Terrains, landscapes and level of detail


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Terrains, landscapes and level of detail

  2. 2. LOOKING BACK • If we look back to 1998 when the hit PS1 game “Spyro The Dragon” came out we see a revolutionary change in the way games process graphics. Spyro had a custom built engine for it as it was a 3D open world game it suffered limitation from the hardware on the PS1, if Insomniac were to use an existing engine they’d have to have fog in the distance ruining the stunning visuals in the game, so Alex Hastings of Insomniac developed a new engine that eliminated fogging in the game by reducing the amount of polygons that are shown at a further distance away, the polygon count in an object would increase as the player go closer to it. Thanks to this first step we begin to see greater and better landscape detail and more visually stunning terrains within video games.
  3. 3. FOGGING • So I mentioned fogging in the previous slide but what does fogging actually do? Well the best way to think about it is to compare to rendering a video, if you wanted to run a video on an old laptop that had an old CPU and about 256MB of RAM you won’t render the video at 1280x720, you’d render it at something like 853x480 or even lower, or when in Photoshop you optimize and image for web, you can add Gaussian blur to the image to reduce the size and the amount of processing power required in order to output the image. When “Fogging” occurs in a video game it reduces the polygon count in order to take strain of the processor inside of the console or PC, a lot of earlier games use this technique in order to run better on the hardware limitations of their time, this is something we still see today, especially in open world games.
  4. 4. GOING BACK A BIT FURTHER… • Going back now to 1997, a video game for the Nintendo 64 came out known as “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter”, this game and many other games released on this console are name for using distance fogging in order to lessen the stress on the processor inside of the console. Though instead of just having this limitation in the game as a nuisance the developers actually used it for atmospheric effect to actually better their games and make the limitation less noticeable by turning it more into a theme of a game rather than a hardware limitation. This being said it was a completely different game to Spyro The Dragon in the fact that this game did not rely on visually stunning landscapes but more on the gameplay and atmosphere of the game, so it makes sense as to why Insomniac went through so much trouble in order to have a game without fog for Spyro The Dragon.
  5. 5. This is not distance fogging Distance fogging is present here making the objects that are further away more blurry reducing the polygon count, this is distance fogging
  6. 6. FOGGING IN MODERN GAMES • Fogging is still a thing in modern day games, sticking to the genre of open world games we can look at one of the most popular latest games to comes out which is Grand Theft Auto V, this game still has to use distance fogging to reduce the amount of polygons on screen at one given moment at any time, though since this is an open world game with vast landscapes they can easily use this to great the effect of depth, if you’re ever out by a field or driving by one and look into the distance you notice that the further away something is the harder it is to see and it sometimes looks kind of foggy, this is the effect generated in GTA V which they use to their advantage, thanks to this no one complains about the distance fogging inside of the game. Compare it to Spyro The Dragon if it were to have no fogging at all and you could see EVERYTHING you see on screen at once… the console would most likely start lagging and drop the frame rate to 10fps or something, so it’s good that this technology is not inside of GTA V.
  7. 7. SPYRO THE DRAGON • So how did Spyro The Dragon have no fogging at all without cutting the frame rate or resolution? Well we already learnt earlier that distant objects obtained a lower polygon count as you got further away but no to the extent where it would create the fogging effect, the fact is the ability to do such a thing comes from within the design of the game. They had to have big walls or things blocking the big objects with a high polygon count so they wouldn’t be rendered when they were not needed, it was a very smart thing to do and it resulted in beautiful gameplay and a wonderful artistic style.
  8. 8. This castle here contains many objects inside of it and also blocks the view of other objects behind it, this is the key to having no fogging which made such a game playable on the Playstation 1. Also look at these towers in the background, not only do they have a lower polygon count but there are no defining details like the castle on the left.
  9. 9. SPYRO VS GTA • So these are two open world games released for different generations of consoles, Spyro The Dragon being for the PS1 and Grand Theft Auto V being for the PS3, yet comparing these two we can learn a lot about distance fogging, we know that most the time distance fogging will be present but if a game is designed in a similar way to Spyro The Dragon distance fogging can be avoided. We also that distance fogging can also create the effect of depth, something GTA uses to it’s advantage, Spyro does not need this as it relies more on its stunning visuals rather than realism, as it is a very surreal game. Distance fogging is still a technical challenge even today and developers must always take this into consideration when developing a game. They can either use the Spyro method to avoid it or the GTA method or using it to create depth.
