Friday night topic: Video game graphics, then and now

I know in my bones that graphics technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over time and that video game visuals have improved to take advantage—but those changes have been spread out over years, and they’ve come gradually, in evolutionary steps. As a result, I don’t think we always realize how very, very much things have changed.

This effect produces some embarrassing results, like during one podcast recording session when I asserted that Skyrim was nice but wasn’t that much of an improvement visually over Oblivion. At that point, Cyril offered up an image comparison along the lines of this one, showing old versus new:

So yeah, heh. I was wrong about that.

The contrasts turned more amusing this week when I saw a couple of comparisons. Here’s Lara Croft from the original 1996 Tomb Raider versus the recent reboot:

Awesome. I had forgotten that Laura was an alien from the Alpha Centauri sector.

Then there’s the announcement of a new Thief game, which gives us the opportunity compare the original:

With screenshots from the new one:

Heh. We are living in the fuuuuuuutuuuuurrrre.

I’m pretty sure it’s public record that, at various points along the way, I looked at those older games’ visuals, which now seem incredibly dated and simplistic, and declared them to be amazing and awesome. But so did a lot of folks.

The question is: which games from the past that were considered quite good at the time now look the most hilariously dated? Can you find other really striking direct comparisons between games then and now?

Do any of those older games’ graphics actually stand up pretty well?

Discuss.

Oh, and check out the gallery below for a comparison between Crytek’s orginal Far Cry and Crysis 3.

Comments closed
    • Tamale
    • 7 years ago

    Terminal velocity and descent were both absolutely amazing to my friend and I, who by 1995 had already logged countless hours of doom and platform scrollers..

    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLyrXTL683g[/url<] [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENxNplQF9bU[/url<] Texture resolution aside, what amazes me is how well these both aged because of their framerate and immersion. IMO games have lost a lot of realism due to lack of fluid motion, and I'm SO thankful sites like TR are bringing a strong focus back to the importance of smooth frame delivery.. I'm the kind of person who's always turning down graphics options so I can keep my gameplay buttery smooth. Hell, when I was playing half-life and unreal tournament online I used special software to keep my vsync enabled even at 120hz on my CRT.. and to this day I'm bitter the LCD industry destroyed super-high framerates (>100hz) for so long.

    • adampk17
    • 7 years ago

    “fuuuuuuutuuuuurrrre.”

    Squidward/Spongebob Squarepants reference, Scott?

    • TAViX
    • 7 years ago

    Common, best game I think is Deus Ex. Even if is 13 years old, I can still play it even today. Actually this is the game I want most to have a graphics reboot, BUT to keep the same gameplay as original.

    Another games…Hmmm DESCENT 1 and 2 ?? awesome games!!!

    • moose17145
    • 7 years ago

    Personally, I think UT2004 has aged very well!

    • Grape Flavor
    • 7 years ago

    I say the entire N64/PS1 generation and the PC games of that time frame look just awful. I can’t stand to play them, the graphics just kill the immersion. And even the gameplay for that matter is rudimentary by today’s standards. People were just learning how to make 3D games, and while it seemed great at the time, they have dated quite poorly.

    SNES era on the other hand looks just fine, in fact many new indie games still use that 16-bit aesthetic, it’s an entirely valid art style.

    So what else is there… 8-bit and earlier can have some retro charm. And the PS2/Xbox/GC era definitely looks dated, but not eyeball-bleeding ugly like the prior generation. I think that pretty much sums it up!

    • albundy
    • 7 years ago

    eye candy might be up, but re-playability has sunk far below the bottom. publishers nowadays are pushing too many “free” online play with no story, no single player mode, and the only way to pass a level is to purchase more of a virtual resource.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 7 years ago

    Scott,

    Are you sure that’s not a Tomb Raider 2 screenshot?

    The original Tomb Raider, as I recall it, had Lara Croft looking like she’d borrowed Madonna’s bra.

    [url<]http://bit.ly/WBd28G[/url<] (sorry for the editorial, best picture I could find) Based on the release year of 1996, I believe I was using a Pentium 120MHz with an amazing 20MB of RAM, and had probably just got my Orchid Righteous 3D (3Dfx Voodoo I) to go with my PCI S3 Trio64V+.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      When it came out in 1996 I was still using a 486SX. Awwww yeeeeeahhhh

    • clone
    • 7 years ago

    graphics are a tool to me, additional prettiness is nice but the increased field of view is what I love about newer games over old.

    I’m playing MechWarrrior Mercenaries nowadays and once the game is started I forget about it’s age, the graphics, they are a tool, little more, sometimes I notice the weak landscape but what I really want is a longer field of view.

    • yammerpickle2
    • 7 years ago

    Just imagine how stunning PC graphics could be if MS had actually supported PC games instead of basically helping to hold graphics static for the last couple of years so X-box would not look so bad in comparison. Console ports have held us back four or five years back from where we could be.

    • lycium
    • 7 years ago

    *ahem* I remember Lara Croft’s breasts being WAY sharper than that in TR1, I’m pretty sure that shot would be from TR2 or later. There was just a single sharp edge up front.

      • nanoflower
      • 7 years ago

      You mean something like this: [url<]http://spil.downloadcentral.dk/upload/screenshot2213-0.jpg[/url<] Those could definitely poke out an eye.

        • Meadows
        • 7 years ago

        Now that’s something. If I recall correctly though, Lara — at the time — still had more polygons than most videogame characters, though at the time “innovation” and engine upgrades came at a breakneck yearly pace.

