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Limit Breaker?
November 25, 2011 3:20 PM   Subscribe

What video game magic do you love? Specifically, which video game franchises have the neatest graphical effects? What's cool about them?

I make video games for a living. And I'm compiling reference video to show some options to the team for graphical effects for the magic system in our game.

I have a bunch of examples and video already, but most of it is from games that I know and love. Googling for video game magic in general tends to wind up with somebody trying to teach me how to actually cast an actual spell--for whatever value of "actual" may actually apply.

Anyway, what are great examples from games you know and love?
posted by Netzapper to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bioshock, Arcadia level. Lushness, soft and warm lightning, and varied level design.

I also love Bastion's graphics. It has the same soft lightning with vivid colors feel to it.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:25 PM on November 25, 2011


Suikoden 2 had some of the prettiest magic animations on the Playstation.
posted by billybunny at 3:25 PM on November 25, 2011


Obligatory Skyrim answer. Good variety of magic, casting visuals and target reactions.
posted by june made him a gemini at 3:26 PM on November 25, 2011


I like the effect in Alice: The Madness Returns where she can dodge attacks and briefly turns into a cloud of butterflies.
posted by sacrifix at 3:59 PM on November 25, 2011


One thing that really struck me about playing a Bright Wizard (basically a fire mage) in Warhammer Online was the unique, fun movements that the toon made when casting spells. I really enjoyed it, as much as the effects of the spells.
posted by neushoorn at 4:06 PM on November 25, 2011


Final Fantasy 8 had very pretty graphics for the time, and the "mythology"/cosmology behind it seems a bit more detailed than most of the other FF offerings, which made it a bit more interesting, since some of the animations reflected that:drawing spells from beasts, turning them into cards, etc. The summoning animations were very nice.

FFX and FFX-2 also had that hint of roleplaying ephemera, with SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER all the monsters being made of the souls of the haunting dead, so on death they would disperse into particles that made softly haunting moans. The spell effects were also very pretty in general.

Really, any Square RPG, especially the Final Fantasy stuff or the affiliated stuff like Kingdom Hearts, is very pretty and usually pushes the boundaries of the hardware they're working with at the time. It often has a strong connection to the in-game worldbuilding, as above, which I think is part of why the franchise is so well-regarded. They pay attention to everything. Since they've developed a fairly consistent set of spells and concepts over the years, there's a strong "visual vocabulary" now: when a monster casts Shell on itself in an FF game, I know what's going on even if I've never seen that particular spell in that particular game before. I know if a monster is going to use lightning attacks and be vulnerable to water/earth, etc.

World of Warcraft has beautiful player animations for both spellcasting and physical combat, particulary human females, undead males and females, night elf females, and orc males. Very characterful and distinct. I think the animation was a huge factor in WoW's initial success. It is just so very much better than any other MMO, down to every little thing the toons do. I think player animations matter a ton in anything that's not strictly first person. Just drowning everything in particle effects and breaking out the sun-breaking-through-clouds shaders will look underwhelming if it's tied to unnatural looking movements. WoW also has a "visual vocabulary" for different kinds of spells and attacks, based on their RP flavor and on certain game mechanics, which in WoW's case matters a lot in PVP.

Aion was ridiculously pretty, although in a slightly empty way. But for mindless prettiness for the sake of prettiness, you really cannot beat the Koreans.

Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne was very visually distinct and I personally found it beautiful, and the magic effects when well with it's look. There's an F2P MMO that uses SMT3:N assets that seems to be doing fairly well. The dodging animations make me sneer a bit, because they come across as lazy, but everything else is great. The other two games that use the same engine, the Digital Devil Saga, aren't as good.

If you haven't already, I would look into a lot of fighting games, especially the Guilty Gear series and Marvel vs Capcom. A lot of the visuals involving changing scales and perspectives are very effective and overused within that genre, but very underused in anything RPG-ish.

