Here we are toward the end of 2004, and what a gamers power year it has been with huge gaming releases. It will be a few years before we see the big game releases so close together like we’ve seen in the past several months. But, is this a good thing for gamers? Would gamers prefer having them spread out so they have a chance to enjoy each one? Or, do they like getting flooded just before Christmas?

Perhaps, an even better question, is if gamers prefer gameplay or graphics in their games? I believe there have been several releases that have allowed gamers to provide an answer to this very question. My analysis of Half-Life 2 and also an outsider’s impression of World of Warcraft (WoW) are below.

Let’s start with Half-Life 2

Here, we have a game that has been in development for a very long time and followed by a long release delay. Even though, it has nice features and one of the best single-player stories I’ve seen in a long time, the engine and it’s features have become quite dated now. Even if it did release last year, FarCry’s graphics and other features put it to shame.

Regardless, if I were to pick between FarCry or Half-Life 2, I would have to go with Half-Life 2 for sure. Why? Because the gameplay and story was just more fun to play. I really felt like I was a character in a movie, which had a decent story and held on to it. One of the worst things we see many games do, is that they start out with a nice story and then they take it off on some other mutant or psycho tangent.

So, score one for gameplay. FarCry had better graphics, but Half-Life 2’s gameplay will bring me back.

Now, let’s look at World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2

Both MMORPG games released close together. I had the chance to really play EverQuest 2 and learn it’s gameplay and graphics, but I denied a chance to play WoW after a failed attempt to get into the open beta (thanks GameSpy for the lame exclusives you had on World of Warcraft). Most of my arguments against WoW is really with it’s low-poly graphics engine. Although, there are many out there that would argue against me in order to defend WoW, they end up admitting the same conclusion in the end.

With EverQuest 2, my biggest complaint was with the gameplay. It just wouldn’t cut it at all as a single player and fails even more as an MMO, IMO anyway. It did have some nice graphics, which didn’t look low-poly, no matter how small the creatures were. But, it lacked the feeling of being a unique character and the missions and combat system within the stagnant environment really drags the gameplay down to a waste of money.

So, if I was really interested in playing one of these, I would most likely get my money and enjoyment out of World of Warcraft, over the waste of time in EverQuest 2. I think the middle-road MMORPG that offers a blend of both, will be the upcoming Guild Wars. But, more on this in the future.

To summarize then, for me, I would go for gameplay over graphics. But, there is a point where I draw the line with graphics. Since, I only have limited time to play (with work and family requiring time), I can be pretty selective. But, there are many others out there in the same boat.

This means that game developers really should take a break and analyze what gamers are really looking for in a game. As the next generation games are now a here generation, it’s time to look forward to another evolution to where game developers get with it, and start providing the right mix of features and deliver what gamers really want. Hopefully, in the process, we’ll see a shakeout in the industry where the copy-cats and wannabes fade off, leaving the real game developers that have the gamer in mind, rather than profits. Somewhere in the future, a game is coming to where we don’t have to make a choice between gameplay or graphics.

Until then, I’ll keep my eye out for the first game to satisfy all of the categories that would make a great game.

BTW, what would you choose?
Gameplay or Graphics?