BEN HARDWIDGE MOTION HEADING BLEURGHHERE RICK LANE PLEASE
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For those of you unfamiliar with the technique, motion-blur is a post-process effect used to blur the image on screen when the player turns or tilts the game camera, most often to simulate the effect of your eyes refocusing when you turn your head. It’s a bizarre implementation; this effect only occurs if you spin around with enough force to rattle your brain inside your skull like a rugby ball in a tumble dryer, in which case blurred vision is probably the least of your concerns.
Smudging out the world like an inkblot whenever the player moves completely defeats the point of artists creating the lovingly rendered environments that are a staple in today’s games. For years, the mainstream game industry has tried to cram more and more polygons into real-time graphics to render crisp, detailed images. But then a motion-blur effect gets slapped in front of it, like the work of a frazzled teacher doing the make-up for a school nativity play.
Motion-blur isn’t the only offender in the line-up of bad graphical effects. A few years back, Bloom lighting was the worst culprit, saturating games such as Fable and the recent
F WSyndicate reboot, making them appear as if they were halfimmersed in the sun. A lot of poorly thought-out graphical effects emerge from games treating the game camera like an actual video camera, rather than the perspective from which the player sees the game. It results in bizarre visual frippery, such as water and dirt splashing directly onto the screen as if it was a lens, as well as lens flare, film grain and most recently chromatic aberration. The latter occurs when a lens can’t unify all the colour wavelengths in the same focal plane, causing a blurry, coloured ‘fringe’ to appear around the image’s focus. So not only are game cameras simulating lenses, they’re simulating lenses as well.
These techniques aren’t entirely without their place. It’s sensible to use effects such as film grain and chromatic aberration in Alien: Isolation. Here, the developer painstakingly recreated the look of Alien, a film made in 1979.
The problem is that many of these effects are included as standard in visual post-processing, part of a frustrating tendency among larger devs and publishers to cram as many graphical effects into a game as possible, instead of considering what best suits the game stylistically. It’s lazy showboating, and it’s increasingly counterproductive because these newer effects are only noticeable when they’re ramped up to the point of being visually obstructive.
Computer graphics are now good enough to accommodate many different aesthetic styles, and it’s time for developers to start putting greater thought into they want to reflect their systems, themes and motifs visually, rather than treating graphics as a numbers game. If your approach is simply to mix every colour, you’ll always end up with brown.