Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

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#1 Sayid Ahmed   User is offline

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Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 07:11 AM

Is there a particular reason why up-to-date MMO's have bad graphics when compared to their single player counterparts? I'd assume something like graphics rendering is purely client side and shouldn't be related to the fact that it's a massive game hosted on a server. Could it be because more effort is needed in the programming for an MMO (i'd think you would need to make sure that every single movement or interaction by a player has to be tracked or logged in the server database or something) and so less manpower for making models and textures?

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#2 stayscrisp   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 07:40 AM

WOW is all about accessibility and having a huge user base, not everyone has a PC that can run cutting edge graphics so they stick to graphics that can be played comfortably on the most machines. I think other MMO's will want to follow this set up to create the largest user base. Makes sense, no?

Lord of the Rings online has some pretty pleasant graphics.

This post has been edited by stayscrisp: 04 July 2011 - 07:40 AM
Reason for edit:: typos

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#3 trevster344   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 08:03 AM

Maximizing profits friend. :)
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#4 Sayid Ahmed   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 08:09 AM

View Poststayscrisp, on 04 July 2011 - 03:40 PM, said:

WOW is all about accessibility and having a huge user base, not everyone has a PC that can run cutting edge graphics so they stick to graphics that can be played comfortably on the most machines. I think other MMO's will want to follow this set up to create the largest user base. Makes sense, no?

Lord of the Rings online has some pretty pleasant graphics.


True, but WoW is quite old now and i can imagine it's players don't want drastic graphics changes. you do get a lot of recent pay-to-play MMO's that are not following in WoW's footsteps (Darkfall, Mortal Online, Dawntide just to name a few off the top of my head) and accept they will have less subscribers and yet the graphics still seem to quite cheap and unpolished and yet remain that way from beta to release to second release etc.

With regards to your point on system performance, a lot of these games are also very unoptimised and tend to get choppy framerates anyway.
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#5 stayscrisp   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 08:16 AM

Well I don't know about the others but Dawntide is developed by an independent studio, they may not have as much money to throw at triple A graphics.
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#6 anonymous26   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 08:28 AM

As you quite rightly say the maps and models are hosted on the client whilst all data is communicated to the host that manages the interactions between the clients in the MMO game. The very specific reason why the worlds and everything in general looks several years behind in terms of graphical quality is because the worlds are usually free roam (meaning that a lot more has to be loaded and modelled in the view volume), special effects, as well as potentially numerous objects that can be interacted with and other players in the game stressing the graphics subsystem. Also, the range of computer setups need to be compensated for, as stayscrisp pointed out - but generally it is a performance measure to keep the game playable.

This post has been edited by ButchDean: 04 July 2011 - 08:29 AM

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#7 Sayid Ahmed   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 08:55 AM

View PostButchDean, on 04 July 2011 - 04:28 PM, said:

As you quite rightly say the maps and models are hosted on the client whilst all data is communicated to the host that manages the interactions between the clients in the MMO game. The very specific reason why the worlds and everything in general looks several years behind in terms of graphical quality is because the worlds are usually free roam (meaning that a lot more has to be loaded and modelled in the view volume), special effects, as well as potentially numerous objects that can be interacted with and other players in the game stressing the graphics subsystem. Also, the range of computer setups need to be compensated for, as stayscrisp pointed out - but generally it is a performance measure to keep the game playable.


That does make sense, but however you do get single player games like Oblivion that are 'sandbox' or free-roam and had stunning graphics when it came out. it gave users options to limit the amount of viewing distance, or eliminate vegetation and trees etc to improve performance if needed.

It does seem to be profit/effort related and not a limit of the MMO games itself.
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#8 anonymous26   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 09:10 AM

View PostSayid Ahmed, on 04 July 2011 - 04:55 PM, said:

View PostButchDean, on 04 July 2011 - 04:28 PM, said:

As you quite rightly say the maps and models are hosted on the client whilst all data is communicated to the host that manages the interactions between the clients in the MMO game. The very specific reason why the worlds and everything in general looks several years behind in terms of graphical quality is because the worlds are usually free roam (meaning that a lot more has to be loaded and modelled in the view volume), special effects, as well as potentially numerous objects that can be interacted with and other players in the game stressing the graphics subsystem. Also, the range of computer setups need to be compensated for, as stayscrisp pointed out - but generally it is a performance measure to keep the game playable.


That does make sense, but however you do get single player games like Oblivion that are 'sandbox' or free-roam and had stunning graphics when it came out. it gave users options to limit the amount of viewing distance, or eliminate vegetation and trees etc to improve performance if needed.

It does seem to be profit/effort related and not a limit of the MMO games itself.

Yes, but the trick with the single player games are that even though they are free roam there will only be a very limited number of interactions of anything happening at any one time - potentially not so for MMOs. Even with games like GTA IV which is also free roam, I don't recall more than about less than ten things happening at any one time (a few pedestrians walking, cars waiting at traffic light and some moving, the main character moving) and that's about it. In a game you only need enough going on to convince the gamer that the entire world is alive. :)

Also, the view volume is a lot more compact in single player games.
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#9 Sayid Ahmed   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 11:09 AM

View PostButchDean, on 04 July 2011 - 05:10 PM, said:

Yes, but the trick with the single player games are that even though they are free roam there will only be a very limited number of interactions of anything happening at any one time - potentially not so for MMOs. Even with games like GTA IV which is also free roam, I don't recall more than about less than ten things happening at any one time (a few pedestrians walking, cars waiting at traffic light and some moving, the main character moving) and that's about it. In a game you only need enough going on to convince the gamer that the entire world is alive. :)

Also, the view volume is a lot more compact in single player games.


