Thursday, July 18, 2019

You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That: Project:Gorgon

If you browse through the Steam reviews for Project: Gorgon, one thing comes up over and over again; the graphics. Comments range from the extremely negative ("the graphics are horrifically bad") to the grudgingly accepting: ("Lets get the elephant in the room out of the way first; the graphics could be better, but they're passable."). No-one says they are good.

Which is strange, because the game really doesn't look bad at all, or not to my eyes. The colors are harmonious, the aesthetic is consistent and appropriate, you can tell what everything is just by looking at it. What more do people want?

The thing that has always puzzled me about P:G's graphics isn't so much their basic quality as their mutabilty. The way the game looks has changed a lot over the six years since I first wrote about it but not always in the way you might expect.

Since then I've played it in its various iterations and stages and posted about it a number of times. I've also taken a lot of screenshots, many of them in the same locations. For once I don't have to rely on my memories. I have objective evidence.

Fire at the old mattress factory.

Which is just as well. I started this post planning to talk about how the graphics have improved; about how much better the game looks. That was my first impression when I logged in yesterday, not having played since sometime last Autumn.

Then I started flipping back through some old posts to look something up and I was surprised - shocked, really - to see that many of the older sceenshots looked better than the ones I'd just taken. Or if not better then certainly not worse.

The graphics have changed but I'm not entirely sure they've improved. There are more flowers than ever, which I like, but everything seems slightly blurred. And then there's the lens flare.

Lens flare: the thermonuclear option.

Then I had a thought. Perhaps it's the settings. I don't think I've ever changed the graphics in Project:Gorgon from the default. It's always managed to find the correct screen resolution so I never bothered.

Looking at the settings the game chose for me I saw I was on "Great", number seven on a nine-point scale that runs, in typical P:G tongue-in-cheek fashion, from -2 (Retro-Terrible) to 6 (Ultra). I switched to the highest, Ultra, to see if there was any difference.

There was. Everything looked more abrasive, jagged and darker. Also, the game stuttered, badly. On balance the higher setting looked worse and the performance hit was significant.

I took identical shots on each setting to compare.

Before ("Great")

After ("Ultra")

In the "After" image, taken on Ultra, you can see some extra detail. There are flowers on the bush to the left and the tree sticking up above the rooftops has better-defined leaves. Also, oddly, even though I didn't move the character or the camera, you can see that the flowers at the very bottom edge of the shot are taller. Not surprisingly, I switched back to the lower setting.

If you want to see a really significant difference in graphic quality, how about these two shots, both taken in the main town of Serbule, five-and-a-half years apart:

Serbule December 2013

Serbule July 2019

The level of detail - of definition perhaps I should say - in the older shot is far higher. The skybox is much more realistic. The colors are richer and more authentic and pop more strongly.

Writing about it at the time, I was fulsome in my praise: "The walled, medieval village is one of the best I've seen in a game as far as spurious authenticity goes. I've been in that village several times, in France, in Spain, in Portugal."

I stand by that. It wasn't until Black Desert that I saw another version of the European Medieaval to match Project: Gorgon's. These days, it looks a lot more like any generic fantasy town.

It's all a bit of a puzzle, just like the rest of the game. Back then, P:G was in free to play "pre-alpha" and looked better. Now it's in "Early Access", costs an eye-watering £30.99 and looks worse.

Still looks pretty good to me though. And worth the money.

Next time on Project:Gorgon: Revisited: Revenge of the Colons - Inventory Management.

Now there's something to look forward to!


  1. It's funny, I've read your posts on PG after buying early access and had the same opinion about graphical downgrade. My only guess is that pre-alpha used either some standard Unity assets as placeholder or assets that were deemed too expensive for commercial product.

    1. Yes, I was thinking something along the same lines. I don't really know how these things work but it's not uncommon for very early demo versions to look amazing compared to alphas and betas. This is just a particularly striking example.

  2. Curious...I think the topmost screenshot is absolutely beautiful, but as you say, the difference between the old shots and the current ones is pretty huge in favour of the latter.

    I really should give this game a shot sometime, but I've got so much to play as it is. Also, Bloodstained: Ritual of the night will arrive tomorrow, so, yeah.

    1. favour of the 'former', obviously. ^^

    2. I'm going to get on to gameplay eventually. As the glowing reviews on Steam suggest, it's pretty good. The whole thing is at the stage now where I wouldn't hesitate to reccommend it to anyone looking for a genuine "old school" MMORPG, done right.

  3. All of those are a massive upgrade from the last time I was in the game, which was pre-alpha in 2010 according to my blog. However, the downgrade between the last two screenshots is startling, especially the sky box to my tastes.

    Also, please delete the previous comment i didn't realize I was on a different account :-)

    1. Done! Yes, the graphics have been up and down a lot. I have screens from various versions in the posts that clearly show it. I believe I've had the same PC and Graphics Card for the whole time, too, so I don't think it's anyhting at my end. (Probably time I thought about upgrading...)

      Also 2010... wow! Just shows how long this game has been in development.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide