I promised I wouldn’t go a week without updating again, and here I am at the last second turning in a paper working on a new post! It’s like college already. Anyways, today we’re going to be looking at a few recent-ish games and take on while they look so good when compared to other, more ‘realistic’ games. Spoilers may follow, so if you, say, don’t want the best part of Dead Space 2 spoiled, you’ve been warned.

Compare for a moment a scene of Dead Space 2 and, say, Gears of War. Let’s see what we get.

Dead Space 2:

This does happen a little too often.

Notice first off the amount of lighting present. The Plasma Cutter and Issac’s helmet all give off a blue light, while the Exploder gives off  yellow light from its swollen arm. The sign is green, and the lights give a neutral glow. I would have liked to have a few images from the Civilian section of the game, but stupidly used one save file for everything and am now way past that part of the game. Now, on to the other image;

Gears of War:

The human way of saying anything: Shooting it in the face.

Brown armor on a brown level against brown enemies. The most colorful source of light appears to be the muzzle flash from the weapon going off. It looks brighter overall, but with less coloration, focusing on a much smaller palate.

There is a trend in the market right now of making ‘realistic’ games have little more than shades of brown for everything, yellow for flash, and red for blood. While I think that’s a bit harsh, I can’t argue with much of it. The last few Call of Duty games I played single player with (Not Black Ops) had more than a couple of levels bleed together from sameness. The multiplayer is especially guilty of this, having two teams in brown uniforms fighting on a brown desert. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be camo. No, the ‘real’ world is not that bland to look at. In the real world we often have very stark contrasts between objects. The reason I wanted to bring this up was my experience with Dead Space 2 that had a lot of variation to it.

The first level has frequent usage of Blue and Green lighting in a hospital. While the environment was fairly similar (Remember, hospitals are built for sanitation. Not that they stay clean for any length of time), the use of colored lighting gave certain rooms and objects focus, tinting them and allowing them to stick out from other areas. The next level had a much higher focus on blue lighting, but took place in a very different sector of the Sprawl, having various colors for buildings and signs, and many softer colors for lighting up various small details we pass up in everyday life. Also had plenty of Orange from the “Nyan!”-Exploders running amok and pummeling my face in.

Towards the end the game did take a turn away from the colorful scenery and into a more dull looking machine-grey and rusted-metal brown. Mostly because the player was running around inside the Sprawl and in an old mining shaft respectively. Even then, there are plenty of moments of color to break up gameplay and prevent it from becoming a dull slog through the scenery. Funnily enough, these come from being in outer space and not as you might expect, from inside the station at all. Seeing the Sun from the Solar Array washing over Titan (and the Sprawl beneath the Array) is a beautiful sight, and getting hurled out of the mine shafts by a proto-hive mind into a very blue space scene provides a refreshing perspective change, which is even highlighted with streaks of red and orange as you attach flaming canisters to various debris to move it out of your way.

What I’m getting at here is that we need more color. How is it that fantasy games often provide a more realistic depiction of the colors and contrasts we see in every-day life than the ‘gritty, realistic shooter’ that is trying too?  Trust me game devs, color is not a bad thing. More of it provides depth, and sets up an even greater story. As a quick example, another game I really enjoyed: BioShock. Arguably one of the most telling and consistent characters was the great city of Rapture herself. Rapture looked like a city that had once been full of life, reduced to a dying husk. Beneath the grim, you could see hints of the past, both of the city and her inhabited. Using the world around the player is a great way to get some real subtle, but impacting, story out, to help set up the world for the player to temporarily be a part of.  Creating a world that people could live in and compare to their own is a great way to heighten the illusion, while creating one that is not quite there can slowly begin pulling the player out of the story as they try to place what’s wrong.

Give some more color a shot. It’ll do wonders for the virtual world, just as it does in our own. Trees, skies, people, roads and buildings, everything stands apart from each other, and yet together in a picture of the world. Getting that picture perfect is the first mark of a great game.