bogglez wrote:It's important to get the gameplay right first, because adding art on top of a map that is simply not fun will not make it better.
[...] You mentioned character animation, but I feel the animation of the environment is even more important.
You're contradicting yourself. Character animation is intrinsically related to gameplay, because it provides visual feedback and anticipation to gameplay actions.
Look, I'm talking about this because I was also developing a Dreamcast game that got some harsh criticism about the graphics (mostly on other websites, which I found by googling). People were talking shit before seeing any gameplay, and after some months, when the first gameplay video was shown, the overall public opinion was a lot better and made me feel regret for having to stop developing the game.
I have seen opinions changing from saying that the characters were shit, to saying that they were great. Animations alone made this difference.
Also, atmosphere and personality are different artistic aspects.
Atmosphere comes from lighting, fog, background animations, highly-elaborated models and environments, music, and so on. Intensely atmospheric visuals are heavier on performance, harder to implement, harder to produce assets for, and harder to optimize.
Personality comes from things such as the animations of the interactive characters (players & enemies), environmental interactivity, feedback, responsiveness, and so on. It's the things that make the game feel alive, and what makes them truly a game.
No, animated backgrounds does not
necessarily make a game feel alive. Street Fighter IV has lots of animated backgrounds, and lots of the animations in those are creepy. The people in the backgrounds are animated as if they were rooting for the fighters, but they don't look at the positions where the fighters are, they don't react properly to fighters getting beaten, the speed and timing of their animations makes them feel all floaty, and so on. This makes the background characters feels like ghosts in the environment. The best backgrounds in SFIV are the ones where the background characters aren't pretending to pay attention to the fighters.
I'd rather have In The Line Of Fire be focused on the gameplay. On the things that should give the game personality, not atmosphere. On the things that are best for productivity, to get the game done.
You said that it's important to get the gameplay right first. I agree with that, but you haven't realized that in some cases, there's simply no way
to "add art" afterwards. Developers needs to pay the bills. They need to eat, they have medical expenses, they need to live. This frequently makes developers have to choose between developing a full commercial game with a simpler art direction, or a shiny tech demo with no commercial value, because they end up with no time & money to work heavily on all aspects.