If a MMOG were a car, her engine would be the gameplay features, story,
and combat system. The graphics for that MMOG would
represent her body and paint job. In the case of F2P MMOGs,
players often face titles aiming to compete with  href="http://www.partstrain.com/images/The_Auto_Blog/ChevroletCorvette.jpg"
target="_blank">Corvettes in the body of
target="_blank">Beetle; numerous F2P games use
cartoony graphical styles that cause some people to overlook them. I
have a few theories about why developers choose these styles.

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If a game starts looking too real, just
add bloom and/or oversized weapons!

Cultural Differences

A large number of F2P games are created in China and Japan,
and both of those countries have a larger tolerance for anime-style
graphics than most Western nations. For instance, as much as Easterners
value their elderly, they also prize the enthusiasm and innocence of
their youth.  Cartoony graphics hearken to the viewpoint of
children, a perspective that is not clouded by the stresses of adult
life. It is fun for gamers to visit a world where everything is
colorful and playful and where it’s acceptable to embrace the levity of
life. Thus, games like  href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/997"
of Mirror Online
are a big hit among adults in
the East while many adults in the West take one look at the graphics of
the title and assume it is for children. style="font-style: italic;">

contrast to the escapist attitude of many Eastern gamers, folks in the
West want to visit alternate realities. A person who toils all day to
make ends meet doesn’t want to escape life and return to the innocence
of his childhood. He wants to take control in the world—and maybe blow
up some stuff. Westerners gravitate toward more the realistic graphics
featured in titles from Korean developers like YNK (see style="font-style: italic;"
target="_blank">Rohan: Blood Feud). But even those
Korean developers often add a heavy dose of bloom lighting to lend a
surreal quality to their life-like graphics. This can be a turn off to
the Western gamer who enjoys the grit of reality in his gaming world.

Cartoons Can Do Ridiculous

The Simpsons
creator Matt Groening once explained that his preference for the
animated medium is partly due to the fact that it allows him to do
crazier things with his characters. Similarly, games that look like
real life evoke expectations of reality. Players anticipate earth-like
gravity and laws of physics. They are greatly annoyed by that one rock
out by the bandit camp that floats six feet above the ground. In other
words, graphical mistakes become more noticeable when games try to
emulate reality. And don’t even get me started on the  href="http://www.arclight.net/%7Epdb/nonfiction/uncanny-valley.html"
target="_blank">uncanny valley of character models.

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may look cute, but
it has a lot of depth.

Attempts to render the real world in 3D undergo more scrutiny
than cartoons. Dogs can talk in cartoons without the audience batting
an eye, and character models do not need to be proportionate.
Characters can die and come back, fly, gain massive weight and then
lose it, and even defy the laws of physics in cartoons. The lessened
sense of analysis and expectation that comes with animation makes it an
appealing choice for game design for F2P developers who frequently lack
the capital to spring for full 3D rendering with realistic textures.

Parting Thoughts: Don’t
Mistake Cute for Child’s Play

Play href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/856"
for a month before you decide it’s a game for children just because it
uses cartoon-like graphics. Sure, Mabinogi
is suitable for youngsters, but the cute exterior belies a deep
gameplay system that is very appealing to adults. It makes the process
of choosing a good F2P title harder, but never assume that a “cutesy”
game is aimed only at teens. Currently, only one game with the cute
exterior sits in my Top Ten (DOMO), but I have enjoyed many others.

My Ford Escort has gotten me from point A to point B for ten
years now; be open to the possibilities that you don’t need a Corvette
to have a fun ride. I never count out a game just because it uses
anime-style graphics.

Got something to say about the cute factor in free-to-play
games? Email Ralsu.

The Top Ten

to page two to see Ralsu's
latest Top Ten list.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Mabinogi Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016