An introduction and the history of Video Game Graphics

In this day and age, a game isn’t judged by its physics or storyline. Those days are a thing of the past. Today, a game can be bought or ignored if it’s graphics aren’t up to speed. It’s actually very annoying as I would rather have a game which worked at launch, had a great story, good physics and mountains of content at the price that the quality of graphics would deteriorate. So this had me thinking. What goes into the graphics process anyway?

In the development of a game, Game artists are picked to create 2D and 3D graphics for their next big game. 2D designs can be used for Sprites, textures, UI, Scenery and other things in the environments like billboards and windows of NPC buildings. Meanwhile, 3D designs are mainly Vehicles, Characters, Weapons and other objects. Time Depends on the importance of the Design and the detail which the developer wants to be put into them. For example, Polyphony Digital, the developers of the Gran Turismo franchise. Designate one car to one person. That person must develop the car entirely. This process has gotten longer over time with more and more Gran Turismo titles, but the most recent title GT Sport required that 6 Months was needed to develop each car.

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This Nissan GTR has 6 months of hard work in it. Fascinating.

Now for the history of video game graphics! The first video games would’ve been text-based, these games used text characters instead of more modern techniques such as bitmapping or vector graphics. These games are very basic and don’t acquire a lot of computing power so you could probably play one on a potato! Ok, maybe not a potato, but maybe your internet browser. Examples include The Dreamhold, Zork, Spider and Web and Torn.

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Next, video games evolved into using Vector Graphics. Vector graphic displays were capable of projecting images using an electron beam which would draw images instead of using regular pixels from before. Most arcade games of the 1980’s would’ve used such technology. Vector games were mainly made by Atari and Sega. Examples include Starglider and Space Wars. Vector Graphics were very popular until the late 1980’s where they were replaced by 3D graphics.

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Atari Vector Graphics

For a brief period, developers began making their games with pre recorded live action sequences. These became known as Full motion video games. FMV games took off massively in the 90’s as CD-rom was becoming the norm. This allowed games to have more space available and therefore more content. However, despite looking better than their competition, FMV games were panned by critics as they lacked interaction with the player and gamers felt that they were in the backseat while playing these games. SAs a result they were really only available in a niche market and by 1995, they had failed and they were completely forgotten about.

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Night Trap. One of the most infamous games ever

2D and 3D graphics eventually took over from FMV. 2D games relied on spite based graphics while 3D graphics pushed the envelope of video game graphics. 3D games were based on perspective projection at first and often presented 3D imagery from a fixed prospective. (The drawing that graphically approximates on a planar surface.) Today, depending on what game you are playing, Video game swill base themselves on a First-person or a third person perspective or sometimes even both. (E.g in a racing game there maybe a cockpit and a third person view).

Gran Turismo the Playstations best selling game.

Ever since 3D games took over, developers have been finding new ways to improve this concept. Over the last 10 years we’ve gotten photorealistic games and this has resulted in incredible graphics engines such as Ea’s Frostbite, Infinity Ward’s IW engine, as well as some more mainstream engines such as Unreal engine, Unity and much more.

Frostbite 3

Most recently, We have had virtual reality becoming the next big thing. With sony having their own VR headset for the PS4, HTC making the Vive and the Oculus Rift slowly becoming more and more popular. Developers are donating more time into VR as it gives such a new experience than to regular gaming. Personally, I think that VR won’t become mainstream for another few years but when it does it will be very, very big.

HTC Vive Pro

I hope you enjoyed this blog of the history of graphics engines. Next week, I will go into graphics engines and how do they work and what do they do.

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