DG has a few thoughts:
It struck me that – like “diversity” in some quarters – game reviewers / etc. DO treat “story” as an unalloyed good, without ever asking “what it is at the expense of”? Not only is time spent on retail/etc. time taken away from working on making the best possible game, but time spent on “story” qua story that doesn’t directly drive the game play – pointlessly long cutscenes, etc – is time spent on things other than immersing you in the GAMEPLAY.
Also – I’m going to borrow a gripe from Aurini – but his argument why HD sucks has some relevance. Sure, “quality” of 3d graphics and worlds is great, but every increase in detail, whether modeling or textures, requires a lot more work to get it looking right. 8-bit, or deliberately cartoony/stylized games can still have an environment that immerses you in the game – depending on the mechanics – but doesn’t require anywhere near as much time on artwork.
It comes down to opportunity cost. Time spent on graphics, 3D or otherwise, that makes the game play better and keeps you in the game, is time well spent. Time past that is time that could have gone into scenarios/etc.
After all – is the new Homeworld HD reskin a better GAME? No – just prettier. Possibly more immersive. but at some point you cross the threshold of “good enough” and ship, or keep focused on the game.
This is not a call to spend less time on graphic/game design. Some of the better recent hobbyist boardgames not only have beautiful graphics, but use them to make understanding the game mechanics and tracking game status and play easier. Again – does the time spent on the artwork make the game PLAY better, or does it just get in the way?
Incidentally – loved Doom and Doom2, but liked Marathon 2 even better. Just a little bit of flavor and story through the computer terminals to give you a purpose to what you’re doing, allowing even otherwise repetitive missions to have a different feel, without wasting a lot of your time on it. Some excellent humor in there too. “Introduce them to the ‘magic’ of orbital bombardment” being a favorite line, still.