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How Summer Games Done Quick 2024 makes speedrunning a marathon

As I write this, I’m watching a group of three guys sit on a couch as one plays through the Illusion of Gaia, an old SNES action RPG that was released way back in 1994. The person playing the game is a speedrunner by the name of Adam “puwexil” Dunn, and his goal is to do a 100% run of the game – which is defined as finding all of Illusion of Gaia’s 50 collectible red gems in addition to completing the game itself – as quickly as possible.

The estimate for completion is two hours and 30 minutes, but Dunn eventually completes the run with a time of 2:21:34, coming in eight and a half minutes under estimate. The audience behind Dunn erupts into applause as he completes the run and thanks everyone for watching; as he leaves the stage, details are read out of donations from those who have been watching him play remotely via Twitch.

Welcome to Summer Games Done Quick 2024. By the time it ends – on what looks to be early Sunday morning – nearly 200 runners will have taken part in a near-uninterrupted, speed-gaming live-streamed firehose, all in the name of raising money for Doctors Without Borders, the not-for-profit organization that helps people who don’t have access to healthcare.

For the uninitiated, Summer Games Done Quick and its winter counterpart, Awesome Games Done Quick, make for two of the most incredible and inspiring spectacles in gaming. For a full week, speedrunners from around the world flock to one place to run through their favorite games as fast as possible, while both a live and online audience share in their successes and failures.

SGDQ 2024 started on Sunday, July 3rd and likely won’t wrap up until Sunday, July 10th, with runs being streamed, live, every minute in-between. These are events that speedrunning enthusiasts have been passionate about for years, but lately, more and more people from the general gaming community have been tuning in to watch these players of immense skill break games from both past and present.

The amount of talent on display can only be described as out of this world but, as is usually the case, what you see is only part of the story. Curious about the technology behind a gaming marathon like SGDQ, and what it takes to keep such an ambitious stream going, I spoke to SGDQ senior technician Benjamin “UraniumAnchor” Cutler, one of the people on the Games Done Quick team in charge of making sure the play doesn’t stop.

With an event of this size, planning is everything, so it shouldn’t come as much of a shock to hear that Games Done Quick starts preparing as much as a year before it takes place.

“Planning for a marathon usually occurs during the previous marathon,” Cutler explained. “For example, planning for SGDQ 2023 has already started during SGDQ 2024. All the same, he points out, the planning for next year’s event is still very broad and conceptual.

One of the most important things is making sure that the live stream of the marathon has as little downtime as possible, which doesn’t seem easy considering that these events are usually held at hotels or conference centers, places that hardly have the best reputation for quality internet connections. Yet, somehow it still happens, with the stream only going down a few times as I’ve been watching throughout the week.

Cutler says that’s because the organization spends a lot of time searching for hotels with suitable connections. “This is one of the most important things to plan for,” the technician explains. “We search hotels far and wide for a stable connection with enough bandwidth to support the stream.”

All the same, despite intensive efforts to avoid PC crashes and stream downtime, problems still inevitably rear their ugly head every once in a while. “The hope is that we’ve done everything we could to minimize these crashes.”

That was once a lot easier than it is today, as these marathons become more popular with each passing year. Back when Games Done Quick first started running events, it was known as Classic Games Done Quick; attendance at that first event was around 20 people. Since then the growth has been dramatic: about 1,400 people attended 2024’s AGDQ and SGDQ marathons. That’s in addition to the online audience, which at any given time hovers between 100,000 and 150,000 viewers.

With this steady rise in popularity, Cutler says that the demands get a little more complicated for each subsequent event. Every decision on the technical side of things is made with the purpose of streamlining the technicians’ jobs while the marathon is in progress, and things like keeping the stream up and running take precedence over almost everything else. Cutler recounts the decision to switch streaming software from Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) to Open Broadcaster Software Studio for SGDQ 2024. Even though OBS Studio is just a newer version of the classic OBS, the decision to implement the switch wasn’t made until the technicians had done months of planning and testing to make sure everything would be running as smoothly as possible when the time came to go live.

“We’re totally willing to change things up, but changes have to come in a way that reduces the risk of something going horribly wrong while the stream is live,” Cutler points out. “There’s much more leniency with less critical tools like our runner-activated timer button. It’s not the biggest deal if it doesn’t work midstream, because hey, the stream is still up.”

As interest in the marathon grows, so do the equipment demands. Cutler estimates that the Games Done Quick crew utilizes about 100 displays (both CRT and HD) during the event, along with around 20 computers, five cameras, hundreds of pounds of cables, and of course “tons of backups.” Thankfully, Games Done Quick isn’t alone in having to supply all of this equipment, as SGDQ sponsor World 9 Gaming helps stock areas like the practice rooms, where players prepare for their run before going in front of the audience. While most streamers bring their preferred consoles, controllers, and games, World 9 has a stockpile on-hand for those who can’t bring their own.

All the same, Cutler says, while having a crew of four people is as low as it can feasibly go, it’s far from ideal, and indeed Games Done Quick tries to avoid having the bare minimum crew on hand most of the time.

“During the very late night or early morning hours we sometimes run with the skeleton crew, but have staff on call, ready to help,” he tells me. “I’d say more often there will be a crew of at least 6-8 ready to help perform transitions, and often other staff in the area or nearby, ready to help as needed.”

After more than a solid week of gaming, Cutler says it usually takes less than 24 hours to break everything down and clear out of the hotel. There’s little time to take a breather, though, as it’s onto planning the next event, which now take place every six months. It’d be a tough challenge for a dedicated team, but is all the more impressive when you consider that these marathons are run by people who are volunteering their time.

Their hard work pays off in big ways, though: GDQ announced during this year’s marathon that more than $7 million has been raised for charity since the marathon first started. As of Thursday afternoon, SGDQ 2024 had $460,000 in the donations box for Doctors Without Borders, a number that – at time of publication – is quickly approaching $600,000.

By the time everything is said and done, the total amount is likely to creep impressively close to the $1 million mark, if not surpass it.

With that much money on the line for charities that will undoubtedly put it to good use around the world, it’s not surprising to hear that so many are willing to dedicate their time to make sure that they put on an unforgettable speedrunning marathon. If it attracts more people to the quickly growing speedrunning community in the process, then that serves as the cherry on top of an already sweet sundae.

Though Cutler doesn’t get much of a chance to relax during the marathon, never mind play a game himself, I had to ask which run he was looking forward to most. His answer surprised even me, someone who has been obsessed with these marathons for years now.

“Pepsiman,” he told me, the low-budget PlayStation game from the late nineties that was as much about encouraging soda consumption as it was gameplay. “It’s… special.”

You can catch Summer Games Done Quick 2024 live on Twitch right now. The donations page for SGDQ 2024 can be found here, along with a list of donation incentives and raffle prizes available to those who give over the course of the marathon.

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How To Fix Quick Start Not Working On Iphone Or Ipad (2023)

Just bought an all-new iPhone and all geared to set it up? You must be thinking that migrating all your data from the old iPhone to the new one will be a rather tedious affair. Well, for this exact reason, Apple has introduced a feature called “Quick Start” that is designed to transfer data from one iOS device to another with utmost ease.

But that doesn’t mean it never has an off day or doesn’t throw errors left, right, or center while at work. If this very issue has troubled you, let’s try out these handy tips to fix iPhone Quick Start not working.

Fix iPhone Quick Start Not Working

To ensure there is no confusion lurking around, it would be apt to first discuss how Quick Start works.

A Brief Intro to Quick Start and How It Works

When this data transfer feature is initiated, it allows you to choose preferred settings, connect to Wi-Fi, and restore data from an existing setup. Furthermore, it also facilitates automatic setup for other connected devices such as Apple Watch, and HomePod.

So, Why is Quick Start Not Working on My iPhone?

Let me put it straight. There is nothing new about the “Quick Start not working” issue as it has been around for a long time. There are several reasons why this problem crops up. Some of the biggest culprits are device proximity, interrupted network connection, and software glitches. Therefore, we will have to dig deeper to get rid of it.

Before going on to try any radical solution, it’s essential that you make sure your iPhone is updated. Considering that outdated software version is well-known for triggering a hell lot of issues, putting the entire blame on a software bug won’t be completely wrong.

2. Ensure That Your iPhone Hasn’t Been Enrolled in Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager

If your iPhone has been enrolled in Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager, you won’t be permitted to leverage the Quick Start feature. Therefore, contact your administrator and enquire about the issue.

