Now that we're in a golden age of video game technology, players are constantly demanding that video games be made as graphically detailed and realistic as possible. However, programmers have been going to insane lengths to show off their attention to detail in other, less obvious ways for years now, and you probably didn't even notice.
These are the amazing little flourishes that simultaneously wow us with their obsessive compulsion and provide a powerful rejoinder to the argument that soaring game budgets are both necessary and entirely justified.
In addition to being a lightning rod for kids who communicate exclusively via homophobic racism, Call of Duty is one of the best-selling game series of all time. The games pride themselves on realism in their portrayal of both military strategy and equipment (OK, the last game did feature robot attack spiders), sometimes to an absurd degree. For instance, in the Black Ops II multiplayer, they have gadgets called Tac Inserts that control where you respawn. Normally you can only see them for a split second before placing them on the ground. However, if you hold onto one long enough (essentially making yourself a giant stationary target with a glowing PDA), you'll notice a set of coordinates on the item's display screen:
They lead to a psychiatrist's office.
If you write those coordinates down and search for them on Google Maps, you'll find that they correspond to your in-game location in the real world. For example, one level is set in Singapore, so your Tac Insert's coordinates will show a place in Singapore. The detail is simultaneously so mind-bogglingly precise and utterly pointless that it's almost beautiful.
But this series is full of "nobody will ever notice this" details -- in one level of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, you're trapped in a plane that is falling from the sky. If you happen to press the reload button during this brief sequence, your magazine will actually float away from you like it would in real life.
Luckily, pants prevent the same thing from happening when you shit yourself.
In Call of Duty: Black Ops and its 1980s-movie-sequel-titled follow-up, Black Ops II, there is a multiplayer level called Nuketown that is crammed full of hidden details. For instance, there is a scale model of the Brady Bunch house, despite the fact that 90 percent of the game's audience isn't even old enough to tell you the names of all five original Power Rangers.
"Here's a story ... of a lovely lady ... who was bringing up thr- INCOMING! HIT THE FUCKING DECK!"
Nuketown also features a countdown clock, which displays the actual time left in the match rather than the amount of time Indiana Jones has to locate a refrigerator, a population counter that changes depending on how many people are left in the game, and mailboxes bearing the names of the game's main protagonists. All of these details are impossible to notice while you're battling a horde of screaming teenagers hyped up on Monster and Avenged Sevenfold.
According to Bungie, the series' creator, gamers have spent over 85 million days playing Halo games online. However, that figure is probably rivaled by the amount of time Bungie has spent filling the games with more meticulous detail than the average Kubrick film. For example, in Halo 3, every single bullet fired from an assault rifle has the main character's name carved into the back of it, as if he brought all the bullets from home.
So now, while mowing down your enemies, you can scream, "Suck my autograph!"
It's known, appropriately, as the Chief's bullet, and although it is technically present and visible in regular play, it is impossible for anyone to actually see, because bullets are tiny and fast. Reading a millimeter of text on a television screen is difficult enough without having to try to discern it from the back of an individual bullet as it explodes from the barrel of your space rifle toward AIDS_Lord6969. The only reason anyone ever discovered the Chief's bullet was because Halo 3 includes a replay mode that allows you to record videos of any multiplayer match you participate in. Some bold Halo player combing through saved videos of their various online victories inadvertently stumbled upon the writing, and now it's a well-known Easter egg.
Halo 3's replay mode also revealed other laborious details put in by the game's development team, because apparently scrawling a self-referential word onto an infinite rain of digital bullets wasn't enough. For example, every Warthog armored vehicle in the game has a full set of lighted dashboard instruments, despite the fact that you only ever see the cars from the outside.
Yeah, but your avatar knows. And that's what really matters.
This is like Warner Bros. hiring a team of carpenters to build a complete interior set for the house next door to Wayne Manor in Batman Begins.
The Metal Gear Solid series is famous for being totally insane. This is partly due to the series' lead creative director, Hideo Kojima. In addition to developing the long-winded batshit lunacy of the game's story, Kojima is adamant about infusing as much detail as humanly possible into every entry in the series, no matter how pointless or inconsequential those details may be.
For instance, in one ofMetal Gear Solid 2's many cinematic cut scenes, the game's hero, Solid Snake, does a complicated handshake with his sidekick Otacon, and if you pay close attention to the hand movements of the shake and are a student of video game history, you'll notice that Snake and Otacon are partially acting out the infamous Konami Code -- up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right. Normally the code ends with a press of the START button, but Snake and Otacon punctuate their bromance with a ball-shattering man hug instead, because human beings do not have start buttons.
Via Cian Gaffney
At least not ones that are frequently shown in video games.
But even that was more likely to be spotted than some of the other random shit he had inserted into the background -- in the original Metal Gear Solid, Kojima made sure someone individually designed every single desk that appears in the game so players would feel properly immersed, because apparently finding a bunch of identical looking desks in a military base would've been totally unrealistic. In MGS 2, there is a random ice bucket sitting in a lounge -- if you shoot it, ice will spill out and slowly melt in a realistic manner until it has completely disappeared. This effect is never used again at any point in the rest of the game -- someone was told to figure out how to make ice melt in a PlayStation 2 game, and that achievement is entirely dependent on the player deciding to shoot one obscure object in the first level.
And, yes, you could shoot the spilled ice cubes off of the bar, too.
Then you have Metal Gear Solid 3, where the list of things you can do just to screw around is longer than the game's Wikipedia entry. However, by far the most insane detail is one that is never mentioned at any point during the game -- it's something that just kind of happens. After an early boss fight, you're thrown into a pitch black cave that leaves you unable to see anything. However, if you simply let the game sit for a few minutes, the screen will very gradually become slightly lighter, to represent your character's eyes adjusting to the dark.
Nobody tells you to do this, no attention is drawn to it, and it doesn't affect gameplay in a meaningful way -- Kojima just wanted the experience of being trapped in a Stygian cavern to be as realistic as possible, and he wasn't allowed to stuff every copy of Metal Gear Solid 3 full of live scorpions.
Breathe deep the fumes of madness and accept its sickening embrace.