Bethesda called me a liar


In a recent podcast, Bethesda Softworks VP Peter Hines discussed his views on graphics in games. Bethesda’s VP states that he feels that graphics are of the utmost importance in video games. Here is his quote:

There’s a lot of people who say graphics don’t matter. To them I usually say ‘you’re lying’. People will look at a screenshot and make a snap decision: ‘that looks awesome’, or ‘I’m not interested’. So if you can make something look amazing just at first glance, it’s so much easier to get them.

I know personally I would take a game with fantastic gameplay over one with pretty visuals, but I guess that is just me lying again. I can remember thinking while playing the original Metroid that the game didn’t look as good visually as Super Mario 3, but that didn’t stop me from mapping out the entire game on graph paper because I loved it so much.

What do you think Infendo? Graphics or gameplay?




Eugene lives in New Mexico and has been a life long gamer since getting his hands on an NES. Always partial to Nintendo, Eugene has made it a point to keep informed on all things Mario.


  1. Gameplay!

  2. The graphics should be “high” enough to not impede the gameplay. So, build the gameplay first, then make the graphics compliment it.

  3. Second Unremarkableguy’s Comment

    Why is graphics such a high priority nowadays?

    Look at Minecraft, or Counterstrike
    bad/outdated graphics but OUTSTANDING gameplay

  4. Graphics are like icing, it can make or ruin a cake, but, no matter what, the cake itself is more important.

  5. Unfortunately it seems that gamers only care about out graphics. That seems to be the only way I can see reason for the five million shooters that I could swear I played last year. I’d rather have my fancy, unique, colorful art styles over yet another nitty gritty ultra realistic game.

  6. see, both sides are right, and both sides are wrong.

    this is a perfect example of bias. whether you like it or not graphics are a dealbreaker for people and hes right.
    this is why we have alot of people mocking conduit 2 for its graphics.
    and youre right also graphics should and do compliment the gameplay but its not necessary.

    and as we progress the standard is rising, so you can see where hes coming from.
    wii is 5 years old, outdated now. and ps3 and 360 are still in their prime. wonder why?

  7. i dont care about graphics. art design I do care about.

    but i think he is wrong about people making a snap decision based on a screenshot. in todays youtube society videos is where most judgements take place i woudl think. which can showcase how a game plays and looks.

    game play is the what game is all about. at least it should be. you arent watching a game, you are playing it.

  8. Aren’t most of Bethesda’s pre-launch marketing materials usually screenshots of perfectly rendered cutscenes anyway? Seems he left that part out.

  9. If I could “like” comments, I’d totally like the one about cutscenes.

    Sam approaches the underlying issue: graphics *do* matter to people, but graphics encompasses all you can see on the screen — not just the number of polys or which shader they used, but the art direction, the motion capture, in some cases the era invoked by the visuals, etc. People in the industry who think the only way to attract a viewer’s eye is with something that looks like a photo of real life (especially if said shot comes from a pre-rendered cutscene) are missing the point.

    The three games that have sucked me in the most based on graphics in the last six months have been Minecraft, Stacking and Fez. Two of those are deliberately “retro” (while bending your brain with what they’re doing under the hood) and the middle one is still more fanciful than realistic. Minecraft in particular has been called out for its Wolf3D-esque low-res orthogonal graphics, yet it’s sold a million copies while still in beta with no retail release or advertising. And while I haven’t played Fez yet, seeing its gameplay videos makes me salivate every time.

    But I sure look forward to the 3DS facelift for Ocarina of Time. I love the game as it is, and still play it, but I’m looking forward to the more saturated colors and fewer visible vertices (pointy noses, etc.)

  10. I think the runaway success of Pokemon Black & White says it all. Also, How many of us love revisiting older games in our collection for current or even older systems we still own? I never had the urge to play a title from years back only to turn it off after the title screen displays its outdated graphics.

  11. This is very simple. The Bethesda rep is making the point that for marketing purposes graphics can make a huge difference. It’s interesting that he sidesteps the gameplay debate all-together. He’s just saying that impulse buyers and the unwashed masses of consumers are suckers for a pretty box or commercials. When it comes down to it, smart gamers wait and watch to see if the game is legit or just eye candy.

  12. He is confusing “graphics” with “graphical style”. Do we need some powerful system to run Wind Waker? Yet that game screens keep attracting me back. So no, graphics themselves are not the most important. Art style is.