3. Make Sure Both Devices Have Sufficient Battery

Don’t forget that if your device is running low on power, the Quick Start feature won’t be visible on your old device. Hence, you should make sure that your device has enough battery to function without any problem.

4. Plug Both of Your iPhones into a Power Source 

In order to ward off any interruption mid-way, it would be better to plug both iPhones into a power source. Yeah, you read that right! If the file size is too large, it would take plenty of time for the complete transfer. Thus, it makes sense to keep both devices powered up.

5. Restart Both Your Old and New iPhones

In case you’re unable to get Quick Start working on your iPhone, it’s time to restart the device. Restarting your iPhone will likely resolve minor glitches that might be causing the issue.

On iPhone with Touch ID: Press the side button and drag the power off slider to turn off your iPhone. After that, press the side to restart the device.

6. Reset Network Settings

It’s no secret that “Quick Start” requires a strong internet connection to work perfectly. If your cellular or Wi-Fi network is not up to the mark, it could very well be the prime reason for the whole chaos. Besides, if your device is faced with a network-related problem, this solution may troubleshoot it.

Then, enter your Screen Time passcode and hit Reset Network Settings again to confirm the process.

7. Manually Activate Quick Start on Old Devices 

In case the Quick Start not working issue still continues, activate it manually on your old iPhone.

8. Factory Reset Your Devices

When it comes to fixing weird issues, the Factory reset is an excellent solution. Therefore, you should give it a try to troubleshoot Quick Start not working problem as well. Don’t forget that the Factory reset will erase all the custom settings that you have done on your iPhone and take them to the default state.

When you have applied every way suggested but can find a solution to fix the Quick Start not working on your iPhone, it’s high time you reached out to Apple Support for further needs. Apple Support will be likely to rectify the problem from the root cause and then help you resolve the issue from the get-go.

Signing Off…!

That’s all there is to it! The capability to seamlessly migrate your data from an old to a new iPhone makes the Quick Start feature a great tool. However, just like any other man-made thing, it doesn’t always work as expected. And when it happens, the migration seems to become a never-ending affair.

Next reading: How to Check If an iPhone is Refurbished or New (2023)

How To Update Power Bi Desktop: A Quick Guide For Users

Power BI Desktop is a powerful business analytics tool that helps you visualize data and insights. Whether you are a business owner, analyst, or data professional, using the latest version of Power BI is crucial to make the most out of its features.

To update Power BI Desktop is a straightforward process that involves downloading and installing the latest version of the software from Microsoft.

However, before updating, it is important to know what version you’re currently running, what features will be available with the new update, and how those features will affect your data sources, datasets, refresh schedules, and sharing options.

This guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of updating Power, including how to check your build version, how to update the software, and how to troubleshoot any potential issues.

Let’s get into it.

Before you download a Power BI Desktop update, it’s essential to check the version currently installed on your system. Ensuring you are using the latest version helps in accessing new features, improvements, and bug fixes.

Here is how you can check your Power BI Desktop version:

1. Start by launching Power BI Desktop. Once open, navigate to the “Help” tab located in the top menu bar. In the “Help” tab, select “About” on the far right.

2. In the “About” window, you will find information about your Power BI Desktop installation, including the “Version” details. This displays the release number corresponding to your installed version. Note this release number down as you might need it later.

3. To verify if this is the latest version available, visit the Power BI Desktop latest update page on the Microsoft website. Compare the version number mentioned there with the one installed on your system. The webpage also has a feature summary, so you know what you’re getting from an update.

If your version of Power BI Desktop is out of date, then you have two options:

Manually update it via the Microsoft Power BI website or

Update it through the Microsoft Store. We take a look at both of those options in the next two sections.

If you downloaded Power BI Desktop through the Microsoft Store, updating the software can be done automatically.

This is especially useful for users with Windows 10 and above, as the Microsoft Store’s automatic updates will keep Power BI Desktop up-to-date without any manual intervention required.

To ensure that Power BI Desktop updates automatically, follow these steps:

Open the Microsoft Store app on your computer.

Under “App updates,” toggle on the option for “Update apps automatically.”

By enabling this setting, your Power BI Desktop will be updated to the latest version as soon as it becomes available.

This ensures that you always have access to the newest features and improvements without having to manually check for updates or download the latest installer from the Power BI website.

