Posted 26 June 2012 - 08:50 PM
I always love debates like these on game design.
I personally hold Gameplay and Graphics together, as one category. Why? Because to me at least, a good game has put its best in both these categories. Think of the gameplay as a car and the story as a road. If you're just in a car, you're in an undirected path to nowhere, until the car stops (the game ends). If you're on just a road, well... it's likely you're either watching a movie, or playing a game with a good story but poor gameplay.
Don't get me wrong, though. Some of the best games to date have poor storylines but are still best-sellers. Story is not a dependent factor for every game. In my experience however, the games with very well-written storylines and good gameplay keep me coming back. The best games keep these two together.
What I mean about keeping it together, is that there is no story and gameplay separation, or at least very little of it. When something important is told to your character, it isn't done in a separate cutscene. It should be told in-game, keeping consistent with the current viewpoint. This helps drive what I think is the most important category for game design - immersion.
Any game that keeps you glued to your seat, wanting to find out more. You never want to stop playing it. This is due to the game possessing the aforementioned important quality of merged gameplay and storyline. In a first person game, everyone talks to you and you talk back without the camera popping out of your head. Third person games pull this off well too, since you always see it in third person. Sidescrollers or RPGs do it with text, which works too. The story is so good that you're not only playing the game for the game itself, but to advance the story.
The idea is to make the player connect with your game. You want to make your characters interesting so the player feels for them, and super-powerful weapons should only pop up if they have some involvement in the story. You want it to feel like a well-written movie, but at the same time design it so that the player feels like they belong in this universe and isn't just... well, watching a movie.
And while I may have just made a one-page essay on two gameplay aspects, that doesn't mean the other aspects aren't important too. Like it was mentioned before, while graphics are not the deciding factor on the quality of a game, they are in fact what attracts people to play it. People bash games for poor graphics and nothing else all the time. Your amazing story won't change anything, because if the graphics are crap most people will ignore it, unfortunately.
However, most people also purchase games based on 'lastablility,' or replay value. And that's where I drive this point home - if you focus on making gameplay addicting, along with a driving storyline and good graphics and audio to top the package off, you can make an excellent game.
At least what I consider excellent. Most of this post is opinion-based, after all. But I thought I might as well share my perspective on game design.