        • bthylafh
        • 7 years ago

        0.o

      • Marty_man_X
      • 7 years ago

      The screenshot is from Tomb Raider 3.

    • Geistbar
    • 7 years ago

    The [url=http://img.gamefaqs.net/screens/9/8/b/gfs_7107_2_3.jpg<]infinity engine games[/url<] have aged much better than their 3d successors have -- while the gameplay on some has aged worse than I expected (BG2 was a lot.. blander.. than I remembered), they are much more visually tolerable than [url=http://www.gamershell.com/static/screenshots/2546/40920_full.jpg<]KOTOR[/url<] or [url=http://gc.greycouncil.us/modules/My_eGallery/gallery/NWN/party.jpg<]NWN[/url<]. I think the biggest visual difference is attributed to texture size. Games like [url=http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v371/FrozenLiquidity/shock2mod.jpg<]SS2[/url<] can still look fairly good with some high-res texture mods. After that, art style makes a huge difference. Older games like [url=http://www.abload.de/img/homeworld2011-03-3110-wnwj.png<]Homeworld[/url<] or [url=http://www.gamershell.com/static/screenshots/403/10867_full.jpg<]Sacrifice[/url<] hold up better than they should because of their distinct and interesting artistic stylization.

    • hoboGeek
    • 7 years ago

    after playing Doom and Doom 2 (both running on the same engine and had identical graphics) I got my hands on Duke Nukem 3D and I found it amazing.
    Such clarity..If I remember correctly, I was running Duke on a fabulous 1024/768 resolution…

    • rechicero
    • 7 years ago

    The Oblivion vs Skyrim shots are somewhat unfair. Like those “Before” vs “After” pictures of commercials.

    First, there is one shot of a road vs a shot of a beautiful landscape. Just use a shot of the first time the character exists the tutorial dungeon at the beginning of the game.

    Second, that’s Oblivion for PC, “out of the box” and not cranked to the max. Oblivion for PC had awful textures, much worse than the Xbox version and just with a patch from the community, it looked much better than that. And I’m talking about a patch from time. Bethesda just wanted the PC version to look worse than the XBox version.

    There is difference, but Oblivion is much better looking than the screenshot you use.

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      Skyrim didn’t need a patch.

        • rechicero
        • 7 years ago

        The point was it wasn’t a matter of graphic evolution. It was a matter of the dev wanting the game to look worse in PC. And the “patch” was just changing one file with better resolution textures.

    • ColdMist
    • 7 years ago

    I bought the Descent 1/2/3 games from GOG a while ago.

    Descent 1 was pretty hard to play. The resolutions it supported was so low, and the textures. ouch.

    Descent 2 wasn’t too bad.

    Descent 3 looked pretty good, except I couldn’t get my joystick to work.

    Still some of the most novel RPG fighting ever.

      • lycium
      • 7 years ago

      Descent was an RPG? What was your ship’s Charisma stat?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Really pedantic gerbil. Racing past glory? Oh, I know…Rocket-powered gorilla!

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          Really poopy game!

          /troll

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      Descent was a RPG? I learn something new every day!

      edit: I see someone beat me to it, while I was elaborating in my post.

      Descent 1 supported 640 x 480 with the -640×480 command line option. AFAIK, the GOG edition doesn’t include a readme with that info, but the cd version did.

      Best version of descent was the definitive collection which included DLOTW, and there later was a 3dfx patch with hi-res mission briefings. The glide version of D2 sucked because it didn’t support lighting on the enemy models, which were full-bright.

      The first 2 descents were more action oriented than 3, and the general descent community seems to favor 2 over either games, but I liked 1 & 3 more than 2. 2 felt like it had too many weapons, made fusion too weak to use, and various other imbalances and annoyances like the thief and guide bot. Not that I didn’t like 2, but I felt the other games were more rounded.

      The quake series probably was the best graphics improvement metric during early pc gaming. Still is to some extent, if you compare Rage to Quake 2.

    • credible
    • 7 years ago

    This is a great thread, for many different and equally important reasons:)

    • Rand
    • 7 years ago

    A lot of sprite based games or hand drawn 2D art has aged tremendously well. If you look at some of the more advanced SNES games and they still look quite nice, there has been improvements certainly but moreso in the areas of shadows and lighting effects.

    3D on the other hand has made unbelievable jumps. I remember the first time I saw NHL 97′ on the PC and my jaw was literally hanging open in awe. It had never occurred to me that it was even possible for something to ever look so good.
    No game since has had anything close to that effect on me.

    I don’t know what modern NHL games look like, but looking back on that now and it’s hilariously bad compared to today’s turn based strategy games, and RPG’s… two genres which aren’t typically viewed as pushing the visual boundaries.

    You can pick indie games made on relatively small budgets for a couple bucks that are more advanced then NHL 97′, let alone AAA development studios.

    On the plus side, mods for older games can help bring the visuals up to par.
    Look at Freespace 2 in it’s original release and modded and you would never guess they were the same game, everything has been radically overhauled.

    To give credit to those older games, I replayed Thief 1 last year. I really really enjoyed it. Great gameplay definitely ages well.

    • jstern
    • 7 years ago

    Every new generation kept coming with new graphics that left ME wow. I remember the first time I saw Mortal Kombat II at the arcades, it looked beyond amazing that first day. I reached my wow peak with the Sega Dreamcast. Every generation after that killed the Dreamcast in graphics, but the wow will never reach that level ever again for ME. Each generation after didn’t make the previous one feel that primitive, compared to going from 8 Bit to 16 Bit, etc. (And that’s why I knew that due to it’s price, the Wii was going to be a success.)