Remember: regardless of how you install Power BI Desktop, the monthly versions are the same. The only difference may be in version numbering, but rest assured that your Microsoft Store installation will provide you with the most recent updates and enhancements to the software.

Updating Power BI Desktop via the official website is a manual but straightforward process that ensures you have access to the newest features and improvements. Here are the steps to follow:

Go to the Microsoft Power BI Desktop download page.

Once the download is complete, launch the installer and follow the on-screen instructions to update your existing Power BI Desktop installation, and voila! You’re done!

Whether you choose to update it manually or automatically via the Microsoft Store, you can set up automatic notifications about new updates inside Power BI Desktop. We cover how you can turn on update notifications in the next section.

Power BI Desktop can let you know when a new version of the software is available, so turn on notifications to stay informed about available updates and important information.

You can enable notifications by following these steps:

1. Open Power BI Desktop and select ‘File’ to access settings.

Once enabled, Power BI Desktop will check for updates automatically and notify you when a new version is available.

Now that we’ve covered how you can update Power BI Desktop and turn on alerts for new updates, in the next section, we’re going to take a look at potential issues you might run into and how to deal with them.

Power BI has two deployment options:

Power BI Service: This is a cloud-based service that allows users to create, share, and access reports and dashboards over the Internet via a web browser or a mobile app. It is updated monthly.

Power BI Report Server: This is an on-premises deployment option for Power BI that allows users to host and share Power BI reports and dashboards within their own organization. Power BI Report Server provides the same capabilities as Power BI Service but with added control over data and security. It is updated every quarter.

Power BI Desktop users can publish reports using either of the two deployment options. Updating Power BI Desktop doesn’t directly affect them, as both Power BI Service and Power BI Report Server are separate platforms that are not directly impacted by changes made to Power BI Desktop.

However, an update could indirectly impact them in the following ways:

Compatibility: When creating reports or visualizations in Power BI Desktop, it’s important to ensure compatibility with the version of Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server that will be used to deploy the content. An update may introduce new features or changes that are not compatible with older versions of the Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server, so do consider compatibility when making an update.

Feature availability: Updates may introduce new features or functionalities that are only available in the latest version of Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server. This means that some features or functionalities may not be available if an older version of Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server is being used.

Performance: An update may improve the performance and stability of the reports and visualizations you’ve created, which can indirectly improve the performance of your content when deployed to Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server.

It’s important to consider the above factors when updating Power BI Desktop to ensure a seamless deployment experience. To prevent accidental loss of work, keep backups of your reports before updating them.

If you have any questions or run into any issues after an update, create a post in the Power Bi community forum. In the next section, we cover how you can troubleshoot any update issues you run into.

Updates can sometimes run into issues that can prevent them from completing successfully. This section focuses on common problems and their solutions.

First, ensure that the installed version of Power BI Desktop is not obsolete. You can find the version number by following the instructions in the first section of this guide.

If the installed version is not the latest, consider uninstalling the current version and downloading the latest Power BI Desktop from Microsoft’s website.

If issues persist, try the following steps:

Clear your browser cache. Formatting the cache can help resolve issues related to cached credentials or outdated files in the browser.

Sign in to Power BI and go to this Microsoft page to force an update of your credentials.

Check the Power BI service status to ensure there are no ongoing issues with Microsoft servers, which may be preventing the update.

Disable any proxy, firewall, SQL server, or antivirus program that could be blocking the update process. Remember to re-enable them after the update is complete.

Lastly, if none of the above solutions resolve the issue, consider asking for help from the Power BI community or contacting Microsoft Support for additional guidance.

Keeping Power BI Desktop updated is important if you want to preview features added by Microsoft and remain competitive in the ever-evolving data analysis landscape.

For a hassle-free Power BI Desktop update experience, install the application via the Microsoft Store on Windows 10+ systems. This will guarantee automatic updates so you can focus your energy on data analysis rather than manual software maintenance.

If the Microsoft Store version is not an option, you can still download and install updates manually from the Microsoft Power BI website.

It’s also important to ensure that updates are compatible with the version of Power BI Service or Power BI Report Server you’re using and consider the impact on the features, functionality, and performance of your reports and visualizations.

By keeping Power BI Desktop updated, your workspace gets the most out of this powerful tool for business intelligence and interactive data visualization!

