3D Graphics

3D Graphics in Video Games 3D Graphics in Video Games

A Bit of History: From humble beginnings many decades ago, to the mind boggling effectiveness of today's virtual reality equipment, 3D has been a driving force in the evolution of video games for almost as long as they have existed.

One of the earliest commercial successes was a 1980 arcade cabinet, from Atari, called Battlezone. Vector graphics were used to create a line-drawn rendition of a player controlled tank engaged in war. The game was so popular that even the United States military took notice and commissioned a customized version.

Throughout the next twenty years, three dimensional graphics gained in popularity and eventually became the standard. The turn of the century brought even greater improvements as hardware started to catch up to the demanding needs of the increasingly complex software.

Popular 3D Techniques

Parallax Scrolling gives the illusion of depth and dimension by utilizing multiple planes of motion. This gives an effect of 3D, much like what is seen when looking out at the horizon from the side window of a moving vehicle.

Bitmap Scaling is another trick used. A two dimensional sprite is altered in size and shape to reflect proximity to the player.

Wire-frame Polygons evolved out of the early vector graphics. Entire worlds, filled with objects, can be simulated and tracked from point to point. The higher the polygon count is, the smoother the result becomes.

Solid Polygons are the logical progression from wire-frame. The polygons are filled and shaded to add even greater realism.

Ray-casting portrays three dimensions by using mathematical lines of light projected out from the player's viewpoint into the game world.

Voxel Graphics is a technique that uses a data structure to hold information about a cell and all of it's neighbors. These cells are combined to create the 3D graphics.

Games of Tomorrow

Modern virtual reality machines, like the Oculus Rift, immerse the user in a 3D play world by means of a visor that supports head-tracking. The Nintendo 3DS is a hand-held (there's no need for headsets or special glasses) alternative that uses similar stereoscopic technology. As hardware continues to advance and is combined with unobtrusive control methods, such as eye-movement manipulated interfaces, developers are sure to keep creating games that push the cutting edge forward.