Games have had artwork in them ever since the first video game was released, but those visuals cannot qualify as art. Things started to change from the early 1980s though. Powered by the progress in technology, hand-drawn and digitally created artwork soon became an inseparable part of video games in general from there onwards.
Fast-Forward to 2021, and today we have ultra-realistic, incredible visuals in online, multiplayer games, thanks to extremely talented artists who are working within the video gaming industry. Even browser games are starting to look better with each passing year, often defying our expectations! Stay with us as we look through specific highlight points that mark the rise of online gaming art in video game history.
Unreal Tournament and Quake were Ahead of their Time
Unreal Engine 4 is still powering some of the best-looking video games available today, but it was the release of Unreal Tournament in 1999 that started it all. It not only set the standards for future competitive arena shooters, but UT also showcased impressive character art and modelling. Quake, on the other hand, was released even before the first Unreal Tournament, way back in 1996. By the time Quake III was released, the gory shooter was sporting character art that remained on top for many more years to come.
Rise of the Artistic Online Slots
Online casino games have not gone through too many changes since the 2010s, excepting of course, the vast range of slot games. Online slot games set in Ancient Egypt such as Age of Egypt, Egyptian Emeralds, Pharaoh’s Secrets and the Temple of Iris are each excellent examples where art was beautifully blended into the slot gaming genre. It is not just the Ancient Egypt theme either, as we did see lovely artwork and character design in Dragon’s Myth, as well as a striking use of subtle neon colours in Arctic Valor earlier. However, the dominating theme of Ancient Egypt has created some of the best looking and artistically brilliant slot games ever.
The Elder Scrolls Online Sets New Standards for Open World MMORPGs
When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out back in 2011, it established new artistic and graphical design standards in so many ways for future open world games to follow and improve upon. Two years later, Bethesda released a similar online MMORPG, aka The Elder Scrolls Online.
It had everything that made Skyrim so pioneering back in the day, but also managed to add more depth to everything by making it massively multiplayer. This game will continue to remain one of the greatest milestones of artwork in an online video game, and not just for its sheer open world scale either. Although it does look dated today, you can still find yourself catching a glimpse of the yesteryear’s artistic brilliance every now and then, while traversing the vast lands of Tamriel.
The three honourable mentions that were not included in this list are ARMA: Armed Assault, Team Fortress, and Don’t Starve Together. Don’t Starve Together in particular deserves attention from those seeking artistic expressions in their online games. This online multiplayer survival game is considered to be one of the greatest works of quirky art in indie video games.
Popular retro games from the 80s era were not included in this post because they cannot be marked as major milestones of artistic and technological breakthroughs in online gaming. The technology did not exist at that time to truly incorporate proper art into video games. The talent was always there, but the technology is much more recent than we think.