and I don't have that great of sight either) because I can easily see the difference between this gen and 2 gens ago graphics, and slightly less so this gen and last gen. Of course the only real difference is that two gens ago we had shittier 3d and now we have better 3d :)

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I miss the high resolution graphics of The Ultimate Doom, nothing beats 640x480 pixels.

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Honestly, I don't think the nostalgia is caused by the graphics, so much as the experience as a whole, and I think it's age-based. I think each kid hits a certain age where their ability to be hyper-fascinated by something (a movie, a band, a video game) is at a peak. I think nostalgia is a desire to feel that fascination later in life, which always leaves the older person somewhat unfulfilled. We call it a graphics style, a sound, etc. But it's really a feeling that can't be obtained with the same naivety.

 

An interesting question - took me back :)

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I feel a lot of nostalgia for Doom 3, and other games around the same time period. Not so much for 2D style NES games, mainly because I didn't grow up with them. I think it's less about the graphics themselves, and more about the memories and experiences you had when you were younger. It brings back a different state of mind.

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Interesting question, quite hard to answer. 

 

If I think that in about 20 years we will say, '' Hey, I played Battlefield 1, in its time was the best. '' But I do not know if we will feel the same feeling about their graphics, if we feel that feeling play them again once more after a long time and see how their mechanics or gameplay work, but it is that I can not imagine if the graphics will really be able to improve so much. My imagination still does not give more, maybe the detail, the physical, the realism in the environment and things so better, but I think the current graphics are glorious.


But I may be wrong, in 20 years I can say '' Hey, those graphics, what memories! ''

Unreal is that kind of game that every time I play I say that, one of my favorites and the first game that gave me a sensation of '' visual orgasm ''. It was something incredible, and by the time I came I was a child and my imagination just could not imagine anything better, and now there are games with graphics a hundred times higher.

 

But I have to admit, I prefer the 1999 Unreal graphics than the current ones, yes, the nostalgia is strong, but it's not my fault, I just fall in love with the graphics of the 90s and the beginning of 2000.

 

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Style is nostalgic. Nothing more.

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On 9/20/2017 at 2:15 PM, Argent Agent said:

No, not unless it's server-based multiplayer or something that's limited by time; the definition of nostalgia implies that you can't return back to that respective time. Same goes for single player DooM: It's not really nostalgic if you can play it anytime under the simplest of conditions.

I disagree.

 

What about the mood? I think since the SNES and probably earlier, people have thought, "how can it get any better than this." that effects your worldview, and remembering these games brings your sentiment back to an earlier time.

 

I'm on mobile so I can't really go into it to much. 

 

When you think of a game, do you think of just the game, or do you think about everything else that was profound to you at that time? I go all the way back. Every game has a feeling around it. Looking back at older games, there's this overwhelming sense of wonderment with technology.

 

It's so multifaceted to me.

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Nope. Realistic isn't a style other than "realistic." Even MS Paint is a style.

 

Style sells.

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ever since graduating as a gamer species beyond the primordial text adventure soup, it's been the thing to show the public what you want them to see, which as a result has been next-gen graphics for many decades... it seems like graphics are hitting a kind of plateau where now it comes down more to the individual choices in style as y'all say...

 

only thing that remains for 3d graphics on 2d screens is to eliminate that uncanny valley feeling of the characters being strange robots sometimes, like when the camera accidentally clips inside the head of a character and you see the head model inside out? That shit is terrifying lol.

 

Though I'm sure many of us have felt a moment of emotional involvement in a story-based game that is really just a bunch of numbers and tiny squares? Interactivity scale and overall experience are the memorable parts of a game, if you like or dislike the graphics/content style is a much more difficult thing to narrow down, of course...

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