    • south side sammy
    • 7 years ago

    graphics improvements are good but if the people who make them make sure the game is really “done” before they leave for distribution, and the writers write a really good story line, and the house doesn’t put undue burdens on the end user/restictions, I would gladly sacrifice visuals.

    • stephaniej3xoxx
    • 7 years ago
      • Anonymous Hamster
      • 7 years ago

      * doh *

    • Rakhmaninov3
    • 7 years ago

    This made me think of the brief period when some games were made out of prerecorded video clips that would stop playing long enough for you to make a decision consisting of 2 or 3 options and would proceed with more video clips until the next decision point, a la Star Trek: Klingon and Borg. It was the best looking thing available at the time but you would be done with them in an hour with no replay value. They were kind of entertaining to watch and the ST ones were well acted but they were the pinnacle of the good ol’ graphics-over-gameplay folly.

      • Jon
      • 7 years ago

      FMV games were fantastic, my favourites were:

      Under a Killing Moon (anything Tex related)
      7th Guest
      11th Hour
      Phantasmagoria 1 + 2
      The Borg / Klingon games (awesome!)
      Lawnmower Man
      The Journey Man Project
      Creature Shock
      Cyberia

      I’m sure this genre will make a come back albeit enhanced.

        • bluepiranha
        • 7 years ago

        You could argue that it already has, sort of. I could point to 2010’s “Heavy Rain” on the PS3 as an example of such so-called “interactive drama.” For what it’s worth, that was a very good experience – I think it’s a little unfair calling it “just” a video game. It does has some replay value in that there are multiple endings…but I got the best possible one and I don’t quite feel like replaying it any time soon.

        Oh, and I think you could add “Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within” to that list of FMV games…that sucker came on 6 CDs and was heavily reliant on 1996-era QuickTime video tech.

      • auxy
      • 7 years ago

      Laserdisc games! I remember when my dad and my brother got ahold of an old Dragon’s Lair arcade machine and brought it home. They played that for hours while I sat there going 「(°ヘ°) WHAR’S THE GAMEPLAY?

      Looking back now, I can see how cool they must have been at the time, but it’s nothing I’d actually want to -play-.

        • jihadjoe
        • 7 years ago

        You mean like Final Fantasy XIII?

    • WhiteDesertSun
    • 7 years ago

    Here’s a good counterexample to above: Heroes of Might and Magic III

    The hand drawn 2D art of the game ages beautifully compared to attempts at realistic 3D.
    Game still looks and plays wonderfully to this day and is my personal favorite.

      • entropy13
      • 7 years ago

      III is great. Then someone else broke it (the series).

        • WhiteDesertSun
        • 7 years ago

        Unfortunately, Heroes IV was quite lacking in just about every way.
        I have quite recently picked up Heroes V on steam and, while it’s not on the level of III, I have found it to be a fun game. I do wish they return to the 2D townscreens though.

      • OhYeah
      • 7 years ago

      Heroes III is probably the greatest turn-based strat game ever made. Despite its respectable age (the game is from the 90s), there are new HD mods available and the game still looks good. More than that, the gameplay is really interesting. I’ve been playing it for the past few weeks with a friend of mine and some days on the weekend we went on playing it for hours on end.

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    I still remember playing the first Tomb Raider game and being disappointed that I couldn’t get it to play smooth at a breathtaking 800×600 SVGA resolution…

      • Narishma
      • 7 years ago

      You should be thankful you didn’t have the wobbly textures and polygons of the console versions (PS1 and Saturn).

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        The Saturn’s hardware was bizarre, to say the least. No triangles – everything was drawn with quadrilaterals. So everything looks weird if it was drawn in 3D.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 7 years ago

    I think the old-timers have an advantage. I play indie games or old games with very poor graphics by today’s standards and still think they’re ‘good’ if the gameplay is good. Gamers who are only used to modern games might not be able to get past the poor graphics even though beauty is only skin deep. That’s not entirely true, indie games get good press but usually with the caveat ‘…if you can get past the graphics…’

    Sometimes though with modern games I think they are *too* realistic. I am of two minds on this – on the one hand, graphical realism is awesome, but on the other hand it reduces the role imagination plays in the gaming experience. I will be a little bit sad when the day of really true to life graphics and gameplay that manifests itself in graphics (ex: someone mentioned foliage moving to spot an enemy) is common. As much as it might be cool, it will also take away some of the ‘magic’ games had.

    Also, do I honestly want to play a genuinely true to life FPS game? Do I want to ‘play’ in an ultra real war zone? I’m not sure. Even though I’d know it’s a game, the realism might go too far and make me reconsider whether it’s entertaining or not.

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 7 years ago

      The closer to real you get, the more diminishing returns make it an exercise in frustration because I think it’s like an infinite curve where you can’t ever quite reach it. Though you almost get there. Just a little more, just a little more…

      I imagine the only way to really immerse us in a fully realized, completely real-seeming world is to find a way to compel our minds to do it for us. That is, beam a signal that suggests certain features and let our minds do the actual work of virtually constructing the details. So the layout is the same, but the details might be different according to the person. Still, that would fill in the gap and leave plenty of processing power for the things that matter like AI’s and what not while letting the actual detail part be managed by the part of us that already does it in the real world: our sense of perception.

      Right now, we’re trying to recreate everything and not able to achieve it. One day, I hope we can build the game on top of our sense of perception and let the whole thing feel more natural as the game selectively is able to ignore parts of the real world in favor of letting our mind fill in the blanks.