Would you like to learn more about how to use Power BI? Check out the tutorials playlist below:

5 Best Mmo Games In 2023

Massively multiplayer online games are some of the most popular titles to play in the gaming world. Typically spanning large fantasy worlds, with magical elements, these games are a great way to have fun with friends online.

In this post, we will be listing some of our top picks for MMOs, some of which could also be called MMORPGs too of course. We’ve tried to give you a bit of variety here so this will not be an exhaustive list of the best MMOs.

The Best Games Of 2023: 10 Games We’re Looking Forward To The Most

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1. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Release Date: 27 August 2013

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: Square Enix Business Division 5

Final Fantasy XIV is an MMORPG game that takes place in the land of Eorzea. A Realm Reborn is a remade version of the original Final Fantasy XIV after the first version did so poorly in terms of reviews.

A Realm Reborn, however, managed to capture what the fans love about the series and marked a long-awaited return. 

In Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, you will see a new and improved class system that no longer requires a new character for each class. Instead, you are able to swap between them at will.

2. TERA

Release Date: 25 January 2011 

Publisher: NHN Corporation 

Developer: Bluehole Studio

The Exiled Realm of Arborea or TERA for short is another MMORPG released in 2011 by  South Korean game developer, Bluehole Studio. TERA has all the things you would expect from a classic MMORPG including the ability to craft, quest and engage in PvP combat. 

You can choose to play as one of seven races, each of which has unique skills and abilities. There are also 13 character classes to choose from and master. This is great for those who regularly change their mind on the direction they want to play.

What makes TERA stand out is its combat system, this is especially highlighted the most when you step into the ring to take down one of the fearsome big monsters. Teaming up with a group of friends to accomplish this is probably a good idea!

3. Black Desert Online

Release Date: 14 July 2024 

Publisher: Kakao Games

Developer: Pearl Abyss

We’ve got another fantasy MMORPG here for you to get stuck into. Black Desert Online is an action-based game consisting of PvP sieges and castle battles. While there is lots to do and even more to see on offer in Black Desert Online, the expansive crafting system alone makes this an MMO worth checking out. 

Either alone or with friends, you’ll be able to explore the complex node system for each of the regions you visit. Inside each region, you’ll be able to find different types of resources as well as the ability to even hire workers to do the hard work for you.

Whether or not you choose to spend your evening defeating one of the world bosses or just relaxing and leveling up your workers, Black Desert Online offers an environment that many will enjoy.

4. World of Warcraft

Release Date: 23 November 2004

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment 

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

While also making our list of the best MMORPGs, we thought World of Warcraft deserved a mention here as well. 

This is a classic title, still popular today despite being released over a decade ago. In World of Warcraft, you explore the world of Azeroth to play as one of the many character avatars on offer. 

Despite being released a while ago, Blizzard continues to add new graphics, expansion packs, classes, and races. It really is a must-play on the list of MMO games to enjoy with friends online. 

With an ever-expanding list of expansions, it looks like there will always be something new on offer to explore here, either alone or with a group of friends.

5. Guild Wars 2

Release Date: 28 August 2012

Publisher: NCSOFT

Developer: ArenaNet

Guild Wars 2 offers a classic player versus player combat style alongside the ability to develop skills and participate in large-scale sieges and battles. 

Action and combat are what really set aside this title when compared to other MMOs. Guild Wars 2 offers a more traditional experience which is one of the things that makes it special. The variety of classes on offer all result in quite a varied experience, depending on your chosen playstyle.

You can also choose to spend your time engaging in a bit of friendly PvP action if you so wish. These battles can often become huge affairs with entire worlds getting in on the action, resulting in huge conflicts. 

Final Word

If you’ve been looking for a brand new title to get stuck into, with a thriving community online, any of the above games would be a great start. These are best experienced with a group of friends though, so be sure to ask around to see what your friends are playing. You never know, they might be able to help you through the process of learning a whole new world. 

5 Best Fighting Games In 2023

If you love the intense action that fighting games bring out then you probably already know which is your favorite title. If you are looking for something new to try out or simply want to see what else is out there, keep reading to see learn what we consider the 5 best fighting games available to buy in 2023. 

The Best Games Of 2023: 10 Games We’re Looking Forward To The Most

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Release Date – September 19, 2023

Developer – Capcom

Publisher – Capcom 

When growing up, we’d always get into countless conversations on who would win, Batman or Superman? Spiderman or the Hulk? With Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite, we can play around and start to answer some of these questions ourselves. 

