Or “How management games can screw up miserably even though gameplay is solid”
Short answer – the second they decide to tackle more realistic looks, while failing miserably.
Now, how do I put it. It might sound counter-intuitive to some, but – good graphics (as in aesthetics, not fidelity) in management games are just as important as in any other genre.
Recall management games you really like (especially older ones). What’s the first thing which pops into your brain?
Bright, saturated, vibrant colors, which limited palettes provided.
Theme hospital, theme park, transport tycoon, simcity 2000, a-train, zoo tycoon, ET CETERA
All united by a baseline (i’m trying to explain) – solid, vibrant aesthetics, good contrast and recognizable detail.
now look at late 1990s-early 2000s offenders.
Here’s industry giant 2
Uh…….what…what why? You got 32 bit palette so you think you can just run around with it and try to desaturate your garbage till it looks like noir?
Okay, let’s try something else…how about pizza tycoon 2?
This is a bit better but still looks like someone dropped it into desaturation jar..maybe another example…uh…car tycoon?
No. Nah nope.
Thing is – this is not only realism’s fault but also detail compression and overall shapes of objects and how noisy they are.
Here’s an example of a toned down game which does it well – Gangsters – organized crime
Colors are desaturated but – contrast is still there and details are much more recognizable.
And here’s other extreme – complete and utter oversaturation in settlers 3
MY EYES HURT.
Good contrast, balanced colors and shapes which look recognizable without overly-extended detail to them are much more memorable in any game. And even – in management games, which, as a “popular” opinion would lead you to believe “should have graphics second and gameplay first”.
P.S. Speaking of earlier – here’s how industry giant might’ve looked (back to back comparison)
And that’s just me fucking around in graphics editor for 20 minutes.
P.P.S. And here it is again with ambient color and ambient occlusion added for a good measure