Yeah, that was me when I hooked up the new desktop late last week. I was so not prepared.
I work on a 14 inch laptop (81 in2). Our old desktop had a 19 inch (160 in2) monitor. The school laptop is 15.6 inches (120 in2).
The new desktop, by comparison, has a 23 inch HD monitor (230 in2). I felt like it was the first day at a previous job back in the 90s, going from working on a 14 inch terminal to a 21 inch SGI workstation. The only difference was that this new machine required a bunch of patches right off the bat (new OS, you know), but once that and the security software were in place I was off to downloading some MMOs.*
The first one was WoW, because I could play in a limited basis while the client itself was downloading.
I'd played so long on extremely low graphics settings that I was unprepared for how the game would look with current equipment (with a bit better than average graphics card). For one thing, the 1080 resolution on a properly sized monitor is positively HUGE. There was all this freaking space around where I was used to having to shoehorn in my mods; I'd grown so accustomed to having to mentally keep track of where enemies were located just off my viewing area that actually seeing them on-screen was unnerving. And I'll be honest: I thought I was playing an upgraded version of WoW because I could actually see the detail in both the background and the toons.**
If I thought that WoW was good, LOTRO and Age of Conan were better. AoC seemed to have a bit of an issue with getting the toons at distance filled in, but it was still light years better than what I'd seen before. Aion, on the other hand, seemed to be similar enough in graphics quality, but just moved better.***
Then I tried out TOR.
The details that I'd missed playing the game at extremely low graphics settings were stunning. There I was --in Tatooine of all places-- staring at the sand on the screen. The cutscenes didn't look all that different, but the actual worlds...
"Amazing," I said in Guild Chat when I was exploring The Wetlands on my Rogue. "Everything is so huge."
"Yeah," said a guildie. "Running on a smaller screen really takes out a lot of the details."
"And this is with a machine that you'd kind of classify as only a borderline gaming machine too. Not one of the high powered $2k+ machines."
"Yeah. No $400 graphics card or solid state drive. About the only splurge I did was to get the i7 CPU and 12 GB RAM."
Now, I'd be lying if I said that the fancy new machine suddenly improved my gaming, because it didn't. Actually, my gaming got worse, because I was so used to being able to move around the smaller screen so quickly with a short flick of the wrist that having everything spread out so much made it more of a chore to use. I also spent a lot more time looking down at where things were rather than where the enemy was when I was out and about.
And I have to confess that I spent way too much time just looking around rather than paying attention to the mobs around me. You know, the ones that might actually kill me.
I can easily see why some game houses spend so much money on artwork in their attempt to take advantage of modern computer graphics, but I can now also see how that can be a money pit. While I can stare at the visuals now, after a while it'll become old hat. Once that happens, all the visuals in the world won't save a game without a deep and engrossing story, good gameplay, and replayability.
But in the meantime I'm going to grok some sand and swampland for a while.****
*Okay, perusing some clips on YouTube came first. And setting up my family's accounts. And setting up my wife's e-mail. And setting up the network drive so I could listen to music/edit family videos. And....
**And the pets. With the higher resolution graphics, the Shivarra was a bit more PG-13 than I was comfortable with having my kids around. But then again, I'd already covered that a while back.
***Aion still feels too.... Nintendo for my taste. When I read the quest text, the language style isn't what I would use, and it just feels more like a translation from another culture. It seems strange saying that, especially since AoC was developed by Funcom, but whereas the AoC NPCs talk like they came out of a Robert E. Howard short story, Aion's is decidedly different.
****My sister-in-law once said that professional golf broadcasts on television were tailor made for HDTV. Now having seen the details in games with HD graphics, I can understand her argument a bit better. And yes, for the record, we don't have a HD television in our house. Our old 25 inch RCA is still chugging along, and there's been no need to replace it. (Yet.)