I was reading the Delphi topic when it occurred to me that the participants in that thread seem to be remarkably preoccupied with the graphics for that plug-in even though many people stated that they consider the plot of a game to be more important than the graphics. If that is the case, then it seems to me that the attention paid to graphics is misplaced. Most of those 37 pages are about graphics. But where have there ever been 37 pages of discussion about the plot of a game?
But that in turn leads me to wonder: Is plot really that important?
It seems to me that one of the few objective measures of a game's quality is its "replay value." I think most people will agree that a game that they played over and over again is better than a game that they played only once and then deleted from their hard drives. But that only leads to the question of: What is "replay value"? Let's consider this issue by dissecting the various components of a game:
Leaving aside the fact that many people seem to think that plot is more important than graphics, we must also wonder exactly what objective value graphics have. The graphics for EVN is rightly considered to be superior to that of its 2 predecessors. But how much time do people spend admiring those graphics?
Try to recall the first time you saw an Auroran Thunderforge or a Polaris Raven. How much time did you spend admiring it? 30 seconds? (Try staring at the clock for 30 seconds to remind yourself how long 30 seconds can be.) 1 minute?
How many times did you play EVN? Let's suppose that you did spend at least a minute admiring the Thunderforge. Let us further assume that you played EVN 10 times. Did you spend that same 1 minute for each of those 10 times?
For some reason, I doubt it.
Which is why I have to say that I feel sorry for pipeline. I don't know how much time he spent on those graphics but I suspect that for many (most? all?) of them, it was longer than 10 minutes. Yet I suspect that most players never spent so much as 10 minutes on a single graphic. The "input" into making the graphics was disproportionately high compared to the "output" (amount of time a player spent admiring the graphics).
So it seems to me that graphics have very little replay value. If anybody ever played a game for its graphics, it seems very unlikely that anybody would play a game over and over again for those graphics.
Though most people claim that plot is more important than graphics, it is an even murkier subject than graphics. At least I've never encountered anyone who claims that the graphics of EVN are worse than those of its predecessors. But how does one compare the plot of EVN with those of EV and EVO?
But then it occurred to me that plot may not be very important when it comes to "replay value." Consider the Civilization series, for example. Some people claim that the amount of time Civ addicts around the world spent on that series is enough to build the pyramids, the old-fashioned way. What plot does the Civ series have?
EVN increased the replay value of its plot by creating 6 distinct storylines. But if we treat them in isolation, how many people play each of the storylines 10 times? To put it another way, let us assume that a person likes the Polaris string. It seems to me that after you played it once, you would have a good idea of its story and you are unlikely to forget its story for at least a few weeks. If you play that string again within those few weeks, then it is unlikely that you would replay that string when you already know what the plot developments will be. If you do replay that string again soon after the last time you played it, then it is unlikely that you replayed it for its plot.
There have been a few threads polling people about their favorite EVN mission string. (exhibit A, exhibit B) What I find interesting is that some of the people who responded attributed their preference to the "power" of a particular race's weapons. (read: Polaris)
But whether a race has powerful weapons is only tangentially related to graphics and plot. It is almost completely the result of damage values. At least a person can directly see the graphics and read the plot. The only way a person can figure out the precise damage values is to look into the game engine, something that cannot be done when you're playing the game.
If most people don't replay a game for its graphics or its plot, then the only possible answer is that we replay games for the "gameplay."
Whatever that is.
Here I encounter another difficulty. This seems to me to be the most likely reason why most people replay a game. Yet I can't define it. At least most people know what "graphics" or "plot" is. But what is "gameplay?" And why is it that one game's "gameplay" is better than another? How does one make such judgments?