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 7 years ago

    X-COM isometric 3D view vs the new one in full 3D

    • PrincipalSkinner
    • 7 years ago

    Anyone played Blade of Darkness? Game looked quite good and had amazing combat mechanics. Unbeaten so far AFAIK.

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      Now on GOG, with reviews referring to it as a spiritual predecessor to Dark Souls. Definitely was a good game, don’t think I ever beat it though.

    • Voldenuit
    • 7 years ago

    I think realist graphics (whether they are realtime 3D, pre-rendered or rotoscoped) tend to age worse than tile based graphics. I still play Ultima V, Magic Candle and Dwarf Fortress (albeit with a tileset) without noticing any deficit in their graphics, but looking at these old 3D games (especially that Thief screenshot) makes my eyes bleed.

    Strong art design can overcome hardware and engine limitations (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus) in my book though.

      • Kaleid
      • 7 years ago

      The NPCs are quite low poly in Thief 1 but there are fan made better NPCs which look tons better, as well as texture packs. It can still create some of the best atmospheres there is, and that is quite a lot thanks to there being no arrows and text here and there which are immersion breaking.
      I find the light system sometimes still to be stunning and find games like HL1/2 lacking when it comes to shadows and light.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Honestly the Thief photos don’t look that impressive. Notice how they use blur in place of well made textures and accents? Something worth noting.

    Skyrim – Designed around the PC

    New Lara Croft – Designed with PCs in mind

    Thief – Console port?

    Taking this all a bit further. You probably could do a comparison of console games from then to now and see relatively little change between them. PC games are really the only things that have evolved from a technological standpoint. Something like this:

    [url<]https://www.google.com/search?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=opera&channel=suggest&biw=1759&bih=951&tbm=isch&q=halo+3+vs+halo+4+graphics&oq=halo+3+vs+halo+4+graphics&gs_l=img.12...0.0.0.55391.0.0.0.0.0.0.0.0..0.0...0.0...1c..5.img.gPXXdynpcCI&pws=0[/url<] Despite there being five years between the games, they look almost identical. No crap right? Consolization at it's finest.

      • auxy
      • 7 years ago

      [quote=”Bensam123″<]Despite there being five years between the games, they look almost identical. No crap right? Consolization at it's finest.[/quote<][i<]HUH?[/i<] [b<]I even agree with your overarching point, but you picked a TERRIBLE example.[/b<] Even in that very search, you can see Halo 3 and Halo 4 right next to each other; Halo 4 blows away the older game visually. Halo 4 is a landmark in console graphics and a testament to the enduring capability of the Xbox 360. The SMAA used in Halo 4 looks nearly as good as the MSAA in Halo 3, and the reduction in performance demands allowed them to really ramp up the texture detail and effects quality. You should really play them one after the other sometime. The difference is STAGGERING.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        It does? Unless you consider making things slightly shinier ‘blowing away the older game’ I don’t think that flies… Looking at the pictures again it looks like there is almost no difference between the two. It looks like they added a sharpening filter to Halo 4 or something.

        It sounds more like you’re enamored with the hype surrounding the game and read too many reviews about it. For the most part it looks identical to halo 3.

        “The SMAA used in Halo 4 looks nearly as good as the MSAA in Halo 3, and the reduction in performance demands allowed them to really ramp up the texture detail and effects quality.”

        This is just silly. The pixel budget for the X360 is tiny by todays standards, it didn’t change from Halo 3 to Halo 4 (they use the same console). Simply switching to a different form of AA didn’t lead to massive increases in performance they could then funnel into better textures. It shows too.

    • ub3r
    • 7 years ago

    Tetris with Extreme Tessellation turned on, and 16xAA was pretty good.

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    I recently made the mistake of playing Populous on a 27″ monitor. I should try that again on the home theater screen… should be an interesting experiment

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Awesome game but my gosh…isn’t the standard resolution like 640×480? Talk about crazy huge pixels when scaled up!

        • auxy
        • 7 years ago

        320×200, if he means the original PC DOS Populous…

    • travbrad
    • 7 years ago

    BF1942 is one that stands out for me after re-installing the game maybe a year or so ago (before it became free actually). I remember basking in the glory of how great the graphics were on my new 9700PRO, but they don’t seem that great anymore. 😀

    [url=http://i.imgur.com/zl6hloo.jpg<]BF1942[/url<] [url=http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20121015110661/battlefield/images/b/b5/Alborz_Mountain.png<]BF3[/url<]

      • Chandalen
      • 7 years ago

      BF42 was a better game though IMO despite how poorly they’ve aged. And the mods, oh man the glorious mods, FH, EoD, Pirates, (even DC which I didn’t like playing that much). I miss those heady days of my AthlonXP 2500@2.4ghz with delta fans making more noise than anything had a right to.

      • kilkennycat
      • 7 years ago

      The Origin freebie re-release of BF1942 looks great with the hi-res BFHD ‘mod’ in 1920×1080 and running Win7-64. BFHD is available from bfhd.basnetworks.net. The single-player AI is as wonky as ever, but the game is still great fun. The original BF1942 disliked multicore processors, but the Origin version is fine.

    • NeelyCam
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Skyrim was nice but wasn't that much of an improvement visually over Oblivion.[/quote<] You must've been thinking of the PS3 versions.... they both look like the Oblivion pic in the article

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      But I thought consoles were teh bestest evar?!

      • Goofus Maximus
      • 7 years ago

      Actually, I’ve been thinking for a long time that graphics have reached the point where the extra little details really don’t add anything to the game. The fact that Scott didn’t notice a difference between Skyrim and Oblivion points out that all those little details didn’t really matter to the person who was playing the game at the time.