With the addition of the Infinity Stones to this title, you can now diversify your strategy and fighting style even more when compared to previous games. In the 2v2 fighter modes, the choice of your teammate could be the thing that helps swing the battle in your favour. 

Playable characters include Black Panther, Captain America, Thanos, Chun-Li, Ryu and Nemesis. 

Release Date – February 16, 2024

Developer – Capcom, Dimps

Publisher – Capcom 

One of the best fighting game series out there, Street Fighter is synonymous with the fighting genre in general. Street Fighter is now up to its fifth instalment in the main series. This is a tough fighter to master and is often considered one of the more technical games on the market. 

If you’ve played other Street Fighter titles you’ll feel right at home here, while the visuals have had a bit of a touchup, the core gameplay feels the same. Fan-favourite characters such as Cammy, Ken, Ryu, Vega, Kage and Sagat are all playable in this title. 

Release Date – June 2, 2023

Developer – Bandai Namco Studios

Publisher – Bandai Namco Entertainment 

Tekken 7 – Season Pass 3

Now onto its 7th instalment, the Tekken franchise has once again proven that it is still one of the greatest 3D fighting games. With game modes for new players and veterans alike, the fluid combat and large cast of characters are enough to keep you playing for years to come. 

Some of the characters you can look forward to playing in Tekken 7 include Heihachi, Hwoarang, King, Feng Wei and Yoshimitsu.

Release Date – Windows, PS4, Xbox One – April 23 2023, Nintendo Switch – April 23 2023, Stadia – November 19 2023

Developer – NetherRealm Studios

Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment 

Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath + Kombat Pack Bundle

You can still take control of your favourite characters that have appeared in previous games such as Jade, Liu Kang, Raiden, Sub-Zero and Scorpion as well as new arrivals Geras, Killector and Cetrion. You can even play as guest fighters like The Terminator, The Joker, Spawn and The Batman Who Laughs.

Release Date – December 7, 2023

Developer – Bandai Namco Studios, Sora Ltd.

Publisher – Nintendo 

While this could have easily made it onto our party games list, Super Smash Bros has been a staple of local multiplayer fighting games since its initial release back in 1999. 

With a large range of characters to choose from, players will be able to take to the stage with almost any of their favourite Nintendo characters that come to mind. The possibilities are endless, fans of the Pokemon series will be pleased to know there are more pokemon than ever included in this title. 

Final Word

We hope that you enjoyed reading our list of some of the top fighting games. If you’re already a fan of the genre you’ll find that a lot of your skills will easily transfer to other titles. While some of these games are more difficult than others, they are a great way to test yourself against friends. 

Some Of 2023’S Best Games Were Ugly, And That’s A Good Thing

But 2023 marked the confluence of two opposing trends coming to a head, and as such is a uniquely appropriate moment to resurface the discussion. On the one hand, you had the industry’s giants resorting to underhanded monetization tactics (mostly loot boxes) to ostensibly offset the ballooning costs of development. Then, on the other end, there was a resurgence of B-tier games that, albeit “ugly” on a technological level, were markedly better (and probably had more of a lasting impact) than most of their more-polished brethren. Which raises the question: Is the graphics arms race worthwhile?

Mutual assured destruction

Tangential to that question is another: “Who does the graphics arms race benefit?” Conventional wisdom seems to say it’s the players, and thus the players who constantly demand more photorealism. And that pressure is certainly out there—hell, I’ve fallen into it on many occasions. Every year we update our list of the best-looking games, which is part and parcel with that Crysis mindset.

Crysis

You know what? Even a decade later, these Crysis screens still look pretty damn good.

Graphical prowess caters to publishers’ strengths (lots of money) and avoids their weaknesses (taking risks). They’re an excellent marketing point for games that are otherwise average.

Ryse: Son of Rome

Ryse: Son of Rome was the best 2013 had to offer.

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Ryse: Son of Rome is a favorite example of mine, both because it’s recent and because it’s so staggeringly mediocre. At the Xbox One’s launch, it was indeed gorgeous—a showcase for the new console generation. Even a year later it was a pretty stunning PC game. Three years on from that though? It looks…fine. Still pretty good actually, but it’s no longer the jaw-dropping spectacle it was at launch. And given that the game itself is ho-hum? Into the dustbin of history it goes, never to be installed again. There’s just nothing about it to recommend, once its key feature (visual whizzbangs) has been surpassed.

