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How have 3D graphics changed since Quake?

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Hi, I've been playing Doom 3 and it occurrs to me that graphics aren't fundametally different than they were in the mid 90s. So what has changed? - More polygons - Higher resolution textures - Real time lighting and shadows - Bump mapping Is there anything else? Cheers, BD

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In my opinion, the biggest significant changes are:

1) Programmable Render Pipelines (Shaders)
2) Speed

That second one, though obvious, has an impact on many more things than you may realize. In the early days of 3D, every single polygon drawn to the screen was expensive, and graphics programmers went through a lot of pain and suffering to make sure not a single one was wasted. This is where we got things like BSP trees and the like, and why traditionally most games follow the "small room/hallway/small room" pattern: Programmers trying to conserve every bit of programming power possible.

We also ended up with a bunch of "cheats", or graphical hacks. Billboarding would be a good simple example, but Lightmapping is probably the best example of this type of thinking. I the absense of the power to actually compute lighting "correctly" in realtime, lightmapping was devised as a way to fake it. Now, this particular hack is one that has gotten us a long way (Half Life 2 is probably the last hurrah for the technique), but it still remains nothing more than a "cheat".

Doom 3, on the other hand, despite it's flaws, is a good indication of where graphics are at the moment and where they're going. Every light in the game is completely dynamic and, to a certain extent, "correct". You place a light in the scene, move it around a bit, and everything responds exactly as you would expect it to. I think this is the way that programmers have always wanted to do it, straightforward and mathmatically, and for the first time we have the power to do it "right".

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Quote:

Colors other than brown?

[lol]
Too true


Well, how much have 2D graphics changed since 1970? It's still just a number of pixels in different colors. There are just more colors to choose from, and more pixels.

[lol]

But no, 3D graphics have changed quite a lot, and they are fundamentally different. Programmable shaders are a huge change from what was possible before. Now you can do virtually anytihng with your graphics. You can write a shader that renders your game through a raytracer, if you like. Suddenly the programmer can control the entire graphics pipeline. (That encompasses most of the additions mentioned above)

In the Quake days, you had a fixed function pipeline, and you were damn happy to get it, because the norm was still software rendering.

But yes, it still renders 3d models, only with greater detail levels, so if that's your argument, you're right, nothing has changed since the mid 90's.
In the same way that 2D graphics are the same as 30 years ago. And in the same way that gameplay is the same as always, because we use the same controllers/keyboards. Sound is also the same, because, well, it's still just sound effects or music coming out of your speakers. It just sounds a bit better.

Apart from this, the pure increase in speed has made countless new game types possible. Today, huge outdoors envirionments are possible, or maps with tens of thousands of soldiers, or...
Or, since you mention Doom 3, having monsters suddenly jump out at you and actually scare you to death. That was hard to do in the mid 90's. Remember the original Doom?

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I agree with the above posts. The principles behind 3D-graphics haven´t changed that much... after all we´re still connecting vertices in three-dimensional space to form polygons and transform these to display them on a 2D plane, which is the screen. But as was mentioned the programmable pipeline is quite a powerful tool to make those polygons look more beautiful than was possible before. And of course the GPUs and CPUs have become more powerful, which allows for more polygons... depending on what you´re about to do with them in the shaders of course.
These two factors (combined with good programmers) make up for some quite beautiful graphics. You´re saying real time lighting and shadows isn´t a fundamental change to graphics? They even affect the gameplay quite drastically, so I would consider that a fundamental change in graphics.
After all FPS games and the like are all about immersion (and of course a good story)... and immersion IMHO comes with good graphics (including believable animations), good sounds and of course a good story... so I´d say most of these effects like bump-maps, specular highlights, refraction and reflection and so on, are eye-candy, but they add greatly to the experience of a game and I wouldn´t take them for granted. Real-time lighting is even more than just eye-candy IMHO and can be a quite nice game element, I´d say.
But if you put it as "negative" as you do, all of that doesn´t sound that amazing, and nothing has changed fundamentally ;)

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Thanks for the great response.

I am being a bit negative and sorry but personally, I don't think the graphical advances made in the last 10 years have quite yet taken games to the next level beyond Quake and that time.

As Toji says...

Quote:
Doom 3, on the other hand, despite it's flaws, is a good indication of where graphics are at the moment and where they're going.



<off topic>
Quote:
Remember the original Doom?


Yes, I actually prefer it but not for the graphics. I think it had more imaginative level design and the characters had more character and were funnier.
</off topic>

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I don't think the graphical advances made in the last 10 years have quite yet taken games to the next level beyond Quake and that time.


Hm... I think there's a bit of confusion here. You seem to be looking for changes that graphics have made to gameplay, rather than anything that has changed with the graphical techniques themselves.

Going from 2D - 3D games was a huge leap because of the fundamental differences between the play area's that you were provided with. In this way, yes, this was a graphical change that made a huge influence on gameplay. The same could be said for the ability to scroll the screen in a 2D game though. And when you get to thinking about it, where else would you go from here? 4D?

In my opinion, the abilities of a graphics engine stopped having an effect on the gameplay you could create with it some time around Quake 3. Yes, graphics will continue to improve to the point where a game today that can show 100 creatures on screen will be able to do 10X that many. We'll be able to create landscapes that literally go on for miles (and already can, for that matter), but will any of that directly influence the TYPE of games we're enabled to make with it? Not really. About the only REAL diffrence that could be made is if we all got holographic displays. (W00tage!)

Think of it this way: Graphics used to be the bottleneck. You could only do so much, and as a result the creativity of a game was limited (to a degree) by the scenes you could display. At this point, though, graphics are no longer the bottleneck. We can reasonably represent anything we want within reason, so at this point the barrier to new gameplay types is the creativity of the creator, not the speed of the rasterizer. (Or a lot of people would argue that the Publishers are now the bottleneck, but that's a whole different can of worms.)

As for things that COULD make a difference? Well, Nintendo's new controller jumps to mind. Novel ideas like that are going to be the driving force behind innovation in gaming from this point on. Graphics will continue to get prettier and prettier, but if you're looking for somthing to fundementally change the way you play, you're looking in the wrong place.

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