      This is the beef I have with game developers. They are hiring huge teams for games and taking a loooong time to develop it, basically because they’re spending their time painting veins on every individual leaf in the world, and hand placing each leaf in the entire world, and doing this same thing for every rock, every blade of grass, every cricket, and… everything. And these individually detailed details are adding NOTHING beyond the occasional glancing notice of appreciation to the game. In the mean time, all these details take away from the length of the game, the size of the world, and the “openness” of the world (the “on rails” effect).

      In summary of my ill-informed, yet highly opinionated rant, the gargantuan costs of the added graphical abilities is far out of proportion to the miniscule game immersion benefit you get for it.

        • NeelyCam
        • 7 years ago

        Exactly! The extra bit of graphics is “cool” and whatever, but doesn’t really make the game any better. Developers are wasting time and money (and, consequently, making the game way too expensive) to keep up with the graphics improvement train.

        IT DOESN’T MATTER!! Think back. >90% of the games you REALLY ENJOYED PLAYING were not great BECAUSE of the graphics. It was all the other stuff around it that made them great. Gameplay. Idea. Story. Graphics have [i<]ALWAYS[/i<] been secondary. People are still saying how much fun they had playing SimCity/Ultima/C&C/Civilization/Warhammer/Quake/Tribes/Morrowind/younameit. It really wasn't about graphics, [i<]ever[/i<]. Graphics were a bonus, but the [b<]key[/b<] was [i<]everything else[/i<]. What's a damn shame is that the game developers [i<]think[/i<] that it's the graphics that are the most important thing. It's an "easy"-to-do arms-race; if you have more money, you can have better graphics - great! But those are merely evolutionary steps in the grand gaming development scheme of things... what really makes people happy are the [i<]revolutionary[/i<] steps in imagination and gameplay.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    Wolfenstein 3D.

    King’s Quest VII, VIII, IX

    Doom.

    Duke Nukem 3D.

    Descent 1/2

    Quake.

    Unreal.

    Quake 2/3.

    Unreal Tournament.

    Max Payne 1/2. (The first one’s constipated look is a classic.)

    Total Annhilation.

    Tribes 1/2.

    Splinter Cell 1.

    Halo.

    Duke Nukem Forever. (Haha, compare it to itself from the trailers.)

    GTA 3/VC/SA

    I mean, seriously, it’s hard NOT to think of games that looked awesome, we remember them far more awesome than they are, but when you go back, you just gasp at how awful they really were and how much detail our imagination was adding for us.

    But maybe I’m just an old timer now. Ha. That’s so funny. There are entire legions of PC gamers who think of themselves as knowledgeable about PC gaming who never had the joy of IRQ’s or the wonder of trying to find out why a Sound Blaster’s not working on a particular game you just started via DOS because who in their right mind would EVER run a game from Windows, right?

    Entire generations of gamers now who don’t even know what I’m talking about.

    Yep, I’m old.

      • ChronoReverse
      • 7 years ago

      DOS=HIGH,UMB
      DEVICE=C:\DOS\HIMEM.SYS

      Wow, times sure have changed. I think my SB16 ISA card had jumpers to set the IRQ.

        • BIF
        • 7 years ago

        Oh my God, you just woke up two brain cells that I haven’t been able to communicate with in 15 years!

        Now, however, I don’t know if they can be repurposed.

          • HisDivineOrder
          • 7 years ago

          I had a similar experience there, ha!

            • WaltC
            • 7 years ago

            Me, three…;) Although my first personal computer was a Tandy 1000, from 1986-1994 I used nothing but Amigas (mothballing the Tandy), and when I look at some of the games that were developed for x86 CGA/EGA/Tandy during that period I have no trouble at all in understanding why the Amiga appealed to me so much. For instance, take a look at GoG’s Might & Magic 1-5 for x86. Unless I configure DOSbox to use shaders and D3d9, the graphics in their original 2d form are so poor as to be barely decipherable. It’s amazing what D3d9 & the employment of shaders can do even for these old games!

        • kc77
        • 7 years ago

        OMG it’s been so long. LOL I miss the turbo button on my 486 DX and think it was 33MHz to 66Mhz. It was great for playing RPG’s or Megaman. Whenever there was a huge distance to cross I’d hit the turbo button. Oh those were the days.

        That being said, unless you had a Commodore there weren’t that many games aside from the ones found within my Scholastic Reader. There was Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Oregon Trail.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      You forgot R.O.T.T – otherwise, that’s one awesome list

        • bcronce
        • 7 years ago

        3 eye balls flying at you after some drunken rockets gib a target.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          Ah, good times!

        • Sam125
        • 7 years ago

        I vaguely remember that game when I was a kid. It was kind of brutal from what I remember. Good times, good times.

          • NeelyCam
          • 7 years ago

          I remember the heat-seeking missiles… One of my frenemies would run behind the corner – two secods later body parts would come flying out from behind said corner. I don’t care how pixelated it was; the Gore was just implemented so well that it was Priceless

            • Sam125
            • 7 years ago

            Oh, so you’ve played multiplayer and not the single player campaign? The single player campaign was really the only thing R.O.T.T. was notable for, only because of the shock value.

            Doom I/II and Descent I/II were a much more robust multiplayer experiences during the early 90s!