There’s a constant tide of mediocre games coasting by on wax wings, skirting the sun to see how close they can get to photoreal. From this generation alone I can name Watch Dogs, The Division, Star Wars Battlefront, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, in addition to Ryse. All mediocre games that received an undue amount of attention because they looked good. There are probably more. It’s a pervasive problem.

Watch Dogs

Remember that first Watch Dogs E3 presentation?

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De-makeover

In a vacuum, that’s fine. That’s something I should note here. The pursuit of photorealism is fine, and has been a constant backdrop for the games industry for 40 years.

Which brings us to 2023 and why it was so fascinating: Some of the most critically acclaimed games of the year were ugly.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

This is a screenshot from 2023. One of 2023’s best games.

I don’t just mean “They had a different art style,” either. The current iteration of this “Do graphics matter?” discussion I’d say stretches back to around 2007/2008, when indie games started becoming a mainstream factor and, for many players, brought along more interesting ideas than those emerging from the so-called AAA space. Lo-fi games like Braid and Aquaria garnered critical acclaim while still utilizing budget-friendly art styles that could be handled by small teams. That trend continues to this day, with Stardew Valley, Undertale, Dead Cells, Night in the Woods, and more garnering success with unconventional aesthetics.

More power to them, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking Nier: Automata. I’m talking Nioh. I’m talking about games that are conceptually big-budget—Nier an open-world action-RPG, Nioh a twist on Dark Souls—but with comparatively inferior visuals.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Nioh, another of 2023’s best games…and also ugly.

Point being: Nier and Nioh are incredible. And ugly.

Nier in particular. Not only does its world mostly consist of generic gray buildings, but they’re ugly gray buildings. Boxy, bland, repetitive, often with invisible walls to add to the frustration that arises from navigating its barren environments.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Inspiring.

Nioh’s opening hours aren’t much better though, with a tutorial level that takes place in the most uninspired castle walls I’ve ever seen, featuring the kind of tiled-wall look you’d expect from a 90’s shooter more than one of 2023’s best action games. The situation improves after that opening level, but even at its best Nioh looks a bit last-generation.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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And then there’s Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. It’s a cultural phenomenon, the record-breaking most-played game ever on Steam…and it looks like an asset flip. (Meaning it looks like a low-effort game assembled from generic general-purpose art assets sold by Unreal/Unity.) The buildings are a handful of simple models repeated ad nauseum, the characters are ugly, the greenery is just plopped in. The new map is better, but still a far cry from any publisher’s tentpole releases.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

This is literally the same house rotated and placed next to itself. And yes, this is the 1.0 release.

Nobody cares. It’s the freshest shooter since Modern Warfare—coincidentally, also a 2007 game. Ugliness is something people are willing to put up with because the game excels in other areas.

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Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

PUBG alone should be proof enough that the narrative of “People want better graphics and we have to deliver” is mostly self-serving. It’s an argument made by entrenched publishers that mostly benefits the same entrenched publishers, because it plays to their strengths. There was a story around the launch of Assassin’s Creed: Unity where one artist spent over a year rendering its extremely detailed recreation of Notre Dame. A year! Nobody but a handful of studios at the top can afford that, and I suspect this is in part why the graphics arms race continues and will continue—as long as it does, it lets those studios retain some artificial importance, keeps their hold on the industry.

One step back, two steps forward

Look for games that exert more effort in other areas. Praise them. Recommend them to people. Games need their “Don’t judge a book by its cover” equivalent. It might mean fewer “Can it run Crysis?” moments, but it’ll result in more “Can it run Nier?” moments—ones where the game is the draw, rather than the technological yardstick. More Niohs. More Breath of the Wilds. More PUBGs. Games that evolve our interactions, push us forward in less obvious ways. Those solutions are hard to come up with and even harder to execute on, but ultimately more memorable too. They’re the games you come back to 10, 15, 20 years later.

Consider this: F.E.A.R. released in 2005 and is still often held up as the pinnacle of shooter AI, over a decade later. Who breaks that record? Because I’m more interested in that than 2023’s Crysis equivalent.

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