Fair enough, I see it now. Thanks
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#10 anonymous26   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 11:22 AM

No problem.

One of the hardest lessons to learn when developing games is that you are creating a world that appears real. This means that you cut every corner you can to have the same illusions of a busy world but only having what the player can directly observe going on. Without such trickery modern games would never run on even the most powerful PCs and consoles. Before a game is about to 'Go Gold' it needs to go through certification to check for obvious bugs and general performance on the target platforms. If it fails certification it actually costs the studio a lot of money since it costs for a game to be certified, so it's important we get it right first time. :)
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#11 Sayid Ahmed   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 04 July 2011 - 12:38 PM

View PostButchDean, on 04 July 2011 - 07:22 PM, said:

No problem.

One of the hardest lessons to learn when developing games is that you are creating a world that appears real. This means that you cut every corner you can to have the same illusions of a busy world but only having what the player can directly observe going on. Without such trickery modern games would never run on even the most powerful PCs and consoles. Before a game is about to 'Go Gold' it needs to go through certification to check for obvious bugs and general performance on the target platforms. If it fails certification it actually costs the studio a lot of money since it costs for a game to be certified, so it's important we get it right first time. :)


On the browser game I'm casually working on I definitely have to create an illusion, since it's text based and I have to somehow represent nations and soldiers and armies etc. In reality there are no borders, soldiers, conflicts etc (even if I do some Ajax and make a map of countries and cities) it's just a bunch of numbers stored in a database and then presented in a polished format. With regards to a 3D sandbox game, I understand how it could be much easier since most of the world will be hidden from the player and this may not happen in an online game, but I wondered how much 'unnecessary' far-away events you could omit from one online player and their perspective. I guess the more you omit the more optimised the game becomes? I would not know if that's possible.

This post has been edited by Sayid Ahmed: 04 July 2011 - 12:39 PM

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#12 hype261   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 05 July 2011 - 06:41 AM

I remember reading an article by one of the developers of WOW when it was first released about this very subject. They said it was a decision they made early on because they knew that the product lifetime for WOW was going to be much longer than traditional games. So even if they made it have state of the art graphics when it was first released, 2 years down the road it wouldn't look that great. They decided to pick an art direction that would allow them to keep the same graphics over a longer period of time.
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#13 anonymous26   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:12 AM

View PostSayid Ahmed, on 04 July 2011 - 08:38 PM, said:

... With regards to a 3D sandbox game, I understand how it could be much easier since most of the world will be hidden from the player and this may not happen in an online game, but I wondered how much 'unnecessary' far-away events you could omit from one online player and their perspective. I guess the more you omit the more optimised the game becomes? I would not know if that's possible.

That would be a subjective assessment depending how much is going on in the environment in determining how much of it to omit. If you environment is sparse and static then omitted distant will be more noticeable since there is less to distract the player.

A point to note though, that omitting detail is not an optimization per se, it is an omission. When we 'optimize' we employ efficient techniques to get the best possible results. :)

View Posthype261, on 05 July 2011 - 02:41 PM, said:

I remember reading an article by one of the developers of WOW when it was first released about this very subject. They said it was a decision they made early on because they knew that the product lifetime for WOW was going to be much longer than traditional games. So even if they made it have state of the art graphics when it was first released, 2 years down the road it wouldn't look that great. They decided to pick an art direction that would allow them to keep the same graphics over a longer period of time.

Yeah, that is more of a strategic decision rather than the reason why in general MMOs appear to have poorer graphics than games of other genres.
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#14 stayscrisp   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:57 AM

@hype261
I read that article and again that makes sense.

I think Unity's web player will allow some better graphics without the needed time investment. Although I don't know a great deal about it, it is powering some MMO's so I have heard.
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#15 Atli   User is offline

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Re: Why do MMO's lack in graphics?

Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:59 AM

Disclaimer: I'm not game programmer. Just a player.

EVE-Online has great graphics. They even completely recreated the graphics engine a few years in, to catch up with the current technologies. Sure, it's mostly in space, but it still looks awesome! :)

If you compare that to WoW, EVE was release roughly at the same time, but they used state of the art graphics. A few years later, it looked like crap and they spent a fortune bringing it up to date. - And there were a lot of players that had to quit after the upgrade, because their crappy systems couldn't handle the new client. CCP even maintained two clients for a while, the new one and a legacy version.

So Blizzard's decision to use cartoon graphics instead of something that looks... good, it kind of makes sense. I mean, I play WoW and I don't really care that it looks like crap. I'm just killing cartoon monsters. Whatever. I don't need the purple stuff to look like dragon vomit. It just needs to look purple, so I can know where not to stand.

I also play single-player games, but there it's a completely different story. It's not really "social" playing, but more of a storyline that I want to become a part of. It's more important that the game looks real.
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