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Bethesda: people who say graphics don't matter are "lying"

Strong visuals good both for "immersion" and marketing

Visuals don't count, right? Right. We're men and women of substance round these parts - we look beneath the surface. We're oblivious to the charms of cascading polygons, mushrooming texture detail, high dynamic range lighting and all the rest of that cheap, superficial, tawdry rubbish.

Unless, that is, we're the developers of super-selling, overloaded fantasy role-playing games.

Speaking to OXM in a shelf-fresh podcast - the first we've published for some months, yes - Bethesda's Peter Hines has made some fairly unequivocal remarks on the value of graphics.

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"There's a lot of people who say graphics don't matter," he reflected. "To them I usually say 'you're lying'." Put that in your pipe and smoke it, text adventure fans.

According to Hines, good looks are vital because they create "a sense of immersion" in a game world, and with Skyrim, "we're looking for the best sense of immersion you can get".

But there's another, somewhat grubbier, less artistically watertight reason: graphics sell games. That old adage about pictures being worth a thousand words is bang on the money, Hines told us, illustrating this with some painfully close-to-home examples.

"When you boil a game down, somebody flips through a magazine, like OXM for example, and you may or may not get them to read page five of Mike [Channell]'s 16 page coverage of Skyrim - page five is awesome by the way, so don't skip it.

"But they 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."

Hines revealed that Fallout 3 marketing used images of action sequences because these showed off the upgraded Gamebryo engine best.

"People were like 'they're not focussing on the RPG stuff, all their demos are all about action and not about quests'. Well, we tend to show what shows well," Hines explained.

"It's very difficult to convey to somebody in a period of time - here's a character that you didn't create, but somehow I'm going to get you to care about this quest and the context of it, right now."

"But everybody gets pretty pictures, and everybody gets the big story stuff, and so I think graphics in a similar way gets a lot of people interested right away."

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"They see something, and they say 'holy crap, that looks amazing - now I want to know more about it'. As opposed to 'yeah that looks OK, and it looks like it could be any other game'.

"We don't want to be that. When you see our stuff, we want you to go 'that's Skyrim for sure - that can't be anything else, it looks unbelievable'."

Anybody struggling to believe? Listen to the podcast in full for more hot Bethesda or Skyrim-related info.

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