        • d0g_p00p
        • 7 years ago

        System Shock 1 & 2 would have been nice

        Fallout 1/2
        Thief
        etc

        ahh the classics……

      • Disco
      • 7 years ago

      I think I had 3 or 4 different boot disks with specific config files for different games. Always trying to get the most free memory…

      About the list of games, I remember being absolutely blown away in the original release(?) trailer for Halo by the loose bits of soil being kicked up by the warthog driving around. Awesome sauce!

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 7 years ago

        Haha, likewise.

      • forged
      • 7 years ago

      Oh man good list. Ya trying to run MW2 with the help of a 5.25″ startup disc only to find out hours later it wouldnt work on the computer at all. Had to wait a year before we could even play it. Imagination definitely filled in the gaps for computer graphics back then.

      • cybot_x1024
      • 7 years ago

      And the not so popular:
      Outrun
      Psycho circus
      Jedi Knight
      And then also:
      Mortal Kombat
      Need for Speed 1&2
      Half life Opposing Fronts

      Am I the only one who enjoyed these games, and still wishes upon them?
      Oh my, i feel old too :/

      edit: Age of empires 1 (microsoft just screwed the series up when they decided to buy ensemble)

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 7 years ago

    Graphics, yes. Sound, no. Improvements in spatial audio and higher bit-rates stagnated with Vista.

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 7 years ago

    well… we’ve come a long way from Zork.

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      “That pixel is bigger than my head!”

      • Anonymous Hamster
      • 7 years ago

      And yet, we haven’t, really. Zork set a pretty high standard for story and dialog that so many subsequent games did not meet. Which ones did?

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 7 years ago

        [quote<]Zork set a pretty high standard for story and dialog that so many subsequent games did not meet. Which ones did?[/quote<] That's pretty easy, isn't it? I'll pick [i<]Planetfall[/i<], [i<]Suspended[/i<] and [i<]The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy[/i<] as three examples.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        I sucked at Zork for some reason. I remember getting to like the first interesting thing that happens, a goblin in a basement or something, and never being able to get any further.

    • The Dark One
    • 7 years ago

    I remember being especially impressed with NOLF 2’s character models. Looking back, there’s nothing special about them, and the Lithtech engine wasn’t capable of much in terms of environments, either.

    • Duck
    • 7 years ago

    I played UT’99 not that long ago. Probably in 2012. That’s aged well I think considering it’s 14 years old.

      • JohnC
      • 7 years ago

      Yea, it’s still fun to play and I never really paid any attention to the texture/lighting quality in it (because my attention was always fixed on other players). Same goes for any other similar type of games (multiplayer FPSes) – making them more “shiny” and “shadowy” (like what happened with UT3) only distracts players…

        • Duck
        • 7 years ago

        Yeh I hate those UT3 engine games like bioshock. So over rated. Real life isn’t marred in these HDR pixel shading effects. Very unrealistic. I much prefer source engine games.

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      Yup still a classic. Last FPS I really enjoyed. And then they had to go and take away my sniper rifle, replace it with a lightning gun and add vehicles……

    • LukeCWM
    • 7 years ago

    I remember how Command and Conquer: Red Alert felt modern, detailed, intuitive, and smooth compared to other games I played at the time, like Jetpack Christmas Special. =] Then I tried to go back to Red Alert maybe five years ago and it was just yikes … graphics so dreadful, terrible interface, etc. And I thought that five years ago!

    When I got my ATI Radeon 9600 Pro graphics card, it came with a free pre-order of Half-Life 2, which was supposed to have the most amazing, life-like graphics. (My parents didn’t let me actually fulfill my pre-order, but that’s beside the point.) There was all this marketing about how that game was the future of gaming, with unbelievably realistic faces. I just pulled up some screenshots today, and while the textures are moderately high-res and the facial models are complex enough to resemble human faces, it is a long, long way from the images of the new Tomb Raider, much less Crysis 3!

      • LukeCWM
      • 7 years ago

      Is this topic supposed to be just a trip down memory lane? I remember being perfectly satisfied with the graphics in Midtown Madness 2, and just floored by the intricate detail and beautiful envrionments in Myst!

        • travbrad
        • 7 years ago

        Oh wow I had forgotten about that game (Midtown Madness). I spent so much time playing the first one online on the “MSN Gaming Zone”. It was the closest you could get to a 3D GTA before that series finally made the transition to 3D. I remember that one looking A LOT better too: [url<]http://www.activewin.com/reviews/software/games/m/images/midtown_madness_2038.gif[/url<]

    • Alexko
    • 7 years ago

    Disabling anisotropic filtering on that Oblivion screenshot isn’t really fair. But yes, the difference is rather substantial.

    • wiak
    • 7 years ago

    Crysis and Crysis 3 = not that big different, the faces are still amazing on crysis and thats 6 years old

    • C-A_99
    • 7 years ago

    The screenshots here show dramatic graphical changes, but these changes all take place in the 3D realm of things. They are small changes and improvements in comparison to the whole history of gaming, but I think it highlights just how fast the medium has evolved compared to film and others. In a few decades, games went from pixel blobs to basic 3D. Correct me if I’m wrong, but films took even longer than that to reach the point of having sound.

    That said, the 3D advancements shown here only took a few years by comparison; now that in itself is pretty noteworthy.

    Aside from immersion, it’s important to remember the potential gameplay benefits of more computing power. Basic 3D’s impact on gameplay is obvious; Super Mario games were completely different prior to Mario 64. But then on the Gamecube, we got rudimentary shaders; basic lighting, shadows, reflections. Luigi’s Mansion undeniably had huge gameplay dependencies on these graphical effects. Even the 3DS’s 3D effect, while mostly considered a gimmick, actually has some potential gameplay value; diving underwater for rupees in Ocarina of Time 3D is easier with the screen depth.