    But you can’t expect much from a guy whose games look fine in screens but a pain in motion. Did they really thought the pop-up fest of elements in their games would not bother anyone? Or do he expects people to remain static just admiring a particular scene?


  13. Gameplay is definitely where it’s at. There have been some very good looking games that have horrible gameplay and vice versa. That’s why games like Ocarina of Time still stand up today against more graphically impressive games–their gameplay cannot be beat.

    I can, however, see Peter Hines’ perspective from a sales standpoint. The uneducated consumer can easily be swayed by a cool screenshot or neat box art. But what makes for good sales does not always translate to what makes a good game.

  14. What usually happens in this argument is that people misuse “graphics”. Technical achievements can be graphics and graphics can show and can be technical achievements. The two do not equal one another. Graphics and gameplay go hand in hand with a video game because we must have a way to interact with a set of rules that are fun. I press right and mario walks, I hold b and he runs, I tap a and he shoots fireballs. I see Mario run but he’s just a 2d image on a screen, he’s not really moving but the graphics give me that sensation. the background scrolls behind him and the plane that he’s running on moves more obstacles and enemies into his path. I have to work my thumbs to make tricky jumps that I see or to avoid slow and fast moving fireballs. Graphics are simply what we see and they are very important but you can’t have one without the other. Graphics and no gameplay equals Metal Gear Solid: Existence, aka a movie. Gameplay and no graphics is a beatbox with limited interactivity and enjoyability. Rez and many music based games or games with brilliant audio design can be played without graphics, but they are usually not enjoyable.

    What happens is that graphics may receive too much attention in the wrong areas. Wind Waker is a beautiful game with a seamless art style that creates a living water painting. Its’ biggest gameplay complaint is the sailing and poor pacing. It’s one of the weakest Zelda games ever released. I enjoyed it, I love it, it’s a very superb experience but it is weak when compared to every Nintendo sanctioned Zelda that came before it. It’s nearly a different game. You could swap the main trio for different people and make very minor changes to the folklore and get what the game could have been. It was imbalanced. There are games that have phenomenal gameplay design but due to poor coherency in the graphics design they become fairly difficult to play. Games that don’t let you see enemies because of poor color use or ffor some reason make it difficult to determine what you’re doing based on site.

    I didn’t mean to stab Zelda in this comparison, but simply put without graphics how would receive feedback or enjoy the game you’re playing? I’d hate to play half-life 2 with a mic and a radio as the only means of interaction and experience. It could be made enjoyable but it’s not the same.

  15. I say, both. However, gameplay is more important to me. Graphics are only a bonus to an already great game.

  16. personally Gameplay. I don’t care how good the graphics are if the game isn’t fun to play or has poor mechanics I’m not gonna play it. Sure I like my games to look good but I’m not going to buy a game based on eye candy. graphics just enhance the experience. Sadly he has a valid point about gamers today. They do tend to judge a game of graphics first. I don’t know how many times I’ve read people write things like ” this game looks like a n64 game its gonna suck blah blah blah”(and usually it does not look that bad at all), before even playing it to judge for themselves.


  18. I prefer style over graphics, then constant frame rate and no clipping/pop-in. That’s only from a visual point of view. Over all, gameplay is more important. If I’m having fun with a game, it could be in black and white with stick figures and I’d still go on.

    Now, let’s remember that Oblivion and Fallout 3 aren’t the prettiest girl at the ball either…

  19. graphics are gameplay. incredible vistas that take your breath away are amazing, and allow for long distance sniping and strategy. so the distinction is increasingly meaningless as gameplay increasingly relies on graphics.

  20. In most cases: Both.

    There should be a concordance between graphics and gameplay.

  21. In fact, in some cases the art direction is more important than the graphics…

  22. I go for gameplay more than graphics.

  23. They’re both important. That’s like saying in basketball, ‘defense wins championships.’. It’s a bunch of crock. The best team wins the championship. The best games are the best at everything. That being said I despise games that are in the high end of graphics but have no hook in the gameplay. And I’m also in the boat that actually love the look of retro games. A snes game graphically could be timeless, but all ps1 and n64 are fugly today and do not hold up well.

  24. This is the ole “either, or” fallacy. Both are possible simultaneously.

  25. @lucasC666
    unless the cake is a lie

    Seriously now: Minecraft. ’nuff said