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From Pixels to Masterpieces: The Evolution of Graphics in Computer Video Games

  • PRG

When you talk about computer games, there’s a key element you cannot ignore – the visuals. The graphics are one of the first things to attract a gamer’s attention to a release. Afterwards, other elements, like the gameplay, are considered.

Video game graphics have undergone massive transformations. Long ago, it was just basic pixels that were the real deal. Today, 3D animations and VR graphics make for more immersive experiences. In this post, we shall explore the evolution of this element in computer video games.

A Basic Timeline for the Evolution of Video Game Graphics

Since the days of pixelated visuals and basic sound effects, graphic quality has advanced greatly. For instance, when you play Royal Reels pokie at an online casino in Australia, you’ll see the wonders of modern-day incorporations. Such high-end visuals were very different from what was available a few years ago.

The path from the 8-bit era’s simplistic, blocky images to today’s photorealistic graphics has been interesting for gamers. Here’s a breakdown of the journey:

  • Pixel art (The 8-Bit Era)
  • The 3D revolution
  • The birth of visually realistic graphics

Pixel Art (The 8-Bit Era)

In the 1990s, technology was not what it is now. As such, developers had to make do with the tools at their disposal. Their artistic movement birthed pixel art, in which images are created using a grid of tiny, square pixels.

They developed Pong, a table tennis game, with these simplistic two-dimensional graphics, in 1972. Over time, more developments emerged with games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Super Mario Bros. These games are nothing compared to modern-day releases, but back then, they were favourites for many gamers.

The 3D Revolution

When Sega’s Dreamcast system came out in 1999, it changed everything about the video game market. By this time, computer technology had significantly progressed, and 3D graphics had emerged. This laid the foundation for modern-day visuals.

Also known as CGI, 3D graphics make it possible to create, display, and manipulate objects in three dimensions. In other words, entities had width, height, and depth, unlike 2D, which focused on breath and width. It gave characters and game items a more realistic presentation.

Though this era came with benefits, it wasn’t without downsides. Developing 3D graphics requires high levels of skills, which one can acquire through years of study and practice. Also, if not well-optimized, it will have a higher loading time and affect the overall speed of a game.

Despite these challenges, these visuals attracted even more gamers to the sector. Dreamcast also included a home gaming system with a flexible modem built in for online group games. Other big companies, like Sony and Nintendo, bought into the idea, creating even more immersive options for gamers.

The Birth of Visually Realistic Graphics

3D was just the beginning in terms of video game graphics. Developers leveraged advancements in the technology space to create smoother interfaces in addition to advanced gameplay. With new tools, it’s possible to further optimise 3D graphics and give them a more life-like appearance.

During design, developers use tools like Maya and Zbrush to create high-resolution models. Since these models included millions of elements, it’s impossible to incorporate them directly into the game. Thankfully, advanced options like normal mapping came onboard, making it possible to move these models to an optimised mesh. This gives the illusion of objects responding to lighting.

The introduction of graphic shaders, a concept initiated by the GeForce 3, further revolutionised 3D rendering. It enabled developers to script highly intricate shaders that calculate the levels of colour, light, and darkness.

Consoles’ processing power and graphic capabilities also play a pivotal role in game art graphics. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with enhanced processing capabilities and advanced engines, empowered game artists to craft visuals that were even more realistic.

Present Times

When Playstation 3 hit the market, it was a game changer; today, higher versions, like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, are making waves. These powerhouses bring next-level processing and graphics capabilities to the table, showing how visuals are improving. Thanks to cool introductions like physically-based rendering (PBR), High-Dynamic range (HDR), and real-time ray tracing, game worlds are looking more real.

Besides visuals, games have better narratives. Some releases allow players to assume characters and use these avatars to complete tasks. The storyline also changes based on their decisions. To facilitate more engaging gameplay, companies are releasing high-level devices and consoles.

Now, the big shots in the gaming space are in fierce competition to outdo each other. This rivalry means we’re in for even better graphics. Gamers don’t know what to expect next. However, judging from the trajectory so far, it’s clear that it can only get better.

Look How Far We’ve Come in Today’s Graphics

It’s exciting to see how far game art has come. Gone are the days when pixels were the only option developers had to create games. Today, there’s a plethora of tools that make it possible to craft more engaging titles.

3D elements put these games on par with movies in terms of story and visual storytelling. Group gaming sessions further intensify the experience, with players getting to choose characters in some video games. The future also looks bright as virtual reality and other trends are making their way into the industry.


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