    I’d like to see more innovation in the sense of tying graphical improvements to gameplay innovation. I like even the small stuff, like being able to see enemies in Crysis interact with the foliage as a way to spot them. It’s fun and it gives less merit to those awful “graphics vs. gameplay” debates, as if one factor has to sacrifice the other. Also, it’s completely unfair to judge the graphics of a game by modern or cutting-edge standards instead of by its time, and by the constraints of which the game was made. N64 graphics were cutting-edge for its time, but even now, they can be appreciated as being the best of the era. The “bad graphics” is part of the experience; it is something that is completely unique and will never be seen again. In other words, there will never be games made again that look anything like it.

      • brute
      • 7 years ago

      u live off the 99?

    • fellix
    • 7 years ago

    Nothing beats [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6cbwDORLz4<]Space Pirates![/url<]

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      The lighting and animation are surprisingly realistic, but I’m not impressed by the sound effects and the special effects leave a lot to be desired, too.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      lmao, so bad it’s good!

      Ah, the days of FMV in video games…good times.

    • brute
    • 7 years ago

    minesweeper still looks old. the explosions arent even there it is so bad

    • odizzido
    • 7 years ago

    The walls in the background of the original thief are about as clear as the new one. Actually in the new thief screenshot it looks like one of those low res pictures you would find in games like cyberia.

      • GasBandit
      • 7 years ago

      The difference is, old thief was just low res textures. New thief is high res textures with scads of GPU post-processing power to smear and blur and whatnot that high definition image until it looks more “realistically” crappy.

        • cynan
        • 7 years ago

        To be fair, it’s hard to fault the graphics quality from a screenshot that was taken in the midst of fast motion. That’s like criticizing a camera lens for lack of detail/sharpness from a photo of an F1 race taken with low ISO film/camera. We’ll see when the game comes out next year.

    • danny e.
    • 7 years ago

    Far Cry was amazing for its day.

      • Meadows
      • 7 years ago

      I disagree, it exploited that overused “water shader effect” thing that was popular at the time in contemporary action games.
      The ocean is as clear and perfect as a mirror (the sky reflections off the water are too clean and bright), there are almost no waves at all, and the whole thing looks like a sidewalk puddle viewed from a sharp 3 degree angle and magnified a million times over.

        • Kaleid
        • 7 years ago

        The lighting in some places is better than what we saw with HL2.
        In the first level it was amazing to shoot at the light on the roof and have it in real time change the shadows. Such jaw dropping experiences are quite rare today, at no point did I stop in Crysis 3 to just look at the graphics.

        Thief 3 did an amazing job with lights and shadows too.

      • StuffMaster
      • 7 years ago

      I just replayed it after Far Cry 3. I still think it’s better/more fun than all other Far Cry / Crysis games.

      • flip-mode
      • 7 years ago

      I agree. One of my all-time favorite games.

    • ClickClick5
    • 7 years ago

    Deus Ex vs Deus Ex: Human Revolution

    I enjoyed the time jump through all the years!

    Deus Ex (2000): [url<]http://www.3angrygamers.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/deusex_screen003.jpg[/url<] Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011): [url<]http://media.pcgamer.com/files/2011/05/Deus-Ex-Human-Revolution-action-shot-1.jpg[/url<] Or GTA...

      • TAViX
      • 7 years ago

      But Deus Ex have x10 times better gameplay, story and characters than DE3. To bad nobody is making that kinda of a games anymore.

    • tbone8ty
    • 7 years ago

    i totally laughed at the first thief photo

    excuuse me siiir

      • auxy
      • 7 years ago

      HAHAHAHA~! I GET IT! (*≧艸≦)

      BECAUSE HOMOSEXUALS ARE [i<]HILARIOUS![/i<] (*≧▽≦)ノシ))

        • brute
        • 7 years ago

        wat the hell is wrong with u man

          • Meadows
          • 7 years ago

          She’s not a man.

            • brute
            • 7 years ago

            it’s a man , baby !

            • Suspenders
            • 7 years ago

            Haha, reminds [url=http://streetfighter.wikia.com/wiki/Poison<]me of this.[/url<]

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            “It’s a man, baby!” -Dick Vitale, picking up a hooker

        • tay
        • 7 years ago

        I mean sword wielding homosexuals are. It’s just unexpected in a game, and so it’s funny. Just let it go, and let us have some fun. Despite the frequent usage of “GAY” as a pejorative by gamers, I feel we are a welcoming to fellow gaymers.

        • chµck
        • 7 years ago

        take your retarded faces back to reddit.

          • auxy
          • 7 years ago

          I’ve never been to Reddit! (;´Д`)

        • auxy
        • 7 years ago

        For the record, as a homosexual, I was actually being sincere. Mostly. (*/ω\*)

        It’s not rude or discriminatory to laugh at extremely stereotypical people! They’re walking jokes! The extremely flamboyant gay man, the nerd with the pocket protector and buck teeth, the guy with the two-meter-wide afro — these people are playing it up on purpose. It’s funny, so laugh! (✌゚∀゚)☞

          • Disco
          • 7 years ago

          i don’t even know what all these strange ‘faces/emoticon’ are supposed to be…?? owls?

            • wierdo
            • 7 years ago

            [url<]http://www.japaneseemoticons.net/[/url<]

            • Duck
            • 7 years ago

            mfw owls

            ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          …the internet poster with excessive and extreme ’emoji’

            • auxy
            • 7 years ago

            And I don’t get upset when people make fun! ┐( ̄ー ̄)┌

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            I hope you don’t get upset with -1’s either, because I give you a -1 every time you put one of those damned things in your posts.