Vindictus (Korean F2P MMO) has great combat player animations, although the visual effects on the spells themselves are fairly blah.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:19 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Years ago, Gunstar Heroes had a lot of faux-3d and such, totally making the most of the limitations of the hardware.
posted by box at 4:22 PM on November 25, 2011


It really depends on what perspective the gamer is seeing it from, because First person perspective like Skyrim is very different from like... birds eye view. I really like to play Heroes of Newerth and when you crank everything on high graphics, everything is just so lush. I don't have a particular spell preference, but anything that distorts or manipulates the environment (twisting and bending) really makes you feel like you're powerful!
posted by Trinergy at 4:32 PM on November 25, 2011


This isn't magic, but probably falls under the definition of sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic - in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, there is this lovely pausing time effect for when the Apple of Eden is activated. It looks great. Here's a video where it's shown several times. Skip to 4 minutes in if you are short on time.
posted by raena at 4:33 PM on November 25, 2011


Bayonetta had some of the coolest and over-the-top spells(attacks, but she's a gun-witch or something) and hair-demons I've ever seen.
posted by cmoj at 4:42 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ultima Online - I loved the spell words.
Asheron's Call had good animations. And you'd still hold your weapon while casting, which made me happy.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:57 PM on November 25, 2011


Gesture-based powers, which I first came across in Black & White, have always seemed conceptually very neat to me - I image that there's a softness to the interpretation, that there are subtleties in the way they're "cast". It's more emotive than pushing a button.

In practise, they don't usually work too well, but I'm sure it'll be great when they do.
posted by Magnakai at 4:58 PM on November 25, 2011


Husband, who's a big fan of magic-based RPG games (WoW, Everquest, Elder Scrolls), suggests the Magic Missile spell (and its upgrades) from the original Neverwinter Nights game, and the electric spells in Skyrim.
posted by litnerd at 5:40 PM on November 25, 2011


Magicka's magic(ka) is great!
posted by Drexen at 8:00 PM on November 25, 2011


If you want limit breakers, pretty much all the naruto games have Ultimate Jutsu/Special Finisher reels on Youtube, which are largely just epic cinematics. The Wii versions (Clash of Ninja Revolution) added system that kinda works in motion sensing to form hand seals, so you can pretend to summon water dragons in your living room.

In the 3d effects realm, I saw this space-time magic that did a nifty warp to explain teleportation.

Anyways it seems like the whole series uses a lot of particle effects techniques and I'm sure you can find one or two for your demo reel.
posted by pwnguin at 8:18 PM on November 25, 2011


Nothing cooler than PSI Starstorm. Because it has stars and explosions.
posted by erstwhile at 9:52 PM on November 25, 2011


While I'm not sure the game particularly stands out in this respect otherwise (if it had too much flashy magic it wouldn't work with the setting, after all), I'd like to put in a vote for Lord of the Rings Online's Runekeeper class animations... when you're at a normal zoom level, you see what appear to be fairly typical particle effects for spells, but if you zoom in closely you can see that many of them (especially healing effects) are actually made of runes that constantly morph as they move through the animation sequence. Surprised the heck out of me the first time I noticed it...
posted by robt at 2:22 AM on November 26, 2011


While I'm not sure the game particularly stands out in this respect otherwise (if it had too much flashy magic it wouldn't work with the setting, after all),

A lot of the more lore-conservative Tolkien nerds don't think RKs work with the setting to begin with. Personally, I enjoy the concept that runes and words in the LOTR world are powerful.

I'd like to put in a vote for Lord of the Rings Online's Runekeeper class animations... when you're at a normal zoom level, you see what appear to be fairly typical particle effects for spells, but if you zoom in closely you can see that many of them (especially healing effects) are actually made of runes that constantly morph as they move through the animation sequence. Surprised the heck out of me the first time I noticed it...

It also tickles the Tolkien nerd in me that they're all authentic Tengwar alphabet characters. It would be interesting to see if the developers were detailed enough to have the animations spelling out words.
posted by Fleebnork at 7:25 AM on November 26, 2011


Final Fantasy 3/6 had some amazing tile work that created this really gloomy, storybook feel that was stunningly consistent the whole way through. As far as pixel art goes, it's a master class.
posted by GilloD at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2011


I realize this is probably a little too specific, but see Infamous 2 on the PS3 for great work with lightning particle effects. In principle, lessons you learn there can be applied to lightning-related magic or particle effects that involve conduction, etc.
posted by Strudel at 12:46 PM on November 26, 2011


Okami has a visual style reminiscent of Japanese brush art and gameplay that requires some drawing of specific shapes with a brush. I've not encountered anything similar before or since.
posted by thatdawnperson at 2:41 PM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


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