  10. 10. 2D GAMES • 2D games usually will not have fogging as there is no real distance in the game which would demand much processing power, in 2D games most backgrounds will probably be static which doesn’t need polygons in order to render, a good example of a 2D game which is “Ultima III: Exodus for the Nintendo Entertainment System, it is an open world game like Spyro but it was released in 1983 so it only has 2D graphics but because of this there is no fogging at all in the game. Due to the hardware limitation around 1983 there was no way we could have had 3D graphics so with the games all being 2D there is no need for fogging and since there are no 3D graphics there are no polygons for the processor to render. You could argue that because there is no fogging in 2D games that they have higher levels of detail and better landscapes which in a way could be true if you look at it in a way of the ability to show more elements on screen at one given time, but the more visually stunning games are going to be the 3D games, especially in open world games.
  11. 11. • The first image is from Ultima III which has no fogging present but only contains 2D graphics, the second is from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter which has 3D graphics but contains much fogging, and the last is from Spyro The Dragon which contains 3D graphics and no fogging is present at all.
  12. 12. RESOLUTION • Going forward a bit now to 2000 and 2006, what’s special about these two dates? In 2000 we had the release of the PS2 and in 2006 the release of the PS3, during those 6 years there had been many breakthroughs in CPU and Graphics card processing power. When the PS2 first came out the maximum resolution we could have was 480p which was good for the time, when the PS3 came out it came with a built in Bluray player and the necessary hardware in order to output 1080p HD video which was amazing for the time, since at the time many people still didn’t have HD TV's. Resolution is ALWAYS a limitation of the console with different consoles having different resolutions which actually has come to spark some controversy within the gaming community with the newer generation of gaming consoles which I will go into more detail in the next slide. PlayStation 2 Playstation 3
  13. 13. • Notice how the PS3 version (on the right) has a much higher polygon count and much more realistic visuals compared to it’s PS2 counterpart.
  14. 14. XBOX ONE VS PS4 • Currently within the gaming community there is a lot of debate going on about how the Xbox One upscales 720p to 1080p with most games whereas the PS4 displays true 1080p. A game which is a great example of this is “Call of Duty: Ghosts” which runs at 720p on the Xbox One and 1080p on the PS4, this is due to the Xbox One having weaker hardware than the PS4 in terms of CPU and Graphics Card power. Because of this people expect the Xbox One version to have a lower level of detail and not as good visuals compared to the PS4 version, though in reality if you compare the two side by side it is actually quite hard to tell the difference, they both run at a solid frame rate of 60FPS so they run just as smooth as each other, but because of the Xbox One having weaker hardware the developers had to sacrifice resolution in order to get a higher frame rate or the game may look choppy when played.
  15. 15. XBOX ONE VS PS4 CONTINUED • This is a comparison between the Xbox One and PS4 versions of COD: Ghosts. As you can see there really is not any different, if you were to look at one then the other you’d think they’re on the same console.
  16. 16. XBOX ONE • So why can the Xbox One no output multiplatform video games at 1080p? It can stream video in 1080p and the dashboard and other elements are all displayed in 1080p, why is it when it comes down to video games it is of a lower resolution? Well this is all down to one important decision made at Microsoft during development of a console, they wanted it to be a home entertainment centre as well a gaming console, in order to do so they had to sacrifice some hardware which would have put it up to spec with the PS4 in order to get other hardware in to make it more of an entertainment system rather than just a gaming console. This makes the console more ideal for family orientated homes which is probably their target audience, whereas the PS4 has stayed true to gaming and made it only about gaming, targeting hardcore gamers.
  17. 17. DOES 1080P MEAN BETTER GAMING? • Having a higher resolution will not give a better playing experience if the difference is not that noticeable, the jump form 720p to 1080p is surprisingly not that noticeable to the human eye, so this shouldn’t be a big problem right? Wrong. These consoles are said to have a 10 year life cycle, so if the Xbox One is struggling now at the beginning of its life cycle to keep up it is doubtful it will stand the test of time like the Xbox 360, currently resolution is not as big a issue as everyone is making it out to be, but as time goes on and with 4K resolutions slowly creeping up I think it will become a problem, especially if games are going to get more advanced (which they will).
  18. 18. SOURCES • http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131581/lessons_in_color_theory_fo r_spyro_.php?print=1 • http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2013/11/03/call-of-duty-ghosts- launches-at-the-center-of-xbox-one-controversy/ • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_world