Friday, August 30, 2019

Art Lessons: WoW Classic

Syp put up a "Perfect 10" on MassivelyOP yesterday: "Ten Weird Things I'm Relearning With WoW Classic".  Most of them I agreed with, or, if not, at least I could understand where he was coming from. The first, however, made about as much sense to me as listening to a chicken trying to explain Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.

Number One on the list: "The Graphics Kind of Suck". No, they don't.

Here's my evidence, all taken this afternoon in Loch Modan, where the scenery was so outrageoulsy gorgeous I could barely concentrate on all the killing I had to do.

 I admit I'm a sucker for a good skybox but boy, that's a good skybox.

I love the way the reeds fill the shallows before the ledge drops away into deeper water.

The grass, the trees, the rocks, the water. It all looks so organic. I'm not going to say it looks realistic. It's not supposed to look realistic. It looks hyperrealistic. As it darn well should!

Swimming across the Loch is an unearthly experience. I've had a similar experience in Lord of the Rings Online but this is stranger yet. Like swimming through a painting.

Things turn positively surreal when you find yourself being chased by a version of Nessie who looks like an oversized bath toy. Sorry it's not a great shot - I was trying not to get eaten alive.

This is much safer; admiring the waters from the hilltops. If you want elegaic, you got it.

And lest anyone conclude the scenery is fine but the character models suck, maybe they'd care to take it up with my hunter and his bear. They, and I, would heartly disagree.

Then again, this boar, which photobombed my shot in spectacular style, doesn't make for such a great argument...but it's only pig with hair. Who cares what it looks like?

This was the shot I was trying to take before I got pigged. Look at the moss on those!

I realize art is a matter of taste (I don't really. I've must have argued the case against that particular cop-out in a hundred different pubs over the years but it's an argument no-one ever wins) but seriously, these graphics suck?

No, they don't. Not even "kind of".


  1. Are you playing on "classic" settings? They are like 3/10 in the grade, game looks much better on 10.

  2. Hmm. Didn't even know there was a choice. I just checked and I'm on 3 - Classic - which is the default. The game looks fantastic to me on that. I'm more than happy with it. I'm going to keep it as it is for now but it's interesting to know there's a slider. I might try playing with it and oing some comparison screenshots.

    I wonder what settings Syp had it on when he made those comments? Maybe he's on Classic too :)

  3. Ha! One of the first things I noticed was the graphic slider set at 3, which I thought was weird, so I immediately cranked it all the way up to 10. I've found the graphics and character model animations to be considerably better than my memory of Vanilla WoW.

    1. I tried it out last night. I took a couple of screenshots to compare. I can see the diference but it's not that significant, in my opinion. THe foliage is denser and more detailed and the shading/lighting is more nuanced. Edges are sharper. I kept it on 10 for about twenty minutes then decided I preferred it as it was and put it back to 3.

      I like the fuzzier, blurrier look. It feels softer and more in keeping with the idea of being in another world, somehow. I also like the way it makes the sky and distant scenery look ethereal in a way that evokes both impressionist and abstract expressionist memories.

      Not saying I won't bump the slider back up sometimes. I'm curious to see how different zones and areas look at different settings. For general gameplay, though, I'm sticking on 3.

  4. What people, particularly games writers, mean when they say "The graphics are good" or "The graphics are bad" is not "These look nice" or "These look poor".

    They mean "The textures are the maximum possible resolution and have a crisp delineation, SpeedTree was run at the highest setting to create unique foliage with individual leaves and detailed bark, the aliasing is nonexistent, the water captures reflections and has individual trackable physics-affected ripples around my character's dynamically inverse kinematics-enabled feet", etc.

    No one cares if it LOOKS good. Is it pushing the limits of graphics card technology? If not, they are Bad Graphics.

    There's a lawbook that dictates this stuff. I threw it away when I left professional reviewerhood.

    1. Anyone who uses those criteria when reviewing a game for anything other than a technical journal or website is an idiot. It would be like the art reviewer of a national newspaper reviewing an exhibition by discussing the materials used inthe frames and the chemical composition of the paint.

      I very much doubt Syp would use those criteria, though, even if he has the reviewer's book, which I guess he might, being aprofessional games journalist. I think he's way over to the end of the "I know what I like" end of the spectrum, judging by the way he talks about aesthetics on his blog. I just don't happen to share his tastes in this particular instance.

  5. I find no small irony in this coming from Syp who has expressed a fondness for pixelated retro titles and the like. But the "Perfect Ten" column should probably be the "Perfect Five" about half the time as they seem to run out of steam by six or seven. The graphics thing smelled of needing something to round out the column.

    My own graphical baseline is EverQuest, with ground textures that looked like bad linoleum and models with fewer polygons than I have fingers and toes. Most of WoW, even WoW Classic, even with the graphics set to 3, looks pretty damn good, even without EQ as a baseline.

    1. I was comparing it in my mind to EQ. I considered bringing that into the argument but EQ gets enough stick for poor graphics when I still find much of the game both visually splendid and atmospheric. The sunsets and sunrises in the Desert of Ro are astonishing.

      That said, the stretched textures are hideous. WoW was built to age far better, graphically, than EQ and has done.

  6. I just wanted to say that I heartily agree. :) I'm not counting polygons. I find it amazing how well the artists did with what limited tools they had to work with back in Vanilla, and it honestly still looks good today.

    (I also only noticed the graphics slider last night, but to me it felt like cranking it up just resulted in more grass, so I also put it back to 3. Suits me just fine.)

    1. More grass and more flowers and more leaves on the trees, which is fine as far as it goes, but hardly gamechanging!


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