            • auxy
            • 7 years ago

            Oh no, my internet reputation! Whatever shall I do? ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌

            • Suspenders
            • 7 years ago

            I (。♥‿♥。) the wacky emoticons. Now that I know what they are, heh 😀

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            Emoticons are ok, but they needn’t be a substitute for punctuation at the end of every sentence, that’s just too much.

            • lilbuddhaman
            • 7 years ago

            …. sigh

          • chuckula
          • 7 years ago

          I will go on the record as saying that I have no problem with auxy’s weird emoticons.. they help me to test my system to make sure I have unicode font support working properly!

        • flip-mode
        • 7 years ago

        This post made me laugh.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          You know…I see the all-caps, and it makes me think of SSK. I wonder if this is his new persona and that’s why he hasn’t posted in a while??

            • Meadows
            • 7 years ago

            I doubt it, because SSK used all caps completely in lieu of BBC codes, and auxy used italic here as well.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            According to his profile, SSK was here last on Thursday.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            gg e-stalker.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            I was just curious after reading your comment. I didn’t remember seeing him around.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            😀 yeah, good to know, I’m just messing with you.

    • JosiahBradley
    • 7 years ago

    It’s all about immersion. If the game setting can suck you in and let your imagination do the work, then the graphics will simply fall into the background and let game play take over. This is why when you think back to Oblivion, you remember it looking so much better, because it had all the elements of a great game and graphics that worked.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Conversely you might’ve thought it looked so amazing because it was the best thing out at the time (which was true), so you hold it at that baseline regardless of age.

    • bthylafh
    • 7 years ago

    Doom’s graphics are crazy dated now, but in my mind they still look fine. IMO they’ve actually held up better than Quake’s. I’m not entirely certain why this is – maybe it’s the comparative sharpness of Doom’s sprites and pixels vs the blurry 3D models of Quake.

      • FuturePastNow
      • 7 years ago

      Doom didn’t reach any level of realism, it was very cartoonish. We’re more forgiving of that.

      Quake reached for the edge of the uncanny valley and fell in, a video game sin.

        • Meadows
        • 7 years ago

        You mean you don’t remember the Windows 95 advertisement where Bill Gates stood in front of a footage from Doom, and told viewers that “these games are getting very… realistic”?

          • FuturePastNow
          • 7 years ago

          I’ve read Bill’s book, he’s thought a lot of things, and a lot of them haven’t been right.

          Are you incapable of looking at Doom and deciding for yourself if they were going for a cartoonish style? Yeah, it was among the first games with a pseudo-3D environment. And it’s dark, instead of colorful.

          But come on. Look at the Spiderdemon. Look at the little face that represents your health. The chainsaw with which you slice demons. There’s nothing remotely realistic about Doom.

    • jokinin
    • 7 years ago

    I loved original Max Payne graphics when it was published, (and the rest of the game), but now they look so outdated and blocky!

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah, at the time it was “how can a game that looks this good run so well on lower-end hardware” and now it’s like “wowee, this is ugly”. Still, the gameplay holds up on those old Max Payne games.

        • jokinin
        • 7 years ago

        I remember actually buying this game, and before, being shown the gameplay by retail store staff, on a 15 inch LCD. My mouth kept dripping saliva because the graphics were so awesome and the gameplay was so cool.
        Ah, nostalgia, I’m starting to get old 🙂

    • Krogoth
    • 7 years ago

    I feel that the biggest improvement over the years is texture and lighting effects, no thanks to greater memory capacity on modern GPUs. Textures in older games were pixelated and lighting effects suffer several degree of over-saturation and not enough contrast. I cannot completely discredit higher poly-count models.

    I think the next big step is going to be getting animation and physics down.

    Although, all of these effects and details come at a cost though. It requires more man-hours on artists and content creation development and less being allocating towards play-testing and debugging.

      • tay
      • 7 years ago

      I’m confused. Are you impressed or not?

        • Deanjo
        • 7 years ago

        New meme “Krogoth indifferent”?

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          Krogoth so confused.

            • brute
            • 7 years ago

            krogoth feel textures and lightnings

            • flip-mode
            • 7 years ago

            Right in the Krogoth feels.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            You think we could get TR to add a horizontal thumb?

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Sure, but I’d only go for that if that was the only option for Krogoth’s posts. Maybe two horizontally opposed thumbs for people that always want to vote the opposite?

            • Chandalen
            • 7 years ago

            have them be an ‘Eh’ and ‘Meh’ button depending on your sidewards inclination.

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            +1 Brilliant! EDIT: I think TR would be the FIRST site to do so… certainly a powerful thing to separate them from the muggles

            • MadManOriginal
            • 7 years ago

            They could even patent it.

            How much would a ‘meh’ vote patent be worth?!? I SAY BILLIONS!

            • NeelyCam
            • 7 years ago

            It’s dubbed “Krogoth”

    • auxy
    • 7 years ago

    Final Fantasy XI was one of the [i<]first[/i<] video games I spent a lot of time playing, and you know, for a PS2 port, its visuals have held up surprisingly well! Especially when you hack the registry to force it to run in 4K mode! 4x SSAA ahoy! °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°

      • NeelyCam
      • 7 years ago

      NEVER say “PS” on this site, unless you really like downthumbs

        • auxy
        • 7 years ago

        B-but — it’s still my second favorite game of all time! T_T

        [super<]The first is [i<]Okami[/i<], in case you were curious.[/super<]

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This