PCGH looks back on 20 years of vegetation in computer games
Displaying Mother Nature is always challenging for developers of computer games. PCGH takes a closer look at the history of vegetation.
To illustrate nature physically and optically correct confronts developers of computer games with several problems. Because of the organic appearance it is difficult to animate trees and flowers in every detail. This would need too much of the system performance.
For displaying nature physically correct today - you might guess - physic-engines are used. But only a few years ago real-time calculating of physic-behavior was unthinkable, resulting in trees that did not move with the wind or were unimpressed by any force used on them. Only single animation or a scripted sequence could bring live to vegetation. But those movements got repeated time after time and realism got cut down. No one ever thought about the correct display of unscheduled situations caused by the player.
Presenting a correct visualization of nature itself is equally difficult. Enormous processing power is required to display the huge number of polygons needed to create an organic appearance. Textures represent a compromise between visual appearance and performance. With bump-mapping a tree trunk can be provided with optical depth. If the irregular surface of the bark had to be realized with polygons, development would take too long and displaying in real-time would exceed current hardware's capability.
PCGH takes a look at the history of vegetation in computer games and presents some examples of the past 20 years of artificial jungle. The range of pictures reaches from Super Hang On to Alan Wake.
If you like gaming history articles, you should check:
• PCGH history: Shadow effects in games (from Pong to Duke Nukem Forever)
• The most important female characters in video games (Part 1)
• 25 years of water effects in games
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