Quality qualifier

I was having an interesting conversation with a customer, if he’s reading – I promised this post – and I live up to my word. He had asked me about upcoming technologies, and of course, I was fully interested in engaging on the topic, for obvious reasons. We started to discuss the VR tech that is due to “change” gaming. I’ve already expounded my feelings about that.

He had said to me, it would be interesting to define what makes something quality. So, this is my (hopefully not) vain attempt to answer that question.

For me, quality, in the narrow view of the world of gaming, really boils down to the sum of the pieces. As a writer, and a lover of the written word, part of me wants to say that it’s really the writing that makes or breaks a title. But I really do think it’s a bit of everything.

Now, certainly, it is easier for bad writing/story, for example, to be the crux of what makes a game bad. And less so, for bad graphics to be the straw, as it were. I guess in some sense, the concepts that make games amazing, are inversely correlated to what makes games bad.

Now, that may sound like gibberish, but please, bear with me.

If I’m playing a game, Final Fantasy Tactics for example, the quality of the story is what drives my love and obsession with said title. The graphics (while charming) and gameplay (good for what it is) are summarily less important. Now, if the inverse were true, that being: the story being bad and the graphics/gameplay being top notch, I think it would have proved to be a failure. It certainly wouldn’t be a title that has stuck with me for this long and caused me to buy it on five separate occasions.

My point being: A high-quality game needs to possess exceedingly good story/writing, stunning graphics, interesting and/or innovative gameplay mechanics and it must find a balance between those elements such that one isn’t entirely overwhelming.

What’s interesting, if one were to delve a little deeper (and, naturally, I intend as such) and being to rate the importance of any of those elements, I’d say that it quickly becomes a murky quagmire. As I said, certainly, bad writing, no matter how good the gameplay, can be detrimental. But, while that one element can skew the results, it’s more the interplay between the concepts. It is less so the one or the many that make something high quality. What it boils down to is how well those ideals play off of each other.

Mad Max, which I wrote about yesterday, is proving to be just such an example. The world the game is set in is visually stunning, and has a depth to it that speaks volumes about the care and thought that went into its creation. The dialogue and the story so far are gripping and interesting. The stylised violence and combat system is engaging and challenging. With all of these elements in proportion to each other, greatness is assured.

I feel as though I’m having trouble expressing my point. So I will say it plainly. If one of these elements finds itself an outlier, that meaning – it is disproportionate to the respective whole, the overall quality suffers. If the story is too good, and the other aspects can’t be held to the same standard, the overall quality suffers. A title like The Last of Us, comes to mind. It had such depth and feeling. The story was gripping and something that could not be averted. But aspects of the gameplay were so harrowing that even though the story was so incredible, it suffers as a whole. If the other aspects were on the high level that the story had set, it would be one of those “works of art” games that fans are so often heralding. Instead, it languished for me. Which is unfortunate at best.

More on this tomorrow.

– The Ego

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