Game Design Spotlight #9: The Picture Style Feature In SOLO Vitalizes The Stunning Beauty Of Its Vistas And In-Game Models
Using a preset color filter or fiddling with lighting shifts the dynamic of locations and models during gameplay.
Welcome to the ninth installment of the Game Design Spotlight, a weekly piece where I examine the design elements of various parts of an MMO, such as the overall design of a game world and glitchy house decorating systems. Last week, I led us through LotRO's subtle quest design and how it immerses players committed to reading the logs. Today, I'm focusing on an in-game color filter system in a title viewed as one of the most "beautiful MMORPGs" to come out West last year.
Swords of Legends Online is picturesque. Notably, its biomes are eye-catching appearing as luscious ravines, snowcapped mountains, eventide cities, and isolated isles fixed before a gleaming moon. There is no shortage of moments to stop and take a snapshot with your character; even them as your vehicle for exploring this blooming world is a fantastic set piece to bring the image together.
Upon trying the game out recently, I was perfectly content with the visual spectacle of SOLO after fiddling around with the graphics settings. That is, until I discovered the Picture Style feature in the top left corner of the screen that convinced me to flip between preset color filters mid-gameplay to make beautiful sights breathtaking.
Understandably, players are probably not invested in this kind of feature because of the mediocre gameplay experience, abysmal localization direction, and other egregious issues in SOLO that are the meat and potatoes of MMORPGs. Yet, deep in the muck of its problems, there is a silver lining that objectively makes the game a bit better and memorable.
Its saving grace is the Picture Style mainly, supported by touches that seemingly nudge the player into photographer mode. You are persuaded by the game's beauty through your character, drawing their attention to the camera as you scroll closer, which prompts them to flaunt through a selection of idle animation poses worthy of a screenshot.
Moreover, locales you venture through are brimming with vibrancy but can drastically change with a preset or custom color filter, egging you on to perhaps using the Camera Mode to style up and snap a picture the way you want. While it still has its downsides, the Picture Style element in SOLO vitalizes the stunning beauty of its vistas and in-game models seamlessly with the click of your mouse during moment-to-moment gameplay.
Seeing Everything In Color
As mentioned, the Picture Style attribute sits at the top left corner of your UI in-game. A simple click rolls down a selection of preset filters and a custom option for personal tweaks. The ready-to-go filters: "Recommended," "Cinematic," "Soft," "Dreamy," and "Nostalgic" fill a particular image criterion that aligns best with their short description. For instance, Dreamy presents an acute glow over everything in sight. It's a mix of warm saturation, light sources, and a general smoothness that has become a favorite for players on Reddit.
Another preset like Cinematic has an impressive streak of deep shadows and widespread clarity across the screen but is at the expense of cutting back vivacious colors. Players can dip their toes into whichever suits their fancy based on the location and, truthfully, the vibe they prefer. If neither hits the nail on the head, the custom selection pops up a tab of image options that adjust in real-time. It includes ways to mess around with the depth of field, flare intensity, vignette, contrast, saturation, color temperature, and many more.
SOLO makes it pretty easy to alter the recommended image settings. Optimizing it when traveling through a sea of trees versus trekking the cliffside of a snowy gorge makes all the difference visually. Throw-in methods to hide players, teammates, enemies, block pop-ups, and SOLO continues to make the immersion of environments the highest focus and rid the player of intrusive things in front of them.
A Library Of You
In some cases, you can't hide everything. This is where the Camera Mode comes into play. It allows players to pause their moveset for thematic shots, apply visual effect filters like water waves or oil painting over their screen, three light sources in whatever direction, and lots and lots more. From SOLO's recent anniversary screenshot event, it's clear to see the appeal of such a system in a game known for its beauty.
All the elements I introduced, such as the Picture Style and Camera Mode, are tempting even if players aren't the biggest fans of taking screenshots. In fact, SOLO wants you to have screenshots and even videos of your in-game experience. Its Highlights system automatically creates screenshots following certain in-game events like unlocking achievements, defeating enemies in the arena, or winning a duel. While requiring NVIDIA ShadowPlay support, videos note these achievements and PvP battles to add to your library.
It's hard to determine if SOLO is intentionally aiming for this, but it feels like it wants players to have memories - in the form of screenshots/videos - of places reached and heights overcome.
A Great Wheel
Gameforge has added new locations to SOLO, ravishing cosmetics to put on characters, and plans to switch to Unreal Engine 4. Those aspects of the game best serve the Picture Style feature, bolstering its purpose as a makeover image selector that looks even more daring depending on the place, character, and graphical feats. SOLO has stumbled awkwardly everywhere else, but its noticeable attractiveness has always been a well-maintained and oiled wheel by the developers.
That concludes another week of the Game Design Spotlight! Are you interested in features where MMOs give players ways to make their environments vibrant? What are some examples? Let us know below! Also, feel free to comment on games or features you would like me to cover for future stories if you have any suggestions!
About the Author
Anthony Jones is a gaming journalist and late 90s kid in love with retro games and the evolution of modern gaming. He started at Mega Visions as a news reporter covering the latest announcements, rumors, and fan-made projects. FFXIV has his heart in the MMORPGs scene, but he's always excited to analyze and lose hours to ambitious and ambiguous MMOs that gamers follow.
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