The SWTOR Graphics Flap

I should subtitle this “And Why You Should Lighten Up.” Vent post ahead.

A little background: at the moment, SWTOR has a “low” graphics setting and a “high” graphics setting for normal gameplay. It is misleading in the UI, with toggles for low-medium-high. There is a third mode, above high — let us say, very high — that comes into play only during cutscenes. Here, when the focus is on a close-up of your character, your armor has more detailed textures. This presentation exists in a small, controlled space, without any additional players creeping into view. When you get back to regular gameplay, the textures are stepped down a minute amount.

And yes, it’s a minute amount. It isn’t game-breaking or a gigantic callback to 8-bit graphics, despite what some people say. Mountains out of molehills.

Seriously folks — if you’re so hung up on the graphics quality in SWTOR that you feel you’ve been cheated, you need a reality check. I hate to break it to you, but here goes: You won’t get Skyrim graphics in an MMO in 2012. It won’t happen. You won’t get Doom 3 graphics in an MMO. You won’t have Crysis the MMO. I’m sorry. If you truly looked at any of the SWTOR promo materials, where the game looked its best, and thought “how amazingly life-like and detailed!” and purchased the game solely for these graphics… you’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

If for a moment you think the developers could push an ultra level of graphics quality in an MMO engine today… you have zero clue as to how an MMO works under the hood. And I’m a layman. A layman with an open mind, and a willingness to think beyond the end of my nose. The minute you consider the complexities of how an MMO engine has to perform both in rendering and general under-the-hood functionality, including netcode, and then bringing all that together in something that plays enjoyably in solitary missions, PVP matches, and large Raid content… you might realize just how much goes on behind the scenes.

You might also stop flailing your arms over a minor loss in texture quality. Yes, it’s minor. In the grand scope of things, it’s minor.

This boils down to a bunch of spoiled brats who grew up in the days of modern gaming, unaware of just how far we’ve come from those days of yore. The graphics in SWTOR are phenomenal compared to the blocky blandfest that was Everquest. They’re far improved from World of Warcraft, the largest and most influential MMO in the world (still going, too). They’re lightyears ahead of anything on a 90’s console. And yet, since these graphics are not on par with a single-player on-rails Call of Duty 3, they’re “garbage.”

These sort of people make me ashamed to call myself a gamer. They see nothing of the “game” here — the entire picture. They see that a collection of pixels could be 25% sharper, and because they’re not then the entire product must fail, Bioware has to burn to the ground, EA is worse than Bobby Kotick, and the world is coming to an end.

What’s worse, these folks are screaming so loud, they’re polluting the official forums with their nonsense. Anyone who swings by to say “I’m enjoying the game” is set upon by a pack of wild dogs, picking apart their like of the game and pointing back to these “horrible muddy graphics.” People like that are nothing but a toxic spill that’s contaminating the ground